SOK, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Neon Tetra fish which is also known as the Paracheirodon innesi, is a small freshwater fish species, known for its beautiful appearance and shoaling habits, it is loved by fish keepers from all over the world. This fish belongs to the Characin family of fish, and it is native to the western and northern Amazon river basins (Colombia, Peru, Brazil). This is a freshwater species and is mostly found in the river basin, lakes, and ponds in these regions where the water temperature is temperate and conditions favor their growth.

This beautiful fish species have many relatives that are also favorites of the fish keepers such as Rummy Nose Tetra, and other Tetras. It is a peaceful species of small size, meaning that you can keep its community tank to create a perfect community fish aquarium of small, peaceful, and joyous fish species. They are known for their shoaling habit, they move in the tank with their group leader and create a perfect scene that fish keepers can enjoy. Also, this is one of those fish species that require minimum care and are good for beginner fish keepers.

Basic Facts Table:

Family Characin/Characidae
LifespanUp to 8 Years
SizeAverage 1.5 inches 3.81 cm.
ColorsBlue, Red, Translucent
Freshwater or SaltwaterFreshwater
Care LevelMinimum, beginner level
CompatibilityPeaceful Community Fish Aquariums

Tank Companions:

The Neon Tetra fish is a very peaceful and small fish species, that is why you should only pair them with other small and peaceful fish species. They are also a passive fish species, and they are rarely seen darting from one part of the fish tank to the other part. As you know that they are good for a community aquarium, you should put them in the tank with other passive fish with schooling habits and enjoy watching them move peacefully. You should avoid putting them with any aggressive fish species or a large fish species because aggressive fish would bully them and the large fish species might attack and try to eat them. Here is a list of the species that are perfect for pairing with the Neon Tetra.

  • Most of the Gouramis Fish species.
  • Barbs
  • Small Catfish.
  • Dwarf Cichlids.
  • Red Phantom Tetra
  • Serpae Tetra
  • Candy Cane Tetra.

Here is a list of the fish species that are not suitable for community tanks of Neon Tetra.

  • Giant Gouramis
  • Opaline Gouramis
  • Pearl Gouramis
  • Bettas
  • Angelfish.
  • Most Cichlids.

These lists are based on the recommendations of many fish keepers and are created after the behavioral analysis of most of these fish species. Wrong pairing can cause disturbance for the entire tank and can destroy the peaceful environment of your fish tank. That is why you should avoid making mistakes in this part of fish keeping.


Yinan Chen, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Neon Tetra is known as one of the most beautiful fish species and that is one of the reasons that it is liked by fish keepers from all over the world. The Neon Tetra has a small body. Young Neon Tetras are only one cm long, but as they age they can grow up to 1.5 inches or 4 cm. The size of a mature Neon Tetra can exceed this 1.5-inch limit but that is a rare occurrence. The Neon Tetra fish have a slender body shape. Their bodies are colored with sensational coloring patterns. The upper part of their body is covered with a turquoise blue line that goes from the eyes of the fish to adipose fins.

The adipose fin is a small fin located between the tail fin and the dorsal fin in the fish body. Under this beautiful blue line, they also have other colors such as red. The red line also goes from the middle of the fish body towards the caudal fins. This two-colored mesh into one another, creating a perfect lining. According to researchers, these two bright colors combined help the fish locate the group in murky waters. Their eyes can identify these two colors even in the deep water, which helps them locate each other and stay closer in the group.

Apart from these parts of their body, they are mostly transparent, which is also a unique feature. The upper part of their bodies is mostly unique and the lower part as well. M Research has also revealed that this species is capable of masking its red and blue colors to avoid detection from predators. Their transparent bodies help them avoid detection, but if a predator is nearby in the wild, they mask their red and blue lining to avoid detection and capture. Also, their body colors will disappear in the night when they take a nap, or also when they are sick (this will help you know about the health of your fish).

