Do Neon Tetras Float When Dead?

Your neon tetras can die for several different reasons. Yesterday, some of my fish died because of heater issues. You might be wondering if neon tetras float or sink after dying.  

Like most other fishes, after dying, neon tetras sink at the bottom immediately and then start floating upside down as bacteria start decomposing the body and producing CO2 gas inside. If a neon tetra is floating and it is inflated like a balloon, it’s most likely already dead for a couple of hours in the aquarium.

In this article, I will explain the reasons why your neon tetras are floating and how you know your neon tetras are dying. So, keep reading this article as you are going to get good information.

Why is My Neon Tetra Floating?

Neon tetras are peaceful schooling fish that dwell at the middle water column in the aquarium, and it could be concerning if you see your neon tetras floating at the surface of the aquarium.

Your neon tetra might be floating for the following reasons:

1. It’s Already Dead For a While:

Neon tetras can float a couple of hours after death. It’s because bacteria inside the body start to decompose, which produces carbon dioxide gas inside the swim bladder and makes the tetras float at the surface of the aquarium.

This same thing happens to most of the fishes when you see them floating at the surface of the water. I have also seen some of my fishes float at the surface of the water as they died; however, my fishes died due to the heater issue, which was a very sad moment for me and my family. 

So, make sure you take care of your aquarium properly and offer your fish a balanced diet for proper nutrition. If your tetra or other fish dies due to natural causes, it’s more likely to float at the surface of the aquarium after a couple of hours.

2. Swollen Belly From Injury:

I have seen many fishes get injured from the sharp edges of aquarium decorations. If your neon tetras have injured themselves on the belly or especially in the swim bladder, then it’s very common that the belly of the fish will swell, and it might be a reason for which your neon tetras might be floating.

To prevent this from happening, remove all objects or aquarium decors that have sharp edges.

Also, make sure there are no aggressive fishes, as they can injure your neon tetras as well.

3. Bacterial Infection:

Bacteria or parasites can cause infection in the swim bladder, which affects the buoyancy of neon tetras.

I learned this disease from an expert aquarium hobbyist. The name of this disease is termed swim bladder disorder. Bacterial infections actually make the swim bladder swollen.

It’s a disorder that refers to the lack of functioning of the swim bladder. If your neon tetra got this disease, it might start floating. If not treated, it can die soon.

You can google it and learn about this disease. This disease is very common in goldfish, bettas, and tetras.

Many people ask me why their neon tetra is floating. I think this is the most common reason for which your neon tetra might be floating if the fish is not already dead.

I always believe that prevention is better than cure. If you keep your water clean, temperature, and other water parameters right and feed your neon tetras the right kind of food, your neon tetras will never get bacterial infections.

4. Too Much Eating:

Some novice aquarists try to overfeed their neon tetras which leads to several problems in the fish.

Too much eating can cause problems with buoyancy, and your neon tetra might be floating from overeating.

Some neon tetras have a tendency to overeat. In the past, this wasn’t an issue for me. But recently, I have found some of my fishes are always hungry, and if I put a lot of food in the aquarium, they try to overeat.

When neon tetras overeat, they also try to gulp a lot of air from the water surface willingly to regulate their buoyancy.

But when they eat too much, the buoyancy process gets disrupted, and you might notice neon tetras are floating because of that.

5. Too Much Air Swallowed:

Fish tends to swallow air after each meal. When neon tetras rush too much for eating at the surface of the water, they can swallow too much air as well.

This mostly happens when the neon tetras are hungry and are suddenly given lots of food.

Having said that, if your neon tetras are floating, it might be caused by swallowing too much air.

How Do You Know If a Neon Tetra is Dying?

You would know, your neon tetras are dying when their color starts to fade, they start to show uncommon behavior, they start swimming at the water surface, they don’t interact with other fishes, they don’t want to eat, and they become stressed.

I just mentioned some of the common reasons when you could understand that your neon tetra is dying. However, there are other reasons such as poor water condition, disease, less in number, etc.

Do Neon Tetras Lose Color When They Die?

All the neon tetras don’t lose color when they die, but it’s a common symptom of neon tetras before dying. Neon tetra starts to fade its color for many reasons such as stress, disease, spending a lot of time in the darkness at aquariums, poor diet, etc.

Neon tetras get stressed when you keep a few of them in an aquarium. You need to keep at least six neon tetras on a 10-gallon tank to make them feel safe. 

As neon tetras are shoaling fish, they want to stay in a group and form a school that makes them feel safe and protected from predators.

Why is My Fish Floating Upside Down?

Fishes body starts to decompose after dying; this decomposition process creates enough gas to its swim bladder, causing it to float at the top of the surface.

Sometimes, fishes float upside down when they have a heavy top part and the lighter bottom part that has an organ that is filled with air.

My two fishes died due to the heating issue, while one fish was floating upside down on the top of the surface and another fish was lying down on the aquarium. 

So, if your fish is floating upside down on the aquarium top surface, it’s more likely died a couple of hours ago, which provides enough time to decompose the body and create enough gas to float the fish to the surface.

Final Thoughts:

A fish can float for many reasons, which I mentioned in this article. So, death is not the only reason why a fish floats.

If your neon tetras are floating at the water surface, you should investigate the matter first, then take the necessary steps according to it.

Asif Iqbal

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