Some fish in the wild would jump out of the water in order for them to catch prey or for the purpose of changing their environment. Neon Tetras are one of those species that can propel themselves out of the water for many obvious and probable reasons.
So, do neon tetras jump? Yes, neon tetras do jump and can, on occasion, escape from their tanks and, unfortunately, end up on their owner’s cold hard floor. This one-way trip of a hop would make fish enthusiasts wonder whether they are doing things right or not.
Actually, it’s a combination of both. So, to at least gain some understanding and maybe even try to prevent these deadly jumps from happening is to know why they do it in the first place.
Why Do Neon Tetras Jump?
Neon tetras jump ship when they are threatened or stressed out. There are numerous reasons as to why they they might attempt to jump out of the tank:
- unacceptable water quality
- lack of food
- bullying by larger fish
- unfavorable water specifications
- too many fish in the tank
- lack of oxygen.
Just like in the wild they would jump out of the water to change their habitat, escaping from a home they could no longer survive in.
One thing for sure though, they don’t do it for fun. Chances are, they have become desperate. So, it would be wise to try to make living conditions in the tank favorable for your jumpy, frisky pets before they do anything drastic. Let us now look deeper into the possible causes.
(For more information on neon tetra care read our article – How To Care For Neon Tetras)
Unfavorable Tank Conditions
The first thing any fish owner should consider when acquiring neon tetras is the living conditions of its new home. Let us first assume that you just recently bought your tetras and you are currently setting them up to settle them in. Let’s look into some of the factors ( note: these are just some very probable scenarios, most of them are usual conditions for settling in most types of fish)
New Tank Syndrome
This problem happens when there are too many fish that are put inside a brand new tank all at the same time. A pollutant called nitrite is produced when fish wastes and other organic substances are being broken down by bacteria. When there is too much fish poo in the water there will be too much nitrite as well. And when this happens it upsets the healthy balance in it. High nitrite and high ammonia levels can actually kill your fish.
For your tank to go through a normal cycle, there must be enough good bacteria to eat up the nitrite waste and convert it to nitrate to make it harmless. However, too much waste and too little good bacteria cause the toxicity levels in the water to rise. And when toxicity is high all types of fishes will be affected, including the tetras.
What You Can Do:
Overcrowding must be avoided. And if there are many fish that you would like to add to the tank, make sure to add them gradually. This is so that the cycle of nitrite and nitrate production balances out., eventually allowing the recovery of water conditions to normal. This in turn will result in a healthier environment in the tank. Added to that, regular tank cleaning and proper water replacement will also help to keep water quality at a good level.
Poor Water Temperature Conditions
Too hot or too cold water needs to be avoided. Neon Tetras rely mainly on water temperature to maintain good metabolism. If and when there is an imbalance, it could weaken the fish and make it sick. The ideal water temperature for tetras is around 72 degrees F to 76 degrees F, with a recommended pH level of 6.0- 7.0.
What You Can Do:
Whenever necessary, put in a water heater that is specified for aquariums. This is to regulate the water temperature at levels where your fish can thrive. A thermometer installed in the tank will also be most useful for real-time monitoring.
In nature, especially in the water kingdom, anything that is smaller than you is considered food. So, if you are keeping your tetras with some other larger fish even though the bigger ones aren’t out to make a meal out of them, they will tend to be anxious and will want to hide. And if there are no adequate hiding places, that’s when they tend to think of migrating somewhere else.
Other more aggressive fish of similar size can still box out tetras who are mostly calm and peaceful fish. Chances are they will be bullied and they will get desperate. You will need to get compatible fish with your tetras that will peacefully co-exist with them.
What You Can Do:
Avoid pairing your tetras with any of these aggressive types:
Examples of compatible tankmates to tetras are:
(Read our guide Best Tank Mates for Neon Tetras for more info!)
Neon tetras also thrive in schools, so they need to be kept in groups. If they are kept in small numbers and are isolated this adds to their stress.
Stress from Bright Lights and a New Environment
This is another possible cause for tetras to be afraid and opt to jump out of the tank. When adding tetras as new fish to a tank especially when there are older fish, the bright lights can leave the tetras exposed and can be nipped on by the other fish out of curiosity. That type of new environment can make them anxious enough to jump.
What you Can Do:
Turn off the lights for about an hour and a half to allow your tetras to acclimate and get to know the older residents of the tank. So, just out of the need to protect your tetras from added unnecessary stress, reduce the lights for quite some time before and after adding them to the tank to avoid scaring them.
It is one thing to overcrowd a tank with too many fish, and it is another thing if a tank is too small for just a few fish that require a much larger environment. Tetras are quite a curious species and they like to explore. This might also explain why they have the ability to jump. Keeping them confined in a small space even with few companions may overwhelm them causing them to be anxious and wanting to change habitat.
What You Can Do:
Try not to add tetras in tanks that are less than 20 gallons in capacity with other types of fishes. Create hiding spaces for them in that same tank so they can escape when they feel crowded. A 5-gallon tank is sufficient enough for tetras-only residents.
Leaving the Tank Open
Your fish can also see if there is no top on the tank. Out of natural curiosity, your fish might try to jump and see what’s on the other side. As much they want to explore they will try to jump if given the chance.
What You Can Do:
It would be best to add neon tetras in a covered tank with some small air vents on the side. Or, you can keep the water levels low to make it harder for the fish to jump out and even in some instances prevent it.
What are the Types of Tetras that Jump?
in addition to Neon Tetras, the more aerodynamic and torpedo-shaped tetras like, bloodfins, rummy noses, and all other slim silver-bodied tetras are the jumpers. Although they do prefer to stay low and hide. On the other hand, a thick-bodied serpae or a cardinal would tend to keep at the bottom of the tank.
How High Do Tetras Jump?
There is no known exact measurement as to the ability of the tetra to jump. As of now, the only comparison available are other freshwater fish of almost the same size. For example, guppies can jump from 8-15 inches high, while Bettas about 2-3 inches. It would be safe to assume that tetras can do about the same as guppies
What Can You Do If Your Neon Tetra Jumps
Just in case you happen to chance upon your fish in the act of jumping, you can use a piece of cardboard or a wide piece of paper to catch it. And when you do, carefully place it back in the aquarium. It will be a little bit more difficult to revive a fish that is already on the floor which depending on how much time has passed. Some owners would choose to put the fish in a cooler tank as it contains more oxygen. Tetras can live for about 1-2 minutes outside of the aquarium.
A tetra can sometimes carry with it some water as it jumps which can on occasion allow it to survive a little bit longer. That is, as long as it doesn’t fall on anything absorbent like the carpet or something similar to it. If and when you are able to rescue your fish in time take him to the tank and put him face upright in the middle of the oxygen flow. Keep him there until he revives, then release him back into the tank.
Covering your tank will probably be the simplest and most effective way to keep your fish from harming themselves. In the meantime, enjoy!