Keeping Neon Tetra with Guppies – Here’s How - "Comunidad acuario" by El fosilmaníaco is licensed under CC BY 3.0.
Keeping Neon Tetra with Guppies – Here’s How - "Comunidad acuario" by El fosilmaníaco is licensed under CC BY 3.0.


Creating a vibrant and harmonious aquarium environment often involves combining species that can live together peacefully while enhancing the visual appeal of the tank. One such delightful combination is that of neon tetra with guppies, which brings together the dazzling colors and dynamic behaviors of two of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish. Keeping neon tetra with guppies not only adds a splash of color and activity to your aquarium but also offers an engaging experience in fish care and aquarium design. This guide aims to provide essential insights into successfully housing neon tetra with guppies, covering everything from their compatibility and behavior to tank setup and maintenance requirements.

About Neon Tetras and Guppies

The neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) and the guppy (Poecilia reticulata) are two of the most popular and colorful freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby. Their vibrant colors, ease of care, and peaceful nature make them favorite choices for both novice and experienced aquarists. Despite their differences, they share the ability to add beauty and liveliness to a community tank. Here’s a brief overview of each species:

Neon Tetra

  • Origins: Neon tetras are native to South America, specifically the clear water streams of the Amazon basin in countries like Brazil, Peru, and Colombia. They thrive in a tropical environment, hidden among dense vegetation and roots.
  • Appearance: They are known for their striking coloration, featuring a bright neon blue stripe that runs horizontally along the body, complemented by a vivid red stripe that starts from the middle of the body and extends to the tail. They typically grow up to 1.5 inches (4 cm) in length. Their small size and vibrant colors make them a standout in any aquarium.
  • Behavior: Neon tetras are peaceful, schooling fish that prefer to be in groups of six or more. Their schooling behavior is not only a defense mechanism against predators but also a beautiful display in the aquarium. They are active swimmers and spend most of their time in the middle layers of the water column.


  • Origins: Guppies are native to northeastern South America but have been introduced to many different habitats around the world. They are incredibly adaptable and can thrive in a variety of environmental conditions.
  • Appearance: Guppies are renowned for their dazzling array of colors and patterns, as well as their flowing tails. They exhibit a remarkable variety in coloration, ranging from solid colors to intricate patterns, making each guppy unique. Males are especially colorful and smaller than females, while females are larger and less colorful.
  • Behavior: Guppies are extremely hardy and adaptable, making them ideal for beginner aquarists. They are livebearers, meaning they give birth to free-swimming young rather than laying eggs. Guppies are sociable, peaceful fish that get along well with other species in a community tank. However, males can sometimes be persistent in pursuing females, so a balanced male-to-female ratio is recommended to reduce stress.

Both neon tetras and guppies share a preference for warm water and can often be kept together in the same tank, provided their environmental and social needs are met. They contribute to a dynamic and colorful aquarium, offering a delightful experience for any fish keeper.

Behavior and Compatibility of Neon Tetra with Guppies

Neon tetras and guppies are known for their peaceful nature and vivid colors, making them popular choices for community tanks. Understanding their social behaviors and compatibility is key to maintaining a harmonious aquarium. Here’s an in-depth look at their interactions and some tips for introducing them to each other.

Social Behaviors

  • Neon Tetras are schooling fish that thrive in groups. They display a strong social structure when kept in groups of six or more, which helps reduce stress and promotes natural behavior. This schooling tendency makes them less likely to bother other fish, as they are more focused on interacting within their group.
  • Guppies, on the other hand, are not schooling fish but are very social. Males often display to females and can engage in playful chasing. They are generally peaceful but can become persistent in their pursuit of females, which is something to monitor in a community setting to prevent stress.


The good news is that neon tetras and guppies are highly compatible with each other due to their peaceful dispositions. Both species prefer similar water conditions, with a temperature range of 72-78°F (22-26°C) and a neutral pH, making them suitable tank mates. Their different levels of activity and areas of the tank they prefer can complement each other, with neon tetras often swimming in the middle regions and guppies exploring all levels of the aquarium.

