The Ultimate Guide To Sucessfully Keeping Neon Tetras | Fishkeeping Advice

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Neon Tetra

The Neon Tetra is the crowning glory of home aquariums. Its exquisite natural beauty says it all.  Its shimmering colours – silver and white at the abdomen and light blue at its back, combine into a perfect mixture that blends with all the colours in the rest of the aquarium.

In the wild, the Neon Tetra inhabits slightly acidic waters that have temperatures lower than 25°C. In natural conditions, a Neon Tetra can live up to ten years. In an aquarium, the average lifespan is five years.

How To Care For Neon Tetras

Neon Tetra


Neon Tetras are best kept in an aquarium environment where the encasement is at least 24 inches long and the water acidity is between 6.8 – 7.

Drastic changes in their surroundings can easily cause damage to their health and may consequently cause their death. All Neon Tetras thrive best in densely-planted aquarium tanks that have subdued lighting. The temperature in their Amazon habitat is within the range of 21 – 27oC.

Neon Tetra Diet: What Do Neon Tetras Eat?

What do neon tetras eat?
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This fish is an omnivore and can eat flake foods provided they are small enough for them to swallow and ingest. We recommend a high-quality fish flake, with at least a 40% protein content.

The food that we feed our Neon Tetras is the micro pellets from Hikari. Our Tetras can’t get enough of these, and they are nutrient dense enough to help them maintain their vibrant colors.

As a treat, you can feed your Tetra frozen foods. The ones we recommend the most are:

  1. Blood Worms
  2. Daphnia
  3. Brine Shrimp
  4. Tubifex

When feeding tetras frozen bloodworms, try to offer them only the small ones. It’s not uncommon for Neon Tetras to swim around with half a bloodworm hanging out of their mouth, because it’s too big for them to swallow. The bloodworms that we recommend are Hikari Bio-Pure Freeze Dried Blood Worms

If you are interested in feeding your fish live food, then you can try fruit flies, and black worms. These are usually carried by local pet stores, and Tetras absolutely love them, so feed them sparingly.

Perfect Tank Conditions For Neon Tetras

Wild Neon Tetras are generally a hard breed of fish, but commercial breeding has softened them slightly, making them a little more delicate, so we need to take that into consideration when setting up a tank.

In order to keep the water quality as stable as possible, we recommend at least a 10-gallon tank. The bigger, the better.  Large water changes can be fatal for Neon Tetras, so having a large tank makes the water changes less obvious.

For filtration, a regular sponge filter, or a hang on back filter will be sufficient. Since Tetras have a small bioload, their filtration needs are very undemanding.

You should never add Neon Tetra fish to a tank which has not been properly cycled. A new tank can be life-threatening, so the more mature the tank is, the better. If you are adding Neon Tetras to a new aquarium, be sure to read our guide on effective nitrogen cycling.

Common Neon Tetra Diseases

How to cure neon tetra disease

The common diseases for this fish are called “neon tetra disease” and “false neon tetra disease”. Both are fatal diseases with no cure at the moment. To protect the others, one should immediately remove from the aquarium an infected member.

Not many fishkeepers realize that other breeds are not immune from the disease. The name ‘Neon Tetra Disease’ stems from the fact that the disease was first discovered in Neon Tetras. Most other Tetra breeds are at risk, and a lot of other completely different breeds can catch it.

What Causes Neon Tetra Disease?

The disease is caused by parasites, which attach to hosts within an aquarium. The most common culprits are usually the dead bodies of other fish, and on some live foods such as Tubifex.

Once inside the intestinal tract, the disease will start to eat the muscles from the inside out, and the most common way to spot this, is the apparent discolour, and lightening of the scales. Other symptoms include:

Neon Tetra Disease Symptoms

  • Difficulty swimming
  • A lumpy exterior. These are caused by cysts which develop in the muscles.
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of colour
  • A curvature of the spine

Other, secondary infections such as fin rot and bloating can develop as a result of this disease, but they are not directly related. Signs of fin rot and bloating MAY be an indication of neon tetra disease, but they may not!

Keeping a high quality of water can be enough to prevent an outbreak of any disease, and knowing where your fish tank came from can be a good tool for prevention too. Tanks which were currently occupied by ill fish can greatly increase the risk of your fish catching this disease.

How To Sex a Neon Tetra

The most accurate way to sex a tetra is to look at their stomach. The male neon tetra has a body that is more slender than the female. In males the blue line appears straight. In a female, the line is more gradient and may appear slightly bent. Females tend to be plumper, and have a more round belly, although this can sometimes be hard to judge when looking into a tank.

How To Breed Neon Tetras

For breeding, a female and a male member is separated in a breeding tank which should be kept dark. Lighting is gradually increased until reproduction takes place. The process can require some trial and error, but shortening the light cycle drastically, then increasing it slowly should trigger them to reproduce.

Another way to trigger breeding in Neon Tetras, is to perform a large water change, in order to simulate their natural habitat, which has varying degrees of rainfall throughout the year. You should let the nitrates slowly creep up and the perform the water change. We have found that a 50% water change is usually enough to trigger the breeding process.

Everything that is inside and on top of the breeding aquarium should be sterilized and once the eggs have been laid, they must be removed. Tetras have a tendency to eat all of their eggs, so it’s important to get them out as soon as possible.

How Often Can Neon Tetras Breed?

Neon tetras can typically breed twice every month. Eggs will usually hatch in around 24 hours, and from then on, it’s just a case of keeping them safe and feeding them the correct food. Due to their size, the only food we recommend at first is Infusoria.

As they grow, you can start to introduce some frozen foods, such as brine shrimp and cut up blood worms.

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