The Cardinal tetra is one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish due to their hardiness and brilliant coloration. It is native to Northern South America, Venezuela, Brazil and Eastern Colombia. It is also found in the tributaries of the Rio Negro and the Orinoco River. It occurs in flooded forest areas, particularly small, shallow creeks and slow moving backwater tributaries of larger rivers. They live in shoals, mainly in the middle water layers where natural foods and good water chemistry are available.
The Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) was first described by American ichthyologist Leonard Peter Schultz in 1956. It belongs to the family Characidae under order Characiformes of class Actinopterygii. Synonyms of this species are Cheirodon axelrodi Schultz, 1956; Hyphessobrycon cardinalis Myers & Weitzman, 1956. The species name ‘axelrodi’ is named for author, publisher of pet care books and entrepreneur Herbert R. Axelrod. It is not listed on the IUCN Red List as vulnerable species.
It is omnivorous and in wild its natural diet consists of very small crustaceans, meso-fauna, eggs, algae, detritus and some other types of prey. In captive condition it feeds readily on flake foods, granulated and small pellets and many frozen and live foods including bloodworm, brine shrimp, black mosquito larvae, Tubifex and Daphnia. It also eats ants, fly larvae or pupae, mites, newly-hatched shrimp, fruit, and fish larvae. Feed should be offered 2-3 times daily.
The Cardinal Tetra is a spectacular fish and it is one of the most popular aquarium fish of all time. It requires at least 15 gallons tank with lots of swimming space and low or subdued lighting. It prefers water with a pH of 5.5-7.5, hardness of 2-8 dGH and temperature of 73.0 to 81.0° F. The tank should have a dark substrate and some dense plant cover and the substrate should be made up of river sand and some driftwood branches and twisted roots. Additionally, the tank should be securely covered as this fish is skilled jumper. The Cardinal Tetra should be kept in groups of six or more and be housed with equally peaceful tank mates. It does best with other small tetras, pencil fish, hatchet fish, dwarf cichlids, small Loricariids, small rasboras and anabantoids. Regular water changes should be done to keep your fish healthy. In this case at least 25 – 50% of the tank water should be replaced every other week, especially if the tank is densely stocked.
The cardinal tetra is an egg layer and it can breed in captive condition. To breed successfully in captivity, pH should be between 5.5 and 6.0, the temperature should be at 75°F and lighting should be dim. Before spawning the parent should be conditioned with high quality protein foods such as live, fresh and flake foods. The mature female lays as many as 500 eggs and after laying eggs the parent must be removed to prevent them from eating the eggs. The eggs hatch in about 24 hours and fry become free swimming within three to four days of hatching. The fry should be fed with infusoria type food for the first few days until they are large enough to accept microworm or brine shrimp nauplii.
It is difficult to make differences between the male and female. Males are generally more slender while females are slightly larger and wider. Sexually mature females are noticeably rounder-bodied and a little larger than males. Mature males have bony pelvic fin hooks.
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Cardinal Tetra Information
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