Overview: Cardinal Tetra is popular with many other names like large neon tetra, red neon and roter tetra. It is a peaceful community tank fish that belongs to the Characidae family. You can pet cardinal tetra in a tank of any size. However, a 20-gallon size will be the most appropriate as they love to remain in the shoal. So, always keep at least six tetras together in a tank. It loves to dwell mostly in the middle and top layers of the tank. The beautiful blue stripe on the body running from the nose to the tail makes cardinal tetra unique. The soft white underbelly makes this fish look beautifully coloured. Aquarists often confuse it with neon tetra; however, the red band running through the body makes it distinguishable.
Distribution and Habitat: Cardinal Tetra is believed to be originated in South America from the Orinoco River. Apart from this, there are many other locations that are reported to be the originating place of this fish. Clusters of cardinals were found in Manaus- the northern part of Brazil. They prefer shaded areas where the light penetrates and provide diffused light intensity to the fish. Generally, Cardinal Tetras live in large schools/shoals. Because of their striking colour, you can make the tank look exotic with the groups of them swimming together.
Temperature: In wild conditions, cardinal tetras live in flooded forest areas, shallow creeks, large rivers and tributaries. 22 to 27 degrees Celsius is the ideal temperature range for the cardinal tetras.
Water conditions: pH should be 6 to 7, and hardness should not be above 4 dGH. Make sure you maintain proper water parameters to keep the fish healthy and happy. The filter outlet in the tank will create enough water movements. Standard aquarium lights will be suitable for fish’s survival. The best colours come when fish are provided with soft acidic water.
Breeding: First of all, get a separate breeding tank if you wish to breed Cardinal Tetra. The pH of the breeding tank should remain within the range of 5 to 6. Soft water with a 3 to 5 dGH reading will ensure better results. Generally, cardinal tetra fish spawns in the evening, laying around 300 to 500 eggs at a time. The eggs hatch within 24 hours. It is advised to feed the fry with egg yolk, infusoria, or commercially fry food. Keep the lighting low and place floating plants to keep the tank almost dark as the young ones are sensitive to light.
Feeding: Cardinal tetras are omnivorous, so you can give them anything- from worms and small crustaceans to vegetables. Egg yolk, dried flakes, fish pellets are some other diet recommendations for this beautiful fish.
Lifespan- A healthy, well-fed cardinal tetra can live up to 3 to 4 years. Maintain the right water parameters and provide a high nutrient diet for longer life.
Do you know? Since males and females are of the same colour, it is quite difficult to distinguish them. However, one can identify females by seeing if they are carrying eggs as they will have rounded bodies.