NEON TETRA (Paracheirodon innesi)
Know Your Fish
Neon Tetra is among the favorites for choice of freshwater fish in Planted Aquarium, Blackwater Biotope & definitely a prime option in Aquascape contests around the world. They can be kept in Nano Tanks, even as small as under 10 gallon. What makes Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) so popular is the neon blue to neon green coloration on upper body, the silverish line which runs through the center & the red coloration on under body; this fish grows around 1 inch in size & is non-aggressive. Below information would help you learn about Neon Tetra Care in an Aquarium, Compatible Tank Mates, Breeding & how to raise healthy Neon Tetra Fry.
Firstly, a good start would be understanding their natural habitat so that it can be mimicked in an aquarium; this South American nano fish is native to the Amazon river basin in Orinoco, Brazil, Peru etc. their natural habitat includes slow moving water bodies like small streams & tributaries. These waters run through forests & the fallen leafs from the trees decompose slowly, making the water they inhabit acidic. In an aquarium Neon Tetras thrive in acidic water conditions & a pH under 7 is recommended. The colors of the fish makes it more visible in these blackwaters they inhabit. Another fish which looks similar is the Cardinal Tetra, most people cannot tell the difference between Neon Tetra & Cardinal Tetra as they look almost the same. Cardinal Tetra are brightly colored & the red coloration is spread completely under body, however in Neon Tetras the red coloration is only half way in the lower body & Cardinal Tetras are little larger than Neon Tetras.
About 20-25 years back Neon Tetras were expensive & usually the wild caught fish were sold in the hobby; only a handful would make it through the first few weeks in an aquarium as these fish were super sensitive to water changes; now captive breeding has reduced their price & increased their ability to survive in a little higher pH of neutral 7. So, I feel its safe to put this fish in Beginner Aquarist's list of Fish to start fish keeping hobby with. Below information will help you further.
Visual differences between Male & Female Neon Tetra
Visual difference between Male & Female Neon Tetra is the silverish line on their body which appears to be a little bent in a female Neon Tetra & much straighter in Male Neon Tetra.
Apart from this the Female Neon Tetra fish has a rounded body, whereas the Male Neon Tetra appear to be slimmer.
Neon Tetra Aquarium Care
Neon Tetra thrive in Planted Aquariums with acidic water conditions, apart from these fish benefiting from live plants for shelter & healthier water conditions, the colors seem to be more vibrant in Planted Aquariums. Like other popular Tetras in the hobby Neon Tetra should be kept in a group of 6 or more as these fish are schooling fish. If kept in smaller numbers the behavior changes & the fish seem less active. Since, these fish only grow around 1 inch & are docile, tank size, tank decoration & choosing the right tank mates is important. When Neon Tetras are added to an aquarium the first week is crucial as sudden changes in water parameters can be fatal to these fish, make sure fish you buy are of good quality & healthy, acclimate Neon Tetras slowly & then introduce them to the aquarium. It is normal that Neon Tetras do not eat for 2 or 3 days when they are new, after few days they seem more confident & move around the aquarium confidently & start feeding.
What your Neon Tetras need?
Aquarium size for Neon Tetra: If you are keeping just a group of 6 Neon Tetra a 10 gallon aquarium would suffice, in case its a community aquarium it has to be 20 gallon or bigger aquarium.
Aquarium decoration: Live Plants is recommended in a Neon Tetra Aquarium; foreground, midground & back ground plants can be used. Neon Tetras like to hang around densely planted area, they spend more time at the middle & the lower section of the aquarium. Driftwood with plants that can grow on it can also be used like Anubias & Java fern. Neon Tetra's natural habitat is usually clear & acidic water bodies with leaf litter at the bottom. Driftwood in the aquarium offers a more natural look & also the tannin's released from them helps maintain lower pH as preferred by these fish. Make sure the water movement is low to moderate,
Temperature range: 70 to 80 °F ( 21-27°C). Neon Tetra are tropical fish ,they like warm water. If the temperature in aquarium is not steady or drops below the ideal temperature it might affect their health.
pH range: pH range for these fish is 5 to 7. whats important in Neon Tetra tank is pH level should never change drastically.
Water Hardness: Neon Tetra prefer soft water i.e. under 60 ppm.
Lights : If you are planning on live plants in your tank, make sure you get suitable light for your plants. Just make sure the light does not heat up the water in the tank too much. Remember to turn the light on & off everyday at the same time or as required by the plants you have in the aquarium.
Filter/Air pump : Filter will help you keep the tank clean & an Air pump will keep the tank nicely oxygenated if you have fry or planning to breed Neon Tetra this will be handy. They prefer low to moderate water movement in the tank.
Water conditioner : Tap water in most places is treated with chlorine. This is not good for fish. So get a water conditioner & make the water safe.
