Black Neon Tetra: Ultimate Guide (Care, Breeding, Diet & More)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

Black Neon Tetra is an attractive, small-bodied freshwater fish that’s a wholesome package for the aquarium community. They are often praised for their peaceful temperament, beauty, and ease of care.

But only if fish lovers could show them more affection, perhaps Black Neon Tetras would be among the most popular Tetra species around.

Don’t get us wrong! Black Neon Tetras would be a wonderful addition to any peaceful community tank. But for some reason, many aquarists have always preferred other species like standard Neon Tetras and the Cardinal varieties instead.

So, this guide will help you decide if Black Neon Tetras are the perfect option for your home aquarium. You will learn everything about the fish’s care guidelines, including their tank size, diet, behavior, tank mates, breeding, and more.

Shall we get started, then?

Species Overview

Black Neon Tetras or Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, suits the category of the most beautiful freshwater fish, and deservedly so. They resemble Neon Tetras in many ways, but just as their name suggests, they assume a darker appearance than the standard Tetras.

Generally, Black Neon Tetras are endemic to Brazil’s Paraguay River basin, dominating the small water bodies flowing through the tightly packed vegetation in this region.

The captive-bred species are widespread around the world, making Black Neon Tetras a popular choice for aquarists of different levels.

ColorIridescent, green, white, black
LifespanUp to 5 Years
Care LevelEasy
Behavior & TemperamentPeaceful
CompatibilityPeaceful shoaling species
Food and DietOmnivores
SizeUp to 1.6 Inches
Tank SetupFreshwater, dim lighting with plants
Tank Size (Minimum)10 Gallons


A typical Black Neon Tetra can live for up to 5 years in a confined environment. But this is never guaranteed if you deprive them of basic necessities like a balanced diet, suitable tank mates, and high-quality tank water.

To easily maximize their growth and development, it’s imperative to provide the best possible living conditions from the first time you introduce them to their new habitat.


Wouldn’t it be fun to keep a darker cousin of the beautiful Neon Tetras at home? That’s what Black Neon Tetras represent.

These fish can be a wonderful addition to any aquarium, with their natural-looking dark coloration. Usually, they have cute-looking, slender bodies completely covered in subdued dark shades.

Like ordinary Neon Tetras, these fish assume torpedo-like body shapes, with semi-transparent fins and an impeccably rounded head.

It shouldn’t be surprising to see Black Neon Tetras taking on a more subdued greenish tone because the exact body coloration may vary by species.

Furthermore, two visible stripes supplement the base coloration, with one of them displaying a sharp, iridescent luster in bright light. The term Black in the fish’s name originates from the visible thick, black band just below the aforementioned lustrous stripe.

Unless you are keen enough, you won’t spot any differences between the male and female species. But in general, a female Black Neon Tetras should have a well-rounded body with a larger belly than the slender males.


A fully grown Black Neon Tetra will measure just about 1.5 inches in full length. Such a size should tell you that the Black Neon Tetras are best kept in small groups of up to 8 species as you will find out shortly.

Black Neon Tetra Care

Like standard Neon Tetras, caring for the Black Neon Tetras in captivity is quite easy. Typically, if you can commit to giving them pristine conditions in captivity, you might have already passed the hardest part in raising a healthy community.

As you would expect with many Tetra species, Black Neon Tetras are pretty hardy in captivity and will withstand different conditions within their new territory. To help you make their lives better in captivity, here’s what’s involved in caring for them;

Tank Size

Let’s start with the basics.

And as one would argue, Black Neon Tetras require a small tank to thrive in captivity, considering their small size. Still, don’t overlook their activity levels when setting up the new home.

The fact they are a schooling species may limit your options even when you thought they would be happy with any other small tank.

In our opinion, the minimum tank size for keeping healthy Black Neon Tetras is 20 gallons.

Of course, bigger is always better. And it’s more satisfying to go with a larger option if your long-term goal involves introducing multiple species to the same tank.

Water Parameters

By nature, Black Neon Tetras will love slightly acidic water with enough vegetation, given Brazil’s Paraguay River basin is characterized by slow-moving waters with plenty of decomposing matter.

To help tailor the tank water conditions to match such preferences, here’s what you need to know;

  • Water Temperature: 68-82 degrees F
  • Water Hardness: about 6 dGH
  • pH Level: 5.0-7.5

Like any freshwater fish, the first few days in captivity present the most challenging period in the lives of Black Neon Tetras. During this period, they will be doing everything to adapt to the new environment, and you should do just enough to smoothen the transition to the unfamiliar living conditions.

Normally, we encourage aquarists to invest in the right aquarium testing kit to be sure the water parameters are at the right levels through frequent testing. Any shifting conditions during this period could have a detrimental effect on the entire community.

What to Put in Their Tank?

Again, we can’t fail to emphasize the importance of setting up the right tank for your Black Neon Tetras from the start.

At this stage, you should try as much as you can to recreate the natural conditions in the fish’s original habitat if you are dreaming of a healthy community.

You could start by adding the right substrate to the bottom of the tank. But are they true bottom dwellers? Perhaps not.

But as you may already know, the most important thing to your Black Neon Tetras is a natural-looking environment with the right tank elements.

Despite spending much of their time at the middle and upper sections of the aquarium, a natural-looking environment helps Black Neon Tetras remain happy and confident in captivity. You can achieve that with fine sand as the suitable substrate.

