How to breed neon tetras

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How to breed neon tetras

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How to breed neon tetras

Breeding expert John Robertson describes how he raised Neons — one of the world’s most popular and recognisable tropical fish.

I had not kept Neon tetras for almost 40 years. They were the first egg layers I ever had in my first 60cm/24” tank — and I had not kept them since.

Yet I have kept Cardinal tetras many times while looking down my nose at Neons. Those Cardinals have much to answer for…

However, I recently found myself with another 24” tank and a dozen Neons. It was filled with rainwater and leaf litter and heavily planted with Java moss and Indian fern. Sitting in the darkest corner of my fish house with a feeble light above, its murk made those Neons look absolutely gorgeous!

The reflective blue-green of that almost luminous stripe set off against red underparts made for a stunning spectacle in the dim light as the little fish danced and darted about. The tank had a DH of less than 1, pH of 5.5 and temperature of 24°C/75°F.

Within a couple of weeks they were spawning every day. I discovered later that Neons can breed from 12 weeks old, which is about the age of most we see for sale. Occasionally a baby would survive and I would spot the tiniest Neon, just beginning to get its colour, peeking out cautiously from the undergrowth.

I decided to try and breed them properly — and my first attempt was the lazy way that always works so well for me with killies and many other species. I just removed the adults and waited!

Sure enough. Within a couple of weeks a handful of baby Neons appeared but, after three attempts, there were never any more.

How to breed neon tetras

Going traditional

Then I tried the traditional method of setting up a bare 30 x 20 x 20cm/12 x 8 x 8” tank with a natural mop of Java moss and fresh rainwater. I darkened the tank, added a well conditioned pair and settled back to observe.

I never saw them spawning and no fry resulted from that first attempt. With later efforts I left the parents together for five to seven days and a few fry were once produced, but they were nothing to write home about.

Frustratingly, in the original tank the adults had continued to spawn every day.

I decided to set up a new tank; this time 75cm/30” long, again with rainwater, and with a 2.5cm/1” deep layer of freshly collected oak leaves and one bush of Java moss. I introduced two pairs of adult Neons and watched for about 14 days.

Two things happened. First the water began to go brown and more acidic as the oak leaves softened, and the DH became less than 1, pH less than 5, temperature was 26°C/78°F. The fish took about a week to feel at home in the new tank, but then began to spawn every morning as the room lights were switched on.

The water, tannin stained, became darker and darker and I removed the adults at 14 days and waited. After about a week later I peered into the darkness and spotted a single fry moving hesitantly through the leaf litter. In subsequent days I spotted more and more and I added newly hatched brineshrimp, which they relished.

After about a month I was counting more than 30 fry, and in total this attempt produced about 100 young.

I’m not sure that the pH is critical, but the darkness is. The eggs and fry are susceptible to light, but I believe that the brown water and leaf litter also hid the eggs from the hungry adults which I had fed only sparingly in the breeding tank.

Encouraged by my success I decided to use a similar but larger set-up to try and spawn Congo tetras, but within 24 hours of placing them into the acidic conditions the adults had died.

The Neon tank had acidified over several days and the fish had acclimatised during that period.

However, with the Congos I foolishly let the tank ‘mature’ for a couple of weeks and the fish succumbed when placed into conditions very different to their natural home.

Young Neons colour up at about four weeks and under good conditions are large enough to sell at 12 weeks, but your dealer won’t thank you unless you gradually change the water back to tapwater. I did so over about four weeks and had no ill effects.

Do some babies grow faster?

One breeding observation still puzzles me. Up to eight weeks after I first spotted fry in the breeding tank, tiny colourless babies still continued to appear. Yet the first baby Neons were already large enough to go back to their parents’ tank and become part of the crowd.

I don’t think it possible that the ‘older’ babies were already breeding as this had been a continuous process, a few tiny babies appearing each day or so. The only reasonable explanations are that some grow much faster than others, or that some eggs experience delayed hatching — as do many killifish.

The former theory is most likely, as the latter would surely have been noted earlier by better observers.

I’m speculating that in nature some baby Neons stay small and undeveloped, hiding in leaf litter so that if their body of water becomes cut off and evaporates, killing their faster growing siblings, they can survive in tiny amounts of water until the rains come.

