Can Neon Tetras and Bettas live together?

Neons Tetras are beautiful, bright, fast, peaceful, and small shoaling fish. They can also be fin-nippers. It is for sure a great addition to any aquarium. Bettas are aggressive, gorgeous, and territorial fish.  But, do they make good tank mates to betta fish?

In this post, we will see whether it is possible for this arrangement. We will also talk about the requirements to have neons in your tank, their characteristics, how to introduce both fish, and what to do in case of a fight.

Can neon tetras and bettas live together?

Yes, neon tetras and bettas can live together in the right scenario. Both bettas and neons must have their preferences met in the aquarium layout. While neons need enough open space for them to swim, bettas need hiding spots and plants, so they can have places to chill, rest, and even build their bubble nests around them.

Neon tetra overview

Neon tetras (Paracheirodon innesi), also known as neon fish, are freshwater fish native to South America. They live in both blackwater and clearwater streams in the Amazon basin (Brazil, Colombia, and Peru).

It became a favorite among hobbyists and most of the fish sold today are captivity bred in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand. 

Neon tetra appearance

The neon tetra has a slender body, with big eyes, a rounded nose, and bright colors. They have a turquoise line that starts from its eyes down to its adipose fin (between the tail and dorsal fins), and a red stripe running from the middle of their bodies to their caudal fin. 

Their bright iridescence helps them to see in turbid waters as well as locate other neon tetras. A fun fact is that besides both turquoise and red stripes, neon tetras are actually transparent. This transparency is a self-defense mechanism to help them hide from predators. They can also fade the color of their iridescent hues when they are hiding, sleeping or sick so neons don’t become easy targets.

Neon tetras can grow up to 1.5 inches (4 cm). Female neons are usually shorter with a larger, more rounded belly. They can live 8 years in the wild, but in aquariums neon tetras usually live 5 years if they are taken good care of. 

Neon tetra behavior

Neon tetras are schooling fish so they need to be in schools of at least 6 fish. Ideally, a shoal of 10 to 12 tetras will make them happier. They are mid-dwellers and with an overall pacific behavior. When they feel threatened, they might fin-nip other fish.

These fish are active and they like to swim around the tank. When a neon tetra presents dull coloring, is hiding, or swimming alone there might be ongoing health issues.  That must not be ignored as such behaviors are not really compatible with neon tetras.

Neons are prone to have Ich and Neon Tetra Disease. Thus, it is better to quarantine your neons in a separate tank for at least a month.  Change in water parameters can lead to your neons having stress-induced illnesses, so if you want a community tank to add the other fishes to your neon tetra’s tank instead of the other way around.

Neon tetra diet

Neon Tetras are omnivores and can be fed high-quality fish flakes, freeze-dried, frozen, and live food like daphnia, brine shrimp and mosquito larvae. And if you can’t get them live, then freeze-dried and frozen are also great alternatives.

You can also feed them blanched vegetables. Make sure to remove uneaten food in the tank so they don’t rot in the tank.

Neon tetra breeding

Neon tetras need very specific water conditions, which can make breeding complicated. So, it’s better to breed them in a separate tank. The water hardness should be between 1 to 2 dGH, the pH from 5.0 to 6.0, and the temperature between 72 and 75 F (22 and 24 °C). The tank must have a sponge filter for filtration, as well as live plants so fertilized eggs can be stuck in the leaves.  

These fish must be conditioned before spawning. So, when introducing the breeding pair to the aquarium, don’t provide them with any light. Lighting should be gradually introduced to induce spawning. During spawning, the male embraces the female. After mating, they release over 100 eggs that are translucent. The eggs are usually stuck to the plants. About a third of the eggs will result in viable fry. As soon as the eggs are laid the parents must be removed, otherwise, they will eat the eggs.

The eggs will hatch in approximately 24 hours, producing a tiny fry that initially feeds off their egg sack. The fry will become free-swimming in three to four days. They must be fed commercially prepared food for fry or infusoria, rotifers, and crumbled boiled egg yolk. When they can wean off  fry food, they can start eating freshly hatched brine shrimp. The adult coloration will be displayed after a month.

Neon tetra tank setup

As a shoaling fish, neon tetras need a tank that is at least 15 gallons (56.8 L) in size. Prefer larger tanks over tall ones, as they like to swim in the middle part of the tank. If you keep them in smaller tanks, there will be increased aggression between them. Additionally, you’ll likely have ammonia spikes.

