Black Neon Tetra Care: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Black neon tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi) is a graceful and active aquarium fish. If you put a school of fish in a thickly planted tank with dark bottom substrate, the tank will look magnificent. Except for their beauty, that tetras are known for their peaceful temper and for being good tank mates. Overall, the combination of the deep black body and the bright neon blue line makes the Black Neon Tetra a visually captivating and highly sought-after fish for aquarium enthusiasts..

Habitat in the wild

Black neon tetra live in the Amazon River basin and its tributaries in South America. Habitat is in Brazil, in Rio-Paraguay and Rio-Taquari river basins located in Mato Grosso do Sul state, in the South of Pantanal wetland park (its territory is huge, over 200 thousand of square meters).

Black neon tetra inhabit in depthless tributaries, bays, flooded forests areas and shoals. Their natural habitat is typically densely vegetated, with lots of floating plants, submerged roots, and leaf litter. These provide hiding spots, shade, and natural filtration.

They are commonly found in slow-moving or still waters, such as oxbow lakes, flooded areas, and calm sections of streams. They are not strong swimmers and prefer calmer water conditions. The water in their biotope has acidic reaction and it’s brown colored due to tannin and other chemicals that evolve from rotting organic mass.



How big do black neon tetras get?

Black neon tetra is a small and elegant fish with an average adult size of up to 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters). However individual sizes can vary slightly, and some individuals may reach slightly larger or smaller sizes within that range.


How long do black neon tetras live?

The average lifespan of black neon tetras is typically around 3 to 5 years in well-maintained aquarium conditions. Factors that can influence their lifespan include water quality, diet, genetics, and overall tank conditions. Providing a suitable habitat, maintaining good water parameters, offering a balanced diet, and ensuring a stress-free environment can contribute to their longevity.

Body and color

They have a slender and elongated body shape, typical of most tetra species, making them well-suited for swimming in small shoals and navigating through dense vegetation in their natural habitat. The body of the Black Neon Tetra is predominantly deep black. However, what makes them truly captivating is a vibrant neon blue line that runs horizontally along the midsection of their body. This line contrasts vividly against the black background, creating a stunning visual effect.

Scientific NameHyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi
Common NameBlack Neon Tetra
Adult SizeUp to 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
Lifespan3-5 years
Body ShapeSlender, elongated
ColorationDeep black body with a vibrant neon blue line
TemperamentPeaceful, schooling
Preferred Water ParametersTemperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C), pH: 5.5-7.0, Hardness: 2-10 dGH
DietOmnivorous, primarily microorganisms and small invertebrates
Tank SizeMinimum 10 gallons for a small school (larger tank for larger schools)
Tank MatesPeaceful community fish, avoid fin nippers
Breeding HabitsEgg scatterers, non-guarding parents
Special ConsiderationsSensitive to water quality and fluctuations. Appreciates a well-planted tank with hiding spots and subdued lighting

Back neon tetra vs neon tetra

Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi) and Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) are two distinct species of tetras that are often compared due to their similar names and some visual similarities.

The fish got its name due to its similarity with neon tetra fish, just like them they have a stripe on their body, even though the fish is called black neon they are completely different fishes. But you can easily see between them – black neon has the same stripe on the body, but its body color is black.

CharacteristicBlack Neon TetraNeon Tetra
Scientific NameHyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodiParacheirodon innesi
Body ColorationDeep black body with neon blue lineSilver body with horizontal red-blue stripe
SizeUp to 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)Up to 1.2 inches (3 cm)
Natural HabitatAmazon River basin and tributariesAmazon River basin and tributaries
TemperamentPeaceful, schoolingPeaceful, schooling
Water Temperature Range72-82°F (22-28°C)72-80°F (22-26°C)
pH Range5.5-7.06.0-7.0
Hardness Tolerance2-10 dGH1-10 dGH
Lifespan3-5 years2-3years
black neon tetra (right) vs neon tetra (left)
black neon tetra (right) vs neon tetra (left)

Care and keeping in a tank

Tank size

A minimum tank size of 10 gallons (approximately 38 liters) is recommended. A tank of 20 gallons capacity will do for keeping a small school of black neon tetra. If you plan to keep a larger school or want to include other fish species in the same tank, you should consider a larger aquarium.

Tank decor

The best of their coloring the fishes show in a tank recreating the river Rio-Paraguay biotope. In this case put some river sand on a tank bottom, then some snags and branched roots. It’s also desirable to put some floating plants in it and some fallen tree leaves on its bottom.

