Black Neon Tetra

Black Neon Tetra

Table of Contents


Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, commonly known as the black neon tetra, is a captivating freshwater aquarium fish that has captured the hearts of aquarium enthusiasts worldwide. With its striking appearance and ease of care, it has become a popular choice for both beginner and experienced fish keepers.

The black neon tetra is renowned for its vibrant colors and unique markings. Its body is adorned with a deep black hue, contrasted by a brilliant red stripe that runs horizontally along its side. This coloration makes it a visually stunning addition to any aquarium, adding a touch of elegance and vibrancy to the underwater world.

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, understanding the black neon tetra is crucial for aquarium enthusiasts and the overall ecosystem. By delving into the intricacies of this species, we can gain insights into its behavior, habitat requirements, and ecological role. This knowledge not only enhances our ability to provide optimal care for these fish in captivity but also contributes to the preservation of their natural habitats and the delicate balance of aquatic ecosystems.

By exploring the black neon tetra’s taxonomy, habitat, physical characteristics, behavior, feeding habits, reproduction, conservation status, and aquarium care, we can gain a comprehensive understanding of this remarkable species. Join us as we embark on a journey to uncover the secrets of the black neon tetra and discover why it has become a beloved member of the aquarium community.

Taxonomy and Classification

Taxonomic Classification of Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi

Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, commonly known as the black neon tetra, belongs to the Animalia kingdom, Chordata phylum, Actinopterygii class, Characiformes order, Characidae family, and Hyphessobrycon genus. This classification places the black neon tetra within the broader group of ray-finned fishes, specifically the characids.

Related Species and Subspecies

Within the genus Hyphessobrycon, there are several closely related species and subspecies that share similarities with the black neon tetra.

One notable example is Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi rosaceus, commonly known as the rosy black neon tetra. This subspecies exhibits a similar body shape and coloration to the black neon tetra but with a pinkish hue instead of red.

Another closely related species is Hyphessobrycon amandae, commonly known as the ember tetra. While the ember tetra shares a similar small size and schooling behavior with the black neon tetra, it can be distinguished by its vibrant orange coloration.

In terms of differences, the black neon tetra stands out with its striking black body adorned with a bright red stripe that extends from the mid-body to the tail. This unique coloration sets it apart from other tetra species and makes it a highly sought-after addition to freshwater aquariums.

It is worth mentioning that the taxonomy and classification of fish species are subject to ongoing research and revision. As new information becomes available, further subdivisions and reclassifications may occur within the Hyphessobrycon genus and its related species.

To provide additional value, it is essential to highlight the scientific studies and research that have contributed to the understanding of the taxonomy and classification of Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi and its related species. By referencing reputable sources and citing relevant studies, readers can gain a deeper appreciation for the scientific basis behind the classification of these fascinating fish.

Habitat and Distribution

The natural habitat of the black neon tetra, Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, primarily consists of freshwater rivers and streams in South America. These water bodies are typically found in the Amazon River basin, specifically in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. The black neon tetra is known to inhabit slow-moving or stagnant waters with dense vegetation, such as submerged plants and overhanging branches.

The geographical distribution of the black neon tetra extends beyond the Amazon River basin. It can also be found in other regions of South America, including the Orinoco River basin in Venezuela and the Guiana Shield in Guyana and Suriname. These areas provide suitable conditions for the species’ survival, including the necessary water parameters and vegetation.

In order for the black neon tetra to thrive, specific environmental conditions must be met. One crucial factor is water acidity. The species prefers slightly acidic to neutral water with a pH range of 5.5 to 7.0. Additionally, the water should be soft to moderately hard, with a general hardness (GH) level of 2 to 10 dGH. These conditions mimic the natural habitat of the black neon tetra and contribute to its overall health and well-being.

Suitable vegetation is also essential for the black neon tetra’s habitat. The presence of submerged plants, such as Amazon sword (Echinodorus amazonicus) or Java fern (Microsorum pteropus), provides hiding places and shelter for the species. These plants also contribute to the overall water quality by absorbing excess nutrients and providing oxygen.

Furthermore, the black neon tetra thrives in an environment with minimal water flow. The slow-moving or stagnant waters in its natural habitat allow the species to exhibit its natural behaviors and form tight-knit schools. The presence of overhanging branches or floating plants, such as water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), can provide additional cover and create shaded areas that mimic the species’ natural environment.