I have noticed similar situations with Apistogramma and Ctenopoma, and can’t think of any other explanation.

How to breed neon tetras

Cost at a glance

Fancy breeding Neon tetras? Here’s what you will need:

I’ve got 5 neon tetras at the moment at I believe are all male. I want to begin breeding them so I will be getting some females (hopefully) tomorrow. How do I start once I get the females? What do I need to take care of the fry? Right now my 5 tetras are in a 10 gal.

Neon tetras are one of the hardest species to breed in captivity. Do you have any former experience in breeding fish?

No, I don’t have experience. What do you recommend I try breeding first? I’ve been looking to buy more fish (but only ones that are compatible with tetras)

Livebearers like Platys, Mollies and Guppies are the easiest beginner breeding fish. Instead of laying eggs they give birth to live fry, hence are the easiest to breed. They are also compatible with tetras. However if you are planning to keep them (and breed them) you would need a much bigger tank (an upward of 20 gallons).

I too, wanted to breed neon tetras, but it is very hard. I would definitely start with livebearers; platys, swords, guppies, and if you have access to them: endlers. Mollies are little bit harder, and give fry every 5-6 weeks, while the others every 4 weeks.

Like Sub said, they need a 20gal minimum. I have huge bunches of hornwort a easy floating plant(needs no care) in my live bearer tanks to protect the babies.

If you want to try breeding egglayers, you may want to start with Convict Cichlids.

As for the livebearers, most fishkeepers suggest, myself included, using a lot of plants (especially floating ones!) and just let the fish breed on their own.

There is no need for a breeding trap or whatsoever.

EDIT: Cory cats are also easy to breed, if you want egglayers.

January 12, 2001

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Aquarium hobbyists now can buy domestically grown neon tetra fish that are brighter and healthier than the imported variety, yet cost about the same, thanks to new techniques developed at the University of Florida.

For fish farmers, the good news is that the techniques finally make growing the small, colorfully striped fish a profitable venture. Farmers now can sell tetras for about 30 cents each instead of the 11 cents per fish they got when they had to compete with fish imported from Hong Kong, said Craig Watson, a tropical fish specialist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Since they are coming out of good, clean, well-managed facilities, Florida-grown neon tetras are light years ahead of anything else in terms of quality,” said Watson, director of the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin.

And so far, Florida-based fish farms are the only ones in the United States producing tetras in any quantity, meaning essentially all domestically grown tetras sold in the United States come from Florida, Watson said.

In a nutshell, UF researchers pinned down the precise combination of water conditions, temperature and feeding requirements that will allow the fish to spawn at sufficient levels to meet the farmers’ needs. Frank Chapman, an associate professor of fisheries and aquatic sciences, said it took good, old-fashioned basic research and observation to figure out the fish’s requirements.

“We tried to determine the type of environment they faced in the wild where they normally spawn,” Chapman said. “Now we have a pretty good idea of how these animals respond to changes in their environment.”

Chapman said neon tetras will reproduce only in slightly acidic, soft water at about 25 degrees Celsius (about 77 degrees Fahrenheit). These conditions approximate what the fish, whose scientific name is Paracheirodon innesi, encounter in their native rivers in southeastern Colombia, eastern Peru and western Brazil, he said.

One southwest Florida fish farmer said the increased quality isn’t costing consumers anything extra because pet-store owners don’t have to make up for fish that die before they can be sold.

“Even though they are paying more for each fish, retailers didn’t have to increase their prices,” said Marty Tanner, president of Plant City-based Aquatica Tropicals. “Retailers no longer have the losses typical with the imports, which can run as high as 50 percent.”

Watson said that even though producers regularly carry out research projects on their farms, it is important for the university to occasionally take the lead on these kinds of studies.

“Fish producers do a lot of research and development work,” Watson said. “But they have to carefully pick and choose what they do, because if too many projects don’t work, their businesses could go under.

“The university has a little bit more leeway than that,” he said. “We don’t like it when we do a research project that doesn’t work, but when we do one like this and it does work it’s a good feeling.”

Tanner said his farm had been having little success with the fish prior to UF becoming involved.

“We were experimenting with neon tetras but it wasn’t going that well, that’s why we asked the university to work on this project,” Tanner said. “We had been selling tetras at a loss just to sell the rest of our product line.

