The black neon tetra is a lot less well known than their more colorful namesakes, the neon tetra. Which is a shame! Their striking black and white horizontal stripes and peaceful nature make them a great minimalist addition to any community aquarium. These freshwater fish are an ideal choice for anyone looking for something a bit more ‘original’ than the regular neon tetra.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about keeping black neon tetras in your own tank!
|Minimum tank size||20 gal (76 L, long)|
|Temperature||68-82.5 °F/20-28 °C|
Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi is commonly known as the black neon tetra.
Black neon tetras are naturally found in small freshwater rivers and tributaries throughout Brazil and Paraguay. The water in these areas is relatively calm and clear and can be quite heavily planted. These fish tend to live in acidic water conditions (pH range of 5-7) with a set temperature range of 68-79° F. You can find them in a large school swimming at the surface of the water with their own species or with similar tetra; they rarely, if ever, venture down to the substrate.
Although Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, black neon tetra, aren’t actually very closely related to Paracheirodon innesi, “real” neon tetra, the two species do look alike. These fish both feature two horizontal stripes across the body; in black neons, one stripe is black and the other has a blueish-white coloration. The rest of the body is a light greyish brown color 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 in size than males and are also rounder when viewed from above the aquarium.
You can expect the maximum size of an adult to be around 2 inches (5 cm) with a lifespan of a couple of years.
Black neon tetra requirements
These fish are small but quite active, which means a rectangular aquarium of at least 20 gallons (75L) is definitely the minimum. Larger tank size is always better as it allows 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 river 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 their habitats. A dark substrate is also recommended to really accentuate their color with a layer of leaf litter (such as Indian almond leaves) to offer a great extra place to forage. The leaves may also help stain your water a natural tan color that will help subdue lighting.
Due to the conditions in their natural habitat, these fish can withstand pH values as low as 5.0. This makes them a perfect addition to aquariums with very soft, acidic tank water. However, they may also be kept in regular aquarium water conditions as long as the pH doesn’t exceed 7.5 and the temperature is maintained.
Black neon tetra tankmates
As discussed above, this type of tetra will do great in an aquarium with soft, acidic water and with tankmates that live in similar habitats. 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 the neon or cardinal tetra, and more peaceful dwarf cichlid species are especially ideal.
Black neon tetra diet
The preferred diet for black neon tetras is quite similar to that of other small schooling fish and is very easy. They will feed on commercial fish flakes 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 easier and more fun than breeding your own brine shrimp as food, and then watching your fish display their natural ‘hunting’ behavior in your own tank!
It is important to remember that these fish don’t tend to feed off the substrate; in the wild, they stay towards the top of the water looking for available food. In case you don’t have any fish cleaning the bottom of your tank, it may be best to remove any excess food to prevent your filter from getting clogged and causing any water quality issues.
Black neon tetra behavior
As mentioned earlier, the black neon tetra is a very peaceful and easy species. 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 dispersed throughout the aquarium, you’re probably doing something right because this shows that they feel safe. During stressful times–for example, during a water change–the fish will group together. Otherwise, these fish freely float in the water column, bringing little touches of color and excitement to your tank.
Breeding black neon tetras
Breeding black neon tetras are not considered too difficult in a tank that imitates their natural river or stream habitat. When soft, acidic tank water and appropriate water temperature are provided, healthy fish will often soon start displaying breeding and spawning behavior: males will chase the females until eggs are scattered onto fine-leaved plants. If your aquarium is densely planted, some fry might survive on their own in your tank.
If you’re serious about breeding these little fish, remove the plants that contain the eggs from your tank and move them into another tank with the same water conditions. You can even set up a special spawning tank with Java moss so that the adult fish can breed in a controlled environment. Once the fish have bred, leave the eggs in the spawning tank, but transfer the adults back to the main tank. Over the course of the next few weeks, the eggs will hatch, the fry will grow, and you will have new fish for your display!
If you still have questions about keeping black neon tetras or want to share your own experiences with this lovely little schooling fish, feel free to leave a comment below. Happy fishkeeping!