It is important for aquarium enthusiasts to replicate these specific environmental conditions when keeping black neon tetras in captivity. By providing suitable water parameters, including pH and GH levels, and incorporating appropriate vegetation and hiding places, hobbyists can ensure the well-being and natural behavior of these beautiful fish.

In conclusion, the black neon tetra is native to freshwater rivers and streams in South America, particularly in the Amazon River basin. Its geographical distribution extends to other regions of South America, such as the Orinoco River basin and the Guiana Shield. To thrive, the black neon tetra requires slightly acidic to neutral water with a pH range of 5.5 to 7.0 and a general hardness (GH) level of 2 to 10 dGH. Suitable vegetation, such as submerged plants, and minimal water flow are also crucial for its well-being. By understanding and replicating these specific environmental conditions, aquarium enthusiasts can provide a suitable habitat for black neon tetras in captivity.

Physical Characteristics

The black neon tetra, scientifically known as Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, is a small freshwater fish that captivates aquarium enthusiasts with its striking appearance. Measuring around 3 centimeters in length, this species is known for its vibrant black and red coloration, which makes it a standout in any aquarium setting.

The body of the black neon tetra is elongated and slender, with a slightly compressed shape. The dominant coloration of the fish is a deep black, which extends from the tip of its snout to the base of its caudal fin. This black coloration serves as a backdrop for the species’ most eye-catching feature – a bright red stripe that runs horizontally along the middle of its body. This bold red stripe contrasts beautifully against the black background, creating a visually stunning effect.

One distinguishing feature of the black neon tetra is the presence of longitudinal stripes that extend vertically along its body. These stripes, which are typically silver or white in color, add an additional layer of visual interest to the fish’s appearance. The number and intensity of these stripes can vary among individuals, but they generally contribute to the overall elegance of the species.

Unlike some other tetra species, the black neon tetra lacks the adipose fin, a small fleshy fin located between the dorsal fin and the caudal fin. This absence further sets it apart from its tetra relatives and adds to its unique appearance.

In terms of lifespan and growth rate, the black neon tetra is known to have a relatively short lifespan compared to other aquarium fish. On average, they can live for about three to five years in captivity. However, with proper care and optimal conditions, some individuals have been known to live up to seven years.

The growth rate of the black neon tetra is influenced by various factors, including water quality, diet, and overall health. In well-maintained aquariums with suitable conditions, these fish can reach their full adult size within a few months. It is important to note that providing a balanced diet and ensuring optimal water parameters can contribute to the healthy growth and development of the species.

It is worth mentioning that the growth rate and lifespan of the black neon tetra can also be affected by genetic factors and individual variations within the species. Therefore, it is crucial for aquarium enthusiasts to provide a nurturing environment that supports their overall well-being.

In conclusion, the black neon tetra is a visually captivating fish with its small size and distinctive black and red coloration. Its elongated body, black background, and vibrant red stripe make it a standout in any aquarium setting. The absence of an adipose fin and the presence of vertical stripes further distinguish it from other tetra species. With a relatively short lifespan of three to five years, providing optimal care and suitable conditions can contribute to the healthy growth and development of this fascinating species.

Behavior and Social Structure

The black neon tetra, Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, is known for its fascinating behavior and social dynamics in its natural habitat. One of the most notable aspects of their behavior is their strong inclination towards schooling. These fish have a natural instinct to form tight-knit groups, which serve multiple purposes for their survival.

Schooling behavior provides black neon tetras with several advantages. First and foremost, it offers protection against predators. By swimming together in a coordinated manner, they create the illusion of a larger organism, making it difficult for predators to single out an individual fish. This safety in numbers strategy is crucial for their survival, especially in the wild where they face numerous threats.

Furthermore, schooling behavior also facilitates efficient foraging. Black neon tetras often feed on small invertebrates and algae, and by moving as a group, they can cover larger areas in search of food. This allows them to maximize their chances of finding sufficient resources and ensures the overall well-being of the school.

In addition to their schooling behavior, black neon tetras exhibit interesting mating rituals and territoriality. During the breeding season, males engage in elaborate courtship displays to attract females. These displays often involve vibrant coloration and intricate swimming patterns, showcasing the male’s fitness and genetic quality. Females select mates based on these displays, ensuring the survival of the fittest genes within the population.

