Neon Tetra Lifespan And A Complete Care Guide For Aquarist

Neon Tetra Lifespan
The jewel of the aquarium Neon Tetra lifespans from 8 to 10 years; it is a tiny freshwater fish native to South America, the Upper Amazon basin of Peru, Colombia, and Brazil. They are hardy and adaptive.
The evolutionary ladder is full of a collection of unique specimens with features adorned with the best of aesthetics. Thus, the more we explore these specimens, the better we get to understand the whole connection of life.
In this context, the Neon Tetra fish species has become a mainstream aquatic creation readily found in most aquariums and considered as the jewel of the aquarium hobby. Further studies reveal the unique characteristics of this species, including its adaptability, behavior, lifespan, and much more.
In the wild, Neon Tetra lifespans can be as long as ten years, though, in captivity, their life span tends to be up to 5 years.
Let us find out what further studies reveals about the jewel Neon Tetra, including its adaptability, behavior, lifespan, Tank-mates, and much more.

Neon Tetra – Species Overview:

Description Category
Family Characidae
Scientific name Paracheirodon Innesi
Origin South America, the upper Amazon basin of Peru, Colombia, and Brazil.
Type Fresh Water
Color Form Blue, Red
Difficulty Easy
Breeding Difficult
Max. Size 1.5 to 2.5  inches (4 to 7 cms)
Life span 8 years
Temperament Peaceful
Diet Omnivores
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallon (40 liters)
Temperature 20 – 26°C (68 – 78°F), ideal 24°C (76°F)
Acidity 6 to 7 pH
Hardness <10 dGH (<166.7 ppm)
Nitrate <20 ppm


Neon tetras originate from the black water, clear water streams, tributaries of Solimões, Orinoco, and Amazon river basins in Brazil, Peru, and Columbia.

These regions contain black waters underneath dense forest canopies that permit very little light to pass through. You would want to remember this while preparing the habitat for neon tetras. 

Neon Tetras are middle-level dwellers. They feed on worms and small crustaceans. 

About 95% of Neon tetras in the United States Aquariums are all captive-bred, with most coming from Eastern Europe and the far East. So many varieties of captive-bred specimens are now in stock. 

They include the golden strain that is a semi-albino variety, the long-finned neon tetra (though this species is rare), and a diamond neon tetra. The diamond neon tetra appears to have a metallic diamond patch on its back from the eyes to dorsal fins.

Physical Characteristics and Appearance of Neon Tetra:

neon tetra physical appearance

Neon Tetra has a translucent body with iridescent metallic blue-green horizontal stripes on each side of the fish over its silver-white abdomen, starting from its nose to the base of the adipose fin, located between the dorsal fin and the tail fin.

Furthermore, it has a dazzling red stripe that runs from the middle of the body to the base of the caudal fin.

They grow up to 4 – 7 cms (1.5 to 2.5 in) in its overall length. Of recent, they have become available in a long-fin variation. 

The sexual difference is slight, and adaptative behaviors are quite apparent. The females with a rounder body, slightly larger belly, and warped iridescence, while the males are slender and have straight streaks.

Some aquarists say the plumpy female body and the bent streaks perhaps due to the eggs they are carrying or because of over-eating.

When the fish rest at night, the iridescence blue and red become gray or black. Before it becomes active in the morning, it has to reactivate itself. When the Neons feel threatened, they turn-off the iridescence blue and red tint to protect themselves. And these iridescence colors wane when they are ill. 

These Striking combination of florescent red, blue against silvery-white body makes them one of the most popular and recognizable aquarium species.  

Their popularity is a result of the thriving captive breeding trade in Singapore, Thailand, and Hong Kong. No less than 1.5 million neon tetras are imported into the United States every month; perhaps only 5 percent of neon tetras sold for aquariums are wild-caught specimens from South America. 

Varieties of Neon Tetras & Lifespan:

In the past several decades, owing to Neon Tetras’ popularity in the aquarium trade, the aquarists have been cultivating varieties by selective breeding. 

Selective breeding in the aquarium trade is not new; for instance, the goldfish in the aquarium trade is the result of over a thousand years of selective breeding.

Longfin Neon Tetra:

Longfin Neon Tetra closely resembles the wild variety from the black water, clear water streams, tributaries of Solimões, Orinoco, and Amazon river basins in Brazil, Peru, and Columbia. 

As the name goes, it has long fins but somewhat subdued iridescence colors. The longer fins affect the fish’s natural schooling behavior and also affect the long fin Neon Tetra lifespan. 

