Neon Tetra Fish – Attractive Inhabitants of Aquascapes

Neon tetras are beautiful ornamental fish for any aquarium. This fish belongs to the characin family (​family Characidae) of order Characiformes and is a close relative of the famous piranha and Barracuda. But unlike their predatory fellows, neons are really calm and peaceful fish that are unlikely to provoke their neighbors.

General Information

Aquarists appreciate neons not only for their ability to get along with most species in a common aquarium, but also for the unusual coloration of these underwater inhabitants. A distinctive feature of all neons is the presence of a special shiny strip along the body, which flashes like a light in reflected light. It is so bright that it looks like a neon advertisement light in a night city. For this, the fish got its name.

Neons often become the main inhabitants of aquarium landscapes – aquascapes.

Professional designers are very fond of neons for their small size, which does not distract from the main picture, activity that gives liveliness to the entire design, and indifference to plants that will retain their shape and beauty. The flocks of neons themselves look very impressive against the background of dense green vegetation.

The question of why such a bright color of a small defenseless neon fish is needed remains unanswered. Perhaps this is necessary to establish a hierarchy in the flock, perhaps confusing predators who decided to attack a flock of neons. There is a theory that such light effects allow neons to find each other in the darkened water conditions typical of typical biotopes. Some aquarists believe that neons are capable of glowing themselves, but, unfortunately, this is a misconception: the stripes of neons only reflect and refract the light rays falling on them.

Keeping neons in a home aquarium will not be difficult, the main thing is to create optimal water parameters for the fish, regularly maintain the aquarium and feed it with high-quality food.


All neons are small schooling species. The size of fish rarely exceeds 4-5 cm. Neon males are smaller than females. It has elongated body and slightly flattened at the sides. The mouth is small. The fins of the neon are transparent, the anal fins are longer than the dorsal. Like other characin fish, neons have an extra adipose fin. It is an unpaired organ located behind the dorsal fin. It has no bone rays and consists of adipose tissue. Each fish has a longitudinal neon strip on its body, which reflects light and creates a glowing effect. It is formed by special cells – chromatophores – located under the scales.

The neon strip in neon females has a small break in the middle, in males it represents a straight line.

History of Appearance / Discovery

The history of the discovery and appearance of neon in amateur aquariums is closely related to the French explorer and adventurer Auguste Rabot. It was he who first discovered small glowing fish in the Putumayo River (Peru). He was simply mesmerized by the beauty of these creatures and decided that he could earn big money by exporting such a miracle. In 1935, the first copies of neon were shipped to the United States of America and Europe.

Aquarists of that time liked the fish madly, the demand for it skyrocketed, and now Rabo is already becoming the world’s only supplier of neons to the Old and New Worlds. It was not possible to breed neons in captivity for a long time, so the monopoly existed for a relatively long time. One of the first copies was donated for advertising purposes to William Innessy, a hobbyist and popularizer of aquarium hobby. He, in turn, passed on the fish to his friend George Myers, who made the first scientific description of a new species – blue, or ordinary neon, which he named after his comrade Hyphessobrycon innesi. Later the species changed its name to Paracheirodon innesi.

Red Neon Tetra Fish

Red neon (Paracheirodon axelrodi) was discovered only in the middle of the 20th century. The descriptions were made in parallel by two scientists – Myers and Schultz. But the latter published his work earlier, so the name was fixed in the nomenclature, which he gave to the fish in honor of his friend the aquarist Herbert Axelrod.

Emerald Neon Tetra Fish

In 1963, Jacques Gehry discovered another type of neon – emerald neon, or neon simulator. The sample he caught was very similar to red neon, but further study led to the separation of these fish into a separate species. Gehry also conducted a systematic revision of neons and attributed them to the genus Paracheirodon, as their name to this day.

For the first time, it was possible to get offspring from neons in captivity in Germany. This happened by a happy coincidence, and was due to the fact that this country has very soft water, which was used to contain neons. At the beginning, the spawning of neons was called the “German miracle”, but the first studies revealed the mechanisms of the influence of water parameters on the reproduction of these fish. From this point on, neons become available to all aquarists in the world.

