Neon Tetra Care Guide: Everything You Need To Know


Neon Tetras are the crowning glory fish of the home aquarium. Their exquisite natural beauty says it all. This torpedo-shaped fish has gorgeous bright colors and grows only up to 1.5 inches in length. The Neon Tetra has white on its abdomen and a light blue stripe or iridescent red stripe on its back, making it the perfect ornamental fish for your aquarium.

This all-inclusive Neon Tetra care guide will teach you everything you need to know to start caring for this fascinating freshwater fish. Keeping Neon Tetras is somewhat of a right of passage in the fishkeeping world. We’ve all had them!

What is the Neon Tetra?

The Neon Tetra is a small schooling fish that comes from freshwater streams from South America. There are various other types of Neon Tetras: the true Neon Tetras (paracheirodon innesi), Cardinal Tetras (Red Neon Tetra), Green Neon Tetras, Black Neon Tetras, and much more. 

Neon Tetras are very active fish that love free swimming. Neon Tetras live as a peaceful fish, so they’re one of the best fish for aquarium communities as they coexist well with other fish.

How To Care For Neon Tetras

neon tetra water parameters

While Neon Tetras are known as easy fish to take care of, that doesn’t mean their care requirements should be looked over or neglected. They still have specific water parameters that need to be met in order for them to be healthy.
Let’s break down the most common Neon Tetra care questions:

Neon Tetra Temperature

In the wild, the Neon Tetra inhabits slightly acidic waters that have temperatures that are generally around 25°C. A water temperature between 23°C – 26°C would be ideal.

Neon Tetra Lifespan

In natural conditions, Neon Tetras live up to ten years. In a home aquarium, the average lifespan is five years. How long your Neon Tetras live depends on how well you care for them and how well you can prevent the spread of diseases that can lead to their early demise.

Neon Tetra Water Acidity

Neon Tetras are best kept in an aquarium environment where the encasement is at least 24 inches long and the water pH is between 6 – 7.
Drastic changes in their surroundings can easily cause damage to their health and may consequently cause their death.
All Neon Tetra fish thrive best in dense vegetation aquarium tanks that have low-light hiding places.

Neon Tetra Diet: What Do Neon Tetras Eat?

Neon Tetra

This fish is an omnivore and can eat flake foods provided they are small enough for them to swallow and ingest. We recommend that you feed Neon Tetras a high-quality fish flake, with at least a 40% protein content.
The food that we feed our Neon Tetras is the micro pellets from Hikari. Our Tetras can’t get enough of these and they are nutrient-dense enough to help them maintain their vibrant colors.
As a treat, you can feed your Tetra frozen foods. The ones we recommend the most are:

  • Blood Worms
  • Daphnia
  • Brine Shrimp
  • Tubifex

When feeding Neon Tetras frozen bloodworms, try to offer them only the small ones. It’s not uncommon for Neon Tetras to swim around with half a bloodworm hanging out of their mouth because it’s too big for them to swallow. The bloodworms that we recommend are Tetra Freeze Dried Blood Worms.

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If you are interested in feeding your fish live food, then you can try fruit flies and black worms. These are usually carried by local pet stores and Neon Tetras absolutely love them so feed them sparingly.

Keeping Neon Tetra

How Often Should I Be Feeding Neon Tetras?

When feeding Neon Tetras, simply follow the same feeding schedule that you do for other tropical fish in your aquarium. Once per day is generally sufficient but if you want to feed them once in the morning and once at night, that’s fine.
The trick to feeding Neon Tetras is to feed them just enough and never too much. Overfeeding can cause the uneaten food to rot, spiking ammonia and throwing the chemistry of your water out of whack, leading to potential disease or the death of your fish.
Feed them enough that they can eat within a couple of minutes and remove any food that’s uneaten after those couple of minutes.

Perfect Neon Tetra Tank Conditions

Neon Tetra Tank

Wild Neon Tetras are generally a hard breed of fish but commercial breeding has softened them slightly, making them a little more delicate so we need to take that into consideration when setting up a tank.

What Size Should My Neon Tetra Tank Be?

neon tetra tank mates

In order to keep the water quality as stable as possible, we recommend at least a 10-gallon tank. The bigger the tank size, the better.
Large water changes can be fatal for Neon Tetras so having a larger tank makes the water changes less obvious.
For filtration, a regular sponge filter or a hang-on back filter will be sufficient. Since Neon Tetras have a small bioload, their filtration needs are very undemanding. However, since Neon Tetras are non-aggressive fish that are generally kept within a larger community tank, the filtration requirements of the entire aquarium will need to be considered.