Albino Neon Tetra:

Albino Neon Tetra lacks the blue-green and red hues of their wild counterparts. However, they have yellowish pearls sprinkled. They are recently bred species. Albino Neon Tetra is also known as Albino Fire Neon Tetra. Researchers are yet to determine the effect on the lifespan compared to the original wild counterparts.

Diamond Head Neon:

They look similar to their wild counterparts, but it has a patch of bright metallic diamond shape between its eyes and the Dorsal fins. These guys need more or less the same as their original counterparts. Selective breeding has not affected their longevity.

However, some hobbyists say they tend to be a bit aggressive and boisterous than their wild cousins. 

Red Neon Tetra:

They are also known as cardinal Neon Tetra. Their scientific name is Paracheirodon axelrodi. Red Neon Tetra resembles their cousin Neon Tetra, but the hue of red stripes extends up to its head. Most experienced hobbyists prefer to keep Red Neon Tetra as it comes directly from their original habitat, the Rain Forest of the Amazon.

Red Neon Tetra Lifespan is the same as Neon Tetra Lifespan 8 to 10 years.

Green Neon Tetra:

Green Neon Tetra mimic Neon Tetra and the scientific name is Paracheirodon Simulans.

The color patterns resemble the same as Neon Tetra, but the red patch is less prominent in Green Neon Tetra; blue-green stripes as flashy as their cousin Neon Tetra. However, they slightly smaller than P. innesi.

The care level and the lifespan are the same as Neon Tetra.

Gold Neon Tetra:

The scientific name is Hemigrammus Erythrozonus. They are popular amongst aquarium hobbyists owing to their ease of breeding in the captive environment. 

They have the same body as Neon Tetra; they have hues of iridescence gold in place of blue-green stripes.

The care level requirement is the same as Neon Tetra, Paracheirodon Innesi. Gold Neon Tetra Lifespans from 8 to 10 years.

Black Neon Tetra:

black neon tetra

As the name propounds, they have deep black stripes the whole length of their sides against the silvery-white body. Although it lacks bright iridescent colors, the deep black bands against the gleaming shiny silvery-white body are striking.

Black Neon Tetra grows to a maximum of 4 cms (1.6 in) in length, the male being slightly smaller than the female of the species. 

Black Neon Tetra lifespans from 5 to 10 years.

Neon Tetra Lifespan:

In the wild, Neon Tetra Life Spans from 8 to 10 years. In captivity, they can live an average of 5 years. However, in a healthy habitat, aquarium tank, or ponds, they can live their optimal lifespan.

Follow all the care guides and provide them a habitat resembling their native waterways, Neon Tetra will live as long as your other pets.

Neon Tetra Habitat:

Neon Tetra’s lifespan in the home aquarium largely depends on their habitat conditions. They are native to the waterways of Amazon river basins. They live in the dark water that is densely covered by vegetation with low-lights. These vegetations and driftwoods provide them plenty of hiding places.

Tank Size and Conditions for Neon Tetra:

Tank Size:

Neon Tetra requires a minimum of 10 gallons tank size. It is good enough for a school of 6 neon tetras. If you want to have a bigger school of neon tetras, consider 2-gallon for every additional Neon Tetra. You would want to keep a minimum of 6 Neons. 

A school of 15 to 20 Neons in a 25 to 30-gallon tank would look prettier and healthier. 

They look better in a large and tall tank as they are middle-level feeders. 

Tank set-up:

plants and decors

A newly set up tank is not appropriate for neon tetras as they will not endure changes that occur during the startup cycle. Once your tank is fully matured and has stable water chemistry, you can add neon tetra.

A newly set up tank will not have the enzymes/bacterias necessary to digest ammonia and nitrite from the waste produced by the fish. 


Although Neon Tetras are tiny fish and do not produce a lot of waste, you still need to provide a filtration system. A simple sponge filter is sufficient for Neon Tetra. However, it is visible and aesthetically unappealing. You can also consider the Hang-On-Back filter. Just take care to cover the inlet/outlet of the filter with a bush or pre-filter as little neon fish can get sucked in.

Choose the size of the filter based on the water circulation per hour. A minimum of 4 cycles per hour is the best to keep the water parameters under control. For a 10 gallon(40 liters) tank, the rater of filtration should be 40 gallons (160 liters) per hour.

Water Parameters:

Neon Tetras are from the tropical rainforest. The waters are densely vegetated: with floating plants, tree canopies, driftwoods, roots, etc. The continuous decomposition of plant matters keeps the water little on the acidic side and with low carbonates.

Neons thrive better with a temperature ranging from 20 – 26°C (68 – 78°F), ideal 24°C (76°F) with a pH of 6-7 and hardness less than 10dGH and carbonates of 1-2 dKH.



