Neon Tetras - Will Fewer Than 6 Get Lonely?

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Offline ros77uk

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Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« on: July 02, 2018, 12:30:59 PM »
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I have a new 14 litre tank, and I love it already.  ;D  I used to have much larger tanks, but my health issues mean I cannot carry heavy buckets of water around.

I would love to have neons - they are my favourite fish - but to have six in a 14 litre tank seems unkind.  If I just had three or four - would this be unkind as well? What do you think?

Online Sue

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2018, 03:22:21 PM »
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I'm sorry to say but 14 litres is too small for any neons. They must have a tank with a footprint of at least 60 x 30 cm.

There are very few fish that are suitable for 14 litres. The only one I can think of at the moment is a betta, though it is really a bit small for even a betta which needs 19 litres minimum.
It would make an excellent shrimp tank though, especially if it was planted with live plants as well.

Fish Community Creator Tanks
Siamese Fighting Fish (male) (1) - Snails (1) - Slender Harlequin (15) - Peacock Goby (4) - Otocinclus (5) - Pygmy Cory (3) - Axelrods Rasbora (5) - Japonica Shrimp (80) - Snails (5) - Neon Tetra (18) - Honey Gourami (1) -
Note: The user may not necessarily own these fish, these are tanks that they may be building or researching for stocking purposes


Offline fcmf

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2018, 07:24:41 PM »
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I do empathise with your situation for reasons I'll not go into. www.seriouslyfish.com is an internationally well-renowned and up-to-date source of various species of fish and their requirements and that's where the source of the evidence is that Sue cites. From it, you'll see that almost all fish require a footprint of 60x30cm as, even tiny nano/miniature species (much smaller than neon tetra) tend to need to be in numbers of 8-10 minimum. There are a very few species which might do ok in a 45x30 cm footprint tank but they have so many other requirements in terms of water hardness/softness levels that they might not be suitable (eg bororas brigittae).

So, essentially, your options are:
* use the 14-litre tank as a shrimp and/or snail tank, ideally with live plants [as Sue already suggests];
...and/or...
* buy a tank of 60x30cm footprint, if you were able to do small water changes daily (eg would 10% daily water changes into / from a small container such as siphoning/emptying into a 6-litre container and pouring in several times from a 2-litre jug be an option for you?) rather than a larger weekly water change.

Hope that helps.

Fish Community Creator Tanks
X-ray Tetra (5) - Harlequin Rasbora (6) - Cardinal Tetra (3) - Sparkling Gourami (2) - Ram / Butterfly Cichlid (2) - Cherry Barb (3) - Blue Tetra (1) - Ember Tetra (1) - Golden Pencilfish (2) - Glowlight Tetra (1) - Agassiz's Dwarf Cichlid (2) - Galaxy Rasbora (1) - Lampeye Panchax (1) -
Note: The user may not necessarily own these fish, these are tanks that they may be building or researching for stocking purposes


Offline Littlefish

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2018, 07:28:52 PM »
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Shrimp are lovely.  ;D

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2018, 07:34:00 PM »
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@Matt  has done an aquascape in a 12 litre tank, so I'm sure he'd give you some tips.
https://www.instagram.com/scapeeasy/
Pop a few shrimp in and you have an attractive and interesting tank.  :)

Offline ros77uk

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2018, 11:13:28 PM »
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Sorry, I must be one of the few people in the world who can't abide shrimps.  All those wiggly legs are just like insects/spiders! Ugh!

And, as I have been an avid gardener for the past 40 years, anything with the name 'snail' in it makes me instantly hate it! LOL

Bettas just don't make me smile.  Isn't there anything else? Or am I going to be looking at a planted tank?