Nowadays, fish are massively grown on special farms in Southeast Asia. Although occasionally there are supplies of neon savages caught in the natural environment.


The homeland of neons is South America. It is here, in the region of the basins of the Paraguay, Rio Takuari, and Brazil rivers, that these amazing fish can be found in their natural habitat. Neons do not like fast currents and prefer to live in slow-flowing tributaries of large rivers, the waters of which are rich in humic substances, which gives them a brown tint. These rivers usually flow under the canopy of tropical rainforest, which creates twilight in the water. Decaying leaves, regular rains, a large layer of silt make the water soft and sour.

Neon Tetra Fish

Cardinal Neon Tetra Fish (Paracheirodon innesi)

Cardinal Neon Tetra Fish

Cardinal neon is the most popular species of the genus found in aquariums. It was this species that was first brought to Europe by Auguste Rabot, which caused the “neon boom”.

You can also find other names for this fish: ordinary neon, neon-tetra. They have a memorable color: a longitudinal neon iridescent stripe running along the entire body, under which is a bright red stripe stretching from the middle of the body to the tail. The average size of blue neon in an aquarium is about 4 cm. Fins are colorless.

For keeping a minimal flock of cardinal neons, an aquarium of 30 liters or more is suitable.

Optimal parameters for content:

Temperature: 23-27 ° С;

pH = 6.0-6.5;

Hardness – up to 12 dGH.

Cardinal neons love established aquariums with stable water parameters. With a sharp change, they can get sick. They can tolerate gradual drops in temperature up to 18 ° C. Reproduction takes place in soft and acidic water, close to natural. For neon eggs, high rigidity is dangerous (the membrane becomes impervious to sperm) and bright lighting, which is detrimental to the eggs.

Gold Neon Tetra Fish (Paracheirodon innesi var Gold)

gold neon tetra fish

It is a color variation of regular neon. The body is golden in color with a metallic sheen. The shiny stripe characteristic of neons looks golden in reflected light. Eyes with turquoise edging. Gold neons look very impressive in aquariums with dim lighting in a flock of at least 8-10 pieces. The maximum length of a fish in an aquarium is 4 cm. Not aggressive, suitable for keeping in other peaceful species in a common aquarium. Content and reproduction is similar to blue neon.

Diamond Neon (Paracheirodon innesi diamond)

Another selective form of blue neon. The body is moderately elongated and laterally flattened. Head with a blue tint. On the sides, at the level of the dorsal fin, there is a red matte stripe extending to the tail. The main body of the diamond neon is silvery with a bluish tint. The maximum size in an aquarium is 4 cm. Sexual dimorphism is not pronounced.

For maintenance, an aquarium of at least 30 liters is required, which has both dense thickets of plants and open spaces for swimming.

Optimal parameters for content:

Temperature: 22-26 ° С;

pH = 5.0-7.0>;

Hardness – 5-10 dGH.

They differ in territoriality, they are able to drive away uninvited guests from their favorite place.

Veil Neon Tetra Fish

veil neon tetra fish

Another form of blue neon. Does not exist in nature, bred by careful selection. A distinctive feature is the presence of highly developed fins, similar to a thin veil. Fish are quite rare and cost much more than regular neons. The living conditions are no different from blue neon with one exception: when keeping fish with such long fins in an aquarium, it is better not to use decorations that can catch on. It is also necessary to approach the choice of neighbors more carefully, many (even peaceful) fish are able to bite off the fins of veiled neons. Ideally, fish should be kept in a species aquarium.

Red Neon Tetra Fish (Paracheirodon axelrodi)

Of all the members of the genus, red neon stands out as the brightest. Unlike blue neon, under the characteristic glowing greenish-blue stripe is a wide crimson stripe, stretching along the entire body.

The body is slightly elongated and flattened at the sides. The color of the shiny back is olive green. Large flakes of red neon stand out well on the glowing strip. The eyes are bluish green. All fins are transparent. On the dorsal and anal fins, a blue-white edging can be found.