Neon Tetras are middle-level dwellers, so they don’t have a specific requirement for substrates. However, their natural habitat has a dark substrate comprised of a mixture of decomposed vegetal matter with sand. It’s best to keep that base to mimic their natural habitat. 

Also, avoid usage of any substrate that leaches calcium and carbonates into the water, which will raise the pH, dGH, and dKH. 

Alkaline water, high carbonate, and hard water impact the health of Neon Tetra and its lifespan.

Plants and Decors for Neon Tetra:

To replicate their natural habitat, add plenty of live plants, driftwood, rocks, and pebbles like most river beds. You can provide a combination of floating plants and rooted plants. The replication of their natural habitat helps to live their lives to their optimal capacity.

Lighting for Neon Tetra:

Once again, when it comes to lighting neon tetra tanks, carefully consider their original environment. Neons originate from the black waters of the Amazon river, where the vegetation continuously decomposes and produces tannins that dye the water a dark brown. 

So, Tetra needs a dim light, and while choosing their tank mates and the plants, you would want to select the one that needs low light as well. Using floating plants will diffuse the light and give the neons shady areas to hide or retreat.

Water Heater:

Neon Tetras are tropical fish; if the water temperature goes below 70°F (21°C), then you need a heater to maintain the stable temperature range from 68°-78°F (20°-26°C), ideally 76°F(24°C).

Temperament and Behavior:

Neon Tetra is a friendly and peaceful fish. They are shoaling as well as schooling fish. You will see them in groups moving around in your tank.

Neon Tetras are community fish; alone will stress them, and the stress attracts diseases and eventually shorten their lifespan.

They are middle-level feeders and rarely venture to the bottom or top of the tank in search of food.

They are supernatural and courageous but not aggressive. However, some hobbyists notice neon tetras get a bit aggressive during mating season.

They are dynamic swimmers and curious fish. They wouldn’t hesitate to pry on other species of similar magnitude. 

They are happier in a large group; people tend to keep them in a group of 6, neons thrive better in a larger group, say a group of 15 plus, and can live to their optimal lifespan.

Neon Tetra Tank Mates and Lifespan:

Neon Tetra is a small tropical species. They are a friendly and peaceful community of fish. They go well with the other species of similar size, type, and nature. Carefully choosing their inmates will allow Neon Tetra to live to their optimal lifespan.

They are committed to the middle level; seldom, they venture down or to the top level of the tank or pond. Hence, fish that are bottom dwellers make good tank mates, such as Pygmy catfish, Hatchet fish, clown loaches, Bristlenose pleco, Corydoras, dwarf gouramis, Microrasbaras such as Celestial Pearl DanioHarlequin Rasbora, Rasboras, etc.

Livebearers such as platies, guppies make good tank mates for Neon tetra.

Shrimps, such as Amano, Red Cherry, Ghost, or Black Crystal Shrimps and Snails, make great tank mates to Neons.

Rainbow sharks and White Cloud Mountain Minnows make a great tank mate with any peaceful schooling fish that includes Neon Tetra.
The other species of Characidae, such as ember tetra, cardinal tetra, lemon tetra, Rummy nose tetra,  make good tank mates to Neon.
Avoid aggressive and semi-aggressive types of fish with neon tetra such as Tiger Bards, Red Tail Sharks, Afer Knife, Oscar, Cichlids like Jack Dempsey, Jaguar, etc.
Some hobbyists keep Betta with Tetras; you can keep one male betta or two or more female bettas with a school of 15+ Neons in a 25+ gallon tank.

Diet and Feeding:

Neon tetras are omnivorous in their natural habitat. They eat both meat and vegetables/plant matter. You will find them eating algae, larvae from insects, and other minuscule invertebrates. 

Luckily, they aren’t crabby eaters and will delight in eating all different varieties of food including, flakes, pellets, and frozen. 

Live and frozen brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, tubifex are great to feed, especially during the breeding season. Frozen-dried bloodworms are also good choices for food. 

Since they are omnivores, along with feeding high-quality commercial feed, also feed them with some blanched vegetables.

The thumb rule to the quantity is as much as they can eat in 3 to 5 minutes. You can feed them twice a day for the first couple of years, later reduce it to once a day following the same 3 to 5 minutes rule.

Neon Tetra Disease:

Neon Tetra disease is fatal, and currently, there is no treatment for the disease. It is a condition caused by a parasite Microsporidian that affects beyond Neon Tetra. The disease was named after the fish because it was first seen in neon tetras. However, the disease affects other tetras and also totally different freshwater species.

