How Long Do Tetra Fish Live | Here Is How You Can Increase Their Lifespan

how long does a tetra live

It is quite common to ask about the lifespan of the fish you are thinking of keeping as pets. The case with tetra is the same as well. You ask questions like: how long does a tetra live? What can you do to keep your tetra alive for the longest?

Tetra tends to live up to 5 years in captivity, although it lives for 10 years in the wild. You need to take care of certain factors to attain their ideal limit in the aquarium, and you will have your tetra happy and healthy living the longest.

The factors like temperature, water quality, diet, etc. play an important role in the survival of the tetra in captivity.

Here, we will learn about every dos and don’ts related to tetra in an aquarium. Every question from when to where, what to why, how much to how often has the answer below.

So, let us take this journey about tetra and their chance to live.

How Long Does A Tetra Live?

Here are two separate questions merged as one. The first one is how long does a tetra live in the wild? And the other is: how long does a tetra live in the tank? Let us answer this separately.

Tetras when they are familiar with the environment or say they are in their native place, these tetras live up to 10 years.

The average lifespan of a tetra in the wild is 8 years, but they can live as long as 10 years with issues whatsoever.

I have also written an article about the Lifespan of Tetra Fish | Keeping you Tetras Healthy and Happy. Check it out here!

How Long Does A Tetra Live In A Tank?

A simple thing to know about the tank life of tetra is it is not their natural habitat. No living beings on earth survive longer in captivity than in their natural habitat.

Even we, human beings, die sooner if kept in captivity than in our own home. The same happens in the case of these small tetras.

Tetra has a lifespan shorten to 5 years when kept in a tank. But this can shorten more or less if the tank conditions do not mimic the natural environment.

Learn more about Water Parameters for Tetra Fish: Stable Water Condition here.

What Are The Factors That Determine The Lifespan Of Tetra?

Various factors determine how long your fish is going to live. The process right from the moment you get the fish from the pet store to how you take care of the fish will affect the overall health of the tetra fish.

Fish Bag

When you purchase any fish, the pet store provides it in a plastic bag. Although it is safe to carry your tetra in a fish bag inside an insulating compartment box, the time you keep your fish in a fish bag can bring consequences.

Your small fish can survive up to 8 to 9 hours in the fish bag, but any more than that can cause an increment in ammonia level and stress with the eventual death of fish.

To get a basic idea, you can read the article ‘Can Neon Tetra Live in a Fishbowl?’.


Tetras are schooling fish with an ideal school size of 15-20 members. You should keep a minimum of 8 to 10 tetras in a 10-gallons tank or else they will get sick and die eventually.

These tetras thrive in a school and live longer than isolated, lonely tetra.

Are Tetras Schooling Fish? – Easy Schooling Fish. Find out here.

Tank Size

The size of the tank directly affects the lifespan of your tetra. The ideal way to get a tank is 1-gallon per tetra.

And the ideal school size as we know is more than 10 members. So, it is better to get a 20-gallons tank with 15-20 tetras. The best 20- gallon tank in the market at an affordable price is Tetra Aquarium 20 Gallon Fish Tank Kit, Includes LED Lighting and Decor.

Best Tank Size For Tetra Fish? Neon, Cardinal, and Other Similar Tetras will help you get an idea about the tank size needed for various types of tetras.


Tetras are toothed fish, so they can eat anything from plants to insects. If you want your tetra to stay healthy and alive, you must feed them packed, frozen, and live foods.

There is various fish food that is basically made for these tetras. You need to feed them different varieties of food, but not more than the ideal size.

The ideal size of food for tetras is what they can eat within 2 minutes in a small size equal to the size of their eye. Or else the accumulation of uneaten food leads to an increment of ammonia level and they choke on big bites of food.

You can feed them 2 times to 4 times a day, but remember to feed them a mixture of food.

How To Feed Tetra Fish Fry Properly | Dos and Don’ts With Alternative Fry Food. Find out more here.


Larger fish are a threat to small tetras as these large fish can eat up smaller tetras. And any other aggressive fish can stress these tetras.

Tetras are well-adjusted to other tetras and fish with the same temperament and tank needs. Guppies, mollies, and platys are their ideal tank mates.

You can get more information about it from ‘Are Tetras Fin Nippers? Are They Aggressive?‘.

Water Quality

The most necessary thing that affects tetra is water quality. They need water that mimics their natural habitat.

The water temperature needs to be between 75 to 80 °F and the pH needs to be around 6.8 to 7.8, a bit acidic water.

Likewise, the alkalinity they ask is between 3° to 8° dKH, in other words between 50 ppm to 140 ppm.

When maintained all these ideal conditions, tetras thrive well and live a long life in captivity.

If you are looking for increasing the pH of your freshwater aquarium, click here.


Tetras, like any other fish, need oxygen to respire and live. The tank with sufficient oxygen is appropriate for tetras.

The depletion of oxygen level stresses the tetras and kills them after a while. For this, you can use an air pump. Tetra Whisper Easy to Use AP150 Air Pump for Aquariums is one of the most affordable ones you will get on amazon.


Diseases are either tank-borne or transferred through new members of the tank. Most of the time poorly maintained aquarium is the main cause of various diseases.

Diseases bring death to any fish, and tetras are equally harmed as well. Ick and Fin Rot are the diseases common in tetras.

If you want to learn more about Tetra Fish Diseases and Treatments, you can click here.

