The neon tetra is a small schooling fish with a lifespan of up to 8 years, that originated from the dark waters in small streams and river basins in Brazil, Columbia, and Peru. Thanks to its bright coloration, small size, and typically peaceful behavior, it’s no wonder the neon tetra is one of the most popular fish in the hobby.
These fish, while very similar in appearance, are not to be confused with cardinal tetras. Cardinal tetras are slightly larger in size and have a red stripe that goes across the entire body. Neon tetras, however, only get to be about 1.5 inches in size and have a red stripe that begins at the middle of the body and extends to the base of the caudal fin.
Tank Set Up
When it comes to tank set up, keep in mind that neon tetras do best in well established aquariums, so you want to make sure the tank is fully cycled and the water parameters are stable before adding them to the aquarium.
The bare minimum tank size for keeping neons is 10 gallons, but with these being a very active schooling fish, 15 gallons or larger is more suitable for them.
These fish prefer softer more acidic water with a pH of between 6 and 7 and have a wide temperature range of between 70°-81°.
Neon tetras do best in a more dimly lit environment and thrive in blackwater aquariums. A well planted aquarium with driftwood, floating plants, and a darker substrate is best if trying to mimic their natural environment.
As neon tetras are a schooling fish, you will want to keep a bare minimum of 5, but to keep them happier, and to see less potential aggression, larger schools of 15 plus is recommended.
Since neon tetras are small and relatively peaceful fish, they are often kept with other peaceful community fish of similar size. Good examples of tank mates are cardinal tetras, harlequin rasboras, and Corydoras. Always remember when choosing tank mates, if it fits in a fish’s mouth, it’s food.
Neon tetras are omnivores, so a high-quality small flake food or pellet, along with live or frozen brine shrimp, daphnia, or bloodworms will help keep these fish happy and healthy.
Neon tetras are an egg scattering species and can be difficult to breed as they require very specific water conditions to do so, so this is not recommended for beginners. It is recommended to have a separate tank with a tightly fitted lid and little to no lighting set up for this purpose and the pair will need to be conditioned through feeding and specific water parameters to help promote spawning.
When choosing a pair to breed, it can sometimes be difficult to tell male and female neons apart. In general, the female will have a larger more rounded belly and a more curved blue stripe, while males will appear narrower with a straighter stripe.