Are Neon Tetras Right for My Aquarium?

The Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi), is a peaceful fish that is ideal for community aquariums. These schooling fish grow to be 4 cm, and tolerate temperatures from 20-26ยบ C. Neons can tolerate ph values from 6-8, but prefer a mid to lower value of 6.5-7. Originally from South America, most Neon Tetras available for sale are now commercially bred.

What do they eat?

Neon Tetras are not picky about what they eat. Quality tropical flake food is good but may have to be crushed up with your fingers while feeding. Frozen baby brine shrimp once in a while is a good idea, too.

My favorite Tetra Foods

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It will take a hobbyist some practice to tell the difference between male and female Neon Tetras, as differences between the sexes are not easy to notice. The female is more robust with a rounder belly, with the males being more slender. The iridescent blue line that gives the Neon its name usually does not shine as bright on the female, and is slightly bent compared to that of the male.

What Makes a Neon Tetra Glow?

Neon Tetras, and other fish with iridescent colors, glow because of cells called iridophores. These cells contain guanine crystals that reflect light and enhance certain colors of light when viewed at different angles. Iridophores expand when there is a lot of light shinning on them (such as when Neons emit a bright blue color), and contract in the dark (such as the pale green color of Neons Tetras first thing in the morning).

Since Neon Tetras are often found in black water regions, or water that it very dark, iridophores are thought to serve as markers to let other Neons know where the rest of their school is. Basically, the “neon” quality of the Neon Tetra acts just like a lit-up sign, saying, “Hey, I’m over here, lets go for a swim!”

What Tank Size Does it Need?

Since Neons are small in size, they are suitable for 2 gallon desk top aquariums, to the largest of tanks. Caution should be used in bigger tanks with powerful filters, as Neons sometimes get sucked into the intake tubes. Using a piece of sponge to cover the tube will prevent this.

Since Neon Tetras can survive in a wide range of temperatures, they can usually survive in an unheated aquarium kept at room temperature. In cooler conditions, though, the colors of the Neon Tetra tend to fade.

Even though Neons are suitable for small tanks, they should not be kept in bowls. These fish originate in the fast moving, clean water of rivers. Without a filter, Neon Tetras won’t last long. The only fish suitable for bowls are Bettas.

What Fish Can be Kept With Neon Tetras?

Though these Tetras are peaceful, their small size puts them at a disadvantage. Any fish that can get another into its mouth probably will (such as angelfish), so keep Neons with fish that get no bigger than 7 cm. Fish such as Glowlight, Rummy-nose, and Red Eye Tetras, as well as Harlequin Rasboras and Cory Cats make excellent tank mates.

Aquarium Decorations

Tetras appreciate a well planted aquarium. To keep aquarium plants alive and healthy, fluorescent light is needed, which many small aquariums do not have. In this case, silk and/or plastic plants make an adequate substitute.

Driftwood also makes a great addition to a fish tank housing Neons. It will buffer the water, creating the soft conditions they enjoy. Driftwood also provides shade in the aquarium, and Neon Tetras do enjoy darker areas.