Cardinal Tetra [Breeding, Appearance, and Interesting Facts]

Cardinal Tetra

Cardinal Tetra is a small freshwater fish from the Characidae family, native to South America’s upper Orinoco and Negro Rivers.

This fish looks similar to the neon tetra but has some differences in coloration.

Cardinal tetras are slightly bigger than neon tetras and don’t school together as much. They need bigger tanks but have similar temperaments.

Cardinal tetra is a popular choice for aquariums but was harder to breed in captivity until recently.

Now, you can find both wild-caught and bred cardinal tetras.

Some experts think supporting sustainable fishing of these fish in the Amazon Basin helps preserve jobs for local people who might otherwise contribute to deforestation if they lost their livelihoods.

Cardinal tetras swim in groups in middle water layers and eat worms and small crustaceans.

Most of these fish found in the aquarium trade come from the Rio Negro and Orinoco tributaries.

These attractive fish should be kept in groups of five or more, and ideally housed within an aquarium that measures at least 60 centimeters (about 24 inches).

Cardinal Tetra Interesting Facts

  • Cardinal tetras are small, colorful fish native to South America’s upper Orinoco and Negro Rivers.
  • They look similar to neon tetras but are slightly bigger and prefer larger tanks.
  • Breeding in captivity is challenging; most aquarium trade cardinal tetras come from the Rio Negro and Orinoco tributaries.
  • Ideal water conditions for these fish include pH levels between 4.0 to 6.0, hardness (dH) of 5 to 12, and temperatures between 73.4°F to 80.6°F (23°C to 27°C).

Cardinal Tetra Habitat

Cardinal tetra is found in South America, specifically in the Upper Orinoco and Negro River basins.

This fish lives in freshwater environments and swims near the surface (pelagic).

It doesn’t migrate and prefers water with a pH range of 4.0 to 6.0 and a hardness (dH) range of 5 to 12.

The ideal water temperature for this tropical fish is 73.4°F to 80.6°F (23°C to 27°C).

Water Temperature:73.4°F to 80.6°F (23°C to 27°C)
Water pH:4.0 to 6.0 pH
Water Hardness:5 to 12 dH

Cardinal Tetra Physical Characteristics

Size: 1 inch (2.5 centimeters)

Cardinal tetra is a tiny fish that grows up to 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) long.

It has a bright blue stripe on its side with a vivid red color below it, giving it the name “cardinal tetra.”

Cardinal Tetra Reproduction

Breeding cardinal tetras in captivity can be done but is challenging.

Their eggs hatch within 24 to 30 hours, with fry swimming freely after 3 to 4 days.

Cardinal Tetra Scientific Classification

Scientific Name:Paracheirodon axelrodi
Also Known As:Cardinal Tetra
Conservation Status:Unknown

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