Neon Tetra: Care, Disease, Breeding, Albino & Gold Types


Scientific NameParacheirodon innesi
Common NameNeon Tetra
OriginSouth America
Temperature Range72-79°F
pH Range6.8-7.5
Adult Size1.5in
DietAll types. Varied diet preferred.
As omnivores, they will eat small invertebrates as well as algae and other plant based foods.

Neon Tetra Facts

  • There are different color variants.
  • They have a disease named after them, as they were the first species of fish in which it was discovered.
  • Very popular aquarium fish, with roughly 2 million being sold in the United States being sold every month. The majority of these fish are being bred in captivity.
Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra Care

If you are looking for a all time classic freshwater aquarium fish, Neon Tetras are a fantastic choice. They add beautiful tropical colors without the hassle of a saltwater setup. 

Neon Tetra has a light blue back over a silver colored abdomen. It has an iridescent blue stripe that runs horizontally along each side of the fish, starting at the nose and ending at the adipose fin. They also have a red iridescent stripe that begins in the middle of their body and extends to the base of the caudal fin. The neon tetra is partially transparent, the fins too. Female Neon Tetras are usually bigger, can be identified by their rounder bellies, and a bent iridescent stripe rather than the male’s straight one. At night time, as the Neon Tetra rests, the red and blue stripes become gray and black. The color becomes vibrant again once the Neon Tetra becomes active in the morning.

Tank Setup

It is recommended that the Neon Barb is kept in a 10 gallon tank or larger. Since they are a schooling fish, they need to be kept in a group of no less than 6. They will be more active, however, in a larger grouping of 8 to 12. You will need to add an additional 1.5 to 2 gallons for every one Neon Tetra you add to the school. Neon Tetras are a very active fish, and it is a good idea to keep them in a larger tank over a small one. They do best in larger tanks with a larger grouping.

Keeping in mind the desired temperature range of 72°-76°F, and a pH requirement in the range of 6 to 7, you will want to create an environment that closely resembles the natural habitat of your Neon Tetras. They prefer a low light set up with a darker colored substrate. Densely planted tanks are a great way to provide the Neon Tetra with low light, and places to hide. Driftwood, small rocks, and pebbles are also a great addition.

Since they are a tropical fish, they will need a heater to keep their tank at a comfortable level.

Neon Tetras can safely be housed with other fish, but it is important to make sure the fish you put them with are not trying to outcompete them for food. Good tankmates include guppies, mollys, angelfish, loaches, and corydoras.

Neon Tetras are sensitive to changes in water conditions, and they should be placed in an already established and mature tank.

A School of Neon Tetras
A School of Neon Tetras

Neon Tetra Food & Diet

In the wild, Neon tetras are omnivores. They eat algae, small invertebrates, and insect larvae. In captivity, they will readily accept most flake foods. They can be fed frozen foods as a treat as well. When feeding Neon Tetra, it is important to make sure that the food you are feeding is small enough to fit in their mouths. They should also be fed a variety that includes brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, or tubifex. It is recommended that you feed your Neon Tetra a high quality and varied diet to ensure bright coloring, and health of the fish.

Do Neon Tetras Eat Algae?

As omnivores, Neon Tetras will eat some algae. They will nibble on algae which may help control the algae growing in your aquarium. However, they are not dedicated herbivores, so they will not survive on algae alone.

Size and Lifespan

At full maturity the Neon Tetra can grow up to 1.5 to 2 inches in length. They can also live up to 10 years in the wild. In captivity, they can live to the age of 5 to 7 years if properly cared for.

Neon Tetra Disease

Neon Tetra is a fish disease that was named for the first fish it was discovered in. The Neon Tetra Disease strikes many members of the tetra family, but will affect other aquarium fish as well. Neon Tetra disease is a condition that is caused by a microsporidian parasite. It is a common condition. This disease is degenerative, which means that it starts mild, and progresses quickly becoming severe.

If your fish becomes affected by Neon Tetra Disease, you will most likely notice the symptoms starting off as a mild behavior change, like restlessness. You may notice your fish being more active at night, and you will notice the fish no longer schooling with the others.  It will then progress to loss in coloration often on only one part of the body. They will then develop cysts in their muscles, and have difficulty swimming. The more progressed the disease is in your fish, the more likely they will be to develop fin rot and bloating as well. The fin rot and bloating is not a direct result of the disease itself, but is caused by a secondary infection.

The parasite is called Pleistophora hyphessobryconis, and it enters into the fish when it feeds upon infected live foods, or when scavenging other dead fish. Once inside a fish, the parasite will eat the fish from the inside out, starting with the digestive tract and stomach. Sporoplasms develop inside the intestines, burrow through the intestinal wall into the skeletal muscles, and there they produce cysts. The cysts damage the tissue; signs of tissue damage include paler color and weaker muscles.

It’s important to know neon tetra disease is highly communicable and can easily spread through a tank quickly.

