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Do Neon Tetras Need Filter To Survive?

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Have you been wondering about the requirements to pet Neon tetras in an aquarium? Are you in a dilemma whether to install an Aquarium filter in your Neon Tetra Tank or not? or wonder how long can neon tetra live without a filter installed (mostly when the filter is dead).

Consequently, Neon tetras too have certain requirements to survive in captivity. Filters are one of the important devices for neon tetra tank. Evidently, the filter helps to aerate the aquarium, circulate the tank water, and most importantly give a home to beneficial bacteria.

So, there are two answers, yes and no, to the question of whether neon tetras need a filter to survive. 
Yes, in a sense that when your tank is matured, beneficial bacteria not only colonize in the filter media, but also in the decorations, tank walls, substrates, etc. So, these bacteria help in maintain tank water for some period of time in the absence of a filter.

And, no in the sense that, they cannot survive for a longer period. In order to break down ammonia and nitrite, water needs to pass through beneficial bacteria, so when there is no filter there isn’t a good flow of water inside the tank.
Likewise, bacteria do not build up over-night it takes time, if your tank setup is new your fish won’t survive for long.

In this article, we will guide you about aquarium filters and their necessity in the Neon Tetra tank and find answers to your questions.

Neon Tetras: A Brief Description

Neon tetras are small freshwater fish that belong to the Characidae family. And, the scientific name of Neon Tetra is Paracheirodon innesiThese tetras are one of the most popular fish in the fish keeping business, being an ideal choice of beginners.

Tetras originally belong to the Amazon basin of South America. And that makes Neon tetras a tropical fish that requires the ideal temperature between 78°F to 81°F to survive.

Along with the temperature issue, the natural habitat of neon tetras is pretty dense in terms of plants; thereby they favor a well-planted aquarium as well. And as we all know, plants can act as a natural filter for an aquarium too.

You might know about the tank and water quality required for the survival of Neon Tetras in an aquarium. Still, you should have a quick look at these basic things.

Consider these things before jumping into conclusions about the necessity of filter in the Neon Tetra Tank.

Ideal Water Condition for Neon Tetras

  1. Optimal temperature: Neon Tetras are the fish that thrive in the ideal temperature of water between 78°F to 80°F.
  2. pH: Neon Tetras prefer water with a pH between 5.5 to 6.2; whilst these tetras can also adjust themselves to the water with a pH of up to 6.8.
  3. Mineral level: Neon Tetras prefer water with hardness between 2 to 10 i.e soft water; however, these Tetras can adjust themselves in high-grade medium-hard water as well.
  4. Tank size: The ideal tank size for the aquarium to keep Neon Tetras is 10 gallons. But if you are keeping the school of 15 neon tetras, then 20 gallons is the ideal tank size.

Also Read: Water Parameters for Tetra Fish: Stable Water Condition

Aquarium Filter

The filter is a device used for the filtration of physical and chemical pollutants present in an aquarium.

Simply, the aquarium filter is a device that removes dead and decayed bodies of aquatic beings from the aquarium. This filter also helps to keep up a suitable environment for the living fish.

Filters also help home beneficial bacteria which play a vital role in the Nitrogen Cycle; the Nitrogen Cycle is the conversion of excretory ammonia from the fish into an essential nitrogenous compound: nitrate.

Filter helps to remove pollutants from the aquarium giving us clean and transparent water.

Layers of Filtration

Any aquarium filters must have the following layer of filtration in order: Mechanical Filtreation->Biological Filtration->Chemical Filtration.

Mechanical Filtration

Mechanical Filtration is the first layer of the filter with two segments: Fine mechanical and coarse mechanical.

The divided sections collect larger pollutants like dead fish, plants, etc. that’s why they are trash collectors.

The mechanical segment collects all the trash until you, the owner of the tank, remove the trash. They are generally filter-pads, sponges, and filter floss pads.

Biological Filtration

Biological layers are kept at the last segment of the filter; all layers consequently give the cleanest water to it. The mechanical and chemical filtration helps to stop pollutants that affect these bacteria.

The biological media consists of beneficial bacteria, Nitrosomonas, and Nitrobacter, which do the nitrogen cycle in the tank.

Chemical Filtration

The second layer of the filter should always be the chemical filtration in any aquarium filter; it is that way because another chemical distresses the biological filtration.

Activated carbon and specific chemicals form the chemical media; these agents remove the tannins, medications, as well as the impurities that remain after mechanical filtration.

Also Read: Aquarium Filters Best Suited For Tetra Fish Fry

Why is it Necessary to Have an Aquarium Filter in a Neon Tetra Tank?

