Black Neon Tetra Species Care Guide & Tank Set Up For Beginners

Known as the mysterious, darker cousins of the Neon Tetra, the Black Neon Tetras are equally as beautiful with unique coloring. These Tetras are sure to stand out and look stunning among the leafy plants and sandy substrate of any aquarium.

Not only are these fish easy to care for, but they have a peaceful disposition and energetic characteristics, making them easy to pair up with other tank mates and a perfect addition to a community aquarium. 

This care guide will help you with the essential factors you need to care for your Black Neon Tetras in the best way possible.

Overview & Appearance: Black Neon Tetra

Black Neon Tetras (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi) are native to Brazil, specifically the Paraguay basin. You’ll find them in creeks, small rivers, tributaries, and flooded parts of the Brazilian forests. What’s unique about them is that they prefer acidic water that tends to be browner due to the decaying organic matter.

Black neon tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi) close up

The Black Neon Tetras are small fish, being just over an inch in size, and have the most glamorous opalescent coloring. A combination of black, white, and green neon creates a medley of contrast across their bodies. 

What’s more, they have a striking marble-white to greenish stripe that runs across their body and contrasts the opalescent black of their body. Directly below this white stripe runs a thicker black stripe, which gives these fish their unique name. Both these stripes run horizontally, from the gills down to the tail fin base. 

Care Stats Overview

These statistics will give you an outline of the primary information you need to keep your Bloodfin Tetra thriving and happy. 

  • Common Names: Black Tetra, Neon Tetra, Black Neon
  • Tank Size: 20-gallon tank.
  • Temperature: 73°F – 81°F
  • pH: 5.0-7.5
  • kH: 6 dGH
  • Living Zone: Mid to upper-dwellers
  • Temperament: Peaceful 
  • Diet: Black Neon Tetras are omnivores, so a diet consisting of meaty brine shrimps, worms, and some high-quality flake food is preferred.

Scientific Classification 

These Brazilian-originated, stunning fish have some riveting scientific facts that make them stand out from the shoals. Read more to find out about their origins. 

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Characiformes
  • Family: Characidae
  • Genus: Hyphessobrycon
  • Species: H. herbertaxelrodi

Life Span

Black Neon Tetras can live up to 5 years on average, provided that the proper care is given. Though this fish is tough and can put up with misgivings, not providing enough basics can result in a shortened lifespan. By providing the right diet and care, your Black Neon Tetra can reach its maximum life. 

Sexual Dimorphism: Size & Coloration

In Black Neon Tetras, there aren’t any apparent features between males and females. Usually, the only feature that can tell them apart is that females will have rounder and larger bellies to accommodate for eggs when they’re mature, while males will have slimmer bodies. 

Black Neon Tetra Care & Tank Set-Up

Black neon tetra swimming in planted aquarium

The below factors can give you better direction on how to get your aquarium to an optimum condition for your Black Neon Tetras to thrive. 

Tank Size & How Many Can Be Kept Together

Being just over an inch, the Black Neon Tetra doesn’t need that much space. But because they’re schooling fish, it’s advisable that you keep about 3 to 6 of them together. A tank of about 20 gallons would be suitable for a small school of Black Neon Tetras. 

At the same time, if you plan on keeping other varieties of fish in your tank, you could always go slightly bigger to about 30 gallons to allow for more swimming space. 

The Nitrogen Cycle 

The Nitrogen Cycle is a natural organic system where there’s a conversion between nitrogen to other chemical forms. This organic system is vital for keeping the ecosystem in balance and allowing fish to stay healthy. 

Beginner aquarists may look past this factor when it comes to fish-keeping; this is often called new tank syndrome. Ignoring the importance of the nitrogen cycle can lead to issues with the health of the fish. 

Ammonia is naturally produced as a waste byproduct by fish, and naturally occurring bacteria in the tank change the chemistry of this to nitrites, which eventually turn into nitrates. When too many nitrates are present in your tank, it causes fish to weaken and possibly die. 

In order to maintain safe nitrate levels, you should change the water in your tank regularly and wipe away excess algae. You could even add live plants into your tank, as plants will conveniently consume the nitrates in the water, naturally reducing the toxic levels. These practices will ensure your fish remain healthy and in good shape.

You can purchase aquarium test kits and follow these guidelines, to monitor nitrate levels.

Water Parameters for Black Neon Tetra 

It’s essential to bear in mind that being consistent with water parameters takes precedence over getting every measure by the book. The below water parameters will guide you on securing the right water conditions that Black Neon Tetras enjoy. 

  • Temperature: Black Neon Tetras will thrive in temperatures between 73°F – 81°F. Though this reasonably wide temperature range presents how tough these Tetras are, it’s still essential to maintain a stable environment by keeping the temperature levels consistent. 
  • pH: Make sure that you set the pH levels in your aquarium to be between 5.0 to 7.5. You can keep on top of this by monitoring through pH level kits and meters to ensure pH is at the right level. 
  • kH: Stick to a water hardness level of about 6 dGH.
  • Hardness: Black Neon Tetras prefer soft water conditions at an optimum of 6 dGH. You can easily adjust water conditions by adding baking soda to make water harder or soften water conditions using an electronic water softener or a shower head filter.

It’s essential to note that Black Neon Tetras can easily carry diseases in your tank. This species is known for the “Neon Tetra Disease”, a parasitic infection contracted either from other fish or through the water and unfortunately has no cure. 

