The Neon Tetra, otherwise known as the Paracheirodon innesi, is considered to be the most popular freshwater aquarium fish. It is a species that will improve any setting and community tank with its vibrant colors. Ever since it was introduced in Europe in 1934, it has remained a top choice for both beginner and professional fish keepers.
Originally, this species is native to South America or more specifically – the Amazon river. It is known to be a hardy fish that can live a prolonged life both in the wild and in captivity. With this said, how long is the normal lifespan of a Neon Tetra?
How long do neon tetras live? With a lifespan of 5+ years, the Neon Tetra easily surpasses the majority of small fish species in terms of lifespan. In the most regular conditions, you can expect your Neons to live for more than five years. However, in the perfect setting, when you have considered the water requirements and re-created its natural habitat to the fullest, a Neon Tetra could live up to 8-10 years in an aquarium.
In the following piece of information, you will find out more about aquarium requirements, water parameters, diseases and cures, and everything else you need to know to ensure the well-being of your Neon Tetras.
Creating the Perfect Setting for Neon Tetras
Obviously, there is not much to say about the lifespan of a certain species of fish – it is a known estimated period that varies between the different individuals and your care. Instead, I would like to focus on how you can set up the perfect environment for Neon Tetras.
If you provide the necessary water conditions and you create a community aquarium with tank mates that fit perfectly together, your Neons will be safe and happy, and will eventually live to up to 8 years and above.
Neon Tetras are peaceful and will hardly ever cause any trouble in terms of aggressive behavior towards other species. They, however, need to be kept in a school of at least six.
A smaller group will not feel safe and may lead to tension or aggression between the separate individuals. In addition, they naturally often rely on their numbers in the wild. Normally, you can see them like a school of hundreds or even thousands.
Their coloration depends on their comfort. If they are in a group of at least six and the community tank is free of predatory fish, you will witness their true vibrant colors and trust me, they look amazing. You can find out more about their compatibility with other freshwater species in one of the following excerpts.
Overall, Neon Tetras are definitely not hard to keep. I would rank them as one of the least demanding species as long as you manage to keep the water clean. In addition, all they require is a lot of plants and enough space to wonder as a group.
Water Parameters and Aquarium Size
This is a species that adapts to a wide range of water conditions. I will specify the perfect setting below but even if your tank is off the grid, your Neons will most likely adapt and live well in it.
The main danger comes with drastic changes in water after they have been successfully integrated. This means that you need to prepare everything prior to adding the Neons as they will react poorly to any significant changes. Once you have tested the parameters and they are as you desire, you can add your new fish.
In the ideal setting, the water temperature would be as close to that of the Amazon River – between 21C and 27C (69F – 81F). Your pH levels should be somewhere between 6.0 and 7.5 which means more soft and acidic water. To be exact, the hardness should stay below 10dH.
This species requires low nitrate levels which means that water changes need to be frequent and regular, therefore, at least once a week at minimum. Besides that, you need to replace around 20-25% on each weekly change and a little bit more once every few weeks.
As for the tank size, anything under 10 gallons(38L) is too small for a school of six Neons. If you plan on having other species as well or you are adding them to an already established community tank, consider double or triple that size. This species is a mid-level fish and will spend most time moving around as a group in this section.
However, they require a lot of greenery both on the ground and water level. This way, they will feel extra safe and will have a place to go when frustrated.
Neon Tetras are one of the most suitable species for a community tank. They will do great with possibly any other small fish unless there are carnivores or aggressive species in the tank.
They are peaceful and the only time that they could show signs of aggression is during their mating period which is difficult in a personal aquarium. While you can see aquarium stores breed hundreds of them, it is actually relatively hard to achieve at home.
Here is a small table featuring the compatible species on the left side and a couple of fish you need to stay away from on the right column.
Since most of the species I mention are similar to Neon Tetras, I have specified the recommended numbers for each kind of fish. This is all in order for your inhabitants to feel safe and secure.
|Ideal Tank Mates||Fish to Avoid|
|Cardinal Tetras (a school of 6 at least)||Cichlids|
|Guppies (at least a group of 3-5)||Angelfish|
|Corydoras Catfish (around 4-5 at least)||Bettas|
|Ghost Shrimp/ Red Cherry Shrimp|
|Swordtail (not more than 1 male)|
I would love to give you some additional tips on Neon Tetra tankmates, although they are great for practically any community tank:
Stick to small species with similar diet and water condition requirements
Make sure you have enough space. I have put Guppies and Cardinals in my table above. These are species that necessarily need to be in groups as well. Many people believe that small fish can survive in small aquariums. If the requirements for a small school of six Neons are at least 10 gallons, consider doubling that size if you add six Cardinals or Guppies.
