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Neon Tetra Care Guide: Lifespan, Nutrition and Create a Healthy Environment

Neon tetra is a freshwater fish of the characin family (family Characidae) of order Characiformes. The fish is native to the upper Amazon River basin in South America. The neon tetra is a small fish, …

Neon tetra care

Neon tetra is a freshwater fish of the characin family (family Characidae) of order Characiformes. The fish is native to the upper Amazon River basin in South America.

The neon tetra is a small fish, growing to a maximum length of about 2.5 cm (1 in). It is a brightly colored fish, with a blue line running from the nose, through the eye, to the base of the tail, and a red line along the middle of the body. There is also a small black stripe between the blue and red lines. Neon tetras are peaceful fish and are often kept in aquariums. They are gregarious and prefer to live in groups of at least 6-8 fish.

Neon tetras are very popular aquarium fish and are widely available in pet stores. Neon tetra care is easy and does well in most types of freshwater aquariums. Neon tetras are relatively disease-resistant, but are sensitive to changes in water quality, and are particularly susceptible to neon tetra disease, a condition caused by a parasitic protozoan.

Neon tetras are not bred commercially on a large scale but are relatively easy to breed in captivity.

Should You Get a Neon Tetra for Your Aquarium?
Neon tetras are popular freshwater fish that are relatively easy to care for. They are peaceful fish that work well in groups. Neon tetras are also relatively small, so they can be kept in small aquariums. If you are willing to commit to providing a good home for them, keeping them can be a fun and rewarding activity.

Species Summary

Origin:Southeastern Colombia, eastern Peru, western Brazil
Tank level:Mid-dweller
Minimum tank size:10 gallon
Breeding:Egg scatterer
Hardness:Up to 10 dGH
Temperature:68–79 °F (20–26 °C)

Where do They Come From?

The Neon Tetra was first found in the Amazon River Basin in South America. They were discovered by German ichthyologists in the blackwater tributaries of the upper Rio Negro in 1933. The species was described by Dr. Fischer in 1942 and given the name Aphyocharax anisitsi.

The Neon Tetra was one of the first fish to be bred in an aquarium in the United States. In the early 1940s, a fish dealer named Otto Schmieder managed to get a few Neon Tetras to spawn in his aquarium. He hatched the eggs and then sold the fry to other fish dealers. This helped to popularize the Neon Tetra in the United States.

How Long do Neon Tetra Live for?

Most neon tetras live for around five years, but some have been known to live for up to 10 years.

To keep your neon tetras healthy and happy, provide them with a clean tank, plenty of food, and regular water changes.

How Big do Neon Tetra Grow?

Neon tetras typically only grow to be about 2 inches long, but there are reports of them reaching 3 inches or more. The largest recorded neon tetra was 3.5 inches long.

Care of a neon tetra in an aquarium

The Different Types of Neon Tetra Fish: Appearance

There are several different species of Neon Tetra fish, all of which have similar care requirements. However, there are some differences in their appearance.


One of the most appealing things about neon tetras is their wide variety of colors. In addition to the bright neon colors for which they are named, neon tetras can also be found in gold, silver, and even black. There are also several color variations, such as the long-finned neon tetra and the glowlight tetra, which has a bright red stripe down its side.


The fish’s scales are transparent, and the red and blue colors are enhanced by a black stripe that runs along the fish’s back. The dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins are also transparent and are edged in black.

Are Neon Tetras Good Beginner Fish?

Many people believe that neon tetras are the best fish for beginners. And, it’s no wonder why. These fish are small, colorful, and relatively easy to care of neon tetra fish. In fact, many people consider them to be “indestructible.”

While neon tetras are hardy fish and can survive in a variety of water conditions, they are not invincible. In fact, they can be quite delicate. So, it’s important that you take the time to learn about their needs before you purchase them.

In general, neon tetras need a well-lit tank with a moderate to fast current. They also need a tank that is heavily planted with plenty of hiding places. Because they are schooling fish, it’s best to keep at least six of them in a tank.

