Do Neon Tetras Like Currents? {Are They Strong Swimmers?}

Are you wondering if your neon tetras are struggling with the currents in your aquarium? Do currents make neon tetras stressed? In this article, we will discover if neon tetras actually enjoy currents.

Do Neon Tetras Like Currents? Yes, neon tetras originate from flowing waters in the wild that contain currents. They try to avoid strong currents so it’s best to control the flow and keep it mild and steady. 

How much current is too much? Let’s dive into the story of neon tetras in the wild to understand more about the currents they are comfortable with.

What Type of Habitat Do Neon Tetras Come From?

Neon tetras originate from flowing streams or river basins. They have adapted well to currents that naturally flow in these areas.

If you look closers in their original habitats, you will notice that although there are currents, neon tetras prefer to swim near the banks or basins of slower moving creeks. They don’t want to swim in strong currents.

It’s safe to assume that neon tetras are comfortable with currents, but they try to find their comfort zone in waters that don’t flow too fast.

How Strong Should I Set The Current In My Neon Tetra Tank?

Aquarium filters come in all shapes, sizes and prices. Thankfully the adjustable filters are not too pricy. Consider using one that can be set at a mild flow level.

If you can actually set it to an exact number, consider 20% of the flow capacity. It’s important to observe your neon tetras and make sure they aren’t struggling against the current.

How Do I Know If The Current Is Too Strong For Neon Tetras?

You will be looking for signs of stress when your neon tetras are having a hard time with the current in your tank.

  • Constantly swimming against the current
  • Getting pushed around by the flow of water
  • Pressed against the walls or edges of the tank
  • Looking weaker
  • Losing color
  • Struggling to swim to the top
  • Trouble eating
  • Schooling tighter
  • Damaged fins

This is a long list and it’s great that our neon tetras communicate with obvious signs to help us figure out that something is wrong. Adjusting the current flow is easier than worrying about sick neon tetras.

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I Can’t Adjust the Current Flow For My Struggling Neon Tetras? What Should I Do?

If you aren’t able to control the current with the turn of a knob you can consider the following options:

  • Point the filter towards the back of the tank.
  • Add more decorations.
  • Populate the tank with more plants. 
  • Add rocks.
  • Buy an adjustable filter. 
  • Add air stones.
  • Obstruct the filter flow with a carefully cut piece of plastic

Decorations, Plants and Rocks

There items in the tank will absorb or ricochet the flow to reduce the severity of the current. Neon tetras are not strong swimmers, but they do enjoy some flowing water. They also enjoy all the living and non-living things you place in the tank to hide and swim through.

An Adjustable Filter

Look online for cheaper prices. An adjustable filter could be as cheap as $10 or up to $30 for a tank size between 5-20 gallons. Before you decide to take on DIY projects, see if a new one fits your budget.

Air Stones

Air stones help your filter run smoothly in an efficient way. They are not crucial for your neon tetras, but they will enjoy the bubbles.

Obstructing the Flow

You can cut a plastic bottle in half and carefully place it in front of the filter. You can choose other items that are just as durable and convenient to redirect the current or reduce its speed.

Do Neon Tetras Like Bubbles?

Yes, neon tetras are playful fish. You can see them playing and frolicking through bubbles if they aren’t too strong.

Neon tetras are naturally curious and shoal together to play. If they are schooling tightly, then they are showing signs of stress or discomfort. This is when you know that the bubbles or air flow is too strong.

Neon tetras will be fine without an air pump, air stones, bubbles and currents. They do like them though. Please consider how small they are and adjust accordingly with more decorations or reducing the intensity of the flow.

Do Currents Help Neon Tetras?

Neon tetras will benefit from the currents in the following ways:

  • Improves water circulation
  • Even distribution of nutrients in the water
  • Stabilizes water temperature
  • Keeps oxygenation levels at optimal levels 

We want neon tetras to show their vibrant colors and act playfully in the aquarium. We don’t want them losing color, schooling together all the time or frequently hiding. Maintaining a comfortable flow of water will assist in keeping our neon tetras happy and healthy.


Neon tetras are not strong swimmers because of their size. They come from waters that naturally flow in mild, moderate or intense speeds. Neon tetras will find their sweet spot in the wild to avoid strong currents. If they are avoiding the current in your tank, then it’s too strong.

We hope the tips provided in this article will help you with the current flow levels to ensure that your neon tetras do not struggle and continue their healthy, playful behavior.


Brian Arial

Brian Arial has kept fish for leisure and worked with fish stores for most of his life. He enjoys writing and caring for aquariums and ponds.