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

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. 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?

Because neon tetras are kept in large numbers, the first reason they may appear sickly is that they are often kept in high numbers. Fish farms know they are always in demand and therefore breed them in massive quantities. Wholesalers purchase thousands at a given time. Large quantities are then sent to local pet shops. Then, the retail employee mixes the new shipment with an older group that hasn’t yet sold. 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.

Also, neon tetras are often underfed in the different facilities where they are kept. 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. 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 often kept in large numbers and with limited food.

Finally, many beginners tend to buy neon tetras because they are colorful and cheap. 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. If neon tetras were pricier and cost $10 each, people would likely be more careful and do research on proper husbandry before taking them home. 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

Try to get the largest neon tetras possible. Sometimes they are sold as jumbo, XL, or large neon tetras. 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 allow our customers to be more successful with their neons tetras, and ultimately happier with our store.

You can help your neon tetras reach a healthy weight once they are home. Frozen bloodworms may be too large for little juveniles, so instead try baby brine shrimp, daphnia, cyclops, crushed up flakes, and micro pellets. 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 is one the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions 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. A white spot on your tetra could indicate NTD. However, it may also be a sign of other diseases. The possibility of NTD is rare so the white patches could be caused by a fungal or 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. NTD is a condition where the disease continues to affect fish and kills them over time.

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 caused by a mycobacterium that is sometimes misidentified as fish tuberculosis. It thrives in warm water, low dissolved oxygen and low pH. 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. 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. The water should be kept at 74-76degF (23-24degC). Do not include territorial tank mates. Add an air stone or sponge filter to increase oxygenation and provide a variety of healthy food. If you spot a sick neon tetra that likely has NTD and does not respond to your ministrations, you may need to consider euthanizing it to save the rest of the school.

Why do Neon Tetras Get Curved Spines?

NTD is commonly referred to as a sign of a bent spine or twisted body. However, we believe malformed neon Tetras are a breeding problem. 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. 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 is not a usual symptom of mycobacterium and instead may be caused by a birth defect or injury.

Bottom line: Don’t be afraid about neon tetras and neon tetra diseases. Over the years, our fish shop has seen thousands to thousands of fish. Although we have lost some fish to mycobacterium over time, we have never witnessed NTD spread or wipe out entire tanks 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. To order your neon tetras, check out our top online fish vendors: