school of neon tetras

The 15 Best Neon Tetra Tank Mates For Your Aquarium

Creating a thriving aquarium involves selecting compatible tank mates for your neon tetras. Neon tetras are renowned for their stunning colors and peaceful nature, making them excellent additions to a community tank. But if you choose incompatible tank mates for them, you’ll be risking aggression, territorial behavior, and sometimes even death.

By carefully choosing the right companions, you can enhance the beauty and dynamics of your aquarium in a way that keeps all your fish in harmony. 

Let’s dive in and discover 15 perfect tank mates for your neon tetras, as well as those you want to avoid.

Do Neon Tetra Need Friends?

Yes, neon tetra temperament means they’re social fish that thrive in groups. They feel more secure and display their natural behavior when kept with companions, creating a healthy environment for them.

A school of at least six to eight neon tetras is recommended to replicate their natural social structure and reduce stress. However, it’s also a good idea to introduce compatible tank mates for your neon tetras to ensure a harmonious and thriving community tank.

Overview of Tank Mates

Tank mates are fish or other invertebrates that can coexist peacefully with those already in your aquarium. If you’re looking to expand your community tank with new fish or critters, you need to consider all their temperaments and preferences to ensure that all fish in the tank remain happy. 

For example, betta fish and zebra snails are two peas in a pod because they thrive in the same water conditions the peaceful zebra snails don’t trouble the bettas.

Neon tetras are small, peaceful fish that thrive in groups. They feel more secure and active when surrounded by their species or other compatible tank mates.

Having tank mates for your neon tetras can provide a more engaging environment for both the fish and the aquarist. When neon tetras are kept in a community, they exhibit more natural behaviors, such as schooling and exploring. And, compatible tank mates can create a breathtaking display with their colors, patterns, and different swimming styles.

When selecting tank mates for neon tetras, you need to consider their temperament and specific care requirements. Choosing the perfect roomies creates harmony and reduces the risk of aggression or stress. Remember to provide adequate space, hiding spots, and clean water to cater to all your aquarium’s tenants.

Best Fish Tank Mates for Neon Tetras

Here are a few compatible tank mates for your neon tetra aquarium:

1. Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras Catfish

Corys are bottom-dwellers that make friendly tankmates for neon tetras. One of the perks of keeping corydoras catfish with neon tetras is their similar water requirements. Both species thrive in soft to slightly acidic water with temperatures ranging from 72°F to 82°F.

Corys are highly active and are known for their playful and social behavior. Their small size and bottom-dwelling nature also complement the mid to upper-level swimming habits of neon tetras, avoiding any competition for space. 

Another upside? Corydoras catfish also keep the aquarium clean by scavenging for leftover food and debris.

When introducing corydoras catfish to a neon tetra aquarium, ensure that the tank has suitable hiding spots and soft substrates like sand or smooth gravel, to protect their delicate whisker-like feelers. Then, give them a balanced diet that includes sinking pellets or wafers specifically formulated for bottom-dwelling fish.

2. Harlequin Rasbora

Harlequin Rasbora

Harlequin rasboras are native to Southeast Asia and are highly sought after by fishkeepers for their striking appearance. 

They sport a deep red body adorned with a shimmering iridescent blue-green patch that extends from the middle of their body to the caudal fin. Their peaceful nature makes them ideal companions for neon tetras.

Keeping harlequin rasboras in a well-planted aquarium replicates their natural habitat and encourages them to swim around their new home. They appreciate live plants, as they provide hiding spots and contribute to overall water quality by absorbing excess nutrients. 

They also have similar water preferences to neon tetras, so there won’t be any issues when sharing the tank. 

3. Ember Tetra

Ember Tetra

Ember tetras’ fiery red coloration is a beautiful combination when placed alongside neon tetras’ vibrant blue colors.

Due to their peaceful nature, ember tetras coexist well with other peaceful community fish, including neon tetras. They aren’t aggressive and are known for their calm temperament. Plus, they share similar water parameters and thrive in well-planted tanks.

4. Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus Catfish

When it comes to keeping your aquarium clean and free of algae, Otocinclus catfish easily win. These small, peaceful catfish have a huge appetite for algae and play a vital role in controlling algae infestations.

Adding otocinclus catfish to your neon tetras tank not only maintains the tank but adds a fun new tankmate that won’t clash with your neon tetras.

5. Guppies


Colorful and active, guppies are a popular choice as tank mates for neon tetras, adding various colors, patterns, and vibrance to the aquarium. 

These peaceful fish are popular for their curiosity, constantly exploring and swimming around the tank. Guppies are livebearers, meaning they give birth to live young rather than laying eggs, so you just might catch the birth of baby guppies if you’re lucky!

