Last Updated: June 13, 2023 by Flora Gibbins
Many people believe that because neon tetras are such small fish, they can go in any tank where room allows.
For your neon tetra to thrive, you will want to ensure their tank has the appropriate companionship.
You can add either other types tetras, or other smaller schooling fish species like platies or danios, or some plant life like Vallisneria and java fern. Your neon tetras will live much happier when you have suitable tank mates.
Neon tetras can be a little finicky with tank mates, so it’s essential that you carefully choose your tank mates.
We’ve given a brief description of the different species listed.
- Best Neon Tetra Tank Mates
- 1. Gouramis
- 2. Cory Catfish
- 3. Celestial Danios
- 4. Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma Heteromorpha)
- 5. Guppies
- 6. Platies (Xiphophorus Genus)
- 7. Bristlenose Plecos
- 8. Molly
- 9. Clown Pleco
- 10. African Dwarf Frogs
- 11. Otocinclus
- 12. Angelfish (Use with Caution)
- 13. Pea Puffer
- 14. Zebra Danio (Zebrafish)
- 15. Hatchetfish (Gasteropelecus Sternicla)
- 16. Corydoras Catfish (Corydoras sp.)
- 17. Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi)
- 18. Kuhli Loach
- Tank Tips to Make Sure Your Neon Tetra Stays Safe
- Watch This!
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Neon Tetra Tank Mates
Gouramis are small minnows with a clear shape and a short dorsal fin. They grow to about four inches in length, and they act more like dragons than fish. Usually, they congregate around the bottom of the tank so that they won’t get eaten by your neon tetras.
Neon tetras have been known to pick on gouramis, so if you choose to add them to your tank, it’s best if you get two — one for each aquarium. The gourami will eat any algae that the fish may try to create on plants in the tank.
Although they may take up some space in the tank, they will not harm your fish. They are large enough to school with other small fish like neons or danios, and yet small enough that you can have as many of them as you need. Their bodies are plump, and their fins are not very strong. Gouramis can be used as algae eaters if you feed them every feeding time.
2. Cory Catfish
Cory catfish are also called silver guppies. They are very similar in size to the gouramis, and the males can be different shades of gray and brown. The females are usually a more specific shade of gray, and you should not be able to see any color variations on the females.
The males have a distinct spot on their dorsal fin beneath the gill cover. This spot is shaped like a diamond or an X where the two sides meet at a point. You may also see dots along the borders of the upper and lower fins of the cory catfish.
Cory catfish can grow to four inches and have a thick body with pointed snouts. They are bottom feeders, which makes them good betta fish for your aquarium. They will eat any leftover food that has fallen to the bottom of the aquarium.
They will occasionally nibble on your live plants, but not enough to cause too much damage.
3. Celestial Danios
Celestial danios are different from the typical danios. They are not as long, but they do come in various colors.
The most common colors are gold and silver. Celestial danios can be kept with many other small fish, but they tend to hang out together in a group.
When you first buy your neon tetras, start with only one or two, as they may be too busy chasing down the celestial danios to help you clean out any algae that may have taken over your community tank.
After they’ve settled into the tank, you can add more if needed. They are a very popular choice because they look like little fish and are very similar to neon tetras. They will be able to hold their own with your neon tetras to keep algae at bay.
They are available in different shades of blue, green, and red, and they will add a splash of color to your tank.
They are peaceful fish, as long as you have a tank divider. The male celestial danios are known to have nipped fins of some neon tetras.
4. Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma Heteromorpha)
This fish is a small, round fish about four inches in size. They are bright red and have black markings on the head, body, and fins.
They are very energetic and love to swim around the tank in their round shape.
You will recognize them by their bright red color. As with other schooling fish, they will live happier in a large group so that you can have one or five in your fish tank.
They won’t bother your neon tetras, but they may chase each other around the tank. You’ll want to let them settle together before adding neon tetras to the tank.
