Fish Description

Neon Tetra: A Complete Care Guide For Beginners

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Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) dazzling crown jewels are the most popular freshwater tropical fish found in the streams of South America.

The Neon Tetra is recognized as a peaceful, community aquatic and ideal fish that belongs to the Characidae family.

They are active, colorful, and non-aggressive fish that can co-exist with other similar tank mates. Neon tetras are easy to care for and are best for beginners who want to step in fish keeping hobby. Sometime, you will get confused with the Cardinal tetra, Neon Black Tetra, Neon Gold Tetra, Yellow Neon Tetra, as they look similar.

Its bright and vibrant color is one of the main reasons for its popularity among the fish keepers. Its peaceful behavior and simple diet are the most noticeable factors for the fish keepers, which makes it an ideal beginner fish. It is found in blue, red, and translucent colors. Mostly found in the western and northern parts of the Amazon basin in southeastern Colombia, Peru, and Brazil. It is usually found in water, having a temperature of 20 and 28 °C (68-82 °F) and a pH of 4-7.5. It is not found in the white water Rivers. They are peaceful, non-aggressive fish, which makes it a fantastic addition to the community tank and is a great tank mate for almost all fishes that are mostly non-aggressive. They tend to fill up the aquarium and usually swim in the middle of the water column. In the wild, it lives around eight years, and in captivity, its lifespan is about five years only. They are often confused with cardinal tetra due to the red line running from the middle of their body to their tail.

In this article, you will find out the complete care guide of the Neon Tetra.

neon tetra

Origin and Habitat in the Wild

Neon Tetra was discovered by August Rabaut, a French traveler during his expedition around the Amazon jungles. Europeans became a big fan of neon tetra when August Rabaut brought them to Europe for selling.

Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) lives in the Blackwater stream and tributaries in the Western and Northern of Amazon and Orinoco basin in Brazil, Columbia, and Peru. These streams are full of driftwoods and plants as if nature itself created the art of aquascape for the fish. Neon tetra spends most of the time roaming around these plants and driftwoods, which also gives some sort of protection and hiding place from its preditor.

In the wild, they live in the middle of the slow stream water, where they feed on insects, worms, and small creatures.

Neon tetras are schooling fish, so they swing together in a tribe with energetic movement that creates a magnificent display of its color.

Neon Tetra lives around eight years in their natural habitat. However, they generally live for five years in the aquarium.

Neon Tetra Distribution

At the beginning of time, Neon Tetras were caught in the wild, brought in the market, and sold to the public.

With the increasing demand for the Neon Tetra in the globe, now, after many successful breedings, Neon Tetras are bred and brought up in captivity of Eastern Europe and the far east to fulfill the demand of aquarists worldwide. Less than 5 percent of Neon Tetra you see in the market is wild-caught.

Today, due to its popularity, some countries like Hong Kong, Thailand, and Singapore have also started captive breeding trade.

More than 1.50 million Neon tetras are imported to the United States each month.


Scientific name: Paracheirodon innesi
Common Names: Neon tetra, neon fish
Origin: Southern Colombia, Western Brazil, Eastern Peru
Family: Characidae
Adult Size: 1-1.5 inches
Behavior: Peaceful and Schooling
Lifespan: 4-5 years
Tank Size: at least 10-Gallons
Diet: Food Pallets, Food Flakes, Brine Shrimps, Larva (Omnivore)
Breeding: Egg Scatterer
Ease of breeding: Easy
Substrate Type: Dark Preferable, Any
Lightings: Low to Medium (Need of complete Darkness for reproduction)
pH: 5.5-7.5
Water Hardness: 2dGH to 10 dGH
Water Movement: Moderate
Temperature: 74-82 F
Breeding Temperature: 82 F
Care: Easy

Colors and Markings

Neon Tetra has striking colors that draw the attention of people, whether it’s in the aquarium or the wild. These beautiful fish have a turquoise blue line combine with sparkling silvery-white color that stretches from its eye down to the adipose fin that looks stunning when they move in a group. On the other hand, those bright stripes make them more visible in the black water.

In addition to the blue and white stripe, they got the red color past from the belly down to the tail. These three combinations of Blue, White, and Red shades are perfectly matched to the Neon Tetra and make them the most popular, recognizable aquarium fish in the globe.

When you see them at first glance, they will melt your heart with their delightful appearance.

Neon tetras are often mistaken for Cardinal Tetra, as they look a bit similar, but if you look closely, you will notice the red stripe run from all the top (head) to the bottom( Tail) in Cardinal Tetra but not in Neon Tetra. In Neon tetra, it only extends from the middle of the belly to the tail.

