The Green Neon Tetra is a really neat freshwater fish that we absolutely love. While a lot of people flock to the standard Neon Tetra, this species has a lot to offer as well.
In general, they’re beautiful fish that are fairly easy to care for. They also have some subtle variations that can be fun for aquarists who’re looking for something a little bit different (without getting too wild).
Because of that, we wanted to put together a guide highlighting this awesome fish and how to care for them. We think the Green Neon Tetra deserves just as much attention as the other popular tetras you see in tanks everywhere.
Let’s make it happen!
Table of Contents
The Green Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon simulans) is a fish that often gets confused with its more popular relatives. Another common name for them is the False Neon Tetra because of this common misidentification.
While there are some physical differences we’ll dig into a bit further down, there are also a lot of similarities. This becomes clear when comparing diets or general temperament. It’s also why we’re hesitant to say that there’s one clear “winner” when it comes to the popular tetras.
In the wild, you can find these fish primarily in the Amazon river basin in South America. The Negro and Orinoco Rivers are the most popular bodies of water where you’ll find them, but they have been known to journey out a bit from time to time.
They tend to prefer mellow blackwater areas that have large trees, vegetation, or debris nearby. This means the water they’re used to is fairly acidic and doesn’t get a ton of light (more on this later). Tributaries with a sandy substrate are a common hotspot for the Green Neon Tetra.
The lifespan of Green Neon Tetras is around 2 to 3 years. This is shorter than their more popular counterparts.
Like any fish, the lifespan of a Green Neon Tetra can be easily swayed by its quality of life. A good diet, suitable tank setup, and well-maintained water will all help them live longer. If you neglect them, the opposite is true.
The appearance of the Green Neon Tetra is something that throws many people off. This is the reason why these fish are misidentified so regularly.
From a distance or at first glance, they look a lot like the Cardinal Tetra or basic Neon Tetra. Their body shape and primary blueish-green coloring are almost exactly the same!
The difference when it comes to color comes when you begin to look at the red. While it is present, it’s a lot less visible (sometimes barely noticeable at all). To go along with it, the blueish-green area on their bodies is much more vibrant and generally brighter.
This combination makes the green coloration the most dominant and gives them their name.
Some of these fish can have more of a red patch than others, making them even harder to distinguish in a direct comparison. We find that it’s usually easiest to identify Green Neon Tetras when they’re in a shoal (which they prefer to be). There’s something about having a bunch of them together that really makes the green stand out!
The average Green Neon Tetra size is around one inch in length when fully grown. This makes them a bit smaller than their close relatives.
Size is something that can be influenced by genetics or quality of care (especially during developmental years). While it can be hard for us to notice a difference in something so small, it’s something to pay attention to when assessing the health of a fish you might want to buy.
Green Neon Tetra Care
Green Neon Tetra care is not very challenging. There are some important principles you need to follow if you want them to thrive, but this species won’t throw any curveballs at you.
All you need to do is stick to the guidelines we list below and be consistent. An unmotivated or neglectful aquarist who knows everything about a fish is always worse than a diligent owner with average knowledge!
The recommended tank size for Green Neon Tetras is around 15 to 20 gallons (we prefer 20). While some aquarists keep these fish in tanks as small as 10 gallons, we think that’s insufficient.
The reason for this is that you won’t be getting just one of these tiny critters, you’ll be getting a whole school of at least 6-8. This is necessary for them which means you need to ensure that there’s enough space for everyone!
Author Note: We’ve seen some people say they’ve kept Green Neon Tetras in 5-gallon tanks. This is NOT a good idea and will ultimately hinder the health and happiness of your fish. Never put them in a tank this small!
The main thing you want to remember when it comes to water parameters and Green Neon Tetras is consistency. These fish are fairly durable and have reasonable level windows, but can suffer health issues if level shifts occur.
- Water temperature: 75°F to 85°F
- pH levels: 5 to 6.5
- Water hardness: Very soft
In order to maintain the water quality, it’s necessary to perform partial water changes of roughly 25% on a weekly basis. You should also be testing the water parameters on a regular basis with a trusted test kit (especially early on in your ownership).
What To Put In Their Tank
It’s important to mimic the Green Neon Tetra’s natural environment as much as possible. This will keep their stress levels low which can have a big impact on their overall health (and it’s just a nice thing to do for your fish).
A sandy substrate is a no-brainer since their natural habitat has this exclusively. We’ve heard of some owners trying gravel for the sake of convenience with other tank mates, but that’s not ideal.
You’ll also want to add some vegetation and debris/decorations. These fish are used to this and use them as places to hide and feel safe. Driftwood, plants like hornwort or water wisteria, and rocks are all great places to start.
