The Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon Innesi) is a well-known breed of tropical fish, native to South American waters. They are famous for their opalescent natures, and they are also tremendously renowned among aquarists around the world. They fall under the small group of tetra fish (but should not be confused with neon black tetra, neon gold tetra, yellow neon tetra, Diamond Head neon tetra or cardinal tetra) as they look similar.
Neon Tetras are great pets for beginners and new enthusiasts, adding color and activity to the aquarium. The neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) is one of the oldest tropical fish in the hobby, known since the 1930s. And it is still one of the most popular and demanding fish around the globe. The reasons are simple, i.e., its prominent shimmering colors, schooling behavior, and peaceful temperament make it a perfect accompaniment to any non-aggressive community tank.
Origin and Habitat in the Wild
Neon Tetra was discovered by August Rabaut a French traveler during his expedition around the Amazon jungles. Europeans became a big fan of neon tetra when August Rabaut brought them to Europe for selling.
Found in the Blackwater streams and tributaries in Amazon and Orinoco in Brazil, Peru, and Columbia, where a minimal amount of sunlight gets through the water. Neon Tetra live in slow tributaries, mainly in the middle of water layers of large rivers and feeds on small creatures, insects and worms.
Neon Tetras that gets shipped to your local fish store are captive-bred. Most of them are bred and distributed from the Far East and Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Singapore.
More than one and a half million neon tetras are imported to the United States each month where less than five present of them are wild caught specimens from South America are.
Since neon tetras are popular thought out the world, a variety of captive-bred specimens are available. Some of them are: Longfin Neon Tetra, Diamond Head Neon Tetra, Albino Neon Tetra, Red Neon Tetra, Green Neon Tetra, Gold Neon Tetra, Black Neon Tetra, and the list goes on and on.
Neon Tetra: Description
Neon Tetra can grow up to 1.5 inches in captivity. Although, some people grow these fish up to 2.5 inches. Their lifespan is about 4-5 years.
There is a horizontal blue neon stripe from its head to its tail. The most striking feature of the neon tetra fish is its bright color, especially its iridescent blue-green hue. There are two red stripes from the middle of the body to its caudal fin, and the abdomen is silver in color.
Neon tetra is often mistaken with cardinal tetra, the key difference between these two fish is the red stripes. The red stripe in neon tetra only extends from the middle of the body to the tail. Whereas, the red line runs the entire length of the cardinal tetra, from its mouth to its tail.
Neon tetra fish care
Taking care of neon tetra isn’t difficult. You need to provide them with warm temperature, an ideal hardness of water and clean water. To provide this water condition for the fish, you can choose any type of filter readily available in the market. Since the aquarium is a closed system, you also need to do 10% partial water change every week.
Neon Tetra can live in hard water since it can adapt well to any water parameter. But it is essential to give neon tetra with enough hiding place in the tank to create their natural habitat. The aquarium should be thickly planted with moderate light and the darker substrate. Black sand or aquarium soil does the best since these fish look better in darker background and substrate.
Scientific name: Paracheirodon innesi
Common name: Neon Tetra
Origin: Southern Colombia, Eastern Peru, Western Brazil
Distribution: South America, particularly the Amazon basin
Temperament: quiet and community fish
Diet: Omnivore, eat mainly insects and insect larvae, you can feed them any fish food.
Lifespan: can live up to 5 years
Adult size: about 1.30-2.”
Tank size: 11+ gallons, since they are active schooling fish
water Hardness: 5 dGH to 10 dGH
Temperature: 73-79 degrees Fahrenheit
Water Movement: Moderate
Breeding Temperature: 75.0° F – Recommended breeding conditions: pH 5.0-6.0, 1-2 dGH, temperature 75° F.
Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
Substrate Type: Any
Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting
Difficulties in keeping
Neon Tetras are hardy fish, so care is rather easy. Even a beginner aquarist can keep them if they have a well-cycled tank. Neon Tetras are bred in such a way that, they are highly adaptive to various water parameters. But once they settle in your tank, you should not change the environment of your tank since they are very sensitive to the change.
These fish are also not demanding. They accept any food without any hesitation.
Neon tetra Diet
Neon Tetras are omnivores, meaning, they happily accept any food that fits in their mouth. You will find them eating algae off your decorations, mosquito’s larva, plant matters, and other invertebrates.
High protein food should be the core of their diet. You need to feed the fish variety of fish food. You can offer foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimps, tubifex, tetra pallets, flakes.
Neon Tetras are small fish and have small abdomen, so you need to feed them very little at a time. You should aim to feed them two to three times a day as much as they can eat in three minutes.
- Type of diet: omnivore
- Flake food: Yes
- Tablet / Pellet: Yes
- Live food (fish, prawns, worms): some of the diet
- Plant foods: some diet
- Meaty Food: some diet
- Feeding frequency: several feeds per day
Tank-mates and Enemies
Neon Tetras are very peaceful fish, so they make a perfect community fish. As they are small fish, you should only keep them with non-aggressive and fish that aren’t big to eat them.
Small fish like rasbora, glowlight tetra, cory catfish, are some of the right choices as companions. Here is a list of possible tank mates of neon tetra and cardinal tetras:
- Bettas (make sure you do not accumulate them with the aggressive betta!)
- Livebearers, such as guppies, platies, etc.
- White cloud mountain minnows
- Many other species of education tetras, such as lemon tetras
- Many fish that eat algae and live in the bottom (otos, cories, some species of Pleco, etc.)
- Aquatic snails
- Small freshwater shrimp-like ghost shrimp
- African dwarf frogs
As mentioned above, the neon tetras are active fish. They need a hiding place, free space to swim, as they are schooling fish. At least 10 gallons tank is recommended to keep neon tetra fish.
The most natural options for decorating aquarium for neon tetras are natural plants. This creates a natural habitat for the fish. Although in neon tetra’s natural habitat, there are a lot of decaying wood and plant matters, you shouldn’t add these woods and plants in the closed environment of an aquarium, since the decomposition of matter will cause ammonia levels to spike up. If there are no sharp edges, the fake plants, and decoration work perfectly well.
Tetra fish are good with any substrate if it is not small enough for them to eat it. To make sure this does not happen, choose gravel that is too big to fit in their mouth, or pick a substrate with tiny particles, such as sand, that will not affect the neon tetra fish if they eat it a little.
You also need to choose a dark substrate (ADA Aqua Soil) since the bright colored substrate can stress the fish. Light colored substrates are also not a good choice regarding aesthetics since the shiny substrate can make the neon tetra fish look washed.
Found in the Blackwater streams and tributaries, where a minimal amount of sunlight gets through the water. So, too much of light stresses the fish and open the door to various fish disease. Therefore, you need to lower the light intensity in the tank. You can also add floating plants to block the excess light.
A Neon Tetras are tropical fish you need to maintain the temperature in the tank, so a heater is a must. You need to keep the temperature between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Besides, an aquarium is a closed system, so there should be a constant nitrogen cycle. You need a filter to provide a home for beneficial bacteria and clean the water.
Health and Diseases
The neon tetras (Paracheirodon innesi) suffer from a common disease called “NTD – Neon Tetra Disease,” an infectious disease. This disease is named NTD because researchers found it in neon tetra for the first time.
Plistiphora Hyphessobryconis fungus causes infection in fish body infecting fish muscles eating the muscle inside out. No any cure for this disease exists till date.
In case, a fish is affected by the disease, it could:
- became restless and would be prone to settle at the bottom of the tank,
- Move with irregular swimming patterns in circles or different patterns as if they are drunk
- Drifts around being restless with the water flow of water,
- has its fins swollen and rotten,
- develop curvature of the spine,
- lose color,
- Develop cysts as the body begins to have lumps.
- Stomach Shrinks and loses mass
If you see any one of the symptoms mentioned above, you need to move him to the hospital tank immediately; else, other fish might get contaminated.
The best cure for this disease is to prevent it.
- Keep the water clean,
- Always maintain water temperature properly,
- When adding new fish to the tank, first add them to a quarantine tank and check for the sign of sickness,
The most accurate way to distinguish the sex of a tetra is to look at its stomach. The male neon tetra has a thinner body as compared to the female. The blue line in male appears to be straight whereas due to rounded belly on the female, the blue stripe seems to be curved shaped.
Breeding the neon tetra
Once you have male and a female neon tetra, now you need to place them in a separate breeding tank. The breeding tank shouldn’t be big, a 10-liter tank will be enough for one fish couple.
The water condition for breeding neon tetra needs to be slightly different than the water condition of the main tank. You should keep Water hardness from 1 to 2 dGH; pH should be between 5.0 to 6.0. Lightings should be low since they come from the water parameter where only little light penetrates the water. And you should maintain the temperature between 72 and 75 Degree Fahrenheit. If the above-mentioned condition doesn’t meat, you will fail to breed them.
Use a sponge filter for filtration, and you also need to provide live plants. Tetras are egg scatters, the female lays egg first, and the male will then fertilize them, so java moss will do great, the female will lay her eggs there. During the spawning period, the fish will often jump, so you need to cover your tank, you can use a sprayer or floating plants.
Before breeding, you need to feed the breeding pair with live foods. When the couple is placed in the tank, there should not be any light so cover your aquarium with dark papers or this can be done at night, since the breeding process begins early in the morning. The male will embrace female during spawning, where the female lays hundreds of eggs on the tank plants.
Now you need to remove the breeding pair from the breeding tank. Tetra doesn’t care for their young and eggs, they find them and eat them without any hesitation. Eggs are transparent, and slightly adhesive which helps eggs to stick to the plants. Eggs and fry are sensitive to light, so you need to maintain very low lightings. The eggs hatch in approximately 24 hours, producing fries that feeds on its egg sack first.
In the fourth day, the fry will be free swimmers. Now you should decrease the water level of the tank to 7-8 cm high, and make sure that there is no any slime on the surface of the water since the fry needs to fill their swim bladder with air.
As the fry become free swimmers, you must feed them a minimal amount of food, excess food can spike up ammonia and nitrite, which can kill the young juveniles. Foods such as egg yolk, infusoria, and commercially prepared fry food are the best. In a few days, they will be large enough to be fed with freshly hatched brine shrimp and other tetra flakes and tetra food.
How often they breed
Neon tetras typically reproduce twice a month. The eggs usually hatch in about 24 hours. And now, it’s just a case of keeping them safe and feeding them the right food to keep them healthy. Due to its size, the only food we recommend at the beginning is Infusoria and egg yolk. As they grow, you can begin to introduce some frozen foods, such as pickle and cutting bloodworms.
Neon Tetra is one of the most demanding fish worldwide. The United States alone imports Around 2 million every month.
As neon tetras are hardy fish, they accept a wide variety of water parameter, so they can be a beginner fish.
Neon tetra is a schooling fish, so you need to keep at least 6 of them to move in a group. They require tank size of at least 10-Gallons.
Neon tetras are an omnivore. They accept any food you provide them, for better coloration, provide them with high protein diet, such as brine shrimps, mosquito’s larva, bloodworm.
As they are community schooling fish, they go along with any fish that are non-aggressive. But the angelfish, on the other hand, is a natural predator. So don’t keep neon tetra with angelfish.
Breeding tetra is quite simple if you can provide them the required water parameter, but raising the juvenile is much difficult, they must need a good care.
Tetras are hardy fish, so they can fight many diseases. Unfortunately, NTD or Neon Tetra Disease will kill them, and there is no cure for it. So, maintain proper water chemistry for the fish.
Lastly, do care for your pet fish as if it’s one of your family members.