Can Neon Tetra Live Without Oxygen?

Neon Tetra live Without Oxygen

Neon tetras are hardy fish that are ideal for beginners to start fish keeping hobbies with. But is this information enough to start to fish keeping with? What about other factors like oxygen? Can Neon Tetra live without oxygen? What do you need to do to make sure neon tetras are getting enough oxygen? How does oxygen exchange work in water? These are some questions you might want the answers to before petting neon tetra in an aquarium.

No, neon tetra fish cannot live without oxygen. Alike any other fish, neon tetra needs oxygen for cellular respiration. Without oxygen in the tank, these fish will not be able to respire or even produce energy. Plants and filter help to promote surface agitation and aeration that in turn helps in oxygen exchange.

This is the shortest answer to the questions asked, but will this be enough to carry on? No, you need to know the hidden details and meaning hidden between the lines.

In this article, you will find answers to most of the questions related to neon tetras’ respiration and its importance.

Can Neon Tetra Fish Live Without Oxygen?

No, like any other fish, neon tetras cannot live without oxygen. They respire oxygen and let out carbon dioxide the same as us human beings.

We use our lungs to respire whereas neon tetras or any fish use gills to do so. They need oxygen to perform cellular respiration.

If they don’t get oxygen in the tank, they will start acting sluggish, short of breath, and can even die if this lasts long.

Oxygen when breath in attaches itself to hemoglobin to travel throughout the body and replace carbon dioxide.

Respiration is directly connected to the energy level of your neon tetra. Along with cellular respiration, oxygen helps to produce energy during the process of exchange for fish.

How Long Can Neon Tetra Live Without Oxygen?

Neon tetras can live up to 2 days in still water but cannot survive that long when they are cut off with all oxygen.

These tetras, like other fish, need oxygen to respire and let out carbon dioxide. In the absence of oxygen, neon tetras will suffocate, gasp, and eventually die.

These fish will survive as long as their gills have oxygen present in them. Once the oxygen level in their gills and their body start to deplete, the death countdown of the fish begins.

Surface agitation and aeration are very important for any fish to survive in their natural habitat and in captivity. Neon tetras are tropical fish living in the fast-moving river of the Amazon Basin of South America.

So, their natural habitat won’t have a scarcity of oxygen, but the aquarium is a man-made home of these fish.

That’s why it comes down to you to give them the environment with enough oxygen to breathe. Along with them, microbes and beneficial bacteria will need oxygen too, so you need to have enough oxygen in the tank.

How Does Oxygen Exchange Work In Water?

The oxygen exchange or respiration process of fish in the aquarium occurs on the water surface as it does in wild.

When the filter causes the movement of water, surface agitation occurs. Surface agitation thus occurred, breaks the surface tension of the water.

This is when the water absorbs the oxygen and releases carbon dioxide in the air. This produced carbon dioxide is used by plants for further photosynthesis and the process continues.

Then, the oxygen that is present in the aquarium water is absorbed by the fish gills and taken into its blood vessels.

Carbon dioxide is toxic for the fish and essential for the plants whereas oxygen is essential for neon tetras to survive.

Neon tetras love the well-planted aquarium, and these live plants will happily thrive in the aquarium with neon tetras.

So, it is a win-win situation. But you’ll need equipment like a filter, aquarium bubbler, air pump, powerhead, or spray bar to create surface agitation and break the surface tension.

Do Neon Tetras Need An Air Pump Or Air Stone In An Aquarium?

Neon tetras will be just fine without an air pump or air stone in the tank. It is no big deal as long as the live plants cover the oxygen demand and supply.

However, some people like the aesthetic look of the tank with bubbles, and your neon tetras love bubbles too.

But don’t waste your money on an air pump just because that will make your tank beautiful. Instead of overloading the tank, try aquarium bubblers if you really want those bubbles.

But keep in mind that fish can only survive about two days in completely still water. That’s why you need to install a filter as soon as possible to provide enough water movement for surface agitation and aeration.

