Neon Tetra

Family: Characidae Neon Tetra, Paracheirodon innesiParacheirodon innesiPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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I have an unoccupied tank and there are a few mosquito larvae in it. is it okay if a put fish in it? or do I need to get them out?  Anonymous

The Neon Tetra has been in the hobby for many years, and is still the most popular of all aquarium fishes!

The Neon Tetra Paracheirodon innesi has a long history as a very exciting addition to the aquarium hobby. It created a stir when first introduced in the 1930's and is still sought after by aquarium enthusiasts today. A school of flashing Neon Tetras makes a brilliant display and will liven up any peaceful community tank.

The Neon shares its popularity spotlight with its close relative the Cardinal Tetra Paracheirodon axelrodi. These two tetras are very similar in appearance, but the Cardinal Tetra is a bit more gaudy. It has red coloring running along the whole length of its body rather than just the back half. It is also more delicate and a little more of a challenge to maintain. The Neon Tetra is every bit as attractive but is much easier to keep, and it's also easier to breed than the Cardinal.

These little tetras are active schooling fish. They are most comfortable and show their best colors when kept in a school of 6 or more fish. They are one of the most peaceful tetras and a very desirable community fish. Keep them only with other small fishes or in their own tank. Their small size can easily make them a gourmet meal for larger fishes!

Neon Tetras can be kept in a planted aquarium with a dark gravel substrate. They can also be kept in an aquarium with a lot of driftwood or bog wood, to better simulate their natural habitat. Both of those types of decor will help to display their colors. Their water should be soft, clean, slightly acidic, and changed regularly. The Neon Tetra can live 10 years or more with the proper conditions.

If it is kept in good conditions, the Neon Tetra is easy to keep and will resist disease. However, as with any aquarium fish, if the tank is unstable it can succumb to illness. The worst fear of a tetra keeper is the Neon Tetra disease, an essentially incurable and a highly contagious disease of unknown origin and cause. It was first diagnosed in Neons, so earned its name, but it can actually affect many other species.

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


Geographic Distribution
Paracheirodon innesi
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Characiformes
  • Family: Characidae
  • Genus: Paracheirodon
  • Species: innesi
Neon Tetras

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Because of its bright flashy colors and it's lively nature, the Neon Tetra is easily the most popular fish of all aquarium fishes!

The Neon Tetra was a very exciting addition to the aquarium hobby when first introduced in the 1930's, and is still sought after by aquarium enthusiasts today. A school of flashing Neon Tetras makes a brilliant display. It is an active schooling fish, one of the most peaceful tetras, and a very desirable community fish. Keep them only with other small fishes or in their own tank. Their small size can easily make them a qourmet meal for larger fishes! They are most comfortable and show their best colors when kept in a school of 6 or more fish. They like a planted aquarium and a dark gravel substrate. Their water should be soft, clean, slightly acidic, and changed regularly. The Neon Tetra can live 10 years or more with the proper conditions.

Neon Tetra - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of fish - inches: 1.6 inches (3.99 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperature: 68.0 to 77.0° F (20.0 to 25.0° C)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Neon Tetra Paracheirodon innesi was described by Géry in 1961. They are found in South America, the Paraguay River basin; Rio Taquari, Pantanal of Mato Grosso do Sul, and Brazil. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List.

In nature these fish prefer to inhabit the slow moving tributaries off of main rivers. These are regions of black waters overcast by a dense forest canopy, allowing little light to get through. They live in shoals mainly in the middle water layers and feed on worms and small crustaceans.

Neon Tetras are now generally all captive-bred with most coming from the Far East and eastern Europe. There are a also several different varieties of captive bred specimens available. These include the Long Finned Neon Tetra, though it is rather rare, as well as a "golden" strain that's basically a semi-albino variety, and a "diamond" Neon Tetra that appears sprinkled with metallic scales along the top portion of the body.

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

Description

The Neon Tetra is a small slim-bodied species of tetra. This fish will reach about 1.5 inches (4 cm) in length and will generally live 5 - 8 years in the aquarium, though may even live up to 10 years. It is similar in appearance to the Cardinal Tetra with its horizontal stripe that seems to glow, but is a distinctly different fish.

