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The 7 Cardinal Tetras show their fantastic colors. (DEC 97) More Images

Name: Paracheirodon axelrodi
Size pHGHTemp
Origin: Amazon Basin
5 cm 6.0 6 25oC

The Cardinal Tetra is one of the most desired fish to have in a tank, mainly because of its awesome coloration. However, keeping these little fish requires a certain knowledge that many owners do not have. These fish are extremely hard to breed in captivity, virtually all of the fish available in shops have been taken from the Amazon basin, and unfortunately thousands of them die every year in inappropriate tanks. It is quite common, for example, to see a little kid walk into a shop with a few coins and buy one or two cardinals to add to his goldfish bowl.

My experience is that these fish are actually quite hardy, as long as they are properly adapted into captivity. First of all, they are very sensitive to changes in water parameters after being caught, so the water should be kept as close as possible to their natural habitat (see table above). Second, they should be kept in large numbers (at least 5, many more if possible) in a well planted tank with lots of shades and hiding places. This greatly reduces the stress that leads to many of the deaths. Needless to say, their tankmates should be peaceful and preferably small. After a while in these conditions, the cardinals tend to become more healthy and confident. They don't bother to hide anymore and become much more tolerant of changes in water conditions.