To care for neon tetras, you must set up the tank to replicate their natural habitat. The tank should have adequate filtration, ideal water parameters, and compatible tankmates. You must also feed the neon tetras a nutritious diet, maintain the tank, and be aware of the various neon tetra diseases.
Let’s now talk about all the factors that can help you take care of your neon tetras. But first…
A Brief Overview Of Neon Tetras
Neon Tetras are small freshwater fish that belong to the Characidae family, native to South America.
They are primarily found in warm rivers of South America, including Brazil, Peru, and Colombia.
They are peaceful fish and hence considered a great addition to a community tank.
Besides, they are famous for their temperament and striking colors.
Neon tetras are schooling fish and thrive in large groups. You can find them spending most of their time in the middle of the tank.
Things To Do For Taking Care Of Neon Tetras
Neon tetras are hardy fish. However, that does not mean that you can overlook their needs.
They need specific care to stay healthy.
Given below are the things that you should do to take care of neon tetras.
Set up the ideal tank.
The tank size depends on the number of neon tetras. Generally, a 10-gallon tank is sufficient for six neon tetras.
The bigger the tank, the better it is.
Since neon tetras are mid-water fish, a tall tank will ensure that they get enough room to swim freely.
It’s always best if you can imitate their natural habitat in the tank.
So, the tank should be heavily planted as plants allow them to rest and hide when they feel threatened.
Neon tetras prefer dense and low-light planting.
The substrate can be of dark color. You can also use small pebbles and rocks.
Usage of driftwood can help create more shade and darkness for neon tetras.
Cycle the tank.
Cycling is vital for setting up a new fish tank. The tank needs to be appropriately cycled before adding neon tetras to it.
Fish excrete waste that releases ammonia into the tank water. High levels of ammonia can kill neon tetras.
The bacteria within the filter media convert ammonia to nitrites. Nitrites are more hazardous than ammonia.
However, the beneficial bacteria in the filter consume the nitrites and convert them to nitrates, which are not toxic at low levels.
Cycling produces beneficial bacteria in the filter that neutralizes the fish waste and makes the aquarium safe for neon tetras.
Maintain the ideal water parameters.
Neon tetras live in slightly acidic waters in the wild, where the temperature is around 77°F (25°C).
Hence, it’s best to replicate the same water conditions with slight variation in captivity.
- Water temperature: 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C).
- pH levels: Between 6 to 7.
- Ammonia and nitrite: 0 ppm.
- Nitrates: < 20 ppm.
Feed a nutritious diet.
Neon tetras are omnivores. They consume plant as well as animal matter.
In the wild, neon tetras eat insect larvae, worms, tiny crustaceans, minuscule invertebrates, algae, and plant matter.
It’s best if you replicate the diet that they are used to in their natural environment.
Since neon tetras are non-fussy eaters, you can feed them flakes, pellets, and live and frozen food.
High-quality flakes or pellets should be their core diet.
To supplement the flakes, you can feed them live or frozen food such as:
- Brine shrimp,
- Fruit flies,
- Black worms, and
- Sinking micro pellets.
You should cut the food into tiny pieces as neon tetras have a small mouth.
Keep proper feeding frequency.
Neon tetras can be fed every day.
Being active fish, they need high energy. You can feed your neon tetras once or twice a day maximum.
While feeding, ensure that you don’t overfeed them. Feed them enough food that they can consume in a couple of minutes.
Overfeeding can result in uneaten food, which can rot and make the tank water toxic.
Polluted water can be deadly as it causes diseases. This can sometimes lead to the untimely death of your fish.
Maintain the tank.
Once you set up an aquarium for your neon tetras, tank hygiene needs to be maintained.
For that, regular water changes are essential.
You need to do a partial water change of around 25% every two to four weeks.
Besides, you need to clean any leftover food, plant debris, fish waste, and general detritus.
Have large groups.
Neon tetras are lively little critters that like to be in large groups to feel secure.
In the wild, neon tetras often shoal in groups. Hence, you should keep a minimum of 6 neon tetras together in a tank.
Keeping neon tetras in small groups makes them feel insecure, stressed, aggressive, and unhappy.
Due to the stress, neon tetras are prone to sickness and losing their color.
Install a filter and a heater.
A filter is recommended for a home aquarium. Adequate filtration ensures that tank water is not contaminated.
Neon tetras don’t have specific filter requirements.
However, a filter needs to be four times higher than the volume of water in the tank.
Since neon tetras are delicate fish, they can get sucked into the filter.
Hence, it’s advisable to use foam filter media or mesh to cover the filter intake.
Also, you need to clean the filter every month and change the filter media as and when required.
Just like a filter, a heater is also needed for a tank with neon tetras in it.
Since neon tetras are tropical fish, they thrive in warm water. A heater keeps the water warm and steady without any fluctuations.
Have compatible tankmates.
Neon tetras are peaceful fish. They get along well with small and non-aggressive bottom-dweller fish with a similar personality.
The ideal tankmates for neon tetras are:
- Gouramis (Avoid Pearl, Opaline, and Giant),
- Dwarf Cichlids,
- Corydoras catfish,
- Freshwater shrimps like red/black crystal, red cherry, or ghost, etc.
You should avoid large predatory fish and aggressive fish with a mouth big enough to swallow the neon tetras.
You can avoid the following fish:
- Bettas, and
Placing aggressive fish can be a threat to neon tetras.
They will either eat the tiny neon tetras or constantly bully them, leading to stress.
Add plants to the tank.
Neon tetras like a densely planted aquarium with subdued lightning.
They like the greenery and often dart to hide under plants when threatened.
Tetras prefer freshwater plants. Some of the plants that you can place in a neon tetra tank are:
- Brazilian pennywort,
- Floating plants like dwarf lettuce, red river floaters, or frogbit,
- All kinds of moss, etc.
You need to maintain the live plants by trimming them to prevent overgrowth.
Also, remove the dead leaves to avoid decomposition.
Ensure that the neon tetras are not cramped for space due to the plants.
Placing live plants has an added advantage too. They help to maintain the water quality by removing the nitrates.
Know the diseases & treatments.
All fish are prone to diseases. Neon tetras are no different.
The common disease in neon tetras is known as the Neon Tetra Disease (NTD).
This disease is fatal as there’s no cure.
If you find a neon tetra suffering from this disease, it’s best to separate the sick neon tetra from other fish.
It will prevent the disease from spreading and infecting the other fish.
Neon Tetra Disease is caused by parasites that attach to it within an aquarium.
The parasites usually come from dead fish or live foods such as tubifex.
Once the parasites enter the intestine of neon tetras, they start to eat the muscles from the inside out.
It weakens the neon tetras’ immune system significantly.
Some of the common symptoms of Neon Tetra Disease are:
- Difficulty in swimming,
- Sudden loss of color,
- Lack of coordination,
- Spinal deformities,
- Lumps under the skin,
- Hiding more often,
- Cyst on the stomach, and
- White patches on the body.
If you find any abnormality in your neon tetras, it’s best to consult a veterinarian immediately.
Keeping the water quality high can help to prevent an outbreak of this disease.
Also, before adding any new fish or other living organisms to the tank, it’s better to ensure that they are healthy and disease-free.
How to care for a pregnant neon tetra? A pregnant neon tetra needs special care. You need to ensure that the pregnant neon tetra is stress-free. You should feed a balanced nutritious diet to your pregnant neon tetra. Besides, the tank water needs to be soft, slightly acidic, filtered and conditioned. The tank condition needs to be favorable without drastic variations in the water chemistry. Otherwise, it may prove fatal.
How to care for neon tetra fry? Neon tetra fry are tiny and delicate. Hence, they must be kept in a separate tank without any adult fish until they grow up. Providing a stress-free environment, favorable water parameters, proper filtration like sponge filters, a nutritious diet, and frequent water changes are some of the things you can do to take care of neon tetra fry.
How to care for black neon tetras? Black neon tetras are hardy fish that adapt well to a variety of conditions. Being schooling fish, they need to be in groups of at least five or more. Water needs to be clean with a partial water change of around 25% to 50% if the tank is densely stocked. Besides, the water current should not be high in the tank. The tank water needs to be slightly acidic, and water parameters need to be stable. Black neon tetras thrive in water temperatures between 73°F to 81°F (23°C to 27°C) and pH levels between 5.5 to 7.5. A balanced protein-rich diet consisting of high-quality flakes, frozen and freeze-dried tubifex, freeze-dried bloodworms, micro pellet food, small live food such as brine shrimps and bloodworms can be fed to black neon tetras for their optimum growth.