Neon Tetra Fish Care Guide Best Tank, Food, Lifespan, Breeding
By Eddie Waithaka @aquariawise
Neon tetras are small freshwater fish with bright colorings that are visible even in dark-black water streams. Which is why they are so popular among aquarium hobbyists.
The fish are endemic to streams of the South American Amazon basin. Mostly in South Eastern Columbia, Eastern Peru and Western Brazil.
Neon tetras like freshwater with a temperature between 68°F and 82°F and ph 5.0 to 7.5.
That said, in this guide, we’ll look at neon tetras in concise detail, from best tank size, tankmate, lifespan to care, feeding and breeding.
Neon Tetra Overview
Neon tetras are of the characin family native to the black and clearwater streams in the Orinoco and Amazon basin of South America.
They are brightly colored with a light blue back over a silver-white body and blue horizontal stripes running on both sides from nose to the base of the adipose fin. Neon tetras also have a red stripe that begins at the middle of the body and extends to the caudal fin base.
However, females will be slightly rounded at the abdomen with bent stripes rather than the straight lines on male tetras.
Some fish will even develop a dark olive green lining on their back.
Neon tetras in aquariums grow to approximately 1.2 inches in length hence easy to raise in a community tank. They’re also shoaling fish so keep them in schools of at least six together with other small peaceful fish like guppies.
Tetras prefer very soft, acidic water that is slightly on the cooler side, though they are quite hardy and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions.
In the wild, they are arguably omnivorous, mid-level feeders.
In the fish tank, neon tetras will accept most flake foods and some small food such as brine shrimp, daphnia and bloodworms.
Breeding is water conditions and light dependent; females lay eggs in scatters then males fertilize the eggs inside a controlled tank. Neon eggs hatch within 24 hours and fry should be started with infusoria.
Behavior and Aggression
Neons have a peaceful temperament and tend to be quite timid, therefore, keep them in a community tank with fish of minimal aggression. Also, due to their small size, it’s a good idea to only place them in tanks that include fish of a similar size to prevent predation.
Moreover, neon tetras live in school and blend their beautiful colors to adorn your aquarium. So keep them in groups to bring out this natural behavior for better viewing effects.
They are active species that will spend most of the time in the lower and middle sections of the tank sometimes even shoaling with other fish like their cousins the cardinal tetras.
Neon Tetras Lifespan
Tetras can have a lifespan of up to 10 years, but normally live an average of 5 years in an aquarium.
Proper nutrition and water conditions are most paramount to your neon tetra longevity. Unfortunately, many aquarists will keep their tetra in below par conditions because of their hardiness consequently shortening their neon ’s life expectancy.
Neon Tetras Best Water Conditions, Tank Size, and Tank Mates
In the wild, tetras inhabit very soft, acidic waters that are usually cooler than the average at which most tropical tanks are maintained.
Tank Water Conditions
Neon tetras in aquariums do best in a ph of 6.0 to 6.5 but can live in up to ph 5.0 on the lower side and 7.5 on the higher side.
Aquarium water temperature should be between 70°F and 82°F, but still, they’ll live in water that’s at least 65°F.
However, neon tetras are quite sensitive to change and will die if shocked by dramatic variations to their environment. New tanks are thus not ideal, therefore keep your fish in established- mature tanks with no significant changes in parameters.
Luckily, neons have a small waste load and their tanks should remain reasonably stable with a good filter. You don’t necessarily need a big powerful filter either if anything, a regular sponge filter will do.
Nevetheless, you need to do 10 to 20 water changes weekly to expel any toxins or chemicals that accumulate in the tank and risk harming the fish or destabilizing your water parameters.
Neon Tetra Tanks
Neon tetras size make them ideal for both community and small tanks. So keep them in at least a 20-inch long group tanks or a school of six tetras in a 10-gallon tank.
Since tetra fish come from black rivers with low light, they are easily stressed when subjected to bright light. So, use a low watt fluorescent light in your tank.
Also, add aquatic plants and decorations in the fish tank for your neons to hide from bright light or belligerent tankmates.
What Fish Go Well with Neon Tetras?
Neon tetras are small subtle fish and are mostly on the receiving end of aggression in aquariums. Consequently, the most ideal tetra tank mates are other small non-aggressive fish like guppies and cardinal tetras.
Guppies, cardinal and neons have a lot in common. They both have a wide range of species with many different colors available, they are laid back hence get along with tank mates and are inexpensive plus broadly available.
Neon tetras are also compatible with calm bottom dwellers like dwarf cichlids, barbs, and some gouramis. Or keep them with slow fish that they can out swim. For instance, Bettas are slow and can only dash for a short distance, so as long as you give your tetras enough space to run there won’t be any problem.
However, avoid putting them with large fish like cichlids and Jack Dempsey that can easily fit tetras in their mouth.
Here is a list of best and fairly good neon tetra tanks mates.
- Cardinal tetras
- Cory catfish
- White cloud mountain minnows
- Harlequin Rasboras
- Zebra danios
- African dwarf frog
- Ghost shrimp
- Apple snails
Neon Tetra Diet, Food and Feeding
Neon tetras are omnivores in the wild that mostly feed in algae, insect larvae, and miniature inverts. Which means they’ll accept both meaty and green food in your fish tank.
Besides they are not fussy and will devour all types of fish food. They’ll feed on flake food pretty well and won’t have a problem if served small chunks of brine shrimp, freeze-dried bloodworms or micropellets.
They are mostly mid-level feeders so you’ll need to use tropical sinking pellets to feed them. Be gentle while placing the food in water, otherwise, they will fall too fast and only occasionally will neon tetras swim to the bottom to feed.
More so, use food brands that include natural color enhancers to bring out the hues in your neon tetras.
A thing you’ll need to keep in mind is neon tetras have small mouths, so try to use small pieces of food especially when feeding them worms and brine shrimp.
With regard to the feeding schedules, feed adult tetras twice a day in portions they can finish in five minutes. The goal is to make sure all of your tetras are eating their fill almost immediately, not allowing any of the food to go wasted.
A brilliant chop is to put food in the aquarium in small amounts at a time keeping track of how much your neon needs. Watch them as they eat and continue shaking small amounts until they stop eating.
This way you can estimate with precision how much food to put in the tank the next time your feed your neon tetras.
Breeding Neon Tetras
Neon tetras are easy to breed, but the conditions have to be just right. You’ll need to set up a breeding tank which should be clean of everything except one or two plants.
The water conditions will have to be controlled precisely, so will the light cycle.
While starting the process, turn the aquarium lights off and gradually increase the intensity until reproduction occurs. Soft- acidic water and mosquito larvae are also good inducers; plus keep the water at around 75°F to 78°F.
When sexing your tetras before placing a pair in the breeding tank, females will generally have plumper bodies when viewed from above. This is mostly because of the eggs in their bellies.
However, the belly may appear slightly plump on any neon tetra due to overfeeding, so you’ll need to exert a little caution when selecting the pair.
Also, before putting the parents in the breeding tank, make sure you sterilize the water and everything inside the aquarium. Some breeders also recommend doing at least a 50 percent water change to simulate the fresh rains tetras get in their natural habitat.
Once you choose your male and female, place them in the tank and dim the light or cover the tank with a sheet to keep out natural light as well.
The female tetra should lay her eggs, and the male will fertilize them. Then the eggs will hatch within 24 hours, and you’ll have you fry. Bay tetras will look like slivers of glass swimming inside your tank.
Neon tetra eggs are about the size of a grain of sand and practically invisible. So you should use spawning mops in the breeding tank instead of a substrate.
Still to keep the eggs safe, remove the adults from the tank otherwise they will feed on them.
Keep the aquarium lights off for another five days because tetra fry are light sensitive and need a dark environment to thrive. During this period, feed them special food usually labeled as appropriate for fry. Then after a couple of days, you can start the fry on baby brine shrimp.
Eventually, introduce your neon tetra babies into the adult aquarium; about three months in.
Since many neon tetras may be produced from one breeding attempt, you might need to find a home for some of your newborns. First, ask friends with appropriate aquariums if they would love to have your surplus fry.
You can also ask online in forums you participate in most time there will be someone looking for such an offer. Or just call your local pet store, maybe they are interested in purchasing some.
Enjoy your Neon Tetras.