Neon Tetra Complete Care Guide

Estimated read time 9 min read

Neon Tetra Care Guide

When you walk through any LFS (Local Fish Store) you’re likely to find a certain species of fish on display:

The Neon Tetra!

One of the most popular freshwater fish in the world. The Neon Tetra is brightly colored, tiny and takes up very little space within your tank.

Here’s what you need to know.

Neon Tetra Care Requirments

Care Level:Easy
Color Form:Blue, Red, Translucent
Lifespan:5-7 Years
Min Tank Size:10 Gallons
Tank Set-Up:Freshwater: Planted


Neon Tetra Overview

The neon tetra is a relatively tiny fish, which can reach a maximum size of 1.5 inches. But, some of them have been known to grow up to 2.5 inches as well.

Distributed primarily across Latin America, the largest concentration of this fish can be found in the wild in the Amazon River Basin.

While naturally the fins and tail of the neon tetra are pretty small, there are hybrid versions of the fish that have longer tails, which are very common now.

Lifespan Of The Neon Tetra

The Neon Tetra can live for 5-7 years if kept in optimum living conditions.

When it comes to Neon Tetras, one of the main things that can impact lifespan are your water parameters. Above all, how healthy and clean your water will determine just how long your Fish will live.

For example, unkept water can become toxic with high levels of Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates, all of which can be extremely harmful to your Fish.

Dirty water can also lead to many other problems like stress, infections, and disease, which ultimately will impact the overall health of your Fish and shorten the lifespan of neon tetra considerably.

Below we will go into detail on how you can help your Fish live a long and happy life, but first, here are a few other things that can also impact how long your Neon Tetras will live.

  • Tank Size
  • Water Parameters
  • Temperature
  • Oxygenation
  • Maint schedule
  • Diet
  • Tankmates
  • Stress
  • Disease

Learn more with our guide: How Long Do Neon Tetras Live & 8 Easy Things You Can Do To Increase Their Lifespan

Typical Behavior

Neon tetras are not aggressive, which means they can get along well with most other fish. You don’t need a huge tank for them, but you should try to keep it to at least a 5-gallon tank.

Neon Tetras Are Schooling Fish!

So what does this mean?

Basically, fish that school like to swim together in a coordinated effort and a group of 6 Neons will definitely school.

But to really see the best the Neon has to offer you would want to keep at least 10 of them together, which quickly eliminates a 5-gallon tank.

Neon’s literally crave being in a school and their beauty is in their schooling.

When schooling Neon Tetras typically swim in a more horizontal pattern which would require more swimming room than a five-gallon can offer.

The Appearance of Neon Tetra

The most striking trait of the neon tetra is their color. The greenish-blue iridescent hue, along with two horizontal blue stripes on either side, gives them a distinct appearance.

There are two red stripes from the middle of the body to the caudal fin. Along their back, they develop an olive green sheen. The fish is essentially translucent, apart from the markings they have on the bodies. You can almost see some of their internal organs.

Cardinal Tetra vs Neon Tetra

The easiest way to tell the difference is that the red line of the Neon Tetra only runs about halfway across the body whereas the red stripe of the Cardinal Tetra runs the full length of the body.

If you’re a visual person like me here is a great video about the difference between Neon Tetras and Cardinal Tetras.

Neon Tetra Habitat and Tank Requirements

In the wild, the neon tetras love to live in relatively darker waters. Try not to make the aquarium light too bright for them. Low wattage bulbs can help you get that dim light effect that they like.

Idea Tank Conditions

  • Lighting: Low
  • Temperature Range: 69 to 79 degree Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: 5 to 7.5
  • Heavily Planted

What Size Tank Do Neon Tetras Need?

Neon tetras are very active and beautiful fish that like to swim around with their buddies in groups of at least 6.

So If your thinking of keeping a school of Neon Tetras, then a 5-gallon tank shouldn’t be your first pick.

A 5-gallon tank is likely too small for a group of Neons since you would want to keep at least 4-6 of them which could quickly overload a small 5-gallon tank, a 10-gallon tank would be best.

When you are thinking about stocking options for your tank you need to think about how big the Neons will eventually get.

It’s not just the size of the fish that you need to think about when selecting the ideal tank.

Neon tetras are active fish and like to swim around the entire tank, in the plants, through the driftwood and rocks.

So you’ll need a tank that is big enough for the fish and all the decor.

If you must keep them in a 5-gallon tank then try to have a few live plants rising into the mid-level of the tank in a few areas. This helps keep the tetras feeling safe and secure.

Then there’s the social aspect of your Neon Tetra.

To help you here are three articles select the right size tank for your Neon Tetra:

Neon Tetra Diet and Feeding

They are omnivorous fish that are not fussy about what they eat. You can expect them to be happy, whether you are feeding them high-quality pellets, flakes, frozen food, or live food. Make sure that high-quality flakes or pellets are an important part of their diet.

  • Blood Worm
  • Brine Shrimp
  • Daphnia
  • Tubifex

Neon Tetra Tank Mates

The neon tetra is a peaceful and docile fish and it almost never causes problems in an aquarium as they get along with most other species.

The fact that they grow up to barely over an inch and a half means they are very easy to accommodate and can be kept in large numbers, which can make your aquarium look like a beautiful blue shimmer.

A group of 10 or 12 of these swimming in sync with each other makes for a wonderful aquarium.

You can take a look at some of my favorite neon tetra tank mates in our guide: Neon Tetra Tank Mates: 7 Of The Best Tank Mates for Neon Tetras

But here is a quick list:

1. Guppies
2. African Dwarf Frogs
3. Angelfish (Use With Caution)
4. Mollies
5. Loaches
6. Cardinal Tetras
7. Corydoras Catfish

Can You Keep Neon Tetras Together?

Neon tetras need groups of 6 or more to be healthy, otherwise, they get stressed. Avoid adding larger carnivore fish that have tetras in their diets.

Neon Tetra Disease

Neon Tetra Disease is a degenerative condition that is caused by a parasite called Microsporidian and can affect many other fish species, not just the Neon Tetra.

A degenerative disease is defined as:

“The continuous…degenerative cell changes, affecting tissues or organs, which will increasingly deteriorate over time”. – Wikipedia

Learn more with our guide: Neon Tetra Disease, Signs, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Breeding Neon Tetras

Below is a great starter video on how to breed Neon Tetras enjoy!

Fun Facts About The Neon Tetra

Let’s take a look at some of the less generic facts about neon tetras that you might find interesting:

  • We start with the most shocking one – tetras are actually from the same fish family as piranhas!
  • Their incredibly bright and almost shining color is due to the dark environments they live in the wild.
  • An estimated 2 million neon tetras are imported to the United States every year.
  • If a group of tetras is too small, they will try to fit in with similar fish because they like the buddy system.
  • They can experience shock and anxiety when you introduce them to a new environment. You have to be careful about shifting them or changing things around in the aquarium.

Is the Neon Tetra Right For Your Aquarium?

As an aquarium hobbyist, buying neon tetras is one of the best decisions you can make for your tank. They are very easy to take care of, do not cause any hassle and their living conditions suit a lot of other species’ conditions as well.

If you are adding fish to the tank other than the ones on the list, make sure that they are not aggressive predators who eat neon tetras. Other than that, you will not face any issues with this beautiful fish in the aquarium.

Learn More About Neon Tetras:

Neon Tetra Complete Care Guide