Online TopCookie

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2018, 11:35:40 PM »
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Hi Ros and welcome to the forum...  :) 

Have a look at this for some possible ideas: 

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhyjQmfD3cg" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhyjQmfD3cg</a>

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2018, 07:34:18 AM »
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Good call @TopCookie
One dwarf puffer could go into your tank @ros77uk and they are so adorable. What is your water hardness?
http://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/carinotetraodon-travancoricus/

Seriously fish suggest larger tank sizes for some of the other fish in the clip, but you could have 1 dwarf puffer in your tank. They are very inquisitive fish, so you'd have to put things in the tank for it to explore (plants, caves, etc.), they are an absolute devil for coming to the front of the tank and begging for food, and their cute little faces are difficult to resist - as you may be able to tell, I do have dwarf puffers.  ;D

Online Sue

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2018, 09:56:07 AM »
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The chap in the video seems to class nano tanks as 10 gallon (37.5 litre) tanks rather than 10 litre (2.6 gallon) tanks.

I will make some comments on his list for anyone else reading this and believing what the chap in the video says.

#5 Pea puffer. Just one would be fine provided the water hardness is between 5 and 15 dH - that is, not in very soft water. And the tank will need lots of live plants. Note it's dietary requirements in Littlefish's link.
#4 Boraras urophthamoides - needs a bigger thank than 10 litres. One with a footprint of 45 x 30 cm, which is roughly 40 litres volume or 10 galls. They will also be wild caught so will need soft water with a low pH. The same applies to all the other species in the Boraras genus.
#3 Pygmy cory. Again this needs a 45 x 30 cm, 40 litre tank. And they need to be in a group of at least 10 to do well.
#2 White cloud mountain minnows - of any colour. These are not nano tank fish despite what the chap says. They need a tank at least 60 x 30 cm, or 60 litres. They are also temperate fish, not tropical.
#1 Chili rasbora. This is Boraras brigittae, and it's needs are identical to fish #4. A 40 litre tank, and soft acid water as they too will be wild caught.

Fish Community Creator Tanks
Siamese Fighting Fish (male) (1) - Snails (1) - Slender Harlequin (15) - Peacock Goby (4) - Otocinclus (5) - Pygmy Cory (3) - Axelrods Rasbora (5) - Japonica Shrimp (80) - Snails (5) - Neon Tetra (18) - Honey Gourami (1) -
Note: The user may not necessarily own these fish, these are tanks that they may be building or researching for stocking purposes


Offline ros77uk

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2018, 01:37:03 PM »
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I did enjoy looking at the clip about nano fish; thank you so much for it.  If nothing else, it was encouraging to think that there are tiny fish out there! :fishy1:

The CC on here says I can have 4-6 salt-and-pepper cories (love 'em already!).  I was thinking of the chili rasbora, but unfortunately that is not a fish in the CC's database.  Is there an equivalent in the database that I could use to make a community comparison with?

I was even contemplating getting a 16 litre tank instead (read: as well as, MTS!) which has a length of 35.5 cm. 

The closest I can come to the neon tetra is arriving today - a background poster with a shoal of them!

Offline fcmf

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #10 on: July 04, 2018, 01:50:38 PM »
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Hi Ros,

If a fish doesn't exist on the CC, it's worth checking seriouslyfish.com for their requirements and as it is a more up-to-date source. Nano fish such as the bororas brigittae is very similar to the chili rasbora - unfortunately, though, it requires a larger tank size than you have (http://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/boraras-brigittae/). See my earlier post in this thread for more detail and around tank size advice.  :)

Fish Community Creator Tanks
X-ray Tetra (5) - Harlequin Rasbora (6) - Cardinal Tetra (3) - Sparkling Gourami (2) - Ram / Butterfly Cichlid (2) - Cherry Barb (3) - Blue Tetra (1) - Ember Tetra (1) - Golden Pencilfish (2) - Glowlight Tetra (1) - Agassiz's Dwarf Cichlid (2) - Galaxy Rasbora (1) - Lampeye Panchax (1) -
Note: The user may not necessarily own these fish, these are tanks that they may be building or researching for stocking purposes


Online Sue

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #11 on: July 04, 2018, 03:34:40 PM »
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I'm afraid both the salt & pepper cories and the chili rasboras need a bigger tank.

16 litres is no better than a 14 litre in terms of fish you can keep. If you got a 25 litre tank a betta would be suitable provided you do not have hard water. But a 40-ish litre tank would mean you could keep fish like cories and chili rasboras.

