How to Breed A Neon Tetra?

The crown Jewel of aquariums almost everywhere and one of the most common bred fish amongst fish keepers. The neon tetra fish was originally imported from South America.  Each month, there are over 1.5 million neon tetras coming into the United States through importation. Owing to how popular this fish is, it is important to look into how they are actually bred to the adult stage.

The neon tetra is actually one of the easiest fish to breed, but the conditions must just be at night. Before you get into fully breeding neon tetras, a specific breeding tank must be set up, prepare the water, and control the night and day cycle. It is also important that the fish keeper is experienced and has knowledge about when to introduce adult tetras and how to care for baby tetras after they hatch.

Some of the steps followed to breed healthy neon tetras include:

Creating the Perfect Environment

1.     Set Up A Specific Breeding Tank

In other to breed neon tetras well, you need more than one tank. It’s important you get another one if you have one already. A 12  8  8 inches (30  20  20 cm) tank can be used to breed your neon tetra. This tank will serve to breed both male and female tetras and also to incubate eggs and baby tetras.

Similar to what you have set up previously, the new tank should be set up. It is important to note that the water needs to be soft and maintain a specific temperature and acidity. This is in order to give the perfect environment to the tetras.

2.     Water Preparation

You have to meet the water conditions needed for optimal growth in neon tetras. Neon tetras thrive better in the water of about 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The water needs to be soft (low mineral content) and acidic (pH of 5 – 6). These water conditions are an analog of what their natural environment feels like.

You could investigate if your water meets these requirements by:

  • using a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the water.
  • testing the pH of the water by using test strips daily.
  • mixing one-part tap water with three parts reverse osmosis water to make the water soft or you can use rainwater.

1.     Install A Corner Box Filter In Your Tank

This helps to remove waste products and bacteria from your aquarium. The filter system helps to provide a healthy environment for the neon tetras, which includes bacteria removal. The corner boxes are gentle which makes them ideal for breeding tanks.

2.     Position Your Tank in A Low Light Place

The neon tetras are not particularly a light lover rather they thrive in dark environments. Do not put your tank close to a sunny window or a place with a lot of light.

Note that complete darkness is not the optimal environment for the neon tetra rather a place with small amounts of light daily should work. You can achieve this by using dark paper to cover the back and sides of the aquariums to block excess light.

Introducing Neon Tetras for Breeding

1.     Sex Your Neon Tetras

It’s very important to sex your neon tetras before you start breeding. You would not like to have all makes or all females in your aquarium. It is important to mix them up properly so that breeding will occur. They are distinct features in the male tetra that differentiate them from the female tetra:

  • Female tetras are wider and fatter than male tetras.
  • Breeders claim that male tetras have a straight stripe while females have crooked stripes.

2.     Place Adult Tetras into The Tank

The best time to introduce adult tetras into a tank is at night. It’s important to introduce them after sunset. Tetras that you can use for breeding have to be about 13 weeks old. If they are not up to this age, it is very likely that breeding might not take place.

The tetras should stay in the tank for one to two days during which they should spawn. (release and deposit eggs and sperms into the aquarium)

3.      If Your Neon Tetras Are Not Breeding, then Adjust Tank Conditions

As stated earlier, breeding neon tetras requires an optimal condition which when not met makes breeding difficult. If breeding is not happening, the PH and temperature of the water in the tank should be checked and adjusted accordingly.

You may soften the water a bit more and light adjusted. It may take time and continuous experimenting to get an optimal environmental condition for neon tetras to breed so be patient. Softening water will hasten to spawn since it provides an analog environment.

4.     Remove the Adult Tetras from The Tank

Owing to the translucent color and how small the egg of the fish is, they are very difficult to identify. They can however stand out in gravel or on plants in the aquarium. As soon as you notice the eggs in the tank, remove the adult tetras because they might end up eating the eggs.

5.     Wait for The Baby Tetras to Hatch

There may be as many as 60 – 130 eggs in the aquarium but not all will hatch. After the egg laying (in a horizontal or resting position on a supporting surface), they usually take about 24hrs to hatch. 40 to 50 baby tetras could hatch from the eggs. These baby tetras look like small splinters of glass, seen swimming around the tank.

Caring for Baby Neon Tetra

1.     Keep the newborn in the dark

The fry will need to stay in the dark for about 5 days after hatching. Baby tetras are light-sensitive and need a dark environment to thrive. Baby tetras are referred to as ‘fry’.

You can achieve this dark environment by:

  • Using dark paper or cardboard, you can construct a cover which you will place on either side of the tank to block out light.
  • Instead of using a very bright light, you should use a dim flashlight to look in from the top of the tank while feeding the fry.

2.     Feed the Fry Special Foods

Just like in other growing species of organism, the baby tetra cannot feed on the same food as the adult tetra. The baby tetra must feed specially on food meant just for them. Of course, there are foods that your fry should eat.

You can make an inquiry at the local stores if you are not sure which brand to buy for your newborn tetras. After a few days, you can feed the baby tetras with baby shrimp as well. This is usually available at the local shops around.

3.     Introduce Your Baby Tetras to Your Adult Neon Tetras

You can conveniently introduce the fry into a tank containing adult neon tetras after about three months. It is important that they are three months or more before introducing them. This is to avoid bullying which can cause injuries from bigger fish.

In some cases, you may just be serving them as food to the adult fish. Baby fish are more prone to disease and some could die. It is important to note that this is a normal occurrence no matter what you do.

4.     Limit Your Neon Tetras to 2 Inches of Fish for Every Gallon of Water

Adult neon tetras are about 2 inches long, so you can divide the gallon size of your tank to find the number of neon tetras you may keep in the tank. This is a general rule used by fish keepers to determine how many tetras that they can keep in their tank at a go. For example, a 100-gallon tank can have about 25 tetras in it.

5.     Find Homes for Extra Neon Tetras

 It is possible to have surplus tetras after a single breeding attempt. Ask friends or fellow fish keepers if they would like to have some. Make sure they have the equipment and resources needed to take care of them. You can also call a local pet store as they may show interest. Keep in mind that pet stores pay between $0.11 and $0.30 per neon tetra, which implies that you won’t make much unless you are selling in large quantities.

Make sure your adult fish are healthy prior to breeding. The condition of the fish (neon tetra) to undergo breeding should be checked to ensure that they are in perfect condition to undergo this process. Without this process, it could result in defective fry or the process might as well not take place.


Remember that fish tank tools should be clean always to prevent introducing disease and bacteria to the young fry.

The baby tetras should be kept away from light until they are about 6 days old.

Before attempting to breed neon tetras, make sure to understand the process very well. Otherwise, you may leave it for the experts.