Neon Tetra: A Profile of a Fish

Neon tetra fish with aqua blue stripe and red tail closeup

The resilient tiny neon tetra fish was first brought from South America and has since become the glittering centerpiece of aquariums all around the world. Since neon tetras are a shoaling species, they must be housed in groups of at least six other neon tetras. They may be kept alongside other fish species because of their calm personalities. They have a good five-year life expectancy.

Species Overview

Common Names: Neon tetra, neon fish

Scientific Name: Paracheirodon innesi

Adult Size: 1.5 inches (4 centimeters)

Life Expectancy: 5 years


Family Characidae
Origin Southeastern Colombia, eastern Peru, western Brazil
Social Peaceful
Tank Level Mid-dweller
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallon
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Egg scatterer
Care Intermediate
pH 7
Hardness Up to 10 dGH
Temperature 68 to 79 F (20 to 26 C)

Origin and Distribution

The Orinoco and Amazon river basins in Brazil, Columbia, and Peru are the origins of neon tetras, as are their clear-water and blackwater streams and tributaries. Underneath thick forest canopies that barely let any light through are these areas of blackwaters. Neon tetras are crustaceans and worm-eating fish that dwell in shoals mostly in the intermediate layers of water.

All neon tetras are typically captive-bred, with the majority coming from the East and the Far East. There are currently many different types of captive-bred specimens available. These include the unusual long-finned neon tetra, a golden strain that is essentially a semi-albino variant, and a diamond neon tetra that has metallic scales scattered throughout the top of the body.

Colors and Markings

The body of the neon tetra is thin, torpedo-shaped, and just an inch and a half long. This fish makes up for its lack of size with color. The neon tetra has a vivid neon blue stripe that extends from the tip of its nose to its adipose fin. They are said to be more easily visible to one another in blackwater circumstances because to this bright stripe.

The neon tetra has a belly that is white-silver above the blue stripe. A vivid crimson stripe continues through the belly all the way to the tail. One of the most well-liked is the neon tetra thanks to its eye-catching red, white, and blue coloration. It is only surpassed by its cousin, the cardinal tetra, which it is sometimes confused for. The red stripe is what most distinguishes the two fish. It just goes from the middle of the body to the tail of the neon tetra. The red stripe covers the whole body of the cardinal tetra, from snout to tail.

The neon tetra's vibrant colors will diminish at night, much like those of other colorful fish, when it is sleeping, feeling scared, or unwell. Choose animals at the pet store that are vibrantly colorful and active, while animals with fading hues may not be in the best of health.


Since neon tetras are a shoaling species that needs the presence of other fish of their kind, they should always be kept in schools of at least six. In a community tank, neon tetras thrive as long as the other species are neither big or aggressive. Rasboras, tiny tetras, dwarf gouramis, corys, and other small catfish are placid little fish that make ideal companions. Avoid bigger tetras since they will devour neon tetras at every given chance. According to the general rule, fish will eventually consume neon if their mouths are open wide enough to do so.

Neon Tetra Habitat and Care

Neon tetras should not be kept in freshly built up tanks since they cannot accept alterations made during the startup stage. Neon tetras should only be added once your tank is grown and the water chemistry is steady. For neon tetras, water should be soft and acidic, with a pH of no more than 7.0 and a hardness of no more than 10 dGH. To darken the water, preserve an acidic pH, and soften the water, driftwood or blackwater extracts are frequently employed.

Neon tetras like living in places of deep water that are covered with thick plants and roots. It's crucial to create a habitat with lots of places to hide in the dark. Give them a lot of greenery, preferably incorporating floating plants. Driftwood will also offer hiding spots. The dim substrate will closely resemble the natural setting in which neon tetras thrive. To create the appropriate low-light habitat, some fishkeepers would cover three sides of the tank with a black background.

Neon Tetra Diet and Feeding

Since neon tetras are omnivores, they will consume both plant and animal matter. Good feeding options include fine flake food, tiny granules, live or frozen brine shrimp or daphnia, frozen or freeze-dried bloodworms, and others. To promote health, provide a variety of meals, especially live ones.

Gender Differences

In neon tetras, gender differences are not obviously noticeable. The female will often have a bigger, rounder tummy than the male. In contrast to the male's relatively straight blue stripe, the female's rounder belly might even make the blue stripe look curved.

Breeding the Neon Tetra 

Due of their specialized water requirements, neon tetras might be difficult to reproduce. Create a second breeding tank if you want to try breeding them. Only 1 to 2 dGH of water hardness and a pH of 5.0 to 6.0 should be present in the breeding tank. Live plants are provided, and a sponge filter is used to filter the water. Fish that are spawning frequently leap, so make sure the tank is covered. Dark paper should be placed over the tank's sides to block light. Water should be maintained at a temperature of between 72 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius).

Before putting the breeding couple in the breeding tank, condition them with live meals. Start with zero illumination when introducing the breeding couple to the tank. Increase the brightness the following day and keep doing so gradually to encourage spawning. In most cases, spawning takes place in the morning. During spawning, the male will clasp the female, who will then release over 100 eggs. The translucent, barely sticky eggs will adhere to the plants. As soon as the eggs are laid, separate the breeding couple since the parents will devour the eggs right away.

As the eggs and the fry are both light-sensitive, keep the illumination modest. In around 24 hours, the eggs will hatch, giving rise to small fry that will survive on their egg sack for a few days. Expect little more than one-third of the eggs to hatch into healthy fry due to low hatch rates. The fry will become free-swimming in three to four days and need to be fed extremely tiny things like infusoria, rotifers, egg yolks, or commercially prepared fry food. They will grow big enough to eat newly hatched brine shrimp in a few weeks. After the first month, the fry will roughly exhibit adult colors.

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

If neon tetras appeal to you, and you are interested in some compatible fish for your aquarium, read up on:

Check out additional fish breed profiles for more information on other freshwater fish.