Mollies And Neon Tetras: Can They Live Together?

As a fish owner, one of the first questions I asked myself was whether or not mollies and neon tetras can live along. That is because both species are common freshwater fish that are pretty easy to grow. To understand the relationship between mollies and tetras, I began researching the topic pretty profoundly.

Mollies and neon tetras can live together in the same tank, since both species share similar tank requirements, including temperature and pH. Also, their minimal size differences and docile temperament are likely to prevent all sorts of hostility.

However, as I will elaborate later on, aggressive tendencies between the two can still occur. To avoid that, I will share a few essential steps you should take before the introduction. These will encourage symbiosis and ensure your fish grow strong and healthy.

Can Neon Tetras Live With Mollies?

Mollies and neon tetras can live together. Mollies are often included in lists of the most compatible tankmates for neon tetras. The reverse is also true. Aquarists that are looking for suitable tankmates for their mollies are encouraged to buy neon tetras.

Admittedly, this isn’t true in every situation. Like all fish, mollies and neon tetras have distinct personalities. Although both species are entirely peaceful, some mollies and neon tetras have been known to manifest aggressive tendencies.

In some cases, these aggressive tendencies are naturally occurring due to the molly or tetra’s personality. However, in other cases, external factors will encourage aggressive behavior in mollies and tetras.

This is why you are discouraged from presuming that every single molly and neon tetra you encounter will get along. Don’t be so shocked if violence ensues in a molly/neon tetra tank. Though there are plenty of reasons for you to be optimistic, including:

1. Minimal Size Differences

Neon Tetras can grow to a size of two inches. They are definitely small, especially when compared to other prominent aquarium fish. This is among the reasons why they are so popular. They don’t occupy that much space, and you can keep them in large numbers.

2-inch fish are a challenge to rear because most fish are opportunistic eaters.[1] That is to say; they will eat whatever fits in their mouths. In other words, 2-inch fish are usually a target for much larger fish.

However, while mollies are larger than neon tetras, the size difference isn’t that great. Mollies have an average size of 4 inches.[2] Many male mollies are 3 inches. Female mollies are relatively more prominent and can grow to 6 inches. 

But you should expect most of the mollies you encounter to fit within the 4-inch mark. This reduces the chances of your mollies attacking and eating the neon tetras. As a rule of thumb, if the size differences are minimal, the species will probably get along.

2. Similar Tank Requirements

Because neon tetras are small, they need a tank of at least 10 gallons. Typically, they thrive in temperatures ranging from 68 to 79 degrees F and a pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.0.[3] They also like planted tanks with plenty of vegetation. The foliage allows them to stay hidden from any threats they encounter in the water.

Where their meals are concerned, neon tetras are omnivores. They eat meat and plant matter. They naturally survive on flakes, pellets, dried, live, and frozen food items. They do not have a particular preference where the substrate is concerned. All in all, they are not the most challenging fish to keep.

More importantly, none of their requirements clash with the parameters found in the waters that mollies frequent. Like tetras, mollies need a tank of at least 10 gallons. They also like planted tanks, temperatures ranging from 72 to 78 degrees F, and a pH ranging from 6.7 to 8.5.[4] As omnivores, they eat the same meals as neon tetras.

They prefer slightly brackish water. But you can add some salt to your molly fish tank without causing discomfort in your neon tetras. They can survive in these conditions. This matters because you cannot pair fish that require different tank conditions and parameters to survive.

3. Reasonable Temperament

Mollies are entirely peaceful. They are shoaling fish that should be kept in groups of at least 5. However, males are not as peaceful as the female mollies.[5] They may fight one another to establish a hierarchy.

A scarcity of females can also encourage conflict. But if you can keep them in the right numbers, and if the ratio of male to female fish is appropriate, your mollies will maintain a peaceful demeanor.

They are also active and social, which means that they are more than willing to tolerate other species’ presence. Neon tetras neither are aggressive fish.[6] Like mollies, they are peaceful creatures that can live harmoniously with fellow tetras and fish from other species. As shoaling fish, they should be kept in large groups.

Tetras are known in some circles as fin nippers.[7] Yet, they do not always manifest this behavior (although you should keep this trait in mind). Nevertheless, for the most part, their attitude is a perfect match for mollies.

Do Mollies Eat Neon Tetras?

A molly fish can eat a neon tetra if it chooses to. However, this is unlikely to happen. Mollies and neon tetras are both peaceful, non-aggressive fish. Neon tetras are unlikely to alienate mollies to the extent that causes a violent reaction. 

If your mollies are adequately fed, they aren’t likely to have an interest in attacking and eating neon tetras. The opposite is also true. Although, in certain circumstances, neon tetras can nip your mollies’ fins. I will show you how to avoid it as we move forward.

How to Make Mollies and Neon Tetras Get Along?

As was noted above, even though mollies and neon tetras are peaceful species that can coexist harmoniously, some individual mollies and neon tetras have been known to manifest aggressive behavior. 

If you are tired of the conflicts unfolding between your mollies and neon tetras, try experimenting with the following solutions:

1. Avoid Overcrowded Tanks

Fish do not appreciate full tanks. Various studies have shown that overcrowding can create a hostile environment in aquariums, especially if the aquariums in question are too small.[8] An overcrowded tank will encourage neon tetras to start nipping at the fins of your mollies. And once this happens, your mollies will retaliate.

