Best Tank Mates for Neon Tetras

Many fish enthusiasts have a hard time choosing the right tank mates to keep with their neon tetras. Some of the most common mistakes are trying to house them with incompatible species or not providing enough space for each individual in the tank. The best way to avoid these problems is by following this guide on what fish can be kept with Neon Tetras and understanding why some combinations should be avoided – so read on to find out the best tank mates for neon tetras!

What are tank mates, and why do you need them?

Tankmates are any other fish that you keep in your aquarium with your main fish species.

They can be of various types, but most people tend to stick with the same kind.

Different kinds of fish have different requirements, so it’s best if they all have something in common (e.g. water temperature).

Fore more information about how to care for neon tetras read our article here!

Why do tetras need tankmates in an aquarium?

A tank mate is something that can live with a Tetra in an aquarium. Neon Tetras are schooling fish, which means they prefer to be kept in groups of six or more and should not be housed on their own. Tetras cannot survive without some companionship from other fish breeds; this makes them unsuitable for solitary confinement because they will become stressed when alone for long periods.

To provide stimulation for the Tetras, it’s best to keep multiple species together, such as Harlequin Rasbora (six individuals) and Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish (five).  Bristlenose Plecos make good tank mates because they enjoy similar water conditions.

Generally, tankmates provide companionship to species like tetras.

What is a tankmate for Neon Tetras?

A tankmate for neon tetras is simply a fish or invertebrate species that provides companionship to the tetras in their tank.

This is important because neon tetras are schooling fish that like to swim in tight groups with other individuals of the same species and will get lonely if they’re the only ones swimming around!

It’s also helpful for environmental stability, as it spreads out aggression among all members of the school instead of just one or two at a time. For this reason, you should never put more than four individual neon tetras together into a single aquarium without adding some additional companionship (but we’ll talk about what else goes well with the Tetras below).

A few examples include Harlequin Rasbora, Dwarf Rainbowfish, and Bristlenose Plecos. We shall also detail these tankmates in a short while.

Types of tank mates for neon tetras

There are two types of tankmates; fishes and invertebrates.

Fishes are any fish that live in water. The popular types of fishes you can keep with neon tetras include Harlequin Rasbora, dwarf neon rainbowfish, bristle nose Plecos, and other tetra varieties. You could also try African Cichlids or Guppies if they don’t get too large for your tank size, but these should be avoided because they might eat the fry from your aquarium as well as take over the territory where the males will spawn their eggs.

Invertebrates include snails and shrimp, which may not be compatible due to territorial issues; plus, it’s difficult to tell how big some invertebrate species grow. Ensure you do enough research on compatibility before introducing them into a tank.

The best types of fish to keep with a school of neon tetras

Just like we’ve already mentioned, the best types of fish to keep alongside your tetras are the tetras themselves. But if tetras are the only type, you should not keep more than four of them together. If your aquarium can accommodate more members, you can explore species like Harlequin Rasbora, dwarf Neon Rainbowfish, and Bristlenose Plecos, as well as other Tetra varieties.

These three species all have a similar temperament to the neon tetra and won’t outgrow it in size or outcompete for food and space as they grow older.

Of course, there will still be some incompatibilities, but these should be few and far between because many other breeds of small schooling fish get on well together – just not so much with your rather territorial Tetras! The only reason why you would want to avoid keeping any particular type of school-loving small fish around is if it’s too aggressive towards its own kind (eats them).

Let’s now look at the specifics of each of the three species above and some other compatible tank mates.

1. Harlequin Rasbora

The Harlequin Rasbora is a perfect tank mate for your neon tetras. They are tiny fish and stay at around the same size as they grow up, so there’s no need to worry about them outgrowing their companions in this small schooler class of fish.

In fact, it’s recommended that you keep at least six harlequins with each individual member of the Neon Tetra family (i.e., four Tetras or two swords) because they will be much happier living with another like-sized friend than on their own!

Another major plus is that these little guys have beautiful colors, which will look great next to your brighter colored Tetras and Swords, giving an overall pop in color compared to other tanks stocked.

2. Dwarf neon rainbowfish

This species is also a good option for your tank.

They’re only around one-inch-long and are inexpensive to boot, so they won’t take up too much of your time or money keeping them in the aquarium!

The downside you may find is that these fish can be pretty timid as adults if not given enough space at first, meaning they might start hiding away from you sooner than later. This could make it more difficult for other compatible species that are less shy to get near their territory.

I would recommend lowering the population density of both types of small schoolers (Harlequin Rasbora & Dwarf Neon Rainbows) OR adding plenty of caves/hiding spots like rocks and plants around the aqua-scape provide more of a sense of security.

In the end, though, it’s all about what you want from your tank and how much effort you’re willing to put in each day!

3. Bristlenose Plecos

This is another excellent tankmate for your neon tetras. Bristlenose Plecos are a large and powerful fish. They will often eat dead matter from the tank as well as algae, so you’ll need to clean less frequently if they’re in the mix.

One disadvantage is that these fish can grow up to 8 inches long! If your aquarium isn’t big enough for them, then this might not be an ideal option for you.

Another downside is their temperament; some people say Bristlenose Plecos have aggressive personalities, which could pose problems with other more docile species of small schoolers like harlequin Rasbora & dwarf neon rainbows.

4. Guppies

a shoal of guppies

Guppies can be a good companion for your tetras. These fish are small and easy to care for, but they come with a few downsides too. They’re not always as hardy or tough as other species of fish (though some varieties will do well), so you might need to be more vigilant in the event that there’s an illness going around the tank – guppies would be among the first casualties if this were to happen!

They also tend to breed at a rapid pace, which can lead to overpopulation issues within a relatively short space of time.

And lastly, because these guys only grow up about half an inch long, their habitat requirements may range from basic right through to advanced depending on the size of the aquarium you’ve set. If your aquarium isn’t as big, Guppies could be the ideal tankmates for your neon tetras.

5. Chili Rasboras

Chili Rasboras are a peaceful and hardy species of fish that is a good tankmate for neon tetras.

Despite their name, they’re actually more orange than red and have the same care requirements as other varieties of Rasbora (including Harlequin).

They also grow to about two centimeters in length, so this will provide your Tetras with plenty of extra space if you’ve got an average-sized aquarium.

That said, these guys are active shoaling species, so be careful not to overcrowd, or else the water quality could drop drastically.

6. Hatchetfish

These bright silvery fish are a very popular addition to many freshwater tanks.

They’re super-easy to care for, and they don’t require much aquarium space (they grow up to about 2.5 inches in length).

The only drawback is that their bright colors will be too intense for your Tetras, but the red hues of these fish make them an excellent choice if you’ve got an average size tank.

These carnivorous guys can pose competition for food with your Tetras, so ensure the shoal is well fed.

7. Zebra danios

Zebra danios have identical body profiles to the neon tetras, and their colors are really eye-catching.

They are quite compatible with Tetras because of their average size (about 2 inches long) and their tendency to swim close to the waterline.

Although Zebra danios do not need much space, they often do better in larger numbers of at least 10. a small aquarium is definitely not the best for these little companions.

8. Dwarf Gourami

This is another neon tetra-compatible species. Dwarf Gouramis appear laterally compressed and have fairly large anal and dorsal fins.

The males have a long, flowing filamentous dorsal fin and are an attractive blue color. One thing about the males is that they are territorial. You may not have two males in one aquarium.

The females, on the other hand, are generally peaceful. Other than that, the species is highly curious, often swimming around anything new to investigate.

Overall, they grow up to 3.5 inches in length.

9. Angelfish

Angelfish are another compatible species to add. They grow up to 6inches long and have a variety of colors ranging from gold, orange, green, silver, or copper.

However, other than their size, they do not mingle well with other species apart from neon tetras. You should only consider this species if you do not intend to introduce other tankmates in the aquarium.

This is also true if you’re trying to breed small tetras in your tank, as the angelfish’s large bodies might overcrowd the breeding area for smaller neon tetra varieties (which would inhibit birth).

10. Mollies

Mollies have many similarities to the neon tetras.

They can also grow up to 6 inches in length and are cute and peaceful fish.

This species mingles well with neon tetras and accommodates a wide range of temperatures. Their food variety is also as wide, making them one of the easiest species to maintain in an aquarium.

