How to Tell If a Neon Tetra Is Going To Lay Eggs

How to tell if a neon tetra is going to lay eggs? Here’s the quick answer:

If you notice that a female neon tetra has a swelling belly, it means that it is about to lay eggs very soon. First of all, you should point out the female neon tetras and then look for the ones with a larger belly than the rest.

Many novice aquarium hobbyists love neon tetras for their vibrant presence in the aquarium. But there are many other reasons to fall in love with these bright colored species.

Neon tetras are tiny gems with an easy-going temperament. They are peaceful and also easy to care for. However, these little fish can be pretty fussy about demanding the right breeding conditions.

Their innocuous nature and vibrant hues of red and blue contribute to their popularity. And even though they’re known for their hardiness, it does require skill as an aquarist to spawn neon tetras. There are many steps involved in breeding your neon tetras and then identifying if it will lay eggs. If that’s the information you’re looking for, you’ve landed on the right page.

The mating and egg laying process of these simple freshwater species can be a little complicated. In this article, I will help you learn more about neon tetras, their spawning, and other hidden facts.

Keep reading to explore more.

Neon Tetras and Breeding Requirements

The best way to guarantee the successful breeding of neon tetras is to separate the breeding pair in another tank. In addition to that, you must provide them the right conditions to mate and spawn. For the best results, place a few small rocks on the lower side of the tank as the landing spots for the eggs.

Place a lid over the aquarium to keep the pair from jumping out as they experience euphoria. Do not put plants in the tank or remove the plants prior to placing the pair in the tank. Eggs tend to stick on the leaves, and therefore, a plant-less tank works best for neon tetras.

Another important consideration is adjusting the water conditions in the new tank. Neons are sensitive and may not be able to withstand the changes in the new tank. When setting up a separate tank to breed neon tetras, make sure you allow the tank to fully mature and guarantee stable water chemistry before the transition.

Adjusting the right water temperature, pH, and changing half the water in the tank more frequently is a great way to encourage spawning. It’s an indication for the fish to get into action, especially if the above factors are not motivating enough. Moreover, keep the water clean by sponging filter in the corners. This is essential for the young fish.

As mentioned earlier, the tiny fish can be really demanding when it comes to favorable breeding conditions. It also requires changing the light frequently to trigger spawning. After mating, neons lay their eggs the first thing in the morning. Therefore, you must keep them in the dark for at least 12 hours before introducing little light into the tank.

Keep increasing the light intensity to mimic daybreak for the spawning to occur. In some cases, you may witness the male dancing around the female to prepare for the event. Depending on all the above-mentioned factors and light intensity, these smart fish could take anywhere between 15 and 60 minutes to get underway.

Breeding Neon Tetras – The Steps

It is not impossible to breed neon tetras, but the conditions have to be just right. Setting up a separate breeding tank is crucial. In this section, you will learn about all the important steps you need to take to breed your neon tetras.

Setting Up The Breeding Tank

If you don’t have an extra tank, get one that’s at least 12 x 8 x 8 inches. This tank will be exclusive to the male and female breeding tetras and for incubating the eggs and young ones.

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Set up this tank like you would any normal tank. But as mentioned earlier, avoid plants and don’t forget to place a few rocks at the bottom. Keep the water soft and the temperature warm enough for breeding to occur.

Prep the Water

Commonly, neon tetras appreciate soft water with around 1-2 dH indicator. Make sure you get a test kit from a local store to measure the exact softness of the water. As far as the Ph levels are concerned, adjust them between 5 and 6.

Water temperature is another major consideration. Establish a water temperature of 74 degrees F or less to maintain the perfect conditions for neon tetras to breed. The water temperature must not drop below 70 degrees F. The point is to mimic the natural environment of neon tetras for successful breeding.  

The Corner Box

This new tank also needs a corner box. It is a filtration system that helps remove bacteria and waste products from the aquarium. When breeding your neon tetras, it is crucial to protect their health. A filtration system will do that for you and keep the aquarium looking its best.  

Placing the Tank

This tank ideally needs a low light environment for tetras to thrive and mate. So find a suitable spot to place the tank. However, low light doesn’t mean a completely dark environment. That’s not what your neons need. It needs to be placed on a spot that gets only a small amount of light every day.

In case you can’t find an appropriate place, use dark paper to cover the sides of the tank to limit the light.

Introducing Tetras for Breeding

To start the breeding process, the next step is to focus on the pair of fish.

