How to Keep Neon Tetras

Updated April 17, 2017

Although they are small, about 1 1/2 inches long, neon tetras have iridescent red and greenish blue stripes that look almost electric in their intensity and make them a natural focal point in the aquarium. They are the crowing jewels of many show tanks and, as such, are one of the most popular freshwater tropical fish. A native of the upper Amazon in South America, neon tetras are gentle fish that are good candidates for a community tank of small to medium size fish. They prefer to live in schools, so plan on keeping at least four to eight together, and keep them with gentle fish like angelfish, guppies and dwarf gouramis, or with other smaller tetra species.

Offer neon tetras a consistent temperature between 24.4 degrees C and 26.7 degrees C.

Main soft to neutral water in their tank. They prefer a pH of 5.0–7.0.

Provide a tank that has plenty of hiding places and open area in the middle to lower third of the tank. Neon tetras are fast movers that like to roam, so make sure that there's some open area where they can put on a good show swimming back and forth. They prefer subdued lighting, so keep a layer of floating plants if you like to keep the aquarium light on. They also feel more comfortable with dark gravel on the bottom of the tank.

Select fish that have good, bright colour and aren't frightened. Neon tetras are naturally timid. If the fish in your retailer's tank have good colour and aren't hiding, they are probably in good condition and will get over the shock of moving to a new environment quickly.

Feed neon tetras flaked food with the addition of live foods like brine shrimp and daphnia once a week. Adding live food to their diet will help to keep them in good condition and maintain their colour at its brightest.


Neon tetras will usually be one of the smallest fish in your aquarium. As other fish grow, they may become more aggressive toward them, so be observant of any tendency toward hiding and losing colour that may indicate bullying.


When transporting neon tetras to your aquarium, always count your new residents before you put your net away or dispose of the bag they were transported in. Because they're small and usually purchased in groups, it's easy to lose track of them and accidentally trap one in the bag or net.

Things You'll Need

  • Heated aquarium
  • Fine mesh net
  • Aquarium thermometer
  • Floating plants
  • Dark gravel
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S. A. Holt is a freelance writer with over four years of experience creating clean, accurate copy for print and Internet clients. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and enjoys spending her time reading and writing. Her clients include the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader book franchise and others.