They can readily be identified, with each fish having a very beautiful red stripe next to an an electric blue neon stripe. The difference is that the red stripe on the Neon Tetra runs only halfway up the body while it runs the full length of the body on the Cardinal Tetra.

  • Size of fish - inches: 1.6 inches (3.99 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 years - The Neon Tetra can have a lifespan of up to 10 years, though generally they live about 5 - 8 years in the aquarium.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Neon Tetra is a durable fish that is good for the beginner fish keeper. They are commercially bred in huge numbers, so are adaptable and will thrive in most well-maintained tanks. This fish is very hardy although it will be markedly more delicate in the first week or so after being introduced to a new tank. Hobbyists should also be aware of the incurable neon tetra disease.

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

Foods and Feeding

Neon Tetra, Paracheirodon innesi
Photo © Animal-World: Courtesy Tim

Since they are omnivorous the Neon Tetra will generally eat all kinds of small or finely ground foods; live, fresh, and flake. 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. These tetras like several feedings a day, but offer only what they can consume in 3 minutes or less at each feeding.

  • 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

Aquarium Care

The Neon Tetra is to care for provided the water is kept clean. Aquariums are closed systems and regardless on size all need some maintenance. Over time decomposing organic matter, nitrates, and phosphate build up and the water hardness increases due to evaporation. To combat these ever changing conditions water should be replaced on a regular basis, especially if the tank is densely stocked. At least 25 - 50% of the tank water should be replaced every other week.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly

Aquarium Setup

The Neon Tetra is active and does best with 6 or more of its kind to school with. A school will be comfortable in a 10 gallon aquarium. Though they are somewhat less demanding in their water conditions than the Cardinal Tetras, they should have peat-filtered water. These fish also prefer to have a bit of a current to swim into, this can be accomplished with canister filters or powerheads. Make sure the intake of the filter is such that these small fish do not get sucked into the filter. Covering the intake with mesh or some foam filter media will prevent any accidents. Use dim lighting to help will develop the tetras best coloring.

These fish prefer some plant cover and a darker gravel. A biotype setup is a great choice for this tetra and is very easy to put together. 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.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L) - Ten gallons is sufficient to hold the small school of fish individuals of this species require to be comfortable.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 68.0 to 77.0° F (20.0 to 25.0° C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 75.0° F - Recommended breeding conditions: pH 5.0-6.0, 1-2 dGH, temperature 75° F.
  • Range ph: 5.0-8.0
  • Hardness Range: 3 - 25 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: All - These fish will swim anywhere, but tend to favor the middle of the aquarium or wherever the most swimming space is.

Social Behaviors

Picture of Neon Tetras
Photo © Animal-World

The Neon Tetra are ideal for a community aquarium with other peaceful fish. These fish do not do well with aggressive or larger fish. It is best not to keep them with larger fish like angels. Good tankmates that can be kept with this fish are other small tetras, hatchet fish, pencil fish, Corydoras, smaller rasboras, and peaceful barbs. They are most comfortable and show their best colors when kept in a school of 6 or more fish.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - This fish is fairly active and social but it should be kept in a small school of at least six Neon Tetras.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - not aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

The male is slender and the blue line is straighter. The female is rounder producing a bent blue line.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Neon Tetras are egg layers. The female will lay up to 130 eggs. They are considered somewhat difficult to breed. Success has been had, however, by using especially soft acidic water, intense sterilization of the breeding tank and everything used in and on the tank, and making sure that you have compatible pairing of fish. The eggs are especially sensitive to light. Recommended conditions: pH 5.0-6.0, 1-2° dGH, 75° F. For a description of breeding characin fish, see Breeding Freshwater Fish: Characins, and Fish Food for Fry for more information.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate - This fish is often unwilling to breed in the home aquarium although good results can be achieved when spawning is induced.

Fish Diseases

The Neon Tetra will resist disease as long as the tank is kept in clean, stable condition. The worst fear of a tetra keeper is the Neon Tetra disease, an essentially incurable and a highly contagious disease of unknown origin and cause. It was first diagnosed in Neons, so earned its name, but it can actually affect many other species.

The 'Neon Tetra Disease' has been identified as a microscopic sporozoan in the genus Plistophora. It shows up on the fish as a spreading spot or blemish beneath the dorsal fin. There have been attempts to cure this disease with the use of Methylene Blue, but it is not always successful, so the disease is considered incurable. This disease has also been spotted on the Glowlight Tetra Hemigrammus erythrozonus, and the Rosy Tetra Hemigrammus erythrozonus.

