Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)

Neon Tetra

Species Details

Adult size: 1″
Origin: South America
Sexing: Females are plumper
Care level: Easy
Diet: Omnivore
Breeding method: Egg-scatterer
Breeding potential: Moderately difficult

Tank conditions

Minimum tank size: 10 gallons
Temperature: 22-26′C


Neon Tetras are a very popular small shoaling fish with a bright coloration. They are silver bodied with a bright neon blue horizontal stripe from its nose stretching the length of its body and bright red coloration half way along the side of the fish. Neons stay small throughout their life and will reach little more than one inch in adulthood. They can live up to ten years. They are found in the blackwater or clearwater stream tributaries of South America.

Neon tetras are a very peaceful fish and are suitable for a community tank. When mixing neon tetras it is important to consider their size as they can easily appear as prey to many larger species. In their natural environment, neon tetras can be found in large shoals and they should be kept in a group of at least five to exhibit shoaling behaviour in the aquarium. Neon tetras are much happier when kept in groups and will behave in a more natural manner.

Neon tetras are happy in a community tank and should be kept with other small non-aggressive fish. Ideal tank mates include other tetras, discus and other non-predatory, peaceful species that require similar aquarium conditions.

Neons will often swim out in open water but appreciate some natural cover to retreat into as they are naturally a timid species. A planted aquarium is a suitable habitat for them and they will do best in a heavily planted tank with dark substrate and dull lighting. They swim at all level of the tank and can look very attractive with their iridescent colors flashing throughout the aquarium.

In the wild, neon tetras have a very varied diet and will eat any small insects, crustaceans and vegetable matter that they come across. In the aquarium you need to ensure that you provide them with suitable food. They need small food items such as crushed flake, micro pellets and meaty foods like daphnia or small bloodworm. Color enhancing flake food is also available for brightly colored species such as neon tetras to ensure that they maintain their coloring in the aquarium environment.

It can often be difficult to notice the difference between male and female Neon tetras although the easiest way to tell from appearance is that females are generally deeper-bodied and there is often a noticeable bend in their blue stripe. Neon tetras are not the easiest fish to breed as they require very specific water conditions and they are not a prolific spawner. To breed neons, a pair should be separated into a breeding tank and fed a good diet of live food to encourage spawning activity. After the eggs are fertilized, the parents should be removed. The fry are very tiny and should be fed on very small food items such as liquid foods and rotifers until they are old enough to accept larger foods.

Due to commercial over breeding, neon tetras have become a delicate breed and extra care should be taken to reduce stress when introducing them to the aquarium. Another thing to look out for when keeping neons is neon tetra disease (Plistophora), which can be identified by fading of color, ulcers, fin rot and difficulty swimming. This disease is fatal and there is no known cure. If a fish is found with this condition it should be removed from the aquarium immediately to prevent further fish loss.

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