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20 Best Neon Tetra Tank Mates

Eric is an aquarium enthusiast with over two decades of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish.

Choose the best tank mates for your neon tetras.

Choose the best tank mates for your neon tetras.

Neon tetras are among the most popular freshwater fish for the home aquarium. With their striking blue and red colors, they can really make a tank pop. There are few prettier sights in the aquarium world than a large school of neon tetras in a well-planted tank.

But neons are tiny, only growing to about an inch as adults, and they are prone to illness brought about by stress. While neons aren’t particularly difficult to keep, like most fish they can die prematurely if their needs aren’t met.

Research is always important when stocking a tank, but even more so when some of your aquarium inhabitants are as small and fragile as neons. In this article, you will learn about 20 fish that are good tank mates for neons.

Top 20 Neon Tetra Tank Mates

So, which fish can live with neons? Here is my list of the 20 best tank mates for neon tetras:

  1. Zebra Danio
  2. Cory Catfish
  3. Harlequin Rasbora
  4. Fancy Guppy
  5. Hatchet Fish
  6. Dwarf Gourami
  7. Common Plecostomus
  8. Rubberlip Pleco
  9. Bristlenose Pleco
  10. Otocinclus Catfish
  11. Platy
  12. Swordtail
  13. Molly Fish
  14. Cardinal tetra
  15. Black neon tetra
  16. Rummy-nose Tetra
  17. Black Skirt Tetra
  18. White Skirt Tetra
  19. Bleeding heart tetra
  20. Lemon Tetra

Remember: These are only suggestions. It is up to you to do the research and determine if the fish listed about are a good choice for your specific tank setup. When stocking, consider not only your neons but any other fish that live in your aquarium.

Read on to learn more about each fish.

Zebra Danio

Zebrafish are small and peaceful, and among the best fish for a community tank. They are also quite hardy, meaning they are an excellent choice for beginners. Their striped bodies make for a nice counterpoint to the flashy colors of your neons.

Zebras are shoaling fish, which means in order to reduce stress and keep them healthy and happy we need to stock them in groups of six or more. They are also active fish, and while they may disrupt your school of neons from time to time, they pose no danger. If you wish to keep a small school of both neons and zebras, consider a 20-gallon tank or bigger.

  • Adult Size: 1-2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Social Requirements: Shoaling; keep in groups of six or more

Cory Catfish

Cories are part of the cleanup crew in your aquarium. They putter around the bottom, looking for uneaten fish food, plant matter, and anything else they can munch up. There are many varieties, including:

  • Bronze Cory
  • Albino Cory
  • Pepper Cory
  • Bumblebee Cory
  • Panda Cory

Cories are among the most popular catfish for the home aquarium. They are peaceful, grow up to around three inches long, and they are sturdy little fish. Because they are schooling fish, you will want to keep them in groups of six or more. They’ll mind their own business on the bottom of the tank and your neons will never need to worry about them. Be sure to feed them sinking pellets so they get enough to eat!

  • Adult Size: 3 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Social Requirements: Schooling; groups of six or more

Harlequin Rasbora

The harlequin rasbora is one of the most colorful fish in the aquarium world. With their bright red/orange coloration and striking black markings on their tails, a school of them looks fantastic in a tank with a large school of neons.

These are small, peaceful fish and a smart choice for a community tank. They are also easy to care for, which is great news for those new to the fishkeeping hobby. House them in schools of six or more and, like neon tetras, you’ll want to keep them away from any fish that’s big enough to eat them.

  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Social Requirements: Shoaling, keep in groups of 6 or more

Fancy Guppy

The fancy guppy is another vibrant fish that comes in a variety of colors and gets along fine with neons. They are very active fish, and if you are aiming for a serene tank, they may not be your top choice, but they are peaceful and pose no issue for other aquarium inhabitants.

Guppies are social fish, but you need not worry about keeping them in schools. Instead, aim for a ratio of two females for every one male. This is because amorous males tend to harass females. It is a natural activity and nothing to worry about, but spreading the love, so to speak, among several females in the tank helps to reduce stress.

