Which of th­ese tetras is the eas­i­est to keep?

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Advice -

Please could you give me some ad­vice on whether to buy Neon or Car­di­nal tetras for a 120 l/27 gal aquar­ium? I have only been keep­ing fish for four months and this will be my sec­ond tank.

I was go­ing to get Neons, but my lo­cal shop said Car­di­nals were eas­ier. How­ever, I’ve looked on­line and a lot of fo­rums dis­agree. I do pre­fer the Car­di­nals as they have more red in them, which I think makes them stand out even more than the Neons, but I don’t want to get some­thing that’s too hard for me.

My ph is around 7.0. I would only want to keep a few corys and Cherry shrimp with them in the tank. LYNN BERRY, EMAIL

NEALE SAYS: Al­though Car­di­nals and Neons look sim­i­lar, and are often treated as sub­sti­tutes for one an­other, in truth they are quite dif­fer­ent in terms of en­vi­ron­men­tal re­quire­ments.

If you were start­ing from scratch, my rec­om­men­da­tion would al­ways be to go for Car­di­nals. While they’re a bit more ex­pen­sive – and are cer­tainly fussier about wa­ter chem­istry – they have the cru­cial ad­van­tage of not be­ing as dis­ease-prone as to­day’s farmed Neons.

What­ever the sit­u­a­tion with re­gard to dis­ease, Neon and Car­di­nal tetras should also be dif­fer­en­ti­ated when it comes to main­te­nance.

For sure, they have some sim­i­lar­i­ties. Both are peace­ful, shoal­ing fish that should be kept in large groups. I’d sug­gest at least 10 spec­i­mens, and the more the mer­rier. Shy at the best of times, nei­ther han­dles larger or more ag­gres­sive tank­mates well, but they do work nicely with docile cat­fish like Co­ry­do­ras species, al­beit with some con­sid­er­a­tion of their dif­fer­ent tem­per­a­ture re­quire­ments.

Nei­ther te­tra pre­sents any real prob­lems at feed­ing time, with dried flake foods and mi­cro­pel­lets be­ing read­ily ac­cepted, along­side tiny live foods such as Daph­nia and brineshrimp nau­plii. They can co-ex­ist with al­gae-eat­ing shrimps, but will prob­a­bly eat any ju­ve­nile shrimps they come across, so don’t as­sume a pop­u­la­tion of Cherry shrimps will be self-sus­tain­ing.

So, what are the key dif­fer­ences be­tween them? First, Neons pre­fer soft wa­ter, but will han­dle mod­er­ately hard wa­ter rea­son­ably well. I wouldn’t rec­om­mend much above 15˚H, ph 7.5, and cer­tainly wa­ter with a hard­ness around 10˚H, ph 7.0 should be ab­so­lutely fine for them.

Car­di­nals, by con­trast, are a bit more sen­si­tive, and while they can be kept in mod­er­ately hard wa­ter, you’ll find them health­ier and more colour­ful in wa­ter that’s soft and slightly acidic. I’d sug­gest some­thing in the range of 1-12˚H, ph 6.0–7.0. Since Co­ry­do­ras

also en­joy soft wa­ter, this dif­fer­ence shouldn’t cause any ma­jor prob­lems for you, but shrimps tend to be hap­pier in wa­ter that is neu­tral rather than acidic.

For me though, the re­ally im­por­tant dif­fer­ence be­tween them is wa­ter tem­per­a­ture. Car­di­nals are hot­house flow­ers. rather like Dis­cus and Co­ry­do­ras ster­bai, they’re go­ing to do best when kept around 28˚C, and in cooler wa­ter con­di­tions are go­ing to be more dis­ease-prone than nor­mal.

neons, by con­trast, dis­like high tem­per­a­tures, and this may well be one of the rea­sons why the species has ac­quired this rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing sickly. They are much more like the ma­jor­ity of Co­ry­do­ras species in pre­fer­ring a tem­per­a­ture range of 22–25°C, with at least a few months at the lower end of that be­ing use­ful for repli­cat­ing sea­sonal vari­a­tion in their nat­u­ral habitat.

red cherry shrimps and al­most all Co­ry­do­ras share the same pref­er­ence for low-end trop­i­cal con­di­tions, which makes neons the most ob­vi­ous choice for life along­side them. But i do agree with your re­tailer on Car­di­nals be­ing less bother, es­pe­cially if you can pro­vide them with the right wa­ter chem­istry.

Car­di­nals def­i­nitely want more warmth than most Co­ry­do­ras though, but if things like Co­ry­do­ras ster­bai and Brochis splen­dens ap­peal to you, then that re­stric­tion won’t be too dif­fi­cult to work around.

Car­di­nals are hot­house flow­ers. Neons, by con­trast, dis­like high tem­per­a­tures

Neon te­tra

Car­di­nal te­tra – note the red mark­ings run­ning the whole length of the body.

Co­ry­do­ras ster­bai

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