Will Cardinal Tetras School With Neon Tetras? Will They?

Cardinal Tetras and Neon Tetras are two prevalent species of aquarium fish. Cardinal tetra is the most common freshwater tropical fish, which you can see in many home aquaria. They originate from South America and prefer a warmer water temperature (around 22 degrees Celsius). Neon tetras originated from the Amazon River and preferred cooler water temperatures (about 20 degrees Celsius). Besides the differences between Cardinal tetras, there are some similarities. So, aquarists often wonder: will Cardinal Tetras School With Neon Tetras?

Cardinal tetras and neon tetras are both peaceful fish, and they prefer to be in schools. Cardinal tetras are tiny fish (around 50 mm long), while neon tetra is slightly larger (about 60mm). If you have a large aquarium, then the number of Cardinal Tetras doesn’t matter, but if your tank isn’t massive, it’s best not to put too many Cardinal Tetras.

It is best to keep Cardinal tetras in groups of at least six fish. Thus, it would be a good idea to have an aquarium that is around 500 liters (110 gallons) if you want to mix Cardinal Tetras and Neon Tetra.

If you decide that the two types of tetra can coexist peacefully in your aquarium environment, here are some tips for keeping them happy and healthy. And in this blog post, I will discuss Cardinal Tetras School With Neon Tetras.

Are Cardinal Tetras And Neon Tetras Alike?

Most people often mistake Cardinal tetras for Neon Tetras. But in reality, Cardinal Tetra is a much more vibrant fish. They have an iridescent red body with thin blue stripes that run lengthwise down their bodies.

Cardinal tetra also has silver scales on its back and tail area, making it one of the most attractive species in this category. But neon tetras are a much more subtle and subdued color. It has an iridescent blue body with white, red, or black spots on its sides and back.

The only thing Cardinal Tetras has in common with neon tetras is that both species are schooling fish. Cardinal tetras school together to protect themselves from larger predators while Neon Tetras swim together for protection against their kind.

Will Cardinal Tetras School With Neon Tetras?

Yes, Cardinal Tetras will school with Neon Tetras. Cardinal tetra fish are very peaceful. They generally grow to be two inches long or more longer. So, they should not bother the neon tetra too much.

Cardinal tetras will school or swim together for protection from predators and other hazards in their environment. However, they are schooling fish, and you need to keep them in groups of six or more individuals to reduce stress levels.

Cardinal tetras will school or swim together with Neon tetra because they both belong to tetra species and have many similarities. Besides this, they protect each other from predators and environmental hazards.

Cardinal tetra fish prefer a temperature of around 75-81 degrees Fahrenheit. They should not bother the neon tetra too much as it prefers similar temperatures between 73-81 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cardinal tetra fish occasionally act aggressively towards other cardinal tetras. However, they can live peacefully with Neon Tetra fish as long as you keep them in groups of six or more individuals. 

What Are The Similarities Between Cardinal Tetras And Neon Tetras?

Cardinal tetras are very similar to neon tetras. Cardinal Tetra fish is a species of tropical freshwater fish that belongs to the Characidae family, which consists of about 42 different types of small and colorful fishes. Similarly, Neon tetras are a species of tropical freshwater fish that belongs to the Characidae family. In addition, Cardinal Tetras and Neon Tetra share a lot of similarities, such as:

Both Cardinal Tetras And Neon Tetras Are Smaller In Size

Cardinal tetra fish and Neon Tetra are both smaller in size. Cardinal Tetras can grow to be about two inches long, whereas neon tetras only grow up to an average of three-fourths of an inch.

Both Of Them Are Peaceful

Cardinal Tetra and neon tetra fish are peaceful species that do not harm small fish, plants, or other pets in the aquarium. Cardinal Tetra and neon tetra are also peaceful towards each other due to their relatively similar size.

Both Cardinal And Neon Tetras Are Active During The Day

Cardinal tetras and neon tetra species both prefer being active during the day rather than at night time. Cardinal tetras and neon tetra enjoy swimming around the aquarium during the early morning or late afternoon hours but prefer to rest at night.

Both Of Them Are Non-Aggressive

Cardinal Tetra and Neons are non-aggressive fish that do not have many natural predators in their native environments.

Usually, Cardinal tetras are present in the Amazon river, and neon tetras in the Orinoco River. Since their habitats are somewhat similar, they can co-exist without feeling the stress of differences in the water condition. Furthermore, they are both non-aggressive species that do not threaten other animals living near their habitats.

