Breeding the Neon Tetra

I have read almost everything I could find on this subject as it is a very real goal of my own to do this. Some reports were very encouraging and others were very skeptical about the chances of success. Clearly some people find this fish very easy to breed but from what I have read I don’t believe this to be the case generally.

There are many different parameters and potential obstacles to consider.

Firstly we need a pair of different genders that are mature enough to breed. They are not the easiest to sex when young as they all seem to look alike but as they grow and mature females will appear rounder and have a larger abdomen this results in her blue stripe appearing more bent than that of the male, the male’s stripe will appear far straighter and he is much slimmer and streamlined in appearance. So the first obstacle is that the differences in gender are not immediately obvious and difficult to distinguish until they are mature or fully grown.

Secondly Tetras in do best in very soft, acidic water. They may be able to suffer harder water but it is known this will not be conducive to breeding them. If you don’t have the right water parameters it can be very difficult to simulate them. Some people recommend the use of RO water or boiled rain water, others suggest boiling tap water for twenty minutes first and adding a peat substrate in your tank or peat medium to your filter. However people achieve these water conditions they seem to be crucial in the viability of fry. It is claimed for example that a female Neon Tetra kept in water of a hardness of 8 dH or above will become sterile. Fry are unlikely to be viable with anything above 4 dH from what I have read. This worries me because it could mean that I will be unable to breed my existing pair if their water conditions have been unsuitable long term.

Thirdly advice varies on how to induce spawning, most recommend a separate breeding tank for this and some believe a fifty percent water change is effective, others that raising the light levels gradually will do it. It has been suggested that males and females be conditioned separately in advance and that this is done by feeding high quality live foods. Also advice on planting and spawning materials varies wildly too. Many posts suggest the use of artificial spawning mops that are easier to keep sterile as opposed to natural plants such as Java Moss. Others suggest floating plants or layers of leaves. It is important to remember that whatever you put in the habitat could directly impact the water parameters. Some articles suggest using a filter from the start of the breeding process but  I found conflicting advice stating add the filter only after fry are free swimming. Almost all seem to agree that the breeding tank must be kept sterile for fry to emerge from the spawn and be viable and also that the parents must be removed immediately after spawning so they don’t eat the eggs.

Lastly the eggs and fry are both tiny and photosensitive making them tricky to raise. Dim lighting is widely agreed to better for Tetras although when it comes to breeding them I found that the majority of breeders suggested switching lights off after the spawning process and covering the tank so that it was in complete darkness for at least a few days and preferably up to a week. The tiny size of the fry means they are unable to eat larger foods initially and will survive off their yolk sac and other microscopic food already present in the tank. Most breeders will begin feeding four or five days after the fry have hatched on infusoria or green water, one post even suggested squeezing nutrients from a foam filter sponge into the tank. A week to ten days later they should be big enough to take freshly hatched brine shrimp, flake foods etc.

So this is what I know about breeding Neon Tetras to date. Doesn’t sound easy does it? There are many things that could go wrong.

In spite of this I am still determined to try.

The Neon Tetra breeding tank has been made as dark as possible using black gravel and taping a black bin bag round it to shut out the light.

The Neon Tetra breeding tank has been made as dark as possible using black gravel and taping a black bin bag round it to shut out the light.

I now have both Neon Tetras in the breeding tank. The male was introduced a day after the female. The tank has a black bin bag covering three sides to prevent light getting in and is now completely covered and the dim LED lighting strip has been switched off. There is no filter currently but I  have been doing partial water changes daily with aged boiled water.

The breeding tank contains black gravel that was boiled twice, three 10 cm wire meshes with Java Moss tied to them using clear fine fishing line, a heater and heater guard that were thoroughly cleaned and my pair of Neon Tetras. I have a tiny sponge filter that has a small cage filled with charcoal and peat balls but am unsure when it should be introduced. I have also been considering adding some of the peat balls to the dark gravel substrate to help acidify the water but have decided for now not to. If this experiment fails I can always try again in a couple of weeks and change the variables at that point.

