Black Neon Tetra Care: Tank Setup and Feeding Guide

Black Neon Tetra Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi
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Last Updated: September 4, 2023 by Flora Gibbins

Black Neon Tetras are a popular freshwater aquarium fish known for their striking appearance and peaceful demeanor. Their iridescent black bodies and neon blue stripe make them a standout addition to any community aquarium, and their schooling behavior and compatibility with other non-aggressive fish make them a great choice for beginner and experienced fish keepers alike.

Black Neon Tetra Overview

  • Common names: Black Neon Tetra, Black Tetra, Schwarzi
  • Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi
  • Adult size: up to 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
  • Life expectancy: 3-5 years
  • Origin: Rio Negro in Brazil

We’ll delve deeper into these in the sections below.


Black Neon Tetras are known for their striking appearance, with an iridescent black body and a neon blue stripe that runs horizontally from the nose to the base of the tail. These colors are produced by two different mechanisms. The iridescent black color of their body is caused by pigments in their skin called melanophores. These pigments contain melanin, which absorbs most of the light that hits it, giving the fish its black color.

The neon blue stripe, on the other hand, is produced by a structural color called iridescence. This means that the color is produced by the way light reflects off the fish’s scales, rather than by pigments.

In well-lit aquariums, the colors of Black Neon Tetras can be especially vibrant. The iridescence of the neon blue stripe is particularly noticeable in bright lighting conditions, and the contrast between the black and blue colors can be quite striking.

When it comes to gender differences, male Black Neon Tetras tend to be slimmer and have a brighter blue stripe compared to females, who tend to be rounder and have a slightly duller blue stripe. However, it can be difficult to distinguish between males and females, especially in younger fish. In some cases, the only way to tell the difference between the sexes is to observe their behavior during breeding.

Origin and Distribution

Black Neon Tetras are native to the Rio Negro and its tributaries in Brazil, where they are found in areas with slow-moving waters and plenty of vegetation. They are a popular species in the aquarium trade and have been widely distributed throughout the world.

In the wild, Black Neon Tetras are known to swim in large schools of up to thousands of individuals. They are considered middle and top dwellers of the water column, where they feed on small invertebrates and plant matter. The Rio Negro is known for its dark, acidic waters, and Black Neon Tetras have adapted to thrive in these conditions.

In the aquarium trade, Black Neon Tetras are a popular species due to their striking appearance and peaceful temperament. They are widely available in pet stores and online, and are relatively easy to care for. However, it is important to ensure that the fish are obtained from reputable sources, as unscrupulous suppliers may engage in unsustainable or illegal collection practices that can harm wild populations.

Behavior and Temperament

Black Neon Tetras are peaceful and social fish that are best kept in groups of at least 6 individuals. They are generally non-aggressive and can be housed with other peaceful species that share similar water requirements. However, it is not recommended to house them with larger or more aggressive fish, as they may become targets for aggression or may be outcompeted for food.

In the aquarium, Black Neon Tetras are active swimmers and enjoy having plenty of space to explore. They are often seen darting in and out of plants and other decorations in the tank. They are also known for their schooling behavior, and will swim together in tight formations for safety and social interaction.

Black Neon Tetras are also known to be jumpers, so it is important to have a tight-fitting lid on the aquarium to prevent them from escaping. In addition, they are sensitive to bright light and may become stressed if exposed to overly bright or direct lighting. Providing plenty of plants and other decorations in the tank can help provide hiding places and reduce stress.

Tank Mates

Black Neon Tetras are peaceful fish that can be housed with other non-aggressive species that share similar water requirements. When choosing tank mates for Black Neon Tetras, it is important to select fish of a similar size and temperament to avoid potential conflicts.

Good tank mates for Neon Tetras are good tank mates for Black Neon Tetras, which include other types of Tetras, such as Ember Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, and Glowlight Tetras, as well as small Corydoras catfish or other bottom-dwelling species. Other small, non-aggressive fish like Rasboras or Guppies can also be good companions.

