What Fish Go With Cardinal Tetras? A Guide To Best And Worst Tankmates

Cardinal Tetras are prevalent fish and provide a great addition to any tank. In addition, these fish make an attractive option for beginner aquarium enthusiasts, as they do well in many types of water conditions and can live with other peaceful community fish. But still, there is a debate about what goes with Cardinal tetras?

Cardinal tetras are peaceful that can live well with fish of similar types and sizes that do not nip their fins. Cardinal tetras are most compatible with non-aggressive fish such as guppies, mollies, and other dwarf cichlids. In contrast, Cardinal Tetra will not tolerate the bigger and aggressive fish like angelfish, gourami, or larger tetras. So, it would be best if you never kept them together.

If you plan to keep other species of fish with Cardinal tetras, you should research your tank mates. This helps to ensure compatibility before putting them together in an aquarium.

What Type Fish Are Cardinal Tetras?

Cardinal tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi) are freshwater fish in the Amazon River Basin and other South American rivers.  They are schooling fish. It means you must keep them in groups of six or more to make them active and happy. In addition, they have a striking coloration that makes them popular with hobbyists.

Cardinal tetras can grow up to two inches long and require well-maintained water conditions. They are a popular species for freshwater aquariums. It would be best if you kept these fish in schools of six or more to avoid stress, and their bright colors will come out when they’re happy.

What Is The Natural Habitat Of Cardinal Tetras?

Cardinal tetra fish are native to black water tributaries, where they live among driftwood and leaf litter. These fish prefer a heavily planted tank with lots of wood for them to hide behind. They enjoy warm waters between 71-82 degrees Fahrenheit (22-25 Celsius).

In the wild, cardinal tetra fish are present in Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela. Moreover, due to the immense popularity of these fish, you can now find them all over North America. But their natural habitat usually includes slow-moving waters with dense vegetation.

What Is The Temperament Of Cardinal Tetras?

Cardinal tetras are generally peaceful and not aggressive. They will remain pretty small, typically growing to a size of about two inches in length as adults. However, they can grow up to three inches with good care provided by their owner.

Cardinal tetras love swimming in groups together. However, as they are schooling fish, it is best to keep them in a group of five or more Cardinal Tetras to benefit their safety and happiness.

Schooling them is the best idea to keep them active and happier.  Cardinal tetras enjoy swimming with friends and can become stressed if they don’t have anyone to swim with, resulting in illness. In addition, Cardinal tetras typically prefer the top half of the tank instead of staying towards the bottom, darker.

What Fish Go With Cardinal Tetras?

Cardinal tetras are a beautiful species of fish that many beginner aquarists like to keep in their tank. Cardinal tetras get along well with most other types of tropical fish. Still, you should be careful if you’re planning on putting them together with any aggressive or territorial fishes.

Some of the things that you need to consider when you decide the fish goes with cardinal tetras or not are:

  • The fish you choose must be of the same size as Cardinal tetras
  • Cardinal tetras’ tankmate must not be aggressive.
  • There must be different feeding times for other species living with Cardinal tetras
  • Always make sure there is enough room in the tank for Cardinal tetras and their tankmate.
  • You must constantly observe the tank because fin nipping is common among Cardinal tetras when they have a new tank mate.

Best Tankmates For Cardinal Tetras

Cardinal tetras are generally docile and get along well with other peaceful community fish. It would be best if you kept them in groups of about six to ten individuals. So if you’re holding a group, they should have plenty of space to swim around together. Cardinal Tetra Tank Mates

Cardinal Tetra tank mates include the most common tropical species of fish. Such as:

Zebra Danio

Cardinal Tetra tank mates include the most common tropical species of fish. Cardinal tetras and zebra danios make a great combination as they both inhabit similar environments. But Zebra Danios are much more active swimmers than Cardinal tetras which makes them perfect for each other.

Harlequin Rasbora

Cardinal Tetras will get along with almost any type of rasbora. These fish are very peaceful and spend most of their time in the mid-level of the tank. Thus, they are perfect for keeping Harlequin Rasboras safe from other tank mates that may try to eat them. Cardinal tetras will also school with Harlequins.

Dwarf Gourami

Cardinal Tetra fish are not compatible with gouramis because they share similar water parameters. Cardinal Tetras prefer slightly acidic water while Dwarf Gouramis like alkaline conditions. So the two types of tank mates are unlikely to get along.

Cardinal Tetras are also much smaller than Dwarf Gouramis, so they would pick easy for their tank mate to eat.

Otocinclus Catfish

Cardinal tetra fish prefer slightly acidic water conditions while Otocinclus catfish prefer alkaline conditions, so it is implausible that these two types of tropical fish will get along.

Cardinal Tetras are also much smaller than Otocinclus Catfish. Hence, it is likely that the Cardinal Tetra fish would be easy pickings for their tank mate to eat if you put these two fish together in a tank.

Sailfin Molly

Cardinal tetra fish prefer slightly acidic water, while Sailfin Mollies prefer alkaline conditions. So Cardinal Tetras are unlikely to get along with Sailfin Mollies. Cardinal tetra fish also like to stay in the mid-level of the tank, while mollies prefer living near the bottom or top of a tank.

It would be challenging for Cardinal Tetras and Sailfin Molly fish to coexist together. However, Cardinal Tetras are also much smaller than Sailfin Mollies, so they would be easy pickings for their tank mate to eat.

