Cardinal vs Neon tetras
I have a newly cycled planted 55 gallon tnak with 5 longfin danios in it. I'd eventually like to stock it with 19 cardinal tetras (in groups of five) starting around the 1st week of August (since I'm going camping to Yellowstone in the last week of July).
Out here in Lincoln, NE, neon tetras are more easily available than cardinals. So I'm now thinking if I should just get neons instead since they look quite similar. Assuming that the water parameters are optimal (pH 7 etc.) which is easier to keep? I am not interested in breeding them (at least at this point). I've been reading horror stories in the web about how hard it is to keep neons alive, but am also wondering if its because of bad aquarium practices.
Any suggestions, sharing experience etc. would help.
Both species naturally occur in very soft water; the neon in slightly acidic pH, and the cardinal in very acidic pH. But both are soft water fish.
The neon after decades of being commercially raised has adapted somewhat to harder water than its habitat. But there is a limit to hardness, and this is likely why many have little success with neons, the water is simply too hard and basic. Cardinals fare even worse; being wild caught they require very soft water or they simply will not last.
What is your water hardness out of the tap? If the pH out of the tap is near 7.0 it may be not too hard for either fish. There are easy ways to lower the hardness (and thus the resulting pH) depending upon the initial values, so if you post those we can discuss further. Your water supply people can tell you the hardness and pH.
Now, having said all that, you will be better with neons considering the tankmates. Danio are fairly active fish, swimming-wise, and neon tetra will adjust to this better than cardinal tetra which are much more sedate and quiet. I have maintained cardinals for many years, and consistently they remain among thick plants almost continuously, coming out to feed. They swim a bit, usually in late evening before lights out, but otherwise they have their preferred spot and tend to remain there.
And both species appreciate lots of plants. Especially cardinals, they will not be happy without the shelter and security of stands of plants.
The pH of our tap water is high -- the reason I say that is because the color in my strip is a shade between 7.8 and 8.4. The hardness is a little above 150ppm (once again, the color is closer to 150 than 300).
Also, I've heard about the mysterious neon tetra disease...is there any way I can prevent it? (besides maintaing a good tank)
Have a read of my article on hardness/pH and ways to reduce it. We can discuss further if you like. It's in the freshwater article section.
Thanks Byron. I'll look for it.
I am actually thinking of keeping a school of Harlequin rasboras instead of the tetras since they're more readily available out here. Also, they seem to be easier to keep. Please let me know your thoughts.
I did read your articles last night. I'm glad you wrote it. Hmmm....good thing I have access to a distilled water unit in my lab =0)
I was thinking of the rasboras since the tetras have a higher chance of falling sick due to the disease.
I've decided to set up the aquarium so that I can have the neon tetras I've wanted =0)
I'm going to lower the hardness of my 55 gallon tank with distilled water. Since its distilled, am I right in assuming that I won't have to add water conditioner like I do with tap water? I know that fish can undergo pH shock...is there a similar thing like hardness shock?
In case the pH hasn't reduced from 8.3 to between 6 and 7, what can I do to lower the pH. Please keep in mind that I already have 5 longfin danios and 4 otocinclus catfish with a good deal of plants. By the way, I put in some green crypts yesterday. The danios come down once in a while and chase each othere there =0)
Thanks for all your help.
Do a partial water change using only the distilled water for the refill. If it is pure distilled water, no conditioner is needed. Change maybe 1/4 of the tank volume. Test GH of the tank before and about an hour after and make note of the difference. The hardness should be reduced by 1/4, example from initial hardness of 15 dGH down to 11-12 dGH.
At the next weekly water change, do the same, but change 1/3 of the tank. The hardness should be further reduced by 1/3, example from 12 dGH down to 8 dGH. The following week, change 1/3 again. This should result in about 5-6 dGH.
As the hardness lowers, so should the pH. Check pH before and after, and also a day after the water change, and a couple days after that. This natural lowering will not harm the fish.
Eventually the pH will stabilize at some value, I can't say exactly what because several factors affect this, but I would expect it to be down in the low 6's when the GH is down to 4-5 dGH.
Weekly water changes should continue normally using a mix of distilled/tap water which will depend upon your tap water hardness. If it is 15 as in the examples I've used, dilute it by 3/4 with distilled so the GH is around 4-5. Depending upon the results, the mix can be changed to prevent too low a pH. As long as this is all down slowly, over several days each change, the fish will be fine.
Keep us posted as this proceeds, and if any questions occur, ask them. This is a subscribed thread so I will see it.
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