“Now we are actually in a profit mode with these fish and are making money on them,” he said.

Tanner said he sells 50,000 to 100,000 neon tetras each month.

Chapman said the neon tetra research was funded by UF and several Hillsborough County area fish farms.

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Meta-description: More neon tetras, mean more beautiful aquarium. But how to breed the neon tetra easily?

With its slim body, luminous and colorful motives, no wonder neon tetra fish is one of the most preferred fish in the home aquarium. Its exquisite looks can boost the beauty of your aquarium. And that might be the reason why you want to breed the neon tetra fish in the aquarium.

Breeding the neon tetra fish is quite easy. However, you still have to pay much attention to that things to make your neon tetra less-stressed. So, ready to color your home aquarium with the living glows? Here there are:

1. Arrange the aquarium water

A neon tetra is a tropical fish which came from Amazon basin. That is why you need acidic water to make it breeds well. Natural acidic water can be collected from the rainwater, or you have to buy it in the aquarium store.

2. Feed the neon tetra

Neon tetra is quite easy to be fed. You can use regular fish food to make it stays full. However, to maximize the breeding process of a neon tetra, feed it first with living food, such as the worms. It can make them healthier and more ready to breed.

3. Watch the eggs to hatch

Neon tetra is not a live-bearer, and they will lay the eggs in the bottom of the aquarium. The egg will hatch for about 36 hours, and after that, you can watch the tiny fry come out of it. Keep an eye on them because they will be free-swimmers for about 4-5 days. After they can swim freely, remember to feed them with the living foods like micro worms or tiny eels. It is good for their growth and to keep them healthy

4. Change the water

Since the fry of neon tetra fish is so sensitive to dirt and other things, always remember to change the water more often. After a couple of weeks and the blue strips come out of their body, you can decrease the interval of changing the water since they are already grown up.

Breeding the neon fish will be such a wonderful experience for the fish lover. Watching the white and tiny fry’s transformation to be the neon tetra fish with fascinating color surely is the happiness that you can not even buy in the pet store.

If you are looking into breeding your adorable neon tetras in order to enlarge their school with new, young additions, you will need to be attentive about a couple of things.

How to breed neon tetras

First of all, these iridescent little fish are not livebearers but egg scatterers. That means they can be slightly more difficult to breed when compared to other species, as the eggs get fertilized outside of their bodies.

However, it is still possible to achieve, even for inexperienced owners. To ease the process out, we are sharing our complete guide on neon tetras egg-laying.

Before we begin, here is a tiny spoiler alert: there will be a lot of eggs for you to care about.

How Many Eggs do Neon Tetras Lay?

A healthy female can produce many eggs during her peak life stage. Therefore, if the breeding process is successfully guided, you can expect anywhere between 60 and 130 eggs all over your mating tank.

Not all of the eggs will get fertilized, so there is a super-low chance of all released eggs to actually hatch. The most realistic ratio of hatched eggs to expect is around 40 to 70.

How Often do Neon Tetras Lay Eggs?

The frequency of neon tetras laying eggs depends a lot on their keeper’s efforts, but also on their general wellbeing. Indeed, seeing them breeding in an established tank with no influence is almost impossible.

Therefore, they need to be conditioned and placed into a breeding tank for being able to lay some eggs. But not only. If your adults are not entirely healthy anymore, if they are stressed or feel like there is not enough food around their home, they will simply choose not to breed.

The aquarium conditions really do need to be carefully achieved to make these fish wanting to reproduce. In the wild, where they feel extremely safe and protected, they can lay eggs every 2 weeks or so.

However, it is substantially hard to keep such a perfect environment in captivity, so you can most likely expect your fish to breed less often.

Where do Neon Tetras Lay their Eggs?

There is no preferred area across an aquarium where these fish like laying their eggs. Instead, they are scatterers, meaning that they basically release their eggs following no pattern.

Most of the eggs will obviously end up at the bottom of the tank, but many of them can also find their way onto plant surfaces. Indeed, their eggs have a somehow adhesive outer surface, so they can literally stick on wherever the mother decides to release them.

Java moss is often suggested as a good bottom base for breeding tanks. It offers healthy yet soft bedding for them, but it can also temporarily hide the eggs from their parents to avoid becoming food.