It is important to avoid housing Black Neon Tetras with larger or more aggressive fish, as they may become targets for aggression or may be outcompeted for food. It would also be worthy to note that there is such a thing as small aggressive fish, like the fin-nipping Dawn Tetra, which should also be avoided.

Overall, the best tank mates for Black Neon Tetras are peaceful species of a similar size and temperament. With the right tank mates and environment, Black Neon Tetras can thrive and make a great addition to any community aquarium.

Black Neon Tetra Care

Black Neon Tetras are relatively easy to care for and can make a great addition to any community aquarium. However, like all fish, they require proper care and attention to thrive.

In this section, we will discuss the key aspects of Black Neon Tetra care, including their diet and feeding, preferred water parameters, common diseases, and lifespan. Whether you’re a seasoned aquarist or new to the hobby, understanding the basic care requirements of Black Neon Tetras is essential for keeping these beautiful fish healthy and happy in your aquarium.


Creating the ideal habitat is essential for the health and well-being of Black Neon Tetras. In the wild, these fish are found in slow-moving rivers and streams in South America. They prefer densely planted areas with plenty of hiding places, such as submerged tree roots, rocks, and vegetation. Here are some key factors to consider when setting up a tank for Black Neon Tetras:

Tank Size

Black Neon Tetras are schooling fish and should be kept in groups of 6-8 individuals. A minimum tank size of 10 gallons is recommended for a school of this size. A larger tank is always better, especially if you plan on keeping other fish in the same aquarium. A larger tank will provide more swimming room for the Black Neon Tetras and will also help to dilute any waste produced by the fish, which can help maintain better water quality.

Water Parameters

Black Neon Tetras prefer soft, slightly acidic water with a pH range of 5.5-7.0 and are sensitive to fluctuations in water chemistry. The ideal water temperature for Black Neon Tetras is between 72-82°F (22-28°C), and the water should have a hardness of 5-12 dGH. It’s important to monitor the water quality regularly to ensure that the pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels are within acceptable ranges. A high-quality filter and regular water changes are also essential for maintaining good water quality.

Substrate: Black Neon Tetras are known for their stunning black coloration, which can be enhanced by a dark substrate. Substrate options like dark-colored gravel or sand are ideal, as they can also help to create a natural-looking environment for the fish. A layer of substrate about 1-2 inches deep is usually sufficient, although some aquarists prefer a deeper layer of 3-4 inches to allow for more planting options. It’s important to avoid sharp or abrasive substrates that could damage the delicate barbels of the Black Neon Tetras.

Plants and Vegetation: Black Neon Tetras are natural shoaling fish and require plenty of hiding places and cover in their aquarium. Live plants like Java fern, Anubias, and Java moss provide ideal hiding spots and can also help to mimic their natural environment. Adding a piece of driftwood or a few rocks to the tank can also create additional hiding places for your fish.

Diet and Feeding

Black Neon Tetras are omnivores and can be fed a varied diet to maintain their health and vibrant coloration. They will accept a wide range of foods, including high-quality flake or pellet foods, as well as live or frozen foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, or daphnia.

A varied diet is particularly important for Black Neon Tetras, as it can help provide the essential nutrients they need for optimal health and coloration. A diet that is too high in protein, for example, can lead to digestive issues and other health problems. By including a variety of different types of food in their diet, you can ensure that they are getting a well-rounded and balanced diet.

When feeding Black Neon Tetras, it’s important to avoid overfeeding, as this can lead to health problems and water quality issues. A good rule of thumb is to feed them small amounts several times per day, rather than one large feeding. This can help prevent uneaten food from accumulating in the aquarium and causing water quality problems.

Common Diseases

Black Neon Tetras are generally hardy and resilient fish, but like any living creature, they are susceptible to diseases. Some of the most common diseases that can affect Black Neon Tetras include fin rot, ich, and velvet.

