Pet Tetra Care Sheet

Author: Kristy Walker   Date Posted: 2 April 2018 

NEON TETRA (Paracheirodon innesi)

Neon tetras are a relatively easy pet to take care of. They thrive in an appropriately sized tank, good water conditions with the right temperature, and do require some set-up and maintenance to thrive.

They are a brightly coloured, small fish that is a good choice for beginners and can add brightness and life to your fish tank. Neon tetras have been a popular choice for aquarium hobbyists since the 1930’s! 


Scientific Name

Natural Range

Black neon tetra

Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi

Paraguay, south Brazil

Cardinal tetra

Paracheirodon axelrodi

South America

Diamond tetra

Moenkhausia pittieri

Venezuela, South America

Glowlight tetra

Hemigrammus erythrozonus

Guyana, South America

Green neon tetra

Paracheirodon simulans

South America

Rummynose tetra

Hemigrammus rhodostomus

South America


What size tanks do neon tetras need?

Your neon tetras should be kept in a minimum 20L tank, and are a shoaling species. This means that you should have at least five neon tetras in your tank, but an optimum number is ten tetras. 

Large, aggressive fish should be avoided, as they may chase or even eat your tetras.

Your fish tank will need a filter, heater and thermometer to keep the tank at the best conditions for your neons. Live plants and decorations that will provide hiding places are great additions to your tank. In the wild, neon tetras are used to having lots of plant life, so the more live plantsand driftwood creationyou can add, the better!


What kind of water do you need for neon tetras?

For best results, your neon tetra’s tank should be cycled before bringing him home. Water cycling involves setting up your tank without any fish in it and monitoring the water until the ammonia and nitrate levels are undetectable. You should also carefully maintain your pH levels, as neon tetras thrive in a pH range of 5.5 to 6.8. You can monitor and test your water conditions using a Freshwater Test Kit.

Once your tank has successfully cycled, you can bring your fish home. Introduce them to your tank by sitting their closed bag in the top for a minimum of 15 minutes, allowing them to adjust to any changes in temperature. 

Ideally, once your tank is up and running, you should test your water conditions once a week to identify any water quality issues early. In a cycled and filtered tank size of 20L or above, a weekly water change of 15-25% is recommended. A water conditioner should be added during each water change. During the water change it’s a good idea to use a gravel vacuum to clean any signs of detritus on the substrate to help keep your tank clean. 


What temperature do neon tetras need?

Your neon tetras will do best in a water temperature between 21-27°C. You should add a thermometer to your tank to monitor the temperature. 

In some Australian climates, you may not need a heater for this temperature range.


What do neon tetras eat?

Neon tetras in the wild eat an omnivorous diet primarily feeding on insects and larvae. In aquariums, neon tetras will happily accept most food types, including flakemicro pelletsor frozen foods such as bloodworms or brine shrimp. 

Care should be taken not to feed foods that are too large, as neon tetras have quite small mouths. You can feed your neons 2-3 times per day, with the occasional day of fasting. 

Overfeeding can also result in excess tank waste and should be avoided, or the excess removed from the tank.


What fish can I keep with neon tetras?

Due to the small size of neons, it’s important to avoid housing them with large, aggressive or carnivorous fish. Surprisingly, provided you don’t have a particularly aggressive betta, you can house them together!

Other small fish such as guppies, minnows, cories or plecos can all be suitable tankmates for your neons, as well as snails, shrimps and even some species of frog!

It is critically important that you keep at least 5 neon tetras together to avoid stress, which can be fatal, but a community of ten is ideal. 


What can I add to a neon tetra’s tank?

In the wild, tetras live in heavily planted, dark environments. You can recreate this environment for them by including plenty of live aquarium plants, creating spaces with lots of dark, safe hiding places. 

As neon tetras are native to the Amazon river, you can also include a live plant such as the Echinodorus bleheri (Amazon sword plant). A driftwood creationis a safe addition to your neon tetra’s tank that will also look great.

Substrate added to your tank should be large enough to not cause a choking hazard, or be a non-harmful substance like sand. Darker coloured substrate is a safer choice, as light, bright colours can cause stress to your fish. 


How long do neon tetras live for?

While neon tetras in the wild can live up to 10 years, their life span is considerably shorter in captivity. 

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