Filtration helps to make the water in an aquarium free from pollutants. Neon tetras also have a certain need for the water quality and temperature for their survival.

Filtration helps to remove all the toxins that can harm the Neon Tetras residing in the aquarium. Along with that it also helps to aerate the tank to supply oxygen in the tank.

Furthermore, the aquarium filter helps the heater to thoroughly pass heat to every part of the aquarium. The rate of flow helps in the movement of water and that movement helps to transfer heat throughout the tank.

Also, the aquarium filter provides an area for the beneficial bacteria to colonize and grow; these filters further transport their colonies to the walls, ornaments, substrate, etc. These expanded colonies of bacteria assure the safety and normality of the tank with no filter; they help to maintain the aquarium normality for a certain period only.

The bacteria that have grown on the substrate and inner walls can maintain the environment for a while, but they die off slowly as well; that’s why a filter is necessary to avoid serious problems.

What is the Work of the Aquarium Filter in the Neon Tetra Tank?

An aquarium filter can act as an accessory for the Neon tetra tank. Neon tetras are very small fish that produce small bioloads; the need for a filter is not high in Neon Tetra Tank.

Aquatic plants in the aquarium can handle the waste produced by Neon Tetras. Plants like algae are a natural biofilter as they convert produced bio waste into essential products.

A filter is an essential part of an aquarium if you are a beginner. The filter in a neon tank provides shelter for the growth of beneficial bacteria that help in the Nitrogen Cycle.

Besides, the filter also creates surface agitation which in turn helps to aerate the aquarium water.

Similarly, the aquarium filter helps to clear out the water; they filter out physical and chemical pollutants assuring proper environment for the Neon Tetras.

Does Survival of Neon Tetras Depend upon Aquarium Filter in a Tank?

No, Neon Tetras can survive in the absence of a filter in an aquarium; they are small fish with very small needs and do not produce huge bio loads.

It will be difficult for new fish keepers to understand the process; it is hard to know things to do in the absence of a filter in an aquarium. Accordingly, you should know what you are doing to keep your Neon tetras safe.

Nonetheless, an experienced fish keeper can handle an aquarium without the filter; it will be easier for them to understand why a heavily planted aquarium is important. As you know, an experienced fishkeeper knows the procedure for maintaining the required water quality.

The heavily planted aquarium assures to deal with the bioload with no an aquarium filter; these aquatic plants help to remove toxins from the water and give oxygen for the tank.

Additionally, a Bubbler is important to make ebb and flow current; this current helps to cut dead spots present in the aquarium as well as helps to generate some surface agitation. Along with the surface agitation and elimination, it permits the oxygenation of the water to happen.

How Does the Rate of Filtration Affect Neon Tetra?

A well-functioning aquarium completely depends on the rate of water flow through the filter into the tank; and the Neon Tetra tank is not different.

Amazon River Basin is a compilation of slow-moving streams that naturally habitats Neon Tetras. That’s why Neon Tetras incline towards slow water momentum; they generally prefer water flow rate between the medium and slow range.

As mentioned above, Neon tetras adjust well with the proper current, but they won’t last long in high current. The proper flow rate makes a huge impact on the health and happiness of the aquatic being inhabiting the tank.

Now, the basic thing about Neon Tetras is, they favor a well-planted aquarium. That, in turn, raises the question about the safety of plants along with these little fishes; the inappropriate current of water affects them both.

A high flow rate brings unwanted chaos for fish; it also causes the death of delicate aquatic plants like Algae. The high current of water first stresses the Neon tetras in an aquarium; this eventually leads to the death of these fish.

The neon tetra tank works better at the rate of 4 times an hour. However, the good thumb rule is to select a filter with a flow rate six times an hour.

Nonetheless, the media gets clogged if the rate is one time an hour. The clogged media hinders the functioning of the filter; this clogging results in the increment of the toxicity level in an aquarium. And increased toxicity consequently affects the health of Neon Tetra.

Types of Aquarium Filter

  1. Power filters: These are the external filters that rotate water through a series of filter media. They are common and effective filters.
  2. Diatom filters: This filter uses Diatomaceous earth as the filter media; it helps to pull out minute particles from the water. These filters are sporadic and used rarely.
  3. Trickle filters: These filters use the dry/wet drip method These filters are a supporter of biological filtration. The water makes the passage through various media plates and rains back into the tank.
  4. Baffle filters: The water passes through various baffles just like trickle filters do with trays. Different baffles combine different media that filters water.
  5. Algae filters: Algae are the natural biological filter. As a result, algae are intentionally grown to help to pull out chemical components from the aquarium.
  6. Canister filters: These filters are easier and reliable than other filters; they offer an extreme amount of filter material with higher suppleness. We can remove Canister filters from the tank to clean without changing the dynamic of the aquarium.
  7. Fluidized bed filter: These filters use sand as the filter media and work on the same mechanism as for liquefaction.
  8. Internal filters: These filters are internally placed using suction cups. In addition to these, these filters use an electric pump to clear out the water.
  9. Airlift filters: The flow of water is airlifted with the help of bubbles made from the air pump. And, water passes through several means and arrives through the airlift tube.
  10. Under-gravel filters: These filters consist of porous plates; they are kept under the gravel of the aquarium and home beneficial bacteria. These filters support Biological filtration.

Read Full Article on Types of Aquarium Filter For Tetra Fish and Filtration Methods

What Type of Aquarium Filter is Best for Neon Tetra Tank?

An internal aquarium filter with built-in biological filtration is the best choice for these modest tetras.

There are many important things about Neon Tetras that do not subside; one of them is they are tropical fish with natural habitat as slow-moving streams. The essential aspect to remember while choosing a filter is that Neon Tetras prefer a slow flow rate.

The filter with a flow rate of 4 times an hour is suitable for Neon tetras. But the flow rate 1 time an hour can cause the media clog; and the clogging of media harms the fish.

The basic thumb rule to select the right filter for an aquarium is to consider a filter with a flow rate of 6 times the volume of water in the tank.

For instance, if your aquarium size is 10 gallons, the filter flow rate should be 60 gph(Gallons Per Hour). However, the flow rate of 40 gph is right for neon tetras.

If the water current is high, then we can act cleverly by placing baffles just below the filter;  the water passes through it towards the aquarium normalizing the flow rate. In addition to the baffles, we can also install a flow adjuster; this adjuster will help to keep up the flow rate of the water in an aquarium.

Additionally, a filter with peat as a media part acts as a complementary device for the safety of Neon Tetras. The peat filter can help to create soft acidic water for neon tetras as well as induce their breeding too.

Aquarium Filter Failure and Maintenance: How Do You Know Whether Your Filter is Broken or not?

Movement of Water

The water in an aquarium stops moving through the filter; that means they show no change in water rotation in the filter.

Disturbing Noise

A broken filter rattles when you try to turn it on. A broken part inside the filter produces an irritating sound indicating the failure in the filter internally.

Absence of Suction Cups

Suction cups might fall off while you take out your filter to clean. And it is quite clear that those suction cups hold the filter inside the tank; their absence questions the safety of filter and fish in the aquarium.

Unclear Water

Filtration clears the water from physical and chemical pollutants. A broken filter cannot do its assigned task. Consequently, the water in the tank starts to become unclean and full of pollutants. The unclear water indicates the problem in the filter.

Crack in the Filter

You can notice cracks and broken parts in the filter while cleaning it. These cracks can lead to the malfunctioning of the filter and directly/indirectly harm your Neon Tetras.


Keep in check

You should keep on checking the filter from time to time to find if it is working or not.

Monitor the water

You should watch the water in the tank closely to know if it is clear or not.

Clear Out the Trash

Clearing out the trash from mechanical media maintains the durability of the filter.

Soft Rinse

You should rinse the filter to protect the beneficial bacteria; as you can break the filter while cleaning it harshly.

The Connection between Heater, Filter, and Neon Tetras

The connection between heater and filter in an aquarium is undeniable. If you are setting up a new neon tetra tank, then you must install both filter and heater in it.

Neon Tetras are the tropical fish with the ideal temperature 78°F to 80°F. So, a heater highly necessary in the aquarium.

A heater alone cannot run smoothly in an aquarium without some help. That is when the role of the filter then increases; as the good aquarium filter helps to clear the water in the tank by subtracting the pollutants.

The removal of contaminants helps to minus some workload from the heater as clean water is easier to heat.

Similarly, the heater provides an appropriate temperature for the beneficial bacteria in the filter to live on. As we know, good bacteria react severely towards immediate temperature change.

Accordingly, the arrangement between heater and filter maintains a well-functioned aquarium, which is undoubtedly a boon for Tetras.


Briefly, Neon tetras are the easiest and attractive fish to start fish keeping hobby with. They adapt well in a given environment. And the dilemma of whether to get equipment like filter or not is easy to clear out with basic knowledge. If you have experience in handling the Neon Tetras, then you can run a well-planted aquarium without a filter. And an internal filter is an ideal choice as it gives extra support and makes it easier for beginners. It will be one of the best decisions you can make for your tank and safety of Neon Tetras.

Related Article: Can Tetra Fish Live Without Heater And Filter?

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