Author Note: Make sure any water flow in your tank stays at a reasonable level. These fish aren’t used to high-current environments and will suffer if you put them in one.
Common Possible Diseases
If you own a Green Neon Tetra it’s smart to be on the lookout for potential diseases. These fish can be prone to ich and parasites that can lead to serious health issues.
There isn’t anything special you can do when it comes to keeping them at bay other than stick to the fundamentals. The quality of care and the state of the tank plays a big role in the likelihood of these fish becoming ill.
Water quality, low stress levels, and a great diet are the biggest factors to remember. If these elements of care are stellar, your Green Neon Tetra is far less likely to get sick.
Food & Diet
When it comes to feeding these fish you should have a strong understanding of their natural diet first. Green Neon Tetras are omnivores and are used to scrounging for small insects, crustaceans, zooplankton, and organic matter.
This means you have some flexibility when establishing a diet. A lot of owners prefer to feed them primarily with flake or freeze-dried foods, which is fine. If you go this route make sure the food is crushed or made small enough for your fish to eat it. If it isn’t small enough it will simply fall to the substrate and negatively affect the water quality.
For the sake of variation and enrichment, we recommend something like bloodworms, daphnia, or mosquito larvae. This will bring some excitement to the tank and also provide a source of protein-rich fuel.
Since Green Neon Tetras are the opposite of picky eaters, it’s important to avoid overfeeding. Closely monitor how much food is being eaten when you first start feeding them (or make changes to their existing diet). This will tell you if you need to dial it back or not.
Behavior & Temperament
Green Neon Tetras are pretty low-maintenance when it comes to their temperament. These fish are quite peaceful and prefer to mind their business and not cause trouble in the tank.
They can get spooked when paired with a more active or aggressive species (more on that below), but that’s nothing out of the ordinary for a small fish like this.
One of the most important elements of their behavior to be aware of is the fact that these are schooling fish. That means they stick together in groups for safety in the wild.
If you don’t keep them together in your tank this will cause them to live in a constant state of stress (since they think they’re at risk of getting eaten). This ties in with the ideal tank size, but if you’re not prepared to get at least 6-8 of them it’s better to go with another species of fish.
Green Neon Tetra Tank Mates
There are a number of potential tank mates for Green Neon Tetras. Because of this, it’s easier to just list the criteria to look for instead of sharing each and every species that could work.
Ideal tank mates are nonaggressive fish of a similar size. Any aggressive species will cause too much trouble, and your Green Neon Tetras won’t fight back. Any fish that’s too large will accidentally spook them (or mistakenly eat them).
This leaves you with a long list of potential options. If you don’t have anything in mind, these fish do great in a species only tank.
Author Note: We actually love the species-only option when it comes to Green Neon Tetras for two reasons. The first reason is obvious: it removes the need to worry about finding the perfect tank mate.
The second is one that many people don’t think about. In our opinion, these fish look better when they’re the star of the show in your tank. A tank full of Green Neon Tetra swimming around in all their shiny glory is simply stunning. Having other kinds of fish in the tank can detract from that.
If you want to try and breed these fish then you’ll need to have patience and do everything the right way. Plenty of experienced aquarists have failed to breed this species, so you need to have reasonable expectations before giving it a shot.
Slightly lowering the pH levels and adjusting the water temperature to be on the higher side of the normal range is a good place to start. This will help replicate the water conditions in their natural habitat during the mating season.
You should also reduce the amount of light coming into the tank as well. Take stock of how much light you currently let into the tank, and drop it by half (or even more).
Once the tank is ready to go it’s time for you to be patient and monitor your fish. You’ll observe new behavior between the male and female (they’ll be close to each other and might make a lot of contact).
The female will spread her eggs in a variety of places and the male will be close behind to make sure they’re fertilized. This is an easy part of the process to spot.
When the eggs have been fertilized you’ll want to remove the adult Green Neon Tetras from the tank. They aren’t needed anymore and this will avoid any unwanted eating incidents on the part of the adults.
Once the fish have hatched and eaten their egg sacs it’s time for you to feed them! Brine shrimp and any other usual food sources will work great.
Are They The Species For You?
Green Neon Tetra care is incredibly rewarding. These fish are fun to observe, beautiful, and sweet in their own shy way.
While they’re not the most popular species in the freshwater aquarium community, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider getting them. The reason why they’re not in more tanks is a mystery to us!
If you want to learn more about this species and the differences between them and their close relatives we’re more than happy to chat with you. It’s our mission to give these fish the attention they deserve!