Neon Tetras Care, Food, Breeding & Tank Mates Guide

Neon Tetras

The neon tetra is also known as Paracheirodon innesi. It is known to be a freshwater fish with vibrant colors, native to South America.

It is also a very common fish known to different fish keepers all over the world. If you desire to build a friendly aquarium in your house, you can consider building one for the Neon tetras because it has a peaceful temperament as well as a beautifully decorated natural body.

Being a freshwater fish, neon tetras spends quality time in the middle of the water column. They enjoy the company of their family members because they feel less threatened this way.

A research carried out on neon tetras revealed that they prefer to be kept in schools with no fewer than 15 members (a group of fish swimming together is called a school); once this kind of arrangement is disrupted and they find themselves in smaller circles, they tend to take put on stressful behaviors.

One major point of attraction for the Neon Tetra is the natural body coloration which it possesses. It has a turquoise blue line which spans the entirety of its eyes and stretches down to the small rounded fin which sits between its tail and the dorsal fin.

This is not all; it also has a red stripe (line) which runs from the middle of its body to its caudal fin. However, this combination of red and blue coloring tends to fade away or disappear on varying occasions-when it goes to sleep or when it is determined to stay away from lurking predators.

How to Care for your Neon Tetras

To care for your Neon tetras, you have to follow these procedures;

  • Maintain the ideal tank conditions- you should endeavor to cycle your tank without any fish in it, before bringing home your tetras, to ensure the aquarium is clean and devoid of harmful bacteria and pathogens
  • Make sure you use the right type of organic matter.
  • You can make a peat bag in case the pH of the aquarium requires lowering. Peat bags also help in softening the water because Tetras require soft water for survival.
  • Regulate the lighting effect-it should always be dim
  • Clean the tank regularly
  • Monitor and regulate temperature.

Neon Tetras Tank Mates

If you’re considering tank mates for your Tetras you should consider non-aggressive fish such as: 

  • Barbs
  • small catfish
  • Dwarf Cichlids and Gouramis
  • Ghost shrimps
  • Apple snails
  • Corydoras catfish
  • Guppies
  • African dwarf frogs

You should not make the mistake of pairing your tetras with food like Angelfish and Bettas.

Neon Tetra Diseases

Due to the sensitivity Neon Tetra exhibit, they are prone to having diseases. There are numerous symptoms and signs with which you can identify a sick Neon Tetra.

The sad part is that once the diseases break out, there might be no permanent cure. The sick tetra will have to be isolated to ensure that others do not contract the diseases. This is why you have to ensure that you take care of your aquarium effectively.

Causes of Neon Tetra diseases.

The organism Pleistophora hyphessobryconis has been found to be responsible for causing Neon Tetra disease. It is often communicated when the Tetras feed on the dead bodies of other fish in the tank; or through an intermediate carrier-Tubifex, which is a live food serving.

The Symptoms include;

  • pale white color on the body of the affected fish,
  • difficulty in swimming, bloating of the infected species,
  • fin rot, loss of color,
  • In very severe cases, the spine of the fish will become curved.

The signs include;

  • The infected tetra will isolate itself from the school
  • The infected fish will exhibit severe restlessness

What do Neon Tetras eat?

Neon tetras are omnivores. This simply describes their ability to feed on meat and vegetable matter. When in their natural habitat, they feed on algae, other invertebrates and the larvae form insects. In addition, they enjoy having to feed on Brine Shrimp, Blood worm, Tubifex, and Daphnia.

Neon Tetra

Ideal Tetras Food guide

Prepared foods

Prepared foods majorly include wafers, pellets, and flakes. Flakes are however the most popular and they exist to varying degrees.

You can feed your Tetras with meaty flakes in combination with lots of vegetable matter. Avoid feeding your Tetras with pellets which contain wheat. It has been found to be harmful to their health.

Live foods

Live foods constitute part of what Neon tetras feed on as well and they include foods like micro-worms, fruit flies, and brine shrimp.

You can collect these from nature, or purchase them from a nearby pet store. You have to exercise caution when introducing live food to your Tetras because the food might contain parasites harmful to them.

Freeze-Dried food.

