Cardinal Tetras: Characteristics, habitat,care and more…

Want a really eyes-catching aquarium? Then don’t miss this chance to learn everything about the Cardinal tetras or Paracheirodon axelrodi in scientific terms.

Taxonomic Classification

Phylum: Chordata  Class: Actinopterygii Order: Characiformes  Family:  Characidae  Genus:  Paracheirodon Species:   P. axelrodi

The Cardinal Tetras’ Main Characteristics

Cardinal tetras are small fish, since they grow to about 2.5 cm in length in the wild and up to 5 cm in an aquarium and there is a slight sexual dimorphism in this species.  Their horizontal neon blue stripes and deep red markings are probably their most distinctive traits.

The neon stripe becomes iridescent in presence of external lighting and turns from green to blue according to the changes of the light’s angle, which makes of tetra cardinals a very striking and sought species for any eyes-catching fish tank

During the night, cardinal tetras display a transparent, brownish color. In the same way as other tetras, cardinal tetras have a small adipose end on their dorsal side at the tail end of their bodies.

Tetra cardinals are commonly confused with tetra neons but they are actually different fish, although tetra cardinals are sometimes called red neon tetras.  However, Tetra cardinals are bigger and their red stripe crosses the entire lower part of their body, while in the case of the tetra neon the band only crosses half of the body of the fish. We invite you to read our article The anatomy of fish to learn more about such a topic

Cardinal Tetras: Distribution and Habitat

Cardinal tetras are native fish of Brazil, and they are especially found in the basin of the Rio Negro and its tributaries. The Orinoco River, in Venezuela, is another common habitat of these fish, although they tend to present certain morphological differences in such a region.

They develop their lives in forest streams, with relatively slow water currents, abundant vegetation and substrates covered with fallen branches, roots and leaves. They are acid waters and usually dyed brown, thanks to the presence of large amount of decaying plant material.

cardinal tetras: Rio Negro Brasil

Cardinal Tetras in Aquariums

Taking care of Cardinal Tetras is not that easy since they are very sensitive to the water parameters and purity. If such parameters vary a lot the fish tends to get sick and die. Cardinal Tetras are recommended to aquarists with experience, since they often die when they are in the hands of beginners aquarists

They need an aquarium of between 50 and 60 liters, where we will find them swimming in the intermediate zone. Your pet’s home should be densely planted since they like plants with thin leaves, which provide them with safe shelter, especially during the breeding season.  It’s good to keep in mind that Cardinal tetras don’t like intense lighting.

In addition, they are pacific fish that like all tetra fish love the company. It is advisable to keep a group of 10 specimens at least as they will feel more comfortable.

The water must have the following characteristics:

  • Temperature between 23ºC and 27ºC
  • pH between 4,6 and 7
  • gH from 3 to 6 degH de 3 a 6 

Feeding Cardinal Tetras

They are fish with voracious appetites, which will accept all kinds of small food. In the wild they will eat all kinds of small invertebrates, crustaceans, algae and fruits fallen from the trees.

In the aquarium we must try to imitate this feeding by providing live food based on artemia, mosquitoes’ larvae, daphnias, although they will also accept any type of dry food for tropical fish.

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