Cardinal Tetra Tank Mates: 7 Compatible Tank Mates For Cardinal Tetras

Estimated read time 11 min read

Cardinal Tetra Tank Mates

In this article, I will share with you some great Cardinal Tetra Tank Mates that you can add to your aquarium for a fun and colorful aquarium.

One of the most popular tetra fish is the Cardinal Tetra which has a similar appearance to the smaller neon tetra – also a favorite of aquarium enthusiasts.

Also known as red neon tetras, the Cardinal Tetra is an active and tiny fish which lives to swim in schools and prefer living in community aquariums that have a peaceful environment.

While Cardinal Tetras are difficult to breed when kept in captivity, they are a popular breed for aquarium lovers.

They are a great fish for your aquarium, but in order to make a community aquarium, you need to add a few other species of fish to get a good mixture.

Luckily for fish tank owners, Cardinal Tetras are a peaceful species, which can pretty much get along with almost all other species of fish.

The question is, What fish can live with Cardinal Tetras?

In this article, we will reveal everything you need to know in order to get the best possible tank mates for this lovely aquarium fish.


Equipment You Might Need For Your Cardinal Tetra

  1. Aqua Clear – Fish Tank Filter
  2. NICREW Classic LED Aquarium Light
  3. Fluval M Aquarium Heater
  4. Python Pro-Clean Gravel Washer and Siphon Kit
  5. Marina Algae Magnet Cleaner
  6. API Freshwater Master Test Kit

Facts about the Cardinal Tetra

Originating from South America, the Cardinal Tetra is a tiny fish species found in the Rio Negro and Orinoco tributaries all the way to the western region of Colombia.

The rainforests that cover the waterways they live in are usually dense and that is why this fish lives in relative darkness in the wild.

In the wild, Cardinal Tetras live together in very large numbers. In fact, it is not odd to find a school of hundreds of Cardinal Tetras living together.

Living in shoals primarily in the middle water layers, Cardinal Tetras feed on small crustaceans and worms.

They have a brilliant neon blue strip that runs through the sides of their body, from the nose to the tail, with a similarly brilliant red stripe. Their underbelly is a soft white.

While the Cardinal Tetra seems eerily similar to neon tetras, the red color stripe running along the length of their body on both sides is what distinguishes them from their cousins.

Tips to Help You Keep The Cardinal Tetra Happy and Healthy

The Cardinal Tetra is a peaceful and docile fish species. You will not find this fish giving you any trouble, especially when it comes to how they interact with other fish in community fish tanks.

Like the neon tetra, they require soft acidic water with dim light conditions to emulate the conditions of the wild. A well-planted fish tank that has an open center space can prove to be the ideal aquarium for them.

Cardinal Tetras

Featured Image Credit: Leino Olé

Care Level: Beginner
Max Size of Fish: 2 inches
Temperature Range: 79 to 82 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 6 to 7

The information above clearly shows how easy it is to maintain ideal conditions for the Cardinal Tetra. These are normal conditions for most other fish tank species as well. However, these tips can help make sure that the fish remains happy, healthy and thriving in your aquarium:

  • Cardinal Tetras are peaceful and can survive with most other fish species in a fish tank. While they do not require large tanks themselves, it is a good idea to get a sizable aquarium to accommodate other species.
  • In order to make sure that this schooling fish does not get too nervous, make sure you get a decent-sized group of at least 7 the ideal school size would be about 10 or 12.
  • Keep the lighting low so that they can easily adjust to the new living conditions.
  • You won’t find them fussing over the food you give them. They are omnivores that will eat anything from high-quality flakes, pellets, live food or frozen food.

Here Are The 7 Best Cardinal Tetra Tank Mates

Cardinal Tetras, like neon tetras, can live longer than other fish of the same size. While their life expectancy in the wild is just 1 year, in captivity, these fish can live for up to 4 years if the conditions are right.

Now let’s take a look at some of the top species of fish that you can add to your tank with your Cardinal Tetras to create a community aquarium.

They are all fish that have similar living conditions, which makes it easy for them to adjust to the environment you need in order to keep your Cardinal Tetras happy.

1. Guppies

Guppy In An Aquarium

Care Level: Beginner
Max Size of Fish: 2.5 inches
Temperature Range: 72 to 84 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 7 to 7.2

There is no doubt that the most popular aquarium fish is the guppy. It is no surprise that they are the perfect tank mates for your Cardinal Tetra.

Like the tetra, they are a very peaceful fish that do not grow large. They are quick and agile and they share pretty much the same ideal living conditions as your colorful Cardinal Tetra. Easier to take care of than Cardinal Tetras, guppies are the perfect low-maintenance fish to add to the fish tank.

2. Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf Gourami

Care Level: Beginner
Max Size of Fish: 4 to 4.5 inches
Temperature Range: 72 to 82 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 6 to 8

The Dwarf gourami is a majestic-looking freshwater fish that are native to ponds, rivers and slow-moving rivers of southern Asia. The whole gourami family is loved by fish tank hobbyists because of their small size, friendly nature and beautiful color.

They are a schooling fish that like to stick to others of their kind. This is the only way they can feel truly at home when they are in a fish tank. Most of the time, you will find this peaceful fish swimming in the middle of the top portion of the tank. They are not fast and agile. They swim around slowly even when they are in groups and they love to hide around.

