Cardinal Tetras are breathing very fast and always hiding - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 8 Old 07-31-2012, 09:34 PM Thread Starter
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Cardinal Tetras are breathing very fast and always hiding

Hi I have a 10 gallon aquarium setup for about 2 months now. A month ago I added 6 Cardinal Tetras with my 3 cory cats. I acclimated the Cardinals for 2 hours by slowly adding water to the bag. After adding them I only lost one but for the month I've had them all they do is hide in the back of the tank behind some fake plants and breath very rapidly. No signs of sickness except for those. The cory cats are healthy. They Cardinals eat and have became much larger than they first were. I dont know my water parameters yet but I would like to know if anyone knows why they behave like this? Any adivce and help would be appreciated, thanks!
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post #2 of 8 Old 07-31-2012, 09:59 PM
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Rapid breathing is often a sign of stress, as is hiding. . .and could indicate ammonia in your water, I'd do a water change right away and see if that helps them. Keeping the tank lights off will also help keep their stress level down, and might help a bit.

From what I've read, Cardinals (and most Tetra) can be very fussy about parameters, and toxins in the water - including nitrate. They are often wild-caught, and it is usually recommended that they be added to a well established, planted tank. Without knowing the type of water you have (Cardinals prefer soft, acidic water), or the levels of nitrate, and possible ammonia and nitrite, it's going to be difficult to guess. Since your tank has only been set up for a short time, its entirely possible that things aren't quite as stable as they'd like them to be just yet. It might also be possible that they'd do better in a larger group - but you don't want to add to their number until you're sure about the tank parameters and double check stocking. . . be sure to keep the water extra clean for them until you get more info on your water, and keep a close eye. Hopefully someone can offer a bit more by way of help. . .I'm still new to Tetra!

Last edited by Chesh; 07-31-2012 at 10:04 PM.
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post #3 of 8 Old 07-31-2012, 10:10 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the advice, I do notice that they come out for about a hour and explore on their own after a water change. I am looking into getting a water tester kit, do you have any recommendations?
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post #4 of 8 Old 07-31-2012, 10:53 PM
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Yes, absolutley! You should get API's Freshwater Master Test Kit. It's the best one on the market from what I've read. It's a liquid test kit - you want to avoid the strips, they aren't very accurate. The kit tests Nitrate, Nitrate, Ammonia, and Ph of the water, and costs about $30

If they perk up after a water change, it sounds even more likely that you are still dealing with a cycling/establishing tank and you may have toxins in the water. . . which can be very dangerous for the fish, depending on what's going on in there. I'd try to get a test kit ASAP, and until then up your water changes to keep the water clean...
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post #5 of 8 Old 07-31-2012, 11:13 PM Thread Starter
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Okay cool, that is the test kit I was thinking of buying. So to reduce toxins like nitrates and ammonia I would have to just wait for the tank to establish and do constant water changes? (I do 50% WC every Friday)
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post #6 of 8 Old 08-01-2012, 06:28 AM
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Since you don't have a test kit, it's hard to say exactly - hard to know what the problem is without being able to see. How long after a water change does it take for them to start acting oddly? If it were my tank, I think I'd do 2 25% water changes a week, rather than 1 50% - just in general. My logic here is that it's less of a jump between very nasty water and very clean water - the idea is for consistency in the parameters. Fish don't like massive fluctuation (and tetra can be funny about flux even in nitrate levels). But without a water test, you'll have to really keep an eye on the fish to be sure. Use them as your guide. When the tetra start to show signs of stress, do a small water change. It could be that this is their problem, and it could be that it's something else. In the meantime, reduce the amount that you feed them, or skip a day in between feedings. Less food means less waste, and ultimately less toxins in the water.
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post #7 of 8 Old 08-01-2012, 02:15 PM
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We will need to know the nubmers from a test for ammonia, nitrite and n itrate before we can suggest much more. But a rise in ammonia ornitrite for even a brief period is highly stressful to fish, and can often cause permanent damage which is "unseen" until the fish just "suddenly dies."

It would also help to know the water parameters, meaning GH (general hardness) and pH. These can affect cardinals.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If youíre going to take it under your wing then youíre responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #8 of 8 Old 08-01-2012, 02:19 PM
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Cardinals are really sensitive fish. I learned this the hard way. I second the twice weekly water changes. Even more maybe, if that doesn't seem to help.

-Kristen's tanks:

14g Tall:
Planted, eco-complete, Red Cherry Shrimp

16g Aqueon Bowfront:
Planted, eco-complete, 8 Ember tetras, 7 Green neon tetras, 6 Harlequin Rasboras

36 Aqueon Bowfront: Planted, sand, 10 Julii cories, 8 Zebra Danios
7 Cherry Barbs, Asst snails & Ghost shrimp
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10 gallon , cardinal tetra

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