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Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)

Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)

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Overview of Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)

Common Names: Cardinal Tetra

Scientific Name: Paracheirodon axelrodi

Native Location: South America

Climate: Tropical

Size: 1 - 1.5 inches (2.5 - 3.8 cm)

Temperament: Peaceful

Diet: Omnivore

Breeding: Moderate

Temperature Range: 73° - 81° F (22.7° - 27.2° C)

Preferred pH Range: 5.5 - 7.0

KH Range: 4 - 8 dKH

Minimum Aquarium Size: 10 gallons

Potential Tankmates: Other small, peaceful fish, adult dwarf shrimp, larger peaceful invertebrates

Care Level: Easy


The Cardinal Tetra is a popular and vibrant schooling fish, well-known for its striking neon red and blue coloration. Often compared to the Neon Tetra, the Cardinal Tetra is slightly larger and more robust, making it a favorite among aquarium enthusiasts. Their care and behavior are very similar to the Neon Tetra, making them an excellent choice for community tanks.

Physical Characteristics

Cardinal Tetras are celebrated for their vivid neon blue and red stripes that run along their bodies. These colors are more pronounced and extensive compared to the Neon Tetra, covering almost the entire length of the fish, making them a dazzling addition to any aquarium.

Behavior and Compatibility

These tetras are peaceful, schooling fish that should be kept in groups of six or more. They primarily occupy the top and middle levels of the water column but can also be seen in the bottom levels while feeding. They are safe with other small, peaceful fish and larger, peaceful invertebrates. While adult dwarf shrimp are usually safe, Cardinal Tetras may eat smaller shrimp and their fry.

Diet and Feeding

Cardinal Tetras are omnivorous and not picky eaters. They will thrive on a varied diet that includes high-quality flake food, pellets, and frozen or freeze-dried tubifex and bloodworms. Ensuring a diet rich in meaty foods helps maintain their vibrant coloration.

Tank Setup and Care

  • Tank Size: A minimum of 10 gallons is recommended.
  • Water Conditions: They prefer temperatures between 73° - 81° F (22.7° - 27.2° C) and a pH range of 5.5 - 7.0. A KH range of 4 - 8 dKH is ideal.
  • Substrate and Decorations: Mimic their natural habitat with soft, acidic water, leaf litter, and tannins. Aquatic plants and hiding spots will create a comfortable environment for these fish.


Breeding Cardinal Tetras can be moderately challenging. They require specific conditions such as soft, acidic water and low light levels. Providing a separate breeding tank with fine-leaved plants for egg deposition can increase the chances of successful breeding. After spawning, remove the adults to prevent them from eating the eggs.

What We Like About This Fish

  • Coloration: Their beautiful neon red and blue colors make them stand out.
  • Disposition: Peaceful and compatible with other small fish and invertebrates.
  • Activity Level: Very active and noticeable, adding movement to the tank.
  • Tank Levels: Excellent for inhabiting the top of the aquarium.


Cardinal Tetras are a stunning and peaceful addition to any community tank. Their vibrant colors and active nature bring life to the aquarium. Easy to care for, they are suitable for both beginners and experienced aquarists. Providing them with a well-planted tank that mimics their natural habitat and a varied diet will ensure they thrive and display their best colors.

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