Neon Tetras are one of the most popular fish found in aquariums these days. When cared for properly and kept healthy, these fish display brightly colored bodies, with vivid reds and blues as they happily swim about your tank. One of the most important aspects of fish care is feeding them. You need to consider what they eat, when they eat, and how much you provide them. If you feed your fish too much, you can throw off your water parameters. Not enough food in the tank can create sickly fish. If you have neon tetras, they should be eating small amounts of food twice per day.
(You may find our article How To Care For Neon Tetras useful if you are interested in keeping neon tetras)
How Often Do You Feed Neon Tetras?
Feeding your tetras should be a part of your normal daily schedule. Ideally, you should feed them at the same time each day, as they will start to understand when their meals are and at feeding time, they’ll start coming out looking for food. By feeding your fish twice per day, you help your fish to stay healthy and full.
When Should I Feed My Fish?
In the wild, fish tend to eat at dusk and dawn. In captivity, it doesn’t have to be that strict. However, by feeding your fish each morning and evening, you will give them the nourishment they need without stressing them out. Neon tetras are quite small and therefore have small stomachs. While they can live skipping meals now and then, if you want happy, healthy fish, feeding them regularly will help.
Some people will tell you that you should only feed your fish 5 times per week. However, with fish this small, that is a long time to go between feedings. You may not kill them by doing so, but you also won’t be providing them with their ideal nutritional needs. Try feeding your fish each morning before school or work and after dinner each day.
How Much Should I Feed My Fish?
The amount that you need to feed your fish depends upon a lot of variables. How many fish do you have? How big are they? Are there more than just neons in your tank? These factors will help you to adjust the amount of food that you are feeding. However, most aquarists don’t talk about how much they feed their fish in terms of volume per fish. Usually, you go by the amount of time it takes your fish to eat the food and other exterior signs that your fish have eaten enough.
Your fish should get enough food for them to eat in under five minutes. If there is no more food after just two minutes, you might want to try adding in a little bit more and seeing if it will be eaten up. If you notice that your fish stop swimming for the food or that they are spitting out pieces instead of eating it, they are most likely full.
With time, you’ll start figuring out the right amount of food for the tank you have. If they didn’t finish the food last time, you can adjust and feed a little bit less than last time until you find the right amount.
What if I Won't Be Home for a Feeding or I Forgot to Feed Them?
If you won’t be home to feed your fish once and a while, either ask someone else to feed your fish for you, or just skip the feeding. Your fish won’t die if you miss feedings every now and then. However, they may be extra-hungry for the next feeding so you may need to give them a little bit extra. The same goes for if you forgot to feed them.
What if I'm Going on Vacation?
If you’re going on a vacation, you have a few options for feeding your fish. One is to get a neighbor to a trusted friend or family member to come to your home to feed your fish a few times per day. This may not be possible for all people, however, and if you don’t have anyone to come by for you, consider getting a vacation feeder.
Vacation feeders are large, dense pellets that usually last up to 14 days that can be placed into your tank for fish to slowly nibble at. They come in various sizes, shapes, and types so you can be sure your fish still get to eat while you’re away.
You could also choose to use an automatic feeder, which works with a timer attached to it to feed your fish at programmed times and with programmed amounts. However, if you will be on vacation longer than a week or two, you probably need someone to swing by and do some maintenance on your tank and to check to make sure that everything looks okay, even if you do use a vacation feeder.
What Do Neon Tetras Eat?
Neon tetras are omnivorous– they will eat both plant and animal material. In the wild, they are opportunistic feeders, meaning they eat whenever food is available to them. However, in the tank, this isn’t as feasible of an option because you can’t just leave food sitting in your tank without causing issues for the water parameters.
In the wild, neon tetras will eat just about anything they can fit into their small mouths. In an aquarium environment, you’ve got a few different options– the most common are pellets, flakes, frozen, or dried foods. Generally, it is recommended that you mix in several different kinds of food to create variety in your neon tetras’ diets. By combining several different types of foods, you keep your fish stimulated while also ensuring you better hit all of their needed nutrients.
While most people turn to flakes for their fish, this is actually one of the least-recommended foods. This is because flakes tend to deteriorate in nutritional value quickly. If you are feeding your neon tetras flakes, make sure you remember that you only buy around one month’s worth of flakes at a time and you also provide them plenty of other types of food as well.
Pellets come in three different varieties– floating, slow-sinking, and fast-sinking. This allows you to get the fish food wherever you need it. Floating and slow-sinking pellets work well for neon tetras. Just make sure that you select varieties that will provide your neons a complete diet.
Freeze-dried options are typically made of live foods that have been dried whole. These are commonly made from blackworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, krill, or tubifex, though other options exist. These foods have a long shelf-life while still being jam-packed with nutrients. They can also be crumbled down for smaller fish like neons.
Some people prefer to use frozen foods instead. These are small cubes of live food that have been taken together and frozen raw. Then, when you toss them into your tank, the water starts to thaw the food, allowing pieces of it to flake off for your fish to eat. You can also thaw the food in a small amount of water and pour it right into your aquarium. Frozen food is a better alternative to live, as it lasts longer while retaining most of its nutrients.
Some fish will only take live food. This is especially true if you have wild-caught varieties of fish. While it is highly unlikely that you will have wild-caught neons, you may prefer to still feed them with live food options. You can feed live foods that are sustainably farmed to minimize risk, but when you introduce live foods, you could potentially risk disease as well. Commonly, foods that are frozen or freeze-dried can also be purchased live.
My Neon Tetras Didn't Eat All of Their Food-- What Now?
Generally, feedings shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes for your fish. Hungry fish will eat up the food rapidly when it is added to the tank, and if you fed them the right amount, it should be gone within a few minutes and all fish should be satisfied. However, if you went a little overboard with the feeding, you have some work cut out for you. When food is left to sit in your tank, it rots. As it rots, it throws off your water parameters as well.
When your fish finish their eating frenzy, remove any leftover food. Don’t leave it for next time to avoid wasting food or because you think your fish may like a snack later on. Ideally, you should be feeding your fish enough that waiting until the next feeding isn’t a problem. Use a net to scoop out uneaten pellets and large flakes, or use a gravel vacuum to remove any flakes or other debris that has fallen to the bottom.
A common misconception that many fish owners have as well is that if they have shrimp, plecos, or other bottom feeders, they will take care of all of the food that sinks to the bottom. However, keep in mind that all fish have different dietary requirements and many of those bottom feeders are herbivorous and may not eat the food you leave in the tank. It’s generally a better practice to remove excess food rather than risk the water parameters getting thrown off.
If you are regularly having to clean out your tanks, try reducing the amount of food provided for the next feeding to prevent waste.