Neon Tetra has a little bit of silver color at the top of the body, which runs from the head to the dorsal fin. The dorsal fin, Anal fin, and tail in neon tetra are transparent.

Neon Tetra Size

Neon Tetras have an elongated body. They can grow up to 2.5-3 inches long. However, the normal size is around 1.5 inches in captivity, with females being shorter than the male.


Neon Tetras are easily available in all the stores varying from online shopping to local stores around your comfort. You can easily get these fish in your nearby local fish store.


Most Neon Tetras today are captive-raised. This makes them progressively accessible, as they don’t need to be sourced out from the wild. Neon Tetras are well on the way to be sold at 2$-3$ per pair on the neon tetra fish. Due to this they are cheap and can be easily found in stores.


Neon tetras have a lifespan of eight years in the wild and about five years in a well-accompanied aquarium.

Sexual Difference

The male is thin, and the blue line is straighter. The female is rounder, delivering a headed blue line. The females look plumper when they are seen from above. The straightness of the line and the fullness of the female may vary because of the eggs she will be carrying after sexual contact with the male.

Fishkeeping Difficulty

Due to the neon tetra disease, this fish can be little harmed, otherwise it is one of the ideal beginner fish.

Neon Tetra Tankmates

Do you get excited to keep a pet fish for the first time?

Everyone does.

Some of the people, especially beginners, buy their fish and can’t wait to put them in the aquarium with other fish. But things will not go as they plan. You need to be extremely careful when it comes to choosing tank mates.

Neon Tetra is generally a peaceful and attractive tropical fish that suit perfectly for an aquarium. They love to be in the community of other non-aggressive fish or own species. Like humans, fish also gets attracted to bright colors, so as for neon tetra, it is essential to choose non-aggressive tankmates. Likewise, because of their little body, the fish should not be kept with any fishes that can fit them in their mouth, predatory fishes should be strictly avoided. Choosing tankmates for neon tetra is a tricky part, if you keep them with the wrong fish, your neon tetra will definitely get killed.

Neon tetra will be safe if you put them with small fish such as rasboras, dwarf gouramis, small catfish, and other small tetras. Besides that, if you want to see their shooling behavior, then you should keep at least 15-20 of them, this will make them much more comfortable in the tank.

You might be thinking about what types of fish should be avoided in the aquarium with Neon Tetra.

Well, it’s simple.

Just do not put them with species such as bettas, Angelfish, and Cichlids, and other big or aggressive fish.

Neon Tetra Diet and Feeding

Food is an essential factor in surviving, whether it’s for humans or animals.

Maintaining a proper diet in day to day life can be a difficult task, especially when you don’t have enough time for your fish.

Just like the human body need a certain amount of diet to function, this tetra also needs a proper diet if you don’t want to see them suffer and die.

Maintaining a diet for Neon tetra is not a difficult task as Neon tetras are omnivorous, which means they will eat both meat and vegetables. They accept any form of food that you provide them. All you need to do is to take care of the nutrients.

In their natural habitat, their primary diet relies on small insects, algae, and other minuscule invertebrates.

But in your aquarium, you need to provide them good food. Feed them with fine flakes food, tiny granules, pellets, Brine Shrimp, blood worms, and other forms of fish food like live worms, daphnia, and tubifex once in a while this will give enough nutrients to the fish to be healthy. The tetras would love these, and they are supplemented evenly to help them with attaining their vibrant colors.

They are comparatively little to swallow and ingest the food, so they should be fed with small pellets.

Neon Tetra Disease

Fish do get sick and sometimes die without any trace.

This is something that every fish keepers need to know that will help them to take adequate measures.

Unluckily, Neon Tetra suffers from one deadly disease that is caused by the Microsporidian parasite. The disease is called Neon Tetra Disease, as this disease was first discovered in Neon Tetras. Once the fish is infected with the parasite, it will literally eat the fish inside out.

The diseases can also spread quickly and attack other tetras, as well as fish from other breeds.

Symptoms of Neon Tetra Disease

  • The colors on the fish body slowly fade away, which is often seen on one part of the body.
  • Fish infected with Neon Tetra Disease will have trouble swimming and can turn into a bottom dweller.
  • Neon Tetra Disease causes a curved spine and a shrunken stomach.
  • Swollen and rotten fins.
  • Develop cysts on the stomach area as the body begins to have lumps.

Prevention of the Disease

There is no cure for the Neon Tetra disease to date. If your fish catches this disease, then it will spread all over the tank and kill other fish. So it’s better to separate the fish infected with NTD.

