Aquarium Bible

Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)

Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)
Common Name:

Neon Tetra.
Scientific Name:

Paracheirodon innesi.
Family:

Characidae.
Distribution:

The Brazilian, Peruvian, and Colombian tributaries of the Solimões -- a region which makes up much of the western Amazon rainforest
Size:

Approx 1.5(4cm)
Diet:

In the wild, these eat small invertebrates, a small amount of plants, and have been known to pick off the fry of some of their natural predators. Many Neons in captivity live solely on commercial food and seemingly thrive on such a diet. A few live foods or freeze-dried substitutes thereof can't hurt them, though
Water Temperature:

70 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water Chemistry:

In order to be bred, P. innesi should be kept in very soft water (dH 1.0-2.0) of a low pH (5.0-7.0). They are reputedly weak fish (which may be deserved because they are susceptible to both ich and the insidious Neon Tetra Disease), but much of that has to do with forced acclimation to a large variety of water qualities. If properly acclimated, the Neon can thrive in high pH water that is relatively hard.
Life Span:

Average 1.5 years with 3 being documented.
Housing:

10 gallons is the absolute minimum for a small group.
Sexing:

Upon maturity, females will be slightly plumper than males. The blue line may also seem to be slightly diffracted on the female. Other than that, the dimorphism of this fish is not obvious at all.
Breeding:

A lot of people prepare their Neons for breeding in several steps. First, they remove potential pairs to breeding tanks. Then, they condition them with live foods such as mosquito larvae and Daphnia. If necessary, during their stay in this tank, the pH is slowly lowered. Even if the pH does not need to be lowered, either rainwater or distilled/deionized/RO water is used during the process of water changes. There should be a spawning mop or floating plants available to the Neon pair. If the tank is covered at night, these spawning media will likely be covered with eggs. The parents should then be removed and returned to the display tank. The fry will not need to eat for four or five days until they reach the free-swimming stage. While it is recommended that standard infusoria and/or liquid fry food be fed to Neon fry, the fish may not survive such a feeding regimen. In a recent Aquarium Fish Magazine, there is an article on how to create infusoria for blackwater fishes. according to the article's author, this seems to work better for fry-rearing and may make for a higher success rate. Feeding In the wild, these eat small invertebrates, a small amount of plants, and have been known to pick off the fry of some of their natural predators. Many Neons in captivity live solely on commercial food and seemingly thrive on such a diet. A few live foods or freeze-dried substitutes thereof cannot hurt them.
Behaviour:

These were the ultimate schooling fish in the hobby until a certain 1950s-era discovery revolutionized the aquaria of the general public. The shoaling behaviour only occurs when Neons are in a group of conspecifics and when there is some sort of fear stimulus (something that won't eat them but may corral them every so often). One has to be careful as those fear stimuli may stress them to the point of lowering the threshold of immunity. As schooling fish, it should be noted that they will not do well without at least six in a tank. The Neon spends much of its time in the middle and upper levels of the tank. Like many of the Characoid fishes, the Neon has a reputation as a fin-nipper, so Bettas and Gouramies may be in trouble when sharing a tank with these guys. Though there is the aesthetic appeal of such beautiful fishes sharing the same confines, I would not recommend it.
Tank levels:

The Neon spends much of its time in the middle and upper levels of the tank.
Description:

These small fish can achieve lengths of 1.6" and their streamlined bodies are the root cause of the "inch per gallon" rule within the tropical aquarium hobby. Their translucent skin is accented by an electric blue stripe and soft blue undertones, along with a red stripe that starts at the caudal peduncle and continues, below the lateral line, until fading into the soft blue directly beneath the dorsal fin. Unfortunately, these looks are not readily apparent in many of their owners' tanks. They were also rarely apparent in the tanks of their temporary middlemen of the LFS. I say were because these fish are often victim to the hormone treatments which have become much more prevalent in the hobby today. While these result in beautiful fish, it is clear that there are negative effects upon the fishes' lifespans, general health, and reproductive capabilities.
Miscellaneous:

This species has been classified in three genera: Hyphessobrycon, Cheirodon and aracheirodon.The accepted scientific name, though, has always included the honorific specific name innesi. This fish was the schooling fish as stated before, but an upstart (with a full-body-length red stripe) introduced in an upstart magazine's first issue knocked it from its throne. Even today, the Cardinal Tetra (P. axelrodi) and the magazine in which it was first described, Tropical Fish Hobbyist, remain among the crown jewels of the aquarium hobby. Unfortunately, the Neon has become an also-ran but its ready availability and low price make it an acceptable substitute for the budget-conscious Cardinal Tetra lover. Plus, to those who only frequent pet stores which carry only the popular, easy to keep fishes, the Neon is still a jewel. It is still a jewel to me too, and I would be proud to have a 29+ gallon tank devoted to a large school of these and a shoal of Corydoras aeneus for the bottom. No angelfish, though...the stereotypical accidental predation in the hobbyist's tank is that of Angelfish upon Neon Tetras. Neons may not be apropos for inclusion with any but the smallest among the South American cichlids.
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