Neon Tetras and Cardinal Tetras
Neon and Cardinal Tetras are arguably the most popular of the small Tetras. They are both active schooling fish. Have similar, beautiful colourings, and suit blackwater aquaria. Their colourings are similar. The most visual difference is a Neon Tetras red stripe only runs halfway up their body, and their blue stripe is a less vibrant blue
Neon Tetras were the first ones on the aquarium keeping scene, back in 1936. And, ever since they have become one of the most desirable aquarium fish out there on the market. Amazingly sought after for their bright colouring, which makes them visible in blackwater aquariums. Then, there are Cardinal Tetras, often confused with Neon Tetras.. They can grow to be 1.2 cm longer than Neons. Cardinal Tetras are becoming a common sight in aquariums. Although, are still less widespread when compared to Neon Tetras. Some of those reasons are due to difficulties in breeding, up until recently.
Both Neon and Cardinal Tetras originate from South America. Though most you will find in aquariums will be captive breeds. This makes them more tolerant of water conditions. With this in mind, know that these fish are sensitive to the overall water quality. Do not introduce them into recently established aquariums. And, carry out regular water changes. Tetras thrive in more acidic water. Neons like a p.H of 6.2 – 6.8 and Cardinals a p.H of 6.0 – 6.8. With a temperature range of 26 – 29℃ (76 – 85℉)
Neon Tetras live in dark water with dense vegetation and low lights. Cardinal Tetras prefer clear water that is standing or slow-moving and low-lights. Cardinals can be the fussier eaters in the beginning but should adjust. Soon enough, they all should eat about anything— flake, freeze-dried and frozen foods. Neons are also more likely to have weaker immune systems, and Cardinals can be stricter when it comes to water requirements. A small 3 stage filtration unit would benefit these fish.
Breeding Neon Tetras at home them can be difficult. There are required water conditions, to ‘trigger’, their mating season. They are not ideal for beginner breeders. They are also egg scatterers. The female will lay eggs and after the male will fertilise them. After this remove the parents from the breeder tank. They do not care for their young and are known to eat them. Breeding Cardinal Tetras is a challenge in the best of conditions and should only be attempted by experienced breeders. You will need a breeding tank with a stable water chemistry. They are also egg scatterers. The fry will be highly photosensitive so tank lightning needs to be dim.
These Tetras also share many similarities, one being, the bigger the group, the happier they will be. The best way to keep your Tetras happy is to think, you should have 1 Tetra, to every 4L (1 gallon) of water. It may seem like overkill, but in the wild, you will find them in schools containing hundreds of individuals. It can become severe to their health if kept in a group too small. They can become prone to shyness – this is a sign they are not doing well.
We are not suggesting you should have hundreds in your tank, but try to keep 20 – 30 and see how lively they can be! And know it will be a beautiful sight.
But what happens if you cannot choose between one or the other? Well, if you keep an aquarium with both Tetras, they will likely school together and create a bond. You can get the best of both worlds. If kept in a community tank with other fish, keep in mind these Tetras peaceful nature. They are bite-sized and will not do well with bigger or aggressive fish. As many of their needs are similar. When cared for just right, they can be perfect for any level of experience, and live up to four or more years.
Neon and Cardinal Tetras are some of the most attractive small fish you can ask for in your aquarium. And, everyone around you will complement them in awe, as they swim together through your tank.