Once a pair forms, the male and female engage in a spawning ritual. The female releases her eggs, and the male fertilizes them externally. After spawning, both parents play a role in protecting the eggs and fry. They guard the nest, fan the eggs to ensure oxygenation, and defend against potential threats. This parental care enhances the survival rate of the offspring and contributes to the species’ overall reproductive success.

Territoriality is another behavior observed in black neon tetras, particularly during the breeding season. Males establish and defend small territories within their school, which they use to attract females and deter rival males. These territories are marked by vigorous displays and occasional aggressive interactions with intruders. This territorial behavior helps maintain order within the school and ensures successful reproduction.

The black neon tetra also interacts with other fish and aquatic organisms, often forming symbiotic relationships. One such example is their association with certain species of catfish, such as Corydoras spp. These catfish species have a habit of scavenging the substrate for food, which disturbs the sediment and releases small particles into the water column. Black neon tetras take advantage of this behavior by positioning themselves above the catfish, feeding on the suspended particles. This symbiotic relationship benefits both species, as the catfish get access to hidden food sources, while the tetras obtain an additional food supply.

Furthermore, black neon tetras also interact with other fish species in their natural habitat. They are known to form mixed-species shoals with other tetra species, such as the cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) and the neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi). These mixed-species shoals provide additional protection against predators and increase the overall diversity and complexity of the aquatic ecosystem.

In conclusion, the behavior and social structure of the black neon tetra, Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, are fascinating and vital to their survival. Their schooling behavior provides protection and efficient foraging, while their mating rituals and territoriality contribute to successful reproduction. Additionally, their interactions with other fish species, including symbiotic relationships, further enrich the aquatic ecosystem. Understanding these behaviors not only enhances our appreciation for this species but also emphasizes the importance of preserving their natural habitats and promoting responsible ownership in the aquarium hobby.

Feeding Habits

The diet of Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, commonly known as the black neon tetra, consists of a variety of food sources in the wild. These include small invertebrates such as insects, insect larvae, and small crustaceans, as well as algae and other plant matter. This diverse diet ensures that the black neon tetra receives the necessary nutrients for its growth and overall health.

Black neon tetras exhibit various feeding behaviors and adaptations related to obtaining food. One notable behavior is their ability to feed at different water levels. They are known to feed both at the surface of the water, where they can consume floating insects or other small organisms, as well as in the middle and lower levels of the water column, where they can find small invertebrates and algae attached to submerged vegetation.

Providing a suitable diet for captive black neon tetras is essential for their well-being. In an aquarium setting, it is important to replicate their natural diet as closely as possible. High-quality flakes and pellets specifically formulated for small tropical fish can serve as the staple diet for black neon tetras. These commercially available foods should contain a balanced mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and essential vitamins and minerals.

In addition to flakes and pellets, it is recommended to supplement their diet with live or frozen foods. Black neon tetras readily accept small live or frozen invertebrates such as brine shrimp, daphnia, or bloodworms. These foods provide enrichment and mimic their natural feeding behaviors, promoting their overall health and vitality.

It is important to note that overfeeding should be avoided, as it can lead to health issues and water quality problems. Feeding small amounts multiple times a day is preferable to one large feeding. This mimics their natural feeding patterns and ensures that all fish have equal access to food.

Regularly monitoring the fish’s body condition and adjusting the diet accordingly is crucial. If the fish appear undernourished or overweight, adjustments can be made by increasing or decreasing the amount of food provided.

In summary, a well-balanced diet is crucial for the health and vitality of black neon tetras. Providing a combination of high-quality flakes and pellets, along with live or frozen foods, will ensure that they receive the necessary nutrients and enrichment. Regular monitoring and adjustments to the diet will help maintain their optimal body condition and overall well-being.

Reproduction and Breeding

Reproductive Process:

The reproductive process of the black neon tetra, Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, is a fascinating display of courtship, spawning, and parental care. During the breeding season, male black neon tetras exhibit vibrant colors and engage in elaborate courtship displays to attract females. These displays often involve fin flaring, lateral displays, and chasing behaviors. The males also establish territories and defend them vigorously against rival males.

Once a male successfully attracts a female, the pair will engage in a synchronized spawning ritual. The female releases her eggs, and the male swiftly fertilizes them by releasing his milt. This process usually takes place in the early morning hours when the lighting conditions mimic dawn in their natural habitat.

