I need some good Cardinal Tetra info
Well, I rescued some Cardinal Tetras about nine days ago from a pet shop that was throwing them away because they were sick! It made me so mad I told them to give them here. And even though they were tossing them into the trash, they still made me pay for the ten I rescued.
Indeed, they were sick. I only have three left! Those three are doing well and don't seem to be affected by whatever they were sick with any longer(my guess was a mix of velvet and an internal parasite that made many thin and swim a bit off, which I was treating for)I know they need a group of 5+ and intend to do so sometime in the next couple weeks, I want to make sure the yuck is out of the tank before adding any new. And from a different store where the fish are better cared for at that! Currently they seem just fine, they aren't as twitchy as stressed tetras are, so I'm hopeful they'll be ok until I can get a few more.
I have them in a planted 55 gallon tank. Currently it's over-stocked, but again, once I am sure everyone is safe and sound, I'll be giving away about twenty fish who are currently -almost- old enough to go, and some older guppies and platies. The tank has a mix of livebearers right now, and all seem to get along well with these newbies, nobody bothers them and they swim with everyone without seeming stressed or flitty. Regardless, I know this can change with such sensitive fish without their proper school! Once I give away some fish, I'll have room for a proper group of 5-6 and then some.
So I have some questions before I actually go with it. They seem fine with my livebearer groups of mollies, platies, guppies and swordtails. Soon I wont have the guppies though. I had heard they'd be just fine with what I have, I want to know if that's fully true or shall I find them homes once I'm sure they're good to go?
I also have a young gold gourami, just a bit bigger than a dwarf gourami at this point, who doesn't bother anyone. I keep an eye on him because I know they can be grumpy and nippy, but usually get along with livebearers too big to eat so long as they're let be. Are they ok with Cardinal Tetras in the long run?
How big of a group would I need for THEM to be comfy? I know five is a minimal group for the aquarists space needs, but that does't always apply to the fishes own happiness. Would a bigger group be better than the minimal requirement, or will five or six suffice for them? I'll have room to keep 10-12, but I DO like to have room open in my tanks if I can and would prefer a group no bigger than eight, but I have room if THEY need otherwise. I have fallen in love with these guys and want them happy.
I know many tetras are omnivorous and have read these are no different. I was wondering if I am feeding them properly and if I need to make changes. What I feed them now is mostly fresh greens and tropical fish flakes. Fresh greens like the occasional skinless cooked pea(I know they are a fishy laxative, so I only give peas once or twice per week), green beans, nice and softened with all seeds removed, spinach, romaine lettuce, and all the veggies that come with the frozen fish food Emerald Entree. That makes up the majority of the diet. But I also feed them brine shrimp, daphnia, white mosquito larvae, tubefix worms and , and once a month I put in frozen(not freeze-dried), bloodworms. I don't trust bloodworms and don't feed them often be they live or frozen. I know they can cause blockages and usually feed the fish peas the day after JUST in case, but they do make for a fairly sought after treat! Is there any changes I should make to their diet? All my fish are fed the same things since they're all omnivorous, though I target feed my gourami a bit more of the meaty foods than veggies.
I should mention the stock properly! My 55 gallon tank is fairly well planted with a bit higher filtration than required, enough for a 70 gallon instead of a 55, since I have mollies who are fairly dirty. Soon I will have two filters though, and I will have them both turned down to proper filtration speed for a 55 gallon, but it will be almost doubled(I intend to get a 20 or 30 gallon filter for the other half of the tank, it's a long tank and not tall, so I want it evened out), just not as harsh in the flow!
My stock will include four, maybe five, swordtails, one male the rest female who are currently juveniles I am raising to keep with my adult male. I was worried he'd be...aggressive, but in the six months I've had him he has shown no signs of aggression, but he does try to mate with my gourami on occasion which is weird...he doesn't seem bothered by it and there is no nipping from anyone but guppies to other fish!
The guppies will soon all be re-homed because they're a bit...nommy, so I will have none.