Identifying the Male and Female

While it isn’t absolutely necessary to sex your neon tetras for breeding because you can put a few into the tank, and they may breed. However, to increase the chance of success, it is best if you begin with one pair by transferring them into a separate tank.

Start with identifying the male and female. Here are some distinct differences that can help you sex your tetras:

  • Female neon tetras as significantly fatter and wider than male tetras.
  • Some hobbyists claim that the stripe on male tetras is straight while females have a crooked one.

Placing the Tetras

Place your adult male and female tetras in the evening. And when I say adult tetras, I mean that the fish you can use for breeding should be at least 12 weeks old. Fish younger than that won’t breed.

Once you’ve transferred the pair to the new tank, allow them to adjust to their new environment for a day or two. With the right conditions, your tetras should spawn within 1-2 days.

Readjusting the Water Conditions

In case your neon tetras are not breeding, you need to check the water conditions and readjust accordingly. Check the water temperature, pH level, and soften the water more. Don’t forget to adjust the lighting as recommended.

Maintaining the perfect tank conditions on your first attempt can be challenging. So don’t hesitate to experiment and take your time to adjust everything as per your neon tetras breeding standards.

Some neon tetras prefer softer water. Adjusting the water softness may trigger spawning because doing so mimics rainfall. If your neon tetras are not spawning after a few days, add a large volume of soft water to the tank and see if it makes any difference.

Removing the Fish

Neon tetras’ eggs – just like most fish – are translucent, tiny, and hard to see. So be very observant and check the aquarium thoroughly to find the eggs. The rocks or gravel on the bottom will make it easier to spot them. As soon as you see the eggs, remove the adult neon tetras from the tank immediately. These fish tend to eat their own eggs and even their young ones. Shift them back to their previous tank to protect the eggs.

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This is another reason why it is recommended to only breed one pair at a time in a separate tank. Having more adult tetras in a tank for breeding means the other fish might end up eating the eggs. You don’t want to experience that.

Preparing for Baby Neon Tetras

Neon tetras spawn between 60 and 130 eggs, but not all of them will hatch. It takes only 24 hours for these eggs to hatch. You can expect 40-50 baby tetras in this new tank soon.

Don’t expect these tiny species to look anything like their parents. While they’re young, they would appear as tiny splinters of glass moving around the tank.

How to Tell if Neon Tetra is Going to Lay Eggs

There are a few steps that will help you determine if your neon tetra is going to lay eggs.

The Mating Signs

You need to look for the signs that your neon tetras are about to mate or mating. The key is to observe. The more you keep an eye on it, the more differences you can spot. The first thing you may notice is the dance. Your male neon tetra would perform a specific dance in jerking movements and square motion to attract the female neon.

This is the best sign that your fish is going to mate. This special dance by the male is to attract the female and celebrate the big event.

Is the Female Neon Tetra Pregnant?

To see if your neon tetra is pregnant, you need to keep a close watch and see if the female looks fatter. This is a pretty obvious sign because the female will have a distinctive swollen belly as she’s carrying a lot of eggs.

Another reason why neon tetras get swollen in the belly or become obese is when they’re too sick. But if you are looking at a neon tetra female who has just mated, the swollen belly is the sign of pregnancy.

Experts also suggest that pregnant neon tetras have tiny black spots on her body till she lays eggs. Do keep a check for that too.

How Long Does It Take for Neon Tetras to Lay Eggs

When a female neon tetra is ready to bred, she will disperse many eggs for the males to fertilize. These eggs are tiny, transparent, and somewhat adhesive, so they would easy land and stick to the gravel and rocks.

After fertilizing, the eggs will take 24 hours to hatch. You will see tiny fry that will feed on their egg sacks for the first few days. You will notice them swim around in about 4 days.

Here’s a beginner’s guide video on how to take care of neon tetras:


Can I breed my tetras without the extra tank?

It is not recommended to breed neon tetras without an extra tank. They need the right environment to spawn, which can be achieved in a separate tank successfully.

How do I breed neon tetras – in pairs or in groups?

It is best to breed them in pairs.

Do tetras eat their eggs and babies?

Yes, neon tetras eat their eggs and babies, and therefore, should be bred in a separate tank and removed from the tank as soon as the eggs are spotted. This is also why it is not recommended to breed them in groups because other neon tetras can eat the eggs and babies.

Should I remove the male when my female neon tetra is about to lay eggs?

No, there’s no need to do that. In fact, tetras are schooling fish and prefer to be with others.

What should I feed baby tetras?

Egg yolks, blood worms, and crushed food flakes work best.

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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