How Can You Make Sure That Your Tetras Live Longer?

From the very first moment you get your tetra, your job to take care of it starts from the very moment. A well-maintained tank minus all the diseases and stress from the tetras.

Following things can be done to make sure your tetra tank is well-maintained and your tetras remain alive longer:


When you bring your fish home in a fish bag, do not delay to put the fish into the tank from the fish bag. Any longer time in the fish bag can eventually suffocate and kill your tetra.

But you can not just dump your fish from the bag into the new tank, there are few steps to follow. You have to acclimate your fish to the well-cycled and well-arranged tank before putting it into its new home.

Acclimation helps the fish to adjust well to its new home and make it easier for them to live longer without stressing.

Cycle The Tank

Before keeping your tetra in the tank, you need to cycle your tank a few weeks beforehand to remove all the impurities, parasites, and harmful bacteria present.

The removal of harmful microorganisms and impurities makes the tank livable for the tetras which in turn aids in tetras’ longer lifespan.

Use Of Heater

The slightest change in the temperature might stress your tetras, so it is high time you get an aquarium heater.

The heater is one of few must-have types of equipment in the tetra tank, as it automatically maintains the ideal temperature.

And two heaters are blessing in disguise, one can be like a back-up plan when the first one fails. And the heat is transferred equally throughout the tank.

I suggest AQQA Mini Submersible Aquarium Heater for tetras in your tank.

Use Of Filter

If you want to get water with ideal quality for your tetras, you need to get a filter with both mechanical and biological filter media.

The filter helps to clear out all the physical impurities present with the help of mechanical media. And beneficial bacteria in the biological media clear out toxic chemicals like ammonia and nitrite.

The removal of pollutants from the tank helps to keep the tetra safe and healthy, resulting in an increment in the lifespan.

The hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter, Comes with 2 Spare Sponges, and Tetra Decorative ReptoFilter, Terrarium Filtration are two of the best filters for tetra tank.

Use Of Air Pump

The depletion of oxygen level in the tank can be solved through the use of simple aquarium add-ons called air pump.

The air pump increases the surface agitation and oxygen level along with the aesthetic look provided through the bubbles.

Well-Planted Tank

A well-planted tank is a boon to the tetras as they prefer the tank that mimics their natural habitat.

Plants also act as a biological filtration and hiding space for the scared and stressed tetras. To find out the 10 best plants for a tetra tank, you can click here.

Appropriate Tank Size

As already stated, if you give tetras enough space to swim around, they will stay happy and healthy with no stress at all.

Happy and not stressed tetras live longer than the tetra in a small tank where they can not swim freely.

Quarantine Tank

When any of your tetras start showing symptoms of any disease, you have to transfer it to a quarantine tank. This way they can not affect other tetras present in the tank.

Proper Diet

Feeding tetras on time and with the ideal amount guarantee their well-being. But also you need to provide only the food made especially for them.

You need to get fish food made for tropical fish and avoid food for cichlids or any other fish. Also, never feed your tetras bread as it can affect their digestive system.

Relatable articles about tetra diet:

  1. Do Tetra Fish Eat Algae? – Should You Add Algae To Their Diet?
  2. Tetra Fish Diet | What do Tetra Fish Eat: A Complete Guide

Appropriate School Size

Tetra dies sooner when kept isolated and alone in a small tank. So, when you plan to get tetra, you need to get the whole school of tetras with a minimum of 6 members.

Tetras thrive in ideal school size, in turn living their life well and fullest. Are Tetras Schooling Fish? Find out more about Easy Schooling Fish.

Aquarium Placement

You need to keep your tank far from direct sunlight and in a room with a constant temperature. The slightest sunlight can trigger unlimited algal growth that can be harmful to your tetras.

Do Tetras Die Easily?

The answer is the same for most of the tetras. Even if the tetras are hardy, the slightest change in the tank conditions or any other factors can result in stress in the tetras.

Sometimes the change brings various diseases along with it. Stress and diseases are the prime reasons that lead to the death of your tetras.

So, yes, tetras die easily when you do not take care of them properly and provide ideal conditions in the tank.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Tetra Live Alone?

The answer is both Yes and No. Yes, tetras can live for a while alone in a tank, and No, because they are schooling fish and die due to stress resulting from loneliness.

How Fast Do Tetras Grow?

The development of tetras depends upon their kind. Some are fast growers whereas some grow slowly.

For instance, fry of congo tetra starts eating after two weeks and reaches 2 inches within a few months, whereas fry of ember tetras grows slowly and reach only ¼ inches after 2 months.

Do Tetras Eat Their Babies?

Yes, no doubt, tetras eat their fries as soon as they hatch. That may be unknowingly or willingly but tetras do wat their babies, so it wise to remove adults as soon as the eggs are laid as adult tetras eat eggs as well.

Do Tetra Fish Eat Shrimp? Do you Need To Worry? Find out here.


In conclusion, tetra is one of the best fish species you can have in your aquarium. They can give you a good company for 5 years and sometimes even more. Tetras thrive when you provide them enough care and love.

If you are wise enough to give them all the ideal requirements, then there is no doubt they will be happy with you till their last days. Make sure you have enough equipment and plenty of necessary knowledge about tetras before you begin to pet it.

Related articles:

  1. Can Tetra Fish Live Without Heater And Filter?
  2. Are Tetras Egg Layers? What Do They Look Like?
  3. Are Tetras Hardy Fish? – Different Parameter Levels

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