Green Neon Tetra – Care, Tank Setup, Lifespan, Disease

green neon tetra

One of the preferred pets that people admire is fish. Fish ranks in the third position as a pet worldwide. There are around 28,000 different species of fish known to us. Among those, one of the most popular fish families is the tetra fish family. There are approximately 700 species of tetra fish. Among them, we will be looking in detail about a tetra species called Green Neon Tetra. These tetras most under-rated species as well.

Green neon tetra (Scientific Name: Paracheirodon simulans) are bright and colorful fish. Keeping these tetras in your tank can bring spark in the environment. These tetras are often mistaken as neon tetras because they exhibit similar appearance and coloration. However, they are not the same. These tetras are similar to cardinal tetras as well apart from its size. The green neon tetras are also known as blue neon tetra and false neon tetras. Their unique color and behavior make these tetras desirable to most people.

If you are a fish lover as I am, this article can provide you with information regarding the tetra’s origin, appearance, and nature as well as required tank conditions. I hope that through this article, I can clear most of your doubts regarding the fish.

Origin, Habitat in the Wild and Distribution

The green neon tetras are native to the fresh waters of Rio Orinoco and the upper part of the Negro River in South America. They are found in river basins, in the black water, which is naturally soft and highly acidic. Within the black water streams, the tetras are found only in the upper terra firma (Latin for firm land).

The habitats typically have slow-to-moderate water flow covered in fallen branches, roots of the trees, and the litter of flowing leaves, with the thick, often overhanging rivers and wetland vegetation.

Green neon tetras are premium pet fish. This means that these fish are naturally more energetic, hardier, have bright colors with a metallic sheen. Premium fish are rare, and we do not find them easily in our local pet stores.

Besides, you cannot find these tetras commercially produced, making them less common and more expensive than any other tetras. Nowadays, several species of neon tetras are captive-bred and exported to different regions. Many breeders sometimes trade these species as ‘false neon tetras.’

About Green Neon Tetra

If you are looking for a perfect, schooling fish to light up your aquarium, then green neon tetras are excellent nano fish. These species of tetras look quite similar to Cardinal tetras and Neon tetras. The only difference between green neon and other similar tetras are their colors and size. These species are not as common as the cousin species.

Keep reading the article to find out how to best care for them and what makes them a unique and popular choice among many aquarists.


Cardinal tetras and neon tetras have a horizontal red, blue, and green sheen in its body. Whereas, green neon tetras barely have any red strips and have only a metallic turquoise-green sheen in its body. These species of tetras are the smallest among their cousins.

Talking about their appearance, Green Neon Tetra, like their cousins, are famous because of their bright colorations. The body has a silver and grayish base. The turquoise-green coloration elongates throughout the fish’s body on both sides. The only red-green coloration found in them is in the head, caudal fin and ventral region.

The size of the adult green neon is about 3.5 cm.

Sometimes you can find golden scales and coloration in green neon tetra. You must be aware that this coloration is not the fish’s natural colors. These colorations in the tetra are due to parasites.


As mentioned previously, green neon tetras are found in blackwater areas in neotropical regions. You can find these species in the areas of northwest Brazil to Columbia around River Negro, and in Orinoco river basins in Venezuela.

The CITES or IUCN has not listed these tetras of the Characidae family as endangered. Hence, these tetras are common in their native range. The fish are captive-bred in the fish farms of different regions and exported to other countries. Green Neon Tetra fish are a central attraction in the different planted tanks around the world.


Most of the tetras can live up to 3 to 5 years. Green neon tetras are no different. In fact, these tetras can live up to 10 years in the wild. However, in the aquarium, they can live for about 5 years.


These species are schooling tetras; thus, you need to purchase them in groups of at least 6. The group value of these across Europe is £ 1.40 per fish. Whereas in the USA the price is $3.99 per fish and a bit expensive.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

Green neon tetras are small, hardy and active fish. And these tetras are peaceful in nature and are no threat to other species in the tank.  As these fish are shoaling fish they need to be kept in a group. So, they are very easy to care for. Even a beginner aquarist can easily keep the fish with some basic knowledge about the fish and its requirements.

The fish is very hardy and can adapt to a wide range of water parameters however, the water chemistry should not fluctuate often. Even though these tetras are very easy to care for, proper maintenance of the tank should be the top priority for their health.

In the wild, they share habitat with fish that are a little bigger or equal to its size. These fish can easily be prey to a big fish. Therefore, you should not keep them with large species.

Since these species are very small, it can be a little bit tricky and difficult to feed them. These tetras have tiny mouths and are unable to eat large chunks like others. Therefore, you need to keep in mind how you feed them. Apart from this, it is not at all difficult to maintain them. Even beginners can care for these fish with proper research.