Betta fish may grow to reach 3″ long. They like a landscaped tank of at least 20 gallons in size, with some open swimming areas and hiding places in caves and plants.
It’s essential to have lots of Harlequin Rasbora with neon tetras because they will eat any growths that the neon tetras may create on the plants in your tank. If you don’t provide them with sufficient food sources, they will die out.
Harlequin Rasboras require more space than your tetras, so if your community tank is too small for them, you may consider getting three or more of these fish to help keep your algae under control.
Guppies are a small, colorful, and hardy freshwater fish that are popular among aquarium hobbyists. They are generally peaceful and easy to care for, making them a good choice for beginners.
Both guppies and neon tetras can be kept together in the same aquarium, as they have similar water temperature and pH requirements. However, it’s important to keep in mind that neon tetras are much smaller and more delicate than guppies, so they may be at risk of being outcompeted for food or even eaten by the guppies.
To prevent any issues, it’s recommended to keep a larger group of neon tetras (at least six) and to make sure that the aquarium has plenty of hiding places and plants for the neon tetras to retreat to. Additionally, you should make sure that the guppies are well-fed and that there is enough food for all of the fish in the aquarium. With proper care, guppies and neon tetras can coexist peacefully in the same aquarium.
6. Platies (Xiphophorus Genus)
There are many kinds of platies, but the most common is the swordtail platy. Platies usually grow to be about three inches in length. They live for about five years, so you can have around three years of enjoyment out of them before they die.
Platies are in the same family as guppies and mollies, so they have a similar body shape. They also have a long dorsal fin and a striped body.
The females also have a smaller tail than the males do. Usually, plates come in bright colors like orange and yellow, but you can find them in other colors like blue or red, too.
You can find platies in both freshwater and marine aquariums. Platies are carnivorous fish, so they eat live food like bloodworms and brine shrimp. You can feed them tank-born shrimp and vegetables, but they will not do well on food flakes because they are not meat-eaters.
They become schools during the breeding season. If you want to house them with your neon tetras, you should only house one male per female.
The male platy will mate with the female platy in minutes. The male will leave after mating. He will return a few days later when he’s ready to mate again with his partner, female platy.
7. Bristlenose Plecos
This is a plant-eater, and it will remove any algae that start to grow on your aquatic plants. They usually grow up to eight inches to be a little big for your tank.
They are fast swimmers with a pectoral fin and a dorsal fin, which they use to propel themselves through the water. They can also be used as algae eaters, but you may need to watch them closely so that they don’t end up eating your neon tetras.
They do not need to be fed often, but they require some water changes since they get as heavy as a full-grown catfish.
They are large enough to school with other little fish, but they may also need another tank if there is a territorial dispute. They have been known to eat each other’s young if there is any initial hostility, so you may need a separate tank for your two fish to peacefully coexist.
However, they are great at keeping the aquarium clean and removing any algae in the tank. They are slow-moving fish that won’t disturb your neon tetra’s peace, but they like pushing around rocks and stealing food from other neon tetra tank mates.
Mollies are a top contender for being an excellent tank mate for neon tetras. The molly is another favorite because they come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors.
These fish are easy to keep in a tank. Mollies can give you a much-needed boost of color to your tank, and they don’t get very large for their size. With so many different types of mollies available, you’ll be able to find the right molly for your tank.
As for being a good tank mate for neon tetras, mollies will not harm your fish. Then again, you can also buy small guppies that will be safe enough.
They can live in the same fish tank as your neon tetra because they do not eat them and will not harm them. However, you should watch out when they congregate in groups. These fish have been known to pick on each other by nipping at their fins and tails.
They are pretty hardy fish and can adapt to your tank hours after setting them up. Once they are adjusted, you will notice that the molly will act as a bodyguard for your neon tetras.
When the mollies see any other fish approaching your tetras, you will see them flare up their tails to warn the other fish off.