The Neon Tetras have spindle-like bodies with rounded faces and noses. Most of their head is covered with their large eyes on both sides. Some of them can grow up to 2.5 inches if the conditions are favorable for their growth. But most of them stop growing after they reach 1.5 inches in length. Both males and females have similar colors but slightly different appearances as the females are shorter but thicker as compared to the male who is longer but thinner. This difference becomes more visible during the mating season. Bellies of the female fish would swell with eggs, and they would become more active in the tank.

Origin and Natural Habitat:

The Neon Tetra is native to Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, near the basin of the Amazon river and connected lakes, and ponds in that region. They like the warm water setting as their internal temperature is controlled by their surroundings. So, they stay in freshwater places where water is slowly moving and the temperature is moderately high. Their natural habitat is those places where the upper layer of the water is covered by freshwater plants. That prevents light from entering the water, hence providing a perfect environment for these small fish to live peacefully, away from predators.

Their coloration helps them coordinate as a group inside these murky and dark waters. They stay close to their group in their natural environments and share the food that they find in the middle layer and the bottom layer of the river basin. They do not like fast-moving water, that is why they are most likely to be found in the places where the water current is slow. They are found in black water, and transparent water streams, but not in the whitewater streams in the Amazon Delta. These areas of the Amazon river provide them with the perfect conditions that they need to survive.

Neon Tetra Lifespan:

The lifespan of Neon Tetra depends on the care and environment. For example, if a Neon Tetra is kept in a perfect environment and has been properly cared for, it can live for more than 8 years but if the conditions and environment are not suitable for its health and growth, it would die sooner. The average lifespan of a Neon Tetra in the wild environment is about 2 to 3 years, but in the perfect conditions inside an aquarium, it can survive for more than 8 years. So, if you want your Neon Tetras to live long, you should provide them with the perfect conditions and a favorable environment. 

Habitat and Tank Conditions:

The habitat and tank conditions impact both the health and lifespan of Neon Tetra. Everything inside the tank needs to be perfect otherwise, the fish would not survive in the aquarium for long. To avoid any mishap, you should learn about their natural habitat and apply those parameters to the tank. It would help you create a perfect environment that not only keeps your fish healthy but also favors their growth and prevents disease and infections. Before building the tank, you should know that these fish wander in all three layers of the tank but are most commonly found in the bottom layer. Meaning that you would have to focus more on the bottom and middle layer to create a perfect habitat inside a tank for the Neon Tetras.

You should start with the bottom layer inside the tank. First of all, wash and clean your tank. Then start putting a layer of the treated sand to create a waterbed inside the tank. It would resemble their natural habitat where there is a lot of sand in the bottom. Apart from the sand, you should also put some of the substrates in this layer. You should clean and wash the substrate as in most cases, if the substrate is not clean it would create a problem. The whole water inside the tank would become muddy and you will have to wait for a few days for the dust to settle inside the tank.

To avoid this, you should use a pre-washed and cleaned substrate for the bottom layer. You should also put some rocks and pebbles in the bottom layer to create a waterbed. As you already know that these fish live in areas where the top layer of the water is covered with leaves and thick plantations. You will also have to copy these conditions in the tank as well. There are a lot of plants that are suitable for the Neon Tetra aquariums. You should select these plants and plant them inside the tank so that they would reach the top layer and cover it. The driftwood plant is known for its perfect thickness and creates a dark environment inside the tank.

Apart from sand, rocks, pebbles in the bottom layer, you should also put a water filter in there to keep the water clean and provide fresh oxygen in the tank, also use a heater to keep the water temperature constant. This fish does not like changes in the water chemistry, temperature, and light. These factors negatively contribute to the health of the Neon Tetra, that is why you will have to make sure that all of these conditions remain the same all the time.

Water Conditions:

The water conditions for this fish are different from most of the other fish species. Many fish species need less hardness, neutral pH, and low temperature. But the Neon Tetra needs more acidic water conditions with more hardness and moderately high temperatures. As mentioned earlier they do not like the change in their surroundings, especially any change in the water chemistry that would kill your fish. So, you will need to maintain perfect conditions inside the aquarium. Here are a few things that are recommended by expert fish keepers.

  • Temperature: Between 70°F to 81°F
  • pH Level: 7.0 and 6.0 (acidic)
  • Hardness: 10 GH
  • Minimum Size: 20 Gallons
  • Filtration: 20 to 25% water / week.
  • Current/Movement: Slow.

