Neon Tetra Vs. Black Neon Tetra: What’s The Difference?

A few years back, I used to think neon tetras and black neon tetras were all the same. But they are not. Perhaps you are trying to choose black neon tetra or regular neon tetra for your fish tank. How do you choose? You should know the differences first and then think about which one goes with your particular tank setup.

The main difference between a neon tetra and a black neon tetra is in the appearance. Also, black neon tetras live in the top to the mid region of the water column, whereas regular neons occupy the mid to low region. Other than that, black neon tetras have longer lifespans in captivity and can do better in a little higher temperature than regular neon tetras.

Moving forward, we will discuss the differences between these fishes. Although there are no major differences other than looks, you deserve to know all those little differences. This article is going to be very interesting as both of these fishes are my favorite. So, keep reading!

Differences Between Black Neon Tetra and Regular Neon Tetra At A Glance:

#Neon TetraBlack Neon Tetra
Scientific NameParacheirodon innesiHyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi
OriginAmazon river basins in Brazil & ColumbiaParaguay basin of Southern Brazil
Care LevelEasyEasy
Lifespan in Captivity2-3 years5 years
Size1.5 Inches1.5 Inches
Optimal Temperature72–76 degrees75-80 degrees
BreedingEgg scattererEgg scatterer
TemperamentSocial and schoolingSocial and schooling
Recommended School Size6, and above6 and above
Food HabitOmnivorousOmnivorous
Water Hardness3-10 dGH3-10 dGH
Recommended Tank Size20 Gallon20 Gallon
Cost$3.99 each$3.49 each


Whenever I study about certain species of fish, I try to look at the origin and get a basic idea on how these fish live in the wild.

Aquarium fishes have come very far from their origin due to several generations of breeding in captivity, but still, it gives a lot of insight into the characteristics of any fish.

Let’s talk about the origin of these fishes.

The neon tetra is native to countries like Brazil, Columbia, and Peru. Wild neon tetras are abundant in the Amazon river basins.

On the other hand, Black Neon tetras can only be found in the southern part of Brazil. Wild black neon tetras can only be found in the Paraguay basin of southern Brazil.

Most of these fishes are found in rivers that flow through dense forests. Also, they can be found in floodplains and small tributaries as well.

Regular and black neon tetras are from the same family, but due to diversification over the years, they have become completely separate species.

Both of these species come from water that’s a little bit on the softer and acidic side. 


Neon tetras have bright neon color along the lateral line and red color near the tail region. This feature makes them stand out from all other fish out there in the aquarium hobby.

A regular neon tetra is very common in the hobby. I am sure you have already seen a neon tetra. I have interviewed several newbies and experienced aquarists in the past.

Everyone has seen and knows about regular neon tetras. But black neon tetra is not something you see at regular fish stores every day.

What I am trying to say is that black neon tetras are not as popular as regular neon tetras. 

Black neon tetras & regular neon tetras are very similar in shape. Both are torpedo-shaped nano fish, but black neon tetras have darker colors.

They don’t have a bright neon-colored stripe along the lateral line like regular neons and cardinals. Instead, they have a thin stripe of white color. Below the white stripe, their body has a dark black color for which they got the name black neon tetra.

Optimal Temperature:

Neon tetras do really well when the temperature is around 72 to 76 degrees. They can live in a little higher temperature as well. But it’s not optimal for them.

On the other hand, I have seen black neon tetras prefer temperatures around 75-80 degrees. This is a little bit higher than what regular neon tetras prefer.

So, if you want to mix these two types of tetras in a community tank, make sure the temperature is around 75 degrees of Fahrenheit.

Check out my recommended Digital Aquarium thermometer on Amazon to keep track on your tank’s water temperature.


Well, the cost of regular neon tetra and black ones can vary depending on where you buy them from.

 In Petco stores, I found both of these fishes are sold for $2.77 each.

However, in other stores like flip aquatics, the cost of neon tetras is higher than that of black neon tetras.

A regular neon tetra costs around 4 dollars each, whereas black neon tetras cost around 3.5 dollars each on average.

So, a school of 6 Neon Tetras will cost you around 24 bucks. And a school of 6 Black Neon Tetras will cost you around 21 bucks.

If you decide to go with a school black neon tetras, you can save around three bucks easily.

So, Are Black Neon Tetras & Neon Tetras The Same?

Black Neon Tetras and Neon Tetras are not the same. They are completely different species. However, they come from the same family, Characidae. That’s why you can notice several similarities between these species of fish.

Let’s discuss the similarities Between Neon Tetras & Black Neon Tetras.

Similarities Between Neon Tetras & Black Neon Tetras

Size & Shape

There is not much difference when it comes to size. Both neon tetra and black neon tetra can grow up to 1.5 inches.

Also, both are torpedo-shaped nano fish. In the wild, they can get up to 1.6 or 1.7 inches. But in captivity, they are around 1-1.5 inches when fully grown.

Minimum School Size

Like regular neons, black neon tetras, are also schooling fish. They do really well when kept in a school of 6 or above.

As both regular neon and black neons are nano-schooling fish, keeping many of them together helps them to stay stress-free.

Yes, you can keep them in schools of 3-4 if you have a small tank. But then they will try to hide all the time and won’t come out as much as they usually do in a large group.

So, the bottom line is that the minimum school size for both of these species of fish is 6. Don’t go below this number.

Minimum Tank Size

My recommended tank size for both neons and black neons will be 20 gallons.

Yes, they can do really well in a 10-15 gallon tank. But, as they are schooling fish, you will have to keep them in a large number to experience their majestic schooling movement.

If you have a 10-gallon tank, you will have to make it a particular species-only tank. Let’s say you have kept six black neon tetras. You will not see much schooling movement if there is no other type of fish in the tank.

So, get a 20 gallons fish tank and keep a centerpiece fish (maybe gourami) along with lots of these tetras. You are going to love it.

Tank Setup:

Both Black neon tetras and neon tetras look great in a planted aquarium. They don’t interact much with the bottom of the tank. So, you can use sand or stone or soil as gravel. It really does not matter that much for them.

However, for black neons, it’s better to use lighter-colored sand as gravel and light-colored decorations so that their color pops up a little more.

Use some driftwoods or stones to make the environment interactive for them. You can use live or fake plants. Both work for them.

Make sure the filtration system is good. I would use a hang on back filter for the tank setup. You can check out our recommended aquarium filter by clicking here.

Water Parameters

In the natural habitat, both neon tetras and black neon tetras live in somewhat acidic water.

In captivity, these tetras prefer a pH level of 6 – 7. But they also do great if the pH is up to 8. So, anything between 6-8 is actually fine for them.

When it comes to water hardness, anything between 3-10 dGH is going to be good for them. They usually prefer softer water.

However, try to keep the Ammonia level below 20 ppm. Both Neon tetras and black neon tetras will do great if the ammonia level is low. When it comes to nitrates, lower is always better.

Temperament & Ideal Tankmates:

Both species of these tetras are non-aggressive and very social. They interact well among their own species and others as well.

However, their size is around 1 inch. Avoid anything that’s too big. Keep other non-aggressive fishes like livebearers, gouramis, etc.

These tetras will do great in community tanks.

Some Ideal Tank Mates For Both Species are:

  • Bristlenose Plecos
  • Pygmy Cory
  • Clown Plecos
  • Rasboras
  • Non-aggressive tetras
  • Dwarf gouramis
  • Honey Gouramis
  • Dwarf Cichlids
  • Mystery Snails

Diet or Food Preference

Both neon tetras and black neon tetras are omnivorous in nature. So, you can feed them varieties of foods. They are not very picky eaters.

So, you can feed them small-sized pellets, brine shrimps, flakes etc. Try to feed them varieties of food as they are omnivores.

If you want to feed them frozen blood worms, you might need to cut them in small pieces as these neons have small mouths.

Care Difficulty:

Caring for both neon tetras and black neon tetras is very easy. That doesn’t require any special care. They can live for up to 5 years in aquariums. So, they are very hardy fish and easy to take care of.

Also, they don’t grow too big. Just keep the water clean and nitrites below 20 ppm, feed them good food, and try to keep the temperature around 75 degrees. That’s all.

Ease of Breading

Most tetras breeds in a similar way. Like most tetras, Neon tetras and black neon tetras are egg scatterers. 

To breed them, keep the breeding pair in a 10-gallon tank and add a spawning mop. Also, feed them good quality protein enriched foods.

After the spawning is complete, you can put the spawning mop in another tank. But make sure the water in that tank is already well cycled. The fish fires will hatch very fast, within 1-2 days.

Breeding them is not as easy as breeding livebearers. But it’s not too hard as well.

Will Black Neon Tetras School With Neon Tetras?

Black neon tetras usually don’t school with neon tetras. If you keep them together, you will notice that black neon tetras will occupy the mid to top region of the water column, whereas neon tetras will stay in the lower and mid-region.

Also, neon tetras usually don’t allow any other species to school with them as they only feel secure when they are around their own species only.

Final Thoughts:

Both neon tetras and black neon tetras are great additions to any community fish tank. Before adding them to any community tank, just make sure there aren’t any large fish to eat them, as they are pretty small fish.

I have tried to mention all the differences and similarities between black neon tetras and regular neon tetras.

As I have mentioned earlier, they are completely separate species, and they won’t interbreed as well. Many people ask if they are the same species and if they can breed them.

The answer is clear by now. You can breed a black neon tetra, and a neon tetra as the genus and species of these fishes are different from each other.

Asif Iqbal

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