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Neon Tetras and Cardinal Tetras

Incorporating a colorful fish into your tank can make it pop and stand out. A tank can become the center of attention. However, adding more than just a few new fish may not be bold enough for you. Instead, adding an entire school of them may give the tank the appearance you are looking for. From far away, your tank can be eye-catching as a school of small, colorful fish dance their way into view. A school of Cardinal or Neon Tetras could be your next perfect addition to your aquarium.


The Tetra Family

If you are looking to add a dash of color to your tank, there are two favorite fish, both from the Tetra family, that can give you that popping hue. The Cardinal Tetra and the Neon Tetra are two popular choices that you can easily incorporate into your tank.

The fish are similar in nature and require similar tank conditions. Both the Cardinal and Neon Tetra are schooling fish. Schooling fish need more than just a handful of buddies by their side. To feel safe and live happily, you’ll need to invest in the proper number of fish for your tank. The absolute bare minimum you could have is 6, but it is best advised that you add even more to your tank within a few weeks. For the Tetras to thrive, they need to be able to follow the crowd. As well, both the Cardinal and Neon Tetra like plants. The tank they are housed in should ideally have plant coverage in which they can use to hide.


Aside from these two basic starter necessities of adequate numbers of fish and plants, there are some differences between the Cardinal and Neon Tetras. Here, we have highlighted details about each Tetra that can help you decide what best suits your aquarium needs.

Paracheirodon axelrodi Cardinal Tetra


The full name for this Tetra is the Paracheirodon axelrodi Tetra, though you can also refer to them simply as the Cardinal Tetra. The Cardinal Tetra is typically wild caught, though you can find some that are captive raised nowadays. These fish are harder to raise in an aquarium setting and the retail price is reflected in this element.

The Cardinal Tetra is larger than the Neon Tetras and features a blue and red stripe that runs from the head to the tail. They have a unique look and are often the more visually appealing of the two Tetras. Though don’t be fooled! From a distance, both fish do look similar and are hard to tell apart.

Stores with good ethics are usually torn about taking them from the wild. In most stores, the common price is $3-$4 per fish. Many stores would much rather stock and provide captive-raised fish but because of their cost, source, and difficulty raising them most stores do not usually stock them.

Again, it is important that you take the responsibility to stock the fish with the correct amount to make a school or not to keep them at all. The best way to keep these fish is to honor their nature and provide them their safety in numbers.

Neon Tetra


In several ways, the Neon Tetra is different than the Cardinal Tetra, but they both have the similar appearance. The Neon Tetra is smaller than the Cardinal Tetra and the blue and red does not run the length of their body. Instead, Neon Tetras often feature a blue head and a red tail. Their colors are not as vibrant as the Cardinal Tetra, but they are still striking.

Most Neon Tetras are also captive raised. This makes them more available, as they do not have to be sourced from the wild. Because of this, their price is lower than that of the Cardinal Tetra. Neon Tetras are most likely to be sold at $1-$2 per fish.

It’s Up to You


Ultimately, the choice of what school of fish you want to add to your tank is up to you. Both Tetras will make an excellent addition to an aquarium. If you want to save on price, the Neon Tetra is the better choice. If you are drawn to the vibrantly colored Cardinal Tetras, then you may be willing to budge on price. Whatever you choose, you can be sure they will be a colorful addition to your tank. Just remember that both the Cardinal and Neon Tetras need to live in a school and have plenty of plant cover. This will ensure that they will live happily in your aquarium!

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