Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Paracheirodon innesi

Neon tetra

Neon tetra, Paracheirodon innesiNeon tetra, Paracheirodon innesi
Photos by Andy Rapson


Paracheirodon: Greek, para = the side of + Greek, cheir = hand + Greek, odous = teeth

General Notes:

Wild neon tetras live in a quite extreme environment where the water is very acidic and very soft. Almost all neon's sold in shops are captive bred and have adapted to water which is less extreme and because of this most neon's will have lost the ability to deal with the conditions found in the wild so don't try to replicate those conditions for captive bred fish. Neon tetras are one of the most instantly recognisable fish in the hobby and a must have for every novice fish keeper, their popularity is well deserved, neon tetras are hardy, easy to keep, peaceful and most attractive. With good care they are capable of living for several years.


Wild neon tetras feed on worms, small insects, crustaceans and some plant matter, in captivity they are easily pleased and will accept all suitably sized food offered. A varied diet which includes some fresh or frozen food along with the usual dried food will help to keep them in top condition.


Female neon tetras are larger than the males and have a plumper appearance. The males have slightly more vivid colours when adult.


Neon tetras are difficult to breed in captivity and the fry are difficult to raise this is compounded by the fact that commercially bred neon tetras are fed on food containing hormones to make the fry colour up faster than they normally would. Unfortunately this process reduces their fertility later in life.

To breed these fish use a separate aquarium filled with very soft aged water with lots of fine leaved plants, a well conditioned pair will normally breed at dawn. Remove the parents after spawning. The eggs and fry should be kept away from bright light. Once the fry are free swimming they can be fed on infusoria, hard boiled egg yolk or a liquid fry food. Once big enough they will accept newly hatched brine shrimp and then finely powdered flake food. Home bred fish once adult will be more fertile than shop bought fish and so the brood will normally be larger.

Wild status

The status of wild populations has not been evaluated.

Information at a glance

pH: 5 - 7
dGH: 1 - 2
Temperature: 20 - 26°C (68 - 78°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 2.2cm (0.9in)
Min tank size: 60 litres
Difficulty level: Easy
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: Middle

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Neon tetra, Paracheirodon innesi

Origin: South America: Black water or clear water stream tributaries of the Solimões River.

Habitat: Mostly found in small forest streams which are full of humus giving the water a very dark colour and high acidity. Little light penetrates to the bottom of the streams and the eggs and fry of neon tetras are light sensitive.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Characiformes
Family: Characidae
Genus: Paracheirodon
Species: P. innesi (Myers, 1936)

Common name:
Neon tetra

Synonyms: Hyphessobrycon innesi