I will have five platies. One male the rest female(currently I have four adult females and a male, two adult females soon to be re-homed), I've had them for quite a while and they get on very peacefully with everyone. Three of the five I've had about a year, the others are youngsters, but big enough to be with adults.
I will also have about nine or ten mollies, several of which are the smaller species that stay around two inches like gold dusts, blacks and a marble(the gold dusts I've had forever and they have stayed around the two inch mark, the black molly may get bigger since I hear they like to get closer to three inches, the marble is from a gold dust mixed with a black molly and has stayed two inches for over a year like her gold dust sister and mother as well), but I have four that get 3-4 inches. Two males the rest female. I've had several of them for over two years, the rest between two and four months, and one that is new that my grandma kinda forced on me since she helps pay for tank needs.
For my bottom dwellers, I have two rubber-lip plecos. I THINK I have one male and one female, as was recommended for them. It's hard to tell the difference, the one I'm almost positive is male hangs on the glass often, while the smaller one I think may be female rarely does and keeps to the plants, wood and decorations. She's a bit more jumpy and doesn't want to be on the glass. lol
Is such stocking ok with Cardinal Tetras, or is there too many fish already for them to be happy? I have yet to see them have a problem with anyone or vice versa, but I'm not one to take many chances with delicate fish like them, and know full well that things change by the fishes own way of life at any given moment. I also know they like to have space. The only fish I've had that seem to be nit-picky and bitey are my guppies, which is why they're being re-homed soon. You'd think in a 55 gallon, well planted tank with two males and ten females, not to mention female mollies who they love as much as the guppettes that they'd get along, but nope. lol They fight amongst themselves, not with other fish, mind. The two males hate each other even with all the room and females.
My water is a bit different than mollies require, and closer to that of what a Cardinal Tetra needs, though I would say the PH may be a tad higher than what they like, it's 7.2-7.3 and if I recall correctly, they like it below 7. Is that also a fact, or will they be ok with it there?
Also, I have heard males and females can be told apart at full maturity by their...girth. Females tend to be a bit larger and rounder than males. I'd like to know if that too is a fact, and/or if there are other ways to tell them apart. I do have one that seems smaller and a tad thinner than the other two who...one of which I'd venture to call fat, the other is pleasently plump but not fat. If I get more males than females, can this cause aggression issues, or stress for the girls, like with livebearers?
I want to make sure I'm not missing anything or making a mistake! I admit I have been wanting some of them for a while now, but my actually getting them was kinda an unplanned thing, I was FURIOUS what they were doing to the poor things and thought to give them a chance, which worked in their favor...for three of them at least.
If I get too much negative on it, I may just find them new homes, much as I adore them in that tank, they're absolutely gorgeous and fit right in, for now! So any and all info and tips are welcome. Please be gentle with me, but feel free to be stern since I need that to take a good hint on occasion, but these are the first tetras I've ever owned that lasted the night. Two years ago when I was new to fish that weren't guppies(I've had guppies and bettas off and on for about fifteen+ years), I had purchased neons as my first fish, and they all died overnight in my ten gallon tank, for reasons, that I've heard, I added too many at once and the tank wasn't big enough for six of them. ^^; That or they were sick when I got them, I don't know, I was new and foolish and scared off of them since because I felt so bad about it.
I've been doing some research on my own, but it's scattered about so much, I trust the people on this site more than several different pieces of info all over the place saying different things. lol
Your feeding is excellent. Cardinals (Paracheirodon axelrodi) will usually eat most foods offered, and the variety you are feeding is remarkable. If they eat it, feed it. With the limitations you have mentioned (worms, etc). No problems here.
To the issue of numbers, the cardinal likes large shoals. But the environment of the tank (the decor) has a lot to do with this, and this carries over from field studies in their natural habitat. In more open water they remain in groups of hundreds if not thousands. In habitats thick with fallen branches and/or plants, they remain in smaller groups of around 5-6 but always in close proximity to hundreds of other similar groupings.