9. Clown Pleco
Clown plecos are a flat, roundish fish that appears almost like a “clown from above.” Their scientific name is Panaqolus maccus, and it’s a bottom-dweller that likes to survive on some algae or food source.
They have nooks and crannies in their skin for them to hide in, hiding from their enemies or predators.
Clown plecos live by eating just about any algae you feed them. Like gouramis, they will eat the algae on plants. So, if you like having some plants in your aquarium with your neon tetras, you should be able to get along just fine.
They are somewhat territorial when it comes to other fish. They don’t seem to harm just about any other fish that gets put in the tank with them because they don’t seem to school together like many other fish do, but they are more territorial than most minnows.
They are very easy to care for as well. You don’t have to do anything special to take care of them or feed them. They thrive in unheated aquariums with a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5. They are especially adept at eating algae, and they will do the job.
You won’t even notice them because they’ll be too busy cleaning your tank.
10. African Dwarf Frogs
African dwarf frogs are small enough to fit in a five-gallon tank, and they’re great at taking care of your green algae problems. They are peaceful fish and live like real frogs without the leaping ability. Instead, they will be able to move around your aquarium using their rear legs.
African dwarf frogs are great at removing algae and waste that your fish may create. They have good swimming abilities, and they will be able to clean any algae off of the plants in your tank.
They do not eat tiny fish, but they can choke on little fish bones and become picky. You can feed them safely with a staple diet like flake food. They are great at removing any leftover foods, and they will also eat algae in your tank.
Like the gouramis, you must add as many frogs as you need to fit in your tank. They don’t swim fast, so adding too many frogs can cause them to die from stress.
They are very easy to fish to care for, and they will help your tetras stay healthy and happy in the long run. As a bonus, they add the color of a true frog to the tank, which many people like because it’s not always so bright in most aquariums.
Otocinclus is a type of catfish found in many tropical and semi-tropical freshwater streams.
A juvenile otocinclus will take up about one-quarter of an aquarium in tank size. As they grow, they can get so large that they need a tank as big as the rest of your fish.
Otocinclus have very small mouths (about no more than half an inch), and they will only eat algae. They don’t do well if you feed them live food because the larger fish can taste them when eating at their neon tetra tank mates.
They are not very aggressive, and they can be a little on the shy side. They do not do well in groups of large fish as they have a tendency to get eaten by them.
They tend to grow up to four inches long, so they should not be considered the same as other species. However, if you plan on keeping them in the same tank with your tetras, make sure that there is plenty of room for both types of fish.
Although they are not shoaling fish, they enjoy the company of others and should be in a group of five or six.
12. Angelfish (Use with Caution)
Perhaps one of the more compatible tank mates for the neon tetra, the Angelfish is a beautiful and very hardy fish for your home aquarium.
When choosing Angelfish to be tank mates with neon tetras, choose a juvenile fish from the first batch you buy.
Adult Angelfish can grow up to 12 inches in length and have incredibly sharp teeth, which can seriously damage your little neon tetras.
Angelfish need a fairly large and deep tank. You will want to use an appropriately sized tank and ensure it has plenty of water circulation. Angelfish like to swim on the top of the water and are known as “top swimmers.”
Angelfish use their fins very well to steer themselves, which means that they can easily get sucked into your neon tetras’ death trap.
They also have large mouths, so they may not bother with feeding them at all if they are fed too much. However, they will love to be fed by your neon tetras in return.
They love to be fed live foods and will also do well on frozen brine shrimp. Angelfish is an excellent addition to a large tank due to its ability to swim around it and create quite an effect with its fins. However, these aquarium fish need their space.
13. Pea Puffer
Because of their relatively large size, the Pea Puffer may be a good choice for a tank mate for your neon tetras. This freshwater fish features razor-sharp spines and puffing-up behavior that makes it look like a hedgehog.
The best thing about this is that it requires very little care and maintenance, so you don’t have to worry too much about keeping it alive.
