Cardinal Tetra 101: Species Summary & Ultimate Care Guide | 2022

By: Martin McAdam
Updated: March 20, 2022

Cardinal Tetra is a small, brightly-colored species of fish that are popular in the aquarium hobby. They are found in sluggish streams and rivers in the Amazon basin, where they live among submerged plants and debris.

One thing that makes cardinal tetras so popular is that they are very different from most other fish. They have a deep, iridescent red coloration and a long, flowing tail. They also have a unique shape, with their body being almost triangular in cross-section.

Here you will learn all about cardinal tetras, including how to care for them and what to feed them. You will also learn about their natural habitat and the different cardinal tetras available in the aquarium hobby.

Species Summary

The Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) is a small, brightly-colored fish from the Amazon River basin. They are popular in the aquarium hobby and can be successfully kept in community tanks.

CARDINAL TETRA

The cardinal tetra was first discovered by Leonard Peter Schultz in 1956. They are very similar in appearance to the Neon Tetra, and some aquarists consider them to be subspecies of Neon Tetra. However, recent genetic studies have shown that they are two distinct species.

Other common names for the cardinal tetra include red neon tetra, cherry tetra, and bloodfin tetra.

Read: Rummy Nose Tetra 101: All You Need To Know

Habitat

The cardinal tetra is native to sluggish streams and rivers in the Amazon basin. They are typically found near submerged plants and debris, where they can find shelter from predators.

Lifespan

In the wild, the average lifespan of a cardinal tetra is about 4 years. However, in captivity, they can live for up to 8 years. When properly cared for, cardinal tetras are hardy and long-lived fish.

Appearance

Many people consider the cardinal tetra to be one of the most attractive fish in the aquarium hobby. They are a deep red color with a long, flowing tail.

cardinal tetra appearance

They also have a unique shape, with their body being almost triangular in cross-section. They resemble a small red triangle with a long tail from the side.

The main difference between Cardinal Tetras and Neon Tetras is that Cardinal Tetras have a much deeper red color and a longer tail. For Neon, the red is more of light pink. All of the fins on a Cardinal Tetra are red, whereas Neon Tetras typically have black fins.

Male And Female Difference

The male cardinal tetra is typically smaller than the female and has a more slender body. He also has brighter red coloration and longer fins.

The female cardinal tetra is larger than the male and has a rounder body. Her coloration is not as bright as the males, and her fins are shorter.

Average Size

The average size of a cardinal tetra is about 2.5 inches (6 cm). That makes them one of the smaller fish that are commonly kept in the aquarium hobby.

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Cardinal Tetra Breeding

Cardinal tetras are one of the easiest fish to breed. They will breed in a community tank with other peaceful fish. The female cardinal tetra will deposit her eggs on a leaf or other surface, and the male will fertilize them. The eggs will hatch in 2-3 days, and the fry will be able to swim on their own in a few more days.

Cardinal Tetra Breeding

The fry will need to be fed a diet of baby brine shrimp or other small live food. They can also be fed a crushed flake food or powdered food diet. They will grow rapidly and can be sexually mature in a few months.

Create a separate breeding tank for your cardinal tetras if you want to increase your chances of spawning them. This can be a 10-20 gallon tank with plenty of plants and decorations. Add a few mature, healthy plants to the tank and set the water temperature at 72-79 degrees F.

When breeding cardinal tetras, providing a good food source for the fry is important. Commercial fry food is a good option, but you can also feed them crushed flake food or powdered food. Be sure to keep the water clean and change it regularly.

The fry will survive in a community tank, but it is best to remove them from the tank and place them in a quiet environment until they can swim independently. It will be a few weeks before they are ready to be put back in a community tank. Provide infusoria or other live food for the fry if you want them to grow quickly.

Read: Silver Tip Tetra Guide: All You Need To Know

Cardinal Tetra Care Guide

Cardinal Tetra care is relatively easy, and they can be successfully kept in community tanks with other peaceful fish.

Cardinal Tetra Care Guide

This section will learn about the requirements for keeping cardinal tetras in an aquarium, including tank size, water parameters, and decor.

Food & Diet

Cardinal tetras are omnivorous and will eat a variety of foods. They will enjoy both live and frozen foods and flake food. However, it is important to supplement their diet with high-vitamin foods like Tetra Cichlid Flakes. These flakes are packed with essential nutrients that will help keep your fish healthy and vibrant.

A good diet for cardinal tetras includes a mix of live, frozen, and dried foods. They will enjoy both meaty and vegetative foods, so try to provide a variety of foods. Some good choices for live food are bloodworms, brine shrimp, and blackworms. Frozen food options include daphnia, krill, and cyclops. And for dried food, try a high-quality flake food or pellet diet.

It's best to feed your fish 2-3 times a day, but only feed them what they can eat in 5 minutes or less. Overfeeding can lead to health problems and can pollute the water.

Tank Size

A minimum tank size of 20 gallons (75 L) is recommended for a school of cardinal tetras. However, the larger the tank, the better. A 55 gallon (208 L) tank would be ideal.

It is unnecessary to have a heavily planted tank for cardinal tetras, but they prefer some cover in the form of plants or driftwood. Although, they will do fine in an unplanted tank as well. If you can't provide a planted tank, then consider using live or artificial plants to give your fish some cover.

Water Parameters

Water parameters should be as follows:

  • Temperature: 72-79 F (22-26 C)
  • pH: 5.0-7.5

These fish come from soft water habitats, and so they prefer a pH of 5.0-7.5 and a water hardness of 2-6 KH.

If your water parameters do not meet these requirements, you can use a water conditioner such as Seachem Prime to adjust them. The water needs to be clean and well-oxygenated, so regular changes are necessary.

In order to make sure that the water parameters are stable and within the desired range, a water test kit is essential. Get a reliable test kit like the API Freshwater Master Test Kit and use it regularly to monitor the water parameters in your tank.

Aquascaping

As mentioned earlier, cardinal tetras do not require a heavily planted tank, but they do appreciate some cover in the form of plants or driftwood. You can also use rock formations, caves, and other decorations to create hiding places for your fish.

cardinal tetra aquascaping

Cardinal tetras are beautiful and hardy fish that make a great addition to any community tank. So if you are looking for a colorful and active fish, the cardinal tetra is a good choice. These fish can live in a wide range of water parameters, so they are good for novice fish keepers. Just keep the water clean and well-oxygenated and monitor the water parameters with a water test kit.

Cardinal Tetras stick to the upper levels of the tank, so provide plenty of open swimming space. They are a beautiful addition to any community tank and make a great beginner fish. Your best option would be fine sand with a few scattered rocks and driftwood. If you have live plants in the tank, they will love to hide in the leaves.

When arranging the plant life's in the tank, leave plenty of open swimming areas near the top for the Cardinals. You can also use floating plants to dim the light and cover them more. When adding driftwood, make sure to leave plenty of gaps for swimming.

Cardinals love to swim and need lots of space to do so. Larger chunks of driftwood will also provide hiding spaces for the Cardinals.

Potential Diseases

There are a few different potential diseases that can afflict cardinal tetras. One such disease is ich, which is a protozoan parasite that can cause white spots on the fish. If you see any signs of disease, take your fish to a veterinarian for treatment.

Another potential disease is fin rot, which is a bacterial infection that causes the fins and tail to rot away. If you see any signs of fin rot, treat the fish with antibiotics.

A third potential disease is called neon tetra disease, and it is a virus that affects neon tetras. However, it has not been observed in cardinal tetras.

If you notice any signs of disease in your cardinal tetras, take them to a veterinarian for treatment. Diseases can be fatal if not treated, so it is important to seek help as soon as possible.

Perform regular water changes and monitor the water parameters to help prevent disease. Get a reliable water test kit like the API Freshwater Master Test Kit and use it regularly to monitor the water parameters in your tank.