Filter flow is also important with cardinals, as is light. Dr. Riehl called it a "light phobia." The "neon" lateral line on this species is perhaps partly indicative of a fish that lives in very dimly-lit waters, but when given the option there is not the slightest question that this fish will remain under cover and not in the open under overhead light. They also remain in the quieter parts of the aquarium, by which I mean that furthest from the filter current if one is present. I have maintained shoals of this fish for over 20 years and in 4 and 5-foot tanks and these observations have been consistent.
I see no problems respecting behaviour/temperament with the fish mentioned. However, water parameters is an issue, and you are going to have trouble either with the tetra or the mollies, or both.
Fish have evolved over thousands of years to function at their best in fairly specific water parameters. While there is some adjusting here, it is limited, and moreso with certain species. Livebearers must have some hardness in their water. You don't mention GH, and this is actually more important than pH for both fish. The molly is particularly sensitive in this regard will not last in soft acidic water.
Cardinals will not last in hard basic water, with the emphasis more on the "hard" (the GH) than the "basic" (the pH). Cardinals kept in harder water develop calcium blockage particularly in the kidneys; this is not externally observable, but if the fish just dies and it is dissected, calcium blockage will be apparent. The amount of hardness in the water is directly proportional to the life span of the fish. I have the results of a scientific study on this, and if asked I can give more detail. In summary, a lifespan of 10 years or more is normal in soft water, but this decreases rapidly in proportion to the GH.
If you can give me the GH of your water, I may be able to suggest something. But I can assure you that long term, either the mollies or the cardinals will not be at their best health. There is no "middle ground."
Hope this is of help. You might want to check our profile of these fish, click the shaded names common molly, cardinal tetra.
Wow, that's a lot of great info!
Yes, the GH...I have got to find some testing solution for it. I was worried it may be too high for them as well. I have not been able to find any and I look every time we go out, which is once or twice per week. I have the API Master Freshwater Test Kit, and it doesn't come equip with the GH or KH testing solution, as it SHOULD since it's fairly important and rather hard to find! I would love to get it done myself. But last I was able to check it, it was always a bit soft for mollies.
I do also have a lot of hiding places in there, caves, filter on one side with a light bubbler on the other, wood and plants all over. The three that I have seem to be happy, but I'd like to keep it that way. lol If I can't find a place right in between that is both safe and healthy for both mollies and the tetras, the tetras will have to go. =( I couldn't bring myself to give up mollies I've had for years. ^^;
As to the GH test...I MIGHT have strips. Problem with strips is they're very rarely accurate. But I DID notice they were consistent with the readings...they were just higher or lower than the strips said once I got my Test kit. My PH is usually around 7.2-7.4. In the 55 gallon it's stayed at 7.3-7.4 always. In my sandy tank it's 7.3 and hasn't budged in over a year though my other two occasionally bounce from 7.3-7.4 as I've said(I hope I'm not confusing trying to get all the facts out for you). The strips claim it's only at about 6.5 though. lol But it's not like either of us can go by how much it is off elsewhere. ^^;
Anywho, according to the strips my tanks stats are:
Nitrate: 40(This -always- gave a very high reading on the strips)
According to the API master test kit, which didn't come with GH or KH testing solution, I WISH IT WOULD, be so much easier...ahem, my stats are:
High Range PH: 7.4
Nitrate: 5.0ppm It's usually a color right in between the zero for yellow, and orange which is 5.0ppm, it's never exact color so I assume it's 5.0ppm. x.x
If I can get out today, I'm going to see about getting a test done for my general hardness at a shop that has a real testing kit and not strips. =)
Going solely from the 180ppm, this is about 10 dGH, which is high for the cardinals. It is better for mollies, and depending if you have all mollies (or all livebearers) or want to mix in some other fish that might be OK with harder water, we could consider ways of raising the GH using sand or gravel made from calcareous substances like limestone, dolomite, aragonite, crushed coral, marble, etc. This will also raise the pH of course, which is fine for the livebearers. But first let's confirm the GH from the water folks.
