Black Neon Tetra

Family: Characidae Black Neon Tetra, Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodiHyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodiPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
Latest Reader Comment - See More
I have 3 of these lovely black neon tetras and they are lovely and they are very placid fish. Mine eat quite well and they aren't shy, they don't come out all of... (more)  Connor

Black Neon Tetras in a setting with plants and a dark substrate makes a striking show!

The Black Neon Tetra Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi is a handsome, energetic fish. Set a school of these tetras in contrast with aquarium plants and a dark background will make a dynamic and beautiful showtank. They also have a great personality and can be kept in a community with a variety of other like friendly fish species.

This fish has a similar appearance to the Neon Tetra with its horizontal stripe that seems to glow. But even though they are called the 'Black Neon Tetra', they are a distinctly different fish than the Neon Tetra. They can readily be identified as they have an enamel-white to greenish neon stripe contrasted with a rich velvety black color below it.

Being a very peaceful fish, the Black Neon Tetra makes a very good addition to a community aquarium. In fact this characin is one of the best tetras for community tank setups and great for the beginner. They can thrive in many aquarium conditions, are easy to feed, and freely spawn in schools or in pairs

They like a planted tank and appreciate subdued lighting, and then will readily form schools. If the tank is too sparse, they can look a little washed out. They are happiest in a school with 7 being the standard number of fish to make a basic school for the aquarium. They get along well with all sorts of other peaceful fish including other tetras, danios, rasboras, livebearers, peaceful bottom dwellers and most gouramis.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Characiformes
  • Family: Characidae
  • Genus: Hyphessobrycon
  • Species: herbertaxelrodi
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Black Neon Tetra - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Size of fish - inches: 1.6 inches (3.99 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 82.0° F (23.9 to 27.8° C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Black Neon Tetras Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi was described by Géry in 1961. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List. They are found in South America, the Paraguay River basin; Rio Taquari, Pantanal of Mato Grosso do Sul, and Brazil. Black Neon Tetras are now generally all captive-bred.

In the wild these fish show a preference to small tributaries, creeks, areas of flooded forest and sand banks.  Their natural habitat is usually very acidic and the water is stained brown from chemicals released from decaying organic material.

  • Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed


The Black Neon Tetra is a small more slim-bodied species of tetra. This fish will generally reach about 1.5 inches (4 cm) in the home aquarium and has a lifespan of between 5 - 10 years. It is similar in appearance to the Neon Tetra with its horizontal stripe that seems to glow, but is a distinctly different fish. They can readily be identified, as they have an enamel-white to greenish neon stripe contrasted with a rich velvety black color below it.

  • Size of fish - inches: 1.6 inches (3.99 cm)
  • Lifespan: 5 years - They have a lifespan of up to 10 years in the aquarium.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Black Neon Tetra is a hardy fish that is good for the beginner fish keeper.  They adapt well to many aquarium conditions and are very easy to feed.  These fish get a long with most peaceful community fish.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

Since they are omnivorous the Black Neon Tetra will generally eat all kinds of live, fresh, and flake foods. To keep a good balance give them a high quality flake food everyday. Feed brine shrimp (either live or frozen) or blood worms as a treat.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - Offer only what they can consume in 3 minutes or less with multiple feedings per day.

Aquarium Care

Black Neon Tetras are not exceptionally difficult to care for provided their water is kept clean. At least 25 - 50% of the tank water should be replaced every other week, especially if the tank is densely stocked. Because they are very active swimmers it is also advisable to keep them in a tank at least 20 inches long and ideally 20 or more gallons. The tank should be securely covered as these fish are skilled jumpers and will probably do so if given the opportunity.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly

Aquarium Setup

 Black Neon Tetras are somewhat more demanding than the Neon Tetra.  This fish is active and does best with a half dozen of its kind to school with, so requires at least a 20 gallons aquarium. It does best kept in soft, peat-filtered water. These fish prefer some plant cover and a darker gravel.  To get the best out of this fish, set up a biotype tank.  For the substrate use a river sand with some drift wood and twisted roots.  Add some dried leaves to the tan, which will stain the water a light brown and replace leaves every few weeks.  Use dim lighting and it will develop the tetras best coloring.

