The Ultimate Neon Tetra Care Guide: Colors, Price and More…

Neon Tetras are consider must haves for most people in the aquarium hobby.

Their incredibly striking color and entrancing schooling behavior has turned them into one of the most popular freshwater fish around.

They are very peaceful and easygoing and they will generally keep to themselves.

Because of their peaceful temperament they make great tank mates for a wide array of other fish.

Are you interested in adding a school of Neon Tetras to your tank?

Keep reading to learn everything about them include color varieties, breeding, tank mates and much more…

Neon Tetra
Scientific Name: Paracheirodon innesi
Family Name: Characidae
Distribution: South America (Amazon river and basin)
Size: 1-1.5 inches
Color: Semi-translucent body with neon blue and red horizontal stripes
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful and non-confrontational
Lifespan: 5-10 years
Minimum Tank Size: 10+ gallons
Tank Mate Compatibility: Nano fish, small shrimp and snails

School of Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra Overview

The Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) is one of the most popular freshwater around.

It is estimated that over a million individuals are sold each month!

They are best known for their bright neon colors and simple care requirements. Because of this they are truly one of the best species to keep for any level of fishkeeper.

Interestingly their bright neon colors turn dull at night when they are resting. The red and blue stripes become black and grey. They can also dull their neon colors when they feel threatened.

Overall this little fish is a wonderful addition to most freshwater community tanks and they can live up to 10 years.

Expect to pay between $2.50 and $5.00 at your local aquarium store for a single specimen.

Key Facts:

  • Experience Required: Ideal for beginners.
  • Nicknames: Paracheirodon innesi, Hyphessobrycon innesi.
  • Color Forms: Neon blue, red, black, green.
  • Size: ~1.5 inches.
  • Tank Size: Minimum 10+ gallon.
  • Tank Temperature: 70°F to 80°F.

Pros and Cons


  • Beginner friendly.
  • Easy way to add lots of color to your tank.
  • Have a long lifespan.
  • Can eat a wide range of food.
  • Not aggressive or territorial.

  • Cannot be kept on their own.
  • Susceptible to Neon Tetra disease.
  • They can be difficult for beginners to breed.

Neon Tetra Appearance

Neon Tetra

The most distinguishable part of their appearance is their neon blue and red stripes that run through their body. Directly through their bodies runs a neon blue horizontal stripe which is matched by a neon red stripe directly underneath.

Underneath this neon color their body is somewhere between a bruised white and fully translucent color.

Their soft dorsal fin is located fairly far down their back and becomes pointed at the tip. Their pelvic and anal fins are completely see-through and are tucked tightly into their body. The red stripes on their underbellies bleed into their translucent caudal fins as well.

You should expect them to grow up to 1.5 inches in length.

The best way to distinguish between male and female is the size of the body. Females are generally larger than males and they tend to have a much more pronounced belly too.

Color variation is basically nonexistent between sexes apart from a bit more of a curve in the blue stripe of females.

Neon Tetra Colors

Black Neon Tetras (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi) have a jet black stripe through their torso with a layer of silver-yellow on top of it. They are also a touch larger than Neon Tetras and tend to reach around 2 inches in length.

Green Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon simulans) are a completely different species from the one being discussed in this article. The primary difference is their color. This fish has a teal stripe running horizontally through the torso in the same location as the neon blue stripe of the Neon Tetra.

Cardinal Tetra Vs Neon Tetra

Cardinal Tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi) look very similar to Neon Tetras and they are often confused with one another.

These fish are almost identical in size and color however there are a few differences which will help you tell the two species apart.

With Cardinal Tetras you should keep an eye out for thickness of the red underbelly stripe. It always connects all throughout the lower portion of the torso. Whereas with Neon Tetras the stripe is broken.

Also look at the shade of blue, with Cardinals it is a totally different hue and more shiny.

Their fins are also more pointed and sharper than their Neon cousins.

