Top 8 Tank Mates for Neon Tetras

neon tetra tank mates

Watch a school of Neon Tetras playfully circling the center of your tank, and you’ll quickly understand why they are one of the most commonly purchased aquarium fish. Neon Tetras are easily identified by the unique turquoise blue and red stripes that run the length of their bodies. Their dazzling coloration, combined with their bubbly personalities and ease of care, make them the perfect centerpiece for any home aquarium.

Qualities to Consider When Choosing a Neon Tetra Tank Mate

When choosing a tank mate for your Neon Tetras, it is important to ensure that the new species will coexist successfully with Neon Tetras. Though the Neon Tetra’s personalities are big, their size is not (full-grown adults are only 1.5”). To ensure you are picking a compatible species, consider the following questions:

  • Are they non-aggressive?
  • Are they small?
  • Are they a bottom dweller?
  • Do they prefer environmental conditions (water quality, temperature, pH, etc.) similar to the Neon Tetra?

If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, the species will likely be a great tank mate for the Neon Tetra. Some of our favorite Neon Tetra tank mates are discussed below.  

1. Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras Catfish
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 7-12 years, recorded up to 20 years
  • Maximum Size: 2”
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore

Corydoras Catfish, also known as Cory Cats or Armored Catfish, are small bottom-feeding fish with whimsical whiskers. Though they are known for their overly peaceful, well-mannered behavior, Cory Cats are anything but boring. You’ll frequently find them dashing around in search of food and fun, and may even catch them attempting to breach when they’re excited. Therefore, if you adopt Cory Cats, make sure your tank has a lid!

Cory Cats prefer heavily-vegetated tanks and like to school in the lower water column, making them the perfect Neon Tetra neighbor. See our Corydoras Catfish article to learn more.

2. Guppies

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Maximum Size: 2.5”
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Diet: Insectivore

With more than 300 varieties of Guppies, your color and size options are seemingly endless. Female Guppies are typically gray or brown, while males come in a dazzling array of colors, patterns, and body styles. No matter which type of Guppy you choose, they are guaranteed to bring a fun energy to the tank. Unlike other fish, Guppies quickly learn where their food comes from, and will enthusiastically follow you when feeding time approaches. 

Guppies are extremely hardy fish that thrive in tanks with lots of plants (real or fake). Though they are active swimmers and will frequently occupy the same water space as your Neon Tetras, guppies are non-aggressive fish that won’t stress out their tank mates. 

3. Molly Fish

Molly fish
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Maximum Size: 4.5”
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10-20 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore

Molly fish, or Mollies, are inexpensive and easy to care for, making them an aquarium staple. Though they come in a number of varieties, Mollies are typically identifiable by their white, orange, and/or black coloration. Their color palate provides a striking comparison to the blue and red of the Neon Tetras, and creates a more diverse color scheme in your aquarium.

Mollies are another schooling fish, so keeping at least four at a time is recommended. Though they are a hardy fish, they thrive most successfully in tanks with real vegetation, as they enjoy scraping algae off of their plants. Therefore, if you’ve prepared a lot of vegetation for your Neon Tetra, mollies will feel right at home.

4. Clown Plecostomus

Clown Plecostomus
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Maximum Size: 3.5”
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore

The Clown Plecostomus, also known as the Clown Pleco, Common Pleco, Clown Panaque, Panaquemaccus, and Ringlet Pleco, is one of the smallest breeds of suckermouth catfish. Clown Plecos are easily identifiable by the alluring white or orange rings that strikingly contrast their black bodies, along with their adorably dainty sucker mouths. They will happily spend their time eating the algae, driftwood, and plant matter throughout the aquarium (and on the glass!).

Unlike other Plecostomus species, Clown Plecos only get about 3.5” long, making them a good companion for the small Neon Tetras. Clown Plecos are hardy fish that are easy to care for; as long as they have a cave or tube to relax in when they are feeling anti-social, they will happily thrive in a community tank. 

5. Ghost Shrimp

Ghost Shrimp
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 1 year
  • Maximum Size: 1.5”
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore

Don’t let the name scare you- Ghost Shrimp are a great tank mate for Neon Tetras. Ghost Shrimp are so named because they have successfully camouflaged by becoming completely translucent- so much so that you can even see the food in their stomach when they eat.