If you can provide these things, neon tetras will make a great addition to your tank. However, if you cannot meet their needs, it’s best to choose a different fish.

Taking care of a neon tetra in the aquarium

The Most Important Step: The Nitrogen Cycle

The nitrogen cycle is the process by which nitrogen-containing compounds are converted into other forms that are usable by plants and animals. In the nitrogen cycle, nitrogen is converted from one form to another and then back again.

The cycle starts with nitrogen-containing compounds, such as ammonia, being converted into nitrites by bacteria. Nitrites are then converted into nitrates by other bacteria. Nitrates are then taken up by plants, which convert them back into nitrogen-containing compounds. The cycle is completed when animals eat the plants and the nitrogen-containing compounds are converted back into ammonia.

The nitrogen cycle is important to neon tetras because it helps to keep the water clean and safe for them to live in. Ammonia and nitrites are toxic to fish and can kill them if the levels get too high. The bacteria that convert ammonia into nitrites and nitrates help to keep the levels of these toxins low.

Read also: How To Cycle a Fish Tank Fast: Step-By-Step Diy Guide

Neon Tetra Care & Tank Requirements

Below you will learn everything you need to know to properly care for your fish in an aquarium.

The Best Aquarium Size for Neon Tetras

A 20-gallon aquarium is a minimum size recommended for keeping a group of neon tetras. However, a 30- or 40-gallon aquarium will provide your fish with more swimming space and allow them to better display their natural behaviors.

Neon tetras are not particularly active fish, so they don’t need a lot of open swimming space. However, they do like to hide among plants and another aquarium décor, so be sure to include plenty of hiding places in your set-up.

What Water is Best for Neon Tetras?

There are three main types of water that can be used for neon tetras: dechlorinated tap water, distilled water, or RO (reverse osmosis) water.

Dechlorinated tap water is the most commonly used type of water for neon tetras, as it is easy to obtain and usually does not contain harmful chemicals.

Distilled water is pure water that has been boiled and then cooled, and it can be used for neon tetras if dechlorinated water is not available.

RO water is water that has been filtered to remove impurities, and it is the best type of water to use for neon tetras.

No matter which type of water you use, it is important to test it before adding neon tetras. This can be done with a water testing kit, which can be found at most pet stores. The kit will test for several different parameters, and you should make sure that the water meets the needs of neon tetras before adding them to the aquarium.

Tank Water Temperature

Neon tetras are tropical fish that originates from South America and requires a water temperature of 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit.

If the water in your aquarium is too cold, your neon tetras will become sluggish and their colors will fade. If the water is too hot, they can suffer from stress and even death.

Maintaining the proper water temperature for your neon tetras is critical to their health and happiness.

A neon tetra in an aquarium

Best Water Flow for Neon Tetras

The ideal water flow for neon tetras is a gentle current. Neon tetras prefer still or slow-moving waters in the wild, so a strong water current can be stressful for them. A gentle water flow will provide your neon tetras with the exercise they need without causing them undue stress.

To create a gentle water flow in your aquarium, you can use an aquarium pump or powerhead. Be sure to position the pump or powerhead in a way that creates a gentle flow throughout the entire aquarium. You can also use plants to help create a gentle water flow.

pH — Water Acidity & Alkalinity Levels for Neon Tetras

Water that is too acidic or too alkaline can cause stress and illness in neon tetras, and in extreme cases can even be fatal. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to maintain proper water quality for neon tetras, as long as you are aware of their needs.

In the wild, neon tetras inhabit rivers and streams with neutral to slightly acidic water. This is typically around a pH of 6.0-7.0. In the home aquarium, a similar pH range should be maintained.

If your water is too alkaline, you can lower the pH by adding a small amount of acidifying agents, such as peat moss or driftwood. If your water is too acidic, you can raise the pH by adding a small amount of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).

It is important to make any changes to the pH of your aquarium slowly and carefully, as sudden changes can be just as harmful as water that is too extreme in pH. If you are unsure of how to adjust the pH of your water, or if you have any other questions about caring for neon tetras, be sure to consult a knowledgeable aquarium store employee or veterinarian.

