Feeding Your Fish Tips: Give your fish a variety of tropical fish food and not just flakes. Read the nutritional information on the canister of food to see what vitamins and minerals your fish is getting. Flakes can be the primary diet for many fish because they are packed with the vitamins and minerals your fish needs. However, try to supplement their diet with other types of food every once in a while. You should see better colors and increased vitality by varying their diet.
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The cardinal tetra, Paracheirodon axelrodi, is a freshwater fish of the characin family (family Characidae) of order Characiformes. It is native to the upper Orinoco and Negro Rivers in South America.
The cardinal tetra is a very popular aquarium fish but is less widespread than the neon tetra because until recently it was difficult to breed in captivity. However, many breeders are now producing the fish; in most cases one can determine if the cardinal tetra is bred or wild caught due to damaged fins on wild caught specimens. Normally aquarists prefer to buy tank bred fish but some Brazilian ichthyologists believe that fishkeepers should continue to support the sustainable Cardinal fishery of the Amazon basin, since thousands of people are employed in the region to source fish for the aquarium trade. The fear is that if the fishermen didn’t catch Cardinals, they could turn their attentions to deforestation. (This doesn’t seem to pose an environmental concern as the fish is very common in the wild.)
The fish is also effectively an annual species and has a lifespan of just a single year in nature. It lives for several years in captivity.
An entire industry is in place in Barcelos on the banks of Brazil’s Rio Negro in which the local population catches fish for the aquarium trade. The cardinal fishery here is highly valued by the local people who act as stewards for the environment. It may be said that the local people do not become involved in potentially environmentally damaging activities, such as deforestation, because they can make a sustainable living from the fishery.
Perhaps due to their wild-caught origins, cardinal tetras tend to be somewhat delicate in captivity. In the wild, these fish inhabit extremely soft, acidic waters, but seem to be tolerant of harder, more alkaline water conditions; a greater concern is probably polluted tank water (including high nitrate levels.) They prefer warmer water temperatures (in the upper 70s F or warmer (20°C)), and will readily accept most forms of dry food. Captive-bred cardinals tend to adapt to hard water better than wild-caught cardinals.
P. axelrodi is also often called the red neon tetra. Cheirodon axelrodi (the original name) and Hyphessobrycon cardinalis are obsolete synonyms. The fish’s common name, cardinal tetra, refers to the brilliant red coloration, reminiscent of a cardinal’s robes. The specific epithet honors ichthyologist Herbert R. Axelrod.