Most small shoaling fish are wild caught which means they must have water in the middle of the hardness and pH range as given on Seriously Fish. Commercially raised fish can cope with water slightly outside these parameters but wild caught fish cannot. All species of Boraras need soft water.

Fish Community Creator Tanks
Siamese Fighting Fish (male) (1) - Snails (1) - Slender Harlequin (15) - Peacock Goby (4) - Otocinclus (5) - Pygmy Cory (3) - Axelrods Rasbora (5) - Japonica Shrimp (80) - Snails (5) - Neon Tetra (18) - Honey Gourami (1) -
Note: The user may not necessarily own these fish, these are tanks that they may be building or researching for stocking purposes


Offline ros77uk

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #12 on: July 04, 2018, 07:10:28 PM »
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Firstly, I want to thank everybody for their kindness and generosity in sharing their knowledge and experience.

Please know though, that I simply can't have a 40L or 60 x 30 tank.  I can't afford it, my health issues mean I won't be able to cope with it, and I live in a tiny flat which means I just don't have the space.  It feels like I'm being pushed by some sites towards building an aviary, when all I want is one budgie.

Why did the CC tell me that the salt-and-pepper cory needs a tank minimum of 30, if actually it doesn't? and that my small tank would be sufficient? Although I hate to sound like a newbie: why can't I keep a maximum 2" fish (like the sparkling gourami) - just one, no other fish at all, just plants?

Scarlet badis? not in the thinkfish database, and hardly any details on seriouslyfish.  I like the look of the dwarf puffer - but it's got teeth!  I remember feeding the cichlids in my father's tropical fish shop - if you held a bit of chicken meat just above the water, they would jump out and bite it out of your fingers! :yikes:

Online Sue

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2018, 07:35:24 PM »
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The problem with the CC is that it's a bit out of date. This is the current version of the forum; there was another before this but it was lost when the then owner was given a week's notice to find a new host. I joined the old forum in 2006, and all the fish profiles had been written before that. You will find in older books that recommended tank sizes were smaller in years gone by, and I'm afraid some entries in the fish profiles on here still use those older recommendations.
The other problem is that we now know that the three dwarf cory species need groups of at least 10 to do well, and a 30 cm long tank doesn't have enough floor space for 10 cories.

Scarlet badis again need a 45 x 30 cm tank. I've often fancied these fish myself but their need for live food always put me off. And the fact that a lot of shops only sell males.



Do you have soft water, hard water or middling water? That info should be somewhere on your water company's website. If you can't find it, tell us the name of the company and we;ll see if we can find where they hide it.

If you have soft to middling water, I would suggest a male betta (siamese fighting fish). If you have hard water, one pea puffer.
With both these fish, get live plants. They don't have to be anything fancy - java fern or anubias attached to wood would work nicely. And with a betta, some form of floating plant. I have just put some Brazilian pennywort in my tank and left it to float. My new betta likes swimming through the stems.

Fish Community Creator Tanks
Siamese Fighting Fish (male) (1) - Snails (1) - Slender Harlequin (15) - Peacock Goby (4) - Otocinclus (5) - Pygmy Cory (3) - Axelrods Rasbora (5) - Japonica Shrimp (80) - Snails (5) - Neon Tetra (18) - Honey Gourami (1) -
Note: The user may not necessarily own these fish, these are tanks that they may be building or researching for stocking purposes


Offline Littlefish

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #14 on: July 04, 2018, 07:47:16 PM »
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Larger tanks usually mean more choice of fish, along with more stable water conditions, which is partly why small tanks can be difficult. Sometimes we can see a small fish and think it could be fine in a small tank, only to find that it is very active and a very fast swimmer, so needs a larger tank just to be able to accommodate its behaviour rather than size.
The wonderful world of aquatics is huge, with so many species of fish that we can't cover all of them on the CC. Research, work on fish health, new species, additional information on existing species, this sort of new information is being made available constantly, and it is very difficult for any general resource (such as this forum) to keep up. We try to guide people towards the most up-to-date information, and offer as much advice as we can to promote fish health. At the end of the day the final decision is yours.
I completely understand why you can't have a larger tank. I would still suggest the dwarf puffer, and don't worry about the teeth, their mouths are so tiny, and their teeth don't need trimming like those of larger puffers.
https://forums.thinkfish.co.uk/gallery-showcase/upgraded-dwarf-puffer-tank-littlefish/

I see that Sue has posted, and I hope that what I've written just adds to what she has written.

Offline fcmf

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2018, 07:53:37 PM »
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It feels like I'm being pushed by some sites towards building an aviary, when all I want is one budgie.
why can't I keep a maximum 2" fish (like the sparkling gourami) - just one, no other fish at all, just plants?
Fish, not kept in line with what both research and experience reveal to be basic requirements, tend to succumb to an early demise. As pet/fish owners, we are responsible for doing the research and ensuring that we meet their needs. You'll see from the Seriously Fish website that sparkling gourami need a 45x30cm-footprint tank and need to be kept in at least a pair or trio - these figures and this information doesn't translate through to keeping fewer in a smaller tank.

When I first started tropical fishkeeping, I had a look round the LFS and had my heart set on certain fish. It was only through research on sites such as and especially this one that I realised that the fish I wanted would not have been at all suitable for my soft water or my small tank size. This was quite a disappointment and took a week or two to get used to. I also realised that what I wanted had to come secondary to what the fish required and I had to find what would be compatible with what I could provide. I was soon, and remain, extremely happy with my tank and its inhabitants - I would love more, and frequently go through "broody phases" for more, but know it would not be fair on the fish to over-stock the tank.

Fish Community Creator Tanks
X-ray Tetra (5) - Harlequin Rasbora (6) - Cardinal Tetra (3) - Sparkling Gourami (2) - Ram / Butterfly Cichlid (2) - Cherry Barb (3) - Blue Tetra (1) - Ember Tetra (1) - Golden Pencilfish (2) - Glowlight Tetra (1) - Agassiz's Dwarf Cichlid (2) - Galaxy Rasbora (1) - Lampeye Panchax (1) -
Note: The user may not necessarily own these fish, these are tanks that they may be building or researching for stocking purposes


Online Sue

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #16 on: July 04, 2018, 07:53:58 PM »
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@Littlefish You've explained things better than me  ;D

Fish Community Creator Tanks
Siamese Fighting Fish (male) (1) - Snails (1) - Slender Harlequin (15) - Peacock Goby (4) - Otocinclus (5) - Pygmy Cory (3) - Axelrods Rasbora (5) - Japonica Shrimp (80) - Snails (5) - Neon Tetra (18) - Honey Gourami (1) -
Note: The user may not necessarily own these fish, these are tanks that they may be building or researching for stocking purposes


Offline Littlefish

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #17 on: July 04, 2018, 08:03:08 PM »
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Thanks @Sue that's very kind of you.

@fcmf when I first started I had my heart set on certain fish, only to find out that they were only suitable for soft water conditions, which is certainly not what I have. I'm still very partial to the rummy nose tetra, and can't help myself from stopping to have a look at the at the LFS.  ::)

Offline ros77uk

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #18 on: July 04, 2018, 11:10:09 PM »
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Just checked the hardness of my water - Wessex Water - and it is 'moderately hard'.
Calcium: 76 mg/l
Calcium Carbonate: 190 mg/l
Degrees Clark: 13.31
Degrees German: 10.64
Degrees French: 19.01

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #19 on: July 05, 2018, 07:31:04 AM »
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I wish that I had your water.  :)
Mine is much harder, at 17 degrees German, and causes me all sorts of problems, from limescale in the kettle to hard water marks on the glass of my tanks.
As this relates to the fish discussed earlier in the thread:-

It's fine for a dwarf puffer, which has a range of 5-25 degrees german.
http://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/carinotetraodon-travancoricus/
https://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/features/articles/how-to-keep-dwarf-puffer-fish
http://www.aquariadise.com/spotlight-dwarf-puffer/
If you look at the Seriously Fish link an adult dwarf puffer really is only around the size of the one in the picture, they are tiny. They are carnivores, so something like frozen bloodworm (comes in cubes, defrost as required) is perfect, and they actually eat is a bit like the spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp. Although they are a very active fish, always on the go, they are not fast swimmers, and I tend to think of their style as "general pottering around", although my favourite is in an article that I can't find at the moment, where it is described as having the swimming style of "an inebriated cow". They are fine as a single fish, active, inquisitive, and adorably cute. They will never jump out of the water and go for your fingers, they have neither the body shape nor fin size for those sorts of antics, their tactic for extra food is to look at you with their big eyes and wait until you cave in.