The fish gets the disease by eating infected live worms that carry the Pleistophora Hyphessobryconis protozoa and also by feeding on infected dead fish.

The symptoms of neon tetra disease are restlessness, a lumpy body with the cyst, difficulty in swimming, irregular swimming patterns, dwelling at the bottom of the tank, fading colors, and a curvy spine.

Fin rot and bloating can also, but not necessarily be symptoms of Neon Tetra Disease.

As there is no cure for Neon Tetra disease, the best thing is to isolate the fish with any of the above symptoms and the complete water change of the tank.

NOTE: The organism causing the disease can be active in the water for months without any fish in it. Hence, a 100% water change is a must as soon as you see any of the above symptoms.

Prevention is the best remedy. Check the water parameters with a test kit regularly, say twice a month or even weekly once; take great care while adding a new species (quarantining the new species for a few weeks) or decors to the tank.

Take good care of what you feed the fish as the organism causing the disease caused by worm feed. Buy high-quality fish food.

Breeding Neon Tetra:

Breeding Neon Tetra is difficult in captivity. It requires specific parameters of water, conditioning the breeding stocks, separate tank set up, etc.

The first step in breeding Neon Tetra is to identify their genders. The simplest way to differentiate between a male and female neon tetra is to equate their size. Mostly, the female is larger and has a rounder belly than the male. This rounded belly can even make the blue stripe appear curved on the female while males have a strait blue stripe. 

Once you have selected your breeding stock, move them to a separate breeding tank. Yes, it is essential to set up a separate breeding tank to preserve the eggs and the fry from being eaten by their parents and other adult tetras.

Feed the breeding stock high protein-rich food such as brine shrimps, bloodworms to prepare them for spawning. The high protein-rich food promotes the female to start producing eggs. 

Neons are egg scatterers, As soon as the females release the eggs, the male dives in to fertilize the eggs before it sinks to the bottom.

Tank set-up:

  • A 5 to 10-gallon tank with a lid along with a heater to maintain the temperature stable
  • A seasoned sponge filter with bio-mass for the nitrogen cycle
  • Peat moss enough to cover the bottom of the tank. (Can buy peat labeled with organic to avoid pesticides or any other fertilizers)
  • Water parameters should be between 72 to 75°F (22 to 24°C)and the pH 5-6
  • A spawning matt or/and Java moss

The first step in preparing the tank is to soak the peat moss in hot water and spread the peat at the bottom of the tank for about an inch (3 cms). Place the sponge filter and run the filtration pump. Then, add the spawning matt or Java moss; I recommend Java moss as it houses infusorian, the first fry food.

Once the water turns clear brown like infused tea add in your breeding stock and wait for the spawning to take place. Generally, it takes around 4 to 5 days for them to spawn; as soon as the female scatters the eggs and the male fertilizes eggs, remove the parent stock from the breeding tank.

NOTE: The breeding tank does not require lights. As soon as the eggs are fertilized, move the tank where the sunlight does not hit straight. After about 36 hours, the eggs will hatch and feed on infusorians that java moss houses. You can also supplement infusorian available both online and in pet stores.

After about a week, when you see the fry swimming freely, you can start to feed them smashed brine shrimp or home-prepared fry food.

Some interesting facts about Neon Tetra: 

  1. Bio-luminescence: the ability of a creature to thrive in shallow aqueous habitats due to its adaptive resilience. This same feature enables Neon Tetra species to survive in any non-alkaline environment of a relative acidic level.
  2. The Neon Tetra’s ability to change colors has become a focus in nanoparticle research that tries to create the same effect in various materials. 
  3. Even though you cannot hear them communicate, when one fish in the school notices something, you can bet the rest will come to investigate. They are curious and tend to come up to the side of the tank to greet you when you wave at them.
  4. Before an outbreak of Ich, you may notice that Neon Tetras will nip at the waterline more, especially when food is present.
  5. Neon Tetra can grow and live for up to their optimal age, ten years, as long as their habitat is bursting with vital sustaining attributes.
  6. Raising Neon Tetras is great. They are sturdy, cheap, and easy to look after, although breeding neon tetras is a challenge in home aquariums. Nevertheless, they are delightful to all the senses.
  7. They have a fast maturity rate; Neon tetras reach sexual maturity at 4-6 months of age. At this stage, they start to display their traits.

Neon Tetra and its Lifespan – A Wrap-Up:

After reading the entire article, you know how to care for Neon Tetra, what to feed them, how to maintain their habitat, the water parameters, etc. to keep neon tetra thriving to their optimal age. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *