We present you the beginner’s guide on the basic care of the neon tetra fish. We show you step by step the fundamental knowledge to successfully care for your neon fish.
When visiting any aquarium fish store, there is a very popular fish that we will almost always find: The Neon Tetra – Paracheirodon innesi is a small freshwater fish native to South America.
Thanks to its bright colors, its peaceful character and its ease of care, it is one of the most popular fish among aquarium hobbyists.
Its mild temperament and simple dietary needs make it an ideal freshwater fish for beginners.
In our complete care guide we will inform you of everything you need to know to successfully maintain Neon Tetras fish.
Neon Tetra Fish
It is a freshwater tetra fish that belongs to the Characidae family and is known for its dazzling colors and energetic temperament.
The Neon Tetra is a great community fish as it is not aggressive and spends most of its time in the middle of the water column.
Generally, neon fish must be kept in a school of at least 12 members. Smaller schools can feel threatened and can cause stress.
Neon Tetra Mini Token
- Family: Characidae
- Scientific name: Paracheirodon innesi
- Care level: Easy
- Temperament: Calm
- Diet: omnivorous
- Water condition: Fresh water, 21-27°C/ 6.0-7.0 pH/ 1.0-2.0 KH
- Maximum size: 5-6cm
- Minimum tank size: 60 liters
Natural habitat of the Neon fish
In the wild, neon tetras are native to warm and temperate rivers in South America, including Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. The largest concentration of them is found in the Amazon River basin.
These rivers generally flow through dense forests of trees that block out a lot of natural light. Within these dark waters there are usually many fallen leaves, vegetation, and tree roots.
Neon fish live in these warm, shaded waters with dense plant life. This is why their coloration is so vivid, it helps them identify their peers in these dark and murky waters.
Neon Tetra Fish Features
In addition to the blue coloration, they also have a red stripe that runs from the middle of the body to the tail fin. This bright iridescence helps fish locate themselves in murky water.
Their color combination has helped make them one of the most recognized fish among aquarists.
Interestingly, except for their blue and red color, tetra fish are transparent. In the wild this helps hide from predators. When they feel really threatened, they can even «turn off» their iridescent red-blue hue to be on the safe side. Their coloring will also fade when they are sleeping or sick.
As for their body type, they have a fusiform body and a rounded nose. Its large eyes make up most of its head.
How big do neon tetras grow?
If they survive hatching, they grow very quickly and take on their adult coloration by one month of age. They can grow up to 5-6 cm long, however the average size is around 3-4 cm, with females being slightly smaller.
The females of the neon tetras, in addition to being a little smaller than the males, have a rounder body and their blue stripe is slightly curved.
Males usually have slender bodies and their stripes are straight. Sometimes a male that has overeaten can be mistaken for a female neon tetra.
Neon Tetra – cardinal tetra
If you look closely, you’ll notice that the Neon Tetra’s vibrant red horizontal line only runs from the middle of its body to its tail.
However, with the Cardinal Tetra his red line runs the length of his entire body.
Behavior of neon tetra fish
It is essential to know that these fish need to be part of a school and swim in the middle of the water column.
How long does a neon tetra live?
If you are wondering how long neon tetra fish live, we will tell you that in the wild, neon tetra fish live up to 8 years. However, in aquariums, neon tetras generally live for around 5 years.
Neon Fish Care
The first thing to consider before buying a neon tetra is the size of the tank you are going to need.
It is a big mistake to think that small fish can be kept in small tanks. All fish need room to swim.
Neon tetras may be small, but they still need a properly sized tank. They are fish that need to be kept in groups, and these groups need a lot of space to swim together.
What size aquarium do neon tetras need?
Aside from the fact that a larger tank is easier to maintain, neon tetras live in schools and in the aquarium it is recommended to have at least a dozen individuals.
60 liters would be the absolute minimum size, but for the sake of neon tetras, a 75 liter or larger tank would be better.
How many liters does a neon fish need?
If you need to know how many liters you need for each neon tetra, you can use the ratio of liters per fish size.
This rule is simple: 1 centimeter of fish requires 1.4 liters of water (1 inch – 1 gallon). However, keep in mind that this rule stops working correctly with fish larger than 7 cm.
Fortunately, peaceful schooling fish like small neon tetras fit well into this size range, so we can use this relationship. It must be said that this relationship assumes that the fish are adults and not particularly aggressive.
According to this rule, a 60 liter tank could have a school of 12 3-3.5 cm neon tetras.
We have seen the size needed for a neon fish aquarium based on the number of individuals. But even more important is that the tank is large enough so that the tank can adequately support the cycling process.
This means that tanks that have not cycled properly are not suitable for Tetras. The changes in water chemistry that occur during this period will kill them for sure. Only Neon Tetra fish should be added to an established and mature tank.
Neon tetras prefer a slightly acidic habitat with a pH maintained between 5 and 7. Being in alkaline water will not kill them, but it can interfere with the reproductive process and leave them more prone to disease.
They also require soft water, so it’s always wise to check your water source and plan accordingly.
Now the ideal water parameters for Neon Tetras are as follows:
- Temperature: 21 and 27°C
- pH level: 5.0 – 7.0
- Hardness: soft water (< 10 dGH)
With a soft led light is more than enough. You can use the following relationship as a reference: provide 0.5 watts for every liter of water.
It is also important to have a heater in the tank if the water is not maintaining a suitable temperature for the neon fish.
As far as the aquarium filter is concerned, Neon Tetras produce a very small bioburden, so their filtration needs are relatively very small. A simple but effective filter like this should be more than enough.
