What Do Neon Tetras Eat? (With Real Examples)

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Providing your neon tetras with a balanced diet is a crucial step in caring for those beautiful species. But what do they eat? Is their diet different than other species?

In this article, I will list all the types of food neon tetras can eat, both in aquariums and in their natural habitat.

Let’s dive right in.

What Do Neon Tetras Eat?

Neon tetra food is typically available in the following forms:

  • Flakes
  • Sinking pellets
  • Floating pellets
  • Live foods
  • Freeze-dried live food
  • Vegetables

When deciding what to feed your neon tetras, there are several factors to consider:

1. Flakes

  • Neon tetras can eat high-quality flake food designed for tropical fish.
  • Flake food should be nutritionally balanced and may include ingredients like fish meal, krill, spirulina, and various vitamins.
  • It is important to break the flakes into small enough pieces for the neon tetras to eat.
  • Despite their convenience, flakes shouldn’t make up the entirety of a neon tetra’s diet, as they don’t contain all the nutrients these fish need.

My recommendation: TetraMin Tropical Flakes (link to Amazon)

2. Pellets

  • Pellets are another suitable food source for neon tetras.
  • These should be small or micro pellets, as neon tetras have small mouths.
  • Pellets typically provide a balanced blend of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
  • Similar to flakes, it’s crucial to not rely solely on pellets as they don’t encompass the full range of essential nutrients.

My recommendation: Tetra Goldfish Variety Pellets (link to Amazon)

3. Live Foods

  • Neon tetras can also eat live foods, which are excellent for providing a variety of nutrients.
  • Suitable live foods include brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms.
  • Live foods also stimulate more natural feeding behaviors.
  • However, these should be sourced from reliable suppliers to reduce the risk of disease transmission.

4. Freeze-Dried Foods

  • Freeze-dried foods like freeze-dried bloodworms, brine shrimp, and tubifex worms are also acceptable for neon tetras.
  • These foods retain most of the nutritional value of their live counterparts without the risk of disease.
  • Like all foods, they should be offered in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.
  • Always rehydrate freeze-dried foods before feeding to prevent digestive issues.

For a balanced neon tetra diet, it is best to include any of the following:

  • Freeze-Dried Brine Shrimp
  • Freeze-Dried Bloodworms
  • Freeze-Dried Daphnia
  • Freeze-Dried Tubifex Worms
  • Freeze-Dried Krill

My recommendation: Tetra Bloodworms (link to Amazon)

5. Vegetables

  • While not a staple of their diet, neon tetras can eat small amounts of certain vegetables.
  • Vegetables should be blanched to soften them, making them easier for the fish to eat.
  • Suitable vegetables include peas (with skins removed), spinach, and zucchini.
  • Always remove uneaten vegetables from the tank after a few hours to prevent water quality issues.
  • Remember that variety is key for a balanced diet, and feeding your neon tetras different types of food will ensure they get the range of nutrients they need.

Other possible vegetables suitable for neon tetras include:

  • Blanched spinach
  • Cucumber slices
  • Lettuce leaves

Also Read: How To Feed Neon Tetras

How Much Should You Feed Neon Tetras?

When considering the amount of food you should give to your neon tetras, these are the most important considerations:

  • Neon Tetras should be fed a quantity of food that they can consume in about 2-3 minutes.
  • A rough quantity guideline is about 1-2 tiny pinches of flake food for a small school of Neon Tetras (around 5-6 fish).
  • Depending on the size of the pellet, using 1-2 pellets per fish serves as a general guideline when feeding Neon Tetras.
  • When feeding freeze-dried or live food, such as brine shrimp or bloodworms, aim for 1-2 pieces per fish.
  • Each fish should have access to food. Spread food in different areas to ensure all fish can feed without competition.
  • Overfeeding can be harmful. It’s preferable to slightly underfeed than to overfeed when it comes to feeding your Neon Tetras. Any uneaten food that stays in the tank can foul the water and create health issues.
  • Pay attention to your fish’s behavior and body condition. If they look thin or unhealthy, it may be necessary to adjust feeding quantities.

How Often Should You Feed Neon Tetras?

  • Morning and Evening Feedings: Feed your Neon Tetras twice a day, ideally once in the morning and once in the evening.
  • Consistency is Key: It’s important to feed them around the same time each day for consistency.
  • Adjust for Young Fish: Young or growing Neon Tetras may require three feedings per day due to their higher metabolic rates.
  • One-Day Fasting: Consider giving your Neon Tetras a fasting day once a week to help clean out their systems and prevent overfeeding.
  • Monitor Your Fish: Pay close attention to the behavior and body condition of your fish. If they appear lethargic or lose color after feeding, it might indicate a need to adjust the feeding schedule or diet.

Also Read: How Often To Feed Neon Tetras

What Do Neon Tetras Eat In The Wild?

In their natural habitats, Neon Tetras have a diverse diet. Here’s what they typically consume:

  • Microscopic Algae: Neon Tetras often graze on microscopic algae that grow on plants and other surfaces.
  • Small Invertebrates: A variety of minute invertebrates that inhabit their aquatic surroundings form a part of the Neon Tetras’ diet.
  • Insect Larvae: Their diet encompasses mosquito larvae along with other diminutive aquatic insects present in their natural ecosystem.
  • Crustaceans: Small crustaceans like Daphnia are also part of their diet.
  • Detritus: Neon Tetras also feed on detritus, which includes bits of organic material and dead plants.

How Long Can Neon Tetras Survive Without Food?

Neon Tetras can generally go without food for around 3 to 4 days without any severe effects on their health.

But what if you’re planning on a vacation? Well, there are a few options that can be quite handy:

  • Longer Absence: For absences longer than a week, consider arranging a fish sitter or investing in an automatic fish feeder to maintain their feeding schedule.
  • Fish Sitters: A reliable fish sitter can feed your fish and monitor their health while you are away. Make sure to provide clear instructions on how much and how often to feed your Neon Tetras.
  • Automatic Feeders: You can set up automatic feeders to dispense predetermined amounts of food at scheduled intervals. Prior to your departure, it’s important to trial the feeder to confirm it’s operating correctly and dispensing the appropriate amount of food.
  • Preparation for Vacation: Before going on vacation, ensure that the aquarium’s environment is stable and your fish are healthy. Check the water parameters, filter, and temperature to ensure all are within appropriate levels.
  • Post-Vacation Check: Upon return, promptly check the health of your fish and the conditions of the aquarium. Look for any signs of disease or stress in your fish and check the water quality.

If you’re looking for an automatic feeder, my recommendation is the Petbank Automatic Fish Feeder (link to Amazon).


Let me give you a quick overview of the main points I discussed earlier:

  • When it comes to nourishing neon tetras, there are plenty of options available since they are omnivores.
  • You can choose from commercially prepared neon tetra food, leftovers from your own meals, or freeze-dried alternatives.
  • Maintaining a clean environment and ensuring the aquarium has the right water temperatures are vital for the overall well-being of neon tetras.
  • Feeding neon tetras is not overly complicated, but it’s important to learn and establish a feeding plan.
  • It’s also crucial to understand the nutritional needs of neon tetras at different stages of their growth for a balanced diet.
  • Don’t underestimate the consequences of both overfeeding and underfeeding them.