According to the site for them, our water hardness levels usually range between 11 to 13 grains per gallon. This is the chart given, and of course I don't understand it fully. All I can gather is we have fairly hard water. ^^; I was told my water is softer for mollies. And yes, I have a mix. I have mollies, platies and swordtails, as well as one gold gourami and two rubber-lip plecos. I may or may not be keeping any of the female guppies.
Anywho, chart from them:
Water hardness can be described as:
• Soft water = 0 to 3 grains per gallon
• Moderately hard water = 3 to 7 grains per gallon
• Hard water = 7 to 15 grains per gallon
• Very hard water = greater than 15 grains per gallon
Now if I'm not mistaken, having aquarium wood in there, like for my plecos, and a lot of plants can soften the water, is that right? So my water may be a bit softer...in a few months I may have a twenty gallon tank free to use, but if I'm not mistaken, THAT is too small even for a single group of five cardinals. I hear many do it, but they just look so crammed in those places! I like seeing them swim. So if I can't find something that works out, I'll have to let them go. I don't want any fish with fried kidneys!
Yes, wood will soften water and thus lower pH, but it is marginal. A bit of the afore-mentioned gravel in a nylon mesh bag in the filter is one way to add a bit of GH and pH. The pleco should be OK, and the gourami is pretty hardy for a soft water fish.
Here's some info on GH and pH that might be useful:
A 20g is fine for a group of cardinals, as they do not swim much, hardly at all sometimes. Well planted, with lots of wood, a group of 9-12 in a 20g with sand substrate, and you could have some substrate fish like some corys (Corydoras sterbai is good with cardinals, both like it warm, many corys do not).
Oh wow, so if I ever get my twenty back and find a way to block off a small part of the 55 for a nursery, or make one sufficient enough(the twenty is currently my nursery for livebearers, I grow them there until they're big enough for the adult tank and sell them when big enough), I could work that tank into one for cardinals and cories, and I love cories. :3 It'd be easier to work a tank into what they need over trying to make things half way for everyone.
Those are some pretty cories you suggested too, but as common as it says they are, I've never seen them around here unless they go under an name not mentioned. They do look similar to a few species I've seen. I have emeralds and schwartz cories in my sandy substrate ten gallon. I wanted them in the twenty since they need more room once it was no longer a nursery, would either of those be ok with cardinals, or do they have different needs as well? I know emeralds like it a bit cooler, I keep their tanks at 77-78F(Aside from winter, it's actually harder to keep tanks cooler than 77 degrees). I'm loving the idea of having tetras in my twenty with a few cories. Although I think I'd rather go with six or seven instead of ten+. They may not swim much, but I like them having space if they so desire to.
As for the mollies, the only time I've had problems is when I brought in a new one who was sick, but other than that, I rarely have fungal problems or lethargic/wobbly mollies unless they're about to give birth and soon after. The few I've had for years have never gotten any sort of fungus until recently a variatus I had QT'd for two weeks spread velvet. I never saw it on her though! Not even an inkling of illness until I moved her. Which I know can cause stress to the fish and cause previously undetected things to bloom, but I didn't know velvet did it. But it spread like wildfire within 24 hours of her going into the main tank.
In your 20g I would not go below 7 cardinal; aside fro what I said earlier, which was observation in nature, in the aquarium they do seem to stay pretty close no matter how many. I got a new batch of 12 in February, direct from Venezuela or Colombia [I have a good local importer to buy from] and they are in my 70g flooded Amazon Forest display, and they never leave the group, swimming slowly as a shoal, only separating now and then. At the Vancouver Aquarium there is a large display tank with 200-300 cardinals, C. sterbai, and a few other species, and the cardinals barely move.
If you're keeping mollies healthy for that length of time, the water is fine. They are not a hardy fish, probably the weakest of the livebearers and cannot tolerate water issues. Good job.:-) Velvet is a parasite like ich, and begins in the gills where we can't see it. Velvet can be nasty. My Chocolate gourami years ago got it, and with that fish, it often means game over and it was.
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