Sexual Difference

Pointing out the difference between male and female green neon tetra is a challenge that a lot of owners can face. Both sexes of these fish display similar coloration and appearance. So how do you determine their sexes? In identifying the gender, you should check the size of the tetra.

Male species are generally smaller than females. This feature occurs as females have to store the eggs during reproduction. Hence, the female abdomen is rounded or more spherical look.

Social Behavior and Tank Mates

One of the things you should recognize as a fish owner is the nature of your fish. Some species can be violent; some only prosper in isolation, whereas some need groups. The green neon tetra is a peaceful fish. These tetras do not pose any threats to other species. These fish can sometimes playfully dispute with each other, but they do not harm fatally.

Even though the fish do not exhibit any threat to other species, it is not suitable to put them in a large community tank with predator fish. These tetras may require different tank conditions than other fish species too. The fish is very small, and they may face problems with larger species.

Some of the possible tank mates for green neon tetra are diminutive, non-aggressive characids, and smaller Callichthyidae or Loricariidae catfish.

Green Neon Tetra Fish Care

One thing that you must understand when you are planning to keep a fish is that it is not as simple as you think. Most people make a mistake to purchase fish randomly without any prior knowledge. If you do so, there will be repercussions, and you will be affecting the fish’s health.

Once during a visit to the local fish store, one customer complained that his fish died one after another. Apparently, the customer underfed fish because he did not know how much to feed. To avoid these circumstances, you must study the fish you want to keep.

Yes, some of you might see this as extremely hard work. Nevertheless, once you are familiar with it, you will start to enjoy this. When it comes to fish keeping, this is compulsory as these are also living beings. They deserve to thrive and live happily as much as we do. As we fall ill, when our environment is not favorable, they do fall ill too.

Therefore, we must keep in mind the various aspects required for them to prosper. You can read them in detail further.

Tank Size

When you are planning to keep a pet fish, the first thing you should consider is the aquarium, the tank where your fish is going to live throughout his life. So, it is your duty to give him a better place to live.

Different kinds of fish require different tank sizes. Hence, if you know the type of fish you want to keep, you should also know the type and size of the tank.

Even though green neon tetras are very small, they are not appropriate for small and compact gallon aquariums. These tetras love to hide and prefer a tank that has large swimming areas and vegetation. The standard aquarium of size 20 gallons is the least requirement of these tetras. While selecting, bigger the tank size, it is better for fish to roam and explore. These fish do well in biotope tank setup kept together with only small and peaceful fish.

If you want to go for a community tank with other species, get a bigger tank and start with a 50-Gallon tank.

The number of fish will also determine the tank requirement. Let’s leave 5-gallon space for the decoration on your tank. Now calculate the tank volume: 1 inch of fish requires 1 gallon of swimming space so 15 fish of size 1 inch will require 15-gallon water to swim freely. Therefore, adding the decoration volume, you will need to get a 20-gallon tank for 15 fish of size 1 inch.


The green neon tetra has bright colorations. The metallic sheen of these tetras becomes more beautiful when the tank lighting is dark toned. And also, they live in a blackwater where very little light penetrates through the water. Hence, as to mimic their natural habitat, the tank lighting for the tetras needs to be dim. The tetras need more vegetation and plants in the tank too. Plants require bright light, however, if you densely plant aquarium plants then that’s not a problem as this will create enough shaded area for the fish to hide.

Decorations and Substrate

If you do not decorate the tank with plants and substrate, your tank will not look natural. You must replicate the fish’s natural habitat as closely as possible. You must decorate the tank as per the need and behavior of the fish.

The green neon tetras love to have plenty of vegetation in their habitat. You can plant an adequate amount of ground cover plants and driftwoods. These tetras use them as hiding spots. These species are very comfortable with floating plants or the plants that grow on the surface of the water. These plants help to filter the light of the tank and lessen the brightness.

As for the substrate, to mimic their natural habitat, you can go for brown sand. Or if you are going to add plants to your tank add soil as your tank’s substrate. Dark soil can also pop out the fish color. Or you can create a landscape using various substrates, driftwoods, and rocks.

These species prefer the water, which is more acidic. You can replicate the acidic nature of water by adding dried leaves, peat, or products like black water extract. This is useful for tinting the water.

Fish Diet

Feeding green neon tetras are a bit tricky. These tetras do not grow large and are comparatively smaller than other tetras. Hence, these fish have a smaller mouth. You must break down the food into smaller peace and feed them. You must feed these tetras that they can consume within 3 to 5 minutes.

In the wild, these fish eat small insects, crustaceans, worms, and zooplankton. However, it is hard for you to feed these foods in an aquarium. Thus, you can feed them with commercially available foods like frozen, dried worms, daphnia, and crushed flake foods. Other food items loved by these tetras are tubifex worms, cyclops-eeze, and baby brine shrimp. You should provide these foods a couple of times a week. As for their regular diet, feed them quality food flakes or pellets.

