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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello Everyone,

I am thinking of setting up a brand new 20 gallon species tank. The goal of the tank would be to recreate the fish's natural habitat as closely as possible (the rivers where they come from in the Amazon) and each tank would likely have 15 tetras along with plants from the same region etc.

I was wondering which tetra you guys think would be easier to take care of / easier to build the natural habitat for. If you guys have any neon or cardinal tetra species tanks you have setup, I would love to see some pictures!
 

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Hi FreshwaterAdvice,

Sounds like a fun project. Both fish require about the same care, clean water on the acidic side, and food that will fit in their mouths. I prefer Cardinal Tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi) only because they have more color. The both come from South America but different regions and countries. They are typically found in slower forest streams (as opposed to larger rivers or white water areas) and there are videos online showing them in their native habitats (which look sort of barren to me). Probably the most important advice would be to purchase healthy, well fed (i.e. fat) specimens and purchase a full 'school' at once rather than 3 here and 3 there which would increase the likelihood of introducing diseased fish into your tank.

30 gallon with Cardinal Tetras and Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)
 

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Neons are somewhat easier and trouble free than cardinals. They also tend to be smaller. Cardinals prefer temps around 74 F. Neons can withstand lower and higher temps. Cardinals certainly are stunning. However, a school of neons can be just as attractive. If you plan on keeping a dark water tank you'll need to use oak leaves or Indian Almond leaves to stain the water to the right color. I've had problems with oak leaves. Not all the tannins released by oak leaves are good for tropical fish. But Indian Almond leaves work wonders and act as a great general tonic for many fish and do a perfect job staining tank water the right color. Keeping a dark tank, one where the water quality is similar to the the native environment of the fish, reduces the brightness in a tank. But that's why such colorful tetras have developed shiny, bright coloration -- to recognize and shoal together. Good luck.
 

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This is exactly what I want to do at work, but the only thing that's holding me back is the liquid rock that comes out of the faucets at work. I had cardinals at work for about a year, but I just don't think they thrive in hard water. Can't quite get myself to the point of being willing to lug 5 gallon pails of RO to work and back.

Good luck! Neons are more likely to breed, but are more inbred and a little less hardy from what I can tell. Cardinals need a higher temp, and neons needing a lower temp is why I'd go cardinals personally (tough to keep my office cool enough).

I've actually read recently that the colouration is to fool above water predators...the patterns appear to defract light and hide the actual position of the fish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hi FreshwaterAdvice,

Sounds like a fun project. Both fish require about the same care, clean water on the acidic side, and food that will fit in their mouths. I prefer Cardinal Tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi) only because they have more color. The both come from South America but different regions and countries. They are typically found in slower forest streams (as opposed to larger rivers or white water areas) and there are videos online showing them in their native habitats (which look sort of barren to me). Probably the most important advice would be to purchase healthy, well fed (i.e. fat) specimens and purchase a full 'school' at once rather than 3 here and 3 there which would increase the likelihood of introducing diseased fish into your tank.

30 gallon with Cardinal Tetras and Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)
That's a beautiful aquarium! I definitely plan to purchase them all at the same time. Hmmm I haven't investigated too much into what the habits that they come from look like but if the videos show it as being quite barren, then I will add some plants to it. I guess the slower moving streams mean that I don't need to add a powerhead to one side of the aquarium to give it the effects of a fast river Thank you for the advice.

