25 Great Neon Tetra Tank Mates (For Beginners)

Neon tetras are one of the most popular fish in the hobby – and for good reason.

They do get picked off easily, though, so you have to be careful about what you put in with them. (We learned this the hard way when I was young and the local fish store convinced my parents an angelfish would be a good addition to our aquarium.)

To save you from making the same mistake, I’ve compiled a big list of fish that will all do well with neon tetras.

Where there are some subspecies that are bad choices for neons, I let you know which ones to avoid as well.

Let’s jump in!

Other Tetras

Let’s get this one out of the way first, because not all tetras are a good choice for a tank with neons.

Congo Tetra | Source: Deposit Photos

There are a few species that tend to be more aggressive and that will attack and kill neons when given the chance. Here are some tetra species that shouldn’t be put with neons:

  • Serpae Tetras
  • Congo Tetras
  • Panda Tetras

Black skirt tetras can sometimes be okay, but they are on my caution list, as they are a semi-aggressive species that can be a bit temperamental.

Even among the above species, different individuals will be more or less likely to attack based on their personality and how stressed they are in the moment.

Keeping them in larger groups will also reduce some of the aggression, but it’s best not to risk putting them together in the first place.

Rummy Nose Tetra | Source: Deposit Photos

Here are some more peaceful types that are better choices for neons:

  • Penguin Tetras
  • Rummy Nose Tetras
  • Cardinal Tetras
  • Ember Tetras
  • Ruby Tetras
  • Bloodfin Tetras
  • Black Neon Tetras (Which look great and are hardier than regular neons)

Again, keeping any tetras in a group of at least 15-20 of their same species is a good idea and will reduce some aggression seen when keeping only a few tetra at a time. 6 should be a bare minimum.

Cardinal Tetra | Source: Deposit Photos

As for stocking level, for the smaller species like rummy nose and cardinal tetras, you can keep roughly 1 tetra for every 2 gallons of water not accounted for by other fish.

Harlequin Rasboras

Rasboras are another popular aquarium fish, and the harlequin rasbora in particular is a good choice for a tank with neon tetras (and most things tetras get along with).

Harlequin Rasboras | Source: Deposit Photos

Harlequins are a peaceful fish, so you generally won’t have to worry about keeping them with neons. They’re also easy to care for, and you won’t have issues with them like you will with some more fussy species.

They will typically live in the mid-upper region of the tank, and zebra danios will sometimes school with them when both in the same tank.

You need to keep them in groups of at least 5-6, due to their shoaling nature. A good stocking level to start off with is 1 per 2 gallons of water, though aquarists will often go above that based on their individual setups.

Zebra Danios

Another staple of the fishkeeping hobby is the zebra danio – and they do just as well with neon tetras as they do with other species.

Glofish’s Take on the Zebra Danio | Source: Deposit Photos

Thanks to glofish, they come in a wide variety of colors, but if you’re not a fan of glofish, they naturally come in a silverish and sometimes reddish color with stripes running down their sides. (See photo below.)

They do like to be in a group of at least 6, otherwise they will develop problems with fin nipping. If you can get a larger group, it is definitely better.

The other nice thing about zebra danios is that they’re one of the easiest fish in the industry to take care of. They can handle lower temperatures, and they will happily eat whatever flake food you have.

Zebra Danio | Source: Deposit Photos

If you’re setting up a peaceful tropical community tank and already have neon tetras, zebra danios are another fish you should seriously consider.

Corydoras

Cory catfish are one of the most loved fish in the hobby. They may not be quite as popular as fish like the neon tetra or some rasboras, but they have quite the cult following.

They’re basically the dogs of the fishkeeping world. They’re fun to watch, have plenty of personality, and make a great addition to an aquarium with neons.

Corydoras | Source: Deposit Photos

The other nice thing about them is they come in a huge variety of colors and patterns, and they are available in dwarf sizes for smaller aquariums.

They enjoy spending the day sifting through the sand for things to eat. Because of this, they prefer hanging out near the bottom of your aquarium.

Because they’re so well behaved, they make a great addition to a tank with neon tetras. In fact, if you don’t have a fish already that lives in the bottom third of your tank, this would be my preferred choice.

Corydora Catfish | Source: Deposit Photos

One thing to note is that they need to be in a group of at least 5-6, and they should be kept in a tank that is at least a 20 gallon long. Longer tanks are always preferable with them over taller tanks.

