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Last update: May 10, 2023

15 Best Cardinal Tetra Tank Mates – FishLab

Looking for the top candidates for your cardinal tetra’s neighbors? Try checking out our 15 Best Cardinal Tetra Tank Mates list!

The 15 Best Cardinal Tetra Tank Mates are fish that can handle the same average temperature as the cardinal tetra without being too big and treating the tetra like a snack. Some of these include

In this article you’ll find our list of the greatest tank mates for the cardinal tetra as well as the reasons why they make great companion fish. You’ll also find what you need to know about selecting tank mates. Let’s get started!

Cardinal Tetra Tank Mates – What You Need to Know

There is a lot of important information to understand when it comes to finding the best neighbors for your cardinal tetra, outlined in the categories below:

Temperament

A cardinal tetra is one of the mildest, most peaceable creatures you can have in a tank! They are gentle and love to be in schools of peaceful fish, especially their own kind. Don’t get an overly aggressive or bullying tank mate for a cardinal tetra. 

Size

Cardinal tetras are generally small fish, averaging at about 2 to 3 inches long. They live in schools with one another, but it is important that you not have too many larger fish in the tank even with these schools. This is because the cardinal tetra may begin to look like a tasty snack to bigger fish.

Competition

 The competition between a cardinal tetra and other fish should never be fierce when it comes to food. This is because although they are speedy, the cardinal tetra is likely to starve if bullied out of its diet by faster, more greedy fish. Pick fish with dissimilar diets and times of feeding to avoid this.

Parameters ; Tank Setup

 The parameters of a cardinal tetras tank should, first and foremost, include about four other cardinal tetras, at least. Then populate the inside of the tank with plants for the school to dart in and out of. 73 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal tank temperature for this fish, and any acceptable tank mates. 

15 Best Cardinal Tetra Tank Mates

  1. Kuhli Loach
  2. Dwarf Gourami
  3. Glass Catfish
  4. Harlequin Rasbora
  5. Zebra Danio
  6. Bristlenose Pleco
  7. Guppy
  8. Desert Rainbow Fish
  9. Bronze Cory
  10. Swordtail
  11. Neon Tetra
  12. Lemon Tetra
  13. Bloodfin Tetra
  14. Cherry Barb
  15. Black Ruby Barb

Let’s look more closely at each of these fish to see why they are remarkable for tank mate options. 

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1. Kuhli Loach

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  • Scientific Name: Pangio kuhli
  • Adult Size: 4 inches
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: Thailand, Borneo, Sumatra, Malaysia

The kuhli loach is the first tank mate on our list because it will liven up the aquarium with it’s unique looks! This fish looks more like a snake or a cute eel. It is long, and long lived, too! Kuhli loaches can reach about 10 peaceful years of age.

They are generally a yellowish color with black patternings. They add visual interest to the bottom of any tank. 

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression
  • No food competition

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • None!

2. Dwarf Gourami

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  • Scientific Name: Trichogaster Ialius
  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: West Bengal, India, Benagladesh, Assam

A peaceful fish, the dwarf gourami is distinguished by orange colorings with rakishly symmetrical fins and electric blue markings. 

The dwarf gourami will pose no threat to your cardinal tetras, though it is similar in size.

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression
  • No food competition

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • None!

3. Glass Catfish

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  • Scientific Name: Kryptopteris bicirrhis
  • Adult Size: 5 inches
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: Thailand

This fish is one of the most visually eye-catching of all possible tank mates. The glass catfish looks like nothing but a fish X-ray swimming around the tank, having a completely transparent body!

It loves to school with its own kind and is generally very peaceful. Your cardinal tetras should have no trouble with this omnivore!

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression
  • No food competition

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • None!

4. Harlequin Rasbora

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  • Scientific Name: trigonostigma heteromorpha
  • Adult Size: 1 inch
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: Singapore, Sumatra, Malaysia, Thailand, Southeast Asia

Harlequin Rasboras are generally beloved for their cheery color. They are yellow and black, small, but love to school like little clouds of sunlight. 

Harlequin rasboras are peaceful as they hang around the middle and top of the tank. They are also omnivorous.

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression
  • Little food competition

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • None!

5.  Zebra Danio

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  • Scientific Name: Danio rerio
  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: Eastern India

A triangular fish that sports a pink sunset color and black stripes, this sharp-looking swimmer is fun to watch. It tends to dart all around the tank, never sticking to one zone. 

That being said, zebra danios are suitable for almost all tanks and will be fine companions for your cardinal tetras.

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression
  • No food competition!

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • None!