The average size in an aquarium is 4-5.5 cm, with good care they can live up to 5 years. Like other neons, the fish is gregarious and non-aggressive. They can swim in all layers of water and are suitable for keeping in a general aquarium.

The minimum aquarium for a flock is 50-60 liters. Dense vegetation is planted along the back and side walls, leaving space in front for free swimming. They do not like bright light.

Optimal parameters for content:

Temperature: 23-26 ° С;

pH = 6.0-7.0;

Hardness – up to 5 dGH.

When maintaining, it is important not to forget about regular water changes. Breeding requires an aquarium with a volume of about 30 liters. It should contain very soft and acidic water. Ferns or Cryptocorynes can be used as a substrate for eggs . The spawn must be protected from direct sunlight.

Black Neon Tetra Fish (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)

black neon tetra fish

Black neons first appeared in our country in the mid-60s of the 20th century. These are very beautiful and calm fish.

The body shape does not differ from that of other neons. The maximum size in the aquarium is about 4 cm. The female is noticeably larger than the male. The body is black-green, the abdomen is light. There are two stripes along the body: the upper one is narrow and silvery, the lower one is wide and black. Fins with a yellowish tinge. The upper half of the eyes is reddish. Schooling fish, it is recommended to keep from 10 to 15 black neons in the aquarium. They are extremely liveable with other peaceful inhabitants of the common aquarium, in which they prefer the upper and middle layers of water.

Optimal parameters for content:

Temperature: 24-28 ° С;

pH = 6.5-7.5;

Hardness – 10-20 dGH.

In terms of content, they practically do not differ from the content of other representatives of the genus. They do not like bright light, prefer dark areas. It is better to choose a dark color for the ground and background, then the fish look more spectacular. Live plants such as ferns, echinodorus , cryptocorynes , etc. are best planted along the back and side walls of the aquarium. Reproduction of black neons is possible throughout the year. A spawning aquarium of about 20 liters is needed, where 1 female and 2-3 males are planted. It is desirable that the water hardness does not exceed 12 ° dGH. It is imperative to darken on all sides so that the eggs and fry do not die.

Green Neon Tetra Fish (Hemigrammus hyanuary)

green neon tetra fish

Another popular name for this fish is Costello. In nature, green neon is found in the Amazon. The body is greenish-silvery, the gill covers with a golden tint. An iridescent green stripe runs along the body. There is a dark spot at the base of the tail, above which there is a noticeable golden dot. Fins are colorless. The color depends on the emotional state of the fish and its well-being. Under stress, the bright streak instantly fades. The size in the aquarium is 4-4.5 cm.

Green neons are mobile schooling fish that love the flow. They look especially impressive in water rich in humic substances, similar to natural “black water”. They occupy the middle and lower layers in the aquarium.

The volume of the aquarium is best selected at the rate of 15-20 liters of water for a couple of fish. They are very sensitive to the chemical parameters of water, therefore it is necessary to achieve their maximum stability.

Optimal parameters for content:

Temperature: 22-26 ° С;

pH = 5.0-6.0;

Hardness – 2-8 dGH.

Sexual maturity occurs around the age of one year. Reproduction is similar to other types of neons.

Savanna Neon Tetra Fish (Hyphessobrycon stegemanni)

vanna neon tetra fish

One of the hardy types of neons that are well suited for keeping in a general aquarium. The fish got its name from its habitat. The savanna neon lives in the reservoirs of a special steppe area in South America – Serrado. This is an area of ​​vast forest pastures, which is famous for a huge number of endemic species. The fish received the Latin specific epithet at the suggestion of the famous explorer of the Amazon, Harald Schultz, who named it after his good friend, baker Carlos Stijmani.

The maximum size of the fish is 2-3 cm. The body color is gray, a luminous strip stretches from head to tail. Sexual dimorphism is not pronounced. For maintenance, you need an aquarium of 50 liters or more.

