Will Discus Fish Eat Neon Tetras? Can They Live Together?

Discus are among my favorite types of fish. Their beautiful colors and docile behavior bring so much charm to the aquarium. However, there was a time when I wanted to introduce neon tetras to their tank. Since I didn’t know if discus fish eat neon tetras, or whether the two can live together, I began researching the topic pretty extensively.

Discus fish can live along with tetras in the same tank since both species share similar water and tank requirements. Since Discus are relatively docile and calm fish, they are unlikely to eat neon tetras, despite their apparent size differences.

However, as we move forward in this article, I will show you what to do in case your discus fish attack or eat your tetras. These steps will also help you prolong their lifespan since they include providing them the most proper water parameters. 

Will Discus Fish Eat Neon Tetras?

Discus fish and neon tetras are both quite attractive. However, if you’re worried about your discus fish eating your neon tetras, you’re not the only one. Will discus fish eat neon tetras? Well, yes and no. Yes, Discus can eat neon tetras.  

But that is not particularly shocking. Where aquariums are concerned, all large creatures are capable of eating their smaller counterparts. There is no malice involved. It is merely a question of whether or not one fish can fit in another fish’s mouth.

Where discus fish and neon tetras are concerned, it is more important to ask whether it is likely for Discus fish to eat neon tetras. The answer to that question is ‘No’. In many cases, discus fish and neon tetras coexist peacefully.

There are plenty of stories of Discus eating neon tetras. But these are generally rare occurrences, the exception rather than the rule.[1] Of all the fish you could pair with Discus, neon tetras are among the best.

To better understand how these two creatures would fair in the same tank, consider the following:

1. Size Differences

This is where your most significant concern lies. Neon tetras are small creatures that grow to an average size of 1.2 inches. They are tiny. Although that makes them even more alluring, especially if you have a large tank with a massive school of colorful neon tetras swimming as one beneath the surface. 

Discus fish, on the other hand, have an average size of 8 to 10 inches.[2] They are large, and they can fit the average neon tetra in their mouth with relative ease. Any creature that can fit your fish in its mouth is a danger to that fish.

As was mentioned above, fish tend to eat other fish simply because they can fit them in their mouths. Every time you pair neon tetras with Discus fish, you need to realize that your neon tetras are at risk.

Nevertheless, tetras are fast swimmers. Also, the fact that they swim in schools gives them a surviving advantage. For that reason, even though there are size differences, it is less likely for the discus fish to consume the relatively small tetras.

2. Temperament 

Discus fish are somewhat frightening to some people because they are cichlids, and cichlids have a reputation for being large and aggressive. In this case, you have nothing to worry about. That species is pretty peaceful and docile. 

In fact, you are discouraged from pairing them with large and aggressive species. Luckily, tetras don’t pose a threat to discus fish. And if their current companion doesn’t intimidate them, the Discus are less likely to show any interest in him.

Discus fish are so shy that aggressive and overly active fish will stress them out. They do not have the assertive attitude required to stand up against fish of equal or greater size. They prefer to avoid conflict, and they won’t hesitate to retreat in the face of intimidation.

3. Habits And Tank Sharing

Where their feeding habits are concerned, discus fish are omnivores. They will eat most of the common animal and plant-based fish food that most people use. They do not have an aggressive feeding style, so they cannot live with aggressive and hyperactive fish.[3]

For that reason, these creatures have no interest in fighting or running after food. They take their time. That is another benefit since they are less likely to compete with your tetras over food. Both species will catch their intended meal, and that is it.

Tetras are also omnivores. However, like discus fish, neon tetras are calm. They do not compete for food. They swim at a decent pace that is unlikely to alienate their tankmates. It is less likely for them to swim swiftly across the tank, stealing meals from others.

As far as potential tankmates are concerned, it is worth noting that Discus fish can live alone.[4] They are shoaling fish, but they can exist singly in a tank. They can also live with their kind. However, most of the aggression seen in discus fish is targeted towards other discus fish.

This is why you are encouraged to keep them in relatively large groups. Aim for five fish or more. Anything less creates opportunities for some of the fish to gang up on others. Where their relationships with other fish species are concerned, discus fish are not a threat. 

Yes, they will eat smaller fish on occasion, but they won’t make a habit out of it. Neon tetras are suitable companions for discus fish despite being so tiny because they are also peaceful and social.[5] They usually get along with other types of fish.

However, keep in mind that you should raise your tetras in groups. They cannot survive on their own. They typically require the company of other neon tetras for survival. The larger the school, the better.

Also, neon tetras are dither fish. Their penchant for swimming out in the open puts discus fish at ease. It breaks through their shy personal, making them feel safe and encouraging them to show themselves.

The presence of small fish like tetras tells discus fish that the tank is devoid of dangers. Typically, aquarists avoid pairings like this, where the size difference is too high. However, that particular case is encouraged because discus fish and neon tetras share similar temperaments.

Related articles that may also interest you:

Can Neon Tetras Live With Discus Fish?

So discus fish are not likely to eat neon tetras. However, that still doesn’t mean the two creatures can live in the same tank. To answer that, we should first understand whether or not the two species share the same growing conditions. 

Neon tetras can live with discus fish since both species require similar water requirements, including pH, temperature, and water hardness. Also, dim lighting conditions are beneficial for those two types of fish, which show no affinity to bright daylight.

1. Water Requirements

Where the pH is concerned, you have nothing to worry about. Discus fish thrive in water that ranges from 6.0 to 7.0. Neon tetras are the same. Their demands are also similar where the water hardness is concerned.