Potential Issues

While both species are generally peaceful, there are a few potential issues to watch for:

  • Overcrowding: Too many fish in a small space can lead to stress, competition for food, and increased aggression.
  • Male Guppy Behavior: Male guppies may occasionally harass other fish, including neon tetras, if there are not enough females to distract them. Keeping a higher ratio of females to males can mitigate this.
  • Fin Nipping: Though not common, stressed or bored neon tetras might nip at the long fins of male guppies. Ensuring adequate space and environmental enrichment can reduce this behavior.
Keeping Neon Tetra with Guppies – Here’s How - "Comunidad acuario" by El fosilmaníaco is licensed under CC BY 3.0.
Keeping Neon Tetra with Guppies – Here’s How – “Comunidad acuario” by El fosilmaníaco is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Tank Setup

Creating a tank setup that caters to the needs of both neon tetras and guppies is essential for their health, happiness, and overall well-being. Here are some recommendations for tank setup and decoration, as well as insights into the importance of filtration and water movement.

Tank Setup and Decoration

  • Tank Size: Start with a minimum tank size of 20 gallons. This size provides ample space for both species to swim freely and for you to create varied environments within the tank. Larger tanks are always better, as they provide more stable water conditions and more room for fish to exhibit natural behaviors.
  • Plants: Live plants are highly beneficial. They not only add to the aesthetic appeal of the tank but also provide hiding spots, reduce stress, and improve water quality. Species like Java fern, Anubias, and Amazon swords are great choices, as they are hardy and provide excellent cover and breeding grounds. Floating plants can also be added to create shaded areas and reduce brightness for fish that prefer dimmer conditions.
  • Hiding Spots: Both neon tetras and guppies appreciate hiding spots to retreat to when they feel stressed or need a break from the main swimming areas. Decorations like driftwood, caves, and commercially available aquarium decorations can serve this purpose. Ensure that any decoration does not have sharp edges that could harm the fish.
  • Open Swimming Areas: While it’s important to have plenty of plants and hiding spots, it’s equally important to leave open areas for swimming. Neon tetras, in particular, enjoy swimming in open water in schools, while guppies will explore all levels of the tank.
  • Substrate: A dark substrate can help the colors of both neon tetras and guppies stand out. Sand or fine gravel works well, allowing you to plant live plants securely while being gentle on the fish.

Filtration and Water Movement

  • Filtration: A high-quality filtration system is critical to maintaining water quality. It helps remove physical and chemical waste, keeping the water clean and clear. Choose a filter that is appropriate for the size of your tank and the bioload of your fish. For neon tetras and guppies, a filter that offers adjustable flow rates is ideal, as neither species appreciates overly strong currents.
  • Water Movement: Gentle water movement is beneficial as it helps distribute heat and nutrients evenly throughout the tank and ensures proper gas exchange. However, it’s important not to create strong currents that could stress the fish or make swimming difficult for them. If your filter creates too strong a flow, consider using a spray bar to diffuse the current or strategically placing decorations to break up the flow.
  • Regular Maintenance: Beyond the initial setup, regular maintenance is crucial. This includes regular water changes (typically 20-30% every two weeks, depending on the tank’s bioload), testing water parameters to ensure they remain within safe limits, and cleaning the substrate to remove detritus and uneaten food.

By carefully considering the needs of both neon tetras and guppies in your tank setup and maintaining proper water quality through filtration and water movement, you can create a thriving, dynamic aquarium environment. This not only enhances the well-being of your fish but also makes for a beautiful and engaging display in your home or office.


Successfully keeping neon tetra with guppies in the same aquarium is a rewarding experience that combines the beauty and grace of these two popular species. Through understanding their needs, behavior, and compatibility, aquarists can create a thriving community tank that showcases the vibrant colors and lively personalities of neon tetra with guppies. It’s important to remember that the key to harmony in a mixed-species tank lies in careful planning, regular maintenance, and a keen observation of the fish’s interactions and health. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, enthusiasts can enjoy the rewarding journey of keeping neon tetra with guppies, creating a peaceful and picturesque underwater world that captivates and delights.