Neon Tetra: Species Profile

Neon Tetra

Category: Tetra

Common Names: Neon Tetra

Scientific Name:Paracheirodon Innesi

Family: Characidae

Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons

Care Level: Easy

Temperament: Peaceful

Max Size: 2 Inches

Temperature: 72-80 F

pH: 5.5-7.0

Tank Level: Bottom to Middle

Colors: Black, Yellow

Diet: Omnivore

Breeding: Moderate

Species Overview

An attractive, colorful addition to any aquarium, the neon tetra makes an ideal pet for beginner fish owners and anyone looking to add a little color to their aquarium.

These tiny fish are a hardy breed that should be kept in a tank with at least six other neon tetras. Because of their gentle nature, neon tetras get along well with other fish and can be placed in an aquarium, among other species.

Because neon tetras are easy to care for and have a long life span of 5 years or more, they are popular among many fish lovers.

Two Neon Tetras

Distinguishing Features

The neon tetras are characterized by a shiny colorful stripe that starts at their head and runs to their fin, just above the tail. The bright stripe is believed to help the fish’s visibility and is a popular attraction for many aquariums.

These colorful stripes have iridescent qualities, reflect light and offer a splash of color to any aquarium.

Neon tetras come in several varieties and colors. Regardless of its color, each neon tetra has a translucent body to help them blend in with its natural surroundings.

With a tiny, slender, torpedo-shaped body, the neon tetra enjoys swimming around their aquarium and showing off their exquisite beauty.

Like other fish, the colors of the neon tetra fade when they are at rest or when they become frightened or ill. When looking to buy your first neon tetras, choose vibrant ones that look healthy.

Neon Tetra Fish

Other Tetra Varieties

Black Skirt Tetra: All black with diagonal gray stripes

Ember Tetra: Orange stripe with a silver body

Neon Tetra: Blue body with a bright red stripe

Serpae Tetra: Reddish-brown body with black accents

Green Neon Tetra: Looks similar to the neon tetra, but with a green belly

Congo Tetra: Gorgeous multi-colored tetra with purple, orange and gold

Blood Fin Tetra: Silver body with a vibrant red stripe

Runny Nosed Tetra: Silver body with a red face and black markings on its tail

Emperor Tetra: A dark purple tetra

Cardinal Tetra: Aqua body with a vibrant red stripe

Blue Tetra: Silver body with a bright blue stripe

There are also other varieties of tetras covering nearly every color and temperament.


The neon tetra originated in the black water streams of Brazil, Peru, and Columbia. Their native habitat included clear, blackwaters hidden within dense forests offering minimal light.

They habited on the banks of the waterways with thick vegetation, surviving on plants, worms, and other water animals, such as crabs, shrimp, and lobster.

This gorgeous freshwater fish enjoys warm tropical water, with lots of hiding places and low lighting, similar to its natural habitat.

Making your neon tetras aquarium similar to its natural habitat, you will help make your fish feel more at home in their new environment.

Some additions to your aquarium to make your neon tetra feel at home may include;

  • Plants
  • Floating logs
  • Driftwood
  • Place dark siding on your aquarium
  • Dim lighting

Neon Tetra


Neon tetras are tiny aquarium fish that grow to an adult size of approximately 1.5 inches long.

Some varieties of neon tetras are larger and can grow up to 2.5 inches long, such as the long-finned tetra.

Males and females are generally the same length. However, the male neon tetra has longer fins than the female.

With thin torpedo-shaped bodies, the largest feature of the neon tetra is their beady-shaped eyes that are level with their mouths.


Regardless of their sex, neon tetras has a long lifespan for an aquarium fish of approximately eight years in captivity. However, they are school fish and need to be kept in groups of at least six fish to ensure their longevity.

Kept in their natural habitat, the neon tetra can survive even longer than in an aquarium, depending on factors such as;

  • Food supply
  • Predator’s
  • Habitat
  • Diet


If you are planning to breed your neon tetra, being able to distinguish their gender is crucial in the process.

