What is Neon Tetra Disease?

Photo of author


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

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. These tetras have proven to be just as resilient as other danios or rasboras. However, there are a few factors that can weaken their immunity and increase their risk of getting sick. 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. Because they are always in high demand, fish farms raise them in huge numbers. Wholesalers buy thousands of them at once, and large quantities get shipped to your local pet shop. Next, the retail employee mixes the newest shipment with an already-sold group. There is a greater chance that one fish will become sick if you have a lot of them.

The facilities that neon tetras live in are often inadequately fed. Fish farms, wholesalers, pet shops, and pet shops all strive to spend as little time with fish as possible, in order for them to be profitable. A whole tank of 100 tetras may only get a few pinches of fish flakes, which means not every fish gets a bite. While this is a good practice for most fish, it can cause problems in the long-term. Neon tetras are often kept in stressful, overcrowded environments that lead to diseases such as ich, fungal infections or neon tetra illness.

Neon Tetras are often kept in large numbers and with limited food.

Because they are inexpensive and brightly colored, beginners often buy neon tetras. 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. People would be more cautious and educated if neon tetras cost $10 per each. 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 Make Your Neon Tetras Healthier

If possible, try to buy the biggest neon tetras you can. These tetras are sometimes sold as jumbo or XL sized. While they usually cost more, it’s well-worth the price because fish farms must feed more food to these tetras in order to raise 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 help our customers be more successful with their neon tetras and ultimately more satisfied with our store.

After you take your neon tetras home, help them to reach a healthy weight by feeding a wide variety of tiny foods. Frozen bloodworms may be too large for little juveniles, so instead try baby brine shrimp, daphnia, cyclops, crushed up flakes, and micro pellets. You can also give them small meals throughout your day to maximize their effectiveness.

What is Neon Tetra Disease (NTD)?

NTD is the most common misdiagnosed disease in the hobby. A neon tetra that is sick does not automatically mean it has neonatal disease. Your tetra may have ich if it has white spots. If your tetra has a white patch, it could be symptom of NTD, but it could also be a symptom of many other illnesses. NTD is fairly rare, so the white patch is more likely caused by a common bacterial or fungal infection. The trio of quarantine medications (which treat bacteria, fungus and parasites) is recommended. We also recommend building the fish’s immunity through fresh food and 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.

The neon tetra’s body has a tiny white area that can be hard to identify without proper training.

NTD can be caused by a mycobacterium which is sometimes misidentified with fish tuberculosis. It thrives when it is exposed to warm water, low levels of dissolved oxygen, low pH, or organically rich environments. Many of these conditions often exist in tanks where neon tetras are kept. 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

NTD cannot be curable at the moment and can spread quickly. Therefore, the best course of action is prevention and minimizing its spread. Keep all new fish quarantined in separate containers for several weeks so that you can monitor them for any health problems and protect 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:

A curved spine or twisted body is often touted as a symptom of NTD, but we believe malformed neon tetras tend 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. Instead of counting each one, the workers weigh the neon Tetras in order to approximate their shipping numbers. It’s only once they land at the fish store that employees might have time to scoop out the defective fish because they don’t want the shop to look bad. If you buy neon tetras when they are really small, it can be hard to tell which ones have bad spines, and the problem won’t be apparent until they get older and bigger.

A crooked spine may not be a common symptom of mycobacterium, but could instead be a result of a birth defect or injury.

Bottom line: don’t be afraid of neon tetras or neon tetra disease. 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. Get your neon tetras from one of our favorite online fish sellers today!