It is commercially bred in huge numbers, so is adaptable and will thrive in most well-maintained tanks. It does look particularly effective in a heavily-planted setup, though, and can appear a little washed out the decor is too sparse.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L) - This fish requires at least twenty gallons and a half dozen of its kind to school with.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Substrate Type: Any - They appreciate a darker colored gravel.
  • Lighting Needs: Low - subdued lighting - Subdued lighting and a dark, shadowy set up bring out the best of the iridescence of their coloration.
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 82.0° F (23.9 to 27.8° C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 80.0° F
  • Range ph: 5.0-7.5 - Although it will survive in slightly alkaline water, it tends to be more colourful when kept in acidic conditions
  • Hardness Range: 6 - 15 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: All

Social Behaviors

The Black Neon Tetra is ideal for a community aquarium with other peaceful fish. This tetra is known to be one of the best tetras for community tank setups.  It is a very active and peaceful fish and colors are very eye pleasing.  These tetras should always be bought in groups of 6 or more.  The best tank mates for the Black Neon Tetra is most livebearers, danionins, rasboras, other tetras, peaceful bottom dwellers and most of the peaceful gouramis.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - They do best kept in groups of 6 or more.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Safe
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - not aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

Mature females are more rounded in the belly than males, and tend to grow a little larger

Breeding / Reproduction

Suggested breeding conditions: pH 6.0, 4° dGH, 80° F. The Black Neon Tetras are egg layers. They freely spawn in schools or in pairs. For a description of breeding characin fish, see Breeding Freshwater Fish: Characins.

  • Ease of Breeding: Easy - Live foods and peat filter water will encourage this fish to spawn.

Fish Diseases

As with most fish the Black Neon Tetra are prone to skin flukes, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), ichthyobodo infection, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), bacterial infections (general), and bacterial disease.  Black Neon Tetra are extremely hardy and disease is not usually a problem in a well maintained aquarium. That being said there is no guarantee that you won't have to deal with health problems or disease. Remember anything you add to your tank can bring disease to your tank. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so not to upset the balance.

A good thing about Black Neon Tetra is that due to their resilience, an outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if you deal with it at an early stage. When keeping more sensitive types of fish, it is common for all fishes to be infected even before the first warning signs can be noticed. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your Black Neon Tetra the proper environment and give them a well balanced diet. The closer to their natural habitat the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happy. Stressed fish are more likely to acquire disease.

For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments. This is a great source for information on disease and treatments. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. Black Neon Tetra are very resilient.


The Black Neon Tetra is readily available and inexpensive.


Author: David Brough CFS, Jeremy Roche
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Lastest Animal Stories on Black Neon Tetra

Connor - 2014-10-15
I have 3 of these lovely black neon tetras and they are lovely and they are very placid fish. Mine eat quite well and they aren't shy, they don't come out all of the time most of the time they do. I am planning on getting some more so I recommend you get these fish in your tank.

Chris F - 2014-06-01
I have 4 black neon tetras and 3 swordtails, two of my swordtails died and left one female, will she be ok with the tetras? She chases them around but never nips at them.

monica - 2013-01-06
i got these black neon tetras in my 48G tank with my zebra danios (5) , 8 white cloud mountain minnows, 1 bristle nose pleco and two hill stream loaches what i can say these fishes do get on well , swim fantastic together ( shoal together ) , show bright colors :) Now i am cycling my 16G long tank , planning to put a small group of black neon tetras (6) with a apple snail :), they are my favorite fish

Benzoca - 2009-10-16
From my experience I don't think bettas should be with black neons since black neons like to be in shoals. I suggest having them with neon tetras like I have, also if you don't have any plants, try getting some with gravel, its better for them.