When selecting guppies as tank mates for neon tetras, always consider the male-to-female ratio to prevent excessive male aggression. Ideally, keeping more female guppies helps distribute the attention and reduce male-on-male aggression. Providing ample hiding spots, and decorations also helps create territories and breaks the line of sight, minimizing any potential conflicts.

6. Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf Gouramis, are native to the slow-moving waters of Southeast Asia. 

These fish possess a unique organ called the labyrinth organ, allowing them to breathe atmospheric air from the water’s surface. This adaptation enables them to survive in oxygen-deprived waters, making them well-suited to various aquarium setups.

When considering dwarf gouramis as tank mates for neon tetras, provide enough space and hiding spots to minimize potential territorial conflicts. 

These gouramis are generally peaceful but males can be aggressive to themselves. So, to maintain harmony, keep a single male with multiple females.

7. Cherry Barb

Cherry Barb

Cherry Barbs are peaceful, schooling fish with a red coloration. They’re a perfect match for neon tetras as they share similar water parameters and temperaments. Cherry barbs thrive in groups, and their lively nature adds activity to the aquarium.

Feeding cherry barbs is straightforward, as they’re non-picky omnivores. A balanced diet can consist of high-quality flakes, pellets, and occasional live or frozen foods like brine shrimp or daphnia. Just remember to put them in a group and maintain good water quality and they’re good to go.

8. White Cloud Mountain Minnow

White Cloud Mountain Minnow

White Cloud Mountain Minnows are peaceful fish that adapt easily to aquarium changes, making them ideal tank mates for neon tetras. They sport a unique combination of silver and gold colors, and a prominent dark stripe running horizontally along their bodies.

🐠 Minnows are a good choice if you’re looking for a fish that can live in cooler temperatures. Here are 7 more cool coldwater fish (that aren’t goldfish)

9. Kuhli Loach

Kuhli Loach

For a fancy addition to your neon tetra tank, consider kuhli loaches. These shy, nocturnal fish are known for their eel-like appearance and intriguing behavior. 

Kuhli loaches spend much of their time hiding during the day. More importantly, they’re peaceful bottom-dwellers that coexist well with neon tetras.

We recommend providing plenty of hiding spots, such as caves, plants, or PVC pipes, where they can retreat and feel secure. 

🐠If you’re debating between real or fake plants to add to your aquarium, read our aquarium plants guide to help you choose.

10. Endler’s Livebearer

Endler's Livebearer

Endler’s livebearers are native to Venezuelan freshwater. They’re named after Dr. John Endler, who significantly popularized these fish within the fishkeeping hobby.

They’re similar to guppies and will only thrive in aquariums with ample space to explore. So, your aquarium should have plenty of swimming room and plants.

Best Invertebrate Tank Mates for Neon Tetras

Invertebrates can also make good tankmates for your neon tetras. Here’s a list of compatible invertebrate tank mates you can add to your aquarium.

1. Ghost Shrimp

Ghost Shrimp

Ghost shrimp are cool invertebrates that thrive alongside neon tetras. They’re relatively small, typically reaching around 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm) in length, and have clear, transparent bodies

One of the notable benefits of keeping ghost shrimp as tankmates for neon tetras is their scavenging behavior. They’re efficient cleaners that diligently search for and eat leftover food. By doing so, ghost shrimp help maintain good water quality and prevent debris buildup.

2. Red Cherry Shrimp

Red Cherry Shrimp

Red cherry shrimp are omnivores who just want an established pond and decent current. Red Cherry Shrimp are often seen exploring the tank and interacting with one another. 

They make great tankmates because they’re docile, shy, and easy to manage.

3. Nerite Snails

Nerite Snails

Nerite snails are non-aggressive, so they go well with neon tetras. They are also hardy and can tolerate temperature and pH fluctuations. 

One of the primary reasons fishkeepers choose nerite snails as tank mates for neon tetras is their appetite for algae. They’re exceptional algae eaters and will graze on different types of algae, including green spot algae and diatoms. Nerite snails play a significant role in maintaining a clean and balanced aquarium by controlling algae growth.

You should also know that nerite snails can’t reproduce in freshwater, which is beneficial for avoiding an overpopulation in your neon tetra tank.

🐠When adding snails to your tank, you’ll want to be sure you’re adding the appropriate number of snails according to your tank size. Follow our snails per gallon guide here.

4. Amano Shrimp

Amano Shrimp

Amano Shrimp are known for their unique swimming patterns and social behavior. They constantly move around the tank and climb on plant leaves or perch on rocks. 

Amano shrimp are peaceful so they’ll make good roomies with neon tetras. However, they may occasionally engage in minor skirmishes among themselves, especially when competing for food or territory. 

Providing ample hiding spots and ensuring sufficient food will help minimize potential conflicts and promote calm.

