How to Breed Neon Tetras: The Ultimate Guide


Neon Tetras have a peculiar way of breeding: they love the dark! 

But even knowing this, many fishkeepers confess to finding it hard to breed these little guys despite their many attempts.

Keeping your eyes glued to Explore Fish World may help you find success.  Read on and get those tips you need to successfully breed these tiny, wonderful mainstays in every tank. But before we dive deeper into the breeding techniques, let’s talk about some behaviors and facts.

Will Neon Tetras Breed In A Community Tank?

As Neon Tetras usually come in schools of 10 or 20 fish, they will eventually pair up and breed wherever they are.

Yes, Neon Tetras do breed in a community tank.  However, the eggs they lay will quickly get eaten either by the parents or their tankmates. 

The best way to breed Neon Tetras is still in their own breeding tank.

Are Neon Tetras Easy To Breed?

Even if you’re experienced with breeding other species of tropical fish, Neon Tetras are very small and are more delicate.

Breeding Neon Tetras are considerably harder than breeding other freshwater fish as the process requires certain conditions in order to be successful.  These include a high quality mating pair and consistently correct water parameters.   

You will also have to mimic conditions in the wild, particularly the Amazon during the rainy season.  These will ensure that your Neon Tetra fry will be of good quality.

Add to that the fact that after laying, the pair might eat the eggs and you know you’ve got your hands full with this task.

One of those necessary components in breeding Neon Tetras is soft, acidic water.  Without it, the eggs won’t hatch. 

Rain water is one of the best available so go ahead and catch some.  As always, don’t forget to test the water first for ammonia, nitrate, and acidity levels before using.  Some fishkeepers even boil rain water to ensure cleanness.

The water parameters for breeding Neon Tetras are:

Temperature77 deg Fahrenheit
Ammonia0ppm
Nitrates0ppm
Nitrites<20ppm
Hardness<10dgh
pH6-6.5
Neon tetra breeding
Breeding in Neon Tetra

Also, you have to prepare for the arrival of your Neon Tetra fry.  They will need to eat after hatching, so you have to breed infusoria in advance.

What Is Infusoria?

Infusoria is the term used to collectively describe minute aquatic species of algae, protozoa, amoeba, vorticella, and other single-celled organisms.  Since they’re made from vegetables, they carry the right components to nourish your fry.

Infusoria exists just about anywhere—including puddles of water on the ground, ponds, rivers, or stock water exposed outside the house.  But these sources aren’t ideal for fish fry as they can also contain pests that will kill your fry, including dragonfly larvae and water flea.

The safest source is the one you cultured yourself.

How Do You Get Infusoria?

Culturing infusoria is very easy.  It is more preferable than store-bought fry food as your own culture is freshly prepared, nutritious, and contains no preservatives.

To make infusoria, you will need:

  • A clean jar half-filled with tank water
  • Blanched and chopped pieces of vegetables such as lettuce, papaya, rice, potato, peas, spinach, cabbage, or green beans.  Vegetable peelings will also do.
  • Java moss

You can even mix different types of vegetables to encourage a variety of infusoria growth.

To culture infusoria, simply put the vegetables and java moss in the jar with the tank water until it is about 80% full.  Leave it in direct sunlight for 3 days.  The water will turn cloudy at first because of bacteria, but will then clear out as the infusoria feed on them.

The java moss already has infusoria from the tank.  What we’re actually doing when we culture is multiplying those microlife to be able to have enough to feed the baby Neon Tetras.

When the water is clear, it’s now ready for serving.  You can then use a dropper or turkey baster to feed your Neon Tetra fry with infusoria-filled water from your culture jar.

Can We See Infusoria?

Although infusoria is very small, they can be seen as tiny white specks in the water.  Each organism is 25 to 300 microns (0.3 mm) each.

You know they’re infusoria because they look like tiny grains of salt but swimming in different directions.

How To Store Infusoria?

Infusoria will die with wild swings in temperature so don’t put the jar in the refrigerator.

Keep infusoria at room temperature, placing a light cloth on top to avoid dirt from getting in.  Do not screw a lid on the jar as the live microorganisms need oxygen to thrive.  The infusoria will last for 2-3 days especially if you top up the jar with fresh tank water daily.

If you notice the water getting cloudy again or a foul smell emanating from the jar after 3 days, discard the contents.  The infusoria has died and you will need to culture a fresh batch.

