Neon Tetra Care Guide 2023: A Complete Guide For Beginners

The neon tetra is one of the gorgeous-looking fish and the crowning glory of your aquarium. The natural look of neon tetra helps blend with all types of environments in the aquarium. If you want to keep such fascinating freshwater fish, you should have a neon tetra care guide to know everything about it.

Before making a suitable tank for your neon tetra, you must know its behavior and appearance. Neon tetra comes in different colors and variations. Fix the water condition, maintain proper water filtration, fix the nitrogen cycle and add some plants. Then feed the tetra once a day. To manage the breeding process, arrange a suitable mate for the tetra.

You also need to be careful about the diseases, or else they may kill your little neon tetras within a short time. So, follow the guide to know more.

Neon Tetra Facts and Overview

It’s not much tough to take care of a neon tetra. But you should know all the facts before you want to get one as a pet. Here’s a quick overview of neon tetra:

Care levelEasyLifespanTen years (at max)
Scientific nameParacheirodon innesiCommon nameNeon Tetra
BehaviorPeacefulColorBlue, silver, or translucent with red markings
Size1-1.5 inchesLiving zoneMid-upper
Minimum tank size10 gallonsTemperature70–81°F (21–27°C)
pH6.0–7.0Hardness2–10 dGH
DietOmnivoreTank set upFreshwater, planted
TankmatesTemperament, fish of similar sizeBreedingEgg scattered
Neon Tetras


The neon tetras are small schooling fish. Typically, the tetras originated in Peru, Brazil, Colombia, western and northern Amazon.

They like to live in clean water and freshwater streams. That’s because the water in those areas varies in acidic levels (can be as low as 0.4).

However, neon tetra’s natural habitats are at stake because of deforestation, farming, and many other human causes. But still, there are many of these species in the wild. Every year 1.5 million tetras are collected from different fish farms.

That’s why neon tetra is one of the mainstays in any home aquarium. You can easily find a neon tetra at any nearby live fish store.

They can adapt to any weather condition in the aquarium. So, the neon tetras are less finicky compared to wild-caught species in the aquarium.

Neon Tetra Size and Lifespan

A neon tetra is one of the smallest pet fish you can find to keep in your aquarium. That’s because an adult neon tetra can grow up to 1.5 inches at max.

You can’t differentiate between male and female tetras if you don’t look closely. They both are the same sizes. However, the male neon tetras have longer fins and dorsal compared to female tetras.

There’s also a very uncommon case where a neon tetra can grow up to 2.5 inches. But it’s a once-a-million chance.

The average lifespan of a neon tetra is five years. If you keep them in the home aquarium, both male and female tetras can live up to 8 years.

But they can live up to 10 years in the wild. It would depend on the populations of their predators.

How Much Do Neon Tetras Cost?

Neon tetras are relatively cheap if you find the right place to buy them. As they are bred in large numbers in captivity, the breeders offer a better economic scale.

Typically, a single neon tetra can cost you $1.5 to $5. The average cost is $3. However, the price is not fixed. It can vary according to supply; add on caring and feeding costs as they grow.

For example, an adult neon tetra can cost you up to $8 if caught in the wild. But if the fish is bred on a regular farm, the cost remains a bit lower in the local markets.

Another thing to remember is that you need to keep tetras in a group or else it will get lonely. So, it would be best to keep at least 6 to 10 neon tetras in a group.

Neon Tetra Appearance

Neon Tetra Appearance and Behavior

To keep a neon tetra in your fish aquarium, you need to know their type and behavior. It also appears that they have several color variations with patterns.

Colors, Patterns, Types

A typical neon tetra has blue heads and backs. You will also notice a long and deep blue stripe from the tail to the eye and an iridescent red stripe on both sides of its body. It has a torpedo-like narrow-shaped body. The fin and tail are pointed, translucent, and compact.

There are different types of breeders of neon tetras. But you can only find them in captivity. Here are the common types:

Black neon tetras: You will notice the vertical black stripe that starts from the behind of the eye to its tail.

Golden neon tetras: It has more coloration than albino fish because it’s mainly leucistic. But it looks a lot like the albino tetras.

Diamond Head neon tetras: It has more similarities to wild neon tetras. However, the head is bright blue diamond-shaped.

Albino neon tetras: It’s unique because of the pale white body. The eyes are pink colored.

Longfin neon tetras: You can guess the type by the name. It has long fins which almost double the wild neon tetras.

Male neon tetras have brighter colors than females. They also have flatter bellies with blue stripes. The female tetras have curved blue stripes upward of their rounded body.

Typical Behavior

The neon tetras are well-known because of their peaceful behavior. They can easily befriend similar size fish because of their non-aggressive nature. But when they feel uncomfortable or stressed, they show aggressive signs that include fin-nipping.

A typical tetra fish is very active and energetic. You will see it primarily active in daylight and spend its time darting around the tank.

It’s a mid-upper zoned fish that enjoys swimming in the middle of the tank and hides in the underwater vegetation. But they hide mostly when they are scared or uncomfortable.

