Green Neon Tetra Expert Care & Tank Set Up Guide For Beginners

You may have heard about the Green Neon Tetra, the more exotic and mesmerizing cousin of the Neon Tetra, during your fish-keeping escapades.

So, let’s dive into the exciting world of the Green Neon Tetras and take a look at this expert care guide to find out all you should know about them and their care.

Origin & Appearance of Green Neon Tetra

The Green Neon Tetra is a unique and dazzling freshwater fish that is loved by many aquarists and hobbyists. It seems to shimmer when swimming due to its brilliant, metallic turquoise scales. This makes for a truly mesmerizing sight, even more so when it’s part of a group.

It’s closely related to both the Neon and Cardinal Tetras, where they all have the same genus and family. Yet, it’s not as commonly found and raised as the other two.

It resembles the Neon Tetra with some minor differences, such as being smaller and slimmer. Also, when compared with the Neon Tetra’s colors, it has more of a blue-green color covering a larger extent of its body with a smaller and duller red stripe. Therefore, the Green Neon Tetra also came to be known as the Blue Neon or False Neon Tetra.

It can reach a maximum size of 1 inch (2.5 cm), with the females having larger and rounder bodies than their male counterparts. They can both slightly shift their colors according to the surrounding light, substrate, and water clarity. They can also dull their colors when asleep, threatened, or sick.

The Green Neon Tetra is scientifically named P.simulans, belonging to the genus Paracheirodon of the family Characidae. It originates in South America in the upper Orinoco and Negro rivers. It’s native to Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, where it’s usually found in schools of hundreds.

school of green neon tetra in planted fish tank

Its natural habitat consists of brownish blackwater that is acidic and warm. Such waters have a sandy floor littered with fallen branches, leaves, and tree roots. Any sunlight reaching the fish is filtered and dimmed by the overhanging greenery of the jungle.

Most Green Neon Tetras found in aquariums are caught in the wild; however, tank-bred types are becoming more prevalent. Tank-bred types are more likely to live longer and healthier lives in aquariums than wild-caught ones. That’s because they can more easily adapt to new surroundings.

Care Stats Overview

  • Common Name: Green Neon Tetra, Blue Neon Tetra, False Neon Tetra 
  • Tank size: 15-20 gallons
  • Temperature: 76.3 -95.3 °F (25-35° C)
  • pH: 3-6.5
  • KH: <8 dKH
  • Living zone: Upper and mid-tank
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Size: 0.6-1 inch (1.5-2.5 centimeters)
  • Diet: Omnivore

Scientific Classifications

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Characiformes
  • Family: Characidae 
  • Genus: Paracheirodon
  • Species: P. simulans


A Green Neon Tetra’s lifespan is regrettably shorter than that of a Neon Tetra. It can only live up to 2 or 3 years as opposed to a Neon Tetra’s 5.

However, the better you take care of its surrounding environment, the longer it can live. So, make sure to provide it with suitable nutrition and water conditions so that it can live long and prosper.

Green Neon Tetra Care & Tank Set-Up

Platinum Green Neon Fish (Paracheirodon simulans) a rare variant of beautiful small fish
Platinum Green Neon Fish (Paracheirodon simulans)

Tank Size & How Many Can Be Kept Together

Since Green Neon Tetras are normally found in shoals of hundreds, it’s much better to raise them in groups than to raise only one or two.

A group of 6-8 will allow them to be less shy and have more vibrant colors because they’ll feel safer and less stressed in a group. You’ll also be able to notice and appreciate their blue-green color more when they move as a shoal, aka the shoaling effect.

Therefore, they should be kept in a 15 or 20-gallon tank to provide this large group with enough space for their movement and activities. They can be kept in a 10-gallon tank if necessary, but it’s a much less preferred option.

The Nitrogen Cycle

As you may already know, the nitrogen cycle is an integral part of any tank environment. It entails the breakdown of toxic materials such as ammonia and nitrite into less harmful substances.

It can adversely affect the tank inhabitants if not carefully and consistently monitored and regulated by the use of test kits. Green Neon Tetras especially can’t be placed in an incompletely cycled tank as they’re extremely sensitive to poor and fluctuating water conditions.

Consequently, you have to fully cycle your tank and maintain your water quality and keep it clear of any toxins. You can achieve this by partially changing about a quarter of the tank’s water once a week.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of the nitrogen cycle or could use a deeper understanding of it and what it means to cycle your tank, follow this link to get a better idea about the subject.

Water Parameters

  • Temperature: A range of 76.3-95.3 °F (25-35° C) is well suited to the Green Neon Tetra as it imitates the temperature of its natural habitat. Ideally, you should stay around the 75 to 81 °F (24 to 27 °C) range.
  • pH: Green Neon Tetras prefer a slightly acidic environment ranging from 3 to 6.5. Tank-bred types can adapt to a more neutral pH, but you won’t go wrong with a pH of 5-6.5.
  • KH: 1-8 dKH
  • Hardness: A hardness of 18-143 ppm/<8 dH is the right spot for Green Neon Tetras. They come from highly soft waters, so manage your mineral levels very carefully.

Tank Set-Up

Tank set-up is quite simple once you understand that you’ll be basically replicating the Green Neon Tetra’s natural environment as closely as possible.

First off, start with a sandy substrate with a pale tone. This is to make the colors of the fish pop out more. If you plan on placing them in a community tank, then the other breeds should also prefer a sandy substrate to avoid causing discomfort or distress.

Next, supply the tank with a medium-intensity light. A fun fact about Green Neon Tetras is that they have duller and darker colors in darkness but regain their vibrancy once the light returns. This phenomenon has been theorized to help them evade predators at night.

Try to diffuse this light with the help of natural plants, floating or rooted. Look for plants that can withstand the conditions of a Green Neon Tetra tank, such as moss and ferns. A few examples of plants to use are Ceratopteris, Wisteria, Microsorum, and Taxiphyllum. 

In case there are larger fish in the tank, other decorations such as rocks or driftwood can be placed for the tetras to use as hiding spaces. You can also add some leaves to obtain a more natural-looking aquarium. 

That being said, don’t forget to leave behind some open space so that the group of fish aren’t crowded and can swim without hindrance.

Some people recommend the use of peat filtration to color and lower the pH of the tank’s water; however, it’s both difficult to acquire and unnecessary. If you want to know how else to lower the pH, click here.  

Lastly, when it comes to the water flow, keep it at a low to moderate level. Green Neon Tetras come from mostly slow-moving rivers, so strong currents will considerably stress your fish out.

Diet & Feeding

Green Neon Tetras are omnivores, so they can pretty much eat and survive on anything they can get their hands on. They eat fish larvae, insects, small crustaceans, zooplankton, filamentous algae as well as organic matter.

Since they’re very accepting of various sources of nutrition, overfeeding can happen very easily. This will lead to more waste production that contaminates the water as well as the fish developing numerous health problems like fatty liver and fin rot.

Accordingly, monitor their feeding patterns from the moment you acquire them to know how much food to give them going forward. Normally, 2-3 feeding sessions a day are sufficient. 

Furthermore, remove any food that remains in the tank after 3-5 minutes from when they started easting. This will ensure that the fish won’t overeat and the water quality won’t drop.

The easiest way to feed them is using dry, freeze-dried, or frozen fish food. Just make sure to break the food flakes/pellets into a size that is small enough for your fish. Otherwise, the big food particles will sink into the substrate and start decomposing. 

Beware that they may refuse to eat if they’re only offered one option of food. So, mix up their diet every now and then by adding some exciting alternatives.

They greatly benefit from a diet rich in protein. It maintains their vivid colors and allows them to flourish. Bloodworms, Moina, Daphnia, and mosquito larvae could all serve to add that extra protein punch as well as add variety to the tetra’s diet.

Behavior & Compatibility

Green Neon Tetras are very friendly and social when they exist as a group of at least six. You can see them swimming together all over the top and middle of the tank, searching for food, or performing other activities. However, if their numbers fall below six, they become stressed, shy, and easily spooked.

They’re very peaceful and placid creatures. They would be ideal to have in community fish tanks if not for their small size, which makes them timid and fearful in the presence of bigger or more aggressive fish.

That being said, it’s usually encouraged to raise them in a single species aquarium. If you’d rather have a multi-specimen tank, then you have to choose other fish that are also non-aggressive and with a similar size, activity level, and living conditions.

Some examples of a good tank mate are platies, guppies, mollies, minnows, and snails. You can also place them with other tetras such as neon, glowlight, rummy-nose, and cardinal tetras. Small danios and adult dwarf shrimps are also possible tank mates. 

You have a reasonable chance with barbs, catfish, angelfish, gourami, and crabs, but it can take a turn for the worse.

Stay clear of goldfish, frogs, lobsters, bettas, and aggressive cichlids such as the Jack Dempsey, Convict, and Firemouth species unless you want your tetras to have an early grave.

Breeding Green Neon Tetra

Breeding Green Neon Tetras is, unfortunately, a long, complicated, and arduous process. Many aquarists have gone to great lengths to breed them but were sadly unsuccessful in their endeavors. 

To give you a little idea about the process, a female tetra typically lays nearly 130 eggs that hatch in about a day. The male goes around following the female to fertilize the eggs. For that to happen, very specific conditions have to be met, such as significantly subduing the light, lowering the pH, raising the temperature, and so forth. 

Then, once the eggs hatch, other adjustments have to be made, including removing the adults for fear of them eating the eggs, in addition to turning off the lights as the eggs are highly sensitive to it. Then the babies have other requirements, so all in all, you have your work cut out for you if you decide to breed Green Neon Tetras.

You’ll have better chances in breeding them if you have a large group, rather than just the two.

Are Green Neons Right For You?

Green Neon Tetras are beautiful specimens and will make a marvelous addition to any tank.

They’re not the easiest to handle, but once you get the hang of it, taking care of them is a piece of cake. All you have to do is remember that they thrive more when in a group and then set them up in their new tank, which looks and functions just like their natural habitat. 

When you do this and supply them with proper nutrition, tank mates, and water conditions, you’ll be able to enjoy their presence and antics for a long time in your aquarium.

Christopher Adams
Christopher Adams

Hey there, my name is Christopher, and I've successfully ran freshwater aquariums for the past few decades. The mission of this site is to make it simple for anyone to run their own freshwater aquarium.

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