How Long Can Tetras Go Without Food

How Long Can Tetras Go Without Food?

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Finding a pet-friendly hotel, boarder, or pet sitter for a cat or dog is one thing, but it’s significantly harder when you need to leave for a period of time and need someone to watch your fish. 

With tetras being one of the most common freshwater fish in the hobby, more and more fish enthusiasts are asking questions about the longevity of these bright little fish when food is scarce. 

Overfeeding, maintaining a perfectly balanced tank, and making sure your fish get the right food are all variables that could crash a tank or even kill a school of tetras if not done properly, which is why it’s sometimes better to just leave your tank as is instead of having an amateur care for it.

So, to avoid a catastrophic tank failure or fish die-off, how long can tetras go without food? 

It’s believed that on average, tetras can safely go without food for 1 week. In rare cases, tetras can go for 2 weeks without a feeding, but 1 week is the recommended maximum. 

How Often Do Tetras Need To Be Fed?

Tetras are quick, active schooling fish that require regular feeding to be at their healthiest. To maintain a robust school of fish, adult tetras need to be fed 2 times a day. Very young tetras benefit from being fed 3 times a day. 

Since flakes are the most popular food choice for tetras, try to feed enough food so that each tetra gets a few flakes. Tetras school, so it can be hard to ascertain that each fish is getting enough food, but with regular observation and a bit of practice, you’ll soon realize how much food you’ll need for your unique school. 

Always feed nutritious, high-quality tetra-appropriate food to your tetra school. Flakes or other types of fish food that are labeled as “general” food will not provide your tetras with all the appropriate nutrients. 

Another good rule for tetra feeding is to never feed more food than your tetra school can eat in 2 minutes. Overfeeding is easy to do, and since tetras usually occupy the middle or top water column, they will ignore flakes that reach the bottom of the tank. 

Overfeeding isn’t just wasteful. The breakdown of fish food can cause a chemical imbalance in your tank, causing your nitrogen cycle to crash. By only feeding an amount that can be consumed in 2 minutes, you’re making sure that none of the food goes to waste or has the chance to rot away. 

Can Neon Tetras Go Without Food?

The most popular member of the tetra family in the aquarium keeping hobby is undoubtedly the neon tetra. This tiny, brightly colored fish brings a pop of color and sparkle to almost any tank, and their peaceful nature means they make the perfect community tank denizen. 

Being so popular, it’s easy to imagine that neon tetras can go a little longer without food than their tetra brethren, but this is false. Can neon tetras go without food? No!

Neon tetras need regular feedings twice a day, and the maximum amount of time they can go without food is 1 week. 

The 1-week figure only pertains to adult neon tetras. Neon tetra fry and adolescent neon tetras need more feeding than adults, fry especially. Since these rapidly growing young fish require more nutrients than their adult counterparts, 1 week without food is likely to kill them. 

To avoid mass fish die-off if you’re unable to feed for over a week, invest in an auto feeder. These automatic feeders can be set to feed your fish multiple times a day depending on the settings you choose, and while they work great for vacation and other quick jaunts away from home, don’t count on them long-term. 

Being able to visually see your fish eating is the best time to check out their health and see if they’re suffering from any diseases. 

Do Tetras Die Easily?

As with any popular variety of animal, whether it be a dog, cat, or fish, underhanded breeding practices can lead to unhealthy animals in the general breeding pool. Since tetras, especially neon tetras, are so prevalent in the freshwater aquarium hobby, they have suffered from these unfortunate practices. Do tetras die easily?

Badly bred tetras are more sensitive than other fish and can die from any minor issue in their environment. Carefully bred tetras from responsible breeders can live up to 10 years. 

Because they are so popular, the gene pool of pet store tetras has been significantly weakened, and this is only further exacerbated by interbreeding in home tanks. Related tetras can breed in a home tank, and those weakened fries can find their way back into the pet store breeding pool, eventually. 

For robust, healthy tetras, only purchase from experienced breeders or fish stores that source their stock from reliable breeders. Large chain stores are more likely to stock unhealthy fish. 

Can Tetras Survive 5 days Without Food?

If your tetras are healthy, mature, and well-fed, they should be able to go 5 days without food.

If you plan on leaving your tetras for 5 days without food, take a few extra steps to ensure they will have the best chance of survival.

  • Feed your tetras a bit more throughout the week, and include an extra feeding the day before you leave.
  • Test your tank parameters and do any necessary water changes or cleaning before leaving.
  • Perform a thorough visual examination of all of your tetras. Nothing can crash a tank faster than an unremoved dead fish. 
  • Feed your tetras only high-quality, nutritious food that is appropriate for them. You want your tetras to be as healthy as possible before leaving. 

If you’ve taken all the appropriate precautions, your tetras should survive 5 days without food easily enough, but don’t make such long stretches without food a habit! 5 days without food should be the exception, not the rule. 

Multiple long stretches without a feeding can leave even the healthiest of tetras frail and weak. Keep your tetras periods of fasting to a minimum.

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