Cardinal Tetra

Cardinal tetras
Cardinal tetras
Cardinal tetras
Cardinal tetras

A nice addition to the tropical community tank is the Cardinal Tetra. Yes, appearance is very similar to the Neon Tetra but these fish are extremely popular due to their brighter blue colour, extra size and extended life expectancy in comparison amongst the more experienced aquarists.

Common Name(s) : Cardinal tetra

Family : Characidae


Species : Paracheirodon axelrodi

Origin : South America – Paraguay, Venezuela, Brazil

PH : 6.0 – 7.5

Hardness : Soft to Moderately Hard

Temperature : 23 – 28°C / 73–82°F

Maximum Size : 5cm / 2″

Lifespan : 4 years

Aggression Level : Low (1/10)

Recommended Tank Size : 20 Litres +

Strata : Bottom Half


Prefer a planted tank. Add some driftwood plants to help create their natural environment.


  • Most Large / Medium Tropical Fish (avoid very large Angelfish)
  • Dwarf Cichlids


Omnivores,in the aquarium they will accept a wide range of foods including flake, small pellets, bloodworms and brine shrimp.


Female Cardinals appear plumper than males (especially with a belly full of eggs) otherwise these fish are sexually identical with no distinguishable characteristics between the two sexes.

Breeding Cardinal Tetras is quite difficult, you will need a separate heavily planted tank, with a PH of no higher than 6.5. Add a gravid female and male and reduce the light – this can be done adding plants to float on the surface of the water. These fish more often breed at night time. Cardinal Tetras are egg scatterers – but they prefer to scatter them amongst plants.

After 24-30 hours the eggs will hatch and puny little fry will appear like wrigglers. Fry will initially eat the egg sack after which you will need to feed them fry starter or egg yolk for first few weeks. After that wean them onto baby brine shrimp and ensure partial water changes are done very regularly, if not daily.


Originating in South America, where Cardinals inhabit slow moving creeks such as the Rio Negro and Orinoco in Venezuela and Columbia, these are a schooling fish found by the millions in their natural environment. They feed mainly on worms and crustaceans at the bottom of the creeks and canals.

In the wild these fish live for around a year – but in an given the right water perimeters in an aquarium these fish will live up to five years and grow to 2 inches in length.

In the home aquarium, it is suggested that the tank be heavily planted to replicate their natural environment. A dark substrate seems to heighten the look of these fish with their stunning blue upper body and red lower body glowing with the addition of light.

PH should be kept between 6.0 to 7.0 however these fish do well with a standard neutral PH, allowing many other tropical specimens to co-exist in the same environment.

Cardinal Tetras are a schooling fish and should be kept in a group of at least 6 for them to feel safe. They look terrific the way the swim around in a group – it is very pleasing to the eye.


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