To keep the peace between your mollies and tetras, you need a large tank of at least 20 gallons. You should also fight the urge to overstock the aquarium. You should match the number of fish to the size of the tank.

If your current tank is too small, I recommend checking out my aquarium kit buyer’s guide. I made sure to review there the 20-gallons model that I use with great success. That bundle is probably the most durable and cost-effective purchase I’ve made so far.  

Keep in mind that neon tetras are less likely to nip at the fins of their tankmates if they have plenty of room to exercise and roam. When their environment is reassuring, they have no reason to show hostility to other species.

2. Add Female Mollies to Your Tank

Mollies can become aggressive if they don’t have enough females in the tank to mate with. That aggression will grow further if they have to compete with other male mollies for the females in the tank.

The easiest way to defeat the aggression in your male mollies is to add more females to the aquarium. You should keep at least three females for every male molly. While mollies are schooling fish, their groups should consist primarily of females.

Neon tetras are in a somewhat similar boat. You must keep them in a school of six or more.[9] Neon tetras will act out if you attempt to isolate them. You can keep them calm by adding more of their kind to the same tank.

3. Introduce Plants and Vegetation

Mollies and neon tetras prefer planted tanks. They use the foliage to hide from danger. If you think that the mollies in your tank have become a threat to the tetras, try adding a few more plants. This will give the tetras more places to hide.

Like most fish, your mollies will ignore your neon tetras once they can no longer see them. Fish do not keep grudges. Once they are not at each other’s sight, the previous behavior they presented would probably change all at once.

4. Feed Your Fish Right

This rule applies to all fish. If you fail to feed your fish to their satisfaction, they will attack one another. Starvation is one of the most common causes of stress. Even though your tetras have no real chance of overpowering your molly fish, they will nip at their fins all the same once food grows scarce. 

This will cause the situation in the aquarium to escalate. To avoid this scenario, try to feed your fish at least two times a day. If your schedule is hectic, install an automatic feeder. It will ensure that your mollies and tetras are fed on time and in the right amounts.

As a rule of thumb, you should feed your fish the amount of food they consume within two minutes. If your mollies and neon tetras finished their meal faster than that, you should increase their portions a little more. 

5. Consider an Aquarium Divider

If you have tried and failed to quell the violence between your fish, consider inserting a divider. It will create a physical barrier between the mollies and tetras, separating them entirely. This will guarantee peace in hostile tanks.

If you don’t want to use a divider and the violence in the tank is escalating, you should isolate the tetras. Of the two species, the tetras are in the most danger. The mollies can quickly kill them when angry. If you want them to survive, move them to another tank.

Here are a few related articles that I wrote that might also interest you:

What Fish Live Well With Neon Tetras?

Neon tetras are small, shy, docile fish that should be kept with equally non-aggressive tankmates. These usually include Guppies, Angelfish, Loaches, Corydoras, and Harlequin Rasboras.

  • Guppies – Guppies grow to a size of 2.4 inches. That puts them within the same range as tetras. They are also peaceful and docile. Not only do they get along with fish from other species, but they also thrive in water with the same conditions as neon tetras.[10]
  • Angelfish – Angelfish are larger than tetras. But they live in similar tank conditions, and they have a personality that allows them to coexist with tetras. However, angelfish are a gamble. They have an aggressive streak that could make them a danger to your tetras in certain conditions.
  • Loaches – Loaches are somewhat bigger than tetras. But they are friendly. As scavengers, you can rely on them to eat algae and debris in the tank. If you give them plenty of plants, they can live peacefully with your neon tetras.
  • Corydoras – Cory catfish are calm and friendly. They are unlikely to alienate fellow cory catfish or fish from other species. If you can keep them in groups of at least six while also providing plenty of foliage, they will coexist with your tetras.
  • Harlequin Rasboras – You couldn’t ask for better tankmates than rasboras. They are timid fish that thrive in the company of small, non-aggressive fish such as tetras. They are easily intimidated and stressed, so you should keep them away from larger, more aggressive fish.

Conclusions

Neon tetras will probably get along with mollies. Both species are relatively docile and rarely seek to antagonize other types of fish. However, if the tank is too crowded or the fish are starving, they may become aggressive.

To avoid that, provide them with a tank, which is at least 20 gallons. Make sure that you feed your mollies and neon tetras twice a day while keeping the portions sufficient. If hostility still takes place, your best choice would be isolating the tetras.

References

  1. https://www.thesprucepets.com/cannibalistic-fish-1381212
  2. https://meethepet.com/molly/
  3. https://www.thesprucepets.com/neon-tetra-paracheirodon-1381835
  4. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/molly-fish/
  5. https://www.bettacarefishguide.com/can-bettas-and-mollies-live-together/
  6. https://www.tropicalfishcareguides.com/aquarium-fish/neon-tetra-tank-mates/
  7. https://www.bettacarefishguide.com/neon-tetras-and-bettas-a-guide-to-keeping-them-together/
  8. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/27/science/fish-in-small-tanks-are-shown-to-be-much-more-aggressive.html
  9. https://www.bettacarefishguide.com/can-bettas-live-with-tetras-5-best-tetras/
  10. https://www.buildyouraquarium.com/neon-tetra-tank-mates/

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