If you can maintain these conditions, your Neon Tetras would remain healthy and live a long life inside your tank. These conditions are normal all year, but during the mating season, these fish need the water to be slightly warm, and the pH of the water to be slightly acidic. It is recommended to create a separate tank for these fish to breed. 

Water Source:

You can use the normal Tap water for the Neon Tetra fish tank, but it is better to test the water before putting it in the tank and filter any chemicals that are harmful to your fish. You can also use the water from your local river, lake, ponds but in most cases, water in these places also has some pollutants that need to be cleaned first. You can also use RO water and aquarium-grade water from the shops where you buy your fish-keeping equipment. It is very simple, you can use water from any source as long as it is safe and does not contain any harmful chemicals that might affect the health of your Neon Tetra fish.

Ideal Size For The Tank:

There is no ideal or exact size of the tank that you should use for keeping the Neon Tetra fish. Although, there are guidelines about the size of the tank based on your needs. These guidelines start with the number of fish that you want in your aquarium. The more fish you add, the bigger the size of the tank you should have. Also, knowing the number of fish per gallon would help you get the right size of the tank. The minimum size of the tank for the Neon Tetra fish is 10 gallons, where you can keep 5 fish. But this is not an ideal size, a 10-gallon tank would be too small and would force the fish inside the tank to fight for dominance, and territory. To avoid these skirmishes, the ideal size for keeping Neon Tetra fish in the tank is 20 gallons.

Behavior and Temperament:

The Neon Tetras are very peaceful and joyous fishing species. They would live inside your tank and peacefully swim all day long. As it is schooling and shoaling fish species, it joins the group and follows the leader while they are moving inside the tank. It would appear as if they are doing an activity together. Inside a community tank, where other fish are present the Neon Tetra fish might take a few days to adjust but once it knows its environment, it would start roaming with other fish as well.

It will get along very well with most of the small and peaceful fish species of a similar size. Mostly, they are a non-aggressive fish species, but during the breeding season, they may become hostile to other fish in the tank. That is why it is recommended to create a separate tank for breeding. Also, if they are attacked or harassed by other fish species, they like to run and hide. So, when you are creating a community aquarium for them, make sure to create a lot of hiding spaces, and put a lot of plants inside the water to provide them with hiding spots.

Breeding Neon Tetra:

It is one of those fish species that are known for their difficulty inbreeding. They not only need perfect breeding ground, and conditions but also need certain parameters to be followed otherwise, the eggs would not get fertilized and the fish would eat them as soon as they come out. Here are a few things that you can do to increase your chances of success at breeding the Neon Tetras. First of all, start by creating a small breeding tank where you can keep the breeding couples.

You will need to know the difference between the male and female to identify them correctly and pair them. Male fish in this species are longer, but thinner and have a straight blue stripe. Meanwhile, the female is thicker and shorter and has a curved blue line. After identification, and separation of the males from females, you can put the pair inside the breeding tank and start feeding them. Also, drop the pH inside the tank to create a slightly acidic environment and increase the temperature.

The female Neon Tetra would produce eggs and would scatter them. Each time, she would lay more than 100 eggs and the male would follow her to fertilize these eggs. You should remove both the male and female from the breeding tank to prevent them from eating the eggs and fry. The eggs of the Neon Tetra fish would take two to three days to hatch, initially, it would eat the sack, and afterward, it can be fed the fry.

Eggs and Fry Care Guide:

As mentioned earlier, you should remove the male and female after the fertilization and maintain the same temperature and pH inside the tank. First, the eggs would hatch and the fry would eat the sac that it was in, and after two to three days, you can start feeding the fry specialized food. It would take weeks before you could feed the fry normal fish food such as live brine shrimps. It is not recommended to put the small fry inside the main Neon Tetra tank as they might get bullied by the larger fish from the same family or other fish families. Also, the fry is so small that it can get eaten by other fish as well. You should create a separate tank for this new breed of Neon Tetra.

