Can You Keep Cardinal Tetras With Neon Tetras: Do they Compete For Food And Space?

Cardinal tetras are very peaceful fish with vibrant colors and fantastic swimming abilities. But if you want to add more color and variety to your home aquarium, you can even introduce different types of fish. The only thing that you need to consider when you keep other fish in the same place is whether your fish are compatible with their tankmates or not. So, can you keep Cardinal tetras with neon tetras?

Yes, you can keep Cardinal tetras with neon tetras. Both of these fishes are harmless and peaceful. They will not attack or nip other fishes in your tank. But it would help if you kept them in different groups because they have the same feeding habits and similar living space requirements.

In this post, I will be discussing how these two fishes are compatible with each other. Furthermore, I will be addressing some of the common concerns that people have when they keep cardinal tetras and neon tetras together in the same tank. So, let’s begin!

Introduction To Cardinal Tetras And Neon Tetras

Neon Tetra is one of the most popular aquarium fish, which belongs to the Characin family (Characidae). It is available in different colors like green, blue and gold. These are schooling fish that you should keep in groups of five or more neon tetra fishes. This is because they will swim together with each other. But the best thing about this kind of tetras is that they can live alone as well.

On the other hand, Cardinal Tetra is a pretty peaceful fish, which can live with different types of Tetras. But it belongs to the Characin family, so they will not be the best tank mates for Neon tetra fishes because both these kinds of fishes belong to the same family and have similar personalities.

Neon Tetra is a bottom feeder, whereas Cardinal tetra is a mid-water fish.

What Are The Differences Between Cardinal Tetras And Neon Tetras?

There are some differences between these two fishes based on their behavior, diet, and care. However, you can easily distinguish these two fishes by looking at them because they have different shapes and sizes.

Some of the differences that you will find between these two fishes:

  • Neon tetras are a bit shorter and slender than cardinal tetras.
  • Cardinal Tetra has a black line from its eye to the other end of the fish, while neon tetra does not have such a feature on its body. Neon Tetra is orange in color, but it has blue lines on the body that resemble a neon sign. On the contrary, cardinal tetra has red/orange coloration and dark markings instead of blue lines.
  • Neon Tetras are more peaceful than Cardinal Tetras because they do not compete for food or grow very large. If you want your tank to house both of these fishes, you should keep cardinal tetras in the tank with several neon tetras.

Can You Keep Cardinal Tetras With Neon Tetras: Do they Compete for Food and Space?

Yes, you can keep these two fishes in a tank together, but only if the cardinal tetra is with several neon tetras because it does not compete for food or space with them. These fishes are colorful additions to your tank, and they will bring life to it.

Besides this, some similarities between these two fish make them more compatible with each other. And the similarities are:

Both Of These Fish Have Similar Size

These two fishes have a similar size. These are not aggressive, but it is better to keep them with their species of different sizes because there could be an issue during feeding time.

For example, Neon Tetras can also pose a threat for cardinals that try to eat food.

Cardinal Tetras can be aggressive to neon tetra when you first introduce them in the tank. It is because both of them look similar with their color and size. But once they get familiar with each other’s presence, it will all go away.

They Are Both Peaceful Fishes

These fishes do not have a sharp fin that can hurt you while swimming in the tank. So you can keep them together with other peaceful tankmates like guppies, mollies, and rasbora types of fish. Both these species do not pose any threat to them.

Both Of These Fish Are Active During Daytime

Neon tetra and cardinals are active during the day, and they can add life to your tank when you place them in it. In addition, these species are not shy or aggressive, so you can mix them with other fishes without worrying about compatibility issues.

They Are Not Predatory

Neon tetra and cardinals do not feed on smaller fish, only plant life and some invertebrates like worms and shrimp, which they find in your tank. These two types of fishes will not compete for food, but if you place them in a big tank, there will be an issue because cardinals are larger than neon tetras, and they need more space to swim.

They Are Colorful Fish

The color of these fishes is bright and attractive, so there is no need for extra light to keep them visible in the aquarium. They will stay at different locations within the tank, but their colors will be visible in all of them.

Both Of These Fish Are Omnivores

These fishes are omnivores, and they can eat different types of food. So if you provide them granules for their leading food, then there is no need to give them only live foods because these types of fish enjoy eating it, but they also like to munch on vegetables.

With these similarities between cardinals and neon tetra, you can easily keep them together in your tank without any concern.

What Are The Things To Consider When You Keep Cardinal Tetras Together With Neon Tetras?

Keeping Cardinal tetras with neon tetras is comparatively easier than keeping them with other fishes. But still, you must consider some things. Such as:

  • Neon tetras are small, so you must keep them in a school. They will feel relaxed and comfortable as they can hide from the predators by staying together with other neon fishes.
  • In the case of a cardinal tetra fish tank, there should be some empty spaces for hiding. If there is not enough room for hiding, then the neon tetras may become the prey of cardinal fishes.
  • Some experts recommend putting a mirror inside the fish tank to provide more room for hiding and reduce their stress.
  • There should not be any aggressive or big-sized fish in the same aquarium with small-sized neon tetra and cardinal tetra. If there are any of these fishes, then they may prey on the neon tetras.
  • You can also put some live plants inside the fish tank because both of these species are good swimmers and will not be able to reach those places where there is no place for hiding their food. But make sure that the floating plants have a base beneath them so that neon tetras can hide inside.
  • There must be enough water flow so that the fishes do not feel suffocated.
  • It would be best if you cleaned the tank regularly with gravel cleaner or siphon to remove uneaten food and waste products of fish from it.

What Do Cardinal Tetra And Neon Tetra Fish Eat?

Neon and Cardinal tetras are very hardy fish. They can survive in a wide range of water conditions, and they will eat most foods offered to them, including flakes, live food (bloodworms), frozen food (tubifex worms), or freeze-dried krill.

Cardinal tetras enjoy the same benefits as neon tetra fish but also require live food in their diet. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some cardinals may survive on flakes and freeze-dried krill if you keep them with other neon tetras. But the best way to ensure your pet’s health is through feeding them a varied diet of different foods.

Some FAQs

What Is The Ideal Tank Mates For Cardinal Tetra?

Cardinal Tetra is a good community fish. It can live with almost every peaceful species like Discus, most of the cichlids (except some large ones), kuhli loaches, mollies, gouramis, and many more.

What Is The Ideal Tank Mates For Neon Tetra?

Neon tetras are pretty peaceful, too, but they can become aggressive when compared to cardinal tetras. However, they will be fine with other fish that have similar temperament and size.

How Many Neon Tetras Can You Keep With Cardinal Tetras?

This question is a little challenging to answer because it largely depends on the size of your aquarium and how many cardinal tetras you have. There must be at least six neon tetra fish per every cardinals fish. If there are fewer, then they will feel stressed as they require schooling to survive stress-free lives.


In conclusion, Cardinal tetras and neon tetras can coexist, but the cardinal may be aggressive to the neon at times. If you choose to keep them in a group, make sure there is plenty of space for each fish and offer alternative food sources for both.

Thanks! I hope you enjoyed reading this post 🙂 Please leave a comment if you have anything to add!

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