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Cardinalfish: All of the royalty without the high maintenance

Flame Cardinalfish
Flame Cardinalfish (Apogon spp.)

What is a Cardinalfish?

An attractive appearance, rarity, and an incredibly limited distribution are just a few reasons as to why the regal Cardinalfish (Apogonidae) is such a sought-after species for aquariums, not to mention the fact that they also seem to be rather disease resistant.

These ray-finned beauties are found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans, and while they happen to be marine for the most part, certain species within the Cardinalfish family who can also be found in brackish water, while a few, notably the genus Glossamia, can actually be found in freshwater.

With over 370 species within their family, these species don’t get bigger than 4 inches, and they boast a variety of colors. Large mouths, and the division of the dorsal fin into two separate fins make these fish absolute aquarium favorites.

Pajama Cardinalfish (Sphaeramia nematoptera)

Tank conditions for Cardinalfish

These marine fish enjoy their reefs and crevices, so ensure that your aquarium has plenty of hiding holes, as well as sea grass and other plants, as Cardinalfish love to hide in between them. Generally, a tank capacity of around 20 gallons will do just fine for these small species.

As far as temperature goes, maintaining a warmer temperature will serve these species well, considering that the majority of the family are marine fish. However, keep in mind that a few of them hail from freshwater and may require particular conditions that are contrary to the general requirements of your average Cardinalfish.

Ochrestriped Cardinalfish
Ochrestriped Cardinalfish (Ostorhinchus compressus)

Tankmates and general Cardinalfish behavior

Peaceful tankmates are an absolute must when it comes to Apogonidae, as these fish are slow and methodical swimmers who would not appreciate aggressive or semi-aggressive fish constantly bothering them.

Cardinalfish are generally peaceful, as long as they have a smaller community within an aquarium. There are circumstances under which they could possibly become semi-aggressive due to territorial reasons as when they are kept in large groups of Cardinalfishes. As such, keep them in a smaller group and you’ll find that their community will automatically establish a strict hierarchy without having to resort to aggression, which is rare to see among this social species.

What do Cardinalfish eat?

Cardinalfish will appreciate a well-balanced diet consisting of meaty foods like feeder shrimp, as well as brine shrimp and mysis shrimp, and depending on the species - and therefore, the size - live feeder fish. There are conflicting ideas on whether or not dry prepared food such as pellet and flake food is viable for Cardinalfish, but this could depend on specific species. Consider doing research on particular species before selecting dry food.

Longspine Cardinalfish
Longspine Cardinalfish (Zoramia leptacantha)


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