These fish will get along well with your neon tetras if they’re not too aggressive at feeding time. These little guys are shy and will be intimidated by your tetras initially. But, once you start feeding them, your Puffer will become more confident.
You can add 5 puffs to the tank, but unlike other types of puffers, if they get too big, you won’t need to find another tank for them. Keeping only one pea puffer in the tank is enough to keep algae away, especially if you add some java ferns or other plants.
If you decide to keep more than five pea puffers in the tank, you should add plants to the tank and provide them with algae-eating snails.
14. Zebra Danio (Zebrafish)
Zebra Danio is a very small, schooling fish. Not only do they have an attractive appearance, but they also make for a fascinating addition to the water column. Their bright-colored fins and elaborate patterns provide a pretty look to any tank.
They are quiet and peaceful and make an excellent addition to any aquarium environment. They also require water quality, temperature, and pH similar to tetras.
Zebra Danio must be kept in schools of at least 6 fish. They are very active swimmers and don’t tend to stay in one place long. They get along with most other fish and non-aggressive live plants.
15. Hatchetfish (Gasteropelecus Sternicla)
The Hatchetfish is an interesting little fish. They are bright red and black striped, with a beautiful pattern along with their fins and bodies. These fish have large mouths and happily devour any small fish they come across.
However, they aren’t particularly territorial. If they are in a tank you can control, they will be happy to eat any shrimp or small foody that you put into the tank.
Though hatchetfish are not hard to come by, these little guys do eat quite a bit of foody and plants every day, so it’s essential to keep it in mind when planning for these guys to stay healthy in your tank.
They will eat most fish food, so there is no need to be worried about what you feed them. They prefer a plant-rich environment but are fine in most fish tanks.
16. Corydoras Catfish (Corydoras sp.)
Corydoras Catfish are excellent fish for small to medium-sized tanks. They range in size from 2-to 6 inches and are beautiful fishes that grow more and more popular as pets. They are easy to care for and offer a nice variety of types.
They are very hardy, peaceful, and come in many colors. They also do well with most other fish, except aggressive cichlids. Best of all, they are cheap to purchase.
They will eat whatever you feed them and a variety of foods like blood worms, pellets, and small snails.
If you have fish like neon tetras in your tank, the Corydoras Catfish will be excellent tank mates for them.
17. Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi)
Cherry Shrimp are another popular pet that people enjoy having in their tanks. They are very small shrimp, so they don’t take up much space at all. They are mainly red, but they have a pinkish tint to them as well.
Their bodies even have little black lines on them. These guys will stay the smallest, like tetras, which is another major benefit to choosing these tank mates for your fish.
Since cherry shrimps live in salt water naturally, it’s advised not to keep them in anything other than marine, freshwater tanks. These guys love live plants, and you can even plant kelp forests in your tank with these shrimp and other types of plants (live or fake).
18. Kuhli Loach
Kuhli loaches are not to be confused with regular loaches. They don’t have the same habits and aren’t aggressive fish. Kuhli loaches are pencil-thin, and they can reach up to ten inches in length. Their bodies are covered in scales, and they have a fin that looks like a dorsal fin.
Kuhli loaches live on the bottom of the tank, although sometimes you’ll find them swimming on top. They are incredibly peaceful and won’t bother your fish in any way. They will hide in the plants if your neon tetras try to pick on them.
They don’t seem to bother algae or snails too much, but they help eat algae that grow on the tank’s glass. They have been known to eat hair algae from plants, but not enough to keep it from growing back.
Bull or albino loaches are a bonus because they’re a different color. The Kuhli loach is dark and looks like it’s wearing a black suit, while the bull loach has white spots on its tail and looks like a seal balancing a beach ball on its back. Albino loaches are bright pink with yellow stripes.
Fun Fact: Almost all aquatic species have compatible and incompatible tank mates. Check out our article dealing with this topic on another fish pet titled, 10 Most Recommended Goldfish Tank Mates, and tell us what you think!
