Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Paracheirodon axelrodi

Cardinal tetra

Cardinal tetra, Paracheirodon axelrodiCardinal tetra, Paracheirodon axelrodi
Photos by Andy Rapson


Paracheirodon: Greek, para = the side of + Greek, cheir = hand + Greek, odous = teeth

General Notes:

One of the most colourful and popular fish in the hobby. Cardinal tetras look stunning in a large shoal. They need to be kept in a shoal of at least six or more individuals with similar sized peaceful fish. Larger fish such as angelfish may simply regard them as food and eat them. In nature cardinal tetras rarely live longer than one year, just enough adults survive to make it to the next breeding season to begin the cycle again, however in captivity they will live for several years with good care.


Wild cardinal tetras feed on small aquatic and stranded terrestrial invertebrates in their natural habitat. In captivity they are unfussy feeders and will accept all suitably sized dried, frozen and live food.


Female cardinal tetras are much plumper than the males while the males generally have slightly more vibrant colours.


Cardinal tetras are one of the most difficult tetras to breed in captivity. Most specimens are still wild caught because of this. The eggs and fry are light sensitive, they require very soft slightly acidic aged water to breed. If you can get them to spawn the eggs will hatch after about 30 hrs and the fry will be free swimming after four days when they will feed on infusoria or a commercial liquid fry food.

Wild status

Has never been evaluated but there are some projects in operation where the fish are harvested in a sustainable manner to support both the local people and the aquarium trade. This relationship with locals and trade has spin off benefits because the local people rather than exploit the habitat look after it instead so that they can carry on making money from the trade.

Information at a glance

pH: 4 - 6
dGH: 5 - 12
Temperature: 23 - 27°C (74 - 80°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 2.5cm (1in)
Min tank size: 60 litres
Difficulty level: Easy
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: Middle

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Carinal tetra, Paracheirodon axelrodi

Origin: South America: Upper Orinoco and Negro River basins.

Habitat: ?


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Characiformes
Family: Characidae
Genus: Paracheirodon
Species: P. axelrodi (Schultz, 1956)

Common name:
Cardinal tetra

Synonyms: Cheirodon axelrodi, Hyphessobrycon cardinalis