Endler’s Livebearers

Another fish that comes in a variety of colors is the Endler’s Livebearers. This is a small fish that will live happily with neon tetras, and at 1.5 per gallon, you can keep a bunch of them.

Endler’s Livebearer Male | Source: Deposit Photos

A few quirks you need to be aware of with endlers:

  • You want to keep a ratio of 2-3 females for every male endler you have so the male doesn’t wear out the females by constantly chasing them.
  • Since they’re a livebearer, they will produce new young every month. This means you’re eventually going to have a lot of them, and you’ll need to figure out something to do with them.

The positives of endlers is that they’re a very showy fish, and the males will constantly dance, meaning they’re very pleasing to watch. This makes them a good choice for a display tank.

Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus catfish – affectionately known as otos – are a peaceful species that you should consider adding to your aquarium if you have an issue with diatoms (brown algae) or soft green algae.

Otocinclus Catfish Resting on Leaf | Souce: Deposit Photos

This is their primary food source, and I have trouble getting my otos to eat anything else. I’ve heard from other aquarists who have added them to their tank only to have them eat all the algae and starve.

My local fish store recommended algae wafers, but I’ve had no luck getting them to pay attention to them at all. Other people with otos have had similar experiences.

Luckily, a lot of them do also seem to like blanched cucumber or zucchini. Jury is still out on whether mine will, but they seem to be finding food by themselves just fine.

(Even though they don’t eat anything I give them, they’re still fat and happy.)

Oto Eating a Cucumber | Source: Deposit Photos

They get along fine with neons, and in terms of behavior, they alternate between zooming around the aquarium and perching themselves on a plant or the side of your tank for hours at a time (wriggling back and forth a bit to get to another patch of algae).

If you look closely, you’ll see them grabbing on to the plant stems with their fins, which I think is adorable.

Pea Puffer

The dwarf/pea puffer fish is an unusual choice, but I’ve heard from several fishkeepers who have had good luck keeping them with neon tetras in tanks 10 gallons and up.

Pea Puffer in Planted Tank | Source: Deposit Photos

They’re quite small, but what they lack in size they make up for in personality.

They shouldn’t be put in an aquarium with slower fish, since they can be a bit territorial, but with relatively faster fish like neon tetras and zebra danios they should do just fine. Here are some ideas for other fish that go well with pea puffers.

One thing you have to know about them is that they’re carnivores, so you’re not going to be able to just feed them whatever you have in a bottle laying around.

The best thing to keep them fed is to have another tank where you keep invasive snails like ramshorn, pond, and bladder snails. These are what you would then feed to your puffer.

Pea Puffer | Source: Deposit Photos

You want to avoid keeping any snails (or shrimp) in the aquarium with your puffer, because they are said to go around and hunt snails out of boredom, even if they’re not hungry.

As with all territorial fish, having lots of plants or decorations breaking up line of sight in your aquarium and providing hiding spots is recommended.

Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish

Another peaceful community fish that can make a good addition to a tank with neon tetras is the dwarf neon rainbow fish.

Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish | Source: Deposit Photos

These are pleasantly colored fish that are starting to gain popularity in the fishkeeping world.

You should keep a group of at least 6 (preferably more) and have plenty of hiding spots in the tank to keep the dominant male from harassing the other male rainbowfish too badly, however.

One complaint that neon tetra owners do have is that their coloration is quite similar to neons, so going with a different type of fish may make sense for the aesthetic you’re looking for if you have a problem with that. (Unless you have black neons, of course.)

Betta

Another fish that you wouldn’t necessarily think about as being a good choice for a tank with other fish is the betta.

In my experience, and the experience of other hobbiests, however, this is not the case.

My Betta in Front of My Ottos | Source: Tiny Underwater | License: CC-BY-4.0

My betta does just fine with other fish in the aquarium, and I know other people who keep betta with neon tetras without any issue. (Some people say it’s preferrable to introduce the betta to the neons and not the other way around.)

If you’re looking for a small, easy to care for centerpiece for your aquarium, betta are one of the most readily available and hardiest fish available.

You do want to make sure you have enough space for everyone, however, so a 20 gallon would be my preferred setup. You’ll also want to make sure there are a lot of plants or other decorations in the tank to provide mental stimulation for your betta.

Also, you have to be mindful about finding a happy medium in the temperature range, as betta prefer slightly warmer temperatures than neons.

74-76F should be a good range for both, though neons are said to be able to live in up to 82F water when necessary. (Even if it may not be the healthiest choice for them.)

