How To Tell If Neon Tetras Are Stressed?

Neon tetras often get stressed if something goes wrong. It can be the result of poor water conditions or the presence of a bully tankmate. If you want your neon tetras to live comfortably, you must detect if your neon tetras are stressed or not and then take the necessary steps.

Generally, if you see that your neon tetras are losing appetite and hiding all the time, you can tell that neon tetras are stressed. There are also various other symptoms that neon tetras show under stress that helps to realize if neon tetras are stressed or not.

Here’s a list of symptoms that Neon Tetras shows when they are stressed:

  • Neon Tetras Try to Jump out
  • Keeps Hiding All The Time
  • Continuously Breaths at the surface of the water
  • Swims around at an Unusual Speed
  • Loses appetite

In this article, I will explain why neon tetras get stressed and discuss the symptoms of stress in Neon Tetras in detail. I will also include some helpful solutions which will help you to keep your fish stress-free. So, keep reading!

Why Do Neon Tetras Get Stressed?

Getting stressed is very common for schooling fish like Neon Tetras, as they would like to stay as a group, the more group mates the better, however, they sometimes get stressed for the following reasons:

1. Less in Number:

Neon tetras are schooling fish and in the wild, they stay in a large group of neon tetras and they school together. This large group makes them feel strong and invulnerable to other species and predators.

If you keep a few neon tetras on your tank, then they might feel vulnerable and stressed. A good rule of thumb is, you need to keep at least six neon tetras on a ten-gallon tank. Fifteen neon tetras are recommended for larger tanks.

I always recommend everyone to keep more than 10 neon tetras as keeping more neon tetras together will make feel them stronger and happy.

2. Imbalance Water Conditions:

Every fish needs balanced water conditions. Neon tetras are hardy and beginner-friendly fish. That means they can survive under various water conditions.

Although these fishes can stay in very harsh water conditions that don’t mean you should keep them in an imbalanced water condition.

Neon Tetras require the following water conditions:

Water ConditionNeon Tetras
Optimum TemperatureAround 75 °F
pH Level6.0 – 7.0 
Suitable Water HardnessAround 10 dGH

Try to check the water condition of your tank once in a while, because the temperature, pH level, and water hardness can change if you don’t cycle your water properly.

3. Improper Tank Condition:

Stressed Neon Tetra Living in Unhealthy Environment

As you know, to offer neon tetras a stress-free and good living condition, you would need a heavily planted tank. You might get away with a little planted tank, but heavily planted tanks have a lot of benefits to neon tetras and other fishes as well.

Heavily planted aquariums will provide oxygen, stabilize the pH level, help prevent algae growth. More importantly, fish tend to feel safe, which allows them to stay happy and active.

If you properly take care of your tank, like adding adequate natural plants, the proper substrate will automatically solve the improper tank condition.  

4. Not Ideal Tank Mates:

You need to check the ideal tank mates before adding any fish. Neon tetras are ideal community schooling fish, and anyone would like to keep them in their tank.

If you keep neon tetra or any community fish with an aggressive fish, then your community fish might get scared and vulnerable, which will make them stressed. 

Aggressive fish will try to chase other species, show aggression and make other community fish vulnerable.

Although you will find in a lot of places where aggressive fishes do get along with community fish. In that case you will need a large group of neon tetras and a large tank to make them feel safe.

Some ideal neon tetra tank mates are Rasboras, Zebra Danios, Guppies, Dwarf Gourami ,etc.

5. Improper Diet:

Improper diet can also lead neon tetra to stress, as we humans get stressed with improper diet. 

Neon tetras are omnivores, which means they will eat almost anything that fits in their mouth. So, if you feed them just planted food or just meat food which will be an improper diet and lead to improper nutrition.

To get rid of this issue, you can feed them plant-based food for better digestion and meat-based food for proper growth and nutrition.

5 Symptoms That Ensures Your Neon Tetras Are Stressed:

1. Keeps Hiding All The Time: 

If your neon tetras are hiding all the time, it shows a major sign which is that your neon tetras are stressed.