  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful, active
  • Social Requirements: Keep in 2:1 female to male ratio

Hatchetfish

The hatchetfish is another small, peaceful fish that comes from the Amazon River Basin, the same area of the world as the neon tetra. These pot-bellied little fish do best in schools of six or more.

If you choose to stock them, you need to make sure your tank is covered by a tight lid. That’s because they jump out of the water from time to time, and they are pretty darned good at it. It’s a natural defense mechanism they use to avoid predators in the wild. Hopefully, you will not stock any aggressive fish in your tank, but your hatchetfish can still become startled and overreact.

  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful, skittish
  • Social Requirements: Schooling; keep in groups of six or more

Plecostomus

The plecostomus, or pleco, is an algae-eating catfish from the Amazon River Basin. They are popular in home aquariums because of their ability to help keep tanks clean. Unfortunately, the common pleco grows to an adult length of up to two feet. While they don’t always get that big in aquariums, they are enormous fish and not appropriate for any but the largest tanks.

For anyone with an aquarium under 150 gallons, there are better choices such as the rubbernose or bristlenose pleco. They only grow to around six or eight inches, so you’ll still need a 55-gallon aquarium.

Plecos of all kinds need natural driftwood to rasp on, and it is smart to feed algae wagers to ensure they are getting enough to eat.

  • Adult Size: 24 inches (common pleco); 6-8 Inches (bristlebose or rubbernose)
  • Temperament: Peaceful; can be aggressive if needs aren't met
  • Social Requirements: Solitary

Otocinclus

If you have a tank smaller than 55 gallons and you still want algae eaters that are compatible with your neon tetras, consider the little otocinclus catfish. Otos are sometimes called “dwarf suckerfish” because of their resemblance to the larger plecostomus. They only grow to a couple of inches, and they won’t destroy live plants like plecos.

Otos are schooling fish, so keep at least six of them. They’ll do best in a tank with natural plants for them to hide in, but artificial plants are fine as well. As with any algae eater, don’t expect them to clean the tank all on their own. You must pitch in to help combat algae in your aquarium. Feed algae wafers to make sure they are getting enough to eat.

  • Adult Size: 1-2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Social Requirements: Schooling, keeping in groups of six or more

Platy and Swordtail

I’ve grouped platies and swords together here as they are similar fish. There are many varieties of each, and all are active, inquisitive fish that may blunder their way through your school of neons from time to time but pose no danger. They grow to an adult length of about three inches.

Swordtails and platies are livebearers, like the guppies discussed above. That means you’ll want to follow the same 2:1 ratio rule with females and males.

Remember: Stress is the biggest reason aquarium fish die too soon, and stress has a way of reverberating through your fish tank. If you have guppies, swords, and platies that exhibit signs of stress, it won’t be long until your other fish are feeling it too.

  • Adult Size: 2-3 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful, active
  • Social Requirements: Keep in 2:1 female to male ratio

Molly Fish

Mollies are popular community fish available in many varieties such as the black molly, sailfin molly, and lyretail molly. They are a bit larger than platies, but also very active swimmers. While they won’t likely harass your neons, they make for a more active tank. You’ll want to make sure you choose a large enough aquarium if you intend to stock them.

Mollies are livebearers, so again you’ll want to stock several females for each male. This helps reduce stress for your mollies and all the other fish in your tank.

  • Adult Size: 3 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful, active
  • Social Requirements: Keep in 2:1 female to male ratio

Dwarf Gourami

Some fish are not great tank mates for neon tetras, and I include several species of gourami in that list. However, the dwarf gourami doesn’t grow large enough to consider your neons as food, and it isn’t likely to care about them for territorial reasons. They are beautiful fish, and if you wish to have larger, centerpiece fish in your tank, they can be a good option.

Still, dwarf gourami are semi-aggressive fish and can cause problems if you have more than one in your tank. Personally, I would avoid them unless you are an experienced fishkeeper. You can make your own decision and remember that you never really know how fish will act in your tank until you put them in there.

  • Adult Size: 3-4 Inches
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Social Requirements: May be territorial; often kept as single fish

Other Tetras

Other tetras often make excellent tank mates for neon tetras. Some, such as the cardinal tetra or black neon, make even school with them. Most tetras are schooling fish, which means you’ll want six or more to help manage stress. Consider this when choosing fish for your aquarium. You’ll also want to make sure you research every tetra you intend to stock so you are aware of their behaviors and care needs. Here are a few to consider:

  • Cardinal tetra
  • Black neon tetra
  • Rummy-nose Tetra
  • Black Skirt Tetra
  • Bleeding heart tetra
  • Lemon Tetra

Worst Tank Mates for Neons

When you are stocking little one-inch fish it isn't hard to imagine the kinds of tank mates you should avoid. In general, stay away from:

  • Fish large enough to eat them. While species like freshwater angelfish come from the same region as neons, angels are predators that grow large enough to eat them. Unless you want to serve up an expensive dinner every night, you'll want to avoid stocking large, adult angelfish and neons.
  • Fin nippers: This includes many barbs and even some tetras. Do your research before you bring a fish home!
  • African Cichlids: Colorful African cichlids may look pretty with neons, but they are not compatible.
  • Goldfish: Goldfish require colder water temperatures, and they can grow large enough to eat small fish. Not a good choice with neons.
Angelfish are not good tank mates for neon tetras.

Angelfish are not good tank mates for neon tetras.

Neon Tetra Tank Mates FAQ

How many neon tetras should be kept together?

Neons are schooling fish, so you will want to keep at least six of them. Any fewer and they can become stressed, and stress is one of the major causes of premature death in aquarium fish.

Can you put different tetras together in the same tank?

Yes, you can. Some, such as cardinal tetras, may even school with your neons. As always, be sure to research any fish you intend to stock so you can be sure they are a good choice for your tank.

Why do tetras die so easily?

There are many reasons aquarium fish die too soon. Tiny fish like neons are especially susceptible to harsh conditions. Stress plays a major role. Stocking our tanks wisely and caring for them correctly can make sure our neons are as healthy as possible.

How many neon tetras can live in a 10-gallon tank?

I do not recommend more than 10 neons in a 10-gallon tank, assuming there are no other fish in there. If you intend to stock other fish, you need to consider them in your stocking equation and reduce the number of neons you keep.

Will they school with cardinal tetras?

Yes. While you can never really know what will happen when two fish get together, it is likely your neon and cardinal tetras will form one school in your tank.

Are they cold-water fish?

No! Neons are tropical fish and require water temperatures around 78 degrees. That means you’ll need a proper heater in your tank. It also means neons are not appropriate for unheated bowls and small tanks.

Can neon tetras live with betta fish?

Betta fish can sometimes thrive in large community tanks, and that includes tanks with schools of neon tetras. However, it is not a good idea to add neons to a small tank with a betta fish. The betta may not tolerate the neons, resulting in stress for both fish.

Can they live with goldfish?

No. This is not a good idea, for several reasons. Neons are tropical fish, while goldfish are a cold-water species. They have different tank requirements. Goldfish also pollute their water quickly, creating an environment unsuitable for most other fish.

Neon Care Tips

Neon tetras aren’t especially hard to keep, but they do get a little ornery if their needs aren’t met. This is generally because of poor tank conditions, stress, or illness in the tank. They won’t bother other fish, but you may see them nipping at each other, and notice torn fins on some of your neons.

This is often an indication that something isn’t right, so review your tank management practices and try to get to the bottom of it. If neons are feeling stress, chances are other fish in your tank are feeling it as well.

You might notice that your school of neons seem to vanish when the lights go out. If you look around your tank, you might find individuals tucked into divots in the substrate, or hiding in your plants. This is normal behavior and nothing to worry about.

When stocking neons, it is easy to go overboard. Big schools of these little fish really do look great! As always, just be sure to consider all of the other fish and animals in your tank in your stocking decisions.

Good luck with your neon tetras and their tank mates!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.