Can Neon Tetra Fish Live Alone In A Small Fish Tank?

Neon Tetra Fish Live Alone

Ever wondered what it’s like to be fish? Do your fish have feelings? These are common queries you start pondering when you start a fishkeeping hobby. Sometimes you like to see your fish single-handedly making your mood better. And it is okay to wonder if they get lonely or not. Not everyone can have the luxury to pet a school of fish, do they? And when it comes to neon tetras, you definitely want them to pet this beauty. And the aquarium you have might not be that big to accumulate a whole school of neon tetra. So, the question arises. Can Neon Tetra Live Fish Alone in a Small Fish Tank?

No, neon tetras cannot live alone in a small fish tank. This tetra gets depressed, stressed, and eventually dies when kept alone in a small tank as neon tetra is schooling fish and needs space to swim. These tetras need ideal parameters to survive and a small tank can barely hold a candle to it. The small tank with no heater, filter, or air pump is not ideal for tropical fish like neon tetras.

Let’s dive into this article to know more about the what, the why, and the how related to neon tetra living alone in a small tank.

Can Neon Tetra Fish Live Alone In A Small Fish Tank?

No, neon tetras cannot live alone in a small tank. They are schooling fish and need their own kind in school to live happily in captivity.

If you, a human being, cannot live alone and seek family, then think about how small fish like neon tetra would feel.

No one prefers being alone in a completely different world of glasses a forced natural environment.

Why Can’t Neon Tetra Live Alone?

Can you live alone? No, right because you are evolved to live around other human beings. The same is with neon tetras.

They are schooling fish even in their natural habitat. Neon tetras at least need a school of 6 to live happily.

These tetras cannot deviate from their natural self just because you want to keep only one neon tetra.

Why Can’t Neon Tetra Live In A Small Tank?

Neon tetras are freshwater tropical fish that ask for ideal temperature and optimal water quality. The consistent fluctuation of the temperature and dirty tank can make neon tetras stressed and unhealthy.

So, neon tetras need a heater and a filter with beneficial bacteria that perform the aquarium nitrogen cycle in the tank.

These things will help you to keep the tank and water parameters ideal for neon tetras. But a small tank barely has the space to keep fish, where you adjust all the types of equipment you need for tetras?

Aquarium ammonia poisoning, suffocation, overcrowding, etc. occurs profoundly in the small tank with neon tetras.

You might also like to read about Can The Neon Tetra Survive In a Fishbowl?

What Happens When You Keep Schooling Fish Like Neon Tetra Alone?

Here are the things that can happen to your neon tetra when kept alone:


Neon tetras tend to get lonely without its companion.


Loneliness results in the release of high stress alone in neon tetras and stress is a physiological condition rather than an emotional one.


Neon tetra stops eating and swimming when kept alone and appetite loss and sluggishness are signs of depression.


There is a huge possibility of neon tetras losing their iridescent color when kept alone due to stress.


Stressed and depressed neon tetra has a very weak immune system. Likewise, inactivity and less food make them susceptible to diseases.


Being alone might not kill your neon tetra instantly but depression, stress, and diseases that follow will definitely shorten their lifespan.

What Happens When You Keep Neon Tetra Fish In A Small Tank?

The change in temperature and water chemistry in the small tank can occur within a few hours or sometimes even minutes due to the small volume of water.

Neon tetras might be hardy but they can’t handle unstable and constantly fluctuating water parameters. Stress, depression, suffocation, and above all high levels of toxins like ammonia can follow neon tetra in a small tank.

The greatest drawback with a small tank is that problems can occur quickly and change the whole dynamic of the system. These changes are often fatal to neon tetras and hence become the death of them.

What Tank Size Is Ideal For Neon Tetras?

Neon tetras are schooling fish and that is what decides the ideal size of the tetra tank you should get. You cannot go less than 10-gallons when it comes to selecting a tank for your neon tetras.

