Which is the Better Tetra: Cardinal or Neon?

Last Updated on 2023-08-08

Keeping fish as pets can be simple, and there are plenty of little varieties that will thrive in small aquariums. That’s why they’re perfect for families and people who live in small spaces like apartments.

The Cardinal tetra and the Neon tetra are two of the most sought-after species of tiny tropical aquarium fish. Though visually similar, these two species are actually quite distinct.

If you want to discover the difference between a Cardinal tetra and a Neon tetra, read on.

Cardinal Tetra Vs Neon Tetra

Both the Cardinal Tetra and Neon Tetra are popular freshwater aquarium fish, and they both look very similar. Both species of tetras have a slender body shape, two dorsal fins, and an orange or red stripe along their sides, and they reach the same maximum size of around 2 inches (5 cm). However, there are several differences between the two species.

Tank Size

Cardinal Tetras prefer a tank of at least 10 gallons, while Neon Tetras can do well in tanks as small as five gallons.

Tank Mates

Both species are peaceful and get along well with other similarly sized fish. Avoid larger, more aggressive fish that may eat the smaller tetra species.

Water Conditions

Both Cardinal and Neon Tetras prefer neutral to slightly acidic water with a pH of 6.0-7.5 and a temperature between 70-86F.


Both species are omnivores that require a balanced diet of flakes, pellets, small frozen foods such as brine shrimp or bloodworms, and even live food such as mosquito larvae.


Breeding both species can be difficult in a home aquarium, but if the water parameters are kept stable and there are plenty of hiding places for fry to hide from adult fish, then it’s possible. Neon Tetra eggs typically hatch within 24 hours, while Cardinal Tetra eggs can take up to 48 hours.


Both tetra species are peaceful and active swimmers, often seen schooling together in the aquarium.


Cardinal Tetras typically live 3-5 years, while Neon Tetras have a lifespan of 2-3 years when given proper care.

Both species are popular choices for aquarists due to their bright colors, small size, and peaceful nature. They make great additions to any freshwater community tank and can be kept with other small fish of similar temperament and size.

Home aquarium with fishes and plants.

Cardinal Tetra Vs Green Neon Tetra

The Cardinal Tetra and the Green Neon Tetra are two of the most popular aquarium fish. The Cardinal Tetra is a small, slender fish that can reach up to 1.5 inches in length when fully grown. They have silvery-gray bodies with a red stripe running along their back from head to tail. They also have black markings on their fins, giving them their distinctive name.

The Green Neon Tetra is slightly larger than its cousin, reaching up to 2 inches in size when fully grown. Its body has an iridescent green sheen with a black stripe down its side and pinkish-red accents along the edges of its fins.

Both species are peaceful and great for beginners, but there are some key differences between them.

Tank Size

Cardinal Tetra requires a minimum of 10 gallons for a school of 6-8 fish, while Green Neon Tetras need at least 15 gallons for the same amount of fish.

Tank Mates

Both types of tetras do well in community tanks with other peaceful fish that are the same size or smaller than them, such as Guppies, Corydoras, Dwarf Gouramis, and Danios. However, it’s important to note that they should not be kept with any aggressive species like Cichlids or larger predatory species.

Water Conditions

Cardinal Tetra prefers soft acidic water between 6-7 pH and temperature around 75°F (24°C). On the other hand, Green Neon Tetra requires slightly harder water with a pH of 6.5-7.5 and a temperature between 72-82°F (22-28°C).


Both types of tetras are omnivores, but the Green Neon Tetra is more likely to eat prepared foods such as flakes than Cardinal Tetra. To keep them healthy, provide them with a varied diet that includes live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods.


Breeding both types of tetras is relatively easy, provided you have the right tank conditions and parameters in place. The male Cardinal Tetra will build a bubble nest for the eggs, while Green Neon Tetras lay their eggs on plants or other surfaces in the tank.


Cardinal Tetras typically live for 4-5 years, while Green Neon Tetras can live up to 8 years with the proper care. Both types of tetras can live much longer if they are given a healthy diet, optimal water conditions, and regular tank maintenance.

Overall, both the Cardinal Tetra and Green Neon Tetras are colorful, peaceful fish that make great additions to any community tank. They require similar care and maintenance but differ slightly in their water requirements and lifespan. With the right conditions and diet, they can both be long-lived, beautiful additions to your tank.

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Cardinal Tetra Vs Gold Neon Tetra

The Cardinal Tetra and the Gold Neon Tetra are two popular aquarium fish renowned for their vibrant colors. The Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) is native to Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela. It has a bright red body and shimmering blue-green stripes on its back and sides, making it especially eye-catching. The Gold Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) is native to the Amazon River region of South America and has a yellowish-gold body with blue stripes along its back and sides.

When it comes to care requirements, both fish are relatively easy to look after. However, they do have some differences.

Tank Size

Cardinal tetras are a small species, reaching lengths of up to 1.5 inches, making them suitable for smaller tanks. A 10-gallon tank is the minimum size suggested, and larger tanks can house more fish. Gold Neon Tetras reach sizes that are slightly larger at around 2 inches in length, requiring at least a 20-gallon tank for a school of 6.

