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Neon Tetra Fish Care Guide for Freshwater Aquarium Beginners

After reading the information below you should feel very comfortable buying and caring for a beautiful school of freshwater Neon Tetras. Let’s not waste any time and get right into what you came her for, a Neon Tetra care guide.

What is a Neon Tetra Fish?

  • Neon Tetras are freshwater schooling fish that come from the Characin family.
  • A Neon Tetra is a small Omnivorous Tetra fish.
  • The Neon Tetra is a passive freshwater fish that grows just over an inch long.

Where do Neon Tetras Originate from?

  • Neon Tetras natural habit is in dark cloudy water lush with vegetation in the rivers and streams of the South American Amazon.
  • Neon’s can be found thriving around plants in large schools.
  • In the wild they can be found eating mosquitoes and other smaller insects and larvae as well as some algae and plant particles.

What Size Aquarium for Neon Tetras?

 As with most all aquarium fish there is a general rule of thumb to follow when stocking a tank. it is that you shouldn’t have more than 1” of fish per gallon of water. With Neon Tetras it is easy then to figure out how many of these fish you can put in a tank. so for instance if you have a 20 gallon aquarium how many Neon Tetras can go in a 20 gallon tank?

  • Even though these Tetra’s can grow just over 1” I would use the 1” rule. So in a 20 gallon aquarium you can have at least 20 Neon’s.
  • If you want to have the maximum amount of Neon Tetras in your tank with some tanks mates you could upsize your tank filtration to add maybe a couple Cory catfish or something else that is passive in nature.
  • If you do upsize your filter just be aware that the flow might be to strong and you will have to diffuse the water a bit so the fish can swim without being thrashed around the water.
  • recommended aquariums page can be found here.

What Should the Water Parameters be for Neon Tetras?

  • Cooler water for this tropical freshwater fish should be somewhere in the range of 70 to no higher than 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Check your water parameters weekly when you have Tetras. When a fish is this small if there are slight changes in Nitrates and Ammonia it will affect the smaller fish a lot quicker than it would a larger fish.
  • Watching the PH level in your tank is also super important for these fish. Tetras prefer a PH level in the range of 5.5 to about 6.7. This creates a slightly acidic water for your fish.
  • You can adjust the PH using chemicals for your local fish store or Amazon.
  • You can also adjust your PH by using sphagnum moss or peat moss that you can also pick up at a fish store of Amazon. Place the Peat in a charcoal aquarium filter bag and drop it in your tank. Depending on your budget and how much Peat you use you can change it out every 6 to 8 weeks. This will also soften the water which is a bonus for Tetras.
  • Do you need a heater for neon tetras? Well yes. Neon tetra water temp can be a bit cooler than other tropical fish however you will most likely require a heater to maintain their required water temperature of around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.


lone neon tetra

How to Setup a Tank for Neon Tetras?

  • Before you put any fish in an aquarium make sure you have run your tank water long enough so the water is fish safe. This is called the Nitrogen Cycle. If you don’t know about the Nitrogen cycle then I suggest you go read my article on the Nitrogen Cycle after you are done here.
  • To replicate its natural habitat do your best to have subdued lighting whether you have floating live plants or just dimmer bulbs this will help your fish feel safe. Make sure if you have tank mates that they prefer dimmed lighting as well.
  • Cover the filter intake to protect your fish from being sucked against the intake and ultimately dying. You can do this by adding a sponge on the end or have the intake surround by rocks and other aquarium substrate.
  • Live plants and drift wood are a must as this will replicate your fish’s natural habitat. You will also get to enjoy the contrast of coloring between the bright blue bodies of the Tetra compared to the green coloring of the live plants and brown coloring of the drift wood.
  • The most important thing I feel I can tell you is to make sure you have enough places for the fish to hide whether it is live plants, drift wood, rocks or other aquarium decorations suitable for hiding.

Neon Tetra

What Should You Feed Neon Tetras?

  • There is a great selection of Omnivore food available in flake and pellet format.
  • Frozen and freeze dried foods are also a great idea to ensure a varied selection of nutrients for your fish.
  • A mix of a plant and meat based diet is best.

Will Neon Tetras Breed in Captivity?

  • Too breed these fish in captivity you will need females and males together in the same tank. This seems obvious however worth mentioning.
  • Females typically have a bit of a rounder body than the males. The blue line will not be as straight on a female Neon Tetra compared to a male.
  • If you have a Tetra only tank and have followed the suggestions above on water parameters and tank setup you should have luck with breeding.
  • The one thing you could do purposely is to lower the PH slightly to around 5 to 5.5 and you will have a better chance of them mating as this replicates the rainy season.
  • Tetras eggs hatch very quickly so once you see eggs keep a watch on them as you will most likely have babies in no time at all.
  • Remove the young fry and place in their own tank for approximately 30 days until they are large enough to be placed back in with the other adult fish.

Best Tank mates for Neon Tetras

  • Are Neon Tetras and Betta Fish a good idea? I have seen that question being asked in forums online and honestly if you know anything about Betta fish then you know they can be nasty fish that will eat smaller fish if the mood strikes them. I would not recommend a Betta be placed into a Tetra tank.    Cory catfish
  • Cory catfish are great fish to have in any friendly aquarium environment. They are fun to watch and non-aggressive.
  • A Plecostomus that does not grow very large is another great option for your Neon tank.
  • You could try other Tetras as well. Lemon tetras are a great choice.
  • Whatever you do make sure you try to keep all the fish in your tank relatively the same size.

How Long do Neon Tetras Live in Captivity?

  • In captivity they can live 5 or more years. This will of course be dependent on the quality of your aquarium water and how well you maintain the tank as well.
  • Consider higher quality foods as well to increase the fishes life span.
  • In the wild the Neon Tetra can live as long as 10 years.

Neon Tetra Disease

  • There is a disease called Neon Tetra Disease that happens to the Tetras when they are affected by a parasite. It usually happens if they have been feeding on a dead fish or sometime Tubifex worms as well. It is a communicable disease and can affect not only the tetras but other fish in the tank. An anti-bacterial remedy is recommended but not guaranteed to work.
  • Because of their small size they are susceptible to disease quite a bit easier than a larger fish and will consume them quicker than larger fish.
  • That being said having some medication on hand for common freshwater aquarium diseases like Ich would be a great idea.
  • If you are serious about the hobby and want to keep happy healthy fish a sick tank is a must. For info on that make sure to check out my article on setting up a sick tank (sometimes called hospital tank) for your fish. If you think any of your fish are sick make sure to get them to your sick tank ASAP.


There you have it. After reading the material above on Neon Tetras you should be able to find success in having a beautiful aquarium setup with these incredibly interesting fish from the Amazon.

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