Care Guide for Black Neon Tetras – Our Fav Underrated Schooling Fish

Care Guide for Black Neon Tetras – Our Fav Underrated Schooling Fish

One of the unsung heroes of the freshwater aquarium hobby is the humble black neon tetra. It is often overlooked and outshone more by its more well-known cousins, the cardinal tetra or regular neon tetra. Yet they are one of our favorite fish to work with at the Aquarium Co-Op retail store. Because of their strong constitution and robust health, we often recommend them to anyone looking to start a new tank. Their nano size makes them accessible to people with smaller aquariums, while their cheap price is appealing to aquarists wanting to fill up a large tank with tons of schooling fish.


What are Black Neon Tetras and how do they work?

Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi may look like a neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) because of the two pearly white and black horizontal stripes running down its side, but it is technically in the same genus as ember, serpae, and lemon tetras. This South American fish comes from Brazil’s Paraguay River Basin and is very common in fish stores due to their hardiness and high activity level.

Are neon tetras larger than black neon? Both fish are approximately the same length at 1-1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm), but the black neon is slightly longer due to its higher body depth. In general, black neon tetras tend to be bolder and swim in the upper half of the aquarium, while neon tetras can be a little shyer and stay in the lower half.

The black neon is known for its striking black and white stripes and red eyes.

How to Set Up an Aquarium for Black Neon Tetras

This beginner-friendly fish tolerates a huge range in water parameters and lives comfortably in 72-80degF (22-27degC). Though they originate from acidic waters, they do well in pH levels anywhere from 5-8, as well as soft to moderately hard water. They are most at home in a dark substrate and their red irises pop against the greenery.

How should we keep our black neon tetras together? Like most schooling fish, more is better. We can see their natural behavior in our fish store. Their synchronized swimming is amazing to watch. A minimum of six could be kept in a 10-gallon aquarium. However, you can get 10-15 fish for a larger 20-gallon tank.

Can black neon tetras be a companion for fish? We have managed to keep ours with large community fish such as angelfish, Geophagus Eartheaters, gouramis, and Geophagus eartheaters. They are also good with other tetras and corydoras. Black neon tetras tend to leave adult dwarf shrimp alone. However, they will take advantage of any babies they find.

Black Neon Tetras are happy in planted community tanks along with their peaceful tank mates.

What are Black Neon Tetras able to eat?

They eat omnivorous food consisting of zooplankton and tiny worms, crustaceans and plant matter. Given their swimming patterns, black neon tetras prefer to feed at the top and middle of the water column, but they are not picky and will eat almost anything you drop into the tank. To keep them healthy, we like to offer a wide variety of smaller foods – like krill flakes, nano pellets, frozen cyclops, daphnia, and baby brine shrimp.

How to Breed Black Neon Tetras

Like most egg layers, these tetras are easy to spawn, but their tiny fry can be harder to raise. Add several catappa leaves to a 10-gallon aquarium that has no other animals. The leaves will slowly decay over several weeks, lowering the pH and darkening the water. This will create biofilm and mulm for the fry to eat. Also, put a bunch of java moss, Easter basket grass, or spawning mops on the ground, and cover the spawning material entirely with a sheet of craft mesh. The holes in the plastic mesh are big enough to allow eggs to fall through, but not so small that adults can’t predate on them.

You will have more chance of getting at least one male and one woman if you get at least six black neons. Feed the adults high-quality food, including micro worms or baby brine shrimps to prepare them for breeding. Once the spawning process is completed, you should remove the adults. Give the babies tiny food like vinegar eels and infusoria. They should be able to eat live baby brine shrimp within a few weeks.

Catappa Leaves slowly acidify and tint water, making it more suitable for black neons to breed.

While Aquarium Co-Op does not sell fish online, you can check out our preferred online retailers to see the latest species they have in stock. Plus, keep reading to learn about the top 10 tetras that we love to add to our community aquariums.