Finally Cardinal Tetras can grow up to a half-inch larger too.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

Neon Tetra Close Up

Neon Tetras’ natural habitat is warm and full of aquatic plants.

Before you add them to your tank you will need to cycle your aquarium.

You should also know that this fish is very sensitive to water changes so once you have reached the ideal water parameters you should maintain these parameters carefully.

The water temperature should be somewhere between 70°F-80°F, however they prefer temperatures towards the higher end of this scale. The pH levels are pretty flexible as well and can be anywhere from 6.0-8.0. As for water hardness anywhere from 10-15 dGH is ok.

To best emulate their natural habitat you should make sure there is not too much light breaking the surface of the water. This species thrives in close quartered environments with lots of plants in the mid and lower levels of the tank, so it should be a priority to include enough plants to make your Tetras feel safe.

Brazilian Pennywort is the best live plant to keep with this fish.

Again, it is crucial to prevent lots of light breaking through the water column.

As for their substrate in the wild the river bed is generally rocky and uneven, not sandy. The color of the substrate should be dark to make the neon red and blue stripes of the fish easier to point out.

Tank Parameter Requirement
Minimum Tank Size 10 Gallons
Tank Type Freshwater, heavily planted
Temperature 70-80°F
pH 6.0-8.0
Hardness 10-15 dGH
Flow Light
Substrate Small rocks or pebbles

What Size Aquarium Do They Need?

You can keep a group of 15 Neon Tetras in a 10 gallon aquarium.

For larger groups you should have at least a 20 gallon aquarium.

Tank Mates

Neon Tetra Schooling

In the wild Neon Tetras are typically only found with their own kind.

They live in very large schools and tend to stay away from other species of fish.

However their peaceful temperament makes them well suited for a wide variety of tank mates. Some of the most common tank mates include:

You can also consider non-fish tank mates such as:

  • Ghost Shrimp
  • Amano Shrimp
  • Spike-Topped Apple Snail

Neon Tetras should be kept away from more aggressive species.

Even if these aggressive fish do not directly attack your Tetras they will agitate them and discourage schooling and feeding behaviors. This lack of activity will lead to stress and other physical ailments such as fin deterioration.

A general rule of thumb to follow is that they should never be in a tank with fish that could swallow them whole. Some species we recommended to keep separate from Neon Tetras are:

  • Buenos Aires Tetra
  • Betta Fish
  • Freshwater Angelfish
  • Electric Blue Cichlid

Keeping Neon Tetra Together

Neon Tetras are naturally a schooling fish.

They can be found in the wild in schools of hundreds. It is not only acceptable, but greatly recommended to keep a moderately sized population in a tank if you are going to include them in your aquarium community.

Because they thrive in a school, they should be kept in groups of at least 15.

This will help encourage natural behavior and help to keep your Tetra healthy.

There is almost never any aggression towards one another and there is no required ratio of male-to-female necessary for harmonious living.

Neon Tetra Care

A Neon Tetra

Similar to other freshwater aquarium fish, the biggest illness that plagues Neon Tetras is stress.

Stress can be caused by poor water conditions, overly energetic tank mates or a poor diet.

If you follow the guidance within this article then you will be able to meet their care requirements and stress should not be an issue for your fish.

They are however susceptible to disease.

Maintaining the water parameters and keeping the water clean is vital to prevent diseases.

You should perform biweekly water changes and substrate rotation. Exchanging your current substrate for a new bottom layer can help remove both fish and plant waste that may be carrying dangerous toxins or bacteria. You will also need to operate a strict quarantine practice to make sure that any new additions to your aquarium are healthy and disease free.

Neon Tetra Disease

This disease is the product of a microscopic parasite.

Although it is called Neon Tetra Disease it does not only inflict Neon Tetras, but other members of the Tetra family too.