That’s why it’s essential to follow the suggested water parameters to prevent diseases that the Black Neon Tetra might contract. Along with these parameters, you must get into the habit of replacing the tank water at least every other week.

Tank Set-Up For Black Neon Tetras

To mimic the natural habitat that the Black Neon Tetra originates from, aim to have subdued lighting, which will enhance the Black Neon Tetras coloring.

Provide open space for swimming and a dark sandy, soft substrate. You can combine some dark leaves with the sandy substrate to slightly tinge the sand to mimic a riverbed.  

Live plants such as java moss, narrow leaf anacharis, and driftwood are good choices to add to the tank, giving these Tetras places of rest and hiding. You can even add some tank decorations, such as rocks and caves, to provide additional places for hideouts. 

When adding live plants and dark leaves, it’s important to remember that you’ll need a good filtration system as part of your tank set-up. Though Black Neon Tetras don’t produce much waste, when they’re kept in a school of a dozen, the waste can build up and lead to dangerous levels of nitrates. 

A powerful filtration system can cycle the tank water, providing a healthy environment.

Black Neon Tetras will prefer a mid-level water current due to their river origins. They enjoy a steady water current that’s not too fast-moving as this can make it a struggle for them to swim, resulting in stress. 

Diet & Feeding

Black Neon Tetras are omnivores, and they’re usually not fussy about what’s fed to them. 

You should try and give them a varied diet, so they remain healthy. A variety of flake and freeze-dried foods, along with protein-rich foods such as live worms and brine shrimp, would be perfect. 

Avoid overfeeding as it can cause health implications for these Tetras and can also result in poor water quality. 

Behavior and Tank Mate Compatibility

Black Neon Tetras are small, schooling fish with a peaceful, pleasant disposition and get on well with fish that look and have a similar nature. 

Keeping these Tetras with half a dozen or more of their own kind can help them feel comfortable and happy. In a community tank, you should keep tank mates that are not large or aggressive.

Examples of good tank mates would be:

  • Corydoras
  • Danios
  • Rasboras (Chili and Harlequin)
  • Freshwater small Catfish
  • Gouramis (Honey, Pearl, and Sparkling are good choices)
  • Snails
  • Swordtails
  • Other small Tetras (Neon and Rummy Nose are good examples)

Bad tank mates would be fish known to be aggressive and larger than these small Tetras. An easy way to tell if a fish wouldn’t be a good contender for your community tank is if their mouth opens wide enough to let the Black Neon Tetra in, then it could happen sooner or later. 

Examples of bad tank mates would be: 

  • Oscar Fish
  • Cichlids such as the Jaguar, Jewel, Red Devil, Umber, and Wolf varieties
  • Flowerhorn 

Breeding Black Neon Tetras

When it comes to breeding, the Black Neon Tetras will easily spawn within their schools. But for best results, you can select a pair from the healthy Black Neon Tetras you have at hand that may be around 1 year old, colorful, and fully mature. Or you can select a breeding group of one male to a few females. 

  1. Begin by conditioning the pair with some protein-rich live nutrition, such as brine shrimps or bloodworms.
  1. Allocate a separate 10-gallon tank for breeding and spawning so that the new fry is safe from other community fish and the breeding pair or group is not disturbed. Ensure the substrate is soft, dark and the lighting is subdued. 
  1. You should add in some live, fine-textured plants to help keep the lighting in the tank dimmed as well as provide cover for breeding pairs. The dimmed lighting and plant cover will create the best ambiance to allow breeding to occur.
  1. Make sure the water is very soft and slightly acidic. Aim to have a water softness level at 4dGH and acidity at a pH level of 5.
  1. Use aquarium-grade peat to filter the water as this substance encourages these Tetras to spawn. 
  1. Set your temperature at about 75°F to allow the fish to acclimate for a few days to the new tank. Slowly increase the temperature to about 80°F, which will encourage the breeding to begin.
  1. The female(s) will lay hundreds of eggs, and these will be scattered over the substrate or may be stuck on the leaves and the sides of the tank. On average, it will take about 22 hours for the eggs to hatch.

Once the eggs have been laid and scattered, remove the breeding pair or group immediately as they might eat the eggs. Once the eggs have hatched, wait for a few days as the new fry will feed on the egg sacs and yolk. 

You can then proceed by feeding them baby brine shrimp and liquid dry food, remembering to keep the baby Black Neon Tetras in the separate tank until they’re a similar size to the adults. 

Are Black Neon Tetras Right For You?

Black Neon Tetras make exquisite additions to community aquariums where similar fish in size and disposition are present. They do even better when combined in a small school of their own kind, as it brings out the best in them. 

They aren’t hard to please, which makes keeping them so effortless and perfect for both new and budding aquarists. 

They also have the advantage of being active and lively, so you can enjoy watching them swimming around and socializing with other tank mates. It doesn’t take much effort to breed Black Neon Tetras, so if you are relatively new to breeding fish, the Black Neon Tetra might be a good one to start with. 

Providing them a varied diet, an environment that’s subdued with dimmed lighting as well as plenty of leafy greens, and following the suggested water parameters can ensure that they live to their full years. 

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Christopher Adams
Hey there, my name is Christopher and I'm the creator and editor of this site. I've owned successful aquariums for the past 23 years. My mission is to educate, inform, and entertain on everything that's fish.

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