Blue neon tetra in an aquarium


While neon tetras are relatively easy to care for, they are sensitive to water quality. This means that filtration is an important part of keeping them healthy and happy.

There are a few different types of filtration that can be used for neon tetras, but the most common is an external canister filter. These filters are designed to remove harmful toxins and bacteria from the water, while also providing oxygenation.

Canister filters come in a variety of sizes, so it is important to choose one that is appropriate for the size of your aquarium. Neon tetras also prefer a slightly acidic environment, so a filter with an adjustable pH can be beneficial.

In addition to filtration, regular water changes are also important for neon tetras. water should be replaced every two weeks, and the new water should be of the same temperature and pH as the old water.

Do Neon Tetras Need an Air Pump?

One of the main things to consider when keeping neon tetras is whether or not to use an air pump. Air pumps are often used in aquariums to provide oxygen to the water and to help circulate the water. However, neon tetras do not need an air pump in order to thrive. They are able to get the oxygen they need from the water itself.

In fact, using an air pump can actually be harmful to neon tetras. The air bubbles that are produced can be stressful for the fish and can even damage their delicate fins. If you do use an air pump in your aquarium, be sure to place it in a way that the air bubbles will not directly come into contact with the fish.

A blue neon tetra in an aquarium

Do Neon Tetras Need Light at Night?

When it comes to lighting, neon tetras do not need light at night. In fact, they prefer dim lighting or no lighting at all. Neon tetras are a nocturnal species, which means they are most active at night. They will come out to feed and swim around more when the lights are off or dim. So, if you are looking to create a natural environment for your neon tetras, it is best to turn off the lights at night.

Plants and Decorations

Neon tetras are schooling fish, so it is best to keep at least six of them. They prefer a tank with plenty of plants and decorations to hide in.

Live plants are a great addition to any aquarium and neon tetras love to hide among them. Some good plants to use are Java fern, Anubias, and Hornwort. You can also use artificial plants, but make sure they are labeled as “aquarium safe.”

Decorations are another important part of an aquarium and they are especially important for neon tetras. They like to hide among rocks, driftwood, and other decorations. Be sure to use decorations that are safe for fish and won’t damage your tank.

With a little bit of planning, you can create a beautiful aquarium that is perfect for neon tetras.

Blue neon tetra in an aquarium

What’s the Best Substrate for Neon Tetras?

When it comes to choosing a substrate for your neon tetras, there are a few things to consider. First, you want to make sure that the substrate is safe for your fish. Second, you want to choose a substrate that will help to keep your tank clean. And third, you want to choose a substrate that will help to create a natural environment for your fish.

There are a few different substrates that you can choose from, but gravel is generally the best option. Gravel is safe for your fish and it can help to keep your tank clean. It can also help to create a natural environment for your fish. If you choose to use gravel, be sure to wash it well before adding it to your tank.

Another option for a substrate is sand. Sand is also safe for your fish and it can help to keep your tank clean. However, sand can be more difficult to clean than gravel. If you choose to use sand, be sure to vacuum it regularly to keep it clean.

Food & Diet

While neon tetras are not demanding when it comes to their diet, it is important to provide them with a varied and nutritious diet.

What Can You Feed Your Neon Tetra?

Neon tetras are omnivores, which means they will eat both plants and animals. In the wild, their diet consists of small insects, crustaceans, and algae. In captivity, they can be fed a variety of foods, including pellets, flakes, live food, and frozen food.

Pellets and flakes are the most common type of food for neon tetras. They are easy to find and provide a well-rounded diet for the fish. Live food, such as brine shrimp or bloodworms, is a good option for neon tetras that are picky eaters or need a boost of protein. Frozen food, such as daphnia or mosquito larvae, is also a good option and can be found at most pet stores.

When choosing a food for neon tetras, it is important to find one that is high in quality and contains all the nutrients the fish need. A good diet for neon tetras should include protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals.

A beautiful neon tetra in an aquarium

How Often Do Neon Tetras Need to Be Fed?

