Home » Fish Guides » Black Neon Tetra Care Guide | 10 Things Must Know

Black Neon Tetra Care Guide | 10 Things Must Know

The Black neon tetra is a little fish with two iridescent stripes and bold black coloration. They are schooling fish. This little fish adds unique gorgeousness to your community tank. Especially, Black neon tetra prefers to live in a planted aquarium. When you are the owner of black neon tetra, you should know some important information about their feeding, breeding, and living behaviors. The following article will assist you to rear them in a healthy manner.

Overview of neon tetra fish

Neon tetra

The neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) is a bright color, tiny freshwater fish that belongs to the Characidae family. They are native to clean water and black water streams in the Amazon basin of Southeastern Colombia, America, eastern Peru, and western Brazil. In the wild habitat, neon tetras live at 68 oF- 82oF (20 0C- 28 0C) water temperatures. Their bright colorations help them to be visible in the dark water.

These bright colorations are the main reason for their popularity in the ornamental fish industry. The bodies and fins are partially transparent except for the iridescent strips. Neon tetra can change the color of this iridescent strip at nighttime. It protects them from predatory activities. Some distinctive varieties belong to neon tetra and those are Black Neon Tetra, Blue Neon Tetra, and Green Neon Tetra.

 What is black neon tetra?

black neon tetra

Black neon tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi) is an energetic freshwater species. They have a torpedo-shaped body. Their fins are transparent, and the head is round in shape. They got this name because of their appearance. This fish has an iridescent black color body and two horizontal stripes across the whole body.

These strips are situated near the lateral line of the body. A bright iridescent white color strip is situated above the black strip. The white strip is thin, and the black strip is broader than it. This white strip sparkles in the light and has a shining effect. Further, Black neon tetras have two distinctive fluorescent color bands across the top of their eyes. This thin red band is situated above the yellow band.

Where is the native habitat of black neon tetra?

This tetra is native to Southern Brazil. In their natural habitat, they are associated with creeks, small tributaries, sandbanks, and flooded forests of the Paraguay basin. They inhabit soft acidic water in the wild and this water is stained brown color. The decaying organic debris is releasing tannins into the water and this brown color comes from the tannins.

How big do black neon tetra get?

The average size of the fish is around 1.5 inches (4cm). Some fish can exceed this size up to 1.6. inches. But it is rare.  Normally, Black Neon Tetra is smaller than Neon Tetra and Cardinal Tetra fish. The fish growth is highly dependent on aquarium conditions and feeds quality. Thus, you should provide quality feed that consists of a high level of proteins to optimize the growth of Black neon tetra.

Is black neon tetra aggressive?

No, black neon tetras are non-aggressive fish species and they can easily grow in the community tank. They are the peaceful, schooling fish variety. Therefore, you can keep 6 or more fish in your planted aquarium. Try to keep this tiny fish with small fish like Zebrafish, Guppy, Molly, and Swordtail fish. Because if you add big carnivorous or omnivorous fish with black neon tetra, big fish will consider this tiny neon as their prey. 

What type of behaviors have for black neon tetra?

Black neon tetras are schooling fish and they swim as a group. They are an energetic fish variety and have active swimming behaviors. Because of their luminescent strips, their appearance is more highlighted in dark environments.

Lifespan Black neon tetra

Generally, this tetra has a 3-5 year life span in captivity. But in the aquarium, it can be varied with some parameters. The life span of fish highly depends on the level of care. If you maintain your tank in good condition, your fish will have the fortune to live longer. Because black neon tetras are extremely sensitive to water quality. Poor water quality can reduce your fish’s life span.

Black neon tetra care

As a beginner, you can select them for your aquarium. Because they are easy to rear. But make sure to maintain the following parameters at the optimum level.

Black neon tetra tank size

At least you need a 20-gallon tank to rear black neon tetra fish. But if you can provide a larger tank with a higher capacity, it is better. You should read them in a tank that is at least 20 inches in length. Black neon fish are skilled jumpers. Thus, you should cover the tank top with the proper roof to protect them.

How many black neon tetras should be kept together?

Black neon tetra fish have schooling behavior and they like to swim together. Thus, you should add 5-6 fish to your 20-gallon aquarium. It will give a more comfortable feeling to your fish. But if you have a bigger tank, you can add more fish according to the available space.

Tank setup

Your aquarium should have some special arrangements to rear black neon tetra. The ideal tank setup must consist of live plants, dark substrates, subdued lighting, and water currents in the mid to upper region of the aquarium. They extremely prefer habitats with natural plants. Thus, you can plant Java moss, Dwarf hair grass, Amazon sword, Java fern, and Anubias nana in your aquarium.

You also can use driftwood to decorate your tank. It facilitates a natural environment feeling for your fish. Every aquarium needs a good filter system to remove fish waste from water. Because fish fecal matter generates ammonia, it directly reduces the water quality. It is recommended to use Peat filtering for black neon to bring out the best coloration.

Black neon tetra tank

Water quality condition

Normally like other tetra fish, black neon tetra fish prefer soft acidic water. But they are quite adaptable. Thus, they can tolerate more hard neutral water than other tetra species. They need open space to swim as a team. The ideal aquarium should consist of dark substrates, driftwoods, and aquatic plants.

If you can add dried leaves to your fish tank, it is better. Because decaying dry leaves generate tannins and tetra greatly prefer that kind of brown color water. But make sure to replace these leaves after a few weeks. You can use dim lighting conditions to display tetras’ colors more beautifully.  


The water temperature should be in between 73 0F-81 0F (23 0C-27 0C). You can use an aquarium thermometer to maintain water temperature.

Light intensity

They required dim light conditions to grow properly. You can see their marvelous luminescent band patterns when they swim under subdued lighting. You can install low-watt fluorescent light that provides 2 watts for each gallon. Provide dim light for 12-14 hours per day. Do not expose fish more than that to the light.


In the natural habitat, black neon tetra fish live in slightly acidic water. Thus, they prefer the 5.5 – 7.5 pH range. You can measure the pH level of water by using a digital pH meter.  


Black neon tetra can live up to 6 dGH value of water hardness.

Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate level

Fish fecal matter and uneaten food cause these substances to generate. But ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate are toxic to the fish. Thus, you should maintain those parameters at the 0 ppm level. To minimize and eliminate those substance levels, you can use a good filter.

Also, do not overcrowd your tank. Because it will generate more waste and directly affects the water quality.

Filter system

You can use a sponge filter or a mechanical filter. But make sure that the filter has enough water circulation rate. This rate should be 4 times higher than your tank size. As an example, if you have a 10-gallon tank, the filtration rate should be 40 gallons per hour (4*10). 

How do identify female black neon tetra?

Generally, sexual differences are not clear in black neon tetra. The female fish has a larger body than the male fish. The female fish’s belly is more rounded than the male fish. When females are mature, their lower abdomen is swollen. Because it is filled with hundreds of eggs.

male vs. female differences of Black neon tetra

Black neon tetra femaleBlack neon tetra male
Larger than male fishSmall body than female fish
More rounded bellySlightly flattened belly
Matured female belly swollen because it filled with eggsMatured male fish belly is not swollen.

 How to breed black neon tetra?

They are egg-bearing fish. The adult fish get matured within one year. After one-year, adult fish are ready to breed. If you need to breed them at home, follow the below guidelines.

