How Long Do Neon Tetras Live? (& How To Improve Their Lifespan)

The neon tetra is one of the most popular fish among aquarium enthusiasts. These fish are well-loved because they have an easy-going temperament and show almost no aggression, making it easy for them to get along well with other fish. On top of that, they are also a beautiful addition to any fish tank because of their vivid colors.

However, one thing many aquarium owners want to know is how long do neon tetras live? While neon tetras have an average life expectancy, the environment you place them in plays a huge role in how long they will live. Keep reading to find out more about the lifespan of neon tetra fish.

What’s The Lifespan Of The Average Neon Tetra?

Neon tetra fish have a longer lifespan than most aquarium fish. They are expected to live longer than between 5-8 years. However, with the right environment, they can live for 8 to 10 years. On average, a neon tetra will usually live for an average of 8 years.

It’s important to remember that there are certain things you could do that may shorten or lengthen their lifespan. Keep reading to find out what they are.

What Can Shorten The Lifespan Of A Neon Tetra?

Since living in an aquarium is likely to shorten a neon tetra’s lifespan, you may be wanting to know what you should avoid doing so you don’t shorten the lifespan anymore. These are some things you will want to avoid doing because they could shorten the lifespan of a neon tetra:

Don’t Overcrowd Them

Neon tetras thrive when they are in a school of fish, and they get along well with many different types of fish. While they are loved because of their friendly nature, it’s important not to overcrowd them. If there are too many fish in one aquarium, then the neon tetra will be at a higher risk of getting sick and possibly dying.

It’s also a good idea to learn how to spot a sick neon tetra so it can be removed from the tank. While there may not be a cure, the illness could spread to the other fish. This is why it’s best to remove the sick fish, so the others’ safety isn’t at risk.

If you notice a neon tetra at the bottom of the tank with a loss of color and shrinking stomach, they may have a parasite and should be removed.

So how does someone know how many neon tetra fish is the right amount for their aquarium? This will all depend on the size of your aquarium. It’s recommended to only allow 1 neon tetra fish per gallon. 

Water Changes

One of the many reasons these fish are popular is because they can adjust to nearly any water condition. However, they don’t react well to sudden water changes. Once neon tetra has adjusted to their habitat, drastic water changes could be dangerous to their health. It’s recommended to have their environment prepared before adding the neon tetra because they don’t react well to sudden changes.


While neon tetras are calm and friendly, they only do well in a community aquarium with other small and non-aggressive fish. They should not be put in the same aquarium as larger fish, carnivores, or any type of aggressive fish. Some fish in particular that you should never put in the same tank as a neon tetra are:


It’s important to keep your aquarium in an area that isn’t exposed to direct sunlight. If the sun shines on the tank for too long, it could lead to algal growth in the aquarium. When this happens, the neon tetra fish are at a higher risk of becoming ill.

While the neon tetra tank doesn’t have to be kept in a dark room, it’s best to move it away from any windows or spots in your home where sunlight shines brightly. 

How Can You Improve Your Neon Tetras’ Lifespan?

If you want to increase the lifespan of your neon tetras, then you should start from the moment you bring those beautiful fish home. Taking care of their aquarium is the number one way to prevent diseases and other hazards that could decrease their lifespan. Here is what you can do to improve your neon tetras’ lifespan:

Acclimate Your Neon Tetra

One thing to keep in mind about neon tetra fish is that they can’t spend a lot of time in the bag that is used to transport them home from the pet store. If they spend more than 8 hours in that bag, the ammonia levels will increase and lead to the death of the fish.

While it’s important to get the neon tetra out of the bag as soon as possible, they also can’t be put directly in their new tank. It’s necessary to acclimate the neon tetra to the tank’s conditions before placing them in there. This will help them adjust to their new home without stress.

Start With A Clean Tank

If you want a healthy neon tetra, they are not fish that you should buy out of the blue. It’s important that you prepare a well-cycled tank for these fish to move into. Ideally, you should begin to cycle the aquarium a few weeks prior to the neon tetra moving in. This will help get rid of any harmful bacteria, impurities, or parasites in the water.

Ensuring there are no harmful microorganisms in the aquarium ensures that the neon tetra has a liveable environment, giving you better odds of increasing their lifespan.

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Get The Right Water Temperature

While these fish are good at getting accustomed to many water conditions, they will always live their longest lifespan when they are in water conditions that are as close to their natural environment as possible. One of the best things you can do to improve their lifespan is to make sure their aquarium is at the right temperature. 