After that, introduce enough live plants inside the aquarium. Diversity is the key to keeping healthy Black Neon Tetras, and they would love a combination of floating plants and fine leady varieties.

Don’t forget to leave ample swimming space in the middle of the aquarium. Plus, you could add small rocks and driftwood to compliment your tightly packed natural plants.

As you complete your decorations, don’t overlook the significance of proper filtration. You could argue that Black Neon Tetras are just a small species and not the best at souring the tank water.

But just like any pet, the primary goal is to create the best possible environment for your lovely friends. So, you must introduce a powerful filter to control the ammonia and nitrate levels if you keep these fish in small groups.

Common Diseases

Despite their resilience, Black Neon Tetras can be vulnerable to specific diseases targeting freshwater fish such as dropsy and Ich. 

Typically, the Ich symptoms include multiple spots all over the fish’s body and will be aggravated by reduced tank water quality. However, there’s no call for concern because you can manage it effectively with early detection and the right antibiotics.

On the other hand, the earliest indications of dropsy in a Black Neon Tetra community will be swollen fish’s belly resulting from fluid accumulation. Usually, it indicates an underlying health concern of parasitic or bacterial origin and can be managed with supportive care.

We can’t fail to mention the risks posed by Neon Tetra disease, a potentially lethal infection with the possibility to wipe out an entire community when least expected.

Usually, this disease spreads from an infected species to the entire community and has no known cure to date. This leaves you with euthanasia as the only way to counter its effects at home.

As we have always emphasized, the most effective way to prevent any troublesome condition in a freshwater fish community is to maintain ideal tank water conditions. This entails frequent cycling and changing at least 25-50% of the total tank water every week or biweekly.

What Do Black Neon Tetras Eat?

Black Neon Tetras are true omnivorous species that will always crave a mixture of proteins, live foods, and plant-based matter. Their love for algae, small crustaceans, and plant detritus is almost unmatched by other small species in the wild.

At home, you will have plenty of options when it comes to meeting the fish’s dietary needs, including dry flakes and pellets in addition to regular supplements of daphnia, mosquito larvae, bloodworms, and brine shrimp.

Make no mistake when it comes to feeding your Black Neon Tetras because overfeeding is such a big risk in these species. Ultimately, this creates a lot of discomforts and may even predispose your fish to endless heath concerns.

Behavior & Temperament

Black Neon Tetras are exactly what you expect them to be in captivity; a peaceful social fish with simple care requirements. No matter the number of fish in your aquarium, the Black Neon Tetras will always stay peaceful, choosing to mind their own business every time.

For the best experience at home, it’s vital to keep Black Neon Tetras in groups of 6 to 8 species. Remember, they are a schooling species, and keeping them in such groups allows them to realize their full potential while allowing them to explore the tank confidently.

If you thought Cardinal Tetras were effective enough to transform your aquarium instantly, perhaps you haven’t seen Black Neon Tetras. With their beautiful iridescent luster, these fish prefer to swim in unison, creating a vibrant color pattern in the process.

Don’t be surprised if you notice one species separating from the whole group to stay alone from time to time. It’s a normal strategy to have some much-needed alone time and break from the monotony of swimming in groups. 

However, you should be concerned if it becomes a constant trend, potentially indicating a health concern.

Black Neon Tetra Tank Mates

As you may probably guess, Black Neon Tetras don’t do well with large, aggressive species that will try to prey on them in captivity. 

Your priority should be to keep them together with other peaceful species of the same size.

Sometimes, the most reasonable decision is to keep the same species in small groups to save yourself from the hassle of finding suitable tank mates. In that case, you will want to pair at least 6 or 8 species in the same tank.

Speaking of the ideal tank mates, here are some of the best options you may want to consider with your Black Neon Tetras;


Breeding Black Neon Tetras in captivity is possible and probably easier than you may think. Usually, all it takes is a separate breeding tank with the correct spawning elements and tank water conditions.

For a start, you should consider a 10-gallon tank to ensure your fish have enough space for breeding. Then, add the suitable substrate at the bottom of the tank before lowering the light levels and introducing the mature species in pairs.

Throughout the breeding season, you can greatly influence the spawning process, depending on what you feed your Black Neon Tetras, how you treat them, and where you keep them. 

This is the right time to control the paired fish with protein-rich live foods like bloodworms as you slowly increase the temperatures to about 80°F.

Expect female Black Neon Tetra to lay hundreds of eggs on the spawning mops and plants if all goes well.

Often, successful breeding means the eggs will hatch in as little as 22 hours, and the next tough assignment will be to separate the adults from the fry because of their uncharacteristic parental instincts.

Like many Tetras, these fish never show affection towards the new fry and will want to eat them if they get the chance.

The young fish will eat egg sacs at the start of their development until they are mature enough to feed on infusoria or baby brine shrimp.

Final Thoughts

Wouldn’t it be nice to spice up your aquarium with a species best known for its matchless beauty and peace-loving trait? Like many Tetra species, caring for Black Neon Tetras is just as easy as it can get.

Usually, you don’t even need a large tank to keep healthy fish at home. So, we hope you will want to experiment with your first-ever Black Neon Tetra fish now that you’ve mastered everything about caring for them at home.

As usual, we will be happy to hear your success story with Black Neon Tetras or any other cute-looking freshwater fish you’ve ever kept at home.