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How to Take Care of Your Pregnant Neon Tetra

If you’re looking to learn more about your pregnant neon tetra, the first thing you should know is that technically, neon tetras can’t get pregnant as they’re egg layers.

The term “pregnant” is usually reserved for when the young develop within the mother’s uterus, as in humans, dogs, and cats. For the sake of this article though, I’ll use the term “pregnant”, even though it’s not totally accurate.

Now that we have that out of the way, if your neon tetra has a swollen belly, it may mean that it’s a female with eggs. Here’s how you can help her successfully bring new fish into the world, as well as how to successfully breed more neon tetras.

Neon Tetra Courting Behavior

You can tell that eggs may be in your future if you see your neon tetras courting. When courting, the male will display a variety of behaviors as he tries to encourage his mate to lay her eggs for fertilization. The male’s courting behaviors include:

  • Chasing the female.
  • Nudging his mate’s abdomen.
  • Swimming side to side rapidly while displaying his fins and colors.

How Can You Tell If a Neon Tetra is Pregnant?

If the female accepts the male’s advances, she’ll begin to show pregnant neon tetra symptoms. These signs include her becoming more vibrant in color and becoming plumper.

This behavior by the female will cause the male to become more persistent in his courtship behavior as he attempts to stimulate her to lay eggs.

When the female is responsive to the male, she’ll lay eggs, which are covered with a sticky gel that binds to plants or other surfaces in the fish tank. The male will then fertilize the eggs and he and the female will go their own ways.

How Long Is a Neon Tetra’s Pregnancy?

After carrying her eggs for 14 weeks, the female will lay between 60-120 eggs. The eggs will hatch within 24-36 hours.

Common Issues with Pregnant Neon Tetras

There are a variety of diseases that can result from providing improper care, so it’s important to know what to look out for in case of an outbreak in the tank.

Neon Tetra Disease

Neon tetra disease, also known as Pleistophora hyphessobryconis, is caused by a parasite that lays its eggs on the fish, and its spores enter the fish’s body. When the eggs hatch, the offspring create cysts, which appear on the fish’s body. The cysts cause the body to have a lumpy appearance. Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swimming.
  • The curvature of the spine.
  • Discoloration of the body.
  • Weight loss.

This disease originates from parasites being introduced to the aquarium by fish that haven’t been quarantined or by feeding live food.

You can prevent this disease by raising your own live food and quarantining all new additions to the aquarium. As there’s no treatment for this disease, prevention is everything.

False Neon Tetra Disease

The symptoms of this disease are identical to neon tetra disease. The only difference is that this disease is caused by bacteria instead of parasites.  


Ich is a common disease among aquarium fish that is caused by the parasitic protozoan Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. This disease presents small white spots on the fish’s body and fins.  Fish inflicted with this disease can be seen rubbing against surfaces to relieve themselves of the irritation.

Medication for ich can be purchased at your local tropical fish store. As a home remedy, add one tablespoon of salt for every five gallons of aquarium water and increase the water temperature by two degrees.

🐠 Learn more about ich and how to treat it quickly to save your fish.

Tail and Fin Rot

This disease results from poor water quality and manifests as the fish’s fins being eaten away. With time, the disease progresses toward the body. Treatment includes doing a complete water change and dosing the water with antibiotics.

🐠We’ve put together a full guide to fin rot, it’s causes, symptoms, and treatment.


Dropsy isn’t a disease but rather a symptom of underlying disorders. The fish may have a bacterial infection or a disorder of their kidney or liver.

As a result of the disorder, the ability of the fish to regulate its fluid balance is disrupted.  Fluid collects in the fish’s body, and it can’t excrete the excess fluids. Symptoms of dropsy include:

  • Bloating or distention of the abdomen, which may be confused with pregnancy.
  • The fish’s body resembling a pinecone due to the distended scales.
  • The fish’s eyes protruding from their orbits.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Lethargy or lying down on its side.
  • Swimming in a swaying motion below the water’s surface.