Environmental Conditions:

Successful breeding of black neon tetras requires specific environmental conditions. Soft and acidic water with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5 is crucial for triggering the spawning behavior. Additionally, maintaining a temperature between 75°F and 78°F (24°C and 26°C) is optimal for breeding.

To simulate the natural habitat of black neon tetras, it is recommended to provide suitable vegetation, such as fine-leaved plants or spawning mops, where the female can deposit her eggs. These plants or mops serve as a safe haven for the eggs, protecting them from potential predators.

Creating the Ideal Breeding Environment:

For hobbyists interested in breeding black neon tetras, creating the ideal breeding environment is essential. Here are some tips to increase the chances of successful breeding:

  1. Separate Breeding Tank: Set up a separate breeding tank to provide a controlled environment for the breeding pair. A tank size of at least 10 gallons (38 liters) is suitable for a pair of black neon tetras.
  2. Water Parameters: Maintain soft and acidic water conditions within the recommended pH range of 5.5 to 6.5. Use a reliable water testing kit to monitor and adjust the water parameters accordingly.
  3. Ideal Tank Setup: Include fine-leaved plants, such as Java moss or Amazon sword, in the breeding tank. These plants provide hiding spots for the eggs and help simulate their natural habitat. Additionally, adding a spawning mop made of nylon or fine mesh can also serve as an alternative egg-laying site.
  4. Conditioning the Breeding Pair: Prior to introducing the breeding pair to the breeding tank, it is advisable to condition them with a high-quality diet consisting of live or frozen foods. This helps ensure their overall health and readiness for breeding.
  5. Monitoring and Removing Eggs: Once the spawning ritual is complete, closely monitor the tank for the presence of eggs. If the eggs are not removed, the parents may consume them. Carefully transfer the eggs to a separate hatching tank or a mesh breeding net to protect them from potential harm.
  6. Raising Fry: After hatching, the fry will initially feed on their yolk sacs. Once the yolk sac is fully absorbed, provide them with infusoria or commercially available fry food. Gradually introduce finely crushed flakes or powdered fry food as they grow.

Breeding black neon tetras can be a rewarding experience for hobbyists, but it requires careful attention to water conditions, tank setup, and the well-being of the breeding pair. Patience and observation are key to successfully raising a healthy brood of black neon tetras.

By understanding the reproductive process and providing the ideal breeding environment, hobbyists can contribute to the conservation of this species while enjoying the beauty and wonder of witnessing new life in their aquariums.

Aquarium Care and Maintenance

Setting up an appropriate aquarium environment for black neon tetras requires careful consideration of various factors, including tank size, water parameters, and suitable decorations. By providing the ideal conditions, you can ensure the health and well-being of these beautiful fish.

Tank Size

Black neon tetras are small fish, reaching an average size of around 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in length. However, they are highly active and prefer swimming in schools, so it is recommended to keep them in a tank with a minimum capacity of 20 gallons (75 liters). This will provide ample space for them to swim and exhibit their natural behavior.

Water Parameters

Maintaining appropriate water parameters is crucial for the well-being of black neon tetras. They thrive in slightly acidic to neutral water with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. The water temperature should be kept between 72°F and 78°F (22°C to 26°C). It is important to use a reliable aquarium thermometer to monitor and maintain the desired temperature.

Filtration and Water Quality

Black neon tetras require clean and well-filtered water. A good quality aquarium filter is essential to remove waste and maintain water quality. Consider using a filter with a gentle flow to mimic the natural environment of these fish. Regular water changes of 20% to 30% every two weeks are recommended to keep the water parameters stable and remove any accumulated toxins.

Substrate and Decorations

When setting up the aquarium, choose a fine-grained substrate, such as sand or small gravel, as black neon tetras like to sift through the substrate in search of food. Adding live or artificial plants, rocks, and driftwood will provide hiding places and create a natural-looking environment. Ensure that any decorations are smooth and free from sharp edges to prevent injury to the fish.


When selecting tankmates for black neon tetras, it is important to consider their compatibility and potential issues that may arise. These peaceful fish can coexist with a variety of other small, non-aggressive species.

1. Suitable Tankmates

Consider adding other small, peaceful fish that share similar water parameter requirements. Some suitable tankmates for black neon tetras include other tetra species like cardinal tetras or ember tetras, rasboras, small catfish species like Corydoras, and peaceful dwarf shrimp like cherry shrimp or amano shrimp. These species will create a harmonious community and add visual interest to the aquarium.

