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Success With Cardinal Tetras

They’re supposed to be easier to breed now that their husbandry is better understood, but experience may prove otherwise.

Posted: May 8, 2009

By Ethan Mizer

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Cardinal Tetra
Cardinal tetras are one of the most popular fish in the hobby.
Traditionally, some aquarists have had trouble breeding cardinal tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi) in captivity. Herbert Axelrod’s namesake has been around in the hobby for quite a while, and they’re still one of the most popular aquarium fish in the hobby.

Most that appear in the aquarium hobby are still wild-caught, however. This isn’t a very big deal in terms of conservation, because cardinal tetras are reported to be quite prolific in nature. They’re still considered to be “beginner fish” by many in the hobby, but because captive-bred populations have been difficult to establish, and because some of the aquarists I’ve talked to have trouble keeping them alive for any length of time, I’m beginning to think they really aren’t beginner fish at all.

In fact, one local fish store owner I’m familiar with has reported he isn’t able to keep his cardinal tetras alive for more than six months, on average. He has a lot of fishes to care for, and he doesn’t spend a lot of time working with his cardinals (though he has told me they are his favorite freshwater fish), but I would think if he isn’t having success, his customers couldn’t be having much success either.

My experience with this species has been limited. I haven’t kept a cardinal tetra in awhile. I did have one in a small 10-gallon community aquarium I kept in college, but it only survived a year. I’ve heard cardinal tetras have short life spans in the wild, but I honestly don’t know many people keeping these fish. I haven’t kept any since my first cardinal tetra and they’ve been off my radar until recently.

Wild-Caught Versus Tank-Raised
I’m curious to know if wild-caught cardinal tetras are much less hardy than their captive-bred, tank-raised counterparts. Of course, any fish that is raised in an aquarium is likely to be much hardier than its stressed-out, wild-caught cousin.

But I’m wondering if tank-raised cardinals can achieve much higher rates of longevity in aquaria. I’m not just talking about keeping them around longer; I want to know if I can achieve higher survival rates, better spawning success and much longer life spans of around two to three years in captivity.

To this end, and because I really like these little fish, I’ve decided to include a school of cardinal tetras in my large planted display aquarium that I am still setting up. Eventually, when I have a separate breeding tank set up, I’m going to try some breeding experiments with cardinal tetras. I don’t have any experience spawning cardinal tetras, however.

I’m wondering if any of our readers have a detailed spawning report, including spawning procedures, that they’ve compiled themselves or read about elsewhere? Has anyone kept both wild-caught and captive-bred cardinal tetras, and if so, has anyone noticed a difference in survival rates and overall health between the two types over time? (Check out "10 Steps to Breeding Tetras" here.)

If so, please respond to this blog and tell me about your experiences with cardinal tetras.

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Success With Cardinal Tetras

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Reader Comments

Brian    Dickson, TN

7/22/2009 4:53:04 AM

Interesting. I wasn't aware that most of the cardinal tetras sold were wild-caught. They are such beautiful fish.

mgs    sunbury, PA

6/9/2009 6:43:11 PM

cool

Leonard    Cupertino, CA

5/18/2009 7:43:58 PM

Great article, I had some cardinal tetras before. They are nice looking!

Dawn    Coshocton, OH

5/14/2009 7:36:33 PM

Thanks for another intersting article. I actually use this site regularly when teaching school kids!

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