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Cardinal Tetra

(Paracheirodon axelrodi)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Moderate   • Temperament: Peaceful   • Maximum Size: 2"
• Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons   • Water Conditions: 74-84° F, KH 2-6, pH 3.0-7.5
• Diet: Omnivore   • Origin: Venezuela, Brazil, Amazon   • Family: Characidae
• Species: Tetras   • Aquarium Type: Community

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Species Information

Cardinal Tetra native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

The Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) originates from the rivers of Venezuela and Brazil, where they are found in a variety of river habitats ranging from slow-moving forest streams to minor river tributaries. Their native habitats also range from areas with substrates covered in leaves, branches and tree roots to areas with clear water, sandy substrates and dense growth of aquatic and bog plants. Despite still being collected in the wild, their immense popularity within the aquarium hobby has led to extensive breeding programs that breed large numbers of specimens for the commercial trade.

Despite being very similar in both appearance and maintenance requirements as the Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi), the Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) is a separate Tetra species. Neon Tetras are a little smaller, usually a little cheaper, and typically a little hardier than their Cardinal Tetra cousins. Cardinals are a little more bold in appearance, mostly because they have more red on their lower sides. Both are schooling species that like to be in a group of at least six or more individuals. Mixed groups of Neons and Cardinals will also readily school together, with the bigger the school, the better they tend to look.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Cardinal Tetra in the home aquarium.

Due to their small size, Cardinal Tetra can be comfortably housed in small aquariums and even nano tanks. However, they do best in schools of 8 or more individuals and aquariums of at least 20 to 30 gallons or more. As is the case with most small fish species, stable water parameters are very important. Quick fluctuations of water temperature, pH, etc. can shock the fish and cause them to be more susceptible to stress related diseases or even cause death. The ideal tank conditions for Cardinal Tetra will include: stable pH & water temperatures around 80° F, low to moderate water flow, plenty of both tall and ground cover vegetation, tree root or driftwood and peaceful community fish tank mates.

The Cardinal Tetra is one of the most peaceful species available within the aquarium hobby. They do well in any peaceful community aquarium containing small to medium community fish species and non-predatory medium sized Cichlids. Larger Cardinal Tetra can typically be successfully kept with larger community species like Angelfish, Discus, Gourami and other similar species. Keys to successfully keeping Cardinal Tetra with larger community species include: keeping them in groups of eight or more individuals, providing plenty of vegetation or other suitable cover, providing adequate space in the aquarium (prevent over crowding) and keeping their larger tank mates well fed.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to properly feed Cardinal Tetra and provide a healthy diet.

In the wild Cardinal Tetra feed on a variety of items including: small invertebrates, small crustaceans, insect larvae, filamentous algae and other similar fare. Being an omnivore, hobbyists should provide a mix of algae, vegetable based and meaty foods. Quality commercial flake, freeze-dried or frozen foods make an excellent staple diet. Hobbyists should also mix in items like bloodworms, daphnia, baby brine, etc. in order to vary the diet and provide a balanced diet. It is best to feed small amounts of food 2 to 3 times per day and occasional abstain from feeding for a day or so from time to time.

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