These calibers of foods are derived from a single organism. They include foods such as mosquito larvae or bloodworms. To feed your Tetras with freeze-dried foods, you can employ the same method and frequency as that of the flakes.

You should feed to them as much as can be consumed in three to five minutes. Since freeze dried foods lose their quality easily, you should store them in dry conditions and avoid mixing old stock with new stock.

Frozen foods.

These can easily be purchased from a grocery shop or a pet shop. You should thaw them in small amounts and store them in your refrigerator before feeding them to your Tetras.

Sometimes the Tetras might be scared to come up and eat especially if they are newly introduced ones. In such cases, you can use a dropper to put the food close to them.  You will also need to occasionally introduce thawed frozen peas to aid their digestion.

Home Made Food for Neon Tetras

Let’s consider some Home-made food which you can personally prepare for your Tetras, so as to save yourself some few bucks.

Here is the list of equipment you need to make the fish food.

  • A good quality blender
  • A freezer
  • A good pan
  • Your ingredients
  • A very sharp knife.

The food making process…

There are different categories of foods as we have earlier stated. To prepare a non-meat recipe, you need the following ingredients

  • Frozen peas
  • Oats
  • Unflavoured gelatine
  • Spinach
  • Cucumber


Balch the vegetables and make them into a puree after which you add the oats. Mix the gelatine in a separate bowl, with hot water. Add the gelatine mixture to the vegetable mix and store them off in ice-cube trays till they are needed.

To make meaty fish food, you need the following ingredients

  • Unflavoured gelatine
  • Beef
  • Shrimp
  • Whitefish
  • Broccoli or peas


Make sure the vegetables are properly cooked, and then blend them appropriately. Also blend the beef, with the shrimp and white fish. Mix the gelatine with hot water in a separate bowl and add the gelatine mix to the blended vegetable and shrimp mix.

Allow to cool and store the food in ice cube freezer trays. To prepare fish food rich in protein, you will require the following ingredients

  • Two cloves of garlic
  • 500g of spinach
  • 5oog of frozen peas
  • 1000g of raw shrimp
  • 200g of salmon
  • Unflavoured gelatine


  • Cut all the ingredients (apart from gelatine) into small pieces and blend them all together.
  • Mix the gelatine in 2 liters of hot water then proceed to add the gelatine mix to the blended ingredients.
  • Heat the corresponding mixture on low heat till you can ascertain that it is thoroughly cooked
  • Leave the mixture to cool
  • Store in ice cube freezer trays and use small quantities per time.

Food You Can Buy Online

If you have enough to afford readymade fish food for your Tetras, you can consider the following food options

TetraColour tropical granules

This product has been known to stand the test of time. It is used by many fish keeping enthusiast as the mainstay for their fishes. It has been known to improve greatly the health of many tetras. It contains everything your Tetras require for proper growth and development. It also comes in different varieties.

It is specially formulated for tetras and other large fishes such as angelfish and discus. The granules help in promoting the vibrant color glow of the tropical fish. It also contains lots of Omega 3 fatty acid essential in the building up of healthy fats.

It comes in different varieties such as the Tetracolor Tropical flakes, Tetracolor plus Tropical flakes, and Tetracolur Tropical Crisps. It is often referred to as a world-class menu for the Tetras and other fish varietals.

TetraMin Tropical Granules

These kinds of granules are known to be small and slow sinking. They are designed to reach the smaller tetras in your aquarium. It is enriched with vitamin C to pave way for healthy growth processes for your Tetras. It is considered as a highly nutritious meal for small to medium sized Tetras, including the mid-water feeders.

It is specially formulated with a high-protein fish meal as its core ingredient as well as other supplementary ingredients such as vitamins and essential fatty acids. It also contains fewer colorants, which accounts for it being easily digestible.

It also has different varieties such as TetraMin Tropical flakes, TetraMin Select-A-Food, TetraMin PLUS Tropical Flakes, and TetraMin Tropical Crisps.

API Tropical pellets

API Tropical Pellets is specially formulated for the small tropical fish. It is ideal for your aquarium because it easily sinks down to reach the Tetras, where it will be consumed. It is specially formulated with essential ingredients to aid the growth of your fish.

It is to be fed to your Tetras twice a day and they are to be fed with as much as can be consumed within three minutes. It is also available in different variants-API MINI PELLETs and others.