  • Select breeding pair. (This is a critical step. Because offspring appearance depends on the parent fish. Thus, if you need baby fish with good coloration and body shape, you should select a good breeding pair. The breeding pair should have good color patterns, body shape, and fins)
  • Separate the breeding pair into the 10-gallon tank.
  • You should provide soft acidic water (4 dGH or less)
  • Install aquarium heater to steady the water temperature.
  • If your room is bright, place cardboard on each side of the tank to prevent high-intensity light
  • Do not use an aquarium filter. Because it will suck the fish eggs
  • Conditioning parent fish by giving live foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, or mosquito larvae
  • You should provide a dark environment to facilitate the breeding. Do not use light with high intensity. Because it can damage the fish eggs and fry stage. You can use a 5W bulb or touch to observe whether eggs are scattered or not.
  • Install aquarium heater (Spawning tank temperature should be around 75oF (24oC))
  • After a few days, slowly increase the temperature to around 80oF (26.7oC).
  • Placed clean substrates or aquatic plants in the breeding tank. (These plants should have broad leaves.)
  • They lay hundreds of sticky eggs over the substrate or stick their eggs under the leaves.
  • Add 4-5 droplets of methylene blue (until the water becomes sky blue color. It will protect eggs from fungus affections.)
  • Normally, like many fish, black neon tetra often spawn in the early morning of the day
  • The parents will eat their babies and eggs. Thus, you should remove the parent fish immediately after they fertilize the eggs.
  • The eggs will hatch within 24 hours
  • After hatch, they eat their egg sac for 3-4 days, until they are large enough to eat another feed. 
  • Provide live food such as brine shrimp or infusoria. The yellow part of the boiled egg is also suitable for fry fish. But make sure to blend it into small particles and add a small amount.

How many babies do black neon tetra have?

Generally, female fish lays around 50-150 eggs. But all eggs do not hatch successfully. The fertilization and hatching rate can be varied. Thus, you can expect around 50 fry fish from one breed.  

How to care for black neon tetra fry?

You should put some attention to rear your fry fish. But taking care of neon tetra fry is not complicated. Just after hatching, the body of the fried fish is extremely sensitive to light. Hence, you should allow them to live in a dark environment in the early stage of their life. Fry fish need more nutrients at an early stage to grow.

Thus, you should give high protein quality food. You can feed them with live food such as brine shrimp, daphnia, small crustaceans, and mosquito larvae. Further, you can purchase some formulated foods that have high protein levels such as quality flacks, fish pellets, and frozen and freeze-dried foods.  

How to feed black neon tetra?      

1. What do black neon tetras eat?

They have omnivorous feeding behaviors and has not any specific food to eat. Normally they eat almost anything owners offered to them. In the wild, they eat small crustaceans, fallen fruits, algae, and small invertebrates. In the aquarium, you can provide formulated feed, live, frozen, and freeze-dried fish food to them. 

2. What do black neon tetras eat in the wild?

Black neon tetras have omnivorous feeding behaviors. Thus, in their natural habitat, they eat any food that suits their mouth. That food can be algae, plants, fruits, vegetables, insects, or small invertebrates such as crustaceans. 

3. What to feed black neon tetras in the aquarium

You can use fish flakes, fish pellets, frozen food, freeze-dried or live food to feed your black neon tetra fish. The live foods are small worms, mosquito larvae, daphnia, and brine shrimp. According to the food quality, fish color, growth, and fish health are varied. Hence, you should provide quality food that contains more than 40% of protein for black neon tetra fish. The formulated feed are high protein fish pellets, fish flakes, and wafers. 

tetra feed

How much feed is required for black neon tetra fish?

Scientifically, you need to add 2% – 3% weight feed from fish weight per day. But at home, it is difficult to measure the weight of small fish. Thus, the best method is to add the amount that fish can eat within 2 minutes. You can add feed 2-3 times per day. Do not add a large amount of feed at once. Add small amounts and check whether the fish can eat that amount within 2 minutes.  Because overfeeding can badly affect fish health. Excess feed will generate ammonia and it causes a reduction in water quality.

How long can black neon tetras go without food?

Black neon tetra can survive 2 weeks in the well-planted tank without formulated feed. Because of their omnivorous behavior they can depend on plant matters of the tank. They can eat plant leaves, immature stems, and algae that occur in your planted tank. But this fasting period varies with the available plant amount, space, and tank mates’ behaviors.

Read more: What Does Neon Tetra Eat? | 13 Things to know

What fish can live with black neon tetra?