Your neon tetras, being so small, can produce minute eggs that are sometimes hard to spot across the various tank surfaces. Additionally, they are basically transparent, making them even harder to notice.

Neon Tetra Breeding

If you are keen to properly breed your favorite tetra couple, you should first setup their breeding tank. This does not have to be exceptionally large following their established home, as there will only be 2 adults in there. However, a 10-gallon tank is recommended to provide stable enough water parameters.

When it comes to water parameters, these need to be carefully set to the ideal values, or you are risking otherwise of your pets simply refusing to breed. Make sure to provide them with a temperature of about 77-degrees Fahrenheit.

Additionally, water should be soft and the pH levels need to be between 5 and 6. If the water is not warm enough or is not enough acidic, no basic breeding requirements will be met.

– Egg Hatching

Once your conditioned couple has decided to spawn, the female can release anywhere from 60 and 130 eggs for the male to fertilize. Not all eggs will be able to hatch though, but rather about half of them.

From this point, you must remove both adults back into their established tank, deprive the breeding tank of any light source, and wait for approximately 24 hours for the eggs to hatch.

Once they do, the tiny transparent babies will have to feed for a couple of days on their own egg yolks, until they are able to swim.

– Egg & Fry Care

You basically have nothing to do prior egg hatching, other than isolating all eggs from any neon tetra adult. However, once they start swimming around the tank, you will have to greatly care about the little babies.

Indeed, they require lots of highly nutritious food in order to grow. Therefore, you can feed them with either homemade or purchased infusoria at least twice daily.

During such life stages, they are extremely sensitive to water quality, so please make sure to remove all visible debris and maintain stable water parameters.

– Growing Out Neon Tetras

Your babies should feed on infusoria until they start resembling to little fish. This usually takes a couple of weeks. After that, you can start offering them more solid food, such as baby brine shrimp.

At this stage, your fry will grow amazingly fast and will become adolescent after several weeks only. When you feel they are large enough not to get eaten by other adults, you may carefully place them into your established tank.

Do Female Neon Tetras Lay Eggs Without Males?

Yes, female neon tetras lay unfertilized eggs without their male companions being even present. More precisely, they simply release them into the water.

Females produce eggs occasionally during their entire fertile stage. However, if they have nobody to breed with, they will just release the eggs and probably eat them afterward.

Wrapping Up

If you are eager to expand your neon tetra school by breeding your favorite couple, it is not a mission impossible.

With the ideal water requirements and with lots of attention from your side, you may be soon facing dozens of iridescent babies.

  • Updated: March 29, 2021
  • Tetras Fish

Written by Fabian

Hey, I’m Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

I have a tank of 8 neon tetras (I don’t know how many females and males) I was wondering if they will breed on their own and what are the most effective ways of stopping them from eating their eggs, also I have seen images of little separator thingys which stay in the tank, I have attached an image because it’s hard to describe, but are they worth getting and how do they work?

How to breed neon tetras

Summer, I admire your desire, but you might want to pick something easier to start with, especially if you’re not an experienced keeper.

Neons are noteasy to breed. They require super soft, very acidic water, almost black with tannins, to even think about spawning.

You would have to condition the fish first by feeding them plenty of live foods for a few weeks. When the females look full of eggs and you see some courting behaviour, then you can put a pair into a spawning tank and hope they’ll mate and spawn.

Some kind of spawning mop helps, they’ll lay the eggs on those, and then you can shake the eggs off them to the bottom of the hatching tank, filled with black water too. It’ll have to be cycled, have a slow sponge filter in it.

Their eggs are very sensitive to light, which will kill them, so the spawning tank must be kept quite dark.

You’d have to culture some infusoria, to feed the fry, assuming you got fry. The fish can lay hundreds of eggs, but they will eat some, for sure, and some won’t hatch, and some will be very poor quality and need to be culled.

So it’s not a simple thing.

And, I’m sorry to say, but that very tiny breeder box thing is useless. It is so small I would not even put fry in there. It’s meant for livebearing guppies but is too small for any fish.

Hello, can someone explain to me an easy-to-understand way of breeding the fish listed above?
What do i have to do to breed them? And what do i do after i breed them (the eggs)?
Thanks in advance.

