Are Neon Tetras Freshwater Tropical Fish?

Are Neon Tetras Freshwater Tropical Fish?

Generally, people raise tropical freshwater fish in their tanks. Neon Tetras are one of those freshwater fish. With an iridescent blue glow on the body that can light up any aquarium, it’s no wonder why these fish are so beloved amongst many fish owners.

Today, I will keep you covered on Neon Tetras Freshwater tropical habitat. About how their environment is like, the pH and chemistry of water, their friends in the wild, and all that. Let us also know how you can make your Neon Tetras feel at home by replicating the tropical water!

Neon Tetras have a body suited for tropical waters. A freshwater with fallen decayed leaves create low pH, and the vegetation balance the water parameters. Such waters are black (thus, called blackwater) due to decayed leaves and dense vegetation in which these glowing fish can live easily.

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Do Neon Tetras Live In Freshwater And If So, Why?

I have never heard of Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon innesi) as saltwater fish so yes, Neon Tetras do live in freshwater.

You can learn in detail about Neon Tetra from our Complete Care Guide For Beginners.

It is because their body is adapted by evolution to survive in such water.

Below, let us find out the condition of the freshwater where these lovely fish reside.

Are Tetra Tropical Fish? Tetra Origin and Habitat. Find out here!

Creeks, Banks, And Quiet Places

Although hardy, Neon Tetras are quite a finicky species. These fish prefer to live in quiet and peaceful places. This is why Neon Tetras are found in banks and creeks in the wild!

Originally from streams and tributaries of Orinoco and Amazon river basins in Brazil, Columbia, and Peru, this fish is an introvert who shoals with its own kind.

I have also written an article about ‘How Many Neon Tetras Should You Keep In School?’. Check it out!

Tannins In Freshwater For Neon Tetras

In the wild, you can see that leaves and fruits fall in the freshwater. Moreover, the leaves and fruits decay and produce tannins. These tannins change the pH of freshwater from basic to acidic.

Good news! Neon Tetras thrive in acidic waters.

Learn more about How to Increase the pH of Your Freshwater Aquarium from here.

Do you like tea? The drink from dry tea leaves (tea) gives you a calm feeling. It is the same thing for Neon Tetras that live in the wild; who love the tannic acid of dry fallen leaves and fruits.

Blackwater For Neon Tetras

The tannins are responsible for making a clear freshwater look dark. The darkness is almost like the black tea you drink!

Also, the dense vegetation in freshwater makes the underwater look almost pitch black. These conditions make the freshwater look dark and such water is considered blackwater.

Well, you do not need to worry if Neon Tetras have a hard time surviving under that dark world!

Neon Tetras have a glow in their body which suffices for the darkness of black water. Neon Tetras can actually use the glow of their body to navigate their surroundings.

Actually, Neon Tetras are not a big fan of bright sunlight.

Temperature Of Freshwater

The temperature of freshwater, no matter where the location, is always around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit in summer and lower during winter.

Neon Tetras, in the tropical wilderness, thrive in this temperature of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Get an idea about the maximum and minimum temperatures in which the neon tetras can live and what happens if they are not maintained!

Chemistry Of Water

The tannins create acidic water.

Likewise, the nitrogen levels are balanced by the vegetation in the tropical water of the wild.

The freshwater has limited salt content and is soft water (especially in streams).

And Neon Tetras survive in such balanced water parameters provided by nature.

Related articles you may like about neon tetras and water:

Sharing Home In Neon Tetras Freshwater Habitat

Neon Tetras are the friendliest fish you can find! This is why it is a favorite species for novice and even expert fish owners.

You might like Top 10 Easy to Care Tetra Fish – Perfect For Beginners and 10 reasons why neon tetra is the perfect pet.

But, how are Neon Tetras in the wild? Let us know more about their behavior.

Schooling Character

Neon Tetras are schooling fish. This means that you will see Neon Tetras always swim together, tightly knit in a group.

Being a small and finicky species, these glowing fish are easily scared by predators. And unity wards off the predators. Thus, their nature is schooling fish.

Neon Tetras rarely bite off other fish or create a predatory behavior. Thus, Neon Tetras will be the loveliest pets you can keep in your aquarium.

Are Tetras Schooling Fish? Find out Easy Schooling Fish.

Other Species That Neon Tetras Can Befriend

In the wild, Neon Tetras are found schooling with their own kind. Other than their own species, Neon Tetras share their home with other friendly species. It includes:

Basically, any friendly species of water creatures are Neon Tetras’ friend.

So, How Will You Replicate The Vibes Of Neon Tetras Freshwater Environment In Your Tank?