Your water is also suitable for a betta,
https://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/betta-splendens/
https://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/news2014/guidelines-released-for-keeping-fighters
https://bettafish.org/care/
I note that earlier in the thread you have said that they just don't make you smile. Everyone has their own preferences with fish. Some don't like surface feeders (like the betta) because their mouths turn down (easier to feed at the surface), which makes them look grumpy. There are so many different types of betta, so you might want to have a look online to see if there is a style/colour that you do like. Due to the size of your tank I would recommend looking at the plakat bettas, which have shorter fins. Bettas with the really huge fins are beautiful, though can sometimes find swimming/maneuvering a bit more tricky. I have 2 betta tanks. These fish are very bright, and they also interact with their keepers, beg for food, etc. and also enjoy exploring their tank.

I have both shrimp and snails, and completely understand what you have said about them (I'm also a keen gardener). We will keep searching to see if there is anything else that may be suitable for your tank, but I'm not holding out much hope for finding anything else that would be generally available within the aquatics trade.

Offline ros77uk

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #20 on: July 05, 2018, 09:33:08 AM »
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Thank you so much for your comprehensive answer.  I laughed at the 'pottering around' - that's pretty much all I am able to do now, so the puffer fish and I would match!

I understand what you said about perhaps being more attracted to a different style of betta, and how the shape of their mouth often makes them look 'grumpy'.  My thoughts exactly!

Lots of lovely links for me to visit and read.  I am so glad I did this research BEFORE I went out and bought fish. (Is there an emoticon for 'phew! relieved')  Still sad that I won't be able to have the fish I had set my heart on, but the fish comes first.

Thank you again.

Online Sue

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #21 on: July 05, 2018, 10:01:14 AM »
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Just to add:

Puffers and bettas appreciate live plants. As I mentioned earlier they don't need to be anything fancy. I have lots of java fern and anubias in my tanks. I have these attached to wood which makes cleaning the tank easier - just move the wood out of the way.
If you get live plants before the fish you won't need to cycle the tank first, just test for ammonia and nitrite for several days afterwards to make sure the plants are taking up all the ammonia made by the fish.

If you would rather have fake plants though, you will need to do a fishless cycle with ammonia before getting fish.

Fish Community Creator Tanks
Siamese Fighting Fish (male) (1) - Snails (1) - Slender Harlequin (15) - Peacock Goby (4) - Otocinclus (5) - Pygmy Cory (3) - Axelrods Rasbora (5) - Japonica Shrimp (80) - Snails (5) - Neon Tetra (18) - Honey Gourami (1) -
Note: The user may not necessarily own these fish, these are tanks that they may be building or researching for stocking purposes


Offline Littlefish

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Re: Neon Tetras - will fewer than 6 get lonely?
« Reply #22 on: July 05, 2018, 10:02:45 AM »
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@ros77uk thank you for being so understanding, and I am also relieved that you chose to do research on fish prior to any purchase, something we would always recommend that people do.

We all go through the disappointment of finding out that a fish that we like is unsuitable for us, for many different reasons. It still happens to me on a regular basis, and I'm often found searching the internet on my phone whilst staring wistfully at a tank of fish in a shop.

As for dwarf puffers, if you do decide to get one it will provide you with hours of entertainment as it explores the tank, being distracted and amazed by every little thing. From a distance they look as if they are floating slowly around the tank, but closer up you'll see their little fins going like the clappers. They really are quite comical, until they turn their big puppy dog eyes on you to beg for food, then they are just adorable. You may have to learn to be firm in resisting this look, and it is quite difficult not to overfeed them.

As I mentioned before, the final decision really is up to you, and we would love to hear how you get on.  :)

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