During spawning season (which occurs twice yearly), molly males might bully other species such as neon tetras and thus discourage breeding activity between them. Molly males are also unfriendly when stressed.

It’s best if you only consider keeping these two types of fish together if your intent is just caring for an adult population rather than breeding small tetra varieties.

11. Loaches

Apart from being the ultimate aquarium scavengers, loaches are a very docile species. They clean up after other fish species, consuming the algae and other debris left behind. They also grow up to 6 inches in length.

Due to their friendly nature, loaches are compatible with not only Neon Tetras but also several other fish species.

However, loaches can be easily disturbed and stressed. They require rocks and artificial plants in the aquarium for hiding whenever they get nervous.

12 .Corydoras catfish

You may find this species under different names, such as Cory Cats or Armored Catfish. They mostly inhabit the bottom of the aquarium, feeding on algae and other small particles. They grow up to 3 inches long.

Corydoras catfish are compatible with many tetra varieties like neon tetras due to their non-aggressive nature& they also prefer neutral water conditions instead of acidic or alkaline ones should you need them for another task (such as cleaning the aquarium).

Cory Cats may not be great buddies with every single type of tetra but will do well when mixed with others from their own genus, such as Tetras, cardinal tetras, and glow light Tetras & Black skirt tetras.

Other Tetra Varieties

13.Black Neon Tetra

Black Neon Tetras are a good tank mate for neon tetras since the black Tetras. This species is identical to the neon tetra except that the black neon tetra can nip other fishes’ fins as a defense whenever threatened. Black Tetras are also known to be aggressive during breeding.

If you want to keep these two types of tetra together, they need a really big aquarium with plenty of hiding places because this will reduce aggression.

The best thing about keeping the black Tetras together with tetra Tetras is the resultant color contrast in the tank. Since the black neon tetras have black and white stripes, whenever they swim at the bottom, it seems as if some of your neon tetras have changed color!

14. Glowlight Tetras

This is another type of tetra Tetras that come in muted gray and neon-orange-colored stripes. They are generally peaceful, showing no aggressive behavior at all. As such, Glowlight tetras mingle well with neon schools.

Glowlight Tetras school better with Neon Tetras in a vegetative tank. This is the best environment to bring out their color contrasts.

15. Black Skirt Tetras

This species also does well with Tetras because they also display black and white stripes.

They are not aggressive at all, so you don’t have to worry about one fish attacking another.

The only thing that might be problematic for this type of mix is their feeding requirements – whereas Tetras need a lot of vegetable content, Black Skirts thrive on live food like bloodworms or crickets (which can make it difficult if your plants are sensitive).

Here’s an idea: since Black Skirts love live foods, feed them first, then add in some frozen shrimp pellets when needed!

This way, both types of tetras will be happy and healthy too.

Although the Black Skirt Tetras do not have many color effects, their swimming styles will keep your eyes glue on that aquarium.

Types of invertebrates that are good tank mates for neon tetras

Apart from the fish species, you can also introduce some invertebrates as tankmates to your Tetras, the most ideal ones being Cherry Shrimps and Nerite Snails.

1. Cherry Shrimps

Cherry Shrimps are a very good invertebrate tankmate for Tetras. They will not only help in keeping the water clean, but they also provide a great alternative to fish food as their diet consists of detritus and plant matter.

The Cherry Shrimp species that you can keep with your Neon Tetras is the Red Crystal variety; it has similar features like coloration (except for its body shape) and size compared to other varieties out there, which means that these shrimps would work well together without being too noticeable or overshadowing each other’s presence in your aquarium.

Neon Tetras can feed on Cherry Shrimps, but the Red Crystal variety will quickly avoid being eaten by hiding in rocks or vegetative cover. this means you need to provide plenty of vegetative cover or rocks in the tank for these two tankmates to coexist well.

2. Nerite Snails

Another type of invertebrates that make excellent additions to any Neon Tetra tankmates list would be Nerite snails. These tiny guys have a rounded spiral shell and come in severe colors such as dark chevron spirals, while others have conspicuous red and brown stripes.

Nerite Snails are extremely friendly tankmates who won’t even feed on live plants. As they glide on the glass, you’ll see a trail where they feed on the algae.

You can keep as many or as few Nerite Snails as you please, but remember not to overdo it.

Fish species that are not compatible with neon tetras

Certain aquarium fish varieties do not get along with Neon Tetras at all. Such species include Sharks, Piranhas, Bettas, Aggressive Cichlids, and Barbs.

1. Sharks

Sharks and Neon Tetras cannot coexist. Sharks are predators that hunt and feed on smaller fish. Neon Tetras have a high metabolism, which means they will require a lot of food to maintain their energy levels.

Sharks eat live foods, so it is impossible for them to regularly devour the same type of prey as neon tetras to satisfy their hunger. (This already means that Tetras have absolutely no chance with sharks.

Sharks prefer eating marine life such as other types of fish, shrimp, or crabs at the bottom of lakes and oceans, while Neon Tetras stay near the surface where there’s more light.

Neon tetra females release eggs into open water rather than laying them inside plants as most species do – this makes them easy targets for hungry sharks who would love an egg dinner! If you want your sharks and Neon Tetras, have them in different tanks and with no way of either getting into the other’s habitat.

2. Piranhas

Piranhas naturally prey on Tetras and will eat them in one bite! Even if the Piranhas wouldn’t eat the Tetras, they are still too big and would scare the little Tetras.

3. Bettas

Bettas do not do so well alongside tetras because they are territorial.

Bettas are aggressive, while Neon Tetras often pick on and nip at other fishes when threatened. This can be disastrous in the tank should the two tankmates decide to show their worst sides.

In addition, Bettas are carnivorous, while Neon Tetras are omnivorous. Although the Tetras can eat Bettas’ food, the latter can’t eat some of the Tetras’ food.

4. Aggressive Cichlids

Aggressive cichlids are not compatible with tetras. Tetra fish are combative in nature, making them more of a threat to the Tetras.

The cichlids are more aggressive and territorial, meaning they will not tolerate other fish near their territory.

Aggressive fish also stress out Tetras which can lead to illness or death of the tetra.


Barbs are also aggressive. Neon Tetras wouldn’t survive the aggression from the Barbs.

The best tank mate for barbs is another species of barb that shares its habitat and water parameters.

Guidelines for picking the best tank mate for your Neon Tetra

  • Avoid introducing non-schooling species into the tank. This is because these fish will not understand that they should stay away from your tetras for their own safety and may chase them out of the territory, causing undue stress to the neon tetra.
  • Avoid introducing fish that have long, sweeping fins as they may damage the tetras’ delicate fins
  • Avoid larger fish that are likely to scare or hurt your Neon Tetras due to their intimidating sizes.
  • Consider choosing fast-swimming species if you want to keep your neon tetra in a planted tank.
  • Tetras like same-sized tankmates, so you may want to consider choosing fast-swimming species that won’t outcompete its small fry.
  • The best way to avoid incompatible species is by researching thoroughly and paying attention to how different species behave when interacting with Neon Tetras.

Tips on how to choose a new fish to add to your aquarium

If you have decided to add a new fish to your aquarium, several things need to be considered.

Firstly, is the tank’s shape and (water) volume enough for both the existing and the new species?

Different fish species have unique aquatic space requirements that need to be taken into consideration.

Will the new pet require more or less space than what it currently has available?

Different fish species have unique space requirements. Some need a rocky environment for occasional hibernation (therapy), while others need artificial plants in the tank.

Will the new fish require more or less space than what it currently has available?

If you’re introducing many tankmates of a given species, you will need more space to give them the best aquatic conditions.

Would this change affect other animals already living in the tank too much (either by becoming territorial or aggressive)?

For example, cichlids are very territorial and should not be kept with other species.

It should also be noted that adding a new tank mate will result in changes with specific gravity levels as well as temperature and pH levels. Will the new changes be conducive to both species?

Finally, does your host fish show any signs of aggression towards the new tankmates, such as biting at fins or chasing them off food sources?