All you have to do is buy a group of them and keep them happy really. They arent like livebearers who are constantly pregnant. When tetras are gravid they scatter the eggs where they can and eventually a male will fertilize them and they will hatch.

Neons will only spawn in a perfectly dark tank. I mean pitch black. The tank has to be wrapped to keep any light out.
They only breed certain times of the year as well.
There eggs must be able to fall somewhere, where the parents wont eat them.

They are very difficult to breed in the home aquarium.

Conditions have to be right for this to happen with regards to water chemistry first. First what is your GH, KH and pH?

pH is typically associated with fertility and viability of the male *****. Higher pH mean more likely the ***** is sterile. and from what I have read. he won’t change back in lower pH.

GH has an effect on the ability for ***** to penetrate the eggs once dropped. GH is mostly calcium and magnesium. The calcium reacts with the eggs to thicken and harden the walls making it a fortress to *****.

Now, you can simulate the rainy season, which is when they typically spawn. There are plenty of online pages of how to do so, but you normally lower tank temps, lower water level, then have a gentle trickle like rain drops falling on the tank water. and yes darkness.

Good luck and let us know what your water is like so we can help further.

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First you have to know that is difficult to reproduce neon tetras. But if you are tempted to do it, I advise you to try first to breed Hemigrammus erythrozonus (pink neon), which is much easier. In case you succeed, you can try to breed neon tetra then. The main problem at reproduction is that they were kept in water with excessive hardness. In this case, females have deformed ovaries and are incapable to breed. It was found that if females neon tetra are kept in water with 8dH, chances of reproducing decrease to 0%.

So one of the essential conditions is to purchase fish when are babies and to grow them in a water with 4-5dH, a pH of 5.5-6 and a temperature of 22 degrees C. After a period of about 10 months neon tetras are apt for breeding. Usually, an immature pair, will make a few eggs, 20 to 30, but getting used to a regular cycle, at 30 days, will be obtain between 100 and 200 eggs. Another problem is feeding the parents, which must be done with live food: tubifex washed and sterilized, cladocere, copepode, etc., with at least one month before beginning reproduction.

Arrangement of a breeding tank. A tank of approximately 10 liters (3 gallons) with a water column height of 12-15 cm is sufficient. A net placed on a frame at 2 cm high from the bottom of the tank is essential to protect the eggs, not be eaten. The frame must fit exactly in the tank, so not to exist any risk for the fish to enter between frame and tank glass and can not escape. Above the net you put a ”ball”, not too dense, made of green synthetic fibers where practically neon tetras will make the deposit of eggs. Some authors recommend the use of Vesicularia dubyana bushes instead of green synthetic fibers, but natural plants are more difficult to be sterilized. The water tank will have the following characteristics: 1.5-2 dH, 5.8-6.5 pH and temperature between 20 and 22 degrees C and will need to have a slightly brownish tinge which is done by gentle filtration through carbon and to be very clear. The breeding tank will be illuminated with a small power incandescent bulb, max. 15W. The tank and all materials used will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, this represent one of the basic conditions for successful breeding.

Reproduction. The breeding tank must be prepared with 7-8 days before adding the parents. The best period to breed is September – March. All tank sides will be cover with black paper, less the front side which will be cover later. The neon tetra parents will be added in the breeding tank in the evening. Normally, the reproduction should occur within 1-3 days, if not you replace the pair with another. Usually, reproduction take place in the evening, and when they start, the light must be turned off. Right after they lay the eggs, the pair will be removed and the front side and the top of the tank will be covered with black paper, to obtain total darkness. The tank will stay covered for five days and then begin to gradually uncover. The eggs and the fry are very sensitive to light. However, to satisfy our curiosity about the appearance of juvenile, we can light with a small flashlight and for short period inside the tank, but is not recommended.

The hatching occurs after 24 hours and the other four days the fry will feed exclusively from the yolk sac. Since the 5th day you begin the feeding. There is special food in stores for them, JBL Novo Baby for example. Starting with the 10th day, the black paper can be removed all. In this period food will be given in very small portions and tank cleaning will have to be rigorous. After 15 days may be given food as a powder or other suitable feed size. After about three weeks they begin to color, but the hard period pass only after three months when it begins a gradual adaptation to shift them into another tank. Adaptation will be slow, with small exchanges of water between the main tank and breeding tank, until the water parameters are equal.