Tank Tips to Make Sure Your Neon Tetra Stays Safe
Here are details on creating the optimal atmosphere for the neon tetras, except for keeping the most suitable neon mates on the tank:
Choose the Tank Size
Tanks can be small or large. Ideally, a 30-gallon tank (or larger) will work best.
Fill the Tank With Water from Your Faucet
Let it sit for 24 hours to remove chlorine and excess minerals before adding fish
Choose a Filter for the Tank
Make sure that the filter has mechanical and biological media to help remove waste and toxins from your water. You’ll also need an air pump or powerhead to ensure that you have enough oxygen in your aquarium
The neon tetra is extremely peaceful, making it an excellent candidate for a first-time tank owner. You can choose any of the recommended fish in this article.
Ensure That the Temperature is Optimal
Depending on the species of neon tetra, one should try to keep the water temperature at a maximum of 84 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that the fish will be healthy and happy. This can be achieved by using heaters, thermostats, or foggers, depending on your preference and the specific conditions of your aquarium
Ensure That the Water is Safe
Keep the nitrate levels below 20ppm. Ensure that you always have a supply of unused aquarium water available to use when replacing water lost through evaporation.
Feed the Fish
Your neon tetras must be healthy. To ensure this, they will need a balanced diet. Be sure you feed them flake food or pellet food at least twice a day and supplement their diet with frozen or live foods to maximize their nutritional well-being
Watch for Problems
If your neon tetra does fall, ill find an appropriate drug for your specific problem as soon as possible. Usually, these drugs are available in pet stores and can range in price. In most cases, the sick fish won’t make it without a quick remedy.
Don’t Forget to Clean Your Tank
Regularly cleaning your aquarium is essential to maintaining the health of your aquarium fish and plants. Once every week would be best, but a monthly cleaning session should suffice as well
Carefully Choose Tankmates for Your Neon Tetras
This fish is incredibly peaceful, so it’s essential to find other species that will fit well with the tetras. Also, avoid tankmates that get too long in the tooth.
Be Patient And Enjoy
The neon tetras are a very peaceful fish that can easily adapt to most aquarium conditions, including normal, high or low lighting, temperature variations, and water quality parameters.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do neon tetras need other fish?
While neon tetras are okay with others of their kind, they prefer to be kept in schools. This makes them a poor choice for the average home aquarium.
Neon Tetras do best when kept in schools of six or more, so this does not make them suitable for the average household aquarium unless you wish to set up a larger tank.
Are neon tetras good community fish?
Unless you have already established a larger tank with plants and other bottom dwellers that will help keep down algae and other growth, it can be hard to maintain your tank when you add neon tetras.
How many neon tetras should be kept together?
Neon tetras are fish sensitive to the presence of other types of little fish. Therefore, you should keep them in a tank with no more than 2 or 3 neon tetras per gallon. If you have more than that, the other fish will likely overpower and bully your neon tetra and rob it of food.
What types of plants can I use with my neon tetras?
There are many varieties of aquatic plants available from retail shops and online that will do well in a neon tetra tank. Many different types thrive in freshwater and saltwater tanks and are ideal for your new life.
Which fish can stay with tetra?
Anything smaller than 6 inches (15 cm) is a good choice. Platies, guppies, and danios are ideal. Goldfish can be used to keep other sensitive fish in a tank containing neon tetras.
Why do neon tetras get depressed?
Not enough fish or an overbearing skimmer can wear on your tetra’s confidence and make him/her feel insecure. It is important not to overcrowd your tank as this will put more stress on the fish.
Neon tetras are very easy to care for, provided they have the appropriate tank mates. They are an excellent fish for beginners, and even experienced aquarists enjoy them.
Depending on your aquarium needs, they can be kept as a community species, solitary species, or in a breeding colony. Neon tetras are one of the most popular aquarium fishes today and are available from many hobby retailers, hobby shops, and online.