The differences only emerge once you turn your attention to the temperature. Discus fish prefer warmer water with temperatures ranging from 82 to 86 degrees F.[6] Neon Tetras, on the other hand, prefer cooler waters ranging from 72 to 76 degrees F.[7]

This difference in temperature requirements shouldn’t keep you from pairing neon tetras with Discus fish, especially if you have experience in this field. To do that, you should keep the heat somewhere in the middle. 

Since it requires a delicate balance, I highly recommend checking my recommendation for an aquarium heater. In there, I reviewed the particular device that I use with great success. I also attached a graph that shows how minimal my temperature fluctuations are.

2. Lighting Conditions

This consideration rarely attracts the attention it deserves. Neon tetras like darker environments.[8] In the wild, they live in waters that have been dyed brown. As such, they are happier with dim lighting.

You won’t get any complaints from your discus fish in this area either. They do not have a particular affinity for bright lighting. In fact, they come from dark waters in the wild as well. Therefore, try to avoid any direct lights.  

3. Tank Size 

The coexistence of tetras and Discus is favorable in this area. Discus fish are massive, and as such, they need broad tanks of at least 55 gallons. Just to be safe, try looking for a 75-gallon aquarium that is relatively tall.[9]

Neon tetras are not that picky. They can get by with a 10-gallon tank.[10] Their small size means that they don’t consume that much space. Hence, you don’t have to worry about the creatures crowding your 75-gallon discus fish tank.

How to Keep Discus Fish from Eating Tetras? 

Discus fish are peaceful. But you shouldn’t count on this temperament to maintain the peace in your tank. This is because Discus fish are cichlids, and cichlids are known for their aggressive tendencies.

You need to prepare for any potential conflict that might arise in your tank. This is pretty important in an aquarium that has neon tetras because they are tiny and vulnerable. Once violence breaks out, the discus fish will simply eat them. 

If you want to prevent this outcome from occurring, you should consider the following:

1. Minimize Stress 

If your discus fish are misbehaving and either attacking or eating their neighbors, stress is probably the cause. Several factors can induce anxiety in discus fish. For instance, if you fail to maintain a pristine tank, the discomfort will encourage the discus fish to act out. 

The same goes for temperatures and pH levels that are higher or lower than the ideal. You need to keep your fish satisfied. That means maintaining all the parameters within the ideal range while removing troublemaker fish. 

The ideal parameters for a discus fish tank with tetras would be:

  • Temperature: 77-81
  • pH Levels: 6-7
  • Water Hardness: 1° and 4° dKH

If your discus fish choose to respond to aggression with aggression, the neon tetras, caught in the middle, will pay the price. Eliminate all sources of stress. This is the only way to ensure that the discus fish maintains its calm demeanor.

2. Feed Your Fish Properly 

This goes without saying. A hungry discus fish is more likely to eat your neon tetras. To prevent this occurrence, you need to satisfy the creature’s hunger. That means giving the discus fish as much animal and plant matter as it can consume.

Mealtimes can present a challenge in tanks with discus fish that are fighting or bullying one another. To ensure that all your discus fish are adequately fed, you should scatter food all over the tank. Try not to miss a spot, neglecting certain areas of the aquarium.

Then, pour the amount of food your fish can consume within 3-5 minutes. This will ensure that even the bullied and tormented discus fish are fed. Otherwise, any discus fish that is allowed to go hungry will become a threat to the smaller fish in your tank.

 3. Consider an Aquarium Divider

One way of keeping the peace between discus fish and tetras is to separate them. If aggression is present, place a divider in the tank.[11] This will create a physical barrier between these two species, preventing them from interacting with one another. 

A divider sounds like an extreme solution that avoids the problem rather than confronting it. But that isn’t the case. Even if a divider separates your discus fish and tetras, they are still sharing the same tank. 

The divider merely allows them to grow accustomed to one another’s presence from a safe distance. You can remove the divider down the line, allowing all your fish to mingle. If they are still fighting, separate them for more extended periods, and so on.

4. Rearrange the Environment

If you had discus fish in the tank for an extended period before you bought your neon tetras, you are encouraged to rearrange the tank before adding the tetras. However, make sure to remove the Discus before taking this step. 

The objective is to destroy all existing territories.[12] This will allow your discus fish and their new neighbors to start fresh on equal footing. Then, add the Discus and the neon tetras to the aquarium at the same time. If troubles occur, use a divider, as mentioned above.

 Conclusions

Discus fish are likely to live along with neon tetras, and the chances for them to eat the tetras are quite low. However, that could happen when they are under stress. In this case, your first step should be fixing their temperature, pH levels, and water hardness.

If none of these had worked, you should consider getting an aquarium divider. After separating the two species for a couple of weeks, you may try removing it. Test your fish and see whether or not they have grown accustomed to each other.

References

  1. https://theaquarium.club/discus-tankmates/
  2. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/discus-fish/
  3. http://www.discushatchery.com/discustankmates.html
  4. https://www.buildyouraquarium.com/discus-tank-mates/
  5. https://www.tropicalfishcareguides.com/aquarium-fish/neon-tetra-tank-mates/
  6. https://www.aqueon.com/information/care-sheets/discus
  7. https://modestfish.com/neon-tetra/
  8. https://www.aquariumsource.com/neon-tetra/
  9. https://www.aquariumcoop.com/blogs/aquarium/discus-care-guide
  10. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/neon-tetra/
  11. https://www.discus.com/for-beginners/tips-for-reducing-aggression-in-a-discus-tank/
  12. https://wattleydiscus.com/discus-bullying-and-aggression/

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