However, if you go by the ideal school size of neon tetras as mentioned above i.e., 6, you need to get a tank with a 10-gallons capacity.

How Many Neon Tetras Can You Add Per Gallon Of Water?

Neon tetras are schooling fish, so you might want to give them friends of their own kind than leave them alone to suffer.

But you can not overcrowd the tank in the process of doing so. You need to know the general thumb to keep a certain number of tetras per gallon of water present in the aquarium.

The general thumb rule is for each inch the fish grows; they ask for 1 gallon of water for each inch. Simply, if you have a fish that has ultimate size 1 inch then give it 1 gallon of water for itself.

But the size of neon tetras that you are planning to keep or already have is 2 inches. So, the ideal thumb rule for neon tetras is 2 gallons of water per neon tetra.

Most of the time, decorations take away 1 gallon of space from the tank. Hence, now you have 3 gallons of water for each tetra.

Now, as already stated, the minimum tank size these tetras ask for is 10-gallons. So, how many neon tetras in a 10-gallons tank? Let’s do the math.

3 gallons of water=1 neon tetra

1 gallon of water= 1/3 neon tetras

10 gallons of water= 1/3 *10 neon tetras

=3.33, rounding it up 4 neon tetras

Hence you can keep 4 neon tetras in a 10-gallon tank. But the number may vary to 5 or 6 as per the tank condition.

Things To Do For Neon Tetra In An Aquarium

Here are a few things you need to do for your neon tetra:

  1. Get an aquarium heater to keep the water temperature ideal and stable for neon tetras.
  2. Buy an aquarium filter for neon tetras to live in a clean and well-maintained aquarium.
  3. Avoid keeping larger fish with small fish like neon tetras.
  4. Don’t keep them in a small tank with less than 10-gallon capacity.
  5. Keep plants in the tank as neon tetras prefer well-planted aquarium.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to a few FAQs about neon tetra that you might be wondering about as well.

Can You Have Just One Neon Tetra?

No, you can’t just have one neon tetra. Neon tetras are schooling fish with a minimum school size of 6 members.

Without a companion in the tank, neon tetra is likely to develop depression and will weaken their immunity.

They won’t eat properly and start to act sluggish or pine away. This can make your neon tetra weaker and their body defense system starts to fail.

All of this façade will lead to the death of your single and lonely neon tetra. So, don’t experiment and give them their ideal school size/ family.

Can Neon Tetras Live In A Small Tank?

The minimal tank size your neon tetras ask for is 10-gallons as they are schooling fish and can’t live alone for long.

So, any tetra tank with less than 10-gallons capacity will only result in overcrowding, stress, pollution, and eventually death.

Hence, the answer is no. No, neon tetras cannot live in a small tank that has less than 10-gallons capacity.

Do Neon Tetras Die Easily?

Neon Tetras are hardy fish and will adjust in a wide range of water parameters. So, they won’t die easily unless you don’t give them an ideal tank environment.

As long as you provide them an ideal sized tank, appropriate water condition, ideal school size, and accurate feeding time and ideal food amount, you’ll have a beautiful school of neon tetras swimming around happily.

But when the ideal conditions are not met or don’t have consistency, your beautiful neon tetra will get stressed and eventually die.


Briefly, you can’t be cruel to make your dear fish suffer alone and stress and eventually die of loneliness. You might think what will those small tiny brains of the fish will know about being alone. But they do, especially neon tetras. These tetras are way more sensitive about not having a company than any other schooling fish. You might not prefer seeing the signs of depression after keeping you alone. Likewise, a small tank can be really a curse to your neon tetras. As we have already established, neon tetras need their school, and any tank with less than 10-gallons capacity won’t be able to give them the space they need. Give them enough space, keep them in an ideal aquarium of appropriate size and condition, and more importantly give them a family of their own. You will have a beautiful tetra tank in no time.

Good Luck! Happy Fishkeeping!!!

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