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FAQs on the Neon Tetras: Reproduction, Breeding

Related Articles: Cardinal Tetras; A School of Beauty, Part II,  by Alesia Benedict, Neons, Cardinals & Their Kin; Selection, Maintenance & Healthcare by Neale Monks Characid Fishes

FAQs on: Neon Tetras 1, Neon Tetras 2,
FAQs on: Neon Tetras Identification, Neon Tetras Behavior, Neon Tetras Compatibility, Neon Tetras Stocking/Selection, Neon Tetras Systems, Neon Tetras Feeding, Neon Tetras Disease,

Related FAQs:  Cardinal Tetras, Characid/Tetra Fishes,


Breeding Neons in distilled water  6/13/10
I have a 20 gallon long tank with a couple of guppies and 11 Neons.
<Not the best combination! Neons and Guppies have very different water chemistry requirements, and Neons also need to be kept somewhat cool, 22-24 C, whereas Guppies -- at least the farmed fancy varieties -- do better at
25-30 C.>
I was thinking of trying to breed the Neons.
<Very challenging. Have you tried breeding egg scatterers before? If not, you'd be better off with, say, Zebra Danios or Bronze Corydoras, both of which spawn readily and produce relatively large eggs from which sizeable
fry emerge. Neons are far more picky about water chemistry, and their fry are rather small. Whereas you can rear Danio and Corydoras fry on liquid fry foods, even finely powdered flake, Neons will need suitable live foods,
specifically infusoria to begin with (they hatch about 3-4 days after spawning), and then Microworms and brine shrimp nauplii perhaps a week later.>
My husband suggested distilled water.
<Not by itself, no. You're aiming for 1-2 degrees dH, pH 5.5-6.0, at a steady 24 C. If you have hard tap water, that's going to be something like 1 part tap water to 9 parts distilled, RO or rainwater. But use your pH and hardness test kits to be sure. The tank needs to be filtered with an air-powered box filter containing Zeolite since biological filtration won't work reliably at such a low pH. Since the carbonate hardness will be close to zero, you will need to perform regular water changes to avoid pH drops through acidification -- likely 5-10% daily.>
I have a one gallon jar
<Too small.>
and I was going to put no more than six Neons in there for a day or two in the distilled water and leaving it out of the light. I was wondering if that is the right way to try to breed Neons??
<No. You need to first condition the Neons elsewhere, e.g., with lots of live foods. Once you have obviously "ripe" females and males flirting with them, introduce pairs into a well shaded 5-10 gallon aquarium with a killifish-style spawning mob placed on the bottom of the tank. Feathery plants like Myriophyllum and Cabomba work, too. Spawning is often triggered by early morning sunlight, a trait common among egg-laying fish. Eggs are scattered about, not in great numbers, usually less than 50 at a time.
After spawning, remove the parents promptly because they will eat the eggs.
Repeat as required. If you don't already own a book in fish breeding, do track one down. 'Fish Breeding' by Chris Andrews is excellent, and can be picked up second hand for pennies.>
Thank you
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Ceramic media, air pumps... Actually Neon Tetra... dis., repro.   -- 09/13/07 Hello Neale, <Hello Giuseppe,> as you know I have 2 adult Neons in my tank. One of them has a larger abdomen compared to the other one, so I assume I have a male and a female. <Indeed. According to Baensch, the difference is also seen in the shape of the blue line: on males it is straight, on females it is bent. But I can't see any difference!> Now, I noticed that every 6-8 weeks the female becomes even larger and tends to eat much less and spend most of the day in a quiet spot of the tank. This situation lasts for about 10-15 days, after which her abdomen goes back to normal and she starts eating normally. <Odd.> Do you think that she might have eggs during the time she's more swollen and doesn't eat much? <Sounds plausible enough. Do keep an eye out for Neon Tetra Disease though: key symptoms are shyness, loss of appetite, and loss of colour. Then they die! NTD is unfortunately very common.> If this is the case I would be very fascinated in trying to breed the two Neons. I read that it's pretty challenging, but that experience would be extremely exciting for me, considering also that neon tetra is one of my favorite fish. <I'm not sure it's "difficult" per se, since these fish are bred in their millions on fish farms. The problem for most aquarists is Neons only breed in very soft water. The other big mistake people make with Neons is to keep them too warm; while they aren't subtropical fish, 26C (79F) is the top of their preferred thermal range, and for breeding they only want around 24C (75F). When kept in hard, overly warm water they just won't spawn, or if they do, the eggs become fungused.> Do you also have any good web site where the breeding process for Neons is described in detail? <Is there nothing here at WWM? Breeding Neons follows the same basic pattern as most other tetras. Soft (<2 dH), acidic water (5-6); low light levels (i.e., no lights, lots of shade); little to no water movement; and benthic plants like Java moss to catch the eggs. Sunlight can be a good spawning trigger. Eggs hatch in one day, free swimming 3-4 days later, when they take Artemia nauplii and the like. If you're interested in fish breeding, there's an excellent book by Chris Andrews called 'Fish Breeding'. It's my bible for fish breeding. You can usually pick up used copies on Amazon and the life for a dollar or two.> Thank you, Giuseppe <Good luck, Neale>
Re: Ceramic media, air pumps... Actually Neon Tetra... dis., repro.   -- 09/13/07
Neale, <Giuseppe,> I just bought that book. I was thinking about what you said about the water conditions needed to breed neon tetras and I have a couple of questions: 1 - Currently the tank where they live has a temperature of 78F and PH at 7.0. If I setup a second tank with lower temperature and acidic water, wouldn't the Neons have a shock when I move them from one tank to the other one? <Small water temperature changes don't harm freshwater fish; indeed, they are often important spawning triggers. If you're moving the fish from one tank to another, then doing the normal thing of placing the fish in a bucket of "old" water and dribbling in the "new" water over 30 minutes will not only adapt them to the new water chemistry but the water temperature too. If you're taking the fish across a dramatic water chemistry change, e.g., from hard water to very soft water, you would probably be wise to fill the breeding tank with hard water and then do soft water changes of around 20% each day until the water chemistry had changed over completely. Do also remember that very acidic water doesn't support biological filtration. You will need a small air-powered box filter filled with ammonia-remover for such a tank. There's a good argument for not filtering the tank while the parents are actually spawning and when the eggs are sitting in the moss. Only start the filter back up once the fry are free swimming.> 2 - If the Neons have to be kept in dark conditions but with plants in the tank, wouldn't the plants die for lack of light? <Yes, if you kept the lights off all the time. What you're aiming for is to put the Neons in the tank for a week, and once settled down, turn off the lights so the tank only gets natural light, and once they've laid their eggs and the fry are free swimming, turn the (subdued) lights back on. Regardless, the level of lighting should be low, and the peat extract in the water will make it quite murky. Java Moss will tolerate this regime fine. I have one tank that simply receives natural light from a window and the Java Moss has gone wild. Baby fish love the stuff, because it collects detritus and micro-organisms that they can eat. There's obviously a balance between having a nice rich microflora and a dirty tank though! Some people skip plants and use synthetic mops of various types, home-made (boiled dark-coloured yarn, teased into threads and then knotted) or purchased. There are really many options.> 3 - How long does it typically take from when the Neons are moved to the breeding tank to when they actually spawn? <No idea, never done it myself. Typically fish take a few days to settle into a spawning tank, but once there, if they're mature enough to breed, they will do so almost at once. The key thing is conditioning the female: lots of live foods so that she gets nice and fat.> Thank you, Giuseppe <Cheers, Neale>