Unfortunately this illness is pretty common so you must keep an eye out for the following issues:

  • This disease originates from the dead bodies of fish. Although it is commonly passed through tanks when food gets infected.
  • The parasite will consume the innards of the fish before eating the rest of the body. This results in a very painful death.
  • Symptoms include lumps appearing on the inside of the fish’s body, trouble swimming, loss of color, and general agitation. If you notice any of these signs with your fish then you should remove them from your tank immediately.

There is no known cure for Neon Tetra disease.

The best way to make sure that this illness never becomes an issue in your tank is keep your tank as clean as possible and maintain strict quarantine and bio security measures.


Neon Tetras will hunt very small worms and crustaceans in the wild. They also enjoy picking at algae and other nutritious plant life.

Replicating this feeding environment in your aquarium is pretty straightforward.

A mix of live food and flakes is recommended.

Providing them with loose live food helps to make their feeding time active which is very important for their mental health.

You can also give them vegetative tablets to help fulfil their appetite for greenery. You can also try gel foods which are packed with vegetables like lettuce and kale.

What food can they eat?

  • Algae
  • Insect larvae
  • Flake food
  • Brine shrimp
  • Daphnia
  • Bloodworms
  • Tubifex

You should feed them once a day and they should be able to eat all the food within 10 minutes.


They are schooling fish and in the wild their school can range into the hundreds.

A typical aquarium enthusiast should keep a population in the range of 15 to 25 individuals to encourage schooling behavior.

You will often see your Tetras schooling together and feeding together. They are a free swimming species and spend the majority of their time operating in the middle level of the tank.

Neon Tetras are generally a docile species when interacting both within their own school and with other species.

They are typically quite energetic and active.

Paracheirodon innesi

Breeding Neon Tetra

Breeding Neon Tetras is definitely one of the most difficult aspects of keeping this species.

You can bred them in a home aquarium however it is challenging.

A larger population will also result in a higher success rate when it comes to breeding. Also less male competition for breeding rights with certain females will increase your success rate with eggs that come to spawn.

You should first establish a separate breeding tank.

Lower the water’s pH to anywhere between 5.0 and 6.0, and set up either a makeshift filtration system or insert a sponge into the center of the tank. The water temperatures should be anywhere from 70-75°F.

Plants are also need to create a suitable breeding environment. You can heavily plant the tank with Java Moss, Indian Fern or Brazilian Pennywort.

You should reduce the light inside the tank to as little as possible by covering all sides of the tank besides one (for viewing purposes).

To encourage breeding you should remove all the light from the tank.

The male will take hold of the female from the bottom and the female will lay anywhere from 80 to 100 eggs. This process generally takes place in the early hours of the morning. The breeding pair will eat the eggs they have just laid if they are kept in the same tank, so they must be removed immediately.

You should keep the lighting low for the next day or so until they hatch.

There is a fairly low success rate – so if there are only 20-40 eggs that hatch do not be alarmed.

The fry will be free swimming in less than a week’s time, and a few weeks after that they can be added to the general population.

History and First Sighting

Neon Tetra Tank Setup

The species was first discovered during the 1930s – the exact year is unknown.

We do know though that they were discovered by an adventurer named Auguste Rabaut.

Auguste was travelling in South America and he was allegedly shown a specimen by a woman.

He purchased as many as he could and traveled back to Paris, where he then sold them into the commercial animal trade. They eventually made their way to the United States in the late 1930s and the demand for them exploded. They quickly became popular in home aquariums across the country.

The species was added into the scientific lexicon in 1936 by ichthyologist George S. Myers, who named them after the well-known aquarist William T. Innes.

Since then their popularity has only grown and it is estimated over a million Neon Tetras are sold each month.

Should You Keep Neon Tetras? (Summary)

The Neon Tetra is a must-have for anyone looking to add some color to their aquarium.

If you give them a heavily planted tank then this fish will thrive and their colors will be impossible to ignore.

They make fantastic additions to nearly every freshwater set up and their peaceful disposition makes them great tank mates too.

People at every level of the hobby should make room for this incredibly beautiful species.

Are you planning on adding this fabulous fish to your tank?

Let us know in the comments section below…