Keep in mind that these small fish can easily be swept away by the tank’s filtering equipment. It may be necessary to place a sponge or mesh to provide some kind of barrier between the fish and the filter.
On the other hand, the aquarium must be well planted. Neon tetras like to be in a densely planted tank. They like to have green vegetation, plants and branches in their tank. You can also use wooden steps to provide even more shade and darkness for them.
You want to make sure that the substrate you buy is dark in color. You can use small stones and pebbles like the ones you would find in a river bed.
They also like to have plenty of nooks and crannies to hide in, so any type of décor that offers places to hide will suffice. But try not to overload the tank.
Neons need a lot of room to swim, so it’s best to place the largest plants in the back of the tank, and not put too many large items in the tank.
Finally, when it comes to water changes, you should try to do a 25% water change every week. Be sure to follow this recommendation, as excessive water changes can be deadly for neons.
Diet and feeding of the Neon Tetra
Fortunately, they are not picky eaters and will enjoy eating all kinds of foods. In an aquarium, their natural diet can be mimicked by using high quality fish food, including pellets and flakes, frozen and live.
Many commercial feeds include natural color enhancers to keep fish looking bright and healthy.
Neon tetras also like to eat vegetables like zucchini. To feed them vegetables, you have to boil them for a minute and let them cool before putting one or two small pieces in the tank. When the fish are done, be sure to remove any leftovers.
But as always, a high-quality pellet or flake should make up the core of your diet. To mimic their natural food source, you should also offer them foods such as:
- blood worm
- brine shrimp
These can be frozen or freeze dried, they will eat it without any problem.
As a general rule, they should only be fed fairly small pieces. So when you feed them worms or shrimp, make sure you only provide small pieces, otherwise Neon Tetras may have trouble swallowing them.
When it comes to how often they should be fed, as young fish you should aim to feed them twice a day as much as they can eat in 3 minutes. As they mature, you can reduce this to once a day and stick to the three-minute feeding schedule.
Compatible tankmates for the Neon Tetras
To introduce them in a community tank, you just have to take into account that the other fish are not aggressive or large enough to eat them. A rule of thumb to follow is that if the fish’s mouth is large enough to swallow a Tetra, do not put them in the same tank.
Because neon tetras tend to swim in the middle of the water column, they are best paired with topwater and bottom fish.
But this does not mean that they cannot coexist without problems with other fish that live in the middle level. It may be a good option to keep a school of another type of tetra in the tank.
The peaceful little bottom dwellers are perfect tank mates for them.
Some of the ideal tankmates:
How to keep neon tetras healthy
Swimming in circles, tail wagging, or sinking are abnormal behaviors that are often the first sign of disease in fish. You may notice fish ignoring food, hiding in the bottom of the tank away from the school, or swimming erratically.
If you notice any of these symptoms, remove any visibly affected fish and place them in a quarantine tank. Then check the water parameters and perform a medium or large water change. Unfortunately, a sick neon tetra has a very low survival rate.
- This common disease has a small white ball appearance that usually appears around the mouth or fins. It also often causes the fish to rub its body against rocks or tank decorations.
Ich or white spot disease is highly contagious to other fish in the aquarium, but it is easy to treat. If you notice signs of ich, remove affected fish immediately and place them in a quarantine tank until their symptoms subside.
- protozoan invasion
- Showing symptoms of dull color, abnormal curvature of the spine, and growths on the body, this disease is highly contagious to other life in your aquarium. Although there are medicines to treat this, it is difficult for a fish to recover from this disease once affected.
- Fish can experience shock when introduced to a new tank with a new environment. To minimize the risk of shock, try to keep the tank light off for the first 24 hours and limit movement around the tank. It is important to give the fish some time to settle.
Neon Tetra Disease
The disease is so named because it was first found in Neon Tetras. However, the disease can also attack other tetras and completely different breeds.
Once the parasite reaches the intestinal tract, it eats the muscles from the inside out.
Common symptoms include:
- A sudden loss of color.
- irregular swimming patterns
- He begins to become a bottom dweller.
- Cysts developing in the stomach.
- The stomach shrinks and loses mass.
As mentioned above, there is currently no cure, so we can only fight it with prevention.
To prevent disease, you must maintain the proper temperature of the water.
You should also make sure that any fish or living organisms you add to the tank are healthy and disease-free before adding them. Quarantine it and observe its condition before adding it to the main tank.
Reproduction of neon tetra
First you have to determine the sex of the fish:
- Males tend to be slimmer. Flat belly means its blue stripe is straight.
- Females are rounder. The round belly makes the blue stripe on them look curved.
Once you have a male and a female, you will need to place them in a separate tank for breeding.
The breeding tank should have slightly different water conditions than the main tank. The pH level should drop to between 5.0 and 6.0 and the temperature should stabilize at around 26-27°C.
Tetras are oviparous, which means that the female will lay her eggs first and the male will fertilize them later. After the male has fertilized the eggs, the parents should be removed from the breeding tank.
Tetras do not care for their young and, in fact, have been known to eat them.
Once the eggs have hatched, the fry live in their yolk sacs for 2-3 days. After this, you have to start feeding them with infusoria and artemia naupili.
Conclusions about Neon Tetra fish
His high activity coupled with his peaceful nature make him a great addition to any tank. It is a great fish to start with in the aquarium hobby.
The only thing to keep in mind is the strict water parameters. Remember to keep the water slightly warm instead of slightly cold. Cold water can cause problems like fin rot.
We hope this comprehensive care guide has helped you decide if they are the right fish for your aquarium.