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Cardinal Tetra

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Scientific Name:   Paracheirodon axelrodi      
Min. Tank Size:   25 gallons      
Personality:   Peaceful      
Temperature:   73-82°F      
pH:   4.0-6.0/5-12°dGH      
Size:   2"      
Diet:   Omnivore      
Breeding:   Egglayer      


Best kept in shoals with 6 or more of their own species; can be kept with other Tetras, Pencilfish, Hatchetfish, Dwarf Cichlids, Rasboras, Barbs, Anabantids and Corydoras.

Cardinal Tetra

Often confused with the Neon Tetra, Cardinal Tetras are named for the vivid red coloration on their bodies. These fish exhibit an iridescent blue line running horizontally along the body from the eye to the base of the caudal fin. Below this line, the bodies of these fish take on a vivid red color which extends all the way from the nose to the tail. Cardinal Tetras are native to the Rio orinoco and Rio Negro regions in Brazil, Columbia and Venezuela. These fish tend to inhabit forested areas as well as slow-moving blackwaters. Most of the specimens available in the aquarium hobby are wild-caught, but tank-bred species are slowly becoming more prevalent.

Tank Set-up

Cardinal Tetras are a very popular species in the aquarium trade and tank-bred specimens are generally hardy and easy to maintain. While wild-caught specimens may take longer to acclimate to tank life, they often thrive in well-maintained tanks. These fish can be kept in planted tanks as well as in biotype tank setups but they tend to appear washed out in sparsely decorated tanks. A dimly lit tank with dark substrate is the recommended setup. A generous portion of floating plants will help to dim the lighting in the tank while black sand will hwlp to darken the tank up a bit more. Because these fish are sensitive to poor water quality, regular tank maintenance - including weekly water changes - is essential.  


These Tetras are micropredators by nature, feeding on small invertebrates in the wild. In the home aquarium, however, Cardinal Tetras are not fussy eaters. Offer these fish a staple diet of high-quality flakes or granules supplemented with small live and frozen foods such as Daphnia, brine shrimp and Artemia. Feed a diet consisting of a variety of foods on a regular basis to promote the best health and coloration.


Unlike many Tetras, Cardinal Tetras can be fairly difficult to breed. These fish are most likely to spawn in a dimly lit tank outfitted with a sponge filter and decorated with plenty of fine-leaved plants. Cardinal Tetras are best spawned in pairs and spawning occurs exclusively in the evening. Because these fish are likely to eat their own eggs, it is best to remove adult fish from the tank after spawning has occurred.

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