Keeping Tropical Fish: How to care for Neon tetras

The Neon tetra is a small, brightly-coloured, tropical fish which is a welcome addition to most tropical aquariums. It is widely regarded as one of the most popular tropical fish in the hobby, due to its vibrant colours, petite size and peaceful nature. This fish is relatively easy to keep, and any fish keeper (new or experienced) can appreciate their stunning appearance.

Neon tetra - Paracheirodon innesi




South America - Columbia, Brazil, Peru

Aquarium swimming zone


Adult size

1.5 inches / 4cm



Minimum tank size





Egg scatterer

Life expectancy

5 years

Preferred pH

pH 7


24 - 28 °C


Where do Neon tetras come from?

The Neon tetra, was first discovered in 1934 in the Amazon rainforest. They are native inhabitants of the Amazon river basin and are commonly found living in warm, freshwater streams. They exist in several South American countries which the Amazon river flows through, including Brazil, Colombia and Peru. 

What do Neon tetras look like?

The Neon tetra is a very small fish, typically no larger than 4cm fully grown. They have slender, torpedo shaped body with a neon Blue line which extends from the fishes head to its adipose fin. Below the neon Blue line is a shorter Red line, which normally extends from the centre of the fishes body to the tail fin.

It is often confused with the Cardinal tetra as the colours are very similar, however the markings differ slightly. In the cardinal tetra, the red stripe runs the entire length of the fish.

What fish can I keep with Neon tetras?

Neon tetras are peaceful community fish which are best suited to a community aquarium (i.e. an aquarium containing peaceful, non-aggressive fish). They make fantastic tank mates for most small, tropical fish. We DON'T recommend putting neon tetras in an aquarium with fish which have larger mouths, typical of predators. In these instances Neon tetras may become a food source for other larger fish.

Tetras generally are a very social aquarium fish, and Neons are no exception to the rule. They should be kept in a minimum group of four, allowing them to shoal providing them with safety in number. This is especially important, when keeping Neon tetras with other fish.  Keeping a lone Neon tetra can cause unnecessary stress and may result in the fish being bullied by other tank mates.

Popular tank mates include:

  • Other Tetra species
  • Livebearers (e.g. Guppies, Platies, Mollies)
  • Rasboras
  • Danios
  • Minnows
  • Corydoras

If you're unsure about the suitability of Neon tetras in your aquarium, we would always recommend doing some research.

What do Neon tetras eat?

Neon tetras are an omnivorous aquarium fish, and therefore require a balanced diet which contains both plant and animal matter. Typically this will be in the form of small pellets, granules, or flakes, specifically designed for the optimal health of tropical fish. Examples of these include:

Neon tetras can also be fed meaty, frozen or live foods including Brineshrimp, Daphnia, and Bloodworm. These natural food sources are great additions to the fishes diet. They should be fed once daily and only require a small amount of food.

How to breed Neon tetras?

Neon tetras are difficult fish to breed particularly for beginners. They require specific water conditions to trigger mating behaviours. They are a spawning fish, and the female will scatter her eggs which the male(s) will fertilise shortly after.

Firstly, you will need to identify the males and females in your tank. Male Neon tetras are slimmer making their Blue colouration appear straight along the body. Female Neon tetras appear to have more of a bend in the abdomen making the Neon Blue line, curved.

Should you have spawning success it is worth noting, tetras are not particularly good parents and do not care for their young. In some instances they will even eat them! If any fry (juvenile fish) do survive, you should feed them a small granular food, or a fry specific food. Because of their tiny size, Daphnia and Brineshrimp are great frozen/live food source for Neon tetra fry.

If you are worried that the fry are not getting enough food then you could try target feeding them with a pipette. If you see the parent fish colony predating their offspring, then we would recommend transferring the young fish to a hatchery, until they are large enough to be returned to the aquarium.

How to care for Neon tetras?

Newly set up tanks are not ideal for Neon tetra. They prefer established water conditions typical of cycled aquariums. They are easily stressed, which can lead a range of diseases if not cared for correctly. They are specifically prone to Neon tetra disease and, unfortunately, there is no known cure. To prevent these diseases you should ensure that any new fish added to a tank are healthy and that the water parameters and temperatures in the tank are correct and stable.

In order to provide the ideal conditions for your Neon tetras it is best to replicate their natural environment. They are found in the warm rivers of South America, so keeping them in water temperatures of 24 - 28 °C is vital to their health. Neon tetras prefer a low-lit tank, so ensure your aquarium light is not on for more than the recommended eight hours a day. They enjoy a densely planted aquarium with rocks, gravel, and wood to replicate the environment of a riverbed. This should provide the fish with hiding spaces and shade. 

Neon tetras at Complete Koi and Aquatics

The Neon tetra is a great tropical fish for all levels of aquarium hobbyist. If you have any further questions on how to care for your Neon tetra, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We offer fish health checks and water testing services to aid your success. 

Give us a call or pop over to see us today.

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