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When it comes to filtration, more is always better than not having enough.
You should never add Neon Tetras to a tank that has not been properly cycled. A new tank can be life-threatening, so a more mature tank is best. If you are adding a new fish to a new aquarium, be sure to read our guide on effective nitrogen cycling.

Do Neon Tetras Need Plants?

neon tetra plants

Neon Tetras love a busy tank with a lot of space and dense vegetation. They will appreciate the greenery and they love to swim in and out of the plants. The more live plants you can add without consuming too much space, the better.
Neon Tetras will be happy with most freshwater plants, but a few of their favorites include:

  • Cabomba (my personal favorite)
  • Floating plants like frogbit and dwarf lettuce
  • All kinds of moss
  • Vallisneria
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You should never add Neon Tetra fish to a tank that has not been properly cycled. A new tank can be life-threatening, so the more mature the tank is, the better. If you are adding Neon Tetras to a new aquarium, be sure to read our guide on effective nitrogen cycling.

Common Neon Tetra Diseases

How to cure neon tetra disease

The common diseases for this fish are called “Neon Tetra disease” and “false Neon Tetra disease”. Both are fatal diseases with no known cure at the moment. To protect the others, one should immediately remove the diseased fish from the aquarium.
Not many fish keepers realize that other fish breeds are not immune from the disease. The name ‘Neon Tetra Disease’ stems from the fact that the disease was first discovered in Neon Tetras. Most other Tetra breeds are at risk, and a lot of other completely different breeds can catch it.

What Causes Neon Tetra Disease?

The disease is caused by parasites, which attach to hosts within an aquarium. The most common culprits are usually the dead bodies of other fish, and on some live foods such as Tubifex.
Once inside the intestinal tract, the disease will start to eat the muscles from the inside out. The most common way to spot this is the apparent discolor and lightening of the scales. Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swimming
  • A lumpy exterior. These are caused by cysts which develop in the muscles.
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of color
  • A curvature of the spine

Neon Tetra Disease Symptoms

Other secondary infections such as fin rot and bloating can develop as a result of this disease but they are not directly related. Signs of fin rot and bloating MAY be an indication of Neon Tetra disease, but they may not!
Keeping a high quality of water can be enough to prevent an outbreak of any disease and knowing where your fish tank came from can be a good tool for prevention too. Tanks that are currently occupied by ill fish can greatly increase the risk of your fish catching this disease.

How To Sex a Neon Tetra

breeding neon tetras

The most accurate way to sex a Neon Tetra fish is to look at their stomach.
The male Neon Tetra fish’s body is more slender than the female fish. In males, the blue neon stripe appears straight.
In female Neon Tetras, the line is more gradient and may appear slightly bent. Females tend to be plumper and have a more round belly, although this can sometimes be hard to judge when looking into a fish tank.

How To Breed Neon Tetras

For breeding Neon Tetras, a female and a male member are placed in a separate breeding tank which should be kept dark.
Lighting is gradually increased in the breeding tank until reproduction takes place. The process can require some trial and error but shortening the light cycle drastically, then increasing it slowly should trigger them to reproduce.
Another way to trigger breeding in Neon Tetras is to perform a large water change in the separate breeding tank, in order to simulate their natural habitat, which has varying degrees of rainfall throughout the year.
You should let the nitrates slowly creep up and perform the water change. We have found that a 50% water change is usually enough to trigger the breeding process.
Everything that is inside and on top of the breeding tank should be sterilized and once the Neon Tetra eggs have been laid, the adult Neon Tetras must be removed. The Tetra species have a tendency to eat all of their eggs so it’s important to get them out as soon as possible.

How Often Can Neon Tetras Breed?

Neon Tetras can typically breed twice every month. Eggs will usually hatch in around 24 hours and from then on, it’s just a case of keeping them safe and feeding them the correct food. Due to their size, the only food we recommend at first is Infusoria.
As they grow, you can start to introduce some foods, such as frozen brine shrimp and cut up blood worms.

Neon Tetra Care Made Easy

In order to care for your Neon Tetra fish, you need the right products to keep your aquarium thriving. Here are our favorite recommended products for beginner fish keepers:

Following the information above can help your Neon Tetras stay alive and thrive!

Logan Price

I created this website to help fellow fishkeepers get accurate and helpful information at the click of a few buttons. I've always loved caring for fish and their aquariums, but I've certainly made mistakes along the way. So I'm hoping to help people avoid common fishkeeping mistakes so they can enjoy this satisfying hobby alongside me!

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