Neon Tetras vs. Cardinal Tetras Differences

cardinal tetra vs neon tetra

Neon and Cardinal Tetras are almost similar except for the red band that runs along the lower part of their body, to easily tell them apart just observe how the red band has been spread.

For the Neon tetras, the band starts from half its full length and extends to the back, whereas the Cardinal Tetras red band covers the lower full length of its body. 

The Neon Tetras have a small body structure when compared to the Cardinal Tetras, which always grow bigger in size. Wild Cardinal tetras can be found in Rio Negro or Orinoco tributaries, and since there aren’t as many Neon Tetras in South America, The United States has had to import them. When it comes to care, they are not too demanding and most of the time, the same care procedures would work for both Tetras.

Neon Tetras

neon tetra

The Neon Tetras scientific name is “Paracheirodon innesi,” from the Characidae family. Neon Tetras from the wild rarely survive the conditions of the aquarium, the reason why their bred counterparts are sold widely and tend to do well than the ones brought from the wild. You will mostly find them swimming in the middle part of the aquarium and are always in schools. 

They are non-aggressive and will live longer, up to 8years if man didn’t want to accessorize their aquariums with them. In captivity the Neon Tetras tend to have a short life span of about five years max; when it comes to its physical appearance, the fish features a turquoise blue line that runs from the eyes to the area close to the tail and just a little past the dorsal fin. 

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On the lower side, you will notice a red stripe that runs from the mid part of their body to the caudal fin, even more, interesting is that the Neon Tetras are master escapist, only that they don’t run but hide in plain sight. In case of attack from predators, the Neon Tetras have the ability to assume a transparent color, also if you notice that the red and blue iridescent colors have fed, that should be an indication that it is either asleep or sick. 

Cardinal Tetras

cardinal tetra

Paracheirodon axelrodi is the scientific name of the Cardinal Tetra, this species doesn’t like too much light and will comfortably live in areas with slow-moving or standing water. The Cardinal Tetras are some of the hardest to breed fish thus their scarcity. And just like the Neon Tetras they occupy the mid part of the aquarium and live in schools of up to 100 fishes. 

So when you adopt them for your aquarium, consider getting a big number if you want them around for long. Fewer numbers will lead to stress and consequently death, which means for them to have a sense of security, you will have to get at least 10 of them in the tank. Besides, to achieve an appealing cosmetic look, large numbers of Tetras do look pretty given their coloration. 

Color features of the Cardinal Tetra’s are a bit different from the Neon Tetra. The Cardinal has a red stripe in the full length of its lower body, and a blue stripe extends from the nose to the tail fin. Its fins are almost invisible and the bottom part of its belly is white. 

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cardinal tetras

How to care for the Neon and Cardinal Tetras

1. Tank requirements

 We have already established that the Neon Tetras command a large school and love their space, so this will mean that 10 gallons could keep the fish happy. Hiding places should be provided in plenty, same as swimming space with regard to their movement in large numbers. 

2. Substrate 

When it comes to aquarium substrate, size is of paramount importance because if it is too small or medium-sized they might try to ingest and get chocked, hobbyists should, therefore, choose a substrate that is too large to fit in their mouths. Sand is a good option and rarely affects the fish, but what if it accumulates in the fish’s stomach. 

What’s more, is that brightly colored substrate tends to stress the fish out so we can comfortably get rid of sand. A darker substrate is well-tolerated, and for this type of fish, you might have to turn a blind eye on the usual java fern and start looking for the sword plant or the Echinodorus Paniculatus that hail from the Amazon River. 

Fake plants will also work well with the Neon and Cardinal Tetras, just ensure that they are not made with harmful materials or have sharp edges. 

3. Lighting 

Tetras are not into too much lighting and to make their environment as natural as it can be, invest in dim lighting. You can also incorporate some floating plants that will help provide shade in the aquarium. 

4. Feeding 

Feeding the Tetras can be a challenge given the large school and the fact that you have to ensure all of them have been properly fed. Their food should contain a proper balance of nutrients though in the wild they are accustomed to insects. 

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You don’t want them to become overweight and develop health issues, and it is thus recommended that you skip feeding from time to time and even when giving food make sure it is in small quantities. Some of the feeds include live algae or algae wafers, tropical fish pellets or flakes, and live or frozen Bloodworms among others. 

5. Company 

From their size any fish with a big mouth can terrorize or turn your Neon tetras into an expensive delicacy, so it is your duty to accommodate them with equally peaceful and docile aquatic animals; even better you could adopt the herbivorous type of fish. 

The type of fish in the aquarium should also be tropical such as the white could mountain minnows, the ghost shrimp, the lemon tetras, and the Bettas among others. 

6. Equipment 

Given that the Neon Tetras are tropical fish, it would be necessary for your aquarium to have a heater so that you can maintain the temperatures at about 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t forget to include a filter as you assemble the aquarium, this is especially important as it helps in accommodating the beneficial bacteria. Neon Tetras love clean aerated water, a feature that can be well sufficed by the inclusion of a filter.

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