You Can School Them Together

Cardinal tetras and neon tetra fish both enjoy spending time together in groups. Cardinal tetra and neon tetra often swim together to create a school during the day. It helps them feel safe from predators while also allowing for easier access to food sources.

They Both Have A Similar Water Temperature Requirement

Cardinal Tetra fish prefer water temperatures that fall between 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Neon tetra fish also prefer water temperatures that fall between 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cardinal Tetras and neon tetra have similar water temperature requirements. Thus, most owners will often find them swimming together in the same aquarium space during early morning or late afternoon hours.

Difference Between Cardinal Tetras And Neon Tetras?

There are a few critical differences between Cardinal Tetras and Neon Tetras. Some of them are:

Cardinal Tetras Are Aggressive When It Comes To Food

Cardinal Tetras can become very aggressive when it comes to food. It means Cardinal Tetra tank mates may not be able to get any of the food as they will eat all of their food before the other fish in the tank have a chance at getting anything. But you can efficiently train neo tetras to eat from your hand, which is a benefit.

Cardinal Tetras Are Reclusive

Cardinal tetra fish are reclusive and like having their own space in an aquarium tank. So it is better not to keep them with other types of fish. These fish usually spend most of the time by themselves unless they have enough room to have their own space. But Neon Tetras are more social and are okay being in a school of five or six fish, so Cardinal tetra tank mates need to be aware that they will not get the same amount of attention as if kept alone.

Cardinal Tetras Are More Likely To Get Ill

Cardinal tetra fish tend to be more prone to getting sick than Neon Tetras. It will help if you keep Cardinal tetras in the hospital tank. Make sure they have no signs of illness before introducing them back into the main aquarium.

Neon Tetras are less likely to get ill and can usually handle any stress that may come with it. However, as Cardinal Tetras can be very sensitive to changes in water parameters, they will stress easily. Thus, Cardinal tetras are more likely to get sick than Neon Tetras that are a bit harder.

Cardinal Tetras Are More Attentive To Their Surroundings

Usually, Cardinal tetra fish tend to be less active and more attentive to their surroundings than Neon Tetras. As a result, Cardinal tetra fish will spend more time at the bottom of their aquarium tank and take regular breaks from swimming around to sit down and rest.

Neon Tetras are not as easily stressed out by lots of activity in their environment as Cardinal tetra fish tend to be. These fish are more active and like to swim around all day long.

Cardinal Tetras Are Bigger Than Neon Tetras

Cardinal tetra fish are more extensive than Neon Tetras. So, their mates need to be aware of this size difference between Cardinal tetra and Neon Tetra. Most people often mistake Cardinal tetras with other types of fish because they are not as easy to distinguish from the others.

Usually, Cardinal Tetras can get up to three inches in length, while Neon Tetras only grow to about one inch. However, these fish can grow longer than their usual size with the required diet and proper care.

Cardinal Tetras Are More Expensive

Cardinal tetra fish tend to be more expensive than Neon Tetras.

In general, Cardinal tetra fish can cost up to $25 or more, whereas Neon Tetra may only be a few dollars and even less. Therefore, there is not much demand for Neo tetra fish as they are challenging fish and need a lot of attention when you keep them. In addition, they have some requirements for a healthy lifespan.

But many people like the look of Cardinal Tetras, so they buy them anyway despite their high. However, with the increase in demand and popularity, the cost of Cardinal tetras also accelerates. Thus, Cardinal tetras are much more costly than neon tetras.

What Are Other Types Of Fish That School With Cardinal Tetras?

Mostly Cardinal tetras are friendly and social. So, they can school with different types of fish. Such as:

  • Black Neon Tetras
  • Zebra Cardinal Tetra Fish
  • Angelfish
  • Guppies
  • Platys
  • Corydoras Catfish
  • Danios (Zebra Danios, Gold Tuxedo)


In conclusion, Cardinal Tetras enjoy living in schools of six or more, while Neon tetra prefers smaller groups. Cardinal tetra also tends to be aggressive towards other fish that resemble them in coloration, such as neon tetra and glowlight tetra. However, the cardinal is much less likely to be aggressive towards other Cardinal Tetras.

We hope now you are well aware that Cardinal tetras and neon tetras can live happily together. For more information, please feel free to contact us or leave your questions in the comments.

Thank you for giving us your precious time.

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