Black neon tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)

Black neon tetra (lat. 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. They are somehow alike neon tetras – just like them they have a stripe on their body, even though the fish is called black neon they are completely different fishes.

Habitat in the wild

Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi 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).

Just like with the majority of tetra kind fishes, it’s rathe difficult to find these species on sale. Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi inhabit in depthless tributaries, bays, flooded forests areas and shoals.

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.


Black neon tetra is a small and elegant fish. As a rule max size is 4 cm (1,57 in) and its lifespan is about 3-5 years.

The fish got its name due to its similarity with neon tetra fish, but you can easily see between them – black neon has the same stripe on the body, but its body color is black.

Care and keeping in a tank

Scientific NameHyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi
Common NameBlack neon tetra
Tank sizemore then 20 gallons (90L)
Temperature20–26 °C (68–79 °F)
Length4 cm (1.6 inches)

A tank of 20 gallons capacity will do for keeping a small school of black neon tetra. 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 fluctuants 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. It’s desirable to maintain the following water parameters: temperature 24-28С,ph: 5.0-7.5, 6 — 15 dGH.

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

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


Is omnivorous and it eats all types of live, frozen and artificial feed. The fish can be fed with qualitative flakes, therefore blood worm and brine shrimp can be given to the fish occasionally to make more nutritious.

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

Compatibility and tank mates

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

You can see between 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.


Breeding is rather difficult and time-consuming thing. The fish 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 fish.

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 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 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.

About author: Sergey Schulz

Sergey is a founder and author of He’s been fond of aquarium husbandry since his early childhood. His favorite aquariums are biotopes (Amazon River), with Echinodorus and freshwater angelfish. However, through the years he’s had experience of keeping almost all types of freshwater fish and shrimps.