Other than that, there’s not much that needs to be said. It’s an excellent little fish.

Guppies

If you’re looking for something small and peaceful, guppies can be a good choice for your tank.

They are both colorful and easy to take care of – as long as you have the right tank conditions.

Male Guppies | Source: Deposit Photos

Endlers (covered above) are a different species in the same genus as standard guppies, so they’ll often be sold by the same stores and require the same care. (Poecilia Wingei vs Poecilia Reticulata)

Like endlers, guppies are a very showy fish that will readily reproduce in an aquarium. Because of this, you can start off with just a few breeding pairs, and if you care for them, they’ll fill out your tank.

But there are far more varieties of guppy than there are endlers.

Clown Pleco

One of my favorite fish from my tank is the clown pleco. This fish has a quite interesting coloration and is a good tank mate for any peaceful community aquarium that doesn’t have a lot of bottom dwellers.

https://youtu.be/5bo-BLa2v2M

Other than the occasional algae wafer, the only thing you really need to provide to keep these plecos healthy is a piece of driftwood. (They chew on it to help digestion.)

What’s more, because they only get up to 4″ long, they are great for smaller tanks that a common pleco would never fit in.

The downside to clown plecos is that they are quite shy, so you’ll go for days without seeing them. Also, they’re not the best algae eaters, so you have to get them because you like the way they look.

They rarely leave the bottom of the tank, though, so you’ll never have a problem with them harassing your neons or other mid – upper tank fish.

Hatchetfish

Another bizarre looking fish on our list is the hatchetfish. Despite being named after a weapon, they are a peaceful community fish that will fit in well with neon tetras.

Marbled Hatchetfish | Source: Deposit Photos

They almost resemble a frog more than a fish.

They are also a bit unusual in that they like to hang out at the very top of the tank, rather than the mid-upper region where a lot of fish hang out.

As long as you don’t have any aggressive fish in your aquarium that might bully them, hatchet fish can be a good choice for your aquarium.

Honey Gourami

Next on the “great for neon tetras” list is the most peaceful of the gourami species.

Honey gourami are one of the few types of gourami that don’t try to bully other fish, and they have excellent coloration to boot.

Honey Gourami | Source: Deposit Photos

Typically, a male and female are kept together as a pair in an aquarium, and you can keep them in an aquarium that is 20 gallons or more.

Another thing that makes them a better choice over another commonly recommended gourami – the dwarf gourami – is that they are hardier. Dwarf gouramis are plagued by a disease known as dwarf gourami disease, and finding healthy dwarf gourami is very hit or miss.

Honey gourami are very shy, though, so make sure you have plenty of hiding spots for them.

Neon Rasbora

Another type of rasbora that do well with neon tetras is the blue or green neon rasbora. They have great coloration and are a less fin nippy alternative to cardinal tetras.

Blue Neon Rasbora | Source: Deposit Photos

Like with harlequin rasboras, you want to keep them in a group of at least 6, but they’ll be happier if you can get a larger group for your aquarium.

There’s not much else to say about them other than that they’re hardy, peaceful, and well worth your consideration.

Kuhli Loaches

If you’ve ever wanted to keep an eel in your aquarium, the kuhli loach is a fish you should consider adding.

Kuhli Loach | Source: Deposit Photos

They are a bottom dwelling fish, and they will get along well with neons and other peaceful mid-tank fish.

Honestly, kuhli loaches are one of the reasons I have such a hard time deciding what to put in the limited space in my main aquarium. They’re such good fish that it’s hard to decide between them and corydoras for the bottom of my tank.

Like corys, they do prefer sand, and they should be kept in groups of 6. (Though 3 is fine if you have a smaller tank.)

Platies

Another good livebearer – and one that gets larger than endlers or other guppies, at 2.5″ – is the platy.

Wagtail Platy | Source: Deposit Photos

These are a good alternative for goldfish in small aquariums or aquariums with small fish.

Because they are a livebearer, though, they will reproduce and eventually fill up your tank, so having somewhere else to put them eventually will be a good idea. (Or you can sell a few off.)

The nice things about them is that they get along well with neon tetras and will eat whatever you put in their aquarium.

Bristlenose Pleco

The bristlenose pleco is the best known pleco other than the common or sailfin pleco, and is a great choice for smaller aquariums. They have a variety of interesting colorations you can choose from, and they are decent (but not great) algae eaters.

