Breeding Cardinal Tetras: Helpful Tips For Novice Aquarists

The Cardinal Tetra is an excellent choice for your aquarium if you’re a newbie aquarist.

These fish are among the popular freshwater species that are easy to care for since they are hardy and require little maintenance.

However, it’s a different story if you aim at breeding Cardinal Tetras. You must pay attention to many things to successfully house these fish.

Let’s dive into this article to get some tips and care guides!

Cardinal Tetras Overview

Cardinal Tetras, also known as Red Neon Tetras, belong to the Characidae family.

These aquatic creatures are native to Orinoco Rivers, South American Negro, and west Columbia.

Tetra species have been discovered in Africa and Central America, while many are South American natives.

These aquatic creatures are popular due to their eye-catching colors. They only get a little bigger, reaching a length of around 2 inches.

They have little, hardly noticeable fins that are hardly ornamental.

Cardinal Tetras have red stripes on their bodies that are longer than those on Red Neon Tetras, but their anal and dorsal fins are colorless.

They have a bright red stripe running below the bright blue on their body from the top of their head to the bottom of their tail.

A Cardinal tetra has a relatively short life span in the wild, around one year. However, this species can live up to five years if kept in an ideal habitat.

Cardinal Tetra

Tips For Breeding Cardinal Tetras

It’s hard to breed Cardinal Tetras. For successful breeding, you must adhere to the water conditions of the Amazon River and its tributaries.

For instance, the water in your tank should be clean, soft, and low in minerals with a hint of acidity. The ideal temperature is between 73 and 81°F.

Although caring for these fish is a simple task, breeding is an entirely different situation.

In natural environments, the water is covered in natural flora that acts as a sunblock.

As a result, these aquatic creatures reproduce profusely in this setting. They release a significant number of eggs.

Once the egg hatches, the young fish has sufficient food and shelter to hide while being guarded by nature.

Water parameters and environmental conditions are a few factors affecting reproduction in captivity.

Adult fish have a tough time delivering and reproducing when the conditions are not favorable.

The adults may still eat their eggs even when you provide ideal tank conditions for these creatures.

Below are some ideas for avoiding all of these issues and overcoming the challenges associated with breeding this species:

  • Once the male and female fish are prepared to spawn, establish a private breeding tank.
  • Control the water conditions and keep your tank clean.
  • Filter your aquarium regularly to eliminate leftover food, waste, or particles.
  • Feed your pets nutritious meals such as small crustaceans and brine shrimp to strengthen their immunity.
  • Keep the tank water temperature a little higher than usual.
  • Observe the eggs after spawning as they are photosensitive. It’s better to put the tank in dark places.
  • Move adult fish to another tank to prevent them from eating their eggs.
  • The young often hatch after one day. Since they are light-sensitive during the first week, leave your tank softly lit.
  • After 2 – 3 days, feed the fry liquid food such as baby brine shrimp or sifted Daphnia.
  • After ten weeks, the fry will be fully grown up. Maintain the tank’s cleanliness and temperature in the prescribed range.

Breeding tips

Breeding tips

Cardinal Tetras Care Guides

If it’s your first time keeping and breeding Cardinal Tetras, let’s keep the following care guides in mind!

Tank Conditions

Tank size:

While these creatures are relatively tiny, they prefer to swim around the tank. Therefore, keep a pair of Tetras in at least 10 gallons.

If you plan to keep more than six fish in your aquarium, opt for a 20-gallon tank.

Water parameters:

The water is gentle and a little bit acidic. Additionally, it would be best if you strived for acid water to make these fish happy.

Follow the water parameters to ensure your pets are healthy:

  • pH level: 4.6 – 6.2
  • Temperature: 73 – 81°F
  • Bicarbonate/carbonate levels: 2 – 6 KH
  • Water hardness: over 4 dGH


This species is vulnerable to toxins like ammonia, so installing a filter system in your tank is best to improve oxygen and create water movement.

Decorations and aquarium plants:

These creatures need hiding places. So you can add floating plants to your aquarium.

Tank conditions for cardinal tetras

Tank conditions


These creatures are opportunistic feeders and omnivores. Hence, they can eat anything, whether meat or plants.

For instance, you can feed these fish flakes, dried food, live food, frozen foods, or meaty snacks.

If you are unsure how to feed this species, you can refer to this video:


If you intend to add other species to your Cardinal Tetras tank, below are the best their tankmates:

  • Neon tetra
  • Ember tetras
  • Green neon tetras
  • Emperor tetras
  • Black skirt
  • Chili Rasbora
  • Dwarf Gouramis
  • Zebra Danios
  • Guppies
  • Mollies
  • Hatchetfish
  • Angelfish
  • Otocinclus
  • Small catfish
  • Dwarf shrimps
  • Loaches
  • Snails


Are Cardinal Tetras Easy To Breed?

The bad news is no! These creatures are challenging to breed since they have a high requirement of environmental conditions to successfully mate.

How Can You Tell If A Cardinal Tetra Is Male Or Female?

The female and the male fish look similar. However, you can tell them apart thanks to the belly. The belly of females is often rounder than the males’.

How Long Are Cardinal Tetras Pregnant?

Before laying their eggs, tetra females are typically pregnant for around 14 days.

How Long Does It Take Cardinal Tetra Eggs To Hatch?

The Tetra eggs usually hatch within around 24 hours after being released.

What Do Tetras Look Like When Pregnant?

The females often put on weight, particularly in the tummy and tail. Their belly will look swollen bigger than usual.

The Bottom Line

Whether a novice or an experienced aquarist, the Cardinal Tetra is a pleasant complement to your aquarium.

However, breeding Cardinal Tetras is challenging because these creatures require favorable water conditions to beget offspring.

Hopefully, you will successfully nurture these stunning fish. If you have further questions, please comment below. We’re willing to answer!

Thanks for reading!