There is no cure for Neon Tetra Disease, and most fish that end up with it are euthanized. It is important to identify it as quickly as possible so you can prevent the spreading of the disease to your other fish.

Neon Tetra In the Wild

Neon Tetras are found in the wild in the Western and Northern Amazon Basin in Southeastern Colombia, Eastern Peru, and Western Brazil. They live in blackwater streams, but they can also be found in clearwater streams with lots of vegetation. They are considered peaceful and non aggressive fish who spend their time schooling. The largest gathering of them can be found in the Amazon River Basin, but they are found in rivers too. These rivers generally flow through thick forests with dense canopies blocking lots of natural daylight. Within these dark waters, there are generally lots of fallen leaves, vegetation, and tree roots. This is why their coloration is so vivid. It helps them identify other Neon Tetras in dark murky waters.

Breeding

When considering breeding your Neon Tetras, you must first choose a healthy breeding pair. Once you have identified the healthy breeding pair, it is a good idea to condition them first. You can condition your Neon Tetra fish for spawning by placing the male and female in separate tanks and feeding them live foods that are high in protein. This high protein, live diet will encourage the female to produce eggs. Daphnia and bloodworms are a good high protein choice.

After roughly a week of separation, when the female is full of eggs, you can place the breeding pair in the same tank. As with most fish, you will have a better chance of successful breeding if they are placed in a set up that more closely resembles their habitat in the wild. It is not recommended that they breed in the community tank, because they will eat their own eggs and fry.

It is a good idea to set them up in a dedicated breeding tank, with java moss or something similar for them to lay their eggs. The Neon Tetra can survive in a range of pH level, but for spawning purposes, they will only breed in soft water. Be sure to use peat that is from a store to ensure that it does not have pesticides or other harmful chemicals. In your breeding tank, you should not use a filter, as it can suck up the eggs. The use of Indian almond leaves is not necessary, but is recommended. These leaves release beneficial tannins into the water, which will stop mold or fungi growth on the soil and eggs. Indian almond leaves have anti-fungus and anti-mold properties. They will not spawn in strong light, so a dim light source is recommended.

Water conditions are key when breeding Neon Tetras, they will not spawn if conditions are not right. Make sure their water temperature is around 77 °F and is stable. The pH range should be 5.5 to 6, and you should pour a mix of dechlorinated water and aquarium water from the established community tank in your breeding tank. The peat soil will decrease the pH level of the water. Test the water pH, before placing your breeding pair into the tank.

Neon Tetras will lay anywhere from 50 to 150 eggs in one spawn, but you can usually expect around 50 fry from one spawn. Once spawning is complete, remove the breeding pair, and place them back in the community tank.

It takes about 24 hours for the neon tetra eggs to hatch. The fry are very small and completely transparent. You must wait till the fry are big enough before a filter can be placed in their tank.

Albino Neon Tetra

There are several different color variants in the Tetra species, and the Albino Neon Tetra is one of them. Since the Albino Neon Tetra and the Neon Tetra are the same species, they share the same characteristics in schooling behavior, and aquarium needs as Neon Tetras do. The most notable difference being their color, and how it was developed.

Albino Neon Tetra
Albino Neon Tetra

The Albino Neon Tetra is not natively found in the wild with Neon Tetras, rather, it has been selectively bred in captivity for its coloration. This means that a Tetra breeder chose a female and a male Albino Neon Tetra to spawn and produce offspring in the hopes that they would breed more Albino Neon Tetra. They do not have the same vibrant, distinctive blue stripe as the Neon Tetra, but instead, they have a whitish, pearlescent hue to their bodies. They still retain the red striping that runs along their body, but they do not have the Iridescent blue stripping that the Neon Tetras have. 

They are not a common fish that you can purchase readily at any pet store, but they can be purchased online from breeders.

As far as their behavior goes, they are described as being less active than Neon Tetras, but just as peaceful when in a community tank set up. When introduced into the set up with a school of other Neon Tetras, they will school together with them.

Golden Neon Tetra

The Golden Neon Tetra is a goldish color variant of the Neon Tetra. It behaves in the exact same way, and displays the same schooling behaviors as the Neon Tetra. The gold neon tetra is a unique variation of the neon tetra developed via selective breeding. Its unique gold/opal color has great contrast against green and red plants found in most planted aquariums.

Golden Neon Tetra
Golden Neon Tetra

Selective breeding is when the male and female are chosen specifically to breed for a desired trait. In this case, they are chosen for color. There are many different color variations to Tetras. The jewel esque Gold Neon Tetra shows off a distinct golden body that sets it apart from the popular Neon Tetra. The Gold Neon Tetra still has the blue and red stripe typical of the Neon Tetra, but subdued to an elegant highlight.

These fish are bred in captivity, and are available online for purchase.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the knowledge that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory Aquatics is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish healthy.

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