Behavior & Temperament

Cardinal Tetras are a very active and social fish. They will thrive in a community tank with other peaceful fish. They are schooling fish, so keeping at least 6-8 of them together is best. When kept in a large school, they will be more active and colorful.

These fish are one of the most docile and peaceful fish available. They will not bother other fish in the tank and are an excellent choice for a community tank.

However, they may become stressed in a busy or noisy tank. If the tank is too crowded or there is too much noise, they may become shy and withdrawn. In these cases, it is best to remove them from the tank and place them in a quiet environment.

Tank Mates

Beyond other peaceful fish, cardinal tetras can be kept with a variety of other fish. Some good tank mates include:

cardinal tetra tankmates
  • Glowlight Tetras- These small, peaceful fish make a great addition to a tank with cardinal tetras.
  • Cory Catfish- These bottom dwellers will help keep the substrate clean and will not harm the cardinal tetras.
  • Betta Fish- Although they are not the best tank mates, betta fish can be kept with cardinal tetras as long.
  • Harlequin Rasboras- These active, schooling fish are a great addition to any community tank.
  • Neon Tetras- These small, colorful fish are a perfect match for cardinal tetras.
  • Panda Corydoras- This peaceful, small catfish is a great addition to any tank.
  • Pygmy Corydoras- Another small, peaceful catfish that is perfect for a community tank.
  • Ram Cichlids- These medium-sized cichlids are a good choice for a tank with cardinal tetras, but should be watched carefully to make sure they do not become aggressive.
  • Rosy Barb- This small, peaceful fish is a good choice for a community tank with cardinal tetras.
  • Siamese Algae Eater- This algae eater is a great addition to any tank and will help keep the tank clean.
  • Zebra Danios- These small, active fish are a great addition to any community tank.

When choosing tank mates for your cardinal tetras, be sure to choose fish of a similar size and temperament. If you have a large tank, you can experiment with a variety of different fish combinations. Just be sure to keep an eye on the overall temperament of the tank and make any necessary changes if things get too rowdy.

Keep in mind that some fish may nip at the fins of the cardinal tetras, so it is important to choose tank mates that will not harm them. Also, make sure to avoid fish that are known to be aggressive or territorial.

The ideal tank size for cardinal tetras is 20 gallons or larger. However, they can be kept in a smaller tank as long as there are plenty of plants and decorations for them to hide in.

Adavantages Of Having Them In Tank

There are a number of advantages to having cardinal tetras in your tank.

  • They are a beautiful fish that come in a variety of colors. They are also peaceful and easy to care for, making them a good choice for beginner fish keepers.
  • They are schooling fish and do best when kept in groups of at least 6-8. This makes them a good choice for community tanks.
  • They are also a low-maintenance fish and will thrive in a variety of water conditions.
  • They will eat a variety of foods, including both live and frozen food.
  • They are affordable and can be found at most pet stores.
  • They are fun to watch and will add a splash of color to your tank.

Disdavantages Of Having Them In Tank

There are a few disadvantages to keeping cardinal tetras in your tank.

  • They can be nippy and may nip at the fins of other fish.
  • They can also be a bit territorial and may not get along well with other fish.
  • They need plenty of swimming space and should not be kept in a tank that is too small.
  • They require a good water filter and should not be kept in a tank that does not have one.
  • They are a schooling fish and do best when kept in groups of six or more but if you have a small tank, you may not be able to keep them in it.

Conclusion

As you can see, cardinal tetras are a great addition to any tank. They are peaceful, easy to care for and come in a variety of beautiful colors. They will thrive in a community tank with other peaceful fish and will help keep the substrate clean.

We know tons of owners want to know how they can add cardinal tetras to their homes. Hopefully, this article has given you a little more information on these fish and what they need to be happy and healthy in a community tank setting.

If you are looking for an attractive, easy-to-care-for fish, the cardinal tetra is a great choice. Thanks for reading!

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