Livebearers are the type of fish that give live birth.  There are about 500 or more species of fish that are Livebearers.  

The body of the pregnant female will protect the baby and defend it in the water.  The survival rates are higher in the livebearers than in the fish that are egg layers.  Neon Tetra is not livebearers.  They are egg layers and spawn.  

How to Tell Male vs. Female Neon Tetra


  • Generally have a flat belly
  • Smaller than the female
  • They have a straight blue stripe


  • They are larger than the male
  • They have a rounded belly
  • The blue stripe on their body is curved

At the age of four months, you can tell the difference between males and females.  

How Do Neon Tetra Mate and Breed

  • Tank Separation:  They are a difficult fish to breed as they will need very particular water conditions.  To breed neon tetra you will need to have a separate breeding tank to keep them under the right conditions.  The size aquarium should be no less than 10 gallons but if you have a group of neon tetra, then you should keep them in a 15-20 gallon tank. 
  • The Ideal Tank Conditions:  For mating, the water temperature should be 72-75 degrees Fahrenheit with a pH of 6.0-7.0 and a dGH of 1-2.  Instead of the regular filter, you will need to install a sponge filter.  The regular filter is a danger to both the eggs and fry.  As they tend to jump when spawning, make sure that you have a lid on the tank to prevent them from jumping out of the aquarium.
  • Spawning Period:  During their spawning period make sure that you are giving them the right water conditions, best food, and care before you put them in the new aquarium.  For the first day in the new aquarium, keep the light off in the aquarium.  Gradually increase the light from the second day to initiate the process of spawning.  They will generally spawn in the morning around dawn and will release 60-100 eggs at a time.  The eggs will be slightly transparent and adhesive.  You will be able to see the eggs all over the aquarium floor at various spots or any plants in the aquarium.  The male will immediately start to fertilize them as soon as she has laid them.  Since the parents have no maternal instincts, you should remove them from the breeding tank immediately so they do not eat the eggs.
  • Egg Hatching:  Their eggs look like a tiny clear globe.  If you see a black dot inside, this means that it was fertilized.  The eggs will start to hatch within 24 hours after they are fertilized so now it is your responsibility to take care of them.  The Fry and eggs are both very sensitive to bright sharp light so make sure that you keep the tank lights dim.  You can do this by covering the aquarium with cardboard.  After they have hatched, they will survive for the first few days feeding on their own egg sack.  Generally out of all the eggs born and fertilized, only about 30-40 fry will survive.  They will seem like glass splinters swimming in the aquarium.
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neon tetras banch

Taking Care of the Fry

After three to four days, they will grow into a free swimmer.  It is at this stage in their life where you will need to start feeding them the special diet designed just for fry.  The ideal food is commercially prepared liquid food for fry.   You can also use powdered egg yolk.  Just make sure that you remove any excess food before it begins to decay.  If this happens, it will poison the water.  In a few weeks, they will be large enough to eat brine shrimp.

Growth into Adult

After a month they will start to develop their adult traits.  When they turn three months old, they will be able to be put back in the regular aquarium with the other adult fish.

Why Some Think Neon Tetra are Livebearers

When a neon tetra is full of eggs, they look pregnant with an extensive swollen abdomen so many think that she is pregnant with babies when she is really full of eggs.  If you have had no experience with neon tetra fish, understandably, a person would think this.  Also, neon tetra fish are similar to mollies, guppies, platies, and swordtail fish, which are all livebearer fish.

happy neon tetra

What to Do if Your Neon Tetra Is Not Breeding

If your neon tetra is not breeding, the first thing that you should do is check the temperature and pH of the water.  If it is not right, then you will need to soften the water some more and then adjust the temperature of the water and adjust the lighting as you needed. 

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Even if you have bred these fish before all neon tetras are not the same so it may take some experimenting and time to get the conditions right just for this pair of neon tetra to breed.  When you soften the water, it will usually trigger spawning because it will mimic rainfall.  


  • The neon tetras reach sexual maturity between four and six months of age.
  • You should not breed neon tetra fish until they are 10-12 months old as they live 8-10 years so they have plenty of time to breed.
  • When you get them at the pet store it is hard to pick out the females and males since there are so many so you should get at least six and hope that you get some of each.
  • Their blue/red coloring is transparent and in the wild, it will help them to hide from predators.  If they really feel threatened they can turn off their iridescent hue to stay safe.  When they are sleeping or sick their color will also fade.
  • After the babies are born, keep them in the dark for about five days.
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Hi! I'm Anna and I´m a certified cynologist (KAU, ACW). Expert, blue cross volunteer, owner of Chinese crested kennel "Salvador Dali" and breedless friend called Fenya. "I can't imagine my life without dogs and I totally support the idea #AdoptDontShop".