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Why Your Neon Tetra Is Not Eating!

Due to neon tetras being such a beginner friendly species that can work well in most entry-level aquarium setups, neon tetras are commonly recommended to people who are new to the fish keeping hobby.

Although they are a relatively easy fish to care for that look great and have a low price tag, there can commonly be problems with neon tetras that are usually very easy to fix and one of the most common problems that we see people having is that their neon tetras are not eating.

The most common reason that your neon tetras are not eating is usually due to the fish being new to their aquarium as it is totally natural for many species of fish to avoid eating for a day or two in a new environment.

It can also be common for beginners to try and feed them pellets or large flakes when neon tetras require small flakes as well as people using a surface flake when neon tetras are a mid level fish and don’t like to eat at the surface.

There are some less common problems such as issues with an internal parasite infection in your neon tetras that can sometimes prevent them from eating but these are rare.

A neon tetra that is having problems with an internal parasite infection will usually look bloated or fatter than usual and most of these infections can be treated with ease with a regular parasite treatment for fish.

Why Did My Tetra Fish Stop Eating?

Most neon tetras will not eat for a day or two when in a new aquarium and may not eat for a day or two after a water change in their tank with this being considered normal for the species.

Many people new to fish keeping offer neon tetras a food that is unsuitable for them with this being a real problem as they require small flakes that will sink to the mid level of the tank for them to eat.

This is partly due to irresponsible pet stores selling people an unsuitable fish food product for their fish when purchasing them.

We would always recommend that you try to purchase your fish and fish food from a local fish store if possible as they tend to have a better range of knowledge and will be able to make sure that you get everything you need for your neon tetras to be happy when you purchase them rather than just selling you anything they have in stock like some chain pet stores.

As we covered in our article going over bloated neon tetras, there can be some problems with water parameters in an aquarium as well as a number of other issues that can sometimes bloat a neon tetra up and make it difficult for the fish to eat.

This does tend to be rare though and we cover these problems in more detail in that article if you suspect bloat may be the problem that your neon tetra is having.

How Do I Get My Neon Tetras To Eat?

The majority of people who have neon tetras that are not eating will usually be able to fix the problem by switching to a small flake fish food that will sink.

Large flake, floating fish foods and the vast majority of pellet fish foods are not suitable for neon tetras and it is sometimes impossible for the fish to eat them due to the large size of the food and the small size of the mouth of your tetras.

There are some excellent fish food options on the market for neon tetras that are ready to go right out of the tub that have an excellent reputation within the fish keeping community as well as a low price tag.

If you already have a flake based fish food and it is just too large for your neon tetras to eat then you can try to crush the flakes up in your hands before you add the flakes to your aquarium water.

We know that there are people on social media who say that pellets are fine for neon tetras and there are a very small number of pellets that can work as the primary fish food for neon tetras but we don’t recommend them.

You will almost always be better off going with flakes as you can easily crush them up into smaller parts to make it as easy as possible for your neon tetras to eat them if required and it can be difficult to find the pellet based fish foods that are small enough for neon tetras to eat depending on where you live.

Do Neon Tetras Eat At The Surface?

Neon tetras can eat at the surface of their aquariums in some situations but this does tend to be rare and it is unlikely that neon tetras will consistently eat at the surface level of the tank as they are a mid level fish.

If you have a floating fish food that has been designed to float on the surface for as long as possible then this can become a problem as the food your neon tetras are able to eat can be restricted.

Not only does this make it problematic to ensure that your neon tetras are getting the nutrition that they require but it can also increase the tank maintenance required if the fish food is left to go bad in your tank.

If you are keeping your neon tetras in a community tank with other fish that will eat at the surface then it can be difficult to even realize that your neon tetras are not actually eating as the other fish in the tank will eat the food from the surface making it look like all the food is being eaten by your fish when only a small number of fish are actually being fed.

This is why we would always recommend that you go with a suitable fish food for neon tetras if possible.

Not only will those flakes sink as required so your tetras are able to feed at their preferred water level in your aquarium but the flakes are also small and easy to break down so your tetras can easily eat them with their tiny mouths.

How Long Can A Neon Tetra Live Without Food?

Neon tetras can live for around five days with minimal food without the fish having any long term health problems.

The species can technically survive for longer periods of time without food but the longer a neon tetra goes without food the higher the chances are that the fish will have problems in the future.

This is why it is so important that you do your best to notice any potential feeding problems with your neon tetras as early as possible.

As we covered in the section above, it can be difficult to know that your neon tetras are not eating in community tanks if you are offering your fish a floating large flake food option so it is definitely easy to miss.

Neon tetras are omnivores so they will try to eat algae in their tank if they are not able to get much fish food but most aquarium setups will not have enough algae in the tank to sustain even a small school of neon tetras for long.


That brings our article going over why your neon tetras are not eating and how to get them to eat quickly to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you and this really is a common mistake that people new to fish keeping make over and over again so you are not alone in having this problem. The majority of the time, just switching over to a suitable fish food product for your neon tetras will be enough for the fish to start eating again and thrive in your aquarium.