When it comes to feeding neon tetras in captivity, it is best to give them several small meals throughout the day rather than one large meal. This is because neon tetras have small stomachs and cannot eat a lot of food at one time. It is also important to offer a variety of food items to neon tetras so that they can get all of the nutrients that they need.

As a general guideline, neon tetras should be fed 2-3 times per day. However, it is important to observe your fish and see how much they are eating. If they seem to be eating more than usual, you can increase the frequency of feedings. Conversely, if your fish are not eating as much as usual, you may need to decrease the frequency of feedings.

How Long Can a Neon Tetra Go Without Food?

A neon tetra can go without food for up to six weeks, although it is best to feed them at least once a week to keep them healthy. After six weeks without food, a neon tetra will start to lose weight and may become sick.

Watch the Following Video on 10 Things You Must Know Before Buying a Neon Tetra!

Behavior & Temperament

Neon tetra fish are a popular choice for aquariums because of their small size and vibrant colors. Although they are relatively easy to care for, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to their behavior and temperament.

Neon tetras are active fish that enjoy swimming around in groups. They are social creatures that do best when kept in schools of at least 6-8 fish. They are peaceful fish that get along well with other tank mates of similar size and temperament.

When it comes to their behavior, neon tetras are relatively mellow fish. They are not overly active or aggressive and tend to stick to their own kind. However, they can be skittish and may startle easily if there is a lot of movement in the aquarium.

Good Tank Mates

  • Other tetra species like Black Skirt Tetras, Black Neons or Cardinal Tetras

Black Skirt Tetras, Black Neons, and Cardinal Tetras are all small, peaceful fish that make great additions to any community aquarium.

Black Skirt Tetras are a popular choice for many aquarium enthusiasts due to their beautiful black-and-white coloration. They are very active fish that enjoy swimming in schools, so it is recommended to keep them in groups of 6 or more. Black Skirt Tetras are not demanding fish and can thrive in a variety of water conditions.

Black Neons are another popular choice for community aquariums. They are very similar in appearance to Black Skirt Tetras but have a neon blue line running along their body instead of white. Black Neons are also very active fish that enjoy swimming in schools.

Cardinal Tetras are beautiful fish that are named for their bright red coloration. They are peaceful fish that do well in community aquariums.

Black Skirt Tetras fish

  • Livebearers like Platies, Endlers or Guppies

Platies are peaceful fish that come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. They are hardy fish that can tolerate a wide range of water conditions, making them ideal for beginner aquarists. Platies are livebearers and will give birth to live young.

Endlers are small livebearing fish that are closely related to guppies. They are native to Venezuela and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Endlers are peaceful fish that do well in community aquariums.

Guppies are one of the most popular live-bearing fish and are native to Trinidad and Tobago. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns and are easy to care for.

Platies fish

  • Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras Catfish are small, peaceful fish that make a great addition to any community aquarium. They are active and love to play, but are also content to simply rest on the bottom or swim lazily around the tank. Corydoras Catfish are great scavengers and will help keep your tank clean. They are a hardy fish and relatively easy to care for, making them a great choice for beginner aquarists.

Corydoras Catfish fish

  • Otoclinus Catfish

Otoclinus catfish are a freshwater fish native to South America. They are small fish, only reaching a maximum length of around 3 inches. Otoclinus catfish are a peaceful fish and do well in community tanks. They are omnivorous and will eat a variety of foods, including flakes, pellets, and live foods.

Otoclinus Catfish fish

  • Clown or Bristlenose Plecos

Clown plecos (Panaque maccus) are a type of armored catfish native to the Orinoco and Amazon river basins in South America. They get their name from their black and white stripes, which resemble those of a clown. Clown plecos grow to be about 10 inches (25 cm) long and have a lifespan of 10-15 years.

Bristlenose plecos (Ancistrus sp.) are a type of armored catfish native to the Amazon river basin in South America. They get their name from the bristles that protrude from their noses. Bristlenose plecos grow to be about 6 inches (15 cm) long and have a lifespan of 5-10 years.

