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Neon Tetra

The biological family Characidae (characin) are small freshwater fishes found in South America, Central America, and Africa. The common name for this family is “Tetra” which means “square-finned”.

This family of fishes has four unpaired fins which contribute to the common name given to them. The distinguishing feature of Tetras is a fleshy adipose fin attached between their causal and dorsal fins.

Tetra has gained wide fame among fishkeeping hobbyist due to their colorful nature that makes them conspicuous and intriguing inside aquaria. For example, Neon Tetra is one of the most captive raised small fish in The U.S. Although, non-Tetra families that have this beautiful nature and are also captive-raised have adopted the tetra name because of the popularity of the Tetras among fishkeeping hobbyist. A good example is the payara (Hydrolycus scomberoides) commonly known as “sabretooth tetra”.

Our focus here is the Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi), a species of the characin family, habitat in freshwater and blackwater stream in the Amazon and Orinoco basin of South America with the highest population found in the Amazon River basin.

An endearing and charming feature of this small creature is the arrangement of bright turquoise blue over a silver-white abdomen and red color around its flesh making them a perfect choice for the aquarium. The turquoise blue color runs from the eyes of this small aquatic creature down to its adipose fin while its bright red color takes a faint start from the center of its body and broadens through to its caudal fin making a perfect color arrangement to the body.

The color of the Neon Tetra is a perfect match for their spindle-like body shape and large eyes that makes up most of the small head which add further beauty and make them noticeable even from some distance away from the aquarium.

The average growth size of a Neon Tetra is placed around 1.5 inches but they can grow as much as 2.5 inches which are most common when there is proper and continuous care.

As beautiful as this small aquatic creature is and as much as it stands out, it does not attract their temperament against each other. They have a very mild temperament hence, they’re not likely to be seen fighting inside the aquarium thereby killing or hurting themselves.

Neon tetra is a great community fish, they can be in a school of non-violent, small species of other fishes like Cory, Barbs, Dwarf Cichlids, and Gouramis (not the giant, pearl or opaline Gouramis). This serves as a good form of relaxation as the fish dance their way through the tank displaying their dashes of colors.

After the importation of Neon tetra from their natural home in South America in 1936, most of them have been captive raised and bred in different parts of the world and in The U.S alone, about 24 million are purchased annually which keeps the figure as the number one most raised fish in the aquarium.


If you’re probably thinking of venturing into keeping an aquarium, Neon tetra will be a very good startup because they’re much easier to raise with not too stringent conditions in keeping them alive.

For their survival, a replica of their natural habitat must be created for them artificially. Naturally, Neon tetras are found in regions with a temperature range of 20 – 28 0C (68 – 82 0F), pH of 6 – 7.5 and less light intensity. The best lighting for your aquarium should be a 2 watts per gallon lighting system.

A newly setup tank is one of the sure ways to short-live Tetras as they are very sensitive to water changes. The best tank conditions are established and matured tanks.

If the tank conditions are kept to standard from the onset, about 25% water changes should be done weekly to maintain the condition or you might be finding your Tetras floating the next morning.

Due to their tiny nature, Neon tetra feels unsafe when they notice any larger object hence, they need to hide away from their supposed predators. Growing plant and adding some tiny rocks into the tank can serve as hiding spots for them and make them feel safer.

The least number of Neon tetra that should be in a 10-gallon tank should be six but the number that makes up a school in a 20-gallon tank is at least 15. Neon Tetra price between $1.5 - $2, you may decide to go for 15 for a good experience.

Neon Tetra Feeding

Naturally, Neon Tetras are omnivores (i.e. they can feed on plants and other things) hence, they can accept brine shrimp, flake foods, daphnia, tubifex, freeze-dried bloodworms or pellets. Neon tetra are small creatures with tiny digestive system so, any meal that will be passed to them must be made very tiny.

Feeding should be done twice a day for young ones and once for mature ones.

Life Span

Neon Tetras live for 7 – 9 years in their natural habitat but a maximum of 5-years in the aquarium. But this life cycle may be cut short if they contract the “Neon Tetra disease” or pleistophora disease – a disease caused by pleistophora hyphessobryconis which causes restlessness, curved spines, lumps on the body which causes cyst development, loss of coloration, difficulty in swimming and some secondary infection like rot fin as the disease progresses. There is actually no cure for the disease so, the best cure is to destroy the whole school of fish.

Neon Tetra Breeding

Breeding is not so easy for the novice but one can separate the male (identified by blue straight line since they’re slimmer) and female (identified by bent blue line since they’re round), put them in a separate tank where there is no light and gradually increase the light until reproduction takes place.

Cardinal Tetra

A very close species to the neon tetra is the Cardinal Tetra which is more beautiful than the Neon Tetra because its red and blue color runs parallel to each other. While Neon is captive raised, Cardinal is not making them more expensive but both have close living conditions.