Neon Tetra Tank Requirements
A closeup shot of a school of neon tetra in the aquarium

Neon Tetra Care Guide and Tank Requirements

The most significant step of neon tetra caring is fulfilling the tank requirements. It’s pretty easy to take care of neon tetras as they can adapt to any freshwater environment. In captivity, you have to ensure the following criteria.

Tank Size

Though a neon tetra is a small fish, you would need at least a 10-gallon tank. It would be best for a group of six tetras. A bigger tank will give you bigger space to swim up and down around the tank. It will also let their school together.

As neon tetras are mid-water fish, a large water tank will allow them to move comfortably. You should know that frequent water changes can severely affect tetra’s health.

So, having a bigger tank means you don’t need to change the water now and then. Both you and neon tetra will have less trouble.

How Many Neon Tetras In A Tank?

As mentioned, neon tetras are very friendly and like to stay in a group. So, it won’t be a good idea to keep a single neon tetra in a small tank.

In a 10-gallon tank, you need to keep at least 5 to 6 neon tetras together. Any smaller tank than that will increase difficulties in maintenance.

But if you want to keep more than eight neon tetras in a group, you will need a bigger tank. So, arrange a 20 gallons tank to keep 10 or 12 neon tetras.

Tank Condition for Neon Tetra

It would be messy to discuss all the tank conditions in words. So, a better way to look at this short table and arrange your tank.

Water typeHard water, freshwaterWater temperature70 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit
SubstrateSands, rock, pebblesTank size10 gallons (for six fish)
pH6.0 to 7.0Tank set-upFloating plants, caves
LightingPrefer dark environmentWater hardness2 to 10 dkH
FilterHelps to aerate the waterWater heaterEnsures tropical temperature
Nitrite0 ppmNitrate<20 ppm
Ammonia0 ppmGH<10 dGH
Neon Tetras Need a Filter And Heater

Do Neon Tetras Need A Filter?

Neon tetras don’t need filtration to survive if the tank is filled with enough plants. That’s because the plants act as a natural filter for the fishes. But it’s only applicable in special conditions.

If you are not an experienced fish keeper, keeping the plants for the filtrations system won’t be wise. Arrange a proper filter for the tank to maintain the aeration system. You need to adjust the aeration cycle before you add the neon tetras.

Get a filter that is compatible with the tank’s volume. In this way, the filtration system can quickly help the bacteria in ammonia processing.

Maintain the GPH (gallons per hour) ratio and keep it four times higher than the tank’s volume. The standard GPH should be around 40 for 10 gallons.

Do Neon Tetras Need A Heater?

Yes, heating is necessary for the neon tetras tank. You should know that neon tetras are mainly tropical fish. In an aquarium, you need to maintain the temperature like the tropical water.

Neon tetras need a stable temperature of 72 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 24 degrees Celsius). It would be challenging to stabilize the aquarium temperature as it varies according to seasons or days.

So, get a water heater, attach it to your tank, and control the temperature accordingly. Even for breeding, you would need the standard temperature.

Plants and Decors for Neon Tetra

You can’t even think of keeping fish without planting some plants and decors. They provide a mixed environment like swimming space and covers to hide or stay in.

The groups of tetras can efficiently be schooled together in the open areas and play along. They also like to hide in the plants or remain there for some time when they feel uncomfortable or insecure. You will notice them dart over to the plant when a tetra feels threatened. 

It would be best to add some live plants because they help remove the nitrates from the water and maintain the oxygen level. Tetras don’t like other kinds of decorations because they think the sets might take up space in their territory.

You can use tall plants like Brazilian pennywort, Ludwigia repens, Cryptocoryne wendtii, or floating plants like red river floaters, frogbit, dwarf lettuce, etc.


You don’t need to arrange light separately because neon tetras originated in black water environments. In tropical regions, countless leaves fall in the streams and rivers.

Tannic acid emits from those leaves and dyes the water with a dark brown color. The tetras are compatible with such watercolors, so they don’t need bright lights.

In fact, they love to live in the dark, just like the spiders. So, maintain a low or medium light for proper growth of neon tetras.

You can also add some floating plants to diffuse the light and provide shade to neon tetras. When a female tetra breeds the eggs, ensure the entire tank is in the dark because they are too sensitive to lights.

Common Diseases

It’s crucial to learn about common diseases if you want to keep neon tetras in your home aquarium. Neon tetra disease and false neon tetra disease are two common diseases noticed in neon tetras. Both of them are pretty fatal. Parasite worms like Tubifex worms cause them.

Here are the common symptoms:

  • Loss of color
  • Lumps under the skin
  • Lethargy
  • Deformities in the spine
  • White spots on the body
  • Irregular hiding
  • Calmly floating at the bottom
  • Uncoordinated swimming patterns

You need to take the necessary steps so that your neon tetras don’t contact the diseases. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Check the water parameters
  • Keep the water’s pH 4 to 7
  • Use antibiotics for the treated tetra
  • Change water
  • Keep the sick tetras in a separate tank
  • Contact a professional 
what do neon tetras eat

Neon Tetra Diet: What Do Neon Tetras Eat?

Neon tetras are omnivores. So, they can eat flakes of food because they are small enough to eat and digest.