Clown fish

  • Boesemani Rainbow fish (these get over 6 inches but are very non-aggressive)

Boesemani Rainbow fish are one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish. They are native to Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Boesemani Rainbow fish are peaceful, hardy and easy to care for, making them a great choice for beginner aquarium hobbyists.

Boesemani Rainbow fish are omnivorous and will accept a variety of foods, including flakes, pellets, frozen and live foods.

Boesemani Rainbow fish

  • Freshwater shrimp like Red Cherry, Ghost or red/black crystal

Red Cherry shrimp are a species of shrimp that are popular in the aquarium trade. They are native to fresh and brackish waters in Southeast Asia, but have been introduced to other parts of the world through the aquarium trade. Red Cherry shrimp are relatively easy to care for and are a good choice for beginner shrimp keepers. They are omnivorous and will eat a variety of foods, including algae and detritus.

As their name suggests, ghost shrimp are a type of shrimp that is semi-transparent. They are a very popular type of shrimp to keep as pets, as they are relatively easy to care for and are very interesting to watch.

Ghost shrimp are native to fresh and brackish waters all over the world. They are a bottom-dwelling species of shrimp, and can often be found in large groups.

Crystal Red Shrimp, also known as CRS, are a beautiful and popular type of freshwater aquarium shrimp. They are well known for their striking red coloration, which is a result of their diet and environment.

Crystal Red Shrimp are very popular among aquarium hobbyists because of their unique coloration.

If you’re looking for a unique and beautiful shrimp to add to your aquarium, then black crystal shrimp may be the perfect choice! These striking shrimp are a deep black color with white spots, and they’re sure to add some pizzazz to your underwater scene.

They’re peaceful and can be kept with other peaceful fish and shrimp. They prefer a well-lit aquarium with plenty of hiding places. A diet of algae and small pellets or flakes will keep them healthy and happy.

Freshwater shrimps in the aquarium

  • Aquarium snails

Aquarium snails are a common addition to many people’s tanks, and they can actually be quite interesting and helpful little creatures! Most aquarium snails are scavengers, which means they help clean up algae and other detritus in the tank. They’re also relatively low-maintenance, since they don’t require special food or care.

Aquarium snails in an aquarium

There are a few different types of aquarium snails, the most common being the Mystery snail, Apple snail, and Nerite snail.

FAQs on How to Care for Neon Tetras

How many Neon Tetras can I put in a 10-gallon tank?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on a number of factors, including the size and health of the fish, the quality of the water, and the other fish in the tank. However, as a general rule of thumb, you can usually keep around 5-10 Neon Tetras in a 10-gallon tank.

Will Bettas eat Neon Tetras?

Bettas are known to eat smaller fish, so it is possible that they would eat neon tetras. However, it is also possible that the Bettas would not be interested in eating the neon tetras, since they are so small.

Do Neon Tetras Eat Snails?

Neon tetras are known to eat snails on occasion. This is most likely due to the fact that snails are a common food source in the wild for many fish, including neon tetras. In the aquarium, however, neon tetras should be given a diet that consists mostly of plant matter and small invertebrates.

Can Neon Tetras live with Guppies?

Yes, neon tetras and guppies can live together. They are both peaceful fish that do well in community tanks.

How many Neon Tetras should be kept together?

When keeping Neon Tetras together, it is recommended to have at least six, but ideally eight or more. This will help reduce aggression and stress levels within the group.


Neon tetras are popular aquarium fish because they are colorful and easy to care for. They are small fish, typically measuring only 2 inches in length, and they do well in schools of six or more.

In order to keep your neon tetras healthy, you should perform water changes regularly and monitor the pH and temperature of the tank. You should also watch for signs of illness, such as clamped fins, lethargy, and loss of color. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact a qualified aquarium veterinarian.


  • Ichthyology (Britannica): https://www.britannica.com/science/ichthyology
  • The nitrogen cycle (Khan Academy): https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/ecology/biogeochemical-cycles/a/the-nitrogen-cycle
  • Leptochilus pteropus (Wikipedia): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leptochilus_pteropus

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