Are Neon Tetra Livebearers?

Are neon tetras livebearers?

No, Neon tetras are not livebearers. Instead, they lay eggs after spawning. The female scatters the eggs at different parts of the tank and the male fish fertilizes them. The eggs hatch in about 24 hours. Keep the eggs out of the reach of parent fish, otherwise, they can eat them.

In this article, you will study the complete breeding and birthing pattern of neon tetras that will elaborate on why this fish is not a livebearer.

Black Neon Tetra Spawning and releasing eggs (Video)

Eggs are released by the female at 1:50 of the clip.

How do neon tetras give birth?

This breeding pattern of neon tetras is explained in the following points:

  • Placement of the breeding pair in a separate tank
  • Ideal tank conditions to initiate mating
  • Spawning period
  • Egg hatching
  • Fry care & food
  • Growth of fry into adult

Tank separation

Neon tetras are considered difficult to breed as they need very particular water conditions. In order to breed them successfully, you have to set up a separate breeding tank where you can keep the pair under the required conditions.

Ideal tank conditions to initiate mating

The pH of the water should be 6.0-7.0 and the hardness must be 1 to 2 dGH. Install a sponge filter instead of the regular aquarium filters because they are a threat to both eggs and fry. The spawning fish tend to jump, so cover the tank with a lid to prevent the fish from jumping out of the water. The water temperature of the tank must be between 72°F-75°F.

Here is a recap of the required tank conditions for neon tetra mating:

Temperature72-75 degrees Fahrenheit
Water hardness1-2 dGH
Tank lidPresent

Spawning period

It is necessary to condition the breeding pair with the best care, food, and water conditions long before placing it in a separate tank. Turn off the tank lights for the first day into the new tank. Gradually increase the light of the tank from the second day to initiate the spawning process.

The fish usually spawn in the morning close to dawn. The female neon tetra can release 60-100 eggs in a single go.

The eggs are slightly adhesive and transparent. You can see the eggs scattered all over the tank floor at different spots. Males start fertilizing the eggs right after the female has laid them.

The parents have no maternal instincts and can eat their own eggs. That’s why the parents should be removed from the breeding tank immediately.

Egg hatching

Now, the care of egg and fry is the responsibility of the owner. Keep the tank lights dim because both fry and eggs are very sensitive to sharp light. In order to do so, cover the entire aquarium using cardboards.

After approximately 24 hours, the tiny fry would start hatching from the eggs. For the first few days, they will feed on their own egg sack.

Only a few eggs will make it till the end. Out of 100 eggs, just 30-40 fry would survive. The new born fry seem like glass splinters swimming in the tank.

Fry care & food

After 3-4 days, the baby will grow up into a free swimmer and this is the stage when you need to feed them food designed specifically for fry diet.

The ideal food for neon tetra fry is commercially prepared liquid fry food, powdered egg yolk or rotifers. Remove the excess food from the tank before it starts decaying and poisoning the water. Within a few weeks, they get big enough to eat brine shrimp.

Growth into an adult

After a month, they will start developing adult traits in their body. As soon as they are three months old, they are safe to move in with the adult neon tetras. If you keep the fry in the same tank before three months of age, the adults might try to attack and hurt the smaller fish.

Why do people confuse neon tetras as live bearers?

Sometimes, the pregnant neon tetras grow an extensive swollen belly due to the presence of eggs. Some beginner aquarists who have no prior experience of breeding neon tetras think that the fish might be carrying live fry inside this huge belly.

Actually, a fish with a fat belly is a healthy one which is about to lay around 100 eggs! So, get ready to welcome the little guys and take measures to protect the eggs from possible threats.

Care tips for neon tetra fry

Following are the key instructions that you need to follow in order to provide the best care to neon tetra fry:

  • Keep the eggs/fry separated from parents
  • Keep the tank lights dim
  • Conduct regular water change
  • Feed them liquid and soft food that can easily be engulfed
  • Use a sponge filter to avoid the fry from getting sucked into the filter
  • If you cannot handle a large number of fry at a time, find another owner for them or sell them in the market.

Related questions

What is the difference between neon tetra and cardinal tetra? There is a slight difference between both breeds. The best way to figure out the difference is to look at their bodies closely. The sharp red line on the neon tetra’s body starts from the middle to the tail while the red line on the cardinal tetra’s body is spread horizontally across the entire body. Other than that, both fish species appear to be exact replicas of each other.

What is the best tank size to keep neon tetras? The tank size depends on the number of fish you want to keep. The minimum size should be 10 gallons. Tetras live better in the form of a group; almost 15 neon tetras can be kept together easily. And to accommodate 15 tetras, a 20-gallon tank would be an optimum option.

What are the best tank mates for neon tetra? Small-sized fish that are peaceful in nature are the best partners to live with neon tetras. So, other tetras, corys, rasboras, platies are good options as their tank mates. Do not add aggressive and bigger fish as they can attack neon tetras at any point.


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