Seeing the neon tetra is such a tiny fish, you might think finding their sex is a complicated process. However, determining the gender of your neon tetra might be a little tricky, but it is not impossible.

One of the simplest ways to determine the sex of your neon tetra is to compare sizes. Females are generally a bit larger than males. Females also have round stomachs. Whereas male neon tetras usually have flat stomachs. However, this approach is not always exact.

Other distinguishing characteristics between male and female neon tetras are the male has a straight stripe, and the female has a curved stripe because of their rounded stomachs.

Most male neon tetras also have more vibrant colors than females. The fins on a male neon tetra are also longer than the female.

Group of Neon Tetra

Males vs Females

Males are more colorful than females. Males are smaller than females

Males have longer fins and a flatter belly.

Males also have a straight stripe while females have a curved stripe


Neon tetras are gentle schooling fish who best thrive when they are among a group of other fish of the same species. They are sociable and feel happiest and most secure when they are in the company of their kind.

The neon tetra has a mild temperament, making them an ideal addition to most aquariums, regardless of the species. However, neon tetras are timid and small and should not be in an aquarium with larger fish that might be aggressive or attempt to eat them.

When your neon tetra is happy and thriving, it will have a vibrant stripe, swim around the tank with a school of its companions, and occasionally dart to the top for a quick bite to eat before rejoining its group.

Tank Parameters

There are several factors affecting your tank perimeters to ensure your neon tetras are adequately cared for, including the following;

Minimum Tank Size

The neon tetras aquariums should provide plenty of room to swim around. The ideal tank size should be at least 10 gallons. However, if you have the space in your room, a 20-gallon aquarium is even better to keep your neon tetras at their happiest.

Even though neon tetras are small, they still have lots of energy and enjoy plenty of room in their aquarium to swim around. Other benefits of a large tank include;

  • Enough room for the whole school of fish to swim around
  • A large tank will help your fish feel secure
  • A large tank will reduce your neon tetras stress levels

Water Parameters

We’ll take a quick look at the temperature, pH, and salinity required by neon tetras:


Because neon tetras are tropical fish, they thrive in warm water. The best temperature to keep your aquarium for neon tetras is 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.


Tetras prefer pH levels from5.5 to 6.2. However, sometimes it is hard to maintain an exact pH level, and anywhere from 5.5 to 6.8 is acceptable.

During breeding, it is best to keep your pH levels in your aquarium below 6.5 to promote reproduction.


Tetras are freshwater fish and can not survive saltwater. Adding salt to your aquarium can make your fish not only sick. But it can even kill them.

A small amount of salt in the aquarium of less than one tablespoon per 2 gallons is acceptable if used in the water-modifying chemicals.

Neon Tetra in Front of Drift Wood

Tank Setup

When setting up your aquarium, there are several factors to consider including;


When setting up your aquarium, the substrate is something that can vary depending on your preferences.

Neon tetras don’t spend much time on the bottom of their tanks. They are an active fish and prefer to spend their time swimming around. Some popular choices of substrate include;

  • Gravel bottoms
  • Sandy bottoms
  • Bare bottoms
  • Plant growing substrate


Many neon tetras enjoy plenty of large rocks and tunnels to swim through in their aquarium. It makes them feel at home and more secure in their environment.


Neon tetras also love plenty of plants in their aquarium. So they can swim through and hide behind them.

So, let the fun begin when you go on your shopping spree for tank decorations.

Live plants in your aquarium can help absorb unwanted compounds in your tank, such as ammonia, bacteria, and nitrates.

Some plants to look for when shopping that will please your neon tetras include;

  • Brazilian water weeds
  • Dwarf sag
  • Ferns
  • Java moss

Neon Tetra Fis


Tetras are tropical fish and require around 12 to 14 hours of light daily. Using a timer for your lights helps establish a set routine for your fish.

Since neon tetras prefer subdued lighting, an aquarium with lots of plants is ideal for dimming their environment.

A low-wattage fluorescent lamp is ideal for your freshwater aquarium to keep your neon tetras their happiest.


