Neon Tetra Disease: A Complete Guide

Did you know that over 50% of ornamental fish come from Japan, China, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand?

If anything, the worldwide ornamental fish trade has experienced tremendous growth over the last couple of years.

This means that there is a real chance that the fishes in your aquarium originated from overseas.

Now one negative issue emanating from this trade is the spread of fish pathogens such as viruses, fungi, parasites, and bacteria. As a result, many fishes can get predisposed to new types of disease and infections even before reaching your tank. And amongst all the different diseases reported in these fishes recently, the neon tetra disease is one of the most common.

It’s, therefore, imperative that you realize crucial facts about it. Check out the pointers below:

What’s Neon Tetra Disease?


Neon Tetra Disease

This disease usually gets caused by an organism known as Pleistophora hyphessobryconis.

Also, this disease mostly attacks the neon tetras, but other ornamental fish species can also contract it. Even the popular goldfish can get infected. A fish catches the ailment by either consuming infected live foods or the bodies of dead fishes in the tank.

It’s important to realize that the neon tetra disease is a degenerative condition. It starts out mildly after the pathogens enter the fish’s body, then progresses quickly to consume its victim’s entire body from the inside out.

Diagnosing Neon Tetra Disease

Normally, the first sign of this disease in fish is a localized loss of colour.

As you may know, most small fishes like neon tetra a fading of colours at night. But once they get this disease, the loss of colour occurs only on a small patch, with the rest of their bodies displaying normal colours. The small patch comes about when the affected muscles begin to turn white around the colour band as well as areas along the fish’s spine.

After a while, the affected part starts to waste away, which ultimately leads to a kinked spine because of the damaged muscles.

Once that occurs, the affected fish experiences difficulty in swimming. Other symptoms of the neon tetra disease include:

  • Restlessness
  • The fish’s body becomes lumpy as cysts develop
  • Bloating
  • Caudal fin Rot

Mind you, restlessness also occurs in the initial stages of the disease and especially at night. Most owners first notice that affected fishes don’t school with the others. This then gets followed by erratic swimming- a clear indication that something is wrong.

‘False’ Neon Tetra Disease

It’s worth noting that there are times when fish seem to have contracted neon tetra disease, but in reality, they have columnaris- a disease that also comes with symptoms like white patches on the fish’s sides, mouth, tail and back regions.

These symptoms often confuse aquarist who experience a difficult time telling the difference between the two diseases. Luckily, false neon tetra (columnaris) disease is easily treatable with antibiotics, while its symptoms are way mild when compared to those of the true neon tetra disease.

Treating Neon Tetra Disease

Unfortunately, there isn’t any known remedy that completely treats the neon tetra disease.

As such, it’s vital to separate the infected fish from the rest of the school to avoid an outbreak of this condition. It’s highly likely that any affected fish won’t recover. Still, you can try available treatment methods to get rid of the disease-causing bacteria in your tank so that other fish don’t get affected.

They include:

– Anti-bacterial Treatment

This is especially useful when you want to know whether the affected fish is suffering from real neon tetra disease or columnaris.

Some of the products you can use for this treatment include:

  • Penicillin
  • Chloromycetin
  • Kanacyn
  • Maracyn
  • Medicated foods such as those with Terramycin

If you notice that the affected fish is getting healthier a few days after treatment, then it was suffering from false neon tetra. In case the fish continues showing sickly behaviours, proceed to undertake the other procedures on this list to deal with neon tetra pathogens in your tank.

– Medicated Bath

Bathing your fish and aquarium in Methylene Blue will go a long way in clearing out any deadly pathogens.

Additionally, a bath will treat open sores that expose deeper tissue, while also helping to increase available oxygen in the tissues and prevent bacterial growth. Other benefits of using a bath include:

  • It provides an environment for using products that may harm your aquarium system
  • It enables a strong, short-term exposure to medications
  • It allows for the utilization of osmoregulators like magnesium sulfate and sodium chloride. Osmoregulators are excellent at cleansing toxins from the fish’s body, which helps with healings.

Therefore, for a proper medicated bath, you’ll need:

  • Water (1/2 a gallon)
  • Ten to twenty drop of methylene blue
  • Sodium chloride (salt)

Mix the ingredients above to create a mildly-concentrated (2.303%) solution for your bath. Ensure not to overdose the Methylene Blue measurements as it will kill the beneficial nitrifying bacteria. Also, you should bath your fish in the solution for about thirty minutes.

Preventing Neon Tetra Disease

The best way to prevent this disease is by maintaining high water quality and avoiding the purchase of sick fish.

This means going out of your way to search and select trustworthy fish suppliers. When buying online, check out the review of other customers to know the kind of seller you’re dealing with. Furthermore, don’t go for a cheaply-priced pets to avoid getting sickly, low-quality fish.

For local purchases, carefully examine the fishes and tanks there isn’t a dying, sick, or presently dead fish. After choosing your desired fish, quarantine them for about two weeks before introducing them to your existing community tanks.

This allows the new fish to adjust to the environment while you observe their appearance and behaviours for any signs of sickness. If you see notice anything unusual, separate the affected fish from the others and call your supplier.

Keep the Environment Healthful

When it comes to preventing neon tetra disease, the cleanliness of your tanks is quite crucial because it stops deadly pathogens from thriving.

It’s advisable that you spend about thirty cleaning your aquarium every week. This is to ensure that the tank maintains a balanced and stable environment at all times. Some of the measures you should undertake as part of cleaning include:

– Water Changes

Without a doubt, water changes are one of the most crucial parts of routine aquarium maintenance.

