Neon Tetra – Care, Size, Tank Mates, Lifespan & Details!

Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) is a beautiful freshwater fish. Neon tetras are known for being convenient to look after, owing to its popularity in aquariums and amongst hobbyists.

Of course, some of the popularity this fish has comes from its vibrant coloring, which adds a lot of personality to any tank/aquarium.

Socially speaking, they’re generally peaceful and pair off well with fish of a similar temperament along with other Tetra.

Since Neon Tetra is easy to care for, it’s highly recommended that those who lack prior experience with fish but desire to purchase one start off with this species.

Quick Stats

Scientific Name: Paracheirodon innesi
Common Name: Neon Tetra, Neon Fish
Diet: Omnivorous
Size: 1.5 inches
Colour: Blue, Red, Translucent
Care Level: Easy
Family: Characidae
Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons
Temperature: 20-26C (68-79F)
pH: 7
Temperament: Peaceful
Origin: South America (southeastern Colombia, eastern Peru, western Brazil)
Experience Level: Beginner
Aquarium Hardiness: Up to 10dGH

Neon Tetra Appearance

Immediately observable and eye-catching is the bright coloring of the Tetra. It has a bright blue horizontal line that runs from its head till its adipose fin.

Similarly visible is the red stripe that travels from the middle of its body till the caudal fin.

The belly region is a silver-like hue. Under some conditions, the colors of the Tetra can appear dulled; this is when the fish feels threatened or stressed or when it has poor health.

When purchasing one’s own Neon Tetra, it’s advised to pay close attention to the coloring; otherwise one is taking the risk of purchasing an unhealthy fish.

Additionally, the males are noticeably slender when compared to their female counterparts. The latter of who have been observed to be rounder. In the event a female is carrying eggs, the roundness will be even more apparent.

A convenient way to distinguish the two is to look at the blue stripe running across their body. The stripe is completely straight in males but is slightly bent on females.

The Neon Tetra has also been bred to produce different strains, all of which differ in physical characteristics.

For example, there is the Longfin Tetra which possesses more muted colors and elongated fins, these fins are said to alter their natural schooling tendencies.

Then there is the Diamond strain, which otherwise resembles Neon Tetra in the wild, save for the diamond-like shape around its dorsal fin.

Then we have the Albino variety, which doesn’t resemble its wild counterpart at all. It has neither blue nor white stripes; instead, it’s more yellow and pearlescent.

Neon Tetra Care

Neon Tetra isn’t fond of adapting to change, so it is recommended to only add them to your tank once they have properly matured and been established.

The reason they don’t fare well in newly cycled tanks is that they are sensitive to changes in the water chemistry which carries the potential of killing them.

The tank itself should at least be 10 gallons, though if you plan on looking after several of them a larger size would be necessary. The temperature one should aim to maintain is 70F-81F, while the pH should be under 7.0 but over 6.0.

Water hardiness should also be under 10 dGH. One method of softening the water (as well as maintaining a more acidic pH) is the inclusion of blackwater extracts or driftwood. This has the added benefit of darkening the water.

Another preference of the Neon Tetra is that it enjoys having a bit of a current to swim around in. Canister filters or powerheads can be purchased to achieve this effect.

Be careful with the filter and make sure it’s intake isn’t so strong that it sucks in all the fish. For the sake of preventing accidents, one can cover the filter with mesh or something similar.

Darkening the water is important because, in the wild, these fish primarily inhabit dark areas with a lot of vegetation. This can be somewhat replicated in a fish tank through the use of driftwood, plants, and low-light hiding places.

One must be mindful of cluttering the tank though since Neon Tetra enjoys having a lot of room to move about despite their size. Keeping the tank dimly lit is also a great way to have the colors of the Tetra stand out.

Neon Tetra Breeding

While caring for them is relatively easy, breeding Neon Tetra can be a fairly complex task due to the specific conditions required.

Beginners are encouraged to look after Neon Tetra, however at the same time are discouraged from breeding them. But if one is willing to be persistent though, it’s still possible to breed them as a beginner.

Some details to keep in mind: the fish reproduce through scattering eggs and will begin breeding once they have grown up to 9 months of age. One can choose to breed them either in pairs or a school, both cases are possible.

It’s also preferable if the fish have been conditioned beforehand using live food. When selecting your pair or school for mating, make sure to choose males with the most vibrant coloring (better coloring indicates better health).