Poor water conditions or an incorrect diet cause this diseaseTreatment includes quarantining and adding salt to the water and antibiotics. Add one teaspoon of salt per gallon of water. Also, the water needs to be kept scrupulously clean.

For antibiotics, use one that’s broad spectrum, gram-positive, and negative resistant, such as Maracyn-two.

🐠 If your fish is struggling with dropsy, we have more potential causes and treatments in this full guide to dropsy.

Caring for Pregnant Neon Tetra Fish

Caring for a pregnant neon tetra needs to start before your neon tetra becomes pregnant. If you plan on breeding neon tetras, you will want to set up a breeding tank, which will be described in the next section.

The breeding tank should have the following water parameters:

  • Temperature: 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 Centigrade).
  • pH: 5.5-6.0.

Also, dim the lights in the room or provide plenty of plants in the breeding tank to provide shade. Doing these things will stimulate the female to become pregnant.

What should I feed my pregnant neon tetra?

When you place the female and her mate in the breeding tank, feed them a high-protein diet. A good protein source is live food such as daphnia or blood worms.

Freeze Dried Daphnia Fish Food
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Tetra® BloodWorms 0.25 Oz
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Breeding Neon Tetra Fish

Neon tetra breeding is not difficult, but to be successful, you’ll need to provide your tetras with the right care and environment.

Choosing the Breeding Pair

When breeding neon tetras, the first step is to select the right breeding pair. Male neon tetras are generally smaller than the female.

Also, males will have a straight blue stripe on their bodies, while the stripe in the females will be more curved. Females will also have a rounder appearance.

Neon Tetra Courtship

Courtship in neon tetras involves the male encouraging the female to lay eggs by displaying colors and nudging the female’s abdomen. The male will also rapidly swim from side to side. Before the female lays eggs, her coloration will become more vibrant.

When the female becomes receptive to the male’s advances, it’ll trigger spawning. The female will lay her eggs one to three days afterward. The eggs will hatch 24-36 hours later.

How to Breed Neon Tetras

When breeding neon tetras, setting up a separate tank for the breeding pair is important.  For breeding purposes, you can use a 10-gallon aquarium for the neon tetra tank setup.  There should be no more than two breeding pairs per tank.

Setting Up the Breeding Tank

The breeding tank should simulate the black waters of the Amazon River, from which these fish are from. Neon tetra pregnancy care requires that you meet specific conditions. The tank should be dimly lit with a water temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 5.5-6.0.

Use an aquarium heater to maintain the water temperature. Also, equip the aquarium with an under-gravel filter or no filter at all. Other types of filters may suck up the eggs.

Adding peat soil to the bottom of the tank will help keep the pH at the proper level. Only use peat soil from a reptile or pet store. Don’t use peat soil from a garden shop, as it may contain toxic chemicals.

Substrate for Egg Laying

When caring for pregnant neon tetras, it is important to add a spawning mop, java moss, or guppy grass to the tank. This will provide a place for the female to deposit her eggs. If you can, add Indian almond leaves. They’ll help prevent fungus or mold from developing.

When the female lays eggs and the male has fertilized them, remove them from the breeding tank to prevent them from eating their eggs or fry.

Neon Tetra Fry Care

The neon tetra fry will be difficult to see as they’re not only 0.01 inches long (2.5 mm). But also translucent. You can use a sponge filter in the aquarium. Keep the fry in the breeding tank until they’re three months old. You can then introduce them to the main aquarium.

For the first three or four days, you don’t have to worry about feeding them as they’ll get their nutrition from their yolk sac, a temporary food supply that the fry are born with.

After four days, the fry will become free-swimming and you can offer them food. The following are foods that are appropriate for this age are:

When they’re two weeks old, you can feed them baby brine shrimp and micro worms.

🐠Learn how to grow your own brine shrimp for tropical fish food.


While breeding neon tetras isn’t difficult once you get the technique down, what’s most important is that you provide the proper conditions for your pregnant neon tetra. We hope you’ve learned how to do so. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and we’ll be happy to answer them. Be sure to share with article with your fishkeeping friends.

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