Omega One Freeze Dried Tubifex

This meal is extremely palatable. It is quite rich in Omega fatty acids. It contains less starch and less waste. It is also known to be rich in vitamins and minerals necessary to boost the health of your Tetras. It is an excellent protein treat containing the highest quality Tubifex worms. It is nutritious and entertaining for your Tetras.

Neon Tetra LifeSpan

When grooming in their natural habitat, neon tetras can live up to about 8 years but when they are grooming in aquariums, they do not often live up to 8 years, their lives span about 5 years or a little more. They also are capable of growing up to about 2.5 inches in length and 1.5 inches in width.

Tips for Tank Setup

Many people who are unfamiliar with the Neon tetra often encounter difficulties in segregating the Neon tetra from the Cardinal Tetra. This is due to the similarities which exist between both fishes.

The only noticeable difference which exists between both fishes can be noticed upon examination of the red line which spans the body of both fishes.

While the red horizontal line spans the entire length of the Cardinal Tetra, it only runs through from the middle to the tail of the Neon tetra.

Neon Tetras

Before we can accurately proceed to dissect what it takes to breed the Tetras, we have to examine the exact specifications for the aquariums in which they will be sheltered…

Although having already stated that the Neon Tetras are Native to the rivers of South America, they can also be found in their largest numbers in the Amazon River basin.

These calibers of rivers where they are found are mostly rivers devoid of the rays of natural daylight; this essentially means that the rivers are dark with a lot of vegetation in them.

Applying the information above in constructing a suitable aquarium for your own Neon Tetras will mean that the aquarium will have to be adequately shaded and heavily planted. To achieve this, you have to follow the guidelines listed out below.

Use driftwood

The effect driftwood supply is that it will help to create much more shade and corresponding darkness for your aquarium. This will help your Tetras blend well, just like they would in their natural habitat.

Select the appropriate kind of substrate.

You cannot afford to use any kind of substrate for the aquarium. The most suitable kind of substrate will be a substrate of dark color, with rocks and pebbles. Finely-grained substrates will not give you the desired effect. It has to give the feel of being at a river bed.

When constructing an aquarium for your Tetras, you will need to be intimated with the following information:

On size:

The smallest size of the aquarium you can construct should be a tank that is at least 10 gallons because Tetras live in schools. If you desire to keep a larger aquarium, you can consider having a tank which is 20 gallons.

On tank conditions:

  • Newly cycled tanks will not suffice for your Tetras because it is not a matured tank. Tetras are highly sensitive to water temperatures conditions and changes. Extremes of temperature can kill them.
  • For filtration of wastes, you do not need expensive set up because they produce a very minute biological waste. You can install a regular sponge filter.
  • Water temperature should range between 70-820F to ensure they have the right environment for growth.
  • The pH level of the water should be kept above 6.0 and below 7.0.
  • Lighting should not be harsh. They require low wattage lighting; you can calculate at the rate of 2 watts per gallon
  • Proper facilities should be put in place to ensure that 25% water change is performed on a weekly basis. Once these recommendations are violated, you might most likely record a drastic negative effect on your Neons.

It is of utmost importance to note that Neon tetras are not so difficult to breed. This is due to their specificity in demand for the requirements described above.

How to Breed the Tetras

You will need to set up a breeding cycle; which will also involve you setting up the tank and fitting its environment to take proper shape.

Neon Tetras are not so difficult to breed if you can adhere strictly with what is required. Let’s break the set up process into a few easy steps.

Firstly, you have to set up the breeding tank.  You will require not just one tank, but about two to three to set up a breeding tank for your Tetras. This is because you will require a tank for mating and also for incubation.

You can set up the tank in a similar fashion as the normal set-up explained above, but it is worthy to note that the water required for breeding should be soft and a little bit acidic.

Soft water can be gotten from the mixture of tap water and reverse osmosis water combined in adequate proportions.

The next step involves the preparation of the water. The water should be kept at a temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit. You will need to have a tank thermometer which will enable you to measure the temperature of the water daily. A pH meter will also come in handy in measuring the pH level of the water.

A corner box filter is essential to serve as the filtration system for the breeding tank.  It will come in handy in the removal of bacteria and waste products, comer boxes are the most essential options because they provide a gentle effect to the water.

After getting the corner boxes for filtration, it is expedient that you place the tank in the right place. Since Tetras require a dark environment for proper growth, you will need to place the tank in an environment devoid of too much light.

They only need a small amount of light with each passing day. You can actually block out the excess light from entering the tank through the use of dark papers stuck to the sides of the tank.

For  breeding Neon Tetras, you have to follow the following steps while simultaneously having the tank conditions in mind:

You have to sex your Tetras before you begin the breeding process.

You need to identify the male Tetra. Male tetras are often slimmer in size than the females; as a result, their turquoise blue stripes will be straight.

The females, when compared with the males, tend to have rounder bodies. This also means that their turquoise blue stripes will be bent.

You will need to have a breeder tank separate with a pH level of about 5.0 to 6.0 and also 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The best time to introduce the Tetras into the breeding tank is actually in the cool of the day.

You can hatch the plan of introducing your Tetras into the breeding tank in after the sun has set. It is also important to note that the tetras to be employed in the breeding process have to have attained 12 weeks or more, to make breeding successful.

After introducing the Tetras into the tanks, allow them to stay in the tank for a day or two after which they should be spawn.

The female Tetra in her separate tank under proper conditions will lay up to about a hundred eggs.   The male Tetras will fertilize the eggs laid. The adult Tetras will have to be taken away from the b breeder tank to prevent her from feeding on the eggs when they are hatched.

If you notice that your Tetras are not breeding, then you can consider checking the conditions of the tank; the pH and lighting can be adjusted. You can also consider adding a large amount of soft water into the tank because Tetras thrive well in soft water.

Once the eggs hatch, you will have to begin their feeding routine.

The feeding routine requires a lot of considerations. You cannot just feed the “fry” (baby tetras) the way the adult Tetras are fed. Their requirements vary.

If the adult Tetras go without food for a day, the “fry” cannot be subject to such treatment because they require frequent feeding for body metabolism and proper growth.

However, care must be taken to ensure that they are not overfed. Overfeeding the young fry will lead to the production of more waste.

This will cause excess food materials to putrefy and degrade, thereby affecting the water quality. It will require frequent water changing procedures. Also, the gravel filters can get saturated with uneaten food serving as waste materials.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of food do Neon Tetras eat?

Neon Tetras are omnivores. They can feed on vegetables and meat. Some of the ideal food for Tetras includes TetraColour tropical granules, TetraMin Tropical Granules, API Tropical pellets, Omega One Freeze Dried Tubifex. Clearly described above are some “DIY” food recipes you can adapt for your Tetras.

How long can Neon Tetras go without food?

It is not advisable to allow you Tetras good without food for a long period of time. In as much as they are peaceful, they are also sensitive to little changes in the conditions required for growth. The absence of food can cause larger Tetras to feed on smaller ones. You should endeavor to feed your Tetras two to three times daily. Just the right amount of food is most ideal.

What do Neon Tetras need?

Neon Tetras need essential requirements to thrive. These requirements include; a temperature range of 70-76 degrees Fahrenheit, low lighting, pH range of 5-7, and a whole lot of other requirements listed in this article.

How often do Neon tetras eat?

It is fine to feed neon Tetras every day. This is because they have a high energy requirement.  You can feed them 2-3 times daily but you have to ensure not to over-feed them. If you feed them with more than they can consume, it will affect the water conditions and cause the water to appear cloudy. You should feed them with what they can consume within three to five minutes.

Care should be taken to ensure that you feed them with healthy meals that meet up to their energy requirements.

How do you feed baby Neon Tetras?

Baby tetras do not eat the kind of food that adult tetras feed on. They need special baby food to enable them to grow strong and healthy. The foods have to be labeled as appropriate for baby tetras. You can purchase baby tetras food from the pet stores. You can also feed them with baby brine shrimp.

Neon Tetras are beautiful to keep; they make aquariums glow with different colors. However, they are not easy to keep. You have to be determined, persistent and also adhere strictly to essential details to keep them safe and healthy.

Saurabh Kumar

I am a passionate fish keeper, with years of experience. You will find some really useful tips and information on this blog about Freshwater Aquariums.

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