It’s best to change about 10-15% of your tank water every two weeks. Also, always ensure to test the parameters of both the replacement and aquarium water before undertaking any changes. For one thing, tap water contains chloramine (chlorine and ammonia) or chlorine.

While chlorine airs out when kept in a bucket (aerated), chloramine doesn’t. In that case, ensure to neutralize the chlorine with a water neutralizer. Take note that the ammonia in the water can only get broken down by nitrifying bacteria.

Remember to use a siphon to extract the aquarium water so that you get rid of fish excrement, uneaten fish food, and any other harmful wastes.

– Water Testing

Regular water testing will enable you to realize the tank’s water quality at various points in time.

In fact, testing your waters can help detect and prevent a myriad of problems. It all depends on the level of imbalance in the water. If there’s a lot of imbalance, you ought to thoroughly clean your tank and replace the water, albeit progressively.

Here are several guidelines for testing water for fish tanks:

  • Nitrates- Nitrates should always be at a level of 5 ppm (or lower) in the reef as well as saltwater aquariums, and 10 ppm in freshwater tanks.
  • Nitrites- Your tanks should have undetectable nitrates at all times. If there are nitrates, then the levels of ammonia may be high.
  • pH- Always maintain the water pH at a range of 6.5 to 7.5. This is the most suitable range for most fish species.
  • KH (Carbonate Hardness)- KH highly determines the pH levels in your aquarium. For instance, a carbonate hardness drop to around 4.5 dH (degree hardness) indicates that the pH of your aquarium is close to crash.

– Filter Maintenance

It’s imperative to service your aquarium’s filter monthly to avoid poisoning your fish’s home.

Filters are nothing more than receptacles for waste. In that case, the more densely stocked your aquarium is, the more filter cleaning you ought to undertake. The best part is that servicing a fish tank filter is a straight forward process.

It involves taking the filter out and changing the dirty filter inserts, as well as the media present, whether it’s Algone or activated carbon. You may also need to conduct a complete filter rinse preferably every four weeks.

While cleaning up, avoid interfering with any beneficial bacteria-supporting media like the bio wheels. Additionally, only utilize fresh, clean water to rinse the filter or any other aquarium component. Don’t use soap, chemical or bleach cleaners because they can kill vital bacteria required to sustain a healthy aquarium environment.

Here’s the complete recommended routine for aquarium maintenance:

  • Daily- Ensure sure that every component is running properly. Also, watch your fish, especially as they feed for any behavioural changes.
  • Weekly- Count your fish. You want to ensure that there aren’t any fish deaths as smaller species decompose quite fast, which can lead to nitrite and ammonia spikes.
  • Every Other Week- Test the pH, nitrite, nitrate, and carbonate hardness parameters in your tank water. Additionally, clean the tank’s walls using a filter floss, on top of vacuuming the gravel, changing 10-15% of the water, as well as rinsing filter inserts.
  • Monthly- Replace floss, cartridges, carbon, Algone and rinse the filter. What’s more, inspect the connections, airstones, skimmers, and the tubing to make sure they are in good shape.

Remember to check the expiration dates on the supplies you use.

– UV Sterilization

Ultraviolet sterilizers are excellent supplementary devices for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums.

Normally used together with the primary filtration system, UV sterilizers offer a range of benefits that include:

  • Clearing green water. A better clarification enables you to easily spot waste in the water.
  • Killing suspended viruses and bacteria in the water. This requires a sterilization run of level one or two so that the bacterial colonies in the filter substrate and media.
  • Improving Redox Balance in your aquarium by lowering oxidative stress. This ultimately improves your fishes’ ability to fight diseases.
  • Helping to enhance parasitic control by getting rid of organisms such as Cryptocaryon and Ich.
  • Curbs the spread of red tide dinoflagellates- the toxic fish organisms that can cause sickness in humans.

Mind you, even excellently cleaned aquariums are usually a haven for destructive algae. This is simply because continuous inhabitant activities, biological filtration, and normal feeding can lead to excessive algal nutrient levels.

Also, since most aquariums get exposed to light (on a daily basis), the conditions encourage algae growth.

What’s more, both established and new aquariums are highly susceptible to bacterial and parasitic infections. This is where UV rays come in handy. They target only the smallest microorganisms, without harming other inhabitants.

UV sterilizers work by changing the dangerous pathogen’s genetic material. This, in turn, shortens the organism’s lifecycle and limits its reproduction.

Choosing the right UV Sterilizer Size Unit

You can determine how effective a sterilizer will be in your aquarium by looking at its flow rate.

In essence, different UV sterilizer flow rates deal with different organisms. In this case, a flow rate set for free-floating algae and bacteria won’t be as effective when it comes to dealing with parasites.

The larger the organism, the slow the UV flow rate required. This is to allow such organisms to undergo an extended exposure time since they resist irradiation more than the smaller ones.

You can adjust UV exposure time by reducing or increasing the flowing water rate.

Final Thoughts

The best way to deal with the neon tetra disease is taking precaution so that you prevent the spread of deadly pathogens, as well as creating a healthy and conducive environment for you fish.

This also means watching out for any signs of sickness and quarantining any affected fish. All in all, the pointers above will help you reduce the number of neon disease cases in your aquarium.

Tetra Fish   Updated: July 24, 2019
avatar Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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