5. Malaysian Trumpet Snail

Malaysian Trumpet Snail

Malaysian trumpet snails are peaceful and don’t pose any threats to neon tetra fish or other tank inhabitants. They burrow, which helps maintain a healthy substrate environment. And, as they move through the substrate, they aerate it and prevent compaction. 

This helps promote water circulation and prevent anaerobic pockets, which can be detrimental to the overall health of the aquarium.

Malaysian trumpet snails reproduce quite rapidly under favorable conditions. Luckily, they’re generally not considered invasive and are relatively easy to control by adjusting feeding and maintenance routines. 

Incompatible Tank Mates for Neon Tetras

While neon tetras are peaceful and social fish, you should also know incompatible tank mates that can pose a threat to them. Adding these species to your neon tetra aquarium can result in aggression, fin-nipping, injury, or even predation. 

Here’s a list of tankmates you should avoid due to their aggressive nature or incompatible water requirements:

1. Cichlids


Cichlids are known for their aggressive nature and territorial behavior. They require a lot of space and can become hostile toward smaller and more delicate fish like neon tetras. Plus, cichlids need warmer water parameter requirements, which makes maintaining compatible conditions challenging.

2. Betta Fish

Betta Fish

Betta fish are infamous for their territorial and aggressive tendencies. Their long, flowing fins make it possible to view the colorful neon tetra as rivals. Their tendency to fight is one of the reasons why only one male betta should be in a community tank.

Bettas may display aggression toward the neon tetras by flaring their fins, chasing, or even attacking them.

3. Some Species of Corydoras Catfish

bronze corydoras

Larger species like the bronze corydoras or the peppered corydoras may accidentally or intentionally harm the smaller neon tetra. So, opting for smaller and more peaceful species like the pygmy corydoras or the panda corydoras gets you a better match.

While some species of corydoras catfish can be compatible tank mates for neon tetra, you should consider the exact species before adding them to your tank. 

Building a Thriving Community Tank

To provide a healthy environment for your neon tetras and their tank mates, it’s essential to have the right set. You’ll need:

Aquarium Tank

We recommend a minimum tank size of 10 gallons for a small community setup. If possible, use a 30-gallon tank because it’ll provide even better conditions for your fish—especially if you have fish that like to explore.

Consider the number and size of your tank mates when determining the appropriate tank size. Neon tetras are small, reaching an average length of around 1.5 inches (4 centimeters). 

But, some tank mates, such as certain catfish or gouramis, may grow larger and require more space. Research the adult size of each species you plan to keep and factor that into your tank size decision.

🐠 Not sure which size tank to get? Here’s what you should consider.

Filtration System

Installing an efficient filtration system is crucial for maintaining excellent water quality in your neon tetra community tank. A reliable filtration system helps to remove toxins, debris, and excess nutrients, creating a balanced environment for your aquatic friends.

When selecting a filtration system, consider the size of your tank, number of fish, and the specific needs of the various fish. Choose a filter that’s appropriately sized for your tank and capable of handling the bio-load from the inhabitants. 

Always aim for a filtration system that can process the entire volume of the tank at least four times per hour for optimal water quality.

🐠View our ultimate guide to choosing the best fish tank filter.


Neon tetras thrive in temperatures between 72°F and 80°F (22°C and 27°C), and maintaining a stable and consistent temperature is crucial for their health and well-being.  

When selecting an aquarium heater, consider the size of your tank and the wattage required to heat the water effectively. It’s generally recommended to have a heater that can provide 5 watts of power per gallon of water. For example, a 20-gallon tank would require a 100-watt heater

Also, choose a heater with a built-in thermostat or a separate temperature controller to accurately maintain the desired temperature.

🐠Here’s a list of the best aquarium heaters, and how to choose the right one.


When selecting a substrate, choose a fine-grained option that mimics the neon tetra’s natural habitat. Fine gravel or sand substrate works well because it resembles the sandy bottoms of rivers and streams where neon tetras are commonly found.

🐠 Here’s how to choose a suitable substrate for your aquarium and keep it clean


Tank decorations are vital for creating a visually appealing and natural environment for your neon tetra. Live plants not only serve as natural filters but also provide hiding spots, resting, and play areas for the fish. 

Smooth rocks or stacked stones can create caves or crevices where neon tetras or shy tank mates can retreat and establish their territories. Just make sure that all decorations you use aren’t sharp and can’t harm your neon tetra or its tank mates.

🐠We love these 10 quirky decorations for your tank!

A Diverse Aquarium Made Possible With Tank Mates

Selecting the right tank mates for your neon tetra is a rewarding venture that pays off in a diverse aquarium and happier pets. 

Both fish and invertebrates tank mate recommendations above, will coexist peacefully with neon tetra and thrive in the tank. Just remember to research the specific care requirements of each species and carefully integrate the newcomers. 

Enjoy your new aquatic hostel and be sure to leave us a comment below if you enjoyed it.

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