Bottom feeders make great companions. Since your Neon Tetras will spend their time mostly in the mid-level of your aquarium, it is a great idea to add species that live mostly on the ground.
Nibblers will cause stress and could lead to diseases and aggression. Many people try to combine Neon Tetras with a Betta fish. It is usually not the brightest idea as Bettas are aggressive and will nibble at your Neon Tetras.
However, issues rarely occur as Neons are really fast swimmers and the Betta cannot reach them. In addition, if the tank is large enough, the Neons will stay at their level of water and distant from the Betta.
Why do Neon Tetras die? What are the common symptoms?
Although I mentioned not once or twice that Neon Tetras could live for up to around 10 years in an aquarium, I am absolutely sure that a lot of my readers here have experience with Neon Tetras dying on their first day in the new tank or shortly afterward. In fact, I have had such cases more than once as well.
Simply said, Neons will adapt to practically any water conditions as long as there are no more sudden changes. I mentioned this above but you have to introduce them to the tank only after you are sure you have reached the required parameters. This is because any small change can affect a Neon fatally. They will start experiencing stress and this is when they could get easily infected with a disease.
Below, you can read about the different symptoms and how to know if something is wrong.
Even with the perfect conditions for this species, a Neon Tetra may not feel good in its new home. What you can do is make sure you introduce them to the aquarium in the correct way.
If you are unfamiliar with the release process, first you have to put the bag with the new fish in the tank and leave it there. This way the temperature in the bag will get closer to the actual temperature in the tank and the fish will also have time to look around and get familiar.
Then, once every 5-10 minutes, pour a glass of aquarium water in the bag with your new Neons. This way, you can give them time to get used to the water in the tank. A sudden release will cause stress for sure. Repeat this for 30 minutes to an hour and then you can safely introduce the fish to the tank.
Changes in the Swimming Patterns
Although not everyone would spend time observing their fish as much, I would strongly advise that you take a closer look at your Neons during their first week or two. I guarantee that you will find at least some sort of a pattern in their swimming. This will help you in the future if any problems occur.
As I said, Neon Tetras are schooling fish. Therefore, they will always move around in the same manner together. Once you see that a single fish or several of them have changed their swimming pattern, immediately test the water. This is a direct sign for stress and could also mean that the fish has been infected or it will die soon enough.
Inability to swim
There are two common causes that should always alert you. One of them is seeing a Neon float at the water surface level. It is uncommon for this species to be this high, moreover, alone. It would certainly mean that the fish does not have the strength to swim below.
The second case is when you see a Neon close to the ground level. Similar to the one above, it means that it does not have the strength to rise towards the mid-level of the tank. Your best bet is to put the sick fish under quarantine in another tank or container. Leave it there for a day or two and examine its behavior.
What type of substrate should I use with Neon Tetras?
Neon Tetras will be happy with practically any substrate. They do not have requirements when it comes to that. However, darker substrates come as close to their natural habitat and also improve their coloration. It darkens the aquarium but at the same time creates an amazing contrast to both plants and the colors of the fish.
The only type of substrate that I would suggest not to be used is aragonite sand. It is made of calcium carbonate and it will directly interfere with the stability of your water parameters.
If you decide to use aragonite sand, make sure you test your pH, KH, and GH at least once weekly as this substrate will most certainly raise them.
Do Neon Tetras need a lot of filtration?
The answer is both yes and no. This species needs water to be as clean as possible. That is why I recommend using a high-class filtration system, in addition to water changes at least once weekly.
However, this is just my suggestion. Naturally, this species does not have any specific needs when it comes to filtration. The only thing you need to ensure is that your filter has enough capacity for the tank.
You can see that through the Gallons per hour rating. Make sure it is at least four times larger than the actual size of your tank. For example, if your tank is 30 gallons you need at least 120 GPH for everything to be safe and secure.
Why are my Neon Tetras losing their colors?
This is another common sign of stress and sickness which I did not add above for the simple reason that it does not necessarily mean those. It could be due to the light being too strong in the aquarium.
In addition, if there is not enough greenery, your Neons will feel less secure. Make sure these factors are in favor of your fish. This species lives in darker waters with a lot of plants.