They are non-aggressive creatures that are perfectly happy cohabitating with fish and other invertebrates. Ghost Shrimp are prolific scavengers that will consume the algae and leftover food particles that typically sully a tank. Therefore, in addition to being a non-obtrusive neighbor, Ghost Shrimp will also improve the lives of their fish companions by improving the overall health of the aquarium.

6. Dwarf Gouramis

Dwarf Gourami
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Maximum Size: 4-4.5”
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore

Though Dwarf Gouramis are typically known for their iridescent blue coloration, they can be found in a number of different colors and patterns. Dwarf Gouramis are a schooling fish, and they prefer to stay together in small groups in the middle and upper water columns. However, compared to the energetic performance of the Neon Tetras, Dwarf

Gouramis are reliably laidback, happy to meander slowly through the tank, putting their colors on bold display.

Dwarf Gouramis and Neon Tetras have a long history of living happily together in community tanks. Dwarf Gouramis are such peaceful tank mates that they frequently come across as shy. Because of their timid nature, they tend to thrive in the heavily-vegetated tank of the Neon Tetra, where they are always a tail flick away from cover.

7. Kuhli Loaches

Kuhli Loaches
  • Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Temperament: Shy and peaceful
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Maximum Size: 4”
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons

With its distinctive stripes and long, thin body, a Kuhli Loach is easily mistaken for a small eel as it swims along the bottom of the tank. Kuhli Loaches are scavengers, and will happily nibble on the algae, plants, and drift wood that is in the tank, along with their normal food.

Like most Loach species, Kuhli Loaches do better in groups of at least three. Even in a group, they tend to be rather shy, so it is important to make sure that they have plenty of plants and caves to hide inside. However, as they adjust to the tank, they will venture out more and more, especially at night.

The main challenge that Kuhli Loaches presents is that they are more prone to disease than many of the species on this list. Therefore, if you choose Kuhli Loaches as a tank mate for your Neon Tetra, ensure that you keep the tank clean and quarantine any new fauna that is added.

If you’re willing to put in the work, these fish are more than worth it. Their scavenger lifestyles and shy dispositions will make them the perfect tank mate for the Neon Tetra.

8. Additional Tetra Species

Glowlight Tetra
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: Varied based on species
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Maximum Size: 1-4”, based on the species
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10-20 gallons

What makes a tank of beautiful schooling Tetras better? More Tetras! Though the Neon Tetra is the most common Tetra seen in stores, the other Tetra species are equally beautiful and fun. However, before you expand your Tetra family, make sure the Tetras you buy are just as even-tempered as their Neon Tetra brethren. Some of our favorites for a community tank with Neon Tetras include:

  • Black Neon Tetra: The Black Neon Tetra is nearly identical to the Neon Tetra in temperament, body shape, and size; however, where the Neon Tetra is red and blue, the Black Neon Tetra (as its name implies) instead has distinct white and black striping. When they school with Neon Tetras, it almost looks as if half of your aquarium has somehow switched to black and white. 
  • Glowlight Tetra: These fish are a subdued gray color, except for the neon orange stripe that runs the length of their bodies. Glowlight Tetras are friendly fish that combine seamlessly with Neon Tetra schools. Like Neon Tetra, they like heavily-vegetated tanks where their colors can really pop.
  • Black Skirt Tetra: With its white and black coloration and long, flowing fins, the Black Skirt Tetra barely resembles the Neon Tetra. However, like the Neon Tetra, the Black Skirt Tetra is a social, schooling fish that lives peacefully in community environments. Though their bodies don’t have colors, their personalities do- these fish are active swimmers that are endlessly entertaining to watch.

Species to Avoid When Choosing a Tank Mate for Your Neon Tetras

Neon Tetras are small, friendly fish whose bubbly personalities will light up your tank. However, because of their small stature and iridescent exteriors, they can be a vulnerable species if placed with the wrong tank mates. When considering the next addition to your aquarium, make sure you avoid the following:

  • Species that are commonly aggressive or territorial
  • Species that are large enough to mistake your Neon Tetras for brightly-colored pieces of food
  • Species that thrive in different environments (water quality, temperature, pH, etc.)

Neon Tetras are typically not compatible with aggressive or larger fish. Fish that you should typically avoid include:

  • Barbs
  • Aggressive Cichlids
  • Bettas
  • Angelfish
  • Piranhas
  • Sharks

As long as you choose a species that will coexist with Neon Tetras and will successfully fit in your artificial ecosystem, your Neon Tetras will happily welcome them to the tank.

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