Neon Tetra Care (Paracheirodon innesi) – All You Should Know

neon tetra

Last updated on August 24th, 2022 at 03:25 pm

In the world of freshwater aquariums, Neon Tetras are two-time champions in the arena of the most popular fish. They’re small and easy to care for, and they come in multiple colors that make them eye-catching additions to your tank. Because they’re so common, though, there are lots of things that you should know about these fish before buying them and adding them to your aquarium.

The Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) is one of the most popular aquarium fish in existence today, and with good reason – they’re colorful, peaceful, and fun to watch! It goes without saying that choosing the right Neon Tetra care will help your fish thrive. Let’s take a look at some of the best practices for keeping this freshwater fish happy and healthy!

Whether you have one tank or an entire room filled with aquatic friends, if you have Neon Tetras in your home, it’s important to take good care of them so they can live long and healthy lives.

This guide will provide you with all the information you need to provide proper care to your Neon Tetras so they can thrive and remain happy and healthy pets.

Origin and description

neon tetra

Neon tetras are freshwater fish species native to South America. Their scientific name, Paracheirodon innesi, honors Herbert R. Axelrod’s collection of Paracheirodon specimens, which were studied by Carl H. Eigenmann and Edward B. Jenkins as part of a zoological survey in northern South America during 1909–1911.

In addition to spawning two distinct color forms, Paracheirodon innesi shows sexual dimorphism that takes shape after birth — females remain noticeably larger than males even when full-grown. Neon tetras have become some of the most popular aquarium fish for beginners due to their small size and lively nature; it’s important for new hobbyists to learn about proper neon tetra care so that this fish will live long, healthy lives.

As one of several members of the genus Paracheirodon, they belong to an assemblage known colloquially as Cardinal tetras or Red firefish. Although typically listed within these groups, recent studies suggest neon tetras may be better placed under Rasboras.

Species profile

neon tetra

The Neon Tetra, Paracheirodon innesi, is a South American freshwater fish that belongs to both the Characidae family and subfamily Glandulocaudinae. They are small, peaceful schooling fish that can be found naturally living in slow-moving freshwater areas with dense vegetation.

They are easily identifiable by their unique body shape; a short compressed body with an oval cross-section and a forked tail fin. These types of characteristics allow them to be experts at hiding from predators within the dense cover.

Their pinkish bodies and iridescent blue highlights lend to its common name, neon tetra, because they tend to sparkle just like neon lights! Unlike most other species of tetras though, Paracheirodon innesi has red eyes rather than black.

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Each individual fish averages between 2.4 – 3 cm when fully grown but can grow up to 5 cm if well cared for under optimal conditions.

Paracheirodon is a member of the family Characidae, order Characiformes. They are native to South America. The species was described by Gilberto Freyre López and Armando Britski Piacentini in 1988. They belong to a genus that has been home to numerous species at one time or another, including cardinal tetras, black tetras, and red phantom tetras.

Paracheirodon itself has actually changed since it was first described – now containing only two members: Paracheirodon axelrodi and Paracheirodon innesi itself.

Scientific name

The scientific name of neon tetra is paracheirodon innesi.


These fish are found living in a temperature range between 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit. They live within acidic waters with a pH of 5.0 to 7.0 and can be found both indoors and outdoors. It is important that you provide these fish with an environment that mimics their natural habitat as closely as possible, otherwise, they may experience stunted growth or early death.

Neon tetras do not handle drastic environmental changes well, so it’s best not to move them around too much. It is also wise to limit how many neon tetras are kept in one tank at one time; because they enjoy spending time near others of their kind, overcrowding can cause stress that affects overall health.

Size and weight

The Neon Tetra is a small fish, reaching only about 1 to 2 inches at adulthood. This makes it an ideal choice for aquariums containing other small fish species, as well as aquariums with live plants. It’s also helpful that Neon Tetras are light enough to avoid uprooting your plant life! In terms of water weight, a fully grown adult should be no more than 2 percent of your aquarium’s total weight.

Tank size

The ideal minimum tank size is 3 gallons or larger; do not house with fish that are larger than them as they will be outcompeted for food.

Tank set up

Neon tetras are small fish and prefer small tanks. A 5-gallon tank is ideal, but they can be kept in as little as 3 gallons. However, due to their active swimming habits, keeping them in less than 5 gallons may stress them. Because of their coloration, a well-planted tank with subdued lighting works best for displaying your neon tetras.

While most people prefer darker aquariums, many colorful live plants look beautiful with these bright little fish. The larger varieties of plants like Amazon sword (Echinodorus amazonicus), Java fern (Microsorum pteropus), or Anubias barteri var. nana work particularly well for planted aquascapes that will complement these colorful fishes.

Make sure you have a tight-fitting lid on your aquarium to prevent escapees! It’s also important to make sure your filter does not emit too much current – otherwise, you might end up with lots of sad dead neon tetras at the bottom of your tank.

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Tank mates

The Neon Tetra is a member of the Characin family and as such, needs appropriate tank mates. For starters, it’s better not to keep other Paracheirodon species with your Neon tetras because they may be too aggressive for them. The best tank mates for your neon tetras are medium-sized schooling fish like Rasboras, Killifish, or Barbs.

In fact, try to avoid keeping more than one male per tank; if you do have multiple males in one tank, monitor their interactions closely. If you see a lot of aggression between two males over territory or food, then separate them immediately into different tanks until things cool down; otherwise things could escalate and result in serious injury or death for either party involved.

