Neon Tetras in tank
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Neon Tetra Lifespan: How Long Do These Bright Fish Live?

Neon tetras (Paracheirodon innesi) are one of the most popular fish among hobbyists. They’re active, brightly colored, inexpensive, and simple to maintain. Neon tetras are found in the Amazon Basin; however, those in the pet trade are often bred in captivity. 

In the wild, neon tetras live around ten years, which is twice the amount for those in captivity. Read how you can provide the tank conditions and care to extend the life of your fish.

07/18/2024 02:11 am GMT

What Is the Lifespan of Neon Tetras?

As mentioned before, in the wild, neon tetras can live for up to 10 years; however, their average life span in captivity is only half of that—about two to five years. We can extend their lifespan, however, in captivity if we provide them with the proper tank conditions.

How to Improve Neon Tetra Lifespan?

With today’s knowledge of neon tetras, we can extend the lifespan of these fish by providing them with conditions that closely resemble those in their native land. The first thing to consider involves the purchasing end.

Where you purchase your neon tetras is one factor in extending the life of your fish. Experienced and reputable breeders produce fish with the best genetic quality. Other things you can do to extend their life span include:

  • Giving them proper tank conditions
  • Maintaining their aquarium according to their needs
  • Feeding them appropriate food
  • Choosing the right tank mates
  • Disease Prevention

What Are the Best Tank Conditions for Neon Tetras?

A properly set up aquarium can make a big difference in prolonging your neon tetra’s life. Tank conditions include tank size, setup, and maintenance.

Tank Size

A 10-gallon aquarium is the minimum size tank for neon tetras. I strongly recommend that you go for a 20-gallon tank. While more expensive, a larger tank will make it easier to maintain stable water conditions. 

Because neon tetras are schooling fish, tank dimensions should emphasize length rather than height because neon tetras are schooling fish occupying the water column’s midrange.

👉 Here’s a high quality, yet affordable 20-gallon tank with LED lighting, which is perfect for neon tetras.

Water Parameters

Neon tetras are found in the Amazon River Basin, where the water temperature ranges from 69 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. I recommend purchasing a water heater to maintain the temperature within this range.

This species prefers hard water that is slightly acidic. Water hardness should be between 2 and 10 dkH, while a pH between 6 and 7 is desirable. 

👉 To check the pH of your aquraium, use this pH testing kit.


Neon tetras are small fish that don’t produce large amounts of waste (bioload). When choosing a filter, the only thing you need to keep in mind is whether it handles the volume of water in your aquarium. A good way to determine this is to look for a GPH rating (gallons per hour) that’s four times the amount of your tank size. For example, you would pick a filter with a GPH of 40 for a 10-gallon tank. In many cases, you may only need a sponge filter.

Naturally, if you plan to keep neon tetras as part of a community tank, you’ll want to purchase a filter that reflects the extra bioload.

Lighting and Décor

In their natural habitat, neon tetras inhabit slow-moving streams where plenty of organic matter is settled on the bottom. Because of this, the water is murky. For this reason, I recommend you provide the tank with soft lighting. Additionally, this species needs plenty of hiding places to feel secure. Provide dense vegetation in a few areas while leaving the rest as open water for them to swim in. If you’re going for live plants, java moss and hornworts are good choices.

Aquarium Maintenance

Whenever keeping aquatic animals, it’s vital that you do partial water changes regularly to maintain safe water conditions for the inhabitants. Animals produce waste in the form of feces and urine. Additionally, uneaten food adds to the mix. These things produce nitrites and ammonia, which are toxic.

As the aquarium ages, beneficial bacteria will colonize the tank. These bacteria convert toxic nitrites into less harmful nitrates. This process is known as the nitrogen cycle. There comes the point, however, when the bacteria cannot keep up with the rising nitrites and ammonia levels. 

Doing partial water changes will keep the water from becoming a toxic stew. This should be done by doing a 25% water change weekly. Before introducing fish into the aquarium, ensure your tank has fully cycled. Introducing neon tetras to a tank that hasn’t completely cycled can cause a shock to their system. You can tell that the tank is fully cycled when there are no nitrites or ammonia and the nitrate level is low.

👉 I recommend using this aquarium siphon to help you with your water changes.


Neon tetras are omnivorous. In the wild, they eat dead vegetation, algae, insect larva, and other small invertebrates. To extend their lives in captivity, offer them the following recommended food items:

You can also feed them chopped-up cucumbers and grapes.
As neon tetras are active fish, feed them daily. Don’t feed more than they can consume in two minutes.