Additionally, when selecting your school, ensure that there are at least 5 Neon Tetra with a ratio of 2:1 female for every male.


Lastly, Neon Tetras aren’t particularly caring (if at all) for their young and have been known to eat their eggs and fry.

Therefore it’s advised to use a separate breeding tank to increase chances for success. It’s important to remember that the parents have to be removed from the tank as quickly as possible in light of this fact.

The parameters that need to be met for the breeding tank are as follows: if a pair is being bred then about one-gallon should prove sufficient. In the case of a school, up to 20 gallons should suffice. The water should be near 5-6 inches deep, so fairly shallow.

Other conditions one needs to keep track of are a temperature of 24C (or 75F), soft water with 1.0-2.0 dGH (hardness) along with a pH of 5.0-6.5.

For filtration, a small air-powered sponge filter should adequately provide a gentle water flow, as this fish is fairly small and no elaborate methods are needed to keep the tank clean.

When initially placing the pair or school, ensure that there is no light. Then as time passes, gradually increase the amount of light they are being exposed to, for the sake of encouraging spawning.

This process typically happens during morning hours. The female will release up to 130 eggs, while the male will embrace her to fertilize them. Once this is done, remember to immediately remove the mating pair otherwise they’ll eat the eggs!

Now that the parents have been removed, there are still other precautions to take to keep the eggs safe: it’s of utmost importance that the tank remains dimly lit as the eggs and fry are both very sensitive to light, additionally, the eggs can also fall victim to fungus.

Once laid, within 24 hours the eggs will hatch and within 3-4 days, the fry will be fully capable of swimming.

Note, that for the first 2-3 days the fry will sustain themselves from their egg sacks. After that, start by feeding the fry infusoria or liquid fry food, and once they’re a larger transition into feeding them baby brine shrimp.

Neon Tetra Diet

Being Omnivorous, this species isn’t a particularly picky eater, being open to foods that are fine, fresh, or flake.

The primary staple of their diet would be high-quality flake food, however, this can be further supported by the addition of live/frozen food including brine shrimp, daphnia, and tubifex. Bloodworms can be offered as a treat.

Note that the Neon Tetra enjoys multiple feedings in a day, however, they should only be fed an amount they can consume in 3 minutes or less.

Neon Tetra Tank Mates

Being of calm temperament, this fish is ideal for community aquariums and pairs off very well with other peaceful fish.

Larger and more aggressive fish are usually inclined to eat the Tetra so it’s advised to only use other small fish. Ideal tank mates include:

  • Other small Tetra
  • Smaller Rasboras
  • Smaller Catfish or Cory
  • Peaceful Barbs

Fish one should avoid when choosing tank mates include:

The Neon Tetra is most comfortable and vibrant when in a school of at least 6 others.

Common Diseases

So long as their tank is well maintained and clean, the Neon Tetra’s natural resilience will keep it mostly safe from any kind of illness.

However, when discussing the Neon Tetra’s health, it is of utmost importance that one addresses Neon Tetra Disease; it’s a fairly contagious and incurable disease that manifests as a blemish of sorts near the dorsal fin.

It was first observed in Neon Tetra which is how the name was chosen, but other fish are also susceptible to it, such as the Glowlight Tetra or the Rosy Tetra.

Additionally, attempts have been made to cure the disease using Methylene Blue however, the lack of consistency in results means that no cure is presently available.

The aforementioned resilience of the Tetra is an asset here, as managing the outbreak becomes somewhat easier.

If addressed during the earlier stages, casualties can be reduced to only a few fish (in some cases just one).

It’s quite common that fish can be infected with the disease without fully displaying symptoms. This might sound concerning, but don’t worry – the disease is preventable.

Cure For Neon Tetra

It becomes the responsibility of the caretaker to ensure that the tank is properly and regularly cleaned, while also making sure that the fish have a well-balanced diet.

Another helpful tip is to have the tank closely resemble the native habitat as closely as possible. It’s a great way to reduce stress and make your fish healthier and happier.

This is because increased stress levels lead to a higher susceptibility to disease.

Aside from that, Neon Tetra can also fall victim to some common afflictions that include:

  • Skin flukes
  • Parasitic Infestations (protozoa, worms)
  • Ichthyobodo infection
  • Bacterial infections
  • Bacterial Disease

It is beneficial to research common tank diseases so one can identify symptoms and quickly treat them, as well as put preventative measures in place.

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