Do Neon Tetra Need Filter In The Aquarium?

Yes, a big Yes, Even if it wasn’t for the oxygenation process, they will still need a filter to avoid aquarium ammonia poisoning and to maintain the water parameters of the neon tetra tank.

Neon tetras need filter to survive in an aquarium environment or say captivity. Now, let’s talk about the filter and its role in oxygenating the tetra tank to maintain the optimum oxygen level.

The aquarium filter provides surface agitation during the process of filtration. Thus, the surface agitation results in the aeration of the tank.

The filter provides oxygen while adjusting the flow rate of water and the water current causes the surface agitation. The displacement of water results in the increment of aeration and thus higher oxygen supply.

There are various types of filters that you can use in your neon tetra tank. Hang-on filter, sponge filter, canister filter (if you have larger tanks), or drip filter, any of these will be ideal for your aquarium with neon tetras.

Using Live Aquatic Plants To Produce Oxygen In Your Neon Tetra Aquarium

Neon tetras love well-planted or say heavily planted aquarium. And plants. As we already know, are the prime living thing that produces oxygen for other living beings while consuming carbon dioxide during photosynthesis.

The same thing happens in an aquarium environment and hence plants cover the part of oxygenation without an air pump.

Aquarium plants absorb the carbon dioxide present in the aquarium system and release oxygen during the photosynthesis process.

Neon tetras then consume that same oxygen from the water with the help of their gills. Hence they will be breathing happily in the tank.

Neon tetras will get more than enough oxygen if they are in a heavily planted environment. Also, plants help to remove the toxins like ammonia and nitrates and make the aquarium hospitable for neon tetras.

How Do I Know If My Neon Tetra Fish Tank Has Enough Oxygen?

There are certain signs your fish will show when the aquarium is not giving enough oxygen to them. It can be pretty scary and can be fatal too.

So, let’s look at the signs, shall we?

  1. Gasping at the surface of the aquarium
  2. These fish will be seen around the area with the highest oxygen concentration, i.e., Filter.
  3. Sluggishness
  4. Fast breathing to catch a breath
  5. Swimming off-balance

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to the most asked question related to oxygenation and fish.

Can Too Many Bubbles Kill Fish?

Technically no, too many bubbles will not and cannot kill your fish however it can hamper and disrupt the normal routine of fish and can scare them out of a sudden.

Fish usually like calm and low current water, bubbles can be something that might cause sudden disruption of peace. But your neon tetra loves bubbles and an air stone can never deliver too much oxygen.

Your aesthetic aquarium with bubbles is safe for your fish although that can arise other complications. But it is a story for another time, right now all you need to know is too many bubbles can’t kill your fish.

What Level Of Dissolved Oxygen Do Fish Need To Be Healthy?

The minimal oxygen amount that bottom feeders, oysters, worms, and crabs need is 1 to 6 mg/L whilst swallow water fish require 4 to 15 mg/L i.e., the higher level of oxygen supply.


In conclusion, neon tetras like any other fish require oxygen to survive. They may not breathe like us human beings, but they do breathe and oxygen exchange does occur in the water. Thanks to their gills, so it is quite necessary to keep the tetra tank oxygenated. The low oxygen level can be fatal for your fish, filter, and air pump will help you achieve the optimum oxygen level. But live plants will be the best thing you can do for your tank rather than an air pump. These plants will provide continuous oxygen supply, remove toxins, and give your tetra a good hiding place.

But it’s up to you, add whatever you want to add in your tank that is mentioned above, but don’t let your neon tetra die of low oxygen supply.

Happy Fish Keeping!!!

Good Luck!!!

Recommended Articles:

  1. What Do Neon Tetras Need In Their Tank?
  2. Can The Neon Tetra Survive In a Fishbowl?
  3. Maximum Water Temperature For Neon Tetras
  4. How Long Can Neon Tetras Live Without Food

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top