6. Bristlenose Pleco

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  • Scientific Name: Ancistrus cirrhosus
  • Adult Size: 5 inches
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: Amazon

Though this fish is 5 inches to the cardinal tetra’s small size, there is nothing to worry about. This gentler giant roams the bottom of the tank eating detritus!

Named for its bushy nose, other distinct traits of this pleco are its tan coloration and darker speckles. 

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression
  • Cleans up tank
  • No food competition

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • None!

7. Guppy

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  • Scientific Name: Poecilia reticulata
  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: South America

You know a fish like the guppy is popular because even after being discovered in the wild, aquarists have bred many in captivity.
The guppy is peaceful, and comes in such a wide range of colors that you can certainly liven up any cardinal tetras aquarium with a few of these long-finned beauties. 

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression
  • No food competition

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • None!

8. Desert Rainbow Fish

  • Scientific Name: Melanotaenia splendida tatei
  • Adult Size: 4 inches
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: Australia

From the land down under, the desert rainbow fish has an interestingly plain appearance at first glance. A second observation shows how pretty this fish’s iridescent silver scales, nearly hiding a deep blue stripe, can be.

This fish is peaceful, and females tend to have green fins for easily identifiable genders.

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression
  • No food competition

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • None!

9. Bronze Cory

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  • Scientific Name: Corydoras aenus
  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina

This fish is popular among aquarists for its peaceful nature and adaptability to almost any kind of tank. It is a bottom-dweller, so you may find it down there with your bristlenose pleco!

Bronze corys are small with adequate bronze colorization.

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression
  • Cleans up tank
  • No food competition

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • None

10. Swordtail

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  • Scientific Name: Xiphophorus helleri
  • Adult Size: 4 inches
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: Mexico, Central America

Swordtails are beloved for variety. They come in many different colors, and show them all off with long split tail fins. 

These fish are pretty peaceful. They keep to themselves at the top of the tank and are easy to care for.

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression
  • No food competition

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • None!

11. Neon Tetra

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  • Scientific Name: Paracheirodon innesi
  • Adult Size: 1 inch
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: Peru, Brazil, Colombia

The neon tetra is a member of the cardinal tetra’s family that is just too cute. It is tiny, bullet-shaped, and comes in vibrant rose and electric blue colors that seem to glow, earning it its name. 

This fish likes to be in schools of 6 or more. With cardinal tetras, it will be a riot of peaceful color in the tank!

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • Some food competition

12. Lemon Tetra

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  • Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis
  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: Amazon

Lemon tetras, another member of the cardinal tetra’s clan, are on the larger side for tetras. They are very peaceful, as long as they have more company of their own kind to live with. 

The lemon tetra is nearly transparent toward the back of it’s body, but otherwise a bright yellow with black markings and a red eye. 

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression
  • No food competition

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • None!

13. Bloodfin Tetra

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  • Scientific Name: Aphyocharax anisitsi
  • Adult Size: 1 inch
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: Bolivia, Paraguay, South America

Bloodfin tetras are not quite as vibrantly colored as their cardinal tetra brethren. They are mainly silver with orange to red fins, earning their name. 

However, these fish are like the cardinal tetra in that they like to swim in schools and are largely peaceful!

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • Some food competition

14. Cherry Barb

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  • Scientific Name: Puntius titteya
  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: Sri Lanka

The cherry barb is a delightful top-dwelling fish. It is likewise small, a little fleck of the red-colored gem it was named after with darker markings and a peach-colored face.

The cherry barb is another fish that could balance the school of cardinal tetras, enjoying it’s own kind.

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression
  • No food competition

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • None!

15. Black Ruby Barb

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  • Scientific Name: Pethia nigrofasciata
  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Compatible With: Cardinal Tetra
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Origin: Sri Lanka

Black ruby barbs are beautiful in color, reminding one of a chocolate-covered cherry! They are mainly rose-colored, but each scale is fringed beautifully with darker coloring. 

The black ruby barb is small, wide in shape, and highly peaceful. It will make a great contrast to the cardinal tetra!

Pros of keeping with Cardinal Tetra:

  • No aggression
  • No food competition

Cons of keeping with Cardinal Tetra :

  • None!

In Conclusion

To sum it all up, the 15 best tank mates for the cardinal tetra include fish that enjoy the same environmental standards in the tank and are peaceful by nature. These include the ruby barb, the lemon tetra, and even the bristlenose pleco. With one of these as a tank mate to your cardinal tetra, you’ll have a colorful tank indeed!

Ian Sterling

I've been keeping fish for over 30 years and currently have 4 different aquariums – it's an addiction. I'm here to teach you everything there is to know about fishkeeping.

I also use this site as an excuse to spend lots of money on testing and reviewing different aquarium products! You can find my reviews here.

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