Golden Bristlenose Pleco | ID 55468712 © Mirkorosenau | Dreamstime.com

Like with clown plecos, you should provide them driftwood to rasp on, and since they live at the bottom primarily, they won’t be an issue when kept with neons.

I’ve heard from other hobbiests that they can be a bit territorial, so you’ll want to be more careful adding other bottom dwelling species to your tank if you already have one of these.

On the plus side, feeding is easy – just drop in an algae wafer for them.

Zebra Loaches

Zebra loaches are another good species of loach to add into a tank with your tetras.

Zebra Loach | Source: Deposit Photos

If you get zebra loaches, you’ll want to get at least 6 of them, and you’ll want to provide each of them a tunnel (wood ideally) to make their home in.

Do this, and you’ll be rewarded with being able to watch them chase each other through the tunnels all day.

This isn’t the most easily found fish, due to its lower popularity, but it’s worth considering if you’re thinking about getting loaches for the aquarium with your neon tetras.

Apistogramma Cichlid

Probably the only cichlid that I would recommend keeping with neons (based on my limited knowledge of cichlids) is the apistogramma.

Orange Cockatoo Cichlid | Source: Deposit Photos

Neon tetras are commonly used as dither fish for apistogramma cichlids, and they can work well together.

You will want to have some knowledge about how to take care of cichlids, however, and this limit what other fish you can put in your aquarium. If you want a cichlid tank, however, this is a good option to put with your neons.

(Also, they come in a lot of shapes and colors other than the one I show above.)

Celestial Pearl Danio

The celestial pearl danio, also known as the galaxy rasbora, is another good option for a tank with neon tetras.

Celestial Pearl Danio | Source: Deposit Photos

Males are quite a bit more colorful than females, and they get to be around 1″ long.

They are a peaceful species of fish, and you can add them in with most things that are suitable tank mates for neon tetras.

Cherry Barb

Unlike some of the more aggressive barbs like tiger and – to a lesser extent – rosy barbs, cherry barbs make a good addition to a peaceful community tank.

Cherry Barb | Source: Deposit Photos

Cherry barbs are a great looking, peaceful fish that make a good addition to a tank with other small peaceful fish.

They can be a bit sensitive – I lost mine over a few weeks – but once you get them established, they are a very hardy fish.

They’ll do well with most common flake or floating pellet foods that are appropriately sized for them.

Amano Shrimp

Let’s leave fish for a minute. Neon tetras are great, but they still need a cleanup crew in their aquarium.

Amano shrimp are an excellent addition to that cleanup crew.

Amano Shrimp | Source: Deposit Photos

Amano shrimp are tireless – all day they scour your aquarium picking at and eating debris and algae.

Unlike a lot of algae eaters, amano shrimp will also eat hair algae.

In addition, they are peaceful, generally hardy, and easy to care for.

Mystery Snail

Mystery snails are another good addition to your cleanup crew. Like all snails, they make a good addition to an aquarium with neon tetras.

Mystery Snail | (C) Tiny Underwater | License: CC-BY-4.0

I have 4 mystery snails, and they drive around my aquarium day and night looking for things to eat.

They don’t harm my plants, but they will eat any leftover food, fish or shrimp that might die during the night, and soft algae.

They won’t get rid of an algae problem by themselves, but they certainly make a difference in keeping your aquarium clean.

Nerite Snails

Nerite snails are another good option for snails in an aquarium with neons.

spotted nerite snail (Neritina natalensis) eating on a rock in a fish tank

They can be a lot more colorful than mystery snails, and they also have the added advantage of eating hair algae.

Between the two, nerites will clean up more types of undesirables than a mystery snail will.

It does come with two disadvantages, though:

  • If it doesn’t like the conditions in your tank, it will leave. Nerite snails are notorious escape artists.
  • Nerite snails leave infertile eggs all over your aquarium, even if you only have one that never sees another nerite snail. These are tough and have to be scraped off.

Cardinia Shrimp

The most coloful type of shrimp I’m going to cover on this list is the bee shrimp (or cardinia). They come in a variety of colors, and all of them look amazing.

Cardinia Red Bee Shrimp | Source: Deposit Photos

You can keep quite a few of them in an aquarium due to their small bioload, and they will fit in well with neon tetras and most other peaceful community fish.

You have to be careful not to put anything that isn’t shrimp safe into the aquarium, of course, and provide them soft and slightly acidic water, but other than that they are happy to live in your aquarium and eat any algae or food that falls to the bottom of the aquarium.