Black Neon Tetra Care Guide: Tank Mates, Diet, and FAQs

Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)
<a href="">Brian Gratwicke</a>, <a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>, via Wikimedia Commons

The black neon tetra, scientifically known as Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, is a small freshwater fish native to the Paraguay and Guapore River Basins in Brazil. It belongs to the Characidae family, which includes other popular aquarium fish like the neon tetra and cardinal tetra.

This sleek and elegant fish typically measures around 1 inch in length. Its slender body is a striking translucent yellow in the front half that transitions to black towards the tail. The black neon tetra also sports a prominent horizontal stripe that runs along the length of its body, starting out white near the head and gradually shifting to a brilliant, iridescent blue.

Black neon tetras are generally peaceful, making them a good fit for most community aquariums. They are schooling fish, so it’s best to keep them in groups of at least six individuals. Interestingly, research has shown that black neon tetras tend to exhibit a distinct “schooling” behavior, swimming in a coordinated manner with their group mates, whereas other species like zebrafish display more of a loose “shoaling” behavior.

In terms of habitat, black neon tetras are mid-dwellers that prefer densely planted aquariums with subdued lighting. They are omnivorous and will readily accept most commercially prepared flake or pellet foods, as well as frozen or live foods like brine shrimp and daphnia.

Although not as well-known as their cousin, the neon tetra, black neon tetras have been popular in the aquarium trade since the 1950s. They are relatively easy to care for and their striking appearance makes them an attractive addition to many freshwater aquariums.

Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)
Brian Gratwicke, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Key Information

The Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi) is a captivating freshwater fish that comes in a few notable variants. While the standard Black Neon Tetra is the most common, there are also long-finned and gold varieties that add even more visual interest to aquariums. These variants showcase the adaptability and diversity within the species, making them a favorite among fishkeepers who appreciate both the classic look and unique variations.

Price$2 – $5 per fish
Common NamesBlack Neon Tetra, Black Neon
VariantsStandard, Long-finned, Gold
Ideal Tank Size20 gallons or larger
Water ParametersTemperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C), pH: 5.5-7.5, Hardness: 4-8 dGH
Lifespan5-8 years
Full Size1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
Natural EnvironmentParaguay River basin in Brazil
BehaviorPeaceful, schooling fish
Habitat PreferenceMid-level dweller, swims among plants and decorations
Aquarium DecorationPlenty of hiding spots, vegetation, and open swimming areas
Ideal Tank MatesOther peaceful fish such as tetras, rasboras, and small catfish
Fish to AvoidLarge, aggressive fish that may bully or eat Black Neon Tetras
Best Foods/DietOmnivorous; accepts high-quality flake, pellet, and frozen foods; prefers live foods like brine shrimp and daphnia
DiseaseSusceptible to common freshwater diseases if water quality is poor or stress levels are high
Gender DifferencesDifficult to distinguish; females may be slightly larger and more rounded
Care LevelEasy
Breeding LevelModerate; can be bred in home aquariums with proper conditions, but requires some experience

Ideal Tank Mates

When choosing tank mates for your Black Neon Tetras, it’s essential to select species that share similar water requirements, temperament, and behavior. The ideal tank mates should be peaceful, non-aggressive, and thrive in the same soft, slightly acidic water conditions as Black Neon Tetras.

Black Neon Tetras are schooling fish that feel most comfortable when kept in groups of at least six individuals. They enjoy the company of their own species and other compatible fish that won’t outcompete them for food or space. By carefully selecting the right tank mates, you can create a harmonious and visually appealing community aquarium.

Here are 15 ideal tank mates for Black Neon Tetras and the reasons why they are compatible:

1. Cardinal Tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi)

Cardinal Tetras are stunning, peaceful schooling fish that share similar water requirements with Black Neon Tetras. Their brilliant red and blue coloration complements the iridescent blue of Black Neons, creating a visually striking display.

2. Rummy Nose Tetras (Hemigrammus rhodostomus)

Rummy Nose Tetras are another peaceful schooling species that thrive in soft, slightly acidic water. Their unique red-tipped noses and silver bodies add visual interest to the aquarium, and they get along well with Black Neon Tetras.

3. Ember Tetras (Hyphessobrycon amandae)

Ember Tetras are small, peaceful fish with a striking orange-red coloration. They are well-suited to the same water conditions as Black Neon Tetras and make excellent tankmates due to their calm demeanor.

4. Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon innesi)

Neon Tetras, close relatives of Black Neon Tetras, share similar care requirements and behavior. Their iridescent blue stripe and peaceful nature make them ideal companions for Black Neons.

5. Green Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon simulans)

Green Neon Tetras are another close relative of Black Neons, featuring a stunning green iridescent stripe. They are peaceful schooling fish that thrive in the same water conditions, making them excellent tank mates.

6. Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)

Harlequin Rasboras are peaceful, schooling fish that adapt well to the soft, slightly acidic water preferred by Black Neon Tetras. Their unique triangular shape and reddish-orange coloration add visual appeal to the aquarium.

7. Cherry Barbs (Puntius titteya)

Cherry Barbs are small, peaceful fish that thrive in planted aquariums with soft, slightly acidic water. Their vibrant red coloration and active swimming behavior make them attractive tank mates for Black Neon Tetras.

8. Kuhli Loaches (Pangio kuhlii)

Kuhli Loaches are peaceful bottom-dwellers that help keep the substrate clean. Their unique eel-like appearance and nocturnal activity add interest to the aquarium without interfering with the Black Neon Tetras’ space.

9. Corydoras Catfish (Corydoras spp.)

Corydoras Catfish are peaceful bottom-dwellers that thrive in soft, slightly acidic water. They help keep the aquarium clean by scavenging leftover food and debris, making them beneficial tank mates for Black Neon Tetras.

10. Otocinclus Catfish (Otocinclus spp.)

Otocinclus Catfish are small, peaceful algae-eaters that help maintain a clean aquarium. They are well-suited to the same water conditions as Black Neon Tetras and won’t compete for space or food.

11. Dwarf Gouramis (Trichogaster lalius)

Dwarf Gouramis are peaceful, colorful fish that occupy the upper levels of the aquarium. They are compatible with Black Neon Tetras as long as the aquarium is spacious enough to accommodate both species comfortably.

12. Apistogramma Dwarf Cichlids (Apistogramma spp.)

Apistogramma Dwarf Cichlids are small, peaceful cichlids that thrive in soft, slightly acidic water. They are bottom-dwellers and can coexist peacefully with Black Neon Tetras in a well-planted aquarium.

13. Endler’s Livebearers (Poecilia wingei)

Endler’s Livebearers are small, colorful fish that adapt well to the same water conditions as Black Neon Tetras. Their active swimming behavior and peaceful nature make them suitable tank mates.

14. Celestial Pearl Danios (Danio margaritatus)

Celestial Pearl Danios, also known as Galaxy Rasboras, are small, peaceful fish with a stunning spotted pattern. They thrive in soft, slightly acidic water and make excellent companions for Black Neon Tetras.

15. White Cloud Mountain Minnows (Tanichthys albonubes)

White Cloud Mountain Minnows are hardy, peaceful fish that adapt well to various water conditions. Their active swimming behavior and attractive coloration make them compatible tank mates for Black Neon Tetras.


How many Black Neon Tetras should I keep together?

Black Neon Tetras are schooling fish and feel most comfortable when kept in groups of at least six individuals. Keeping them in larger groups not only mimics their natural behavior but also helps reduce stress and promotes a more active, engaging aquarium display.

Can Black Neon Tetras be kept with shrimp or snails?

Yes, Black Neon Tetras can coexist peacefully with most freshwater shrimp and snails. They are not known to harass or prey upon these invertebrates, making them suitable tank mates in a community aquarium setting.

Are Black Neon Tetras fin nippers?

Black Neon Tetras are generally peaceful fish and are not known for being notorious fin nippers. However, if kept in smaller groups or under stressful conditions, they may occasionally nip at the fins of slower, long-finned fish. Providing them with ample space and a proper school size can help minimize this behavior.

How often should I feed my Black Neon Tetras?

It’s best to feed your Black Neon Tetras small amounts of food two to three times a day. Offering them a varied diet consisting of high-quality flake or pellet food, along with occasional treats of frozen or live foods like brine shrimp or daphnia, will ensure they receive proper nutrition.

Do Black Neon Tetras prefer a planted aquarium?

Yes, Black Neon Tetras naturally inhabit areas with abundant vegetation and benefit greatly from a well-planted aquarium. Live plants not only provide them with hiding spots and a sense of security but also help maintain good water quality by absorbing excess nutrients and oxygenating the water.

Can Black Neon Tetras be kept in a nano aquarium?

While Black Neon Tetras are small fish, they still require ample swimming space and a properly sized school. A nano aquarium may not provide sufficient room for a school of at least six Black Neon Tetras to thrive. It’s generally recommended to keep them in aquariums of 20 gallons or larger to ensure their comfort and well-being.

How can I encourage breeding in my Black Neon Tetras?

To encourage breeding in Black Neon Tetras, provide them with a separate breeding tank with soft, slightly acidic water and a temperature around 78-80°F (25-27°C). Include fine-leaved plants or a spawning mop for the females to scatter their eggs. Condition the breeding pair with high-quality, protein-rich foods leading up to spawning. Once eggs are laid, remove the adult fish to prevent them from consuming the eggs or fry.

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A long-time freshwater fish enthusiast with a passion for sharing knowledge about this fascinating hobby. Over the years, Michelle has dedicated countless hours to studying, learning, and experiencing firsthand the joys and challenges of fish-keeping.

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