I have spent around £40 in total buying things for the breeding tank. My shopping list included Java Moss, Wire Meshes and Fishing line, Peat balls, Liquifry and an Infusoria kit. Should I be successful in this attempt to breed the Tetras I may well purchase a Brine shrimp hatchery for feeding the fry. Wish me luck.


Developing the Larger Community Aquarium

It has always been my desire to invest in a much larger aquarium but the cost of such an item combined with delivery has always been beyond my affordability. I would love a 250 L tank but need to raise around £400 for this set up. Selling some of our fish will help to raise money but will not be enough on it’s own to achieve this.

Having the larger tank would allow us to create a habitat for larger fish such as the Angelfish. The larger tank could open up so many new opportunities. We could attempt to breed our Bristlenose if we got him a female partner or even try and breed the Angelfish. These fish are far more lucrative and valuable than our Live bearers or Tetras.

Fish orders are also expensive though and I could easily spend another £100 or more on fish. Due to our remote location there are always going to be risks in getting them here healthy and alive. If I get them from Oban they have to go through a five hour ordeal on a ferry before they reach their destination. If I purchase them online they are at the mercy of our mail service and the consideration of the seller when packaging them. Not to mention that the delivery costs of such fish would exceed their own value a lot of the time.

I have high hopes for expansion but as you might guess it is unlikely to be easy.


Hatching and growing Brineshrimp

I have considered that I may be more likely to succeed with breeding the Neon Tetra if I am able to condition them with live food first. Brine shrimp  as it is known or Artemia is a great food source for all of my fish. The eggs and salt mix I have purchased to hatch them into Nauplii seems like a good investment. The Nauplii are a great first food for fry but so tiny in size that my older more adult fish may not be so interested in them so it will be necessary to grow them to a larger size.

I very nearly bought a hatchery kit on eBay but discovered through a little more internet research that I already have all that I need to do this. I have air pumps and tubing and an empty plastic drinks bottle. and good heat and light sources. Once they have hatched I will be able to grow them on to a decent size to feed to my adult fish by placing them in a larger well lit, aerated tank with tiny amounts of the Spirulina food source on a daily basis. The whole process should take just a few weeks and they will then be big enough to be a healthy nutritious snack for my mature fish.

Eradicating the snail infestation

With the arrival of the much larger aquarium it is time to take the mission of eradicating snails seriously. I still have them present in my larger 60 L tanks although I seem to have been successful in eradicating them from my breeding tank. I have read all about various natural and chemical ways of trying to reduce a nuisance population of them.

Placing lettuce leaves and other green vegetables in the aquarium will attract them and allow them to be removed manually but it will not eradicate the snail spawn, over time this will reduce the population though and a few snails can actually be helpful for keeping a tank clear of algae or uneaten food which can also cause problems.The algae can suffocate aquatic plants, cloud the water and be unsightly, whereas uneaten food will rot and pollute the water causing harm to the fish.

Soaking all the tank decorations and plants in a bleach solution will kill adult snails and their spawn but it is risky because the bleach will also kill the fish population so a water conditioner will need to be used afterwards to remove all the chlorine before any of these items are placed back in an aquarium inhabited by fish. This is likely the method that I will use as the same techniques I have used in the past will prove much more difficult in my large 250 L aquarium.

It would be incredibly difficult to boil all the gravel and stones, clean the entire surface area of the tank, filter, heater and remove the snail spawn from all the plants and decor by hand in a tank that size. It makes more sense to eradicate the snail population once and for all from all my smaller tanks and treat any new aquatic plants first before introducing them to the larger tank. In the past I would dip my plants in “snail away” solution before adding them to my aquariums but I believe it was only effective in helping to remove the adult snails, so any snail spawn would later develop into a nuisance population.

The aquatic plants are a must for me, not only do I hate plastic ones but the benefits of real plants are huge for my fish. They help oxygenate the water, recycle fish waste, provide hiding places and are key to creating the perfect micro environment and habitat for my fish. They make the tank look interesting and provide a stunning natural background in the aquarium. They are the main cause of unwanted snail populations though.


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