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Neons are somewhat easier and trouble free than cardinals. They also tend to be smaller. Cardinals prefer temps around 74 F. Neons can withstand lower and higher temps. Cardinals certainly are stunning. However, a school of neons can be just as attractive. If you plan on keeping a dark water tank you'll need to use oak leaves or Indian Almond leaves to stain the water to the right color. I've had problems with oak leaves. Not all the tannins released by oak leaves are good for tropical fish. But Indian Almond leaves work wonders and act as a great general tonic for many fish and do a perfect job staining tank water the right color. Keeping a dark tank, one where the water quality is similar to the the native environment of the fish, reduces the brightness in a tank. But that's why such colorful tetras have developed shiny, bright coloration -- to recognize and shoal together. Good luck.
Alright, thank you for the advice. Neons seem to be easier to care for overall but I am worried about Neon Tetra Disease which seems to always be deadly to the aquarium. Right now overall, I'm kind of leaning towards cardinal tetras. I haven't decided on the dark water tank, if that is the case it seems like going with Indian Almond leaves is the better choice. I was planning on using peat moss and the tannins from driftwood to give the water a darker and more acidic tendency. Do you know if tetras are at all like RCS and other shrimp where a darker substrate or environment brings out the tetras color more?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
This is exactly what I want to do at work, but the only thing that's holding me back is the liquid rock that comes out of the faucets at work. I had cardinals at work for about a year, but I just don't think they thrive in hard water. Can't quite get myself to the point of being willing to lug 5 gallon pails of RO to work and back.

Good luck! Neons are more likely to breed, but are more inbred and a little less hardy from what I can tell. Cardinals need a higher temp, and neons needing a lower temp is why I'd go cardinals personally (tough to keep my office cool enough).

I've actually read recently that the colouration is to fool above water predators...the patterns appear to defract light and hide the actual position of the fish.

That's a huge bummer. Yeah lugging pails of RO would be a huge pain, I remember seeing advertisements for water purifiers that attach to faucet heads but I am uncertain if that would work for your situation.

Have you ever tried to breed cardinal tetras, I've read some about neon tetras breeding but never about cardinal tetras breeding.

That's interesting on the coloration. I wonder if making it darker, thereby replicating the tetras fear of predators? would increase the chances of the tetras schooling together.

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That's amazing, I would love to go swimming there sometime.

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cant wait for updates :)

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk

Glad to here you're excited! I've got to find a spot for everything and plan it all out so it might take a while, sorry.
 

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I think most Cardinals are still wild captured...
Wait!!! It is not as bad as it sounds.... Large parts of the river tributories dry out in summer, local communities harvest fish there that would have died and be eaten by wildlife.
 

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Neons are one of the fish that first attracted me to the hobby. But after finding out about cardinals and green neons, I never looked back. It's like when you're infatuated with a prospective partner only to find they have a more attractive sibling...

In my experience both cardinals and green neons are pretty hardy past the initial acclimation phase. Cardinals in particular are very easy to keep and feed well. In my opinion both look great in darker tanks, though green neons still display good color in tanks with a lighter background (while cardinals look a bit washed out in such conditions).
 

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Get Cardinals rather than Neons - I've had both - several times for each over the Years.
In my experience with them, Cardinals are in fact hardier than Neons over the longer term, can tolerate a wider water temp range, and are far more colorful/beautiful - no contest !

I have 15 of them now in a 10 gal tank, and I'm expecting to see a pair of them breed soon.
 

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I have a school of 11 neon tetras in my community tank. If you do regular water changes, keep the temperature fairly stable, and feed them a variety of foods either will probably be fine.
 

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Have you ever tried to breed cardinal tetras, I've read some about neon tetras breeding but never about cardinal tetras breeding.
Yeah, it's incredibly difficult, but it does happen. Apparently these little guys spawn once some fall rains start to come in, just after all of their little streams, brooks, trickles and puddles almost dry out. So, from what I've heard from various online and live sources, what people will do is get them acclimated to a nice hot water, well over 80F. Then begin gradually lowering the water levels. So, remove 30% of your water for a water change, and only replace half of what you initially took out. Keep doing so until the water is as low as you can get it, without causing equipment failure. Do this over the span of a few days or weeks. Maintain that hot temp. Be sure your general and carbonate hardness are low. 0 ammonia and 0 nitrites, under 20 nitrates. Low water flow. Low-ish light. Then, fill a watering can with cold water. Not super cold. I'm not sure the exact temp you shoot for. But the goal is to drop the water temp a couple of degrees, almost instantly. They sense the cold "rain", and begin spawning.

That's the gist of it. And it's not easy.
 
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