Breeding neon tetras can be challenging as not only is it difficult to trigger spawning, but neon tetra fry can be notoriously hard to keep alive due to their fragility.
It took me many failed attempts of breeding neon tetras before I managed to raise some babies to adulthood. That’s why I decided to make a guide to help other fellow aquarists successfully breed these fish.
So, if you’re interested in breeding these colorful fish, read on, as I’ll be going over everything you need to know about neon tetra fry, including stages of development, diet, and tank requirements.
Neon Tetra Fry Size
Neon tetra fry are extremely small and are usually only around 0.01 inches (2.5 mm) in length.
How Many Fry Do Neon Tetras Have?
A female neon tetra tends to lay between 60 to 130 eggs, but usually less than half of the eggs hatch into fry (often only 30% because not all the eggs are fertilized). For instance, if your neon tetra lays 60 eggs, you can expect 18 to 30 to hatch.
How Long Does It Take for Baby Neon Tetras to Grow?
Neon tetra babies can take up to 1 year before they reach their adult size, though most fry will be fully grown by the time they are 9 months old.
Set up a Breeding Tank
First, set up a separate 10-gallon tank (don’t use a community fish tank!) to breed neon tetras. It should have soft, slightly acidic water. Ideal breeding tank water parameters are a pH of 5.0 to 6.0, water hardness between 1 to 2 dGh, and a temperature of around 75° F.
Use live plants like java moss, najas grass, and salvinia, as well as a sponge filter and aquarium hood (spawning fish tend to jump!) in your tank setup. Add peat soil or peat moss and Indian almond leaves to help lower the pH. The latter also has anti-fungal properties, which can help prevent the development of mold and fungus on the eggs.
Fill the aquarium up with a mixture of clean, dechlorinated water and established aquarium water.
Condition the Breeding Fish
Before you add the male and female neon tetra pair to your breeding tank, condition them for breeding for about a week by feeding them high-protein live food like brine shrimp and bloodworms, which is available in your local pet store. This will fatten up the female tetra and encourage her to produce eggs.
Add the Adult Fish to the Breeding Aquarium
Once the male and female tetra fish have been conditioned, add them to the breeding tank to start the breeding process. Make sure the tank is dark initially and then gradually increase the light using an aquarium light to trigger spawning. Mating generally occurs in the morning.
If the neon tetra pair are interested in breeding, the male will chase the female around in a square-like pattern. Spawning can take a few hours, but the male should eventually embrace the female to encourage her to lay eggs.
If spawning does not take place, replace the fish with another breeding pair. This could take a few attempts (it personally took me at least 5 times!) as neons are difficult to breed, but you should eventually see some eggs.
Remove the Adult Fish
After the neon tetras mate, the eggs will stick to plants, java moss, peat moss, and other surfaces in your tank. You should remove the male and female when the fish lay eggs as they will try to eat their babies.
TIPA few drops of acriflavine or methylene blue are commonly added to spawning tanks to prevent fungus growth on the eggs and darken the water a little bit.
Keep the Aquarium Dark
Neon tetra eggs and fry are sensitive to light, so you should turn your aquarium lights off to keep the aquarium dark for at least 3 weeks. Fry hatches within 24 hours, but you don’t need to feed the babies until they have finished absorbing their yolk sacs.
Feed the Fry and Clean the Aquarium Water
Once the fry have finished eating their yolk sacs are free-swimming (this usually takes a few days), you can begin feeding them infusoria, rotifers, or commercial fry food. After a few weeks, you can transition the babies onto baby brine shrimp.
Change the aquarium water every other day as these freshwater fish need pristine water conditions.
Move the Young Fish to Your Main Tank
When the babies are around 3 months old, they will be big enough to move back into your main tank with your other fish.
The first phase of the neon tetra life cycle is the egg stage. In most cases, female neon tetras lay eggs in the morning and can lay between 60 to 150 at a time. The eggs are small, round, and transparent – they look like tiny balls of jelly.
Neon tetra fish eggs are usually found attached to plants or the tank glass.
How Long Do Neon Tetra Eggs Take To Hatch?
Once neon tetra eggs have been fertilized, they will hatch within 24 hours.
Larva Neon Tetra
After neon tetra eggs have hatched, the babies are known as larvae. During the larval phase, the fish will feed on the yolk sac attached to them, so you do not need to offer them food.
Fry Neon Tetra
Within a few days after hatching, the new neon tetras will have absorbed all of their yolk sac, at which point they will turn into free-swimming fry. The fry look like splinters of glass and will be very small.
Juvenile Neon Tetra
Once the fry are around a month old, they will be considered juvenile neon tetras. You’ll be able to see their stomach and spine, and they will begin to lose their pale coloration. The fry should have their red and blue stripes at this stage.