Adding plants will give your neons places to feel safe and rest. Remember to also keep swimming spaces for these shoaling fish. Driftwood, caves, decorations are great additions to your tank.

As for their light requirements, neon tetras prefer dim lighting as it mimics their natural habitat. Neon tetras can survive at a pH ranging from 5 and 7.5 and the water temperature must be between 68 to 82 F (20 to 27.8 °C). 

An important thing to remember is not to add your neon tetras to a new tank. Instead, add the other fishes to the neons’ tank. They are very sensitive fish, so any fluctuations in water conditions can be lethal to them.

Regarding water changes, neons don’t need to have a lot of volume changed. Replacing about 10 to 20% of the water volume is sufficient. Otherwise, they can become stressed.

Keeping your betta and neon tetras happy in the same tank

To be successful in keeping your bettas and neon tetras in the same tank, fulfilling both fish’s requirements is essential. Neon tetras and bettas must be allocated in a tank that’s at least 15 gallons (56.8 L). You can add an additional 5 gallons (18.9 L) per extra fish.

Neon tetras and bettas need a tank with aquatic and semi-aquatic plants, so they can rest and hide. However, the aquarium also needs an open space so neons can swim freely.

As for water requirements, you can compromise the temperature and pH to suit both neons and betta. A temperature of 78 F (25.6 °C) and a pH of 7.0 should work for both of them. Also, make sure you follow their diets and that they don’t compete for food as neons and bettas have a great appetite.

There are also additional ways to increase the compatibility of your bettas and neons:

  • Add neon tetras first;
  • Give preference to female bettas;
  • Check the temperament of your betta;
  • Keep neon tetras in a school;
  • Have a good tank layout and a spare tank.

Add neon tetras first

Bettas are territorial. So, if the fish is alone in a tank and you add other fish into its home, your betta will feel threatened. This can result in aggression, which could make your neon tetras fin-nip your betta as a response. However, if you add a betta to a tank with neons in it, then it will find an area in the aquarium to claim as its territory, and there shouldn’t be further issues.

Give preference to female bettas

Female bettas are usually less aggressive than male bettas. Their adaptation in a community tank is easier than in males and they can also live in a sorority. Besides, they do not have flowing fins like males, decreasing the chances of fin nipping.

Check the temperament of your betta

Regardless of the gender of your betta, make sure your fish do not display any aggressive behavior. A betta that is already part of a community has better chances of getting along with your neons.

Keep neon tetras in a school

Under no circumstances should you keep only one neon tetra in a tank. They are schooling fish and must be in a school of at least 6 neons to be happy. A bigger group can make your neon tetras stressed which can lead to fin-nipping and aggression.

Have a good tank layout and a spare tank

A great way to increase the chances of bettas and neon tetras living together in peace is to take the aquarium layout seriously. Make use of rocks, caves, plants, so they’re not directly in each other’s line of sight and also have hiding spots. Initial chasing and fin-nipping can happen but they should not last. If you see that your betta and neons are not a good match, separate them immediately. You can add a tank divider that doesn’t have a second tank.

Conclusion

Neon tetras can be suitable betta’s tank mates if you keep in mind that despite having different temperaments, where betta fish is more aggressive and neons are calmer, neons can fin-nip your betta if they feel threatened. 

On the same note, your betta might chase and fight your neons, and if they are too small, they might even become a snack. Make sure you add your betta to your neons aquarium and not the opposite. You can also try to add a female betta instead of a male, as they tend to be less aggressive.

Make sure your tank has at least 15-gallon (56.8 L) volume and it’s large enough so the neon’s school can swim. The school must be composed of at least 6 neon tetras. Keep the water temperature at 78 F (25.6 °C) and the pH at 7.0. Neon tetras are very sensitive to any water parameter fluctuation, so try to add them to a mature tank. Also, a good filtering system is necessary and water changes should only remove a small percentage of the total tank volume and be performed twice a month.

The ideal tank layout must be a mix of dense plant life, hiding spots, and open swimming space to keep both fish happy. Neon tetras are omnivores and bettas are carnivores. Make sure that both are getting a proper, balanced diet.

Do you have a community tank with bettas and neon tetras? Would you like to add any of them to your tank? Let us know in the comments.

Reference

Barrington, K. n.d. The right way to care for Betta fish. Talkfishy.com. 45 p.

Mikel, J. P. (2020). Neon Tetra the Complete Guides: The Complete Guides to Caring for Neon Tetra: Feeding, Housing, Health Issues and Lots More. Independently published. 28 p.

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