Since these fish come from the Amazon River, they do best when their aquarium is set to a temperature between 69 to 81 F (21 to 27 C). However, since neon tetras will react negatively to any change in their water temperature, it’s important to keep the temperature consistent. The best way to do this is to use a heater in the fish tank.

If you have a larger aquarium, you may benefit from using two heaters. Many aquarium owners recommend having two heaters ready just in case one fails. This way, you will still be able to keep the fish tank at the right temperature without having to worry about the neon tetra getting sick.

Install A Filtration System

When there’s a filter installed, you won’t have to worry about the water quality. A good-quality filtration system will keep the water clean from pollutants that could get a neon tetra sick. This is the best way to remove harmful bacteria and impurities from the water, so all the fish remain healthy. A filter is one of the most important parts of the aquarium for improving a neon tetra’s lifespan.

Mimic Their Natural Habitat

Stress can be a big cause of death among neon tetra, so it’s important to create an environment that is similar to their natural habitat. There will be times when these fish may feel scared or stressed, so they will need hiding spots. This is why it’s important to place plants, moss, and rocks along the bottom of the aquarium.

Adding plants will also help increase the water quality by acting as biological filtration while making the aquarium look more like a home for them. Even though neon tetras are social fish that can get along well with other non-aggressive fish, there are times they may feel stressed out and need a place to hide. Having plants around will give them a spot to unwind and destress. 

Proper Diet

It’s important to feed your neon tetra a proper diet to improve their lifespan. Luckily, feeding these fish is relatively simple and quite affordable. However, you will have to get in the habit of feeding them on time and giving them the correct amount. They can be fed standard fish food, such as pellets and flakes, but it’s important that you give them food for tropical fish.

Neon tetra fish can be given certain food as a treat that they would eat in the wild, including:

  • Drop blood worm
  • Daphnia
  • Tubifex (sludge worm)
  • Brine shrimp

These treats can be dropped directly into the tank. Neon tetras enjoy both live and frozen versions of these foods.

Are Neon Tetras Hardy?

If you’re a beginner to the world of aquariums, then the neon tetra is a great fish to start out with because they are very hardy. They can adjust to a wide range of different water conditions. However, the trouble begins when the water conditions in their aquariums start to fluctuate. While neon tetras can adjust to nearly any water parameter, they can not handle sudden changes.

How Easy Are Neon Tetras To Keep Alive?

Keeping a neon tetra fish alive is easy and difficult at the same time. While many fish owners have no problem getting their neon tetras to live long, healthy lifespans, others have trouble making the 5-year mark. As long as the fish owner pays adequate attention to keeping the fish in quality living conditions and consistent water temperature, neon tetras are very easy to keep alive.


Neon tetras are such beautiful fish and make great additions to any tank. Before adding them to your tanks, there are important things to know about their lifespan. These are some of the top questions that readers have about the lifespan of neon tetras and keeping them alive in an aquarium. 

How Long Do Neon Tetras Live In The Wild?

In the wild, when the neon tetra is living in their natural habitat, they will likely live for 8 to ten years. However, this type of fish’s lifespan changes depending on the environment they are living in. The neon tetra fish that can be found in the Amazon River generally live up to 10 years.

How Long Do Neon Tetras Live In Captivity?

Once a neon tetra is put into captivity, its lifespan is likely to decrease by 2 to 5 years. If the fish owner doesn’t take the right steps to create an environment suitable for their neon tetra, then the fish may not live longer than five years.

 However, aquarium enthusiasts that do their best to recreate the neon tetra’s natural habitat could see their fish live for 8 years or more. When you keep their environment clean and limit stress, these fish have a better chance at living longer lives. 

Final Thoughts

There’s nothing better for aquarium enthusiasts than having a tank full of non-aggressive beautiful fish. However, it’s important to make sure these fish have the right environment to be happy and healthy. The neon tetra is one of the most popular fish for home aquariums.

The neon tetras are some of the most beautiful aquarium fish that hobbyists love to start out with. Since they are hardy fish, it’s easy to acclimate them to nearly any tank condition. However, if you want to improve the lifespan of your neon tetras, then it’s important to make sure their tank conditions are as close to their natural environment as possible. 

Having a clean tank is incredibly important when trying to increase the lifespan of your fish. You will want to make sure there are no harmful bacteria or impurities in the water that could make them sick. It’s also important to avoid stressing the fish out, so you should never overcrowd a neon tetra aquarium. With the right practice, you could help a neon tetra live longer. 

About the author

Hey! I'm Antonio!

Betta fish keeper for over 6 years now! Since owning a betta I've also housed all kinds of tropical fish, and have seen all manner of problems and how to look after them!

If you need any advice you can always message me or better yet join the Facebook group where a community can answer your questions!