Neon tetras are just one amazing kind among the tetra family, along with cardinal tetras, black tetras, rainbow tetras, and many others. And most of them are schooling fish.

However, does that mean that neon tetras will school with other tetras if placed into a community tank? Not really.

Actually, schools always consist of specimens belonging to the same species. Some tetras make excellent tank mates with other types of tetras, but only if there are enough specimens to form different schools.

Otherwise, they will certainly not be able of forming a functioning group.

Why do Tetra Fish School?

Tetra fish are small fish, rarely exceeding 2 inches in length. Therefore, their natural way of surviving in the wild is by forming schools. The larger, the better. Indeed, groups like these manage to provide safety and comfort to these minute fish, mainly from their predators.

A group of tetras moves and swims in a coordinated way, often confusing large predators which simply become unable of focusing on one fish to attack. That said, chances of survival are much larger when living in such big groups.

Additionally, moving across water that close to each other reduces friction, allowing such small fish to consume less energy when swimming, but not only.

Schooling increases the possibilities of finding food and shelter, at the same decreasing the chances of fertilized eggs becoming eaten by other species.

All in all, schooling is a perfectly natural method for small fish to survive in the wild, and such behavior pattern is so deeply implemented into their genes that they need to replicate it into captivity as well.

How Many Neon Tetras in a School?

For neon tetras being able of forming a functional school, you need to provide your tank with at least 6 specimens.

However, this is the considerably basic minimum, so a group of 15 or 20 fish would certainly be much more efficient and bring to better results. The more neon tetras you place together, the safer will they feel.

In the wild, there can be more hundreds and hundreds of neon tetras in a single school. Such large groups offer great safety and comfort to these fish.

Obviously, most aquarium keepers are not able of providing such enormous tanks to house huge schools of tetras, but the rule “the more, the merrier” is certainly appliable to captivity tanks as well. It is simply in their DNA to feel better when in a large school.

Will Neon Tetras School in 5 Gallon?

Yes, if your tank is not overcrowded, a group of at least 6 neon tetras will school even in a 5-gallon. Nonetheless, we highly recommend choosing a larger tank as your starting home for neon tetras.

That way, you will not only be able of placing more fish inside to create a more efficient school, but you will also manage to keep your water parameters stable, which is essential with such delicate fish. Therefore, a 10-gallon is a good starting tank size for this species.  

Additionally, a 10-gallon tank will allow more plants and more swimming space inside, which is a great advantage for neon tetras. If they happen to bump into each other while schooling, this may trigger aggressive behavior among individuals.

How Many Tetras Can You Keep in 20 Gallon Tanks?

As a thumb rule, you should be keeping up to 20 neon tetras in a 20-gallon tank. However, if you are willing to invest into a powerful filtration system, you can even slightly overcrowd your tank and house around 20 adults in there.

Each neon tetra should have around 1 gallon of water at disposal. This is an excellent thumb rule for simple tanks and you never get it wrong when applying it.

But with these peculiar fish being really small and not really requiring all of that space, you can allow yourself to add some more.

The main condition to do that is to setup a high-quality filter that can perform a better job than usual, but also to provide enough live plants to increase oxygenation as well as enough space for them to swim around without getting into conflicts.

Why are Neon Tetras Not Schooling?

The most common reason for neon tetras not schooling is simply there not being enough specimens to form a school. Therefore, if you own less than 6 fish, this is certainly the cause for them not being able to school.

Individuals can become territorial very quickly, deciding to swim around one area of the tank and aggressively protecting it from others. Alternatively, if the water parameters are not ideal, this can also lead to their school disrupting, even if there is enough number of fish.

These include inappropriate temperature levels, ammonia spikes, but also various diseases.

Neon tetras are overly sensitive fish. If they sense any disruption in the quality of the water they live in, they may become exceedingly stressed. As a consequence, this can trigger suddenly aggressive behavior towards other fish, mostly out of desperation.

And with them being schooling fish, such aggressive behavior can be passed from one fish to another, leading to a massive disturbance among them.

Therefore, keeping a close eye on their water parameters and intervening as soon as these go out of the normal values is vitally important.

Wrapping Up

Tetras are generally peaceful fish and they make one of the top choices among aquarium keepers these days. And neon tetras are certainly the most popular kind among the entire family. Indeed, they make the fish species that is born in captivity in the largest quantities ever.

Matching several tetras into a single community tank is a great idea, but it does come with some basic requirements. Firstly, you need to make sure that they can share same water parameters.

Next, you have to allow for each kind of tetra fish to form their own school by adopting at least 6 specimens of each type. That way, all of your tetra fish will feel safe and can live a happy life.

Written by Fabian

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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