A good thing about this 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. 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 provide 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.

As with most fish, the Neon Tetra can be prone to skin flukes, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), ichthyobodo infection, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), bacterial infections (general), and bacterial disease. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

Availability

The Neon Tetra is readily available and inexpensive.

References

Author: Barbara Roth, Clarice Brough CFS
Lastest Animal Stories on Neon Tetra

Anonymous - 2014-07-28
I have an unoccupied tank and there are a few mosquito larvae in it. is it okay if a put fish in it? or do I need to get them out?

Reply
Tony - 2005-01-02
I have 20 gal tank heavily planted with pigmy sword plant and dense valisneria spiralis alng the back side of tank. Tank has been runing for about 2 weeks but I introduced lots of aerobic bacteria to age my filter faster. Fairly slow water flow but incredibly well filtered by my trickle filter. So i decided to put a school of 55 neons and 5 marble hatchets with 5 japonica shrimps [to take care of algae that may develop later on]. All fish did really well and not a single fish was lost due to fairly newly setup tank. After about 10 days of feeding all fish with high quality flakes in the morning and frozen blood worms in the evening, along with 25 % water change 2xweek [they seem to love this treatment], to my amazement, i have seen at least half of all neons participate in a group spawning.It looked like they are all spawning. Males were fighting for little territories, females would swim into those territories while males would start their love play and entice females deeper into foliage where they would almost immediately commence with a spawning act. By the time i get home from work i can see all females much thinner than in the morning [before feeding]. This is repeating almost everyday. I can sit and watch these little fish for hours. They have their personality and charm. They are very little fish, but if treated well and if there is no real threat to their safety they relax and surprise their owner with their interesting behaviour.
The biggest mistake a beginner can make is to try keep these fish together with some bigger, stronger fish. They are happiest if they can run their own show without being chased by bigger fish [even dwarf chiclids]. Good luck and enjoy these breath taking little creatures.

Reply
Iv - 2003-08-27
VERY GOOD FISH, GOOD FOR BEGGINERS AND FOR EXPERTS. People say you shouldnt keep them with angel fish but you could. Just buy the neons in an aquarium and wait until thay get around 1 inch or bigger. Then go to the store and buy baby angel fish and put them together. Then the angels mouths would be small and they could not eat the neons, and when they get big they would have already gotten used to the neons. HAPPY FISH KEEPING!

  • kye turnbull - 2013-05-09
    Yea just like how I kept a baby tandanus catfish with my favorite guppies. 4 months later my tandanus catfish ate them! That's not how it works!
Reply
Henry Chua - 2003-09-12
Lovely. It was ironic that I did not have any interest in any Tetras before. I thought small fishes were unattractive and dies within weeks. However, I was wrong. They proved hardy and impressed me tremendously with their flashy colors. I have twelve of them, and it is interesting to see their colors flashing again after the lights were turned on after total darkness. They almost appeared colorless. I noticed they do eat a lot. Remember not to overfeed. Just because they are tiny does not mean you have to feed exactly the way you do for bigger fishes! DO NOT add in other bigger sized fishes (Plecos, etc) as Neon Tetras sleeps and rests at the bottom and bigger fishes will simply vacuum them in.

Reply
Kamperoni - 2009-01-23
A very fun fish! They look really good in bigger schools and should be kept in groups of atleast 5. I found that they're fairly sensitive at first though, and lost several to the filter intake too:( Once settled in they make a great addition to your tank!

Reply
Deedee - 2005-03-03
We get neons by the dozens and we have to do it from time to time because they do not last as long as they should. Now I realize if we got the $4/each ones it would be more responsible, but the 50 cent/each ones allow quantities of 75 at a time. They do look so wonderful in large schools though. They share their 90 gallon heavily planted and filtered auto-c02 controlled tank with 9 Clown Loaches, couple pearl gouramis, dozen rummynose, handful of glasscats, handful of bleedingheart tetras, couple catfish and a handful of cories. Wish I could afford 75 of the $4/each ones! They are stunning.

  • Anonymous - 2010-05-16
    Your tank is overstocked.
Reply

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