How Much Light Do Neon Tetras Need?

Neon tetras need light

When you get neon tetras, you are left behind with hundreds of questions. With all the checklist about neon tetra requirements, one of them makes quite a fuss. You need to keep them in the dim-lit tank but the quantity and quality of light make it confusing. How much light do neon tetras need? How long should your neon tetra’s light be on?

Neon tetras need a light with an output of 2 to 5 watts per gallon of water in the aquarium. You need to keep the light on for 12 to 14 hours a day and don’t expose them to light more than that.

Let’s read in detail about the why, the what, the how, and the when about neon tetras and light. It will definitely make your life and tank management easier when it comes to light.

How Much Light Do Neon Tetras Need?

Neon tetras are freshwater tropical fish, you’ll find them living in the dim-lit environment. In the wild, neon tetras are seen hiding around the bushes, leaves of plants to avoid the light.

They prefer a darker environment too, so it is quite necessary to keep the light low and substrate dark.

Intimating their natural habitat can be quite a task but different varieties of aquarium lights will make your life a little easier.

You need to keep plants in the tetra tank too, so you need to keep this in mind while choosing the light.

In the tank with freshwater fish like neon tetra, you’ll be fine with a low-watt fluorescent light.

You can go for light with 18- and 40-watts output unless you are planning to give neon tetra what they need, i.e., plants.

Your plants along with the neon tetras in the tank change the dynamic of the light requirement.

Here we will need to go with fluorescent light with an output of 2 to 5 watts per gallon of water in the aquarium.

How Long Should Your Neon Tetra’s Light Be On?

The need for light according to the period also depends on the natural habitat of neon tetras. The sunrise and sunset in the natural habitat are the major factors that decide how long neon tetras get light.

From sunrise, till it sets, neon tetras are exposed to light that they dodge with the help of plants and a blackwater environment.

You need to do the same thing for them in the aquarium life as well. Keep the dim lighting or moderate lighting on for 12 to 14 hours a day but not more than that.

How Lighting Affects Plants Present In Neon Tetra Tank?

Aquatic plants, like any other plants, need light to survive and stay healthy. The photosynthesis process completely depends on the presence of light in the tank as well.

Neon tetra prefers a well-planted aquarium, and plants need light to perform every small function in their body.

Most tropical species of plants need a high level of light exposure for photosynthesis. So, it comes down to you to choose plants that can adjust in the tropical but dim-lit environment.

Plants that live and grow near to the water surface need high exposure of light, so go for plants that grow farther. I have also written an article about 10 Best Aquarium Plants For Tetra Fish.

When not provided enough light, plants cannot exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide or prepare their food.

Without enough light, plants will decay, rot, and die sooner making your tetra tank dirty and unhealthy. Not sure if you want that, no one else does.

How Lighting Affects Neon Tetras?

Aquarium light plays a vital role in the growth rate, eye health, coloration, etc. of the neon tetra. Correct lighting helps neon tetra to maintain their circadian rhythm.

Circadian Rhythm regulates the sleep-wake cycle and taking proper rest after day endeavors is quite important.

But if you overdo the lighting, you may affect the eyes of your beloved neon tetra as well as stress them.

You can even see the discoloration due to high exposure to light, and stress can lead to severe issues and maybe fatal too.

Some diseases in neon tetra, algal growth in the tank, and unnecessary growth of plants are few problems that invite themselves when the aquarium lighting is higher than necessary.

But that doesn’t mean you can keep them in dark all the time, even low-light plants ask for little light for photosynthesis.

Neon tetras even fade color at night while kept in dark, it is normal but a prolonged period in darkness isn’t healthy or helpful either.

How To Automate Lighting For Your Fish Tank Aquarium?

No human can be perfect and punctual all the time. Somedays you might forget to turn off the aquarium light at night leading neon tetras to fade their color to even death in severe cases.

The best way to solve the problem related get a timer for your aquarium light. This timer will help you turn off the light automatically according to the time you set.

All you have to do is set the timer according to the real schedule of actual sunrise and sunset. Put the 12 to 14 hours difference in the time between on and off and you’ll be good to go.

NICREW Single Channel LED Light Timer is an ideal timer you can get for your tetra tank light.

This Light Timer simulates sunrise & sunset to provide a natural day and night cycle for your fish, hence exactly what you want.

How To Decide On Which Kind Of Light Should You Use For Your Neon Tetras Aquarium?

There are hundreds of options to choose from even with few varieties of light. From halogen lights to LED lights, from incandescent to fluorescent lights, you can go for any of these if you want to.

But here your preference is not as important as your neon tetras’ preference. Some lights cause the water to heat up while they are on.

Neon tetras are hardy but sensitive to constant temperature fluctuation. So, you can’t go for a light that is not meant specifically for these tetras.

The best solution to this problem is to go for the aquarium light that will help you mimic their natural habitat to a greater extent.

You cannot choose lights that will heat the water or even the light with brighter exposure. So, when it comes to neon tetras, you need to go for fluorescent light as it is highly recommended.

This fluorescent light depicts the daylight condition which is what your neon tetras ask for. You can set the timer according to the sunrise and sunset time and hence, gives these tetras 12 hours of daylight.

All Glass Aquarium Fluorescent Strip Light will be an ideal light for an aquarium that has neon tetras in it. This light gives a moderate output as neon tetra ask in the tank accordingly.

NICREW ClassicLED Aquarium Light can also be a good choice if you want to go for LED lights.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions related to neon tetras and lighting in the tank.

Do Neon Tetras Need Light At Night?

No, they don’t need light at night as it can affect their circadian rhythm. Like human beings, neon tetras need to follow the seep-wake cycle.

And the presence of light keeps the neon tetra awake which is not good for them, they need rest too. Restless neon tetras will probably lose their appetite so be sure what you want to do. Learn more about Why Is My Neon Tetra Not Eating? – Here Is What You Can Do

What Light Makes Neon Tetras Glow?

Neon tetras have a blue stripe down their body that glows when they are kept under a black light. Anything clear as the body of your neon tetra gives the fluorescent glow along with the unique light show.

It can make your tetra tank more beautiful and your neon tetra more wonderful, thanks to their thin skin.

Why Are My Neon Tetras Pale?

There are few reasons for your neon tetra to become pale, here is the list of them:

  1. High exposure of light making the tank brighter than necessary.
  2. Stress
  3. Disease
  4. Fear
  5. Fewer plants in the tank
  6. Long Duration of Time spent in darkness or at night (it is normal and not usually alarming)

I have written a article about Why Is Neon Tetra Turning White? Color Fading Reason and Treatment. HAVE A LOOK!!!!!!


Briefly, neon tetras prefer a darker environment that mimics their natural habitat. But that doesn’t mean you can keep them in dark. Neither high exposure nor low exposure to light is good for your neon tetra. You need to keep it moderate and 12 to 14 hours a day. Take help from the automatic light that will turn off itself once the timer you set goes off. Neon tetras are wonderful fish that will glow beautifully when they are given the appropriate amount of light and diet.

Good Luck!

Happy Fish Keeping!!!

Recommended Articles:

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  3. Tetra Fish Diseases and Treatments
  4. Tetra Fry Tank Set-Up: Fish Tank Requirement For The Fry
  5. 10 Reasons Why Neon Tetras Are The Perfect Pet

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