The black neon tetra is more suitable for small aquariums. They are schooling fish and like to swim together. Because of their calm behavior they can rear in a community tank. Further, black neon tetra fish are easy to care for. Neon tetra can live with fish that have non-aggressive behaviors. Those fishes are;

  • Rasboras
  • Danios
  • Gouramis
  • Other small tetra varieties
  • Zebrafish
  • Guppy
  • Molly
  • Swordtail

 Do not add them with large fish. Because they will eat them at the first opportunity they got. You can grow them with small fish.

Can Black neon tetra and Angelfish live together?

Yes, as far as the resources are not limited, they can live together and peacefully. The most important thing is tank space. If tank space is limited Angelfish show some aggressive behaviors against the black neon tetra fish. Do not put larvae stages of neon fish with Angelfish. Because Angelfish will misunderstand it as their prey.

Until Black neon tetra does not suit Angelfish mouth size, they can coexist in the same tank. Make sure to provide a well-planted tank for them. Because if Angelfish show some predatory behaviors, Black neon fish can hide in the plant environment.  Do not add them together into the small tank (example: 10 gallons tank).

Can Black neon tetra fish live with Shrimp?

Yes, But it depends on the size of the shrimp. Black neon tetra has an omnivorous diet pattern and they eat small crustaceans if it is available. If your shrimps are small or in the larvae stage, black neon tetra can misunderstand them as prey. But you have well-grown shrimp, tetra fish are unable to eat them. Until shrimp size does not match with black neon tetra fish’s mouth, they will live longer in the same tank.

Black neon tetra and betta

Black neon tetra fish is a peaceful creature and Betta fish is a bit aggressive one. But both varieties can live with each other in the same tank. The black neon tetra is the greatest tank mate for Betta fish. Betta fish show trigger aggression for the bright colors. The black neon tetra suit with Betta fish because they lack vibrant colors. Further, the required tank conditions are the same for both species.

Read more : Glowlight Tetra Must know Care facts | ultimate Guide

Why are yellow spots on black neon tetra fish?

It is a common fish disease. It is also called Gold dust disease, Velvet, or Rust disease. The main symptom is yellow-brown dust on the fish body. Further, these fish’s fins are clamped, have respiratory disorders, and have cloud eyes. This is caused by parasitic skin flagellates such as Oodinium pilularis or Oodinium limneticum. As a result of this disease, fish lost appetite, and showed signs of irritation and breath shortages. This disease can spread throughout the tank.

Thus, you should separate infected fish immediately from your community tank. Copper Sulphate treatment is the best chemical method to overcome this disease. You should use it for 10 days with the manufacturer’s advised dose. You can purchase this chemical from the market. If not you can increase the water temperature, change the water regularly, and decrease the light level of the quarantine tank. You can increase the water temperature to 74o F – 79o F to overcome this disease.

Adding one teaspoon of aquarium salt per one gallon of water also helps to protect your fish. Poor water quality is the main reason for this disease. Therefore, you must maintain pH at a neutral (pH 7) level and ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite at zero levels to prevent disease.

Why are Orange spots on black neon tetra

This is the symptom of Velvet or Gold dust disease. If you see this type of sign on your fish, please separate them immediately into the quarantine tank. You can change the water, increase water temperature and decrease the light intensity to control this disease. One teaspoon of aquarium salt per water gallon is a suitable treatment method to control gold dust disease. You can use Copper sulfate with manufacturing guidelines to protect your fish.

What is the Full-grown size of black neon tetra?

Black neon tetra can reach around 1.5 inches (4cm) in size. But some fish can grow around 1.6 inches in size. However, growth rate and size depend on various factors. The growth rate will be determined by genetic factors, feed availability, the protein content of the feed, and tank size. The size of the fish depends on the quality of feed, the age of the fish, and tank size. When those factors are limited fish is unable to reach their maximum size.

Does Black neon tetra eat plants?

Yes, because of their omnivorous behavior, black neon tetra can eat plant matter, vegetables, and algae in the aquarium. In their native habitat, they eat anything that they can grab such as fruits that fall into the lake or river. Hence, you can use small particles of broccoli, cucumber, lettuce, peas, spinach, and zucchini to feed them.

Credit to : Fluval Aquatics

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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.