Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) features a shimmering blue body with a blazing red tail, it is one of the most beautiful tropical fish beginners can keep in their 20 gallon starter aquariums. Although they are not recommended for new tanks, these fish are splendid additions to any community tank. As a schooling fish it does best when housed in groups of five or more of the same species in a tank with several hiding spots. Because of the great color effect they make when swimming in schools, Neon Tetras are very popular in aquascaping world today.

General information of Neon Tetra

  • neon-tetra-caring
  • Scientific name: Paracheirodon innesi
  • Common names: Neon Tetra, Neon, Tetra
  • Origin: South America
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum length: 1.2-1.6 inches (3-4 cm)
  • Lifespan: up to 10 years.

Named Paracheirodon innesi by its scientific name, the Neon Tetra makes a part of the Characidae family from the Characiformes order. This species it’s very common in Brazil, Columbia and North of Peru on the headwaters of the Amazon River and its tributaries up to Iquitas. It lives in the blackwaters of these rivers, that’s why Dr. H. Axelrod hypothesized that its colorful and bright stripes on the body may help this fish find one another when mating in the murky waters.


Neon tetra tank

They have a slim body, average flatted on flanks with a blunt nose, males abdomen is slimmer compared with the female’s which is wider, especially when mature, they reach up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) in length. As far as colors goes they have one bright blue stripe and one bright green (depending on how the aquarium lighting shines on it) with a deep red stripe just bellow, which stretches to the base of the tail, the back is darker olive/green and the belly is silvery with colorless fins. Often confused with the Cardinal Tetra, the Neon Tetra has a red stripe that goes from the tail to the middle of its body, while the Cardinal has a longer red stripe.


Cardinal Tetra. Image from

If you’re a beginner aquarist, Neon Tetra is a good fish to keep and it doesn’t make any problems. Their life expectancy can be up to 10 years when kept in good condition that makes them great aquatic pets for hobbyists.

How to care for Neon Tetra?

Aquarium conditions

  • Tank size: 20 gallon aquarium
  • Optimal temperature: 70-81 °F (21–27 °C)
  • Water hardness: soft – medium
  • Acidity: optimal pH from 6 to 6.5
  • Filtration: hard
  • Lighting: medium
  • Aeration: medium

Interesting notes: When Neons are at rest, their vibrant colors are turned off; they return to their normal colors after the light have been on for awhile. A good way to tell if your Neons are stressed or sick is to note if the colors still stay dim after lighting for awhile. If the colors remain drab, the fish is either stressed or sick!

Fish tank setup and stocking

They need a minimum of 20 gallons of water with a pH from 6 to 7.8. They love planted tanks with lots of places hidden from light, the best water temperature is around 70 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit (20-27 °C). Slow acclimation is highly recommended for these fish as they are sensitive to changes in their water quality. Neon Tetras will thrive in a densely planted tank with lots of places to hide. The tank bottom should have a dark substrate and the lighting should be subdued. Floating plants are often used to help shade aquariums.

Community Tetra aquarium

They are peaceful fish and pretty easy to maintain, they can be kept in community aquariums along with other Tetras (Rummy Nose Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, Glowlight Tetras…) or different species such as Guppies, Mollies, Swordtails, Corydoras… They are social fish, middle level feeders, which live in schools that’s why you need to have six or more individuals in one tank. They are very active, energetic little swimmers that will dart back and forth almost constantly and require room to move. Don’t add them in aquariums with big or aggressive fish that may see them as food.

Feeding and fish foods

Neon Tetras are omnivores and will do well on worms, small insects and crustaceans. However, they will eat most types of tropical fish foods such as flakes, freeze-dried, or frozen. A tropical flake diet can be supplemented with brine shrimp, bloodworm or daphnia. It also needs plant matter existent in your aquarium.

TetraMin Tropical FlakesTetraMin Tropical Flakes TetraColor Tropical GranulesTetraColor Tropical Granules Tetra blood worms freeze dried treatTetra blood worms freeze dried treat

See more about fish foods and how to feeding your fish:

Breeding Neon Tetras and caring the fry

Sexual determination

The only difference between the female and the male that you can observe is the fact that the male is a bit slimmer. The female has the body more rounded. They can breed inside an aquarium. The eggs take around a day to hatch and the adults should be removed from the aquarium, as they eat their young and their eggs.


As for breeding the Neon Tetra is pretty difficult to reproduce, needing some special conditions for such a thing to occur. You will need a breeding tank and one good pair of fish, feed them tubifex a couple of weeks before reproduction takes place.

The water temperature in the breeding tank must have a temperature cooler than 77 °F (25 °C ), pH from 5.5 to 5.8, and soft water with dH less than 4. The water column of the tank must be around 15cm, resembling as closely as possible their natural biotope is the key. Some also recommend letting the level of nitrates rise, then doing at least a 50% water change to simulate the fresh rain the tetras get in their natural habitat in the Amazon.

These fish are egg scatterers and require clean, soft water for breeding. Adequate spawning conditions would be a small tank that is kept in a dark area. The tank bottom should be covered with approximately 2 inches of rocks and live plants.

Spawning and caring the fry

Pairs should be kept together for 24 hours and then removed. Spawning usually takes place early in the morning and the clear eggs will be laid inside the plants. The parent fish should be removed from the breeding tank after the spawning process is complete to protect newly hatched fry.

After spawning the tank must be covered from all sides because the eggs are very sensitive to light, it must stay like this for 5 days and then you will remove each day a covered side. Eggs will hatch within 22 – 26 hours and the fry should be large enough to be visible in 3 or 4 days.

Feeding the fry with infusoria, especially rotifers and egg yolk for one to four weeks, followed by nauplii of brine shrimp, shaved cattle liver, and formulated diets. The fry will resample their parents in 3 weeks and will develop into adults at 6-7 months of age.


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