Worst Tankmates For Cardinal Tetras

Suppose you plan on having a group of cardinal tetras in your tank. In that case, it is important to avoid any aggressive or territorial fish, as they will likely not get along very well together and fight constantly. However, Cardinal Tetras are relatively peaceful, so they should get along okay with many other fish.

But there are some fish that you should never keep with Cardinal tetras. Such as:


Cardinal tetras are very slow swimmers, so they will not be able to avoid sharks. In addition, Cardinal Tetras have long, flowing fins that look similar to other types of fish that Sharks enjoy hunting down and eating. So you should never keep Cardinal Tetra with any shark or fast swimming predator fish.

Larger Catfish

Cardinal tetras are small fish, so you should avoid anything more extensive than Cardinal tetras. Cardinal Tetra is a very slow swimmer, and they will not be able to escape the largemouths of Catfish, especially if there are several in one tank together. Thus, cardinal tetras can become an easy meal for a group of Catfish or any fast-swimming bottom-feeder fish.


Cardinal tetras are not very fast swimmers, so they will have difficulty avoiding any aggressor cichlid that might want to attack them or eat Cardinal Tetra. These fish are tiny fish that will not be able to escape the mouth of a Cichlids.

Cardinal Tetras can do okay with most types of cichlids, but you should avoid large species such as Oscars or Jack Dempsey Cichlid. You also want to make sure they have plenty of hiding places in the tank, so Cardinal Tetra has a place to escape.

How To Keep Cardinal Tetras Happy With Their Tankmates?

Cardinal Tetras works best in a school. They are active, happier, and healthier around their species. So, it would help if you kept them in groups of at least five Cardinal tetras. Besides this, Cardinal tetras are social and can live quite happily with other tropical fish.

But still, there are some ways that you can follow to ensure the safety and longevity of Cardinal tetras and their tankmates. Like:

Choose A Bigger Tank To Keep Cardinal Tetras With Other Fishes

Cardinal tetras prefer to be in a group of at least five Cardinal Tetras. This is because they will not survive well on their own and tend to become very shy when it comes to tank space, so the more room they have, the happier Cardinal tetras will be. However, Cardinal tetras also need a lot of swimming space, so stay away from any tank smaller than 30 gallons for Cardinal Tetras.

Provide Enough Food For All The Fishes

Cardinal tetras are omnivorous and will eat a variety of food. They appreciate the occasional algae wafer or brine shrimp, but Cardinal Tetras mainly enjoy flake foods, sinking pellets, live food, vegetables, and fruit. Give your Cardinal tetra their fair share from these options to ensure they stay healthy while living with other fish.

Make Sure The Water Condition Is Good

Cardinal tetras prefer a moderately acidic pH, between slightly below six to slightly above seven. Cardinal Tetra care also includes paying attention to your aquarium water’s ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.

Keep The Filtration Going

Cardinal tetras are generally hardy fish that require moderate filtration systems. But they can quickly feel stressed by a poorly maintained tank. In addition, Cardinal tetras are schooling fish. So ensure that your Cardinal Tetra has enough room for swimming and a sound filtration system in the aquarium.

Provide Cardinal Tetras With The Right Environment

Cardinal tetra is a natural inhabitant of slow-moving rivers in the Amazon. It would help if you kept them in tanks with good water flow, so ensure that your Cardinal tetra has some water current while keeping them. Cardinal Tetras also need a plant-based tank with dim lighting.

Choose Cardinal Tetras’ Tankmates Wisely

Cardinal tetras are compatible with many other fish. However, there are some things to consider when choosing tank mates. For example, it isn’t a good idea to keep Cardinal tetras in the same aquarium as slow-moving or long-finned fish such as bettas and goldfish. They should also avoid being in a tank with aggressive fish such as angelfish, cichlids, and larger tetras.

Cardinal tetras are compatible with Cardinal Tetra tank mates, including other Cardinal Tetras, blind cavefish, pencil fish, Ember tetras, and ghost shrimp, to name a few.

Some FAQs

How Many Fish Can You Keep With Cardinal Tetras?

When it comes to Cardinal Tetras, there is no specific answer. However, Cardinal tetra fish are famous for their peaceful temperaments and small size. Thus, they can be perfect tankmates when you keep them with other non-aggressive species of similar or smaller size.

There are dozens of options when considering the best Cardinal tetras tankmates. Cardinal Tetras are compatible with most small fish, including other tetras, barbs, danios, and rasboras.

Do Cardinal Tetras Need A School?

Cardinal Tetras require a school of at least six to feel safe and comfortable in the tank. These fish have a peaceful nature that makes them ideal for community tanks. 

However, it is best to keep them with their species for schooling. This is because they usually do not have a school with similar non-aggressive species such as Ember tetra or Glowlight tetra.

Cardinal Tetras are a species that prefers to live in schools and feels safer and happier. However, they feel stressed if their school is too small or already has the maximum number of Cardinal Tetra fish per tank.

How Long Do Cardinal Tetras Live?

Cardinal tetras will generally live up to four years in the right tank conditions with proper care. However, Cardinal Tetra’s lifespan can be slightly shorter when you keep them with other species, especially Cardinal Tetras’ natural predators (e.g., angelfish or gouramis).


In conclusion, Cardinal tetras can be a fun and beautiful addition to an aquarium, but you must research the best tank mates before adding Cardinal Tetras. Cardinal Tetras will not do well in most community tanks with aggressive or active fish as they are typically shyer than other types of tetra species. If there are any more questions, please feel free to contact us.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post!

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