Diet of Neon Tetra:

Similar to most other fish from their family, the Neon Tetra is also an omnivore fish species and they eat everything. Form vegetation inside the water to live insects, larvae, and shrimps. Inside an aquarium, you can feed them everything such as pellets, flakes, frozen, and live food. You should feed them twice a day and put enough food that they can finish within minutes. Keeping the food balanced is a great practice as it would help you keep your fish healthy. You should feed them live food once or twice a week. Here are a few live things that these fish eat,

  • Bloodworms
  • Brine shrimp
  • Daphnia
  • Tubifex

Apart from this, you can also put vegetables, flakes, and green food inside the tank. But make sure that the food is in the form of flakes and small chunks. Just put enough food in their tank that they can finish within three minutes otherwise the remaining food items would sink to the bottom and create pollution problems.

Diseases of Neon Tetra:

Here is a list of the possible diseases in Neon Tetra.

  • Neon Tetra Disease: This is one of the most common and lethal diseases. It is only found in Neon Tetra fish and that is why it is named the Neon Tetra disease. This disease is identified by the discoloration of the fish. The red and blue stripes on this fish would disappear because of this disease. Once you identify the fish with this disease, the only treatment is to remove them from the tank as there are no other solutions.
  • False Neon Tetra Disease: This disease also has similar symptoms as the Neon Tetra disease, but is caused by a different bacteria. That is why it is known as the False Neon Tetra disease. It also has similar symptoms of discoloration and can be identified with these symptoms. This disease also has no solution, you should quarantine the infected fish and clean your entire tank.
  • White Spots Disease: This is also one of the most common fish problems that are also seen in Neon Tetra fish. It is identified by the white spots over the body of the fish. It is treated by increasing the temperature and treating water with commercially available remedies.

Most of these diseases happen because of contamination in water or changes in the water. That means these are easy to prevent, you just need to make sure that water is not contaminated and is cleaned properly and there are no changes in the chemistry or the condition of water inside the tank. If the conditions inside the tank are optimal, there are low chances of any disease.

Is Neon Tetra a Saltwater or Freshwater Species?

The Neon Tetra fish is a freshwater species, commonly found in the black and transparent waters in the basin of the Amazon river, in South America. They prefer more acidic and hot conditions with less flow.

Is Neon Tetra a Schooling Species?

Yes, the Neon Tetra is a schooling species. The minimum size of the school is 15 individuals. If the size of the school is bigger these fish would become hyperactive. They not only school but also shoal with other members of their species. Members in the tank would pick up a leader, that would lead the shoaling and schooling.

How Many Neon Tetra Fish Should Be Kept Per Gallon of Water?

The recommended size of the Neon Tetra fish school is 15. Meaning that you should keep 15 Neon Tetra in one tank, and the size of this tank should be 20 gallons. This means that for one Neon Tetra fish, you need 1.33 gallons of water. But it would be better to provide 2 gallons of water for one individual fish inside the tank.

Conclusion – Is Neon Tetra Suitable For Your Aquarium?

The answer to this question depends on what you want from your aquarium fish. If you like the peaceful, joyous, and beautiful fish species in your aquarium, then Yes, the Neon Tetra is suitable for your aquarium. Also, it depends on your level of expertise. If you are an entry-level/beginner level fish keeper, then yes, it is a perfect species for your aquarium. It is because this species is durable and can survive a few mistakes here and there during the learning curve. Another reason for having these fish in your aquarium is that they are a beautiful fish species that you would like to watch.


Question: What is the recommended size for a Neon Tetra Tank?

Answer: The recommended size of the Neon Tetra tank is 20 gallons. This is enough to contain a small school of the 15 individuals (recommended number per school)

Question: What is Neon Tetra disease?

Answer: It is a very common illness in the Neon Tetra fish species, identified by the discoloration of the fish bodies. There is no cure for the disease, all you can do is keep the infected fish outside in a quarantine tank. If the fish recovers, you can put it back otherwise, clean the entire tank and restart.

Question: What is the average lifespan of Neon Tetra?

Answer: In wild environments, they only survive for two to three years, but in a perfect aquarium where the conditions are favorable their lifespan is about 8 years.

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