What is Neon Tetra Disease and how can it be Prevented?

What is Neon Tetra Disease?

Neon tetras are a popular nano fish known for their beautiful, red and blue stripes, but sometimes they get a bad reputation for being a “sensitive” fish that is prone to dying. We have found that these tetras are as tough as other danios as rasboras. But there are many factors that could weaken their immunity or make them more susceptible to illness. Let’s discuss why neon tetras get sick, what is neon tetra disease, and how to prevent it.


Why Do Neon Tetras Get Sick?

The first reason why neon tetras may seem sickly is because they are kept in large numbers. They are in high demand so fish farms breed them in large numbers. Wholesalers procure thousands of them at a time, large batches get sent to your local pet store, and then the retail employee mixes the latest shipment of tetras with an existing group that hasn’t sold yet. When you keep tons of fish together, there is an increased risk that at least one of them is sick and will pass on their disease to others.

The facilities that neon tetras live in are often inadequately fed. The fish farms, wholesalers, and pet stores all want to spend the least amount of food and time with the fish as possible so that they can stay profitable. A whole tank of 100 tetras may only get a few pinches of fish flakes, which means not every fish gets a bite. For most fish, this practice works okay in the short term, but for neon tetras being kept in high-stress, overcrowded environments, you start to see diseases like ich, fungal infections, or even neon tetra disease.

Neon tetras are frequently kept in large numbers with little food and suboptimal conditions.

Neon tetras are popular among beginners because they’re inexpensive and colorful. Oftentimes, they don’t spend a lot of time looking up the care requirements and may buy a large bag of them to put in a tiny aquarium with poor water quality and aggressive tank mates. Neon tetras would have been more expensive at $10 each so people would be more careful about taking care of them. We believe that neon tetras don’t have to be more sensitive than other fish. They just need to be kept in worse conditions during the supply chain.

How to get healthier neon tetras

Buy the largest neon Tetras that you can, if possible. Sometimes they are sold as jumbo, XL, or large neon tetras. They are more expensive, but they are worth it. Fish farms have to feed these tetras more food in order to grow them to a certain size. At Aquarium Co-Op, we try to order the bigger, full-grown neon tetras, put them in quarantine, treatwith preventative medications, and feed them well. These best practices make it easier for our customers to be successful with their neon Tetras and more satisfied with our store.

When you bring your neon tetras back home, make sure they get enough food. Frozen bloodworms can be too big for small juveniles. Instead, give them baby brine shrimps, daphnias, cyclops and crushed up flakes. They also like to eat when the food is slowly sinking in water (rather that being on the ground), so make sure they have small meals throughout the day.

What is Neon Tetra Disease (NTD)?

NTD is the most common misdiagnosed disease in the hobby. Just because a neon tetra is sick doesn’t automatically mean that it has neon tetra disease. A tetra with white spots is likely to have ich. A white spot on your tetra could indicate NTD. However, it may also be a sign of other diseases. NTD is very rare. The white patches are more likely to be due to a fungal or common bacterial infection. The quarantine medication trio, which treats bacteria, yeast, and parasites, is recommended. Also, we recommend feeding fresh, healthy foods to the fish and providing good care. If the disease still doesn’t go away and is steadily knocking out fish over time, then you could have a case of NTD.

This neon tetra has a tiny white patch on its body that is hard to accurately diagnose without professional lab equipment and proper training.

NTD is often caused by mycobacterium, which is sometimes mistakenly called fish tuberculosis. It thrives in environments with warm water, low dissolved oxygen, low pH, and organically rich environments. These conditions are often found in tanks that contain neon tetras. Ruth Francis-Floyd, a Dr., states that poor husbandry, chronic stress, and any other factor that affects the immune system of fish increases the chance of an infection.

How to Prevent Neon Tetra Disease

Unfortunately, NTD currently cannot be cured and is highly contagious. Therefore, the best course of action is prevention and minimizing its spread. You should quarantine any new fish for several weeks in a separate container to monitor their health and to prevent them from being exposed to your animals. Use the quarantine tank to also help them recover after their stressful journey from the fish farm. Keep the water a little cooler at 74-76degF (23-24degC), don’t include any territorial tank mates, add an air stone or sponge filter for increased oxygenation, and feed a good mixture of healthy foods. You may have to euthanize a neon tetra that is sick or does not respond to your minstrations if it is a likely case of NTD.

Neon Tetras get curved spines because of this:

NTD can be described as a curving spine or twisted bodies. But we believe that malformed neon tetras are more likely to be a breeding issue. Fish farms have a lot of nano fish, and they don’t have the time or resources to sort through them all. To approximate the numbers of neon tetras for shipping, rather than counting them individually, they weigh them. Employees might not be able to pick out defective fish until the fish are delivered to the fish shop. This is because they don’t want the shop looking bad. You might not be able to see the spines of neon tetras until they grow larger.

A crooked spine is not a usual symptom of mycobacterium and instead may be caused by a birth defect or injury.

Bottom line: Neon tetras are not to be scared of. Our fish store has seen many thousands and even thousands of fish over the years. While we have had to lose a few fish to mycobacterium, NTD has never been seen in a large number of neon tetras. They are just as resilient as other schooling nano fish, and we believe they’re one of the best fish you can get for a beautiful display aquarium. Check out our preferred online fish vendors to get your own neon tetras today: