Are Neon Tetras Schooling Fish?

Schooling fish are fish that love the company of their species.  So, are neon tetras schooling fish? Do you need to keep a group of them in your aquarium to survive?

Yes! Neon tetras are schooling fish. They are popular amongst aquarists for their need to live together. A lone neon tetra in a fish tank will feel stressed and eventually die. The ideal requirement for keeping neon tetras in the home aquarium is to keep at least eight or more of them in a 20-gallon fish tank.

While you can keep less with a minimum of about 4 in a 5-gallon tank, It is not recommended unless you are an expert fish keeper that can handle the consequences.

How Many Neon Tetra Is Ideal to Start With?

Neon tetras really should be kept in a school, as large a group as you can manage. In the wild, they school together in huge numbers, sometimes in their thousands. Keeping them in a small group can stress them or lead to their health.

Imagine you are someone that loves hanging out with friends, and all of a sudden, you find yourself in a strange environment with no friends. Wouldn’t that stress you out too? The same thing goes for Neon tetras. They hate solitary. Also, when you want to buy, do not just get two because if one of the neon starts to get aggressive, it only has the other fish to pick on. They can begin to injure and eventually kill each other. With a larger group, the aggression is spread out, so no one fish is singled out and harassed all the time.

How Do You School Neon Tetras?

These peaceful and violent free schooling fish do best in the minimum numbers of about 10 -15, but many times are kept in smaller schools of 3 – 5 in homemade aquariums. Nevertheless, keeping neon tetras in smaller schools is possible, but they will be much happier and healthier in larger schools.

What Should You Know About Schooling Neon Tetras?

Neon Tetras are fast swimmers, and they require enough personal space to swim around.  However, they can’t compete with the rapid water currents, so I’d recommend you to keep the Neon Tetras in an aquarium with slow-flowing water currents.

Also, Neon Tetras are high jumpers as well. Therefore, it’s best to keep a fitted lid in the aquarium tank to prevent these fish from jumping out.

Neon Tetras are social fish that loves to stay in schools. They feel more secure when they are with other members of their species.  Failure to keep the desired number of tetras will stress your fish and make them feel less secure.

What is the Optimal Tank Size for Keeping a School of Neon Tetras?

Neon tetras are relatively small; therefore, a single fish does not need a massive amount of space. While you can possibly keep neon tetras in smaller schools, using a heavily planted aquarium, larger schools is better and will make your pet fish grow healthier without stress. They are their best in a larger aquarium.

More room gives them the opportunity to school together and swims up and down the tank.

Also, as mid-water dwellers, neon tetras will do better in a taller quarium that offers more comfort and room to for swimming. These fish will also school more tightly with a large group, which is a good sight in an aquarium.

Would Neon Tetras Live Longer in School than in Isolation?

Neon tetras won’t survive isolation; the stress is too much on them. However, when in school, believe it or not, these little creatures live longer. They live for eight years or more in an aquarium as long as they are together with their pairs.

Keeping your tetras in a school of 5 or more members will make life easier for them. This is because a lone neon tetra will feel stressed and eventually die. You should know that tetra species adapt schooling life so much that they can hardly do without.

The ideal number of members in a Neon Tetra school is 10. This number will make them more active and vibrant, always swimming around in their tank.

You can also have a school of 4 – 6 Neon Tetras if you so wish. Your Neon tetras will do quite well.

For better activity in your tank, ensure to decorate your neon tetra tank with rocks, driftwood, and plants. A healthier tank requires a good filter to maintain clean water.

What are the Ideal Living Conditions of Schooling Neon Tetras?

Like you need a better, conducive, and healthy environment for you to live comfortably, the same is the situation with your Neon Tetra, especially as a school. Neon Tetras are sensitive creatures, so you need to pay attention to details when providing them with a lovely home.

To be more exact, you should not keep the Neon Tetra in the recently cycled tanks as this might result in the death of your fish. Because they are susceptible, a slight change in their care may lead to serious problems. So, before you bring Neon Tetras as your pet fish, make sure to have all the requirements to keep them.

Schooling helps them increase their swimming efficiency because they are part of the crew from childhood. If they are not taught into the schooling activities, neon tetras tend to have high body stress hormones. This may cause symptoms like infertility, stunted growth, heart problems, and other diseases. These symptoms can make a neon tetra die prematurely.

Note, they benefit from this schooling behavior. Their benefits include defense against predators (through concrete and better predator detection and by rumpling the chances of one of them being capture), higher chances of finding a mate.

What Should You Know About Tank Conditions of Schooling Neon Tetras?

Most fishes lose their schooling ability after dark, but that’s not the case for neon tetra.  They show observed preference for low lighting. You can acquire a Low-intensity light for your neon tetra tank. This is likely the standard the means of lighting up the tank for your neon tetras.

You may also decide to add extra plants to your neon tetra tank. This will help to make your neon tetras feel safe as they will have enough hiding spaces. Extra planting will block out excess lighting helping maintain the low-light preference of neon tetras.

Another effective method of achieving low lighting is using blackwater tanks. Here, plant matter can produce tannins which can help prevent excessive light within the tank. Liquid tannins can also serve the purpose. When your pet fish feel safe, they will swim around like in their natural environment and live more freely.

There is the need for you to diffuse the light hitting the water in a neon tetra tank. To do this, simply add some floating plants in the tank. Young tetras practice schooling techniques in pairs, and they move in bigger groups as their senses metamorphoses.

Schooling helps them develop a sense of coordination, such as keeping close but not too close to your neighbor, heading in the same direction, and being each other’s security. When they are together (school), a high sense of security and a strong alliance come into play.

When compared to a mixed community tank, keeping a school of neon tetras with recommended number of members proves to be more successful. Your fish will feel more secured and display natural behaviors when in a group of its species.

How Often Should You Feed a School of Neons?

You should feed your Neon tetras daily. These fish are active and require high energy only food can provide.

You can also consider dividing their meals into proportions so that you get to feed them in the morning and at night. Neon tetras are peace-loving, so they do best with other species that are peaceful too.

Aggressive fish that are bigger will bully and possibly eat them, so watch out for a list of aggressive fishes before keeping them with Neon tetras. Keep in mind that fish will eat pretty much anything small enough to fit in its mouth. You don’t want to school a neon tetra with something as big as an Oscar or other tetra species like black neon, black skirt tetras, or cardinal tetras and snails.

Are Neon Tetras Schooling Fish in Their Natural Habitat?

Most neon tetras naturally come from South America usually from the Amazon Basin. You can also find them in Africa and some other places. Of course, they are schooling fish in their natural habitat. They mostly live in streams and rivers, although one unique species, the blind cave tetra, was first discovered in a cave system in Mexico.


If you read this article to this point, we believe you now understand everything you need to know about Neon tetras as schooling fish and the minimum requirements of keeping them as a school.