Ideally, you should also have at least 3 females per male so that he isn’t overly stressed from all that extra attention.


neon tetra

While Paracheirodon innesi are often found in community tanks, they are a species that breed very easily. When breeding neon tetras, you’ll want to provide them with an aquarium that is at least 20 gallons, and you should set up about 10 or more male and female pairings.

They can be bred in captivity, with both eggs and live-bearers used for breeding. However, there are no separate breeding tanks required: The male and female neon tetras can be housed together during breeding time. As long as you feed them well and keep their tank clean and clear of debris, your neon tetras will lay eggs that hatch into fry within seven days of being laid by your fish.

During spawning, males will dart toward females with their gills flared; it’s important to have enough pairings so there is minimal fighting over eggs. To incubate your neon tetra eggs, place them on either Java moss or any floating plant. In order for your newly hatched fry to survive, you’ll need to remove uneaten food every 24 hours and add fresh dechlorinated water.

Are Neon tetra aggressive or peaceful?

Neons are peaceful and will not bother other tank mates. Even if they were inclined to be violent, they aren’t big enough or strong enough to hurt anything. They aren’t active swimmers and will rarely stray from cover.

Neon tetra care

neon tetra

A 15-gallon or larger aquarium is recommended for a school of at least 5 or more Neon Tetras. The water temperature should be kept between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, but warmer is better. A pH of 6.0 – 7.2 should be maintained, but preferably slightly on the acidic side if possible, as Neutral tends to make fish sick and weak over time.

In addition, a specific gravity of 1.005 – 1.015 will also help keep your fish healthy and strong over time too! If you are using tap water from home, please treat it with Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Stress Coat before adding it to your tank. It’s very important that you test your aquarium regularly with an ammonia/nitrite test kit and a hydrometer that measures salinity levels!

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What does neon tetra eat?

Neon tetras are omnivores, which means they can live on both plant and animal material. It’s best for them to have both sources of food since it will keep their diet varied. This species will eat flake food that contains protein as well as worms and small insects. They don’t usually accept tablets as readily, so you might have better luck using frozen or freeze-dried foods with these fish.

Start with a couple of servings each day and increase if they seem hungry. Don’t feed your neon tetras only one type of food all at once; try feeding them a worm or bug one day, then use flake food with some algae wafers the next.

Water parameters

Neon tetras need soft, acidic water that contains no chlorine or chloramine. A pH of 6 – 7.2 is ideal for these fish, but values as low as 5.8 have been tolerated for short periods of time with no ill effects. Temperatures should be kept between 74 to 79 degrees F (23 – 26 degrees C). The lower end of that temperature range is preferred by some hobbyists, but it’s not required if you choose your fish carefully and do everything else right.

Test ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate regularly to monitor parameters. Test frequently enough that you’ll know how quickly you need to address any issues before they become life-threatening.

Neon tetra lifespan

Neon tetras can live up to 8 years. They have an average lifespan of 6 years, though some have been reported to live as long as 8 or 10 years.

Parasites and diseases

Although their reputation as a disease-carrying fish is largely unfounded, Neon Tetras are still susceptible to infections and diseases. Most of these parasites occur due to poor water quality, so make sure your tank water stays healthy by changing it regularly and performing regular water tests.

Some symptoms of the illness include ragged fins or flashing, loss of appetite, listlessness, or other changes in behavior, which should be addressed immediately with a dose of aquarium salt for freshwater tanks or your choice antifungal medication for saltwater tanks. Protect your fish’s health by testing both chlorine levels and general ammonia/nitrite levels on a weekly basis.

If either test results are abnormal, discontinue the use of water from that source until both parameters return to the normal range.


Neon tetras are a great fish for many types of aquariums, but they can be easily eaten by larger fish like cichlids and barbs. There’s a number of fish that can be good tank mates with neon tetras, so choose wisely! Before adding any potential tank mate, read up on its behaviors, feeding habits, and diet.

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One of the best ways to find out what type of fish you want is by researching online forums devoted to them — there are plenty of passionate hobbyists out there who will have tons of insight into specific species. Plus, you can find reliable information about each fish’s habitat and dietary needs.

Remember: Many predatory species won’t eat an unfamiliar species right away, so they might take a while to adjust after being introduced into an ecosystem.


neon tetra

How many neon tetras should be together?

The ideal number of neon tetras per tank will vary based on a few factors, like tank size and water quality. In general, you should keep no more than 5 neon tetras per 1 gallon of water; for each additional two gallons of water, add one more fish. There’s an easy equation for determining how many neon tetras can be safely kept in your tank: For every inch of aquarium depth, multiply that by 0.75 inches.

Do tetras need a heater?

Unfortunately, not always. If you live in a region where water temperatures dip below 70 degrees F, it’s best to give your tetras a little warm-up time. They can withstand temperatures as low as 65 degrees F for short periods of time; just be sure not to drop below that threshold for an extended period.

Typically, it’s more important to keep water temperatures from dropping too much rather than keeping them from rising too high – so be careful about using heaters or heat lamps.

How often should I feed my tetra?

The feeding frequency will vary based on tank size, but generally, you should feed your tetras twice or thrice every day. It’s best to do a large water change before feeding your tetras. This way, extra nutrients are removed from their environment, which will reduce their waste output and make for a cleaner tank overall. If there is any leftover food after 15 minutes, remove it immediately.

Does neon tetra make good pets?

Yes. Neon tetras make excellent pets, as they are small, colorful, and peaceful. They do not require much space; they can be kept even in tiny home aquariums. Still, there are some aspects of their care that you should consider before you bring them home.