I have seen this happening when neon tetras are introduced in new tanks or they are comparatively less in number.

If you see any problems with fish, you have to look in nature. By nature, I mean the habitat and behavior of any particular fish in the wild.

If you have been following my blogs, you might have heard me saying this all the time. Neon tetras are small-sized schooling fishes.

They always stick together in large numbers. So, if you are adding neon tetras in your community tank, add at least 10.

Otherwise, neon tetras will always be under stress. To them, less in number means danger.

Solution: Make sure your tank has enough hiding space and room for neon tetras and keep them in large numbers. This will reduce their stress.

2. Continuously Breathes at the surface of the water

I have seen my fishes, especially neon tetras breathing on the surface for a long time. It usually happens when the water parameters are not ideal.

There is also another thing that can cause this. If you introduce neon tetras directly into a new tank without a proper acclimation process, you might notice this happening.

Drastic change in water quality or parameters can shock neon tetras and make them stressed. I have noticed when I do a massive water change in my community tank, neon tetras get stressed out and they start grasping on the surface.


  • Acclimate properly before introducing Neon Tetras in a new tank. 
  • Don’t make massive water changes rapidly.
  • Make sure the water is clean enough, and the water parameters are right.

3. Swims Around At An Unusual Speed:

When your neon tetras are swimming around very fast, it means that they are stressed. I know that neon tetras usually swim faster than other fishes like betta or angelfish. That doesn’t mean neon tetras are always stressed.

However, you might notice that neon tetras are swimming to and fro at unusually high velocities. This is a clear sign that your neon tetras are really stressed out.

I have noticed this in my tank several times, when I introduce a new fish which tries to bully my neon tetras.

Solution: Don’t keep aggressive tank mates with neon tetras. As neon tetras are peaceful in nature, keeping them with aggressive or predatory fishes is a bad idea.

4. Loses appetite:

When neon tetras are under stress then they might lose their appetite. Several possible reasons can cause them to not eat properly.

My neon tetras used to lose their appetite when the water temperature was not right, and the water was not clean. Trust me, if your tank has a lot of waste in it, your tetras are going to be stressed out.

So, if you see that your neon tetras are not eating as much as they used to, make sure the water is clean, and the temperature is right.

Solution: Keep temperature around 75 – 76 °F or 23 – 24°C. Also, keep the water clean to make sure that there is no ammonia buildup.

5. Try to Jump Out:

I have always wondered in the past, if neon tetras jump. Trust me you don’t want to see them jump.

Neon tetras might jump out of a tank if they are extremely stressed. So, I always suggest aquarists cover their tanks.

The possible reasons for this might be your tank size is small and you have introduced predatory or large fish like a cichlid. Experts don’t suggest keeping neon tetras with any large fish at all. [Source]

Solution: Use a bigger tank and keep only peaceful community fishes as neon tetra tank mates.

Related Questions:

How Do You Relieve Stress From Neon Tetras?

Neon tetras can easily get stressed if they are in poor water and tank condition, have improper diet, less in number, and aggressive tank mates.

You can relieve stress from neon tetras by offering them the following things:

  1. Best tank and water condition
  2. Providing proper diet
  3. Removing aggressive tank mates
  4. Adding more neon tetras
  5. Adding an adequate plant to the tank

Neon tetras are very easy to take care of, with proper care and a little effort, your fish can live stress free. 

How do I Know if My Tetra is Happy?

You will know that your tetras are happy when they are properly schooling with their group, actively swim on the tank, eating regularly, have proper color in them, chasing their fellow mates and expanding their gills normally.

All the fishes are different in nature. However, the behavior of schooling fishes are more or less the same. So, when they are actively swimming and eating regularly is a sign of happiness. 

Do Neon Tetras Lose Color When Stressed?

Neon tetras can start to fade if they are stressed; this might happen if you have solo neon tetra. So, add more neon tetras to your tank that can form a school. Also, if neon tetras are kept in a darker environment, their color usually fades.

Sifatul Shohan

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