Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi

Common Names: Black neon tetra, black neon

Type Locality: Brazil: Coxim on the Rio Taquari,

Range: Paraguay, River basin

Taxonomic Troubles: This is the original name.

Size: 4 cm (1½ inches) TL.

Preferred Water Chemistry: Tropical freshwater. Not at all fussy about water chemistry. Fairly soft and neutral to acid is best for spawning.

Difficulty: Extremely hardy, long lived, and adaptable. Great for beginners.

Tank Setup: Must be kept in schools of a half dozen or more. Appreciates a planted tank. A very peaceful community member.

Feeding: Omnivorous. Will eagerly eat all types of foods.

Breeding: A rather easily bred tetra. Females are of a much heavier build than males. Condition a pair separately, then introduce to a spawning tank, bare except for some nylon mops or a bunch of plants. Remove the adults after spawning. The fry need microscopic foods at first, then can switch to baby brine shrimp.

Fish Description

For a fish that could accurately be described as “black and white,” this is a beautiful animal. First there’s the iridescent white stripe that gives it its neon appearance. Then the bright red top of the eye creates a scarlet “eyebrow.” Add in an alert, perky personality, and you have a perennial favorite.


Many South American characins sport iridescent lines along their bodies—blue in the Paracheirodon tetras, red in Hemigrammus erythrozonus, and white in this fish. Most likely these provide visual cues for the huge schools these fish sometimes form in the wild, but they are sought after by aquarists because of the color and movement they add to an aquarium. The hue and intensity of the stripes change as the fish move, playing the light onto themselves from different angles. Using lights that bring out these iridescent colors will greatly increase your enjoyment of these fishes.

Black neons are widely available, inexpensive, and very hardy, so there’s no excuse for keeping them other than in large schools. Like many schoolers, they will stick loosely together most of the time, tightening ranks when they feel threatened. This is an all-around great community tank resident.