The organic mass put into the tank will make the tank water obtain the color of lightly brewed tea. To avoid rotting of organics and the water contamination, renew the fallen leaves every several weeks. To make the tank water dark you can also put a turfy substrate into the filter. The tank lighting is better to be dim.

Since the fish is quite active, it should have some space for swimming in the tank and the tank should be closed, because the fish can also jump.

Water parameters

Ideally, the water temperature should be maintained within the range of 72-82°F (22-28°C). This range mimics the tropical conditions of their natural habitat in the Amazon River basin. Black Neon Tetras prefer slightly acidic to neutral water. The optimal pH range for them is around 5.5-7.0.

These tetras are adaptable to a range of water hardness levels. However, they tend to prefer soft to moderately hard water, with a hardness range of 2-10 dGH (degrees of general hardness).

Water filtration and slow water flow are desirable as well as weekly water renew up to 25% from the total tank capacity.

However, nowadays black neon tetras are bred in huge numbers for sale, so the fish has already become adapted to local conditions rather well.


Black neon tetra is omnivorous and it eats all types of live, frozen and artificial feed. The fish can be fed with qualitative flakes or pellet food designed for tropical fish should serve as the staple diet. Look for options that are specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of small tropical fish.

Keep in mind that tetras have small mouth, so the feed should be chosen including this peculiarity.

Supplementing their diet with live or frozen foods can provide additional nutrients and variety. They enjoy small live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, and mosquito larvae. These foods can be offered as occasional treats.

Tank mates

Black neon tetra is an ideal candidate for community tanks with other peaceful fishes. This is one of the best tetra fishes, since it’s very active, good looking and, again, peaceful. The only drawback, that they may haunt shrimps, especially the small ones – like red cherry shrimp.

It seems strange, since other species of neon fishes – neon tetra and cardinal tetra don’t do so. It’s important to have a school of 7 tetras, because only this way their beautiful coloring can be seen.

Sometimes they may damage other fishes fins (nipping), but when the fish is in the school such a behavior disappears. The best tank mates are platy, black tetra, tiger barb, dwarf gourami, Acanthophthalmus kuhlii (kuhlii loach).

Gender differences: male vs female

Distinguishing between male and female Black Neon Tetras can be challenging, as there are no significant external differences in coloration or fin shape between the sexes.

You can see between black neon tetra male and female, taking into account that the latter has more rounded abdomen and it’s larger in size as a rule. Male is more fit and it can be seen from its abdomen. However, this distinction may not always be easily noticeable, especially in young or smaller individuals.

During breeding, males may exhibit more intense coloration and become more territorial or aggressive. They may chase females or engage in courtship displays to attract a mate. However, these behavioral differences are temporary and mainly observed during the breeding period.


Breeding is rather difficult and time-consuming thing. The black neon tetra may lay the eggs all year round, but it happens mainly in spring and summer, since in the wild there a lot of insects that fall into the water during summer.

A spawning pond for 3-4 breeding fish has to be of 2 gallons capacity and the water level in it shouldn’t be more than 20 cm. If you want your black neon tetras to breed you should have water that has been settled for 2 weeks with the following chemical parameters:

  • water hardness: 2-12 dH;
  • acidity: 6,2-6,6;
  • temperature: 24-26 C.

A spawning tank should be put in place shaded from sun rays and the tank should be shaded from all sides. The fattest females and the most active males are selected for breeding.

The future breeders must be kept apart for about a week and fed well. The day before breeding you should stop feeding the black neon tetra. The fishes start laying eggs since morning and the process lasts for 2-3 days. Spawning itself lasts for 1.5-2 hours and the rest continues the next day. For one spawning female may lay from 100 to 200 transparent eggs.

As soon as the fishes finish breeding they are removed from the spawning pond and the latter gets shaded. The eggs incubation time is about 1-2 days. 4-5 days later larva may be able to swim and feed on their own. This is the time when some moderate light may get access into the tank.

First, you should feed black neon tetra juveniles with infusorians, rotifers, small crustacean nauplii and as the juveniles grow some vegetable feed is added to the diet. The juveniles grow rather fast and for the first 2 weeks they usually hide under the tank plants leaves.

At first black neon tetra juveniles are of gray color with dark horizontal stripes. When they become 3 weeks old sparkling and black stripes will appear on their body, their eyes will change their color.

At the age of 5 weeks the juveniles coloring will look like the one of adult and they can be put into community tank. However, quite often black juveniles suffer from so called Neon Tetra Disease, that shows in the change of the coloring.

Sadly, this disease inevitably leads to the death. Therefore, it’s better to remove the infected fish from the others right away. Becomes reproductive at the age of 10-11 month.