Now that we’ve got our infusoria going, you have to pick a male and female for your mating pair.

How Can You Tell If A Neon Tetra Is Male Or Female?

Males are usually more slender than the female Neon Tetra, noticeably with a straight blue line across its body.  The female will also have that blue line but her version is bent, as her body is rounder.

You’ll need to pick the best male and female Neon Tetras you have for this purpose.  The female will have to be the biggest, as she will have the most eggs.

Breeding in Neon Tetra fish?
How Can You Tell If A Neon Tetra Is Male Or Female?

Can Neon Tetras Change Gender?

That would be a no.  A male tetra will always be a male, and a female tetra will always be a female.

How Do You Breed Neon Tetras?

1. Provide good quality food for breeding.

Fatten up the pair in the main tank by feeding them protein-rich food like baby brine shrimp, daphnia, and frozen blood worms for a few days.

You can even choose to fatten up all your tetras if you’re not sure which male and female to choose yet. 

If your tetras aren’t getting bigger despite being heavily fed, their tank mates might be stealing the food.  In this case, you can use a separator to ensure proper feeding of your proposed pair.

2. Prepare a breeding tank with 77 deg F rain water. 

A sterilized plastic tub can substitute if you don’t have a breeding tank.  Just make sure the temperature stays consistent and the water parameters suffice.

  • Add java moss and put in your mating pair.

To help soften the water, add Indian Almond leaves into the tank.  These will help prevent fungi from growing on the eggs.  They will also brew some infusoria for the fry that will hatch.

Explore Fish World recommends a bare-bottom breeding tank, although some fishkeepers use an inch of peat moss or a sandy substrate.  They line the bottom of the breeder tank to simulating being in the wild. 

Whether or not to use a substrate is entirely up to you.  Breeders have successfully spawned fry even without the substrate.

If you’re using peat, though, make sure it settles about a day first before adding the Neon Tetra pair into the breeding tank.

3. Cover the breeding tank and leave overnight.

Neon Tetras are used to low light conditions in the wild.  This will be mimicked by the tank cover and the tannins in the water.

4. Uncover cover the tank in early hours.

Since Neon Tetras breed during early mornings, uncover the breeding tank in the early hours and use a lamp if necessary to simulate sunlight.  After about 2 hours, tiny eggs will fall to the bottom of the breeder tank.

The female Neon Tetra will scatter her eggs on the floor of the tank.  The male will then immediately fertilize those eggs. 

But because of this process of egg-scattering, some eggs won’t be able to be fertilized by the male.

5. After spawning, remove the parents immediately as they might eat the eggs. 

Then cover the breeder tank again to allow the eggs to hatch.  You should be able to see tiny fry wriggling in the water after 24 to 36 hours.

After the laying of eggs is the phase which is the easiest and most uneventful.  You should simply leave the eggs alone in the dark.

If your Neon Tetra pair won’t breed, try again the next day.  You can try up to 3 days.  If still unsuccessful, you can try with a different pair.

What Does Peat Do In An Aquarium?

If you’re contemplating on using peat moss, you’ll find it additionally helpful, but with somewhat of a downside to it.

Peat moss helps lower the pH of tank water, making it more acidic.  Peat moss also contains natural tannins that will help darken your breeding tank water.

If you’re finding it hard to lower your water’s acidity, you may opt to use this as a substrate.

Peat moss isn’t a sustainable resource as we’d like it to be, though, so many environmentally-conscious fishkeepers shy away from using it.  And since the Indian almond leaves already serve the purpose of tannins, you can do away with using peat moss. 

Is My Neon Tetra Fish Pregnant?

Female Neon Tetras don’t get pregnant technically but they do get gravid, meaning they’re full of eggs. 

You know the female is ready to lay eggs when her belly is obviously round. 

You can also look for courting behavior, such as a pair swimming separately from the rest of the school (sounds more like high school, doesn’t it?).  The male will also do a strange “square dance” in which he swims in squares, pauses, and then resumes swimming.

Do Neon Tetras Make Bubble Nests?

No, Neon Tetras don’t make nor need bubble nests.  They are egg scatterers, meaning they just lay their eggs wherever they will.

Do Black Neon Tetras Lay Eggs?

Yes, they do.  Black Neon Tetras are similar to Neon Tetras in that they spawn in the morning and that they’re egg scatterers.  The female chooses to lay the eggs on the tank floor or on leaves and décor. 

The difference though, is the number of eggs.  Black Neon Tetras can produce hundreds of eggs in one spawning.

If you ask if you can breed black Neon Tetras the same way you would the common tetra, the answer is yes.  They require the same parameters and amount of care.  With a bit of luck and planning, you’ll even get a bigger batch of fry.

How Often Do Neon Tetras Lay Eggs?

Wow, we can tell you’re already excited for the new batch.

Neon Tetra pairs can spawn every 2 weeks.  You can use the same pair especially if they’ve already spawned for you before.

Good luck with this challenge and we look forward to reading about your progress in the comments section.

How Long Do Neon Tetra Eggs Take To Hatch?

Most of the time, Neon Tetra eggs are too small to be seen.  You’ll be able to identify a successful laying once you see wrigglers in a few days or if there are white eggs that remain unfertilized.

Twenty-four hours after they’ve been laid, the Neon Tetra eggs will hatch into wrigglers.  They will eat up their yolk sac for nourishment.

After about a total of 5 days, these wrigglers will become free swimming.

Neon Tetras lay about 60 to 100 or more eggs in one spawning.  But there are many factors that decrease the number of survivors in a spawn.  These include non-fertilization, being eaten by the parents, congenital deformities, stress, and improper water conditions.

How Do You Use Methylene Blue For Fish Eggs?

Using methylene blue to keep fungi from rotting away your Neon Tetra eggs will be redundant if you’re already using Indian almond leaves (they already serve as fungicidal).

If you do need methylene blue for a severe fungi attack though, remove live plants as the substance will kill them.  Then use 10 drops per gallon of tank water.  One dosage is enough.

What Do You Feed Neon Tetra Fry?  

Five days after hatching, your Neon Tetra fry are now free swimming.

Feed your fry a squirt of Infusoria water from a turkey baster or dropper.  You should do this 2 to 3 times a day, making sure to squirt the food into different parts of the tank so all the babies can feed.

After half a month or 2 to 3 weeks, you can start feeding baby brine shrimp to your Neon Tetra fry.  Newly hatched baby brine shrimp works best.

A month after they’ve hatched, you can introduce adult food to your Neon Tetra fry.

Be careful not to overfeed as these greedy fish won’t stop until they choke or their intestines rupture.  Feed them sparingly but frequently.

What Kind Of Food Do Neon Tetras Eat?

Neon Tetras are omnivores, and even fry love to eat both Infusoria and live food.

Neon Tetra in a fish tank
What Kind Of Food Do Neon Tetras Eat?

As Neon Tetra fry mature, they can start eating frozen bloodworms, flakes, tubifex worms, mosquito larvae, pellets, brine shrimp, and daphnia.

Neon Tetra fry will stay healthy if given a variety of nutrition-rich food.

They’re not hard to feed and will eat almost anything that can fit into their mouths.  Make sure the food you serve them is the right size.  Break down pellets and chop down worms if you must.

You don’t want them biting off more than they can chew… literally.

How Often Should Neon Tetras Be Fed?

As food becomes more filling, feeding frequency should be lessened.

Month-old Neon Tetras should be fed twice a day with an amount of food they can consume within a few minutes.

Are Neon Tetras Hardy?

There is a misconception that Neon Tetras die with just a tap on the aquarium glass, and that does happen if your water conditions aren’t right and your fish are stressed.

With the right water conditions, however, Neon Tetras are hardy enough that they live longer than a lot of other freshwater fish.

How Do I Keep My Fry Tank Clean?

A filter is not necessary for a Neon Tetra fry breeding tank as they can be dangerous to the little babies.  All you need to do is a weekly 25% water change, which is not necessary until after their first week of life.

Since newly-hatched Neon Tetra fry are almost microscopic, the amount of waste is very minimal.  Nitrate and ammonia will be kept to a minimum with the java moss and Indian almond leaf.  You can even add some more aquatic plants for this purpose.

Besides, Neon Tetra fry are known to suddenly die if they get stressed or disturbed, such as when being scooped up into a net or when there is a lot of current in the water.

What Is The Average Lifespan Of A Neon Tetra?

Neon Tetras as pets in the aquarium live up to 5 years.  They usually thrive and live longer if kept in groups.

In the wild, Neon Tetras live for up to 8 years.

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