Are Neon Tetras Tropical Fish?

Giving your neon tetras the best water condition in your aquarium also has to do with figuring out if they are Tropical fish or not. That is why most aquarists ask if neon tetras are tropical?

So, are neon tetras tropical fish? Yes, Neon tetras are small schooling tropical fish originally found in the freshwaters of the Amazon basin. Most new aquarium enthusiasts go for this fish because of the ease to keep them. 

As neon tetras are tropical fish, a lot goes into making their aquarium environment conducive for them.

Background and Origin

This species of tetra (neon) are tropical, freshwater fish. They occur in nature in South America, particularly in the Paraguay River Basin, Rio Taquari, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Brazil. They are plentiful in the wild and are not listed on the IUCN red list.

There are several types of neon tetras that you can grow or keep in a tank, they include

  • long fun Neon tetra
  • True Neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)
  • Albino Neon tetra
  • Green Neon tetra
  • Gold Neon tetra
  • Red Neon tetra
  • Diamond Neon tetra

Natural Habitat

The neon tetra is predominant in areas with slow-moving waters, mainly river tributaries that flow beneath dense forest canopies. Also, the water body is black and light doesn’t easily penetrate them (dimly lit). They live in large shoals, inhabiting the central water column where they mostly feed on worms, small crustaceans, and plant matter.

Water Condition

The natural habitat of a neon tetra is “black water”. This implies that the water in your tank should mimic this characteristic. They also enjoy slow-flowing water and tanks with a gentle current. To achieve this, you should also use powerheads or canister filters.

Care should be taken so that little neon tetra does not get sucked into the filtration system. You can prevent this by covering the filter with a foam filter media or mesh.

Water Parameters

Owing to the tropical nature of the natural environment of neon tetras. The water in the tank must be warm, ideally between 68 to 77. The pH of the water should be between 5.0 and 8.0 and the water hardness should be between 3 to 25 dGH

Habitat Maintenance

It’s important to maintain a steady and comfortable environment to get the best out of your neon tetras. The tank must always be clean and hygienic for them.

You’ll need to carry out partial water changes of between 20% and 25% to keep a steady and healthy nitrate level. Use an aquarium vacuum cleaner to get rid of uneaten food, fish waste, plant debris, and general debris that can pollute the water.

It’s important to clean the filter unit and replace the filter media at least once a month. It’s also important to trim and maintain the average growth of plants which helps provide a source of nutrient exchange in the tank. Try to remove dead leaves and plants before they start decomposing.

Tank Set-Up

Neon tetra feels a lot more comfortable in a moderately warm tank with a temperature ranging between 75 – 80.5 .

The importance of maintaining this water range cannot be overemphasized. Lower temperatures reduce the fish activity which can slow down their metabolism, which will definitely affect the output of the fish.

The neon tetra requires a pH of about 5.0 to 8.0 and a water hardness of about  3 – 25dGH. A good filter is also an integral part of a tank that contains a neon tetra. This helps the tank to closely resemble their natural environment that is never static and is always in motion through the help of some physical forces such as wind and water current.

The substrate to choose is entirely up to the fish keeper as it depends on your personal preference since neon tetras are not too picky. The substrate in their natural environment always moved around and resembles more of a mix rather than matching material.

Another integral part of the tank is live plants. Unlike some species of fish that can destroy any plant on their site, the tetra on the other hand can be kept with the most delicate of plant species.

What Size of Aquarium Do You Need?

The neon tetra should be in a tank that holds at least 10 gallons of water. However, the size of the aquarium should increase as the number of neon tetra increases. It also increases if you decide to keep so many species and plan on making a community aquarium.

How Many Neon Tetras Can Be Kept Per Gallon?

You should allow at least 2 gallons for each neon tetra.

What to Feed Tetras?

Neon tetras are mostly native to tropical regions of South America. The Amazon River, its tributaries, and countless estuaries have been discovered to an average fertile breeding ground for neon tetras.

Here you find warm, oxygenated waters with abundant food. Neon tetras are not picky and can eat anything including insects that end up on water surfaces or smaller freshwater organisms.

They will happily feast on all sorts of food, including granules and flakes. It will eat frozen or dry food, and will also gladly feed on live food. Because of the eating habits of the neon tetra, it is advisable to get an automatic food dispenser which will help avoid overfeeding.

Feed them in the morning and in the evening, and the food put into the tank should be one they can finish within 2 minutes.

Neon Tetra Life Span

In natural conditions, neon tetras can live up to 10years. In a tank or aquarium, they can live up to five years. The latter depends on how well you care for them and how well you can mimic their natural environment which suits them so well.

Do Neon Tetras Need Plants?

The neon tetra loves a tank with a lot of space and plants in it. They love the greenery appearance the plants give the aquarium and make them feel at home. The more plants you can add without consuming a lot of space, the better.

The neon tetra lives in an aquarium with mostly freshwater plants, some of their favorite species include:

  • Cabomba
  • floating plants like frogbit and dwarf lettuce
  • Vallisneria
  • all kinds of mosses

Common Neon Tetra Disease

A neon tetra can be affected by a common disease called neon tetra disease or “false neon tetra disease”. All of which is very fatal and unfortunately has no cure at the moment.

It is important that once a symptom is noticed in any of the neon tetras, it should be isolated from others. If this is not done, it could lead to the spread of the disease. The name “Neon tetra disease” comes from the fact it was first isolated in a neon tetra. But other breeds of tetra are also at risk of getting infected as the disease is a wide spectrum disease.

What Causes Neon Tetra Disease?

Parasites attached to the host within an aquarium causes neon tetra disease. The most common vectors are usually the dead bodies of other fishes, and I’m some live food such as Tubifex.

Once the Tubifex gets into the intestinal tract of the neon tetra, the disease starts to eat the muscles from the inside out. The most common way to spot this is the apparent discoloration and lightening of their scales. Other symptoms include:

  • difficulty in swimming
  • a lumpy exterior caused by developing cysts in the muscles.
  • Restlessness
  • loss of color
  • the curvature of the spine

Making sure the aquarium is clean, has the best temperature and hardness is vital to prevent this occurrence. Tanks occupied by ill fish can increase the risk of your fish getting infected by the disease.


This page covers every caring activity you should know about neon tetras that are tropical fish. Certainly, like a tropical fish, neon tetras require certain water conditions discussed here. Therefore, never mistaken this fish species for a temperate fish. They would not survive temperate water conditions.