Additionally, these species are omnivorous. When you decorate your tank with plants, the dead leaves present in the aquarium also provide these tetras with supplement food sources.

Maintain Water Quality

The quality of water must always be healthy and prosperous. The water in your tank gets toxic over time if it is not in proper care. When the water gets dirty, it will increase various pollutants as well as germs that can adversely affect the life of your fish.

I used to work at a fish pet store, and I also own an aquarium. While working there, I mostly see people complaining about the aquarium being dirty and developing unwanted materials in the tank glass. When we asked about cleanliness and water changing, most of the people have no idea. Most people have a misconception that you can leave the fish tank unattended without any maintenance. It is necessary to take care of the tank in the right way. Hence, you should make sure that your fish are thriving and healthy, and to do so, one must maintain the quality of the water.

Some of the various ways that the owner can maintain the water quality are by checking the temperature, ph level, filtration, etc.


The green neon tetras are tropical fish. Therefore, these tetras love warm waters. To create an appropriate environment for these fish, you must maintain the temperature. Even though these tetras can adapt to fluctuations in the living condition, it is safer for their health to keep the temperature in balance.

The ideal temperature that these species prefer is between 23°C to 27°C. For maintaining the temperature of the water, add an automatic heater.

pH and Hardness

To maintain the pH level and hardness of water all you need to do is regular water change. You can buy a TEst kit to monitor your water parameter as well.

The green neon tetras like slightly more acidic water. The pH value that your tank should have ranged from 5.5 to 6.5. There have been reports of these tetras doing well in the ph level up to 8 as well.

These tetras lived in the soft waters of the wild. Hence, the hardness of the water should be between the ranges of 2 to 12 dGH.


The filtration system is a necessity in any aquarium. The main purpose of keeping filters is to clean up the unwanted and unnecessary debris that is developed inside the tank after a period. These can be toxic to the tetras and can hamper their health.

While installing filtration for green neon tetras, you must not forget to cover the filter intake or pump intake with some mesh or foam. This is very important as these tetras are very small, and the force of the filter can suck them. Most aquarists advise you to install a filter that has a water flow of 4 to 5 times the volumes of your aquarium.

Aquarium Water Maintenance

Water is an essential part of your fish’s life. Maintaining the water inside the tank is one of your most prioritized tasks. It is important to clean the tank as well as change the water of the tank every 1 to 2 weeks.

You can notice changes in water, such as the difference in the shade when the water needs to be changed. If this happens, you are neglecting your responsibility. The water of your aquarium needs to change every week by 10%. It does not matter if the water is not yet dirty.

The aquarium tank is a confined space. The fish defecates within the tank, and it has nowhere else to go. As the tank water gets old, the development of toxins such as ammonia, nitrates, phosphates, etc. have to be removed. If you are not able to remove these toxins timely, then the tank water condition will severely affect your fish health. Therefore, doing a water change and improving the water conditions is one of the important roles that you must carry out.

Fish Diseases

An aquarium is a closed system, what’s inside an aquarium stays inside unless you take them out, right?. Once a disease outbreaks inside your aquarium will definitely affect all your fish inside your aquarium. Therefore, you will always have to maintain and check your water parameter.

The most common disease the green neon tetras suffer from is with itch. These fish can get a small ball-like appearance near the fin region. You can identify the symptom of itch when the fish is running against the wall and rubbing its body against the hard surfaces. The cause of this is a parasite in the fish’s body. You can see white golden patches when this happens.

Do not worry if you find your fish sick. You can take action to stop the diseases from spreading from one fish to another. You can separate unhealthy fish from healthy ones. Another measure that you can take is adding commercial de-chlorinator into the water.

Breeding the Fish

The breeding of green neon tetra will take place if you set up the tank, which is very close to their natural environment. In order to do so, you must stabilize the tank temperature to 25°C (77°F). Water should be extremely soft, with a pH level of around 6. You must stain the water with the help of tannins from peat. The eggs do not do well in bright lighting; hence, you should subdue the tank light.

The spawning process takes place in a group. During this process, one female can be associated with more than one male. The females lay about 130 eggs over fine leaves — the eggs hatch after 24 hours. You must remove the parent fish after the spawning as they do not care for the eggs or the fry and eat them.

The fish fry will be very tiny and delicate. You must take care of them with proper feeding and nurturing. You should continuously check up on them and feed them protozoa called infusoria. They will start to grow very soon, and when they get a bit bigger, you can feed them with fry foods.


If you want to add green neon tetras in your aquarium, you must be prepared beforehand. As these tetras are lesser-known among the neon tetras, you should understand all the necessities and environment they desire.

These tetras are very stunning in the aquarium, and if you take care of them, they will shine and brighten your aquarium. I hope this article has given you some insights on what your responsibilities. If you follow this, then you will have no problem caring for them.


Image Credit: Peter Maguire –

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