How Many Neon Tetras in A School?

The neon tetra is a very beautiful yet active fish popular for always being in schools. Therefore, it is important to know how many neon tetras in a school to avoid stressing them out.

Neon tetras like to swim around in groups of at least 6 members. When keeping them in an aquarium, you should keep up to 10 individuals in a school. Although, it all depends on the size of the tank that you have. 

The best tank suited for the 4 – 6 neon tetras is a 10-gallon tank. This will avail them space to swim around comfortably.

What is the Ideal Tank Size for a Neon Tetra?

As mentioned earlier, these fish are very active and love to swim around the tank and so will require a big tank which will avail them more space to swim.

It is important to also put into account that these fishes will not always be small and will grow, which implies a big tank should be used.

If you want the best condition for your neon tetra, it is not ideal to use a tank that holds less than 6 gallons of water. These tanks that hold less than 6 gallons of water tend to be too small for their massive activities. And, of course, might not have enough space for them when they get bigger.

Hence, choose ideally a 10-gallon aquarium for a school of 4 – 6 neon tetras. If you want to keep the ideal school number of 10 – 12 members, then you should go for a 20-gallon tank.

Remember to choose the taller tank-type over the longer ones. This is because neon tetras occupy the middle column of the water.

A tank should contain live plants. These live plants can grow into the mid-level of the tank which makes your fish feel safe and secured.

Neon Tetras Are Schooling Fish

When we say, the neon tetras are schooling fish, what exactly do we mean?

Well, fish that school loves to swim together and for the tetras, they do so in group of at least 6.

It is even better when you keep a group of 10 neon tetras. They tend to be at their best as they become even more excited. This quickly eliminates the possibility of using a 5-gallon tank.

Neon tetras typically swim in a more horizontal pattern which requires more swimming room than a 5-gallon tank can carter for.

Can You Keep Neon Tetras in A 5- Gallon Tank?

A 5-gallon tank isn’t the ideal condition for the neon tetra. It doesn’t mean that an experienced fish keeper cannot use it. But, for a fish keeper new to the business, it is ideal to use at least a 10-gallon tank or larger.

Tips for Keeping Neon Tetras in A 5-Gallon Aquarium

It is actually harder to maintain small aquariums than larger ones. While we do not recommend 5-gallon tanks for keeping neon tetras, you can still do if you have the experience and is extra careful.

An experienced fish keeper who uses small tanks can keep 4 – 6 neon tetras in a 5-gallon tank as long as you keep the following in mind:

  • do not overfeed
  • implant a lot of live plants.
  • use a durable filter/heater
  • it should be maintained often (weekly)
  • water draining should be constant (weekly)
  • it’s easy for the water conditions to change quickly, so it’s important to monitor the parameters.

Why School?

Fish school together for protection. Owing to their size, they feel safer in groups. When they move in groups, their movement can easily confuse predators.  Making it harder for the predator to pick on them individually.

This could also be a form of camouflage that makes them resemble a bigger fish. For this reason, most tetras prefer to school. They are so used to schooling life that keeping a single fish (neon tetra) along can be stressful. For this reason, they should be in groups of 6 and above.


Can You School Another Species with Neon Tetras?

It is believed that fishes can be schooled with similar species or similar-looking fish. If a fish resembles another, they could actually swim together as a group.

A known example is the cardinal tetra and neon tetra. Both of them are small tetras, having a bright, almost glowing blue stripe from head to tail and a red stripe below it. The cardinal has a little redder color on its body than the neon tetra. But these two are similar enough to be schooled together.

What Are Good Tank Mates for Neon Tetras?

Fishes that are smaller and peaceful (calm aquarium dwellers) can be schooled with neon tetras.

Some fish that can be kept with neon tetra include:

White Cloud Minnows

These are similar to the neon tetra in size. They are active schooling fish that are kept in a 20-gallon tank environment to live and swim freely. They also love to have a hiding place such as plants and rocks.

If you choose this species, you will be having a very busy pond. So, it’s advisable not to have this fish together with the neon tetra if you want a calm pond.


These fish reduce algae in the water and are calm small and great for keeping a community. They occupy the lower part of the aquarium and so would not bother the free-swimming fish such as neon tetras. The best for this relationship is clown plecos. You could also purchase small young plecos if you have a large aquarium apart from the neon tank.


These fish are inhabitants of freshwater aquariums. Though they prefer slightly salty water. They have variations which include balloon mollies and black mollies. Owing to their nature, they are good mates and can be schooled together with the neon tetra.


Loaches are excellent tank mates for neon tetras and are also bottom feeders just like the Plecostomus. So, they stay close to the substrate. They are peaceful and calm but could grow to be large (up to 16 inches). You prepare the zebra loaches (5 inches) owing to their size.


They are small (2 or 3 inches) and are very calm swimmers which makes them excellent candidates to form a school with neon tetras. They do exceptionally well in groups of 4 to 6 and are a top choice to fish keepers for their easy and docile nature.

Harlequin Rasboras

These are quite timid and co-exist well with neon tetras. They become intimidated and stressed when schooled with fish such as bettas but do okay with small fish such as tetras. They are good examples of schooling fish and so should have at least 8 members in your aquarium.

Ghost Shrimp

They are very small and as such can be good pond mates for the neon tetra. They serve as food, food for larger fishes, and are usually sold in local stores.

Discus Fish

These are very small peaceful fish and can live with many species of fish including forming a school with the neon tetra.

They do not require a high level of care but are a joy to watch while they are swimming. Their body size makes it quite fascinating watching them swimming in a tank.

In Summary

In the end, the number of neon tetras that you have in a school depends on the size of the tank that you have. Note that the recommended minimum tank size for keeping neon tetras is 10-gallon. This should hold about 6 neon tetras.

However, the recommended school size is 10 neon tetras, thus you will be needing a 20-gallon tank to comfortably keep them.

While you can use a 5-gallon tank, we do not recommend it. Except of course if you are ready keep up with the tank maintenance requirements.