2. Aggression and Dietary Compatibility

Avoid keeping black neon tetras with aggressive or fin-nipping fish, as they are easily stressed by such behavior. Additionally, be mindful of their dietary compatibility. Black neon tetras are omnivorous and will readily accept high-quality flakes, pellets, and live or frozen foods. Ensure that all tankmates are provided with suitable food options to prevent competition or malnutrition.

General Care

Maintaining water quality, feeding, and general care for black neon tetras in captivity is essential to their overall health and longevity. By following these tips, you can provide optimal care for these captivating fish.

1. Water Quality

Regular water changes are crucial to maintain good water quality. As mentioned earlier, perform 20% to 30% water changes every two weeks to remove accumulated toxins and replenish essential minerals. Use a water conditioner to neutralize chlorine and chloramines before adding fresh water to the tank.

2. Feeding

Black neon tetras are not picky eaters and readily accept a variety of foods. Offer them a balanced diet consisting of high-quality flakes or pellets as their staple food. Supplement their diet with live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, or bloodworms to provide essential nutrients and promote natural feeding behaviors. Feed them small amounts multiple times a day to prevent overfeeding and maintain water quality.

3. General Care

Regularly monitor the behavior and appearance of your black neon tetras. Look out for any signs of stress, disease, or aggression. Maintain a consistent feeding schedule and observe their feeding habits to ensure they are consuming an adequate amount of food. Perform routine maintenance tasks such as cleaning the aquarium glass, removing any uneaten food, and trimming plants if necessary.

In conclusion, providing the appropriate aquarium care and maintenance for black neon tetras is essential to their well-being. By setting up an environment that mimics their natural habitat, selecting compatible tankmates, and maintaining water quality, you can enjoy the beauty and vibrancy of these fish in your home aquarium. Remember to regularly monitor their health, feed them a balanced diet, and practice responsible ownership to ensure their long-term survival and enjoyment for future generations.


In conclusion, the black neon tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi) is a fascinating and visually striking freshwater aquarium fish that has captured the hearts of hobbyists worldwide. Throughout this article, we have delved into the various aspects of this species, highlighting its unique characteristics and care requirements.

The black neon tetra’s small size and distinctive black and red coloration make it a captivating addition to any aquarium. Its peaceful nature and ease of care make it an ideal choice for both beginner and experienced aquarists. However, it is important to note that providing the appropriate environment and companionship is crucial for the well-being of these beautiful fish.

Understanding the taxonomy and classification of Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi provides a deeper appreciation for its place in the animal kingdom. Its classification within the family Characidae and genus Hyphessobrycon further highlights its close relationship to other tetra species.

The natural habitat and distribution of the black neon tetra play a significant role in its overall well-being. These fish are native to the rivers and streams of South America, where they thrive in acidic water conditions and amidst suitable vegetation. Replicating these environmental factors in captivity is essential for their long-term health and happiness.

The behavior and social structure of the black neon tetra are equally intriguing. These fish are known for their schooling behavior, where they form tight-knit groups to navigate their surroundings and deter potential predators. Understanding their social dynamics and providing suitable tankmates can contribute to their overall well-being.

Feeding habits are another crucial aspect of caring for black neon tetras. Their diet consists of small invertebrates and algae in the wild, and replicating these food sources in captivity is vital. Providing a balanced diet of high-quality flakes, pellets, and live or frozen foods ensures their nutritional needs are met.

Reproduction and breeding of black neon tetras offer a unique opportunity for hobbyists to witness the wonders of nature. Creating the ideal breeding environment, including soft and acidic water conditions, encourages successful spawning and parental care. Responsible breeding practices contribute to the conservation of this species and its availability in the aquarium trade.

The conservation status of Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi is of utmost importance. Habitat destruction and overfishing pose significant threats to its population. Conservation efforts, such as habitat restoration projects and captive breeding programs, are essential for the long-term survival of this species. Responsible ownership and sustainable practices within the aquarium trade are crucial to ensure its continued existence.

In conclusion, the black neon tetra is not only a beautiful addition to aquariums but also a species that plays a significant role in the overall ecosystem. Its unique characteristics, care requirements, and contributions to the aquarium hobby make it a species worth studying and appreciating. By conducting further research and promoting responsible ownership, we can ensure the conservation and enjoyment of this fascinating species for future generations.