The shy Dwarf Gourami is another great tank mate for Cardinal Tetras.

3. Angelfish (Use With Caution)

Angelfish in a fish tank

James St. John [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Care Level: Intermediate
Max Size of Fish: Up to 6 inches
Temperature Range: 78 to 84 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 8 to 7.8

Beautiful yet dangerous, the Angelfish can be a great addition to the aquarium with your Cardinal Tetras. The trailing fins on their body and vertical black stripes on silver gives them an angelic look. But they are no angels when it comes to how well they get along with other fish tank species.

It is best to introduce Cardinal Tetras and angelfish as babies so that they can grow up together and get used to each other by the time both reach maturity.

4. Giant Danio

Devario aequipinnatus

Care Level: Beginner
Max Size of Fish: 4 inches
Temperature Range: 72 to 81 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 6 to 8

While the name might suggest a fish too large for an aquarium, the giant danio is actually a small fish. An ideal tank mate for Cardinal Tetras, it is pretty much like the tiny schooling fish itself. A fast swimmer that likes to stay out of trouble, this fish prefers having a long fish tank in which it can easily zoom about.

A fish that likes to mind its own business, adds a wonderful range of contrasting colors to the fish tank along with the Cardinal Tetras and thrives in similar environments as the tiny schooling fish, giant danio has to be one of the top choices you can make.

5. Loaches

Pair of loaches in a fish tank

Bonhilda at the English language Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Care Level: Beginner
Max Size of Fish: 4 to 6 inches
Temperature Range: 60 to 77 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 7 to 8.5

A type of scavenger fish, loaches are another great addition to your aquarium, along with the neon tetras. They eat up debris and algae left behind by other fish and tank conditions. They are a friendly fish species and do better in a fish tank with other fish.

As they get nervous often, it is a good idea to make sure they have plenty of space to hide in the fish tank under rocks and artificial plants.

6. Neon Tetras

Neon Tetra

Care Level: Beginner
Max Size of Fish: 1.5 inches
Temperature Range: 69 to 79 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 5 to 7.5

What better mate for your Cardinal Tetra Fish than another kind of tetra? Both of these tetras get along with each other. They also have similar sizes, living conditions, dietary requirements and are brilliantly colored.

In fact, both of these can form a school of fish that swims together. Known to interbreed as well, the Cardinal Tetra and neon tetra are similar to each other in how they look, which makes wonderful fish tank conditions.

7. Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras catfish in fish tank

Karsten Schönherr [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Care Level: Beginner
Max Size of Fish: 1 to 3 inches
Temperature Range: 70 to 80 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 7 to 8

Cory Cats or Corydoras Catfish are perfect for a community fish tank. They make for one of the most eye-catching species to look at in the aquarium because of their light color and whiskers. They keep to themselves and are bottom feeders that can keep the tank clean.

They have a very long life expectancy with some known to live for up to 20 years if the conditions are right. They are a tiny fish among catfish and can adapt well to the aquarium conditions.

Tank Tips to Make Sure Your Cardinal Tetras Stay Safe

Other than keeping a few compatible tank mates with Cardinal Tetras in the same aquarium, here are some additional tips you should know to keep your Cardinal Tetras safe:

  • While Cardinal Tetras can get along with other fish; there are some species that are known to eat small fish like them. Make sure you do not add those to the tank.
  • While these fish are tiny and they do not take up a lot of space, you should still make it a point to have an aquarium that is 20 gallons or larger. This will help you make sure that Cardinal Tetras have more than enough space to move around as well as be comfortable in the tank.
  • For at least the first 24 hours that you add Cardinal Tetras to a fish tank, make sure that they are kept in low light conditions by changing the aquarium lights. If you do not allow them the time to adjust to the new fish tank with low lights, they can go into shock.
  • Introduce Cardinal Tetras to a fish tank that already has stable conditions so they have an easier time adjusting.

What Fish Should You Keep Away from Cardinal Tetras

Cardinal Tetras, much like neon tetras, are very peaceful. They get along with most other species of fish. The only time you might face a problem is if you have fish in the tank that preys on smaller fish.

Fun Facts about Cardinal Tetras

Let’s take a look at some of the less generic facts about neon tetras that you might find interesting:

  • Their incredibly bright and almost shiny color is due to the dark environments they live in the wild.
  • There aren’t many fish that get their own festivals. There is a place in Brazil called Barcelos that actually hosts an annual festival to celebrate ornamental fish with the Cardinal Tetra being the brightest star of the festival.
  • Whether you believe it or not, Cardinal Tetras and neon tetras belong to the same family of fish as the infamous piranhas. Don’t worry though – the Cardinal Tetra never bites.

Final Thoughts

Buying Cardinal Tetras might be the best possible decision you can make, especially if you are starting out in the fish tank hobby.

They are very easy to take care of and they get along with most species of fish. They are also lovely to look at. Get the best tank mates for Cardinal Tetras and you will have a stunning fish tank imaginable.

Further Reading: How Long Do Cardinal Tetras Live & 8 Easy Things You Can Do To Increase Their Lifespan

Cardinal Tetra Tank Mates

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