It would be best to feed high-quality fish flakes to the tetras with at least 40% protein content. There are also some micro pellets with appropriate vitamins and proteins that help maintain vibrant colors.

You can also feed your tetras some frozen foods like brine shrimp, blood worms, Tubifex, daphnia, etc.

However, make sure the pieces are small enough to swallow. You can also try some black worms and fruit flies. So, feed them sparingly with absolute care.

How Often Should You Feed Neon Tetras?

You need to follow a proper feeding routine for your neon tetras. It will be the same as any other tropical fish in the aquarium.

Typically, feeding once a day is enough for your tetra group. Even if you want to provide food only in the morning and at night once, it will be within the limit. But always remember not to overfeed your tetras.

Otherwise, the food will remain untouched and quickly rot in the water. That wasted food will spike ammonia levels in the water and lead to several fatal diseases. If you add some extra food sometimes, you can remove the remaining after a couple of minutes.

tank mates for neon tetra

Tank Mates for Neon Tetras

As you know, neon tetras are peaceful. So, it would be better if you give it a companion with a similar personality.

Any aggressive or large fish will bully your little friend. And you must have already known that fish can eat anything fit to their mouth. So don’t mix your tetra group with other fishes like Arowana or Oscar.

You can add these fishes as your neon tetras mate:

  • Otoclinus catfish
  • Aquarium snails
  • Similar tetra species
  • Corydoras catfish
  • Platies, endlers, or guppies
  • Freshwater shrimp
  • Boesemani rainbow fish

How To Sex A Neon Tetra?

You can easily distinguish between male and female neon tetras even if they are in a group in an aquarium. A female tetra’s belly is more rounded due to eggs carried in the abdomen.

You will also notice a curved blue stripe in the female’s body while the blue stripe is pretty straight in the male’s body.

It would be best to separate the female tetra while it’s going to hatch all eggs.

You can also identify the gender by their spawning behavior. The male neon tetras chase the female tetras through the plants. They also spread darts around the female tetras showing gratuity in a jerky motion.

On top of that, the female neon tetras are comparatively more prominent than the male tetras, even though the males have larger fins. 

how to care for neon tetra

How to Breed Neon Tetras?

The breeding process of neon tetras is sensitive. So, you need to arrange every single thing properly. Here are the steps you need to follow:

Step 01: Set Up The Breeding Tank

First, you need to have the proper arrangement of the breeding tank. A 10-gallon tank will be enough.

Add some sponged filter before a week or two of breeding. Add some peat with no pesticides or fertilizers. Set a java moss or matt where the hungry female tetra won’t eat the eggs.

Step 02: Conditioning The Parents

You need to feed protein-rich food to get the neon ready for spawn. The rich protein will help to trigger reproduction.

It would be best to add frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp for two weeks.

Step 03: Set Up Food

Now, set up an infusoria culture before a week of breeding. That would help the newly hatched hungry neon tetras.

Step 04: Add Filter System and Check Temperature

Make sure the tank has a proper filtration system. Adjust the temperature for several hours. The ideal temperature should be 75 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 05: Add Your Tetras

Now, add your tetras to the tank. It would be best to add only a male and female tetra in the tank. Don’t add them to a group.

Step 06: Let Them Hang Out For A Day Or Two

Let the adult neon tetras hang out for a bit. In the meantime, the peal will drop the pH level. It will trigger reproduction.

Step 07: 50% Water Change

Change the water to around 50% of the volume. Just use the siphon technique from the water column. Don’t stir the bottom of the tank. And then wait.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do neon tetras lay eggs?

Yes, female neon tetras lay eggs. At a time, a female tetra can give 60 to 120 eggs. They can lay eggs anywhere, but they should be in another separate tank from the habitat. It takes only 24 hours to hatch the eggs.

How big do neon tetras get?

A neon tetra has an average length of 1.5 inches (4cm). The size varies from 1 to 1.5 inches. It is based on their fin varieties. However, an adult neon tetra can rise to 2.5 inches in some rare events.

How many neon tetras can you keep in a 10-gallon tank?

Keeping a single neon tetra in the aquarium won’t be appropriate. A 10-gallon tank should have at least six neon tetras. They can easily swim around and school together. You can also add 3 or 4 more tetras in the tank but not more than that!

Do neon tetras need an air pump?

Well, an air pump is not necessary to fill the oxygen demand in the tank as long as you plant a sufficient number of plants in the aquarium. The filters and plants can easily cover up the oxygen demand and overtake the air pump.

Can you keep neon tetras with bettas?

You can keep bettas with neon tetras, though they are known for their aggressive natures. It would be best to arrange a 15 or 20-gallon tank if you want to have both of these fishes coexist.


Neon tetras are very friendly and peaceful fish. It’s not tough to maintain neon tetras in your home aquarium. However, you should know all the details before you ought to buy a group of tetras.

We have discussed the neon tetra care guide to provide all the information you need to know about them. Hopefully, the passage has covered all the points. So, if you want to keep neon tetras at home, just follow the guide correctly. You will befriend your tetras within no time. Best of luck to you!

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