Essentials of Taking Care of Your Neon Tetra

Neon tetras originate from South America and are known for their very small size and breathtaking, vivid colors. Neon tetras earned their name from their bodies glamorous neon glow in darkness. They also use this glow to locate each other. When they sense the presence of an enemy or a predator, they turn off their hue and hide. They originally come from the Amazon rivers and streams and were first discovered in 1934. 

Neon tetras are very friendly and peaceful. Usually, they exist in schools of about 15 members. They rarely show aggression either to other species or one another, making them the perfect tank mates. These little beauties can grow up to 2.5 inches long. 

In nature, neon tetras swim in the small streams in the Amazon forests. There are dense canopies that block the sunlight, and there are many fallen leaves on the water surface. These conditions make it easy for them to identify one another using their vivid colors. 

Taking care of neon tetras is typically an easy task. They don’t require much effort. However, you must make their aquarium a replica of their natural environment. Here, we will be discussing how you should take care of them, starting with the aquarium and ending with their breeding conditions. 

Aquarium setting (neon tetra care pt. 1)

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A numbers game

Neon tetras live in schools of at least 15 members. So, if you’re willing to house 15 tetras, the most suitable capacity for a tank is 10 gallons. However, if you consider housing more than 15 of them, you should get a 20 gallon tank. 

No sudden movements

Beware, these fish are very sensitive to their surroundings and their bodies can’t adapt very quickly to any changes. Try to never have a sudden change in their living environment. The changes in water chemistry will kill them in the blink of an eye. Change about a quarter of the aquarium water. Do not change more than a quarter, because they might not be able to handle the change and die. Also, these fish are tricky and move a lot, so make sure that the aquarium has a firm lid. 


Neon tetras produce very small bio wastes. So, the filtration process isn’t that big of a deal. Make sure to get a good filter that can catch these small loads. A regular sponge filter will do just fine. Also, make sure that the filter doesn’t produce powerful vibrations so that the fish don’t become intimidated. 

Natural habitat

Neon tetras usually live in a place where the light intensity isn’t very powerful, so make sure that the aquarium lighting is dim. Buy a small fluorescent lamp that doesn’t emit a lot of light or heat. As for the aquarium’s accessories, try to turn your aquarium into a small Amazon forest. Add as many small plants as you can and put small leaves on the water surface. The substrate should be dark small gravel. You can put some driftwood to help create more shade. 

Water parameters (neon tetra care pt. 2)

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Neon tetras live in freshwater that has a little acidity to it. Make sure to adjust the water’s pH to 6.5 – 7. The Amazon forest is usually hot. So make sure that the water temperature is warm, preferably between 70 – 81°F (21 – 27°C).

These fish like to swim in soft, steady waters. Keep away any object that can cause disturbances in the water. Also, when changing the water, make sure that you don’t move the water too strongly. Keep in mind that these fish are very sensitive to any changes that might occur in the water. Any sudden rise or drop in the water’s temperature or pH can be deadly. 

Neon tetra food (neon tetra care pt. 3)

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Eating habits

Neon tetra fish are naturally omnivores. They feed on small plants and can eat some small insects that lie on the water surface or any small invertebrates. The greatest thing about these fish is the fact that they aren’t picky eaters. They will eat all that you can give them. It would be nice of you to ensure them a diet full of various nutrients. 

Types of food

The most essential part of their diet is high-quality flakes. These flakes give the necessary nutrients to many pet fish. You can feed them frozen food such as bloodworms and brine shrimp. You can also feed them some vegetables. However, when feeding them frozen supplements or vegetables, make sure to give them very small pieces, so that they wouldn’t choke.

By age

For younger neon tetras, you should try to feed them two or maybe three times per day. These little babies can eat all that you can give them for about three minutes. As they grow older, they will not require much food, like before. Older neon tetras can be fed for only one time per day.

Neon tetra tank mates (neon tetra care pt. 4) 

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Most of the times, neon tetra fish live in harmony with each other and with other fish. Their existence in schools can bring joyful colors to your aquarium. If you are willing to house other species with them, make sure that these other fish are peaceful as well. 

These fish can be intimidated easily, so housing them with aggressive fish can bring them horror. You should also keep in mind that you shouldn’t put bigger fish with them, even if they are peaceful. Some bigger fish might see smaller ones as food. So, fish like bettas and cichlids are prohibited in the aquarium. If you’re searching for the ideal tank mates, I recommend getting barbs and small catfish

To be honest, the best tank mate you can get for a neon tetra fish is another neon tetra. They are very friendly to one another. They feel safe around each other and live in harmony together. As mentioned before, neon tetras like to stay in a school of 15, so I suggest 15-20 neon tetras as tank mates.

Neon tetra breeding (neon tetra care pt. 5)

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Now, here comes the tough part of housing neon tetras. The mating period is the time where these fish go completely crazy. The only time when these fish might show a little bit of aggression is when two males fight over a female and vice versa. You will notice this phase when you find out that the atmosphere has changed in the aquarium.

Breeding conditions

But honestly, this phenomena doesn’t likely happen in an aquarium with regular conditions. For these fish to mate and breed, you will need another aquarium that’s smaller in size. This aquarium’s water temperatue should be 75°F (24°C) and have a pH that ranges between 5 and 6. The water must be soft (smaller than 10 dGH) and completely steady. 

Male or female?

The most difficult part is how to identify and separate the males and females of this species. Due to their small size, it’s not possible for everyone to do it. Males are slimmer and their blue stripe is straight. On the other hand, the females have rounded bellies, so the blue stripe is kind of bendy.

Breeding process

When you put a male and a female neon tetra in a separate breeding aquarium, the female starts to lay and scatter more than one hundred eggs. Then, the males starts fertilizing them. Of course, not all the eggs become fertilized. There is also a chance that the parents may eat some of them. They are not the proper parenting type, honestly. Anyway, when the eggs hatch, the baby neon tetras live in their egg sacks for about three days and then begin swimming in the tank. Once this happens, you should start feeding them very small bites of frozen food or vegetables. 

For pros only

Keeping these fish is an easy task. However, having them breed requires a vast experience. The baby neon tetras can easily die after a few days of hatching because they couldn’t acclimate. The good thing is that some local pet stores started making some sort of farms in which neon tetras can breed safely. The newer generations have the ability to survive and get used to the aquarium conditions quickly.

Neon tetra disease (neon tetra care pt. 3)

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What is neon tetra disease?

Neon tetra fish are known to catch a specific disease that has been named after them. Unfortunately, this disease doesn’t appear to be curable. The parasite pushes its way to the intestinal tract and devours the muscles from the inside out. You will notice that your fish start to swim near the bottom of the aquarium only and their gorgeous colors start to fade away. They will appear to have lost some weight and some cysts will begin to show on their abdomens.


Not only is it incurable, it is highly infectious. If one of your neon tetras caught the disease, the others are bound to suffer from it eventually. When you notice the changes in their appearance and behavior you must get rid of the fish immediately, before the disease can reach others. The neon tetra disease can also attack other species. 


This disease can come from any external element that can be added to the tank, even newer fish. Therefore you should make sure that all the accessories are thoroughly cleaned. Also, any newer fish that you’ll add to the tank must be checked and quarantined first. Provide your fish with a clean, healthy aquarium. Feed them properly and regularly. Also, maintain the required physical conditions of the water. 

These majestic creatures are very easy to take care of. Just put in a little effort. In the end, we hope that you have gathered a good amount of information about the neon tetra fish. Stick around for more articles.