The Black Neon Tetra Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi is a handsome, energetic fish. Placing this fish in an aquarium with contrasting plants and a dark background will create a dynamic and beautiful showtank. They have a great personality and can be kept in a community with a variety of other friendly fish species.

This fish has a similar appearance to the Neon TetraParacheirodon innesi 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.

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 a great beginner fish. They are easy to feed and can thrive in many aquarium conditions, even waters that are harder and more alkaline then their native Amazon habitat. When kept in softer and more acidic waters, they will freely spawn in schools or in pairs, making them good candidates for the novice aquarist interested in a breeding project as well.

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

Scientific Classification


Black Neon Tetra – Quick Aquarium Care

Aquarist Experience Level:Beginner
Aquarium Hardiness:Very hardy
Minimum Tank Size:20 gal (76 L)
Size of fish – inches1.6 inches (3.99 cm)
Temperature:75.0 to 82.0° F (23.9 to 27.8&deg C)

Habitat: Distribution / Background

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

In the wild, these fish prefer 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 by decaying organic material. It is a schooling fish and its natural diet consists of small invertebrates and plants, and most likely also includes crustacea, filamentous algae, and fallen fruits.

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


The Black Neon Tetra is a small, 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 and 10 years. It is similar in appearance to the Neon Tetra with its horizontal stripe that seems to glow, but it is a distinctly different fish. The Black Neon Tetra can readily be identified by its enamel-white to greenish neon stripe that contrasts with a rich velvety black color below it. There is also an ornamental albino form that is sometimes available.

  • 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 beginning fish keeper.  They adapt well to many aquarium conditions and are very easy to feed.  These fish get along well with most other peaceful, community fish.

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

Foods and Feeding

The Black Neon Tetras are omnivorous. In the wild they feed on small invertebrates and plants, and most likely includes tiny crustacea, filamentous algae, and fallen fruits. In the aquarium they will generally eat all kinds of live, fresh, and flake foods. To keep a good balance, give them a high quality flake food every day. 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 to 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 it requires at least a 20-gallon aquarium. It can thrive in many aquarium conditions, but does best when kept in soft, peat-filtered water, especially when breeding. These fish prefer some plant cover and a darker gravel.

The Black Neon Tetra is commercially bred in huge numbers, so it is adaptable and will thrive in most well-maintained tanks. It looks particularly impressive in a heavily-planted aquarium, though, and can appear a little washed out if the decor is too sparse.

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 the leaves every few weeks. Using dim lighting will develop the tetras’ coloring to best effect.

  • 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 dark gravel.
  • Lighting Needs: Low – subdued lighting – Subdued lighting and a dark, shadowy setup will best showcase the iridescence of their coloration.
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 82.0° F (23.9 to 27.8&deg C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 80.0° F – Condition breeders at 75° F (24° C) for a few days, then elevate the temperature to 80° F (26.7° C) to stimulate spawning.
  • 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 its colors are very eye-pleasing.  These tetras should always be kept in groups of 6 or more. The best tankmates for the Black Neon Tetra are 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
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Threat – Tetras will out compete them for food.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe – not aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sexual differences

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

Breeding / Reproduction

The Black Neon Tetra has been successfully bred in captivity. In fact, available Black Neon Tetras are now generally all captive-bred, and an albino form is also sometimes available. These fish are egg layers and freely spawn in schools or in pairs, but unless breeding pairs are isolated, the eggs and fry will almost certainly be eaten. Keep breeders in a separate tank to get the best number of fry.

A 10-gallon spawning tank is adequate. Black Neon Tetras require softer and more acidic water to spawn. Failing to breed, in most cases, is due to unsuitable water conditions. The water should be slightly acidic with a pH of 6.0 and a hardness of 4° dGH or less. Fine-textured, live plants can be provided for a spawning medium, and floating plants will help keep the tank dim. A layer of mesh works, too, but make sure it is wide enough to let eggs to pass through but small enough to keep the parents out. Start out the breeding pair in a dark tank then gradually increase the amount of light until spawning occurs. The eggs seem to be light sensitive, so keep the tank dimmed after the spawn. A small, air-powered sponge filter is needed for filtration and will provide a gentle water flow. Filtering the water through aquarium-safe peat will also encourage these fish to spawn.

To optimize breeding success, condition the males and females by feeding them plenty of small, live foods. Select a breeding pair or small group and transfer them to the breeding tank. A mature female’s belly will become nicely rounded when she is full of eggs. Choose males that are the most colorful. A breeding group should include 1 or 2 males with several females. While conditioning the breeders, keep the spawning tank at 75° F (24° C). After a few days, slowly elevate the temperature to about 80° F (26.7° C).

Black Neon Tetras typically spawn in the morning, and each female can produce several hundred eggs. The females will deposit tiny, clear, slightly adhesive (sticky) eggs among the fine-leaved plants. The eggs will hatch in approximately 22 to 26 hours, and the fry will appear 3 to 4 days later. The fry are very small, which makes them rather difficult to rear. For the first few days, feed the fry infusoria-type foods until they can feed on microworm or brine shrimp nauplii. Baby fish should to be kept isolated until they are too large to be eaten. See Breeding Freshwater Fish: Characins for a general description of breeding processes, and see Fish Food for Fry for information about types of foods for raising the young.

  • Ease of Breeding: Easy – They require soft, slightly acidic waters to spawn. The tiny fry are more difficult to rear.

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 that anything you add to your tank can introduce disease. 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 as to not upset the balance.

A good thing about Black Neon Tetras is that due to their resilience, an outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if dealt with 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 a well-balanced diet.

The more closely their environment resembles their natural habitat, the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happier. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs of common tank diseases and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


The Black Neon Tetra is readily available and inexpensive.



Featured Image Credit: chonlasub woravichan, Shutterstock