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Cardinal Tetra v/s Neon Tetra - Care sheet

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

Ever been fascinated by Tetra. The Cardinal and the Neon Variety



Cardinal Tetra


I have kept so many tetra in my hobby which spans out more than 20 years. Always been fascinated by their vivid colours and beautiful shape. I am sure many hobbyist will love and agree with me the tetra must have been their first love at some point of time in their hobby. Tetra with their sheer beauty in the planted tank stands out then rest of other fish. Tetra fish with their schooling behaviour in a planted aquarium makes the tank a real beauty and oftenly stands out among other tank.


In my course of my experience with the Tetra I have joted down below some finer points in keeping and nurturing Tetra. Various tetra have different requirement. For discussion let me highlight some few point on cardinal / Neon tetra which can be of some help :-

Ph :- 5.5 to 6.5

Temperature around :- 23 to 28 degree celsius ( to tell you frankly I have managed to keep cardinal tetra even in 30 degree celsius.

What is more essential is that the aquarium needs good filteration and the movement of the water needs to be gentle. No strong currents.


Schooling Fish :- The bigger the aquarium the better it is as they are schooling fish. Minimum 6-8 are required. Planted tank is necessary to keep the tetra with added plant cover. The above image at the start of the article is the cardinal tetra against the black backdrop.


Minimum tank size is 15 gallons. But I have never kept tetra in less than 45 gallons. I always kept with minimum 12 cardinal tetra. Never mix the cardinal and neon tetra. Just keep once species. I had both the varieties in two different tanks. In my own experience the neon is bit delicate than the cardinal. With a slight increase in temperature and water change, I had lost neon tetra pretty fast. Cardinal tetra are more hardy and they grow bigger than the neon. I had 18 cardinal tetra for atleast 2 years. Just lost 4 of them along the way.


My planted tank does not have a hood. But would recommend the hood if the tank is placed closer to a dust in place...You can prevent some dust entering in the tank. The lights are recommended in the tank, it helps in beautiful coloration overall.


Filteration maintenance :- Tetra needs clean water to survive. Atleast 30% water change is recommended.


Dont overdose with medicine as it can have deterimentel effect on the fish. Accidentally, I had dosed once with nutrients and also anti-algae. Just became too much for them to take it. Also do not increase the carbon dioxide in a planted tank as too much of it can KILL both the tetra.

Fish Food :- A good high protein diet is needed for both the tetra variety. Whether pellets or flakes or even live food. But be Careful with the live food as too much of protein can create other ailments like bloat and finally dropsy, Cardinal Tetra / Neon Tetra is more suspectible to ich.



Always keep medicine handy. You dont know when the demon can struck you. I use seachem Paraguard for treatment of Ich. With a slight increase in the temperature for 12 days.


Neon Tetra


Coming back to food I dont feed them live food as the source of the blood worms from whom I use to get is not so great now and comes through contaminated water. Please be careful and always know the source from where you get your live feed. Better be careful than be sorry.


Substrate :- Use fine substrate.. I have my cardinal with Black background as it stands out. It really stands out with a dark substrate.I have kept cardinals with Discus in my 3ft tank. They are big enough as not to enter into their mouth. Compatibility with rummy nose tetra is beautiful. I had most of them with rummy nose. Infact I have found rummy nose tetra more delicate than the cardinal tetra,


How do you recognise the Two Tetra:

The Red below the neon tetra is half way across the body

The Red below the cardinal tetra is spread from tail across the body. This is the major difference.

Cardinal has longer body than the neon tetra.



The remarkable and effective Medicine I use for my tetra against Itch is seachem paraguard,



The Author of the Article is Sunil Dcosta proprietor of www.aquafishcare.com

and also written on other blog such as www.aquafishcaretimes.com



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smruti Kulkarni
smruti Kulkarni
May 24, 2022

Most of my doubts were cleared..Thank

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