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Myth Busting: Neon Tetra Edition

Neon tetras, with their vivid colors and playful disposition, have earned a special place in the hearts of aquarium enthusiasts.

These small, captivating fish bring a burst of brilliance to any tank. However, with their popularity, a variety of myths and misconceptions have emerged.

Let's take a closer look at the world of neon tetras and uncover the reality behind some of the most commonly held misconceptions about these cherished fish.

Myth #1: Neon Tetras Glow in the Dark

One of the most persistent myths about neon tetras is that they glow in the dark. You may have heard this from a well meaning friend or read it online, but it's simply not true.

Neon tetras do not possess bioluminescent properties like some deep sea creatures. Their vivid, neon-like colors come from the reflection and scattering of light, not from producing their own light. They look like they shine when errant light hits their iridipores and flash back out. It's a really cool trick!

Myth #2: Neon Tetras Can Live in a Bowl

Neon tetras may be an inch long, but that doesn't mean they can thrive in a tiny fishbowl! These fish require a proper aquarium setup to be happy and healthy.

A small bowl lacks the space, filtration, and oxygenation needed for neon tetras to flourish.

Opt for a tank with a minimum capacity of 10 gallons for a school of 10, and provide them with a heater to maintain a stable temperature, ideally around 75-80°F (24-27°C).

Live plants significantly enhance their quality of life... not to mention doing the heavy lifting of water maintenance for you!

Myth #3: Neon Tetras Need No Maintenance

While neon tetras are relatively easy to care for compared to most other fish, they are not entirely low maintenance. They still require a well maintained aquarium, regular water changes, and a balanced diet. Neglecting these aspects can lead to health issues for your tetras, such as fin rot or poor coloration.

Myth #4: Neon Tetras Only Eat Live Food

Neon tetras are omnivores, which means they eat a combination of live, frozen, and dry foods. While they do enjoy the occasional live or frozen treat like brine shrimp or daphnia, they can also thrive on high quality flake or pellet foods. Providing a varied diet will keep your neon tetras healthy and happy!

Myth #5: Neon Tetras Are Aggressive

Neon tetras are known for their peaceful nature and are often kept in community tanks with other small, non-aggressive fish. However, they can become nippy if they feel overcrowded or stressed. It does take a lot for that to happen though, as these are ridiculously easygoing fish.

To prevent any possible aggression, ensure you maintain an appropriate tank size and keep them with compatible tank mates, such as other small, peaceful fish, Dwarf shrimp, and peaceful snails like Nerites.

Myth #6: Neon Tetras Live for Only a Few Months

It's a common misconception that neon tetras have a short lifespan, and they're often mistakenly viewed as disposable fish. This myth persists as Neons are often some of the cheapest nano fish you can buy.

In reality, neon tetras can live for several years when provided with proper care and the right environment. Some have been known to reach up to five years or more in captivity.

Load up on botanicals, driftwood, and live, low- light plants to mimic the dark, slow moving tropical rivers they come from!

If you’re interested in learning more about neon tetras and their glowing properties, check out our blog post titled "What Makes Neon Tetras Glow? Facts You Need to Know!"?


Neon tetras are delightful and colorful additions to your aquarium, but it's essential to separate fact from fiction when it comes to their care. 

Looking to add a flock to your schooling community tank? Grab a 6 pack here!

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