Young Neon Tetra
When the babies are around 2 months old, they are known as young neon tetras. At this age, they should look like mini versions of their adult counterparts. Once they reach approximately 3 months of age, they will be sexually mature and capable of spawning.
It’s also possible to sex neon tetras at this life stage. Female neon tetras will be larger and have a rounder abdomen than males. Male neon tetras have a slimmer and more streamlined body shape.
In addition, females tend to have a curved blue stripe due to their rounded bellies. Males display a straight blue stripe as they have slender bodies.
Adult Neon Tetra Fish
Neon tetras will reach their adult length at around 9 to 12 months of age. Even full-grown neon tetras are little fish as they only grow to a maximum size of 1.5 inches.
With good care, neon tetras live for between 5 to 10 years.
Here is a video of a neon tetra’s life cycle from egg to adult.
What to Feed Neon Tetra Fry?
Newly hatched fry do not need to be fed for a few days as they will eat the yolk sac they are attached to. Once the yolk has been fully absorbed, you can begin feeding neon tetras small foods like infusoria, rotifers, small pieces of hard-boiled egg yolk, and commercial fry food.
After a few weeks, you can begin to offer larger live food like freshly hatched brine shrimp.
Juvenile neon tetras can be given the same food as other omnivorous tropical fish, such as high quality fish food flakes/pellets, live or frozen bloodworms, mosquito larvae, black worms, adult brine shrimp, and the occasional veggie (zucchini, spinach, cucumber, green beans, etc).
How Much to Feed Neon Tetra Fry?
You should offer baby tetras as much food as they can eat within 2 minutes. After this duration, take out any leftover food with a net.
When to Feed Neon Tetra Fry
Baby fish should be fed 2 to 4 times per day. Adult neon tetras, on the other hand, normally only need 2 meals a day.
Neon tetra fry should be housed in at least a 10-gallon breeding tank, though it’s always best to go bigger if you can. Larger tanks are easier to maintain and keep stable water parameters.
Neon tetra babies need specific water parameters in their aquarium to stay healthy, so make sure the water in your breeding tank has a pH between 5.0 to 6.0, a water temperature around 75°F, and a water hardness between 1 to 2 dGH.
Do I Need a Filter for a Neon Tetra Fry Tank?
Yes, you should have a filter in your neon tetra fry tank, but it should not be overly powerful or have a strong flow. It’s best to use sponge filters with a gentle current to prevent the fry from being sucked into the intake or blown around the aquarium.
How Do You Keep Neon Tetra Fry Alive?
There are a few things you can do to increase the survival rate of your neon tetra fry, which I’ll be going over below.
Don’t Use Aquarium Lights
Firstly, use a dark tank without aquarium lights as both the eggs and fry are highly sensitive to light. You can also add floating plants and cover the sides of your aquarium with dark paper to reduce the amount of light in the tank.
Use a Specific Breeding Tank
Secondly, use a separate breeding tank with a pH of between 5.0 to 6.0 (peat soil and Indian almond leaves can help you achieve this), hardness around 1 to 2 dGH, and a water temperature of approximately 75° F.
Don’t let neon tetras breed in a community tank as the eggs and fry will be eaten. You should also remove the breeding pair once the eggs have been laid as the parents will also try to eat their young.
Make sure the aquarium has plenty of live plants and hiding places. Feed the adult neon tetras high-protein live foods for about a week to condition them for spawning.
Feed the Right Foods
Neon tetra fry have different dietary requirements to adult neons, so you should make sure you’re feeding them the right foods depending on their stage of development. Newly hatched fry don’t need to be fed for the first few days of their life as they will consume their yolk sacs.
After this stage, you can offer the babies infusoria, commercial fry food, rotifers, and hard-boiled egg yolk. A few weeks later, introduce baby brine shrimp before gradually moving the fry onto the same food you feed your adult tetras.
How to Make Neon Tetra Fry Grow Faster
A good diet, spacious tank, and pristine water quality will help your neon tetra fry grow faster. Make sure you feed the fry 2 to 4 times a day and offer a range of foods like infusoria, rotifers, and commercial fry food.
Keep the tank dark as baby neons are sensitive to light. You can also use floating plants to help diffuse light.
Perform partial water changes (around 30%) every other day to promote good water quality. You should also use a gentle aquarium filter like a sponge filtration system with a low current.
Although neon tetras are one of the most difficult freshwater fish to breed in the aquarium hobby, it can be done if you provide your fish with the ideal environment.
Unfortunately, raising neon tetra fry can be equally as challenging, but hopefully, this guide gave you a few tips and pointers on how to do so!
Did you successfully breed neon tetras and raise the fry? Be sure to let me know on our social media platforms and share this post with your friends – it might encourage them to start breeding neon tetras too!
If you’re looking for more informative fish guides and aquarium product reviews, check out our other articles.
Featured Image – Tan Meng Yoe at English Wikipedia, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
(1) Corpse89, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons