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Black Neon Tetra: Care, Appearance, and More

The black neon tetra is a small, beautiful fish that fish keepers of all experience levels should consider. These fish are a variant of the popular neon tetra, but most people overlook this less colorful variety. So, what is a neon black tetra and what makes it such a unique breed?

black neon tetra

Black Neon Tetra Overview

Before we look at the details of this mesmerizing breed, here’s an overview of its qualities and care requirements.

LifespanUp to 5 years
TemperamentGentle and passive
SizeAbout 1.5 inches long
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
pH5.5 to 7.5
HardnessAbout 6 dGH
Temperature73 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit

Black Neon Tetra Fish Origin

Neon tetras are popular fish known for their shimmery colors. The black neon tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi) is a very similar species, but it has less vibrant scales. However, these fish are often just as shiny.

Black neon tetras come from southern Brazil in the Paraguay Basin.They live in all types of freshwater areas, including creeks, tributaries, and flooded forests. They’re used to living in an acidic habitat because the water is often filled with decaying organic material.

While these fish still thrive in the wild today, they’re just as common in captivity. They’re fairly easy to care for, as long as you’re able to give them a proper habitat.

Black Neon Tetra Fish Origin


Despite the name, these fish aren’t black. Instead, their bodies shimmer green, gray, white, or a mixture of the three. On the center of their bodies, they have a black horizontal stripe, which is likely how the species got its name.

Even though they don’t have the bright colors that other neon tetras display, they still shimmer as they swim. So, they can make a beautiful addition to your tank.

Gender Differences

Males and females have very few differences. If you’re wondering how to sex black neon tetras, it’s a difficult process. The most common way to distinguish the two sexes is by looking at their bellies. 

Females have larger, more rounded bodies. When they’re ready to mate, their bellies become especially large because they’re filled with eggs. Other than that, there are no obvious differences between males and females.

Black Neon Tetra Size

Even as adults, these fish are tiny. Most full-grown fish are only 1.5 inches in length, sometimes reaching 1.6 inches. They are the same size as many other tetras, but their bodies are slightly taller.


Like similar species, black neon tetras are gentle, passive fish. They are schooling fish, so they thrive when kept with several of the same species. During the day, these fish will often stick together as they explore the tank. However, it’s common to see them go off and do their own thing now and then too.

These fish don’t display any aggressive behaviors toward each other, and even the males show no territorial aggression in large groups.

Black Neon Tetra Tank Mates

These fish should be kept with others of their kind, but it’s possible to add other species into the mix too. When choosing tank mates for these tetras, make sure the fish are a similar size and not aggressive. Larger fish may try to eat these fish.

Black Neon Tetra Tank Mates

The fish that are kept in your tank should also have similar water parameters to neon tetras. Otherwise, certain species may not thrive in the aquarium.

Here are some good tank mates:

Black Neon Tetra Care

As long as you have a suitable tank setup, these fish can easily live a long, healthy life. So, here’s what you need to know about their care.

Black Neon Tetra Lifespan

In captivity, these fish usually live about five years. This lifespan is similar to other neon tetras. They’re usually pretty hardy fish, but if their care doesn’t meet their needs, it’s possible for their life to be cut short.


These fish are omnivores, so in the wild, they feed on plants, small crustaceans, and algae. To mimic that diet in captivity, you can give them balanced flakes and pellets. For added nutrients, you can occasionally feed them bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and mosquito larvae.

Luckily, these fish aren’t picky. They’ll eat just about anything that’s offered to them, so it’s up to you to serve them healthy items and not overfeed them. Overfeeding is not only unhealthy for the fish, but it could also harm the water parameters. 

Tank Size

An individual tetra won’t need much space, but since they’re schooling fish that live in large groups, they’ll need plenty of space to swim around. 10 gallons is the minimum size required for these fish, but it can’t hurt to give them more space if you’re able. If you have a larger group, you may want to consider 20 gallons instead.

Once you’ve selected a tank size, you can add a substrate and live plants. Even though the fish rarely go to the bottom of the tank, the substrate reflects their natural habitat and helps plants grow. The plants are great places for fish to hide in, but you’ll also want to provide additional hides, such as driftwood or artificial decorations.

If you want to make the tank as close to their natural habitat as possible, add leaves to the substrate. Leaves can help keep the water conditions similar to what they’d be in the wild.

Black Neon Tetra Care

Water Conditions

These fish are used to swimming among decaying plant matter rather than crystal clear water. So, their parameters may be different than other popular species.

The ideal black neon tetra temperature is 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but anything between 68 and 82 works well. The pH level should be between 5.5 and 7.5. Then, the water hardness should be around 6 dGH.

These conditions are a lot broader than they are for other species, so they shouldn’t be hard to maintain. However, it’s a good idea to use a water test kit to check the conditions of the water on occasion.

Black Neon Tetra Disease

Black neon tetras are hardy, but that doesn’t mean they never get sick. Like other tropical fish, they could suffer from Ich or Dropsy. Luckily, both those issues can be prevented by maintaining the tank’s water conditions.

Yet, if your fish happens to get sick, there’s no need to panic! There are over-the-counter medications to help them heal. To get the water back to its ideal state, do a 30 to 50 percent water change every other week.

However, there is one common ailment that’s not treatable. It’s a parasitic infection known as “Neon Tetra Disease.” It can quickly spread from one fish to another, so make sure you purchase your fish from a reputable breeder to avoid it.

Black Neon Tetra Breeding

If you want to breed black neon tetras, you’re in luck. These fish are easy to breed, and they often breed naturally without you needing to do anything. However, fish fry may not survive unless you set up a separate tank to keep them in. Otherwise, the adult fish will likely eat the young fish.

The best way to breed healthy fish is to set up a 10-gallon breeding tank for your breeding pair. Make sure it has plenty of plants, hides, and lighting just like your normal tank. If you slowly raise the temperature over a few days, you will encourage spawning.

Females can lay hundreds of eggs at once. As soon as they leave the mom’s body, it’s a good idea to remove the adults before the eggs get eaten. The eggs can hatch within 22 hours of being laid. Then, you can raise the young fish in their own tank until they’re about the same size as the adult fish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you think these fish are a good fit for your aquarium? If so, you might have some questions to research.

Are Black Neon Tetras Fin Nippers?

Yes, these fish may nip at the fins of other fish. Yet, not all fish exhibit this behavior. Tetras usually nip more often if they have improper water conditions or if they’re not being fed enough. So, if you keep up on their care, it’s unlikely that your fish will harm each other.

Are Black Neon Tetras Rare?

No, this species is not rare. However, you may not see these fish too often because people tend to overlook them. When given the option, many people choose other neon tetras instead due to their vibrant colors.

Is a Black Neon Tetra Right for You?

Black neon tetras may not be colorful like other neon tetras, but they’re still just as beautiful. If you’re intrigued by these shiny little creatures, then consider having them in your aquarium. They’re fairly easy to raise, as long as you give them proper care.

Like with any fish species, make sure you set up your aquarium before purchasing any fish. That way, you can ensure that the space is safe for them before putting them in the water. 

Jason Roberts
About Jason Roberts
Jason is an aquarium fanatic that has been a fish hobbyist for almost three decades.