Neon Tetra Fish food : The wild Neon Tetra are Ominvores, they feed on small insects, insect larvae, crustaceans, Plant matter etc. In an aquarium Neon Tetra can be fed quality flakes, Pellets, Freeze dried worms, Live & frozen food, spirulina based food, micro worms, mosquito larvae, Daphnia etc.
Tank Mates for NeonTetra
Since Neon Tetra can be kept in a group of 6 or more, you can include these fish in a same species aquarium; a 8 to 10 gallon planted aquarium should work fine. If you want a community aquarium with other fish it has to be 20 gallon or bigger. Neon Tetras are docile fish they grow around 1 inch, they prefer acidic water conditions, so the fish you keep as tank mates should prefer the same water conditions & the same temperament.
I had great success keeping them in a community aquarium without any issues. Some of the tank mates I kept Neon Tetra with are Serpae Tetras like you can see in the video, Black Neon Tetra, Glow Light Tetra, Thread-fin Rainbow Fish, Rasboras, Platy Fish, Black Diamond Neon Tetra, Cardinal Tetra, Rummy Nose Tetra, Zebra Diano, L.Guntea Loach, Corydoras, Shrimps, Apple snails, Guppy Fish, Cherry barbs etc.
I had kept fully grown Neon Tetras with Angel fish without any issues.
Most of these aquarium set-up's were Planted 20 & 30 gallon aquariums with driftwood & rocks used for decoration. Another trick to avoid aggression in an Tetra Aquarium is get them when they are 2 to 3 months old & introduce all tank mates at the same time to the aquarium. I used Indian Almond Leaf in these aquariums to keep the pH level below 7 as preferred by Neon Tetras.
I had kept Neon tetras with Betta Fish without an issue, as my Female Betta was non-aggressive, however this may not work in most cases as some Betta fish would go after smaller fish like Neon Tetra.
Breeding Neon Tetra
Neon Tetra scatter their eggs after spawning & usually eat them. In case you want to breed you would require a separate breeding aquarium, with a sponge filter. The aquarium should be mildly lit or completely avoid lighting, you can add Java moss & cover the bottom of the tank or use any plastic mesh where the eggs can fall into without the adult fish getting there to eat them. You can introduce well-conditioned Males & Females with eggs about 2 or 3 pairs into the tank. What triggers spawning is lower pH level & raise in temperature. Neon Tetras spawn more often in acidic water condition usually below 7 pH & a 2 degree raise in water temperature. You can add Indian Almond Leaf to the breeding tank, this would slowly reduce the pH below 7. Keep the adult fish in the aquarium for a day or 2 & check if they laid eggs using a torch light. Remove the adult fish if you spot eggs at the bottom. Each female Neon Tetra may lay up to 200 to 300 eggs after a single spawn. Eggs hatch in about 24 to 48 hours. The Neon Tetra fry once born would absorb nutrients from the yolk sac & are free swimming in about a day or two.
Of all the Tetra fish in the hobby the Neon Tetra is among the difficult fish to breed in an aquarium, be ready for many failed attempts. Your best bet would be at a pH of 6 to 6.5 & a temperature of 80°F with at least 2 pairs of well conditioned fully grown Neon Tetras.
Neon Tetra Fry Care
Adult Neon Tetra show no parental care, in case you are breeding Neon Tetra in an aquarium you must care for them in a separate Nursery tank/ Grow-out Tank to ensure higher survival rate of the fry. If Neon Tetra do spawn in the main tank which is very rare & somehow the adult Neon Tetra did not eat the eggs, fry will be eaten if spotted for sure. So a breeding Tank would be required first for the Adult NeonTetra to spawn & later the fry can be taken care in the same tank.
Eggs hatch in about 24 to 48 hours; once Neon Tetra Fry are born they would absorb nutrition's from the yolk sac for a day or 2. Usually the Neon Tetra fry are free swimming in 24 to 48 hours after they are hatched, after 2 to 3 days you can start feeding them food. NeonTetra fry consume baby brine Shrimp, crushed flakes, mosquito larvae, micro worms, infusoria etc. Feed the fry at least 3 times a day & follow about 25% water change every 3 days. Keeping plants in the breeding tank helps the fry with shelter, conditioning water & also they consume plant matter. The tank should be at least 10 to 15 gallon or bigger as each spawn would have more than 100 fry on an average. After the fry are free swimming remove the unhatched eggs as there would be fungal growth on it if not removed this could contaminate the water & effect the health of the new born fry. I use the aquarium air pump pipe & remove the debris on the tank bottom. Adding Indian almond leaf to the Neon Tetra fry tank also helps with their health & achieving optimal growth rate. The temperature should be around 78 to 80°F as I find at these temperature the fry seem to grow faster. Ideal pH for Neon Tetra Fry is around 6.5 without drastic changes.