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Black neon tetra caresheet | Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi

Last Updated January 23, 2020
black neon tetra

Black neon tetras are a lot less well known than their more colorful namesakes, neon tetras. Which is a shame! Their striking black and white horizontal stripes and peaceful nature make them a great minimalist addition to community aquariums and a solution for anyone looking for something a bit more ‘original’ than regular neons.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about keeping black neon tetras in your own aquarium!

Minimum tank size20 gal (76 L, long)
Temperature68-82.5 °F/20-28 °C


Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, black neon tetra

Natural habitat

Black neon tetras are naturally found in small rivers and tributaries in Brazil and Paraguay. The waters in these areas are relatively calm and clear and can be quite heavily planted. Imitating these conditions can really help keep your black neons happy and healthy!

Black neon tetra appearance

Although black neon tetras aren’t actually very closely related to “real” neon tetras, the two species do look alike. They both feature two horizontal stripes across the body, which are black and blueish-white in black neons. The rest of the body is a light greyish brown with the exception of the upper half of the eye, which features a bright orange half circle.

As with many small schooling fish, it can be a little difficult to tell males from females, although it’s not impossible. Females are usually a bit larger than males and also rounder when viewed from above.

Black neon tetra requirements

Black neon tetras are small but quite active, which means a rectangular aquarium of at least 20 gallons (75L) is definitely the minimum. More is better and will allow for a larger school, which will help these fish feel safe. At least 8-10 fish is a good place to start, though you can keep more in larger setups.

To imitate the black neon tetra’s natural habitat, keep your aquarium densely planted around the edges while also leaving some swimming space in the middle. Amazon sword is a great plant option that naturally occurs in black neon habitat. Dark substrate can really help bring out the beautiful colors and leaf litter (such as Indian almond leaves) offers a great extra place to forage and slightly stains the water. The video above is a good example of a black neon tetra biotope tank with Amazon sword and plenty of leaf litter.

Due to the conditions in their natural habitat, black neon tetras can withstand pH values as low as 5.5. This makes them a perfect addition to aquariums with very soft, acidic water, though they won’t mind less extreme water values and will also do well in most “regular” setups as long as pH doesn’t exceed 7.5.

How to care for black neon tetras
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Black neon tetra tankmates

As discussed above, black neon tetras will do great in aquariums with soft, acidic water and tankmates from similar regions. Because they are quite peaceful and stay relatively small, aggressive and/or hungry tankmates should be avoided.

Small catfish species such as Corydoras and Otocinclus, other small schooling fish like neon or cardinal tetras and especially the more peaceful dwarf cichlid species make great options.

Black neon tetra diet

The preferred diet for black neon tetras is quite similar to that of other small schooling fish. They will accept commercial flake and pellet foods, though a bit of variation is always recommended: you can supplement their diet with frozen foods such as mosquito larvae or even live foods.

There’s nothing more fun than taking the time to hatch some brine shrimp once in a while and watch your fish display their natural ‘hunting’ behavior!

Black neon tetra behavior

As mentioned earlier, black neon tetras are very peaceful. They are commonly known as schooling fish, but don’t actually form very tight schools unless danger is present; this means that if your black neons are all over the aquarium, you’re probably doing something right.

In stressful times, during a water change for example, the fish will huddle much closer together.

Breeding black neon tetras

Breeding black neon tetras is not considered too difficult in tanks that imitate their natural habitat. When soft, acidic and warm water is provided, healthy specimens will often soon start displaying breeding behavior: males will chase a female until eggs are scattered onto fine-leaved plants. If your aquarium is densely planted, some fry might survive.

If you’re serious about breeding these little fish, removing plants that contain eggs or even setting up a special breeding tank with Java moss to catch the eggs is usually advised.

If you still have questions about keeping black neon tetras or want to share your own experiences with this lovely little schooling fish, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Happy fishkeeping!

Cover photo: Black Neon Tetra by qmmr

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  • Reply Lace Brandenburg August 22, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    Does it matter what kind of 20g I use? I was recently gifted a tall 20g from a family friend that found it in their storage. I know a long 20g would be better, but I wanna know your advice on it. Thanks :3

    • Reply Mari August 23, 2018 at 11:46 am

      Hmm, a tall 20g wouldn’t be my ideal option personally but black neons aren’t THE most active schooling fish in my experience. So I guess it’s worth a try. 🙂

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