They are sensitive to water quality, therefore it is necessary to strictly control its hydrochemical parameters.

Optimal parameters for content:

Temperature: 20-25 ° С;

pH = 6.5-7.5;

Hardness – 1-12 dGH.

Reproduction is possible all year round. Parental care is not characteristic of neon; after the end of spawning, the producers must be planted.

Blue Neon Tetra Fish

Typical habitat of blue neon is the Columbia rivers. The fish does not differ in large size, in aquariums it barely reaches a length of 3.5 cm, while females, like other neons, are one centimeter larger than males. In appearance it is very similar to blue and red neons. A luminous, bright blue stripe runs along the entire body. If you look closely, you can see a very dull, barely noticeable red strip under it.

Optimal parameters for content:

Temperature: 20-25 ° С;

pH = 6.5-7.5;

Hardness – 1-12 dGH.

Blue neons are gregarious, peaceful fish. They like to actively swim in the open spaces of the aquarium, and in all its layers. In general, the content of blue neon is completely identical to blue and red.

For breeding, a spawning aquarium of a small volume (from 20 l) is required, the walls of which must be darkened. For successful breeding, the water must be very soft and acidic. Comfortable temperature in the jig is 25-26 ° С. Males pursue females for a long time, after which the latter lay eggs on plant leaves. The first fry appear in 5-6 days. Coloring begins to appear by the end of the first month of life.

Orange Neon Tetra Fish

orange neon tetra fish

An extremely rare type of neon. It is considered a mutant form of red neon. At a young age, they are very reminiscent of the golden variation of blue neon, but with age, interesting features in color appear. The body of the fish is painted in a pleasant yellow-orange color. The glowing strip is located in the usual place, but not as bright as other neons. Beneath it, there is not even a hint of a red zone near the caudal fin. The species is not albino as the pupils of the eye are black. An interesting feature of the coloration is the presence of a large number of dark blue spots scattered over the body, mainly near the luminous strip, which can disappear from view at certain angles of view. Fish caviar is also colored orange.

False Blue Neon (Paracheirodon Simulans)

It is found on sale less often than ordinary neon, although it has an equally bright color. Comes from the lower and middle reaches of the Rio Negro (Brazil). Typical biotope – slow rivers with a high content of humic substances in the water, which makes it brownish. The bottom is sandy, covered with rotting leaf litter.

In appearance it is very similar to blue neon, but rarely grows more than 2 cm in size. The red stripe is less pronounced, but blue shades are predominant. Perhaps, if the species had been discovered earlier, then the prefix “false” would have received Paracheirodon innesi. Sexual dimorphism is not expressed.

Peaceful schooling fish, an aquarium from 40 liters is suitable for keeping. Looks best in aquariums with dense vegetation and biotope aquariums. Favorable for creating “black water” in the aquarium using conditioners, for example, Tetra ToruMin.

Like other neons, they are sensitive to changes in water parameters. Breeding is similar to blue neon. During spawning, the eggs are randomly scattered around the aquarium, there is no parental instinct – if the opportunity arises, the eggs will be eaten.

Care and Maintenance

All neons are schooling fish, so you need to keep them at least 6-8 pieces – so they feel comfortable and look spectacular. When kept singly or in pairs, fish may lose their tone and color, and the life span will be noticeably reduced. For such a number of fish, an aquarium of 50 liters or more is required.

You can choose any soil you like, for example, dark sand or dark pebbles, against their background the fish will look very beautiful. A lid in an aquarium with neons is optional, they rarely jump out to the floor. Neons love dim lights, it is advisable not to put especially powerful lamps in the aquarium – this can cause a feeling of stress and a desire to hide in shelter.

It is not recommended to release neons in a freshly started aquarium, they prefer an already established balance. Optimal water parameters:

Temperature – 23-25 ​​° С;

Acidity – 5.5 – 5.7;

Hardness – 8 – 10 (although harder water will survive).

The higher the temperature, the lower the lifespan of the fish. On average, neons live in an aquarium for 3-4 years.