  • Fin rot is a bacterial infection that can cause the fins to become ragged or discolored. It can be caused by poor water quality or stress, and it’s important to address the underlying cause to prevent the infection from getting worse. Treatment typically involves improving water quality and administering an antibiotic medication.
  • Ich is a parasitic infection that can cause small white spots to appear on the fish’s body. It can be caused by stress or poor water quality, and it’s important to treat the infection promptly to prevent it from spreading to other fish in the aquarium. Treatment typically involves raising the temperature of the water and administering a medication that kills the parasite.
  • Velvet is a parasitic infection that can cause the fish’s skin to appear velvety or dusty. It can be caused by stress or poor water quality, and it’s important to treat the infection promptly to prevent it from spreading to other fish in the aquarium. Treatment typically involves raising the temperature of the water and administering a medication that kills the parasite.

To prevent diseases from affecting Black Neon Tetras, it’s important to maintain good water quality and avoid overcrowding. You should also quarantine new fish before adding them to your aquarium to prevent the introduction of diseases.

With proper care, Black Neon Tetras can live for 3-5 years or more. This includes maintaining good water quality, providing a varied and balanced diet, and avoiding overcrowding. By providing them with a healthy and stress-free environment, you can help ensure that they live a long and healthy life.

Breeding Black Neon Tetras

Breeding Black Neon Tetras can be a rewarding experience for aquarium hobbyists. These fish are relatively easy to breed and will often breed on their own in a well-maintained aquarium. Here are some tips for successful breeding:

  1. Set up a breeding tank: To increase the chances of successful breeding, set up a separate breeding tank with a dark substrate, plenty of plants, and a breeding cone or mop for the fish to lay their eggs.
  2. Provide the right water conditions: Black Neon Tetras prefer soft, slightly acidic water for breeding. A pH of 6.0-6.5 and a temperature of around 78°F are ideal.
  3. Condition the breeding pair: To encourage breeding, feed the adult Black Neon Tetras a high-quality diet of live or frozen foods for a few weeks before introducing them to the breeding tank. This will help them reach peak breeding condition.
  4. Introduce the breeding pair: Once the fish are in prime breeding condition, introduce them to the breeding tank. The male will typically chase the female around the tank, and once the female is ready to spawn, she will lay her eggs on the breeding cone or mop.
  5. Remove the adult fish: Once the eggs have been laid, remove the adult fish from the breeding tank to prevent them from eating the eggs or fry. The eggs will typically hatch in 24-36 hours, and the fry will become free-swimming after a few days.
  6. Feed the fry: Once the fry are free-swimming, start feeding them small, live foods such as baby brine shrimp or microworms. As they grow, you can gradually introduce them to crushed flakes or other small, finely ground foods.

Related Species

Black Neon Tetras have several close relatives in the family Characidae, which are popular among aquarium hobbyists. Some of these species share similar appearance or behavior with the Black Neon Tetra, and can make great tank mates.

  • Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon innesi) are perhaps the most well-known and popular of all tetras. They share the same bright neon blue stripe on their body, but have a vibrant red stripe underneath instead of black.
  • Cardinal Tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi) are similar to Neon Tetras but have a longer blue stripe that extends from their head to their tail, and a deeper red color on their underside.
  • Rummy Nose Tetras (Hemigrammus rhodostomus) are named after their distinctive red nose, and have a silver body with a black patch and a neon blue stripe. They are peaceful and shoaling fish that prefer to be kept in groups.
  • Ember Tetras (Hyphessobrycon amandae) are small and peaceful, and are named after their bright red-orange coloration. They are popular for their small size and schooling behavior, and can be great tank mates for Black Neon Tetras in a community aquarium.
  • Rosy Tetras (Hyphessobrycon rosaceus)are have translucent, silvery pinkish bodies and bright red fins. They are a chill, easygoing species that would provide a great contrast to your Black Neon Tetras.


Black Neon Tetras are a great choice for those looking to add color and movement to their aquariums. They are peaceful, hardy, and relatively easy to care for, making them a popular choice for beginner and experienced aquarists alike. Black Neon Tetras are a beautiful and fascinating addition to any aquarium, and with proper care and attention, they can thrive and provide enjoyment for years to come.

Cover Image Credit: Juan R. Lascorz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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