Freshwater fish keeping would be sadly poor without the brightly colored beautiful neon tetras. Small green, blue or red fish swimming in freshwater tanks would most probably be the ever-popular neon tetras. These fish are naturally found in the lakes in South America or East Peru.
Neon tetras are so popular among aquarists because they are hardy fish. They are peaceful fish and rarely nip at each other or any other fish in a community tank. However, neon tetras are schooling fish and these fish are happiest if they are in a school or in a group of 5 or more. Schools or groups make the fish feel very secure. Neons are also very active fish and they dart about a lot in the tank. This is a joy to watch.
Neon tetras can live for very long periods if they are given proper care. 10 years is a possible life span for the well-kept neon tetra. Neons usually occupy the middle or bottom levels of a tank, and can grow up to 4 cms. in length. The pH of the water should ideally be between 5.5 and 7.8. Their favored water temperature is in the range of 68 degrees F to 75 degrees F. The fish are generally spindle shaped. The belly area is a bit rounded especially among the females. The nose is blunt. A wide red band runs down the body of the neon tetra and extends up o the Caudal fin. A blue band that runs from the upper part of the eye precedes this. The side above this is olive green while the lower side is silvery. The anal fin is mostly transparent. This striking collage of colors, especially the contrasting red and green, makes the neon tetra one of the most popular and colorful fishes in the freshwater aquarium.
Dark substrate and subdued lighting is the most suited for neon tetras. Putting in lots of plants is also very good for the timid and active neons. Some driftwood is also advisable. The tetras should not be kept with bigger fish, or they will end up becoming lunch. Since neon tetras are so popular, they have learnt to adapt themselves to a wide range of habitats. But, furious breeding of the tetras to supply enough fish for the burgeoning demand for neon tetras has led to the loss of their native robustness. New fish are very delicate and chances of losing fish just after they are introduced into a tank are very high. However, once the neon tetras have established themselves, they get along quite well without too much difficulty.
Neon tetras are egg scatterers. They are a bit difficult to breed in captivity. This is mostly due to unsuitable water conditions. Eggs of the neon tetras seem to be light sensitive, so neon tetras need to be placed in a dark spot, as they get ready to spawn. A 2-3 inch layer of rock and some fine textured live plants are the best medium for spawning. The water temperature should not be above 75 degrees F. A lid should be kept on the tank at such a time, as the fish tend to jump very high during this period. While breeding the neons, it is necessary to look for the healthiest breeders. Only young fish should be used for breeding purposes. They should be fed some live foods especially 2-3 days before breeding. These breeders have to be left in a spawning medium for about a day. The eggs are usually released early in the morning. The eggs are almost transparent and barely stick to the surface of plants. The eggs will hatch in about 22-30 hours. The small fry are very hard to spot at once. But, as soon as they become free swimming in 3-4 days, they will be seen very clearly, though they are yet very small. The breeders should be removed as soon as the eggs are spotted. As soon as the fry are free swimming they should be fed with infusoria. Neon tetras that breed in captivity are not very prolific. A good spawn would consist of about 40-55 fry only.