“Prevention is better than cure.”

  • Whenever you buy a new fish, quarantine them first. Look for any strange behavior before adding them to your display aquarium.
  • Avoid purchasing sick fish from the store.
  • Always maintain your water quality properly.
  • Always buy fish from trustworthy suppliers. However, if you are buying fish online, then make sure to check the reviews.
  • Maintain your fish diet regularly.

Aquarium care for Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra is such a wonderful striking fish and the first pet fish for a lot of people. Anyone can fall in love with neon tetra at their first glance.

You will require an intermediate fish keeping skill to keep Neon Tetra. Although neon tetras are hardy fish, they still require some care. You will need a good-sized aquarium, lightings, filtration system, substrate to make them feel home in your aquarium.

So, here are some things you need to know to keep them happy.

Tank size 

Most of the beginner aquarists make a mistake while choosing an aquarium. No matter what fish you choose, you will always need a bigger tank than the fish requirement. This gives enough room for you to play with, like adding decorations an all.

For Neon Tetras, if you are planning to keep five pairs of them, a 20-gallon tank is enough. However, if its a community tank, you need to go for a bigger tank at least 40-Gallon.

Let me give you an example: one inch of fish requires 2 gallons of water to survive, if you have five fish that are 2 inches long, then you need to have at least a 20-gallon aquarium to house them.

Neon Tetras are schooling fish, they move in a group, and requires a bigger area to swim freely. So, bigger is always better.

Water Parameters

Just like we humans need fresh air, fish also need fresh and clean water to survive.

Neon tetras are sensitive to the environment they live in. So, you need extra care while keeping these tetras. Do not add your neon tetra into the tank you just set up the day before or on the same day. Let the water in the tank mature so that it will be suitable for your fish. You can find chemicals and good bacteria in your pet store to speed up the maturing process that takes place as the Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle.

Water Temperature, pH and Hardness

You need to maintain the water temperature for your Neon Tetraas well. The best water temperature for Neon tetra is between 70°F and 81°F. Use a good quality aquarium heater that has an automatic feature. These heaters will automatically adjust the water temperature in your aquarium. All you need to do is set water temperature and plug the heater on.

Likewise, you need to keep a pH level below 7.0 and above 6.0. Always maintain soft water or slightly acidic water (<10 dGH) in your aquarium.

Maintaining Water Quality

You will need to maintain the aquarium water quality. As the aquarium is a closed system, the pollutants will stay in the aquarium unless you yourself clean them. The best way to maintain your aquarium water is to use a good quality aquarium filter and do at least 10% water change every week.

You can find chemicals in your pet store that are sold as aquarium water cleaner or purifier.  I would not recommend using those chemicals in your tank. Let the tank be as organic as possible. If you can eliminate these chemicals and waste just by changing your water, why would you spend an extra buck in these useless chemicals?

Changing water will not only help to eliminate waste and chemicals but will also help to maintain pH and water hardness. Maintain your pH between 6 – 7 and water hardness less than ten dGH.

Neon Tetra fish can deal with the hardest water for maximum ranges of time. However, introduction of the fish to hard water could have a negative effect on their life expectancy. It is recommended to use soft water.

Water Filtration

Aquarium filter is a helping hand when it comes to maintaining your aquarium water.

Since neon tetras have a very small load, any basic or sponge filter will be sufficient for the aquarium. Neon tetras should always be added to a properly cycled tank.


In the wild, Neon Tetras are found in the black water streams, where only some amount of light gets through the water. Therefore, too much light will stress the neon tetra, opening the door to various fish diseases.

Moderate lighting is enough for the fish and will pop its body color in a darker environment with little lights on.

However, if you want to keep them in a tank with live plants, get the light that is suitable for your plants. Since planted aquarium has a lot of hiding places, they can find spots to hide out if they are frightened or stressed.

Aquarium Decoration and Substrate

Fish in an aquarium with just water looks so unattractive and unnatural. You should provide some plants in the aquarium where fish can play or hide. Live plants will help in keeping the aquarium water parameter stable. Plants use nitrogen as a fertilizer that is harmful to fish and provides oxygen for them to breadth.

Go of the plants such as Ludwigia repens, Brazilian pennywort, Vallisneria, Cabomba, or Cryptocoryne wendtii.

They will go into plants when they will feel threatened. They will swim around in the plants when they try to avoid any threat. It’s always nice when you add some plants to the tank. They add a touch of beauty to the tank and also provide proper filtration. Fake plants also can be used as an option. Black sand would be the substrate to go for as it brings out the bright colors of neon tetra to the fullest.

In case you don’t have those plants, use some dead leaf, rocks, woods, and fake plants.

Breeding the Neon Tetra

Not all people breed their fish, especially beginners.

In the case of breeding, there are lots of things you should know about the Neon tetra as they can be challenging fish to breed.

Neon tetras can be challenging to breed because of the requirement for specific water conditions. To breed them, we must set up a different tank.

Water hardness in the specific breeding tank should be just 1 to 2dGH, and pH should be monitored and be kept in between 5.0 to 6.0.

Use gentle filter, and providing them with live plants are suitable. They tend to jump during their breeding rituals, so the tank should be properly covered with no gaps.

Covering the side panels of the tank with a cover to decrease the light in the tank is also great. Water temperature should be kept somewhere in the range of 72 and 75 F (24 C).

So, let’s get into the process while breeding the Neon tetra.

Sexual Differences

The most accurate way to differentiate male and female neon tetra is to look at its stomach. In the spawning time, female neon tetra will have rounded belly as they have to carry eggs, whereas males will have a thinner body.

The blue line in males appears to be straight, whereas due to the rounded body, it’s a bit curvy in the female’s body.

Setup the breeding aquarium

During the time of breeding, set up a separate breeding tank for the fish as they will get disturbed by other species on a community tank.

The breeding tank

To breed neon tetras, one should place breeding pair in a breeding tank with no light. It’s better to cover your aquarium with a newspaper so that the fish won’t get disturbed with people moving around the aquarium. Remember to use tank cover as swapping fish often jump during the breeding time. Pace the swapping mops on the bottom of the tank and put the aged sponge filter in as well, with just a tickle of air running.

Water Condition

Neon tetra breeds best in soft acidic water so you can either collect rainwater or use reverse osmosis water. You also need to maintain the water hardness in the breeding tank, which should be only 1 to 2 dGH, and pH 5.0 to 6.0.

After that, set the heater to 72 to 75 F to maintain the water temperature that will help for the Neon tetra feel like its natural environment.

Tank Decore

For successful breeding, keep more hiding places in the tank with some plants, driftwoods, and pots. Neon Tetras are egg scatters. The female lays the egg first that sticks to plants, which are then fertilized by the male. It is better to use plants like moss in the breeding tank


People will get confused about whether to feed them during the breeding time or not. It’s ok to feed them.

Good nutrition food such as blood worm, brine shrimp is is a must for the healthy fry. Feed Neon tetra twice a day, which will promote them to breed.

Maintain Water Quality

Don’t let the water of the aquarium stay for too long. Change 25%-50% of tank water every week to maintain the quality of water. Make sure to check the water condition and quality once a week to ensure everything is ok.

Breeding process

After the breeding, tank is set correctly, and the breeding pair is chosen. They tend to breed as soon as they acclimate to their new environment. The breeding process usually lasts for 10-14 hours.

Once the egg is fertilized, you need to remove the young fish from the tank. Neon tetra does not care for their eggs or the fry. They will eat them all without any hesitation.

Caring for the Fry

The egg of Neon tetra will hatch within 24 hours, and you will able to see little fry inside your aquarium. They will be able to swim freely in the next 2 to 3 days. You should not feed the newly hatched neon tetra fry. Adding food in their tank will only degrade the tank water risking their life. Once they are able to swim freely, you can decrease the level of water to 7-8 centimeters height and make sure there isn’t any slime in the surface of the water since these tiny neon tetra needs to fill up their air bladder with fresh air.

Once they start to swim, you need to feed them a minimal amount of food. Foods such as egg yolk, infusoria, and commercially prepared fry food are the best. Excess food and uneaten food can spike the ammonia level in the water killing all of your tiny neon tetras. You will need to remove any uneaten food from the tank.

Note: Do not expect more fry from eggs as the hatch rate is not that high.

Fact: “ A small school of Neon tetra can produce hundreds of eggs a week.”


Amon all the tetra species, Neon Tetra, is one of the most popular fish worldwide. Its demand is also relatively high than any other tetra species. The United States alone imports more than two million Neon Tetra every month.

Neon Tetra is a hardy fish that accept a wide range of water parameter but does requires minimal care. These fish are an ideal fish for beginner fish keeper who has little knowledge about their requirements.

I have covered almost all the topics regarding neon tetra in this article. If you have any queries regarding this fish, feel free to comment on the comment section, I will be happy to reply to them all.

If you are planning on buying other tetras and still don’t know about them or want to learn about different beautiful species tetras in detail, then you can always find it on Tetra Fish Care

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