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Related FAQs: Cardinals 1, Cardinals 2, & FAQs on: Cardinal ID, Cardinal Behavior, Cardinal Compatibility, Cardinal Selection, Cardinal Systems, Cardinal Feeding, Cardinal Disease, Cardinal Reproduction,   Banggai Cardinