Neon Tetras

Neon Tetras are a group of schooling fish that originates from the rain forests, rivers, and streams of tropical and subtropical Africa and South America. They are a small fish that can live up to several years in captivity. Neon Tetras sport iridescent blue colors and are named appropriately. 

This species requires soft and slightly acidic warm water in the tank. They eat typical aquarium food that is on the smaller side, to accommodate the small mouths of these fish. Tetras in general are a good community fish that enjoy living in groups of six or more. They will mix well with other fish of small and medium size. The mild behavior of this fish and their easy to care for requirements make Neon Tetras ideal for beginner and expert hobbyists alike.

a beautiful neon tetra swimming down from the surface

Neon Tetra Information

  • Average Length: 1 – 1.5 inches
  • Scale Colors: Blue, red, silver
  • Attention Needs: Low
  • Good Pet: Yes!
  • Good with Other fish : yes as long as they’re peaceful species
  • Good with Other Neon Tetras: They enjoy living in groups
  • Suitable for First-Time Fish owners: Yes
  • Weight Gain: No
  • Health Concerns: Neon Tetra Disease and White Spot Disease
  • Average Life Span: They can live 5 to 10 years
a neon tetra swimming near some aquatic plants

Physical Appearance Neon Tetra Fish

The Neon Tetra is a popular fish because of its bright colors. The fish has a slender body and large eyes that cover the widest part of the head. The fish has a blue coloration running from the eyes all through to the adipose fin. The adipose fin is a small round fin located between the tail fin and the dorsal fin.

The middle part of the fish body including the belly is covered by white/silver coloration. Beyond the belly, Neon Tetras have a red stripe that runs all through to the caudal fin.

The bright colors of the fish are believed to help the fish locate each other in black waters which they love. It’s also not uncommon to see the Neon Tetras colors seeming faded especially when they’re sleeping or feeling ill.

Temperament of Neon Tetras

Neon Tetras are very peaceful fish species that live in groups. The fish are great if you want to have many fish in a single tank. Although the Neon fish is a community fish, you have to be careful not to place it together with an aggressive fish that may try to eat it.

Tank Conditions

Neon Tetras are low maintenance fish and are ideal for first time fish owners. The first step towards keeping your pet happy and healthy is having a large tank to facilitate swimming and hiding. The ideal tank for Neon Tetras should be a minimum of 10 gallons.

Filtration is also an important requirement in the aquarium because the Neon fish is adversely affected by a spike in ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates in the water. As you install your filtration system, make sure to place a mesh at the filter intakes. The fish are quite small and can easily get sucked up by the filters leading to their death.

Neon Tetras enjoy living in dark areas in the wild.  If you can create a dark place in the aquarium for them it would help them to feel more at home. If this isn’t possible then dimming the lights, and adding a light timer to completely shut the lighting off while your family sleeps would be good too. Aquatic plants and other decorations can also help to give the aquarium a dark place for the fish.

Remember Neon Tetras love black waters in the wild. You can also create such conditions for your pet to give it a more natural habitat. You can use some driftwood which makes the water appear dark in color.

The temperatures of the water should be maintained at 70–80 °F. It is helpful to have an aquarium thermometer to keep monitoring the temperatures. Neon Tetras do well in slightly acidic waters with PH ranging from t 6.0 to 6.5.

a school of neon tetras swimming together
a school of neon tetras swimming near some aquatic plants

Tank Maintenance

The fish tank should be cleaned regularly to prevent accumulation of contaminants. Water changes are recommended once every week. About 25 percent of the water should be replaced every other week. As you change the water, make sure not to exceed the 25 percent threshold because drastic changes in water could kill your fish from shock. 

Naturally, Neon Tetras don’t release a lot of bio waste like the Goldfish. So a sophisticated filtration system is not usually needed if they are your only fish. A simple sponge filtration is adequate to maintain a healthy habitat for your Neon Tetras.

