The Neon Tetra is the crowning glory of home aquariums. Its exquisite natural beauty says it all. Its shimmering colors – silver and white at the abdomen and light blue at its back, combine into a perfect mixture that blends with all the colors in the rest of the 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 for fishkeepers. We’ve all had them!
In the wild, the Neon Tetra inhabits slightly acidic waters that have temperatures lower than 25°C. In natural conditions, a Neon Tetra can live up to ten years. In an aquarium, the average lifespan is five years.
How To Care For Neon Tetras
While Neon Tetras are one of the easier fish to care for, 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. Temperature between 23°C – 26°C would be ideal.
Neon Tetra Lifespan:
In natural conditions, a Neon Tetra can live up to ten years. In an 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 Tetras thrive best in densely-planted aquarium tanks that have subdued lighting.
Neon Tetra Diet: What Do Neon Tetras Eat?
This fish is an omnivore and can eat flake foods provided they are small enough for them to swallow and ingest. We recommend 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
- Brine Shrimp
When feeding 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
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 Tetras absolutely love them, so feed them sparingly.
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
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?
In order to keep the water quality as stable as possible, we recommend at least a 10-gallon tank. The bigger, the better.
Large water changes can be fatal for Neon Tetras, so having a large tank makes the water changes less obvious.
For filtration, a regular sponge filter, or a hang-on back filter will be sufficient. Since Tetras have a small bioload, their filtration needs are very undemanding. However, since Tetras are generally kept within a larger community tank, the filtration requirements will need of the entire aquarium will need to be considered.
When it comes to filtration, more is always better than not having enough.
Do Neon Tetras Need Plants?
Neon Tetras love a busy tank with a lot of space and a lot of plants. They will appreciate the greenery and they love to swim in and out of the plants. The more plants you can add without consuming too much space, the better.
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
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
The common diseases for this fish are called “neon tetra disease” and “false neon tetra disease”. Both are fatal diseases with no cure at the moment. To protect the others, one should immediately remove from the aquarium an infected member.
Not many fishkeepers realize that other 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, and the most common way to spot this, is the apparent discolour, and lightening of the scales. Other symptoms include:
Neon Tetra Disease Symptoms
- Difficulty swimming
- A lumpy exterior. These are caused by cysts which develop in the muscles.
- Loss of colour
- A curvature of the spine
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 which were currently occupied by ill fish can greatly increase the risk of your fish catching this disease.
How To Sex a Neon Tetra
The most accurate way to sex a tetra is to look at their stomach.
The male neon tetra has a body that is more slender than the female. In males the blue line appears straight.
In a female, 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 tank.
How To Breed Neon Tetras
For breeding, a female and a male member is separated in a breeding tank which should be kept dark.
Lighting is gradually increased 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 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 aquarium should be sterilized and once the eggs have been laid, they must be removed. Tetras 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 frozen foods, such as brine shrimp and cut up blood worms.