I am sure you are fascinated by Neon Tetras’ freshwater tropical habitat.

Thus, you might want to buy Neon Tetras and make them a comfortable home aquarium.

If you already have Neon Tetras, you might want to improvise on the environment of your fish buddies home.

I will help you with this matter. Tropical freshwater is so far away but how will you bring those vibes to your home aquarium? Just read the following.

A Big Tank

Freshwater rivers have a lot of space for Neon Tetras to swim in.

Thus, I think it is a good idea to get the biggest tank you possibly can. Maybe a 20 to 30 gallons tank would be ideal for a beginner.

Too much of Neon Tetras in a small tank can stress out your buddies. Thus, a 30-gallon tank with 10 to 15 Neon Tetras would be the best thing ever.

More about Best Tank Size For Keeping Neon Tetra.

Tank Mates

A friendly water creature, whether it be a shrimp, a fish, even an octopus will suit Neon Tetra aquarium. The creature must, however, be friendly to Neon Tetras!

A rule of thumb: If the fish friends have a mouth big enough to fit the tiny Neon Tetras, chances are, the fish friends will eat your Neon Tetras sooner or later.

I will name some friendly species you can keep in your tank along with Neon Tetras.

  • Glowlight Tetras
  • RCS shrimp
  • Dwarf Gouramis
  • Rasboras
  • Corys
  • Small catfish


Neon Tetras can survive in a bare tank as they are mid-level swimmers. However, a black substrate can make your Neon Tetras feel at home. So, why not shift to a dark substrate?

Moreover, Neon Tetras love plants. So, a fertilized dark substrate would be ideal.


Your Neon Tetras will appreciate you keeping driftwoods or any castle, accessory (you name it) which will create shadows and darkness.

Moreover, such decorations should create a hiding place.

What if the finicky Neon Tetras are threatened by a curious child? Don’t worry. The decorations will be their safe spot!

Moreover, rocks and decorations similar to tropical waters create a homely environment in your tank. This can make your fish very happy.

Aquatic Plants

Live Aquatic Plants can never go wrong in your tank.

The aquatic plants absorb CO2 and release O2 which is beneficial for your tank.

Increased nitrogen levels due to fish wastes can kill your fish. To decrease this nitrogen level, aquatic plants play a huge role!

You can keep Indian almond leaves which secrets tannins and creates an acidic pH in the water. This can perfectly suit your Neon Tetras natural tropical habitat.

Moreover, floating plants like pistia make a tropical environment. Your fish can even take shelter under it and try to hunt for some insects.

It is important to buy a plant that can tolerate low lighting.

Some aquatic plants you can keep are:

Balance Is The Key (Temperature, pH, Nitrogen Level, DKH, Etc.)

Perhaps the most important thing to remember in your Neon Tetra tank is balance in water parameters!


To maintain tropical freshwater temperature, buy a heater and thermometer. Then, maintain the temperature to 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. For the thermometer, the best one would be Fish Tank Thermometer, Touch Screen Digital Aquarium Thermometer with LCD Display, Stick-on Temperature Sensor that ensures Optimum Temperature in Terrarium.

pH Level

To maintain the acidity, buy an Indian almond leaf. This part is not compulsory but it will surely make your fish happy. Maintain the pH to 5.5 to 6.2.

Nitrogen Cycle

To maintain the Nitrogen level, you have to cycle the tank.

This is the most important water parameter because the slight imbalance of nitrogen levels can cause the disease and death of your fish.

For this, you have to let the good bacteria to live in your tank for a minimum of 2 months.

I know what most people do and you might be one of those novice fish owners. You may buy loads of Neon Tetras and dump them in the tank before the nitrogen cycle completes. Doing this is easy but, well, this will be a huge mistake on your part.

Without the nitrogen cycle, the fish wastes (rich in nitrogen) will cause an increase in nitrogen levels. And ultimately disease and death in your tank.

You have to research on nitrogen cycle as this is the mistake that many novice fish owners make!

Softness Of Water

Freshwater around creeks and banks are soft water.

To replicate this water softness In your tank, you have to provide your Neon Tetras with up to 10 dGH.

Care And Love

Neon Tetras are fish and although seemingly emotionless, they are full of emotions. You have to respond accordingly and provide care to your fish.

Since Neon Tetras are opportunistic feeders in wild, you have to feed your fish 2 to 3 times a day in small proportions.

You have to check any unusual signs in your fish lest your fish are suffering from any diseases. Prevention is better than cure, after all!

Get to know more about how to care for neon tetras from here.


I hope you understood that Neon Tetras are, indeed, tropical freshwater fish.

And now, even though Amazon is so far away, you can replicate similar vibes in your home aquarium!

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