Best Tank Mates for Neon Tetras

They like to stay in a large pack and will rarely move around alone in the tank. The Neon Tetra is small in size which allows several of them to stay together inside a tank. 

Some of the best tank mates for Neon Tetra are listed below –

Health Issues

Just like other fish species, Neon Tetras are susceptible to certain illnesses as detailed here.

Neon Tetra Disease

The Neon Tetra Disease is the most common health issue you’ll most likely encounter as a pet owner. The disease is caused by a parasite called Pleistophora hyphessobryconis. The parasite lives in other hosts such as various live foods fed to fish. 

Other fish could catch the disease if they eat a sick fish that dies from the same illness. The Neon Tetra Disease not only affects the Neon fish but also other fish species. It’s highly recommended to take immediate action or you could lose all the fish in the tank. 

When a pet has the Neon Tetra Disease, you’ll notice the following signs:

  • Restlessness especially at night
  • Fish not swimming with other tank mates
  • Faded colors especially the red and blue stripes
  • Lumpy body due to cysts
  • Curved spine
  • Fin rot
  • Bloating

The disease has no cure and experts recommend that sick fish get euthanized. Once you notice a sickly fish, you should take it out of the tank so that it doesn’t get eaten by the rest, eventually infecting them.

You can control the disease by making sure the fish tank remains clean and the water conditions exactly match your fish’s needs.

a neon tetra swimming by some rocks
a neon tetra swimming solo

White Spot Disease

Ich is one of the most common diseases found in Freshwater fish. The disease is caused by a parasite that affects the gills and fins of the body. Poor water conditions and stress are major reasons that can lead to the fish catching this disease. When a fish becomes infected with Ich, it tends to rub against hard objects such as decorations, rocks and the substrate.

Symptoms include white spots on the body, breathing difficulty and fish rubbing against hard surfaces. In comparison to other fish diseases, these symptoms make it easy to identify if your fish is infected. 

A major concern is that this disease is highly contagious and can easily spread to other fish in your aquarium. If not treated early on, it can even cause respiratory issues. 

Treatments include slightly increasing the water temperature, adding medication to the tank and performing a large water change. If you have a community fish tank then it is suggested to move the infected fish into a quarantine tank and then treat them.

The Attention Needs of Neon Tetras

The Neon fish has been a favorite pet for beginner aquarists for many years because they don’t have high attention needs. The fish grows to about an inch long so they can fit in most beginner aquariums.

Since Neon Tetras aren’t heavy eaters, most beginners can handle the feeding needs of the fish. The fish can also survive in varied temperature and water conditions since they do well in clear and black waters.

Feeding Neon Tetras

Neon Tetras are omnivores and will eat almost anything fed to them.  Many owners love them because they aren’t picky eaters. The fish especially enjoys commercial flakes, frozen foods, and some live foods. When buying commercial pellets or flakes for your fish, ensure that the food contains about 40 percent protein content.  

Bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia make the best frozen foods and these are readily available in most of the pet stores. Black worms and fruit flies make a good choice for live foods whenever you want to give your pet a treat.

As you feed your fish, only offer them what they can eat within 20 – 30 seconds. Its  recommended that they be fed 2 – 3 times in a day.

Related Questions:

Can I keep Neon Tetra with other fish?

Neon Tetras are a community fish that love swimming at the middle part of the aquarium. The least number of Neon Tetras you should have in a tank is 6 so that your fish remain healthy and active. If you only keep one pet in the tank, it will become lonely and might even die from stress.

If you plan on having other species in the same tank, ensure that the other fish are peaceful and cannot eat your Neon fish. Some good choices of tank mates for your Neon Tetras are small catfish, rasboras, and dwarf gouramis.

fish food

Why would Neon Tetras stay at the bottom of the aquarium?

Neon fish are a shoaling fish that enjoys swimming in groups and mostly do it from the middle of the tank. If you find your fish staying at the bottom of the tank, it’s a sign of illness and you should examine your fish and possibly move them to another tank. Changing the water can solve the problem if the illness is as a result of contaminated water in the tank.

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