Neon tetras are hardy fish and can survive well in most filtration systems as long as they are big enough for your tank.

Most filters come with a GPH (gallons per hour) rating. When buying a filtration system for your aquarium, make sure to buy a filter rated for the correct size of your aquarium.

A big enough filter for your aquarium will also ensure your aquarium maintains the proper bacteria levels for your neon tetras to thrive.


Because neon tetras are tropical fish, they prefer to live in warm water, similar to their natural habitat. Your neon tetras rely on a heater in their aquarium for optimum survival.

If you are unsure what temperature you should set your heater, it is always best for your neon tetras to be too warm rather than cold. The ideal temperature for your tank should be between 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

A heater for your aquarium is simple to run and can be added to your aquarium to help maintain the appropriate temperature for your neon tetras. Other benefits of a heater in your aquarium include;

  • Increases the lifespan of your fish
  • a heater makes the environment feel more like the natural habitat
  • Relaxes your fish and makes their color more vibrant

Three types of heaters for your fish tank include hanging, submersible, and substrate aquarium heaters.


Neon tetras enjoy a diet that includes a variety of plants and animals. In their natural habitat, they are considered omnivores, and some of the foods they love to eat when in an aquarium include;

  • Flaked foods
  • Granules
  • Shrimp
  • Bloodworms
  • Plants, including zucchini
  • Algae
  • Insects and larva
  • Frozen foods for a treat, such as fruit flies and blackworms
  • Pellet food


For breeding your neon tetras, it is best to keep your male and female separate from other fish in their own breeding tank. The tank should be kept dimly lit for best results.

Tetras breed two times a month. Their eggs hatch 24 hours after fertilization.

It is best to keep the eggs separated from other fish, including the mother, to ensure their safety. If the eggs are not kept in a separate tank, they might get eaten by other adult fish.

As the fry begins to grow, you can introduce them to small frozen foods, like black fries and worms.

Extra equipment needed for breeding includes;

  • A 5 to 10 gallon aquarium with a secure lid
  • An additional heater
  • A sponge filter
  • An air pump
  • Organic peat
  • A spawning matt or java moss
  • A thermometer

Neon Tetra

Here are ten step-by-step procedures to follow if considering breeding your neon tetra.

  1. Rehydrate your peat by soaking it in warm water.
  2. Spread the peat on the bottom of your aquarium about one inch thick.
  3. Place your breading matt or java moss over the peat.
  4. Fill your tank with lukewarm water and place your heater in the tank. Set the heater to 75 or 76 degrees Fahrenheit. No worries if your tank looks black. A black tank is a normal reaction to the peat placed in the aquarium and will eventually dissipate.
  5. Set your sponge filter up in your aquarium and turn it on.
  6. Add your fish to the aquarium. It is totally up to you if you want to have just one set of neon tetras, or if you want to add groups of mates to the aquarium.
  7. Leave the fish in the breeding tank for a couple of days. Make sure to feed them well with high-protein meals.
  8. Watch as your female neon tetras begin to drop eggs into the water and the male tetras dart around the tank to fertilize the eggs.
  9. Let the adults remain in the tank for up to 5 days. Then, remove them to ensure the safety of the eggs and fry.
  10. Avoid bright lights and sunshine from hitting your aquarium. Bright lights can seriously harm or kill the eggs and fry. If you absolutely must check on the eggs. You can quickly peek in on them with a dim flashlight.

Common Diseases

Although the neon tetra is a hardy fish, unfortunately it is susceptible to several diseases.

Neon Tetras Disease

Neon tetra disease is a common disease found among many neon tetras fish living within aquariums. This unfortunate disease is caused by the organism Pleistophora hyphessobryconis.

When a fish becomes sick with the disease, it can spread quickly to other members of the tank. If another fish consumes a bite of an infected or dead fish, they will become a carrier of the disease and face the chances of becoming ill.

After the fish have consumed infected particles, parasites will begin to take over their healthy body destroying them, little by little. It is an agonizing death as cysts grow and their bodies deteriorate.

Neon Tetras Disease is also known to affect other species in the same tank.

Some common symptoms of Neon Tetra Disease in fish may include;

  • Restlessness
  • Awkward gait, swimming erratically around the tank
  • Loss of colors and vibrance in stripes
  • Cysts develop
  • The fishes spine becomes curved
  • Fin rotting and bloating may occur

Ich Disease

Ich disease is another common ailment that often occurs in neon tetras. Ich is characterized by tiny white dots appearing around the tetra’s mouth and fin areas. Ill fish are more susceptible to catching this disease when their immune systems are already down.

If you suspect that your neon tetra has Ich, immediately quarantine them from other fish until the symptoms go away.

Ich is highly contagious among other fish who share the same tank. The good thing is that there is a treatment that can be used for Ich. Early symptoms to look for in your fish include;

  • Rubbing or banging themselves against rocks
  • Faded colors
  • Generally looking dull and not well

Cycling means the biological maturing of a new aquarium. Each new fish tank must be cycled before adding any fish to the tank. Otherwise, the fish may become sick from the unsettled toxin levels inside the tank.

Aquariums that do not allow an inadequate cycling time risk the chance of having sick fish, or dead fish. One reason this happens is that there might be too much ammonia in your fish tank.

To prevent the illness of your neon tetras from aquarium cycling, it is a good idea to allow sufficient time for the tank to settle before adding any fish. It is also recommended to add up to 3 fish per week into a newly cycled fish tank, and not more.


Neon tetras commonly experience shock when they are first placed in a new aquarium setting. This condition is a normal occurrence for any fish, not only neon tetra.

After you add your neon tetras to their new fish tank, leave the lights on the aquarium dimmed for at least 24 hours to help them remain calm and feel safe in their new surroundings.

It is also recommended to keep the room quiet around the aquarium and limit any activity until after the fish have become settled into their new tank. This will help prevent shock and possible death of your new neon tetras.

Group of Neon Tetras

Circular Swimming, Injury

Watch your tank for any signs of unusual swimming. Erratic swimming is a sure sign that your neon tetra may be ill. When sick, your fish will sometimes swim around the tank in circles and twitch.

Healthy fish will swim to the top of the tank when you drop food in. Whereas sick fish will avoid fish and linger near the bottom of the tank.

Unfortunately, an injured neon tetra will rarely recover from their ailment and has a poor chance of survival. Immediately separate him from the tank to prevent further injury and monitor its progress.

Sinking to the Bottom of the Aquarium

If you notice that your neon tetras are spending a lot of their time laying on the bottom of the tank, it’s a good indication that it is probably sick.

Fish laying on the bottom of the aquarium usually indicate serious health problems. Separate the sick fish from the rest of the fish in the tank to reduce the spread of any illnesses.

It is also a good idea to check the pH levels of your tank to make sure the water is not causing your fish to become ill. It never hurts to do a water change to make sure the other fish are not going to suffer the same fate.

Protozoan Disease

The protozoan disease is another illness that commonly strikes neon tetras. It is characterized by:

  • A loss of color
  • Abnormal spine curvature
  • The growth of cysts on the fish
  • Rotting fins
  • Bloating

Unfortunately, this serious disease can spread quickly to other members of the tank. You should immediately quarantine any sick fish that are showing symptoms.

The good news is, there is also medication that can help cure Protozoan Disease. The bad news is, because neon tetras are such a small fish, their chances of complete recovery are not the greatest.

Neon Tetra Close Up

Potential Tank Mates

Neon tetras are a non-aggressive species that get along well with many other fish. They are peaceful and mild-tempered, making them the perfect tank mates.

However, they do thrive when they are in a tank with at least 6 members of their species to help them feel safe and secure.

Avoid placing your neon tetras in a tank with larger fish, such as cichlids, or siamese fighters to prevent injury to them or worse, being eaten.

The best tank mates, other than their species, for neon tetra include:

  • Gouramis
  • Danios
  • Angelfish
  • Guppies