Why Are My Neon Tetras Not Schooling? {8 Reasons Why}

Are you concerned that your neon tetras are not schooling together? Are all of them acting this way or is it only one or two who seem sick? Let’s find out if this is normal and discover the reasons why they are not schooling.

Why Are My Neon Tetras Not Schooling? There are several reasons. Most importantly, it is quite normal for neon tetras to not school. They shoal more often when threatened and do not school when they are comfortable.

This is good news right? Your neon tetras are relaxed and don’t need to school together. If one is apart from the group, this could be a negative sign for that odd one out.

Let’s dive deeper and figure out all the possible reasons why they aren’t schooling.

8 Reasons Why Your Neon Tetras Are Not Schooling

1. Neon Tetras Don’t School.

Neon tetras are known to shoal more often than school. Saying that they never school and only shoal is open for debate.

Schooling fish stick together outside of feeding times and even if there is no threat from other fish. Neon tetras don’t fit this description.

2. Neon Tetras Shoal.

Shoaling fish stick together for protection or during feedings. Outside of those times and if they’re comfortable, they’ll spread out and swim on their own.

This is quite normal and not a reason to be concerned if you don’t see them schooling. You can actually feel good about this in most instances. Seeing them apart is a good sign indicating they are relaxed in your tank.

3. Your Neon Tetras Aren’t Upset or Scared.

Imagine someone slams the door loudly nearest to the aquarium where your neon tetras are swimming around separately.

Suddenly the slamming noise startles the neon tetras and they look to each other for comfort. There is safety in numbers, so they shoal for added protection from the mysterious slamming sound.

If someone taps on the glass where the neon tetras are swimming, it may aggravate or scare them. They may come together at this point to resemble schooling because the tapping bothers or stresses them.

4. You Are Not Bothering Them.

What if you need to stick your hand in the tank to move things around? What if you’re doing some cleaning? This is a time where you may notice your neon tetras come together. They look like they’re schooling, but they just want to get away from your hand in the tank.

If you aren’t messing around in there, they may not be schooling or shoaling. They could be comfortable and feel no need to do so.

5. Neon Tetras Swim In A Loose Group.

The group itself cannot be defined as schooling because they aren’t sticking together all the time. They are loosely in a group and are ready to shoal together if necessary. Right now, it isn’t necessary for them to do so because you have provided ideal conditions for them to enjoy their lives.

6. It Isn’t Feeding Time Yet.

You may notice them schooling together when you begin to feed them. Some of the most comfortable neon tetras may swim to the surface for first grabs at what you’re serving.

Usually neon tetras are mid-level feeders. They will show signs of schooling in the middle of the tank while the food drops down to their level.

7. Your Tank Is Spacious.

A large tank gives them enough room to swim freely. A neon tetra is naturally curious and will swim to all corners of a large tank. If the tank is too small, they could get uncomfortable and stick closer together.

8. They Know They Aren’t In The Wild.

The wild is a wild place. Predators lurk. Threats are everywhere. Neon tetras have learned to school or shoal in large numbers to protect themselves. It’s a natural instinct for many fish who school all the time or only when threatened.

Your tank doesn’t seem to have any threats lurking around. The neon tetras don’t feel the need to protect themselves by depending on each other in a school. They feel safe.

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When Do You Notice Neon Tetras Schooling?

They will shoal and this resembles schooling when they feel threatened. They may school together without any threat around if they’re extremely comfortable.

Imagine a tank with over 90 gallons filled with 150+ neon tetras and nothing else. There are no threats and lots of space to swim together. Some fish keepers have backed this theory that they will school together magnificently in large numbers in a big tank all by themselves.

One Of My Neon Tetras Is Not Schooling With The Rest. Is Something Wrong?

Unfortunately yes. If there are only or two neon tetras not schooling with the rest, they are exhibiting signs of illness. This is when it’s important to check if the loner fish are sick.

Quarantining a sick fish helps or feeding them vitamin supplements in addition to protein enriched food will help. Diagnosing their condition could also help. In most cases, the loner fish will find a safe place to take care of itself and hopefully recover on its own.


Schooling fish stick together almost all the time. Shoaling fish need each other for protection and strength in numbers when threatened or startled. Neon tetras exhibit shoaling behavior more often than schooling. If they are not schooling, it’s most likely because they are comfortable in your tank.

Thank you for fish keeping. We at HelpUsFish are always glad to assist.

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.