The aquarium should be equipped with a filter of appropriate power, thanks to which mechanical and biological water purification will be carried out. A compressor is also welcome.

To maintain optimal water quality, it is necessary to change 25-30% weekly, together with a soil siphon. Tetra ToruMin Conditioner can be added to the water to create a natural black water effect.

In the aquarium, it is recommended to make zones with dense vegetation – a variety of long-stemmed plants ( elodea , vallisneria , hornwort , kabomba, etc.). Snags submerged to the bottom, shards from pots will look good. Small fish really need shelter to hide there in case of danger.

Read Also: Freshwater Aquarium Fish: The Ultimate Guide 2021


Perhaps neons are one of the most peaceful ornamental fish and will become good neighbors for other peaceful medium-sized species. They will live equally well both with guppies and other viviparous fishtooths, and with cardinals , rasbora , tetras , barbs , corridors , ancistrus .

Of course, you can’t plant neons with predatory and territorial fish. Their luminous strip acts on such species, like a red rag on a bull, and most likely neons will very quickly become someone’s dinner. It is also not recommended to contain neons with large fish, for example, golden ones . If the neon can fit in the fish’s mouth, it can be eaten.

The only time when neons can be aggressive is spawning, but it is better to place pairs ready for breeding in a separate spawning aquarium.


Correctly selected food plays a huge role in the life of fish. It should be nutritious, containing all the essential vitamins and minerals, and in a form that is easy to eat.

Neons are small fish that prefer the middle and lower layers of the aquarium. Tetra feeds are perfect for feeding them:

TetraMin is a classic flake food suitable for all small to medium sized ornamental fish. Made from more than 40 types of high-quality raw materials, it contains everything a fish needs, including prebiotics for the full functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. The flakes float and then slowly sink to the bottom, allowing the fish to feed at different levels in the aquarium.

Tetra Micro Pellets are small slowly dipping pellets with a size of 0.4-1.2 mm. Ideal for fish with small mouths. The food is completely balanced and highly digestible, which reduces water pollution in the aquarium.       


Despite the fact that aquarists for a long time could not reveal the secret of successful breeding of neons, there is now access to a lot of information about proper spawning, so with a little preparation, everyone can reproduce neons.

Breeding of neons must be closely monitored so as not to endanger the eggs. Producers need to be transplanted into separate containers in a few weeks and fed vigorously with high-protein feed.

Weakly expressed sexual dimorphism in the usual time is replaced by more distinct sexual differences: females are rounded in the abdomen, and in males, the swim bladder is displaced to the anus.


Before spawning a pair of neons, it is advisable to arrange for them a few short dates so that the fish get used to each other. The female is able to postpone the game weekly, while the male is ready to fertilize her 2 times less often.

The minimum aquarium volume for neon spawning is 30-50 liters. The ground is optional. Stable water parameters are essential for maximum egg survival. The temperature must be raised to 25-26 ° C. Water is used soft (2-4 ° dGH) and slightly acidic with pH = 6.5-7. Several branches of Javanese moss can be used as a spawning substrate .

It is best to put ready-to-spawn neons into the aquarium a few hours before turning off the backlight. Two males are usually added to the female, who begin an immediate attack on the female. A more agile male will participate in breeding. The pair hovers over the leaves of living plants, where the female randomly lays eggs, which are fixed on parts of the plants. After the end of spawning, spawners must be removed so that the eggs do not suffer.


Not every egg is destined to emerge fry. Many of them will not ripen, some will suffer from the fungus. After 9-10 hours, all spoiled eggs must be removed from the aquarium using a pipette. You can also use antifungal medications to conserve as much caviar as possible.

Incubation ends in a day. The larvae that emerged from the eggs are already able to swim in the upper layers of the water for several days. Cyclops, ciliates, high-quality dry food (TetraMin Baby) are used to feed the fry.

When the fry grow up, it is necessary to move them to a more spacious aquarium with a slightly higher rigidity and a temperature of 24-25 ° C.

Leave a Comment