Tank Mates

Neon tetras can make a great addition to a community tank; however, it’s important not to keep them with any fish species that is considered aggressive or semi-aggressive.

Keep Them as a Group

Neon tetras are schooling fish. If they’re not kept as a group, they’re prone to stress and will spend a lot of time hiding. Further, the stress will compromise their immune system, making them more susceptible to disease. For this reason, you should keep neon tetra in a group of at least six individuals. Also, males will become more aggressive during the breeding season and may bully other males. By keeping them in a larger group, no one fish will be targeted by an aggressive male.

Other Species

Neon tetras do well with other fish of similar size and temperament. The following are suitable tankmates for neon tetras:

Neon Tetra Disease Prevention

Most diseases of neon tetras can be avoided by providing these fish with the proper care and sourcing your fish from a reputable breeder or tropical fish store. The following are some of the diseases that these fish may become inflicted with.

Neon Tetra Disease

Neon tetra disease is caused by Pleistophora hyphessobryconis, a kind of parasite. The spores of this parasite enter the fish’s body. As the disease progresses, cysts will form on the fish’s body. This will give it a lumpy appearance. Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swimming
  • The curvature of the spine
  • Discoloration of the body
  • Weight loss

The parasite is introduced to the aquarium by feeding live food or adding new fish that haven’t been quarantined. Additionally, fish have been known to become infected by eating dead fish. Because of this, remove any dead fish from the tank as soon as possible.

One way to avoid this disease is to raise your own live food. Raising brine shrimp is simple. Also, ensure that you quarantine fish before introducing them to the aquarium. Some aquarists believe using a diatom filter can help reduce the risk of the disease. This disease is very contagious, so remove any infected fish immediately.

False Neon Tetra Disease

This disease is almost identical to neon tetra disease, as it has the same symptoms; however, this disease is caused by a bacterium rather than a parasite.


A parasitic disease, ich is caused by the protozoan Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. Symptoms include small white spots on the fish’s fins and bodies. Fish inflicted with the disease can often be seen rubbing against rough surfaces to relieve themselves of the irritation.

There’s medication for ich, which you can purchase at a tropical fish store. A home remedy is adding one tablespoon of salt for every five gallons of aquarium water and raising the water temperature by two degrees.

Tail and Fin Rot

Tail and fin rot is caused by poor water quality, and it eats away at the end of the fish’s fins. As the disease progresses, it works its way toward the body, leaving the fins frayed or ragged. Treatment for this disease includes doing a complete water change and adding antibiotics to the water.

Neon Tetra Breeding

Breeding neon tetra can be done, but it ‘s tricky. The main reason for this is that the conditions for their care needs to be on point. When they do breed, they’ll spawn biweekly, but neon tetras don’t provide parental care after laying eggs. The following is the procedure for breeding and caring for young neon tetras.

1. Develop a Food Source

The first step is to set up a culture of infusoria for the fry to feed on. Infusoria is a term for microorganisms such as:

  • Amoebas
  • Paramecium
  • Rotifers
  • Vorticella
  • Algae
  • Euglena

Infusoria can be found in bodies of water; however, the safest source is your aquarium water. Fill a jar with aquarium water and add nutrients to it. Good sources include:

  • Banana peel
  • Milk
  • Grass
  • Liquifry
  • Boiled rice
  • Powdered cereal
  • Yeast

As the infusoria population grows, the water will become cloudy. You can also use a microscope to check for microorganisms. You can then siphon water from the jar and feed it to the fry. After a month, the fry can be fed adult food.

2. Diet Change for the Parents

To prepare the adults to spawn, provide them with a protein-rich diet. I recommend offering them frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp for two weeks. It’s difficult to sex neon tetras, so the best thing to do is to look for a pregnant female with a swollen abdomen.

3. Create a Breeding Tank

A breeding tank will be needed for the male and pregnant female. The breeding tank needs to have a secured lid as these fish can jump. Also, place a few inches of gravel along the bottom.

Soak peat moss and then spread it across the gravel bottom. You can lay Java moss or a spawning mat over the peat moss. This will provide a medium for the female to lay her eggs. The water temperature should be 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and hardness should be in the dH 1-2 range. You can use a sponge filter.

When the female lays eggs, remove both parents from the breeding tank. Partial water changes should be done regularly.

👉 For additional information about keeping neon tetras, check out our following comprehensive guides:

Keep Your Neon Tetras for Years to Come

I hope that you enjoyed this article. Neon tetras will provide beauty and color in your home. In return, you can increase their lifespan in captivity by applying the information in this article. I’d enjoy hearing your comments and questions below.

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