Again, the best way to decide on what species to add to your aquarium is to research the ideal conditions for the existing species. These conditions should be conducive for the new species, while the resulting conditions after the second species should be conducive to both tankmates.

many neon tetras swimming around a green plant against a blue background

Common mistakes when choosing tank mates for your aquarium

People often make mistakes when choosing new tankmates. Here are the most common mistakes that you should avoid:

i. Buying too many fish at once. It’s a really bad idea to buy tons of new fish and then cram them into your aquarium in the hope that they will survive together. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to introducing new tankmates, and you should only introduce one or two new arrivals at a time with plenty of space for everyone.

ii. Choosing a species that easily outgrows the existing species. If you have a 20-gallon aquarium and buy two goldfish, they will quickly grow to fill the whole tank. If, on the other hand, you have a 55-gallon aquarium and only one fish that outgrows its surroundings, then this is not an issue. Sometimes it is necessary to introduce same-sex species to prevent reproduction.

iii. Introducing incompatible species with each other. It’s surprisingly common for people to put different tropical freshwater fish types together to create their own brand new super community (e.g., blue tetras, neon tetras).

iv. Not adjusting the tank maintenance schedule after introducing new tank mates. Fish populations are like living things. There will be an age dependence on how often a tank needs water changes, cleaning the filter media, and so forth. Suppose you introduce new fish into your aquarium without taking this into account. In that case, it might result in a sudden spike of ammonia from the nitrogen excreted by the newcomers or too many nutrients being introduced to feed them all, which can cause algae blooms, etc.

v. Not testing the water parameters regularly after introducing new tankmates. The water parameters will change after adding new fish to the tank. These changes can affect your existing population and, again, result in more ammonia production or other problems.

vi. Dumping in a bunch of extra food into the aquarium when introducing new tankmates because you think this will create an abundance for everyone, but it’s really not that simple. Fish don’t all eat every type of food available out there! More than one species may be feeding on the same thing, which causes competition over resources (i.e., food). This could lead to fin nipping between individuals vying for what little is left or, even worse: aggression from some individual fish towards others who are different.

How to introduce a new fish into your aquarium

Given that you’re introducing new tank mates, I assume you’ve ensured compatibility of the species and ensured the chlorine level is zero.

New fish species will be stressed at first. Ensure there are adequate hiding places, such as rocks and plants, for the fish before they accustom to the new home.

Fish do not like intruders. Feed the existing fish first (Neon Tetras in our case) before bringing in the new species. Feeding the host species makes them less aggressive.

To further reduce stress on the new tank mates, reduce or dim the lights for up to 24 hours.

Adding the new species

i. Take the sealed fish bag containing the new species and place it afloat on the aquarium water line for ten minutes.

ii. Unseal the bag, add a cup or two of the aquarium water into the bag and reseal. Float the bag in the aquarium water again for ten minutes.

iii. Use a fishnet to transfer the fish into the aquarium without letting the water from the bag into the aquarium.

How to take care of your new pets when they get in the aquarium

It will take some time before the new fish get adjusted to the aquarium environment.

Do not overfeed your new pets or make sudden changes such as adding decorations and plants too quickly; these can stress them out, causing death from shock.

When your pet has their first meal, it’s a good idea to have some food leftover so they can adjust their appetite gradually.

It is also important to monitor water quality by checking that ammonia levels are low and there aren’t any nitrates – if either one of these two is high, you need a quick filter.

neon tetras and harlequin rasboras in a planted tank

What should I do when my neon tetras start flashing?

It is normal for neon tetras to flash when their tank mates are close.

The flashing of the fish can be used as a warning signal, or it may just be an indication that they’re being friendly – you will need to observe your new pets closely to understand why this behavior has taken place and how best to handle it.

For example, if one of your pet fish flashes at another, it might mean that there is some tension between them, so you should do something about it, such as adding more plants near where they coexist or moving certain fish into different tanks.

Many factors determine what causes these behaviors, but we can learn about our own lives by understanding them too!

In case a strange behavior persists, seek advice from a vet.

Best Tank Mates For Neon Tetras - Conclusion

The best tank mates for neon tetras are those that live in the bottom half of the water column, don’t require a lot of space, and aren’t too big or aggressive. Fish such as Harlequin Rasboras, Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish, Bristlenose Plecos, and other tetra varieties make excellent choices. While these types of fish will vary depending on where you buy them from- there is no better way to learn about what can be kept with your narcoleptic little buddies than reading more after this article.

Hopefully, it has helped provide a basic foundation when deciding how to populate both your aquaponics setup and home aquariums with compatible inhabitants!