Tank Mates

Cardinal Tetras are relatively peaceful fish and do best if kept in schools of at least 6-8 individuals. They can be housed with other small, peaceful species such as Corydoras or Dwarf Gouramis. Gold Neon Tetras are also peaceful and do best in schools of 6-8 individuals. They can be housed with other small, peaceful species such as Corydoras or Dwarf Gouramis.

Water Conditions

Cardinal Tetras prefer water conditions that mimic their natural environment, which is slow-moving streams with pH levels between 4.5 to 7.0 and a temperature of 72-82°F (22-28°C). Gold Neon Tetras prefer similar water conditions with a pH between 6.5 to 7.5, temperatures of 68-81°f (20-27°C), and hardness levels of 4-15 dH.


Cardinal Tetras are best fed a diet of small, nutrient-rich foods such as live or frozen brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms. Gold Neon Tetras should be given a more varied diet that includes flake food, freeze-dried bloodworms, and other high-quality fish food.


Cardinal Tetras are egg scatterers and will readily breed in tanks that mimic their natural environment. The water should be soft and acidic with a pH of 5-6, temperatures of 77-82°F (25-28°C), and plenty of moss or floating plants for the eggs to attach to. Gold Neon Tetras are also egg scatterers and prefer similar water conditions.


Cardinal Tetras are naturally shoaling fish, meaning they feel most comfortable when they’re in the presence of other members of their species. To ensure that they remain healthy and active and show natural behaviors, it is important to keep a school of at least 6 individuals.

Gold Neon Tetras are also shoaling fish and should be kept in a school of at least 6 individuals to ensure they remain healthy and active. They will often form tight groups when schooling, swimming around together in the tank. Both species are relatively peaceful and should not become aggressive toward other tank mates. In addition, both species prefer dimly lit tanks and have the potential to become stressed if exposed to too much light.


Cardinal Tetras can live up to 5 years with proper care, while Gold Neon Tetras can live up to 6-8 years. Both species require weekly water changes and regular tank maintenance for optimal health. With the right diet, water conditions, and care, these fish have the potential to bring a lot of joy and beauty to any aquarium.

Are Neon Tetras Or Cardinal Tetras Easier To Keep?

The Neon Tetra differs from the Cardinal Tetra in numerous key respects despite sharing a striking resemblance. The Neon Tetra differs from the Cardinal Tetra by being smaller and having a less continuous pattern of blue and red down its body. As an alternative, Neon Tetras are typically characterized by a blue head and a red tail. The Cardinal Tetra’s colors are more vivid, but these fish are still beautiful.

Neon Tetras are less challenging to care for than they once were due to the fact that nearly all of them are now aquarium-reared. The vast majority of Cardinal Tetras are imported from the wild, making them especially vulnerable to changes in temperature and tank chemistry as well as subpar water quality.

Similar to most fish, Neon Tetras are typically bred in captivity. This increases their accessibility because they can be cultivated instead of being taken from the wild. That’s why you may buy them for less than Cardinal Tetras. Typically, you should expect to pay between $1 and $2 for a neon tetra.

Can Cardinal Tetras Live With Neon Tetras

The vast majority of tetra species are schooling fish. Tetras may only school with members of the same species. They require the company of other fish that they may either dominate or be dominated by due to their great sense of social hierarchy.

Neon tetras get along best with other tetras. When added to an aquarium, tetras can improve the aesthetics and increase the variety of the fish within.

Some of the reasons why tetras should be included in a neon fish tank:

  • Tetras are a good addition to a fish tank because they won’t bother the other inhabitants.
  • Tetras are available in a rainbow of colors, making them a fun addition to any aquarium.
  • It’s not going to break the bank to get a tetra.

Cardinal tetra can live with Neon tetra. They both swim in schools. This means that they need more than a few friends in order to be happy and feel safe.

Neon Tetras are one of the best options for a community tank because of their calm demeanor. In addition, their diminutive size makes them suitable for a bowl or other small tank. Cardinal Tetras, like Neon Tetras, are peaceful fish, but they need more space. They get somewhat bigger than Neon Tetras as adults. The size and composition of your aquarium will determine how many of each fish you should keep since they swim together and create a school.


Why Are Cardinal Tetras More Expensive?

When compared to Neon tetras, Cardinal tetras are not only slightly larger in size, but also more difficult to care for. Since Cardinal tetras are caught in the wild, they are typically more expensive than Neon tetras.

Will Cardinal Tetras and Neon Tetras School Together

The social behaviors of neon tetras and cardinal tetras are very similar. During the day, it’s not uncommon to see a school of cardinal tetra and neon tetra swimming together. Both their sense of security and their ability to go to food sources are improved by this.

Final Thoughts

It is up to you to decide which fish school will best suit your aquarium. Whether you choose one or both, your aquarium will benefit from the addition of these Tetras. The Neon Tetra is a better buy if you’re trying to cut costs. The bright colors of Cardinal Tetras may entice you to negotiate a lower price. Choose whichever you like most, and your aquarium will soon have some new splashes of color. Both Cardinal and Neon Tetras require a community tank with lots of plants for hiding and a schooling environment. Doing so will guarantee their contentment in your fish tank.

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