Sexing Neon Tetras   8/16/06 Hola to all,   I want a female neon tetra but how do I know it is a girl?      Thanks, Anonymous <Not easily done... there are folks who claim there is a color difference twixt the sexes of Paracheirodon innesi... but about the only way I've been able to tell is when they're large-enough and the females egg-laden... Bob Fenner>

Pregnant Tetras  8/6/06 My name is Dom, I am 13 and I wondered if you could tell me how do you know if your neon tetras are pregnant? Yours sincerely Dom < Many female tetras are slightly larger and fuller then the males. Females will generally be much fuller in the belly region when they are getting ready to spawn. Many aquarists think that their fish are pregnant but they end up dying because of an internal infection. Sick fish usually do not eat and are very reclusive. A breeding female tetra is very active trying to attract a male so she can spawn.-Chuck>

Pregnant neon  9/5/05 Hi, Please help-I think I've done something awful. I set up my new tank yesterday, but because the above neon seemed to be harassed by other fish I put the fish in the new tank.  She seems very stressed, swimming in jerky movements, in circles. I have turned the light off .  My predicament is: Should I put the fish back with the others or put another neon in for company? Please advise. <I would add another neon to this ones tank> Regards and thanks for your assistance Jacqui <Bob Fenner>

Neon tetra breeding 7/17/05 I am trying to breed my neon tetras (yes I know this is difficult but that's why I am trying).  I have three tanks set up, one for my males, one for my females, and a breeding tank. I've done a lot of research, and have access to every scientific journal, but there is more I seek.  I am curious as to your opinion of the best technique to sex neon's and in particular the 'candling' method where you shine light through them and look for ovaries (I have yet to try this myself).   <There are slight coloring differences between the sexes... handling them, moving them to where a bright light can be shone behind is not recommended. The folks in the orient who breed this species just condition, time the spawnings...> Also, regarding water GH.  For the right breeding conditions I need to get my water down to about 1-2 dGH. <Yes, the lower the better>   I have yet to get below 3 dGH and I'm using RO water with 1tbsp/10 gal. salt added back <Leave the salt out> and tetra black water extract (We have pretty hard water in our area). I'm also using a phosphate free acid buffer to help with the pH which works very well.  Any advice is appreciated. <The 3 dGH should not be a problem. What has been your difficulty thus far? Getting the fish to spawn? Raising the young, growing sufficient food? Bob Fenner> Jeramie Abel
Re: neon tetra breeding 7/18/05
Thanks for your quick reply.  My difficulty thus far has mainly been with the dGH.  In just about every literature I've read it suggests dGH of 1-2. But if you say 3 should work I will try. <Not much difference in the hardness between 2 and 3>   Sexing them so I can separate them will be accomplished once my second tank is done cycling (still have high ammonia at this point... waiting for the bacteria to become established through fishless cycling).  I have not tried any of the subsequent steps although I've had females become gravid, I just haven't tried to separate them into the breeding tank because it too has not been ready yet so if they have spawned, I have not paid much attention to it because I knew I could do nothing with the eggs and they would be eaten.  Currently I have a gravid female who is hiding out in an ornament (covered stump that is pretty secluded) but I haven't seen any mating rituals, however I'm not sure I know exactly what to look for with Neons. <You will see... there is a discernible fixed action pattern of orientation, dance, release, separation...>   My plan, should I see some behavior that is unmistakable, is to move the male and female to the breeding tank with a nice piece of java moss and turn out the lights.  My conditions in the breeding tank are pH=6.4, temp=74, dGH=3-3.5, ammonia & nitrate =0, no gravel, and it has an established sponge filter.  I plan to feed newly hatched brine shrimp at approximately 3 days old or when the yolk sacs are depleted but at this point I've yet to get the opportunity to try and raise any fry.  Thanks for any advice. Jeramie Abel <Artemia are too big for a first food... do read re "Infusoria" culture... on the Net, in "old" aquarium books... Look for the name William T. Innes. Bob Fenner>

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