The Complete Black Neon Care Guide

black neon

If you want to add colorful, easy-to-care-for fish to your home aquarium, Black Neons are a good choice.

This peaceful omnivore is native to southern Brazil. It lives in shallow parts of creeks and tributaries, near sandbanks, and in flooded forest areas. Black Neons are found north and south of the expansive tropical wetland called the Pantanal.

Black Neons are not aggressive or destructive and eat a broad range of foods.

This article contains all the information you need about adding Black Neons to your aquarium. You will read about the optimal tank conditions, diet, breeding, and much more…

Category Rating
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Colors: Black, white, and green iridescence
Lifespan: 5 years
Size: Up to 1.5/1.6 inches (4 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Family: Characidae
Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
Tank Set-Up: Low lighting, live plants
Compatibility: Peaceful community


The Black Neon tetra is a peaceful freshwater fish that enjoys swimming around the top half of the tank. Black Neons are small fish with pelvic, caudal, and dorsal fins that are large in proportion to their bodies.

When purchasing this fish, make sure the pet store doesn’t give you Neon tetras by mistake. The Black Neons have fuller, slightly shorter bodies, and more mass than the Neon tetras.

Black Neons are easily identified by the two stripes running along their bodies from behind their gills all the way to their tails. The bottom stripe is black, while the upper stripe is anywhere from neon green to white.

This is a fish that thrives in a school, and you should always keep Black Neons in groups of at least six in your tank.

Their scientific name is Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi and they are part of the Characidae family. Black Neon fish prefer acidic, soft water, and dark substrates.

Black Neons are not expensive fish. Each fish will cost you between $2 and $5.

Typical Behavior

Black Neons are peaceful, passive fish. They are never territorial or aggressive, even when mating.

This is a fish that will happily flit around the aquarium with its school, providing plenty of entertainment to those who enjoy watching fish swim. When feeling safe, Black Neons will also swim off on their own, or just float on the side of the tank watching its tank mates in action.

If you often notice your Black Neons dispersed throughout the tank, then rest assured that they feel very comfortable in their home. If you see them frantically swimming back and forth in a tightly grouped school, know that something is causing them to feel fear or stress.


The Black Neon earned its name due to the way it looks. The body of this fish is iridescent, like a “neon light”, and there is a black stripe running from the gills to the end of the tail. A white stripe runs along the body above the black one, and a fiery red half-circle of color above a thinner yellow half-circle highlights the top half of the Black Neon’s eyes.

Female Black Neon fish are slightly larger than males. The black line on the female’s body is not as continuous or straight as that of the male. The black spot at the center of a female’s side is broken up by blue scales, while on the male it is totally black with blues scales only on the edges.

Black Neons grow to a maximum length of 1.6 inches (4 cm) when fully mature.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

Black Neon tetras are freshwater fish. In the wild, they can be found in southern Brazil, in the Paraguay basin. This is a popular fish among aquarists, and relatively easy to care for.

It is important to maintain the water in a tank housing Black Neons at a high level of cleanliness at all times. They do best in soft, acidic water.

Tank Conditions

Peat filtering brings out the best coloring in Black Neons. You also need peat if you intend to breed these fish.

Black Neons prefer low lights, live plants, and a semi-vigorous current near the top of the tank where they like to swim. Floating plants help maintain dim lighting inside the tank, even when the light in the room where the aquarium is placed is very bright.

Create a substrate using driftwood and river sand. If you also add dried leaves to the water, they will release tannins into the water as they decay, giving it a brown tint. The dark tank is a perfect background to the Black Neon’s iridescent colors.

The optimal water temperature for Black Neons is between 68° and 79°F (20–26 °C).

Finally, the pH level of the water should be between 5.0 and 7.0.

What Size Aquarium do they need?

Since Black Neons are school fish in the wild, you should keep at least six together in your home tank. For a group of six to eight Black Neons, the minimum tank size is 15 gallons. For a group of eight to 10, you need a 20-gallon tank.

The length of any home aquarium housing Black Neons should be at least 60 cm long, to provide enough swimming space for these active fish.

Make sure your aquarium has a secure lid, as these fish are known to jump right out of the water if given the opportunity.

Tank Mates

Black Neons are very peaceful fish and adapt well to large tanks housing a variety of fish and invertebrates. However, make sure the other fish in the tank are not aggressive or very large.

Recommended tank mates for Black Neons include danios, rasboras, gouramis, and small catfish. Other small tetras are also compatible. Anything larger will eat the little tetras. The last thing you want is to wake up one morning and discover that all your Black Neons have been devoured.

Since Black Neons prefer swimming and eating in the top half of the tank, make sure to add some bottom-dwelling fish to the equation. Species such as pygmy corydoras will eat leftover food that sinks into the substrate, ensuring the food doesn’t go to waste.

Can You Keep Black Neons Together?

Black Neons live in schools in their natural environments, and you should always keep at least 6 together in a home aquarium. Since they swim together and are not territorial, Black Neons won’t occupy caves and other types of hiding places you provide for other fish in the tank.


Black Neons are not picky eaters. They will happily consume freeze-dried, flake, and frozen fish food. But if you want their colors to be vibrant, add small live foods to their diets such as brine shrimp and worms.


Black Neons are very easy to care for. As long as their dietary needs are met, and the tank environment is kept stable, they can live for at least two years in captivity. Some can live for up to 5-10 years.

As is the case with all wild and aquarium fish, the Black Neon thrives in a clean environment. If Black Neons begin exhibiting erratic behavior, it can be a sign that the water conditions are poor.

Water in the aquarium should be changed once a week (10%) or every two weeks (25%). Make sure to treat tap water before adding it to the tank.


Black Neons reproduce by laying eggs, and spawning occurs in pairs or schools. It is best to choose pairs of adults that are at least a year old for aquarium breeding.

Choose the most colorful males, and feed them live foods such as mosquito larvae or brine shrimp. Place one or two breeding males in a separate tank with a few females. A 10-gallon tank is sufficient for breeding.

The water in the breeding tank should be maintained at a temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 C) for the first few days, while the fish accustom themselves to the new tank. When you want the Black Neons to start breeding, gradually elevate the water temperature to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7 C).

Add fine-textured and floating plants to the spawning tank, and use a filter with aquarium-safe peat. A female will usually begin spawning in the morning hours. She will lay a few hundred eggs on the plants or substrate. Once you see eggs in the tank, remove all the adult fish so they don’t eat the eggs and fry.

It takes 22 – 26 hours for Black Neon eggs to hatch, and in another 3-4 days the fry will be visible to the naked eye. Feed the fry protozoa, then Daphnia, then freshly hatched brine shrimp and crushed flakes or other commercial fry food. Once the fry have grown large enough to avoid the danger of being eaten by other fish, you can transfer them to the main tank.


Black Neons are a wonderful addition to any aquarium if you don’t own larger fish that will prey on them for food.

This fish is easy to feed and adapts well to the conditions of most freshwater tanks.

Are Black Neons your favorite tetra species? Let us know in the comments below…

About Robert 390 Articles
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third generation fish keeper and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America and the Nature Conservancy.

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