Do Neon Tetras Need A Filter?

The neon tetra is one of the most popular fish among fish keepers. As a result, keeping them begs a lot of critical questions about these Beautiful Creatures. One of which is whether the neon tetra really needs filters.

Well, a neon tetra in most cases would need a filter especially when the fish keeper is a beginner or an intermediate fish keeper. However, if the fish keeper is experienced, he could easily set up a neon tetra tank without a filter. That is if he understands the relationship between a heavily planted tank (which neon tetra love) and a deep substrate.

Now that we have established that neon tetras actually need a filter, the next question is:

Why Exactly Do They Need A Filter?

1.     Water Aeration

There are numerous ways of aerating water in a pond. Examples include powerhead and spray bar aerators. There is also the filter which is the best way of aerating your water or for oxygenation. Most of these filters are equipped with output that directs water into the tank’s surface, providing water movement. The filter also helps the circulation of water which makes it possible for water in the bottom to move to the top for oxygen absorption. The bigger your aquarium, the more powerful the filter model, so as to get the best results.

Aeration of water is achieved by powerheads which usually acts as a supplement for aquarium filter. It is placed in the aquarium and connected to an air hose. Electric pump-action powers the powerhead, which siphon the water at the bottom and push it to the top with great force.

A spray bar aerator could also be typically attached to a filter outlet from where it sprays water across the water surface. Located horizontally and promotes surface agitation and aeration. This equipment is usually helpful in cases where you have dead spots in your aquarium.

2.     Provide an Environment for Beneficial Bacteria Growth

Beneficial microbes not only colonize the filter media but also help to maintain tank water for a longer period. These microbes include Nitrosomonas and nitrobacteria. In order to breakdown ammonia and nitrite, water needs to pass through beneficial bacteria. So, when there is no filter there isn’t a good flow of water inside the tank. However, these bacteria do not build up overnight. So, if your tank set up is new, your fish won’t survive for long.

Filtration also helps to make the water in an aquarium clean and free from pollutants. It also helps to keep the pH and temperature of the water, needed for the optimal growth of the neon tetra.

It also helps to remove toxins that prove to be lethal to the life of the neon tetra residing in the aquarium.

Furthermore, the aquarium filter also helps the heater to thoroughly pass heat to every part of the aquarium. The rate of flow helps the movement of water which in turn helps to spread heat throughout the tank.

Various Types of Filters Used in An Aquarium Housing Neon Tetra

Power Filters:

These are very common and sensitive filters. They are external filters, that rotate water through a series of filter media.

Diatom Filters:

Unlike the power filters, not many aquarists use these. Their filter uses diatomaceous earth as the filter media and helps to also pull out minute particles from the water.

Trickle Filters:

These filters support biological filtration. The water makes passage through various media plates and rains back into the tank. It makes use of the dry/wet drip method.

Baffle Filters:

These have a similar procedure /principle with the trickle filter. The water passes through various baffles. The combination of several baffles forms different outlets that facilitate filtration.

Algae Filters:

These microbes are naturally biological filters. As a result, you can grow them intentionally in the aquarium to help pull out chemical compounds from the aquarium.

Canister Filter:

This is the most reliable of all filters. It is also very easy to use and offers an extreme amount of filter material with higher suppleness. You can remove a canister filter and clean it without changing the dynamic of the aquarium.

Internal Filters:

As the name implies, their placement is Internal using suction cups. They use an electric pump to clear out the water.

Under Gravel Filter:

They consist of porous plates kept under the gravel of the aquarium and home beneficial bacteria. This type of filter also supports biological filtration.

What Filter Best Suits for The Growth of Neon Tetras?

Studies have shown that an internal aquarium filter, with built-in biological filtration, is the best choice for modest tetras.

What Factors Do We Consider While Choosing A Filter?

The neon tetra is a tropical fish with a natural habitat as slow-moving streams. This characteristic helps in thrive more in slow flow rate. The filter with a flow rate of 4 times an hour is suitable for neon tetra

Filter Maintenance

How Do You Know Your Filter Is Broken?

Movement of water: The water in the aquarium stops moving through the filter.

Disturbing noise: When you turn on a broken filter, you hear rattles which indicate a failure in the filter Internally.

Unclear water: The filter clears the water of physical and chemical pollutants. So, when it gets broken the water becomes polluted and unclear, which indicates a problem with the filter.

Crack in the filter: Little cracks or pieces of the filter could prove problematic. These could affect the neon tetra either directly or indirectly.

Does the Neon Tetra’s Survival Depend on The Presence of a Filter In A Tank?

You cannot overemphasize the importance of a filter in an aquarium containing neon tetras. Nonetheless, they can also thrive in an aquarium without one. Their survival doesn’t depend on the filter. Owing to the fact that they are rather small, with very small needs, and do not produce many bio-loads or toxic products.

It is rather difficult for a new fish keeper to know what to do in the absence of a filter. As stated earlier in this article experience is very vital to understanding this process.

Nevertheless, an experienced fish keeper can easily handle an aquarium without a filter. It is particularly easier for them to understand why heavy planting in the aquarium is important. Also, it takes experience to know the procedure for maintaining the required water quality.

A heavily planted aquarium helps deal with bio-load even without aquarium filters. The plants help to remove toxins from the water and give oxygen to the tank.

What Water Conditions Is Suitable for A Neon Tetra?

The neon tetra prefers water with a temperature ranging from 68 – 82 and a pH ranging from 4.0 – 7.5.

They mostly occur in the black water or Clearwater streams of the amazon river basin. They love shallow moving current as well as shallow pools and so thrive in this region.

Do neon tetras like current and moving waters?

Well, they do! The Neon tetra prefers slower-moving streams which are synonymous with their natural habitat.  You can achieve this same slow current by installing an internal filter in the aquarium. A current synonymous will that of their natural habitat would go a long way to make them live a healthy life.

Things to Consider If You Want the Best Out of Your Neon Tetra’s Aquarium

Buy a larger aquarium: The bigger the aquarium the better when it comes to the neon tetra. The aquarium should be able to hold up to 10gallons of water. This size of the aquarium could easily contain up to 12 – 16 tetras.

They could also live in a smaller tank (such as 5 gallons) as long as it just has a few (3 or less). But at the same time, a bigger one will serve better.

Cover the filter intake: The neon tetra is a very small fish and can easily jump its way out of a tank. To prevent this, make sure to cover your tank properly.

The filter could also suck them in which could harm or cause death. You can curb this by the use of mesh or foam to cover the filter.

Monitor food requirement: Uneaten food could decompose in the water causing cloudiness. Put in a little quantity of food into the aquarium at a go. It could also contribute to excess waste which increases both ammonia and nitrite (harmful bacteria) levels in the aquarium.

Neon tetras need to feed twice a day with flake foods, brine shrimp, freeze-dried blood worms, or micro-pellet foods. Remember a balanced diet/variety is key to their health.


The aquarium filter is very important in keeping the tank safe for your neon tetras. We recommend that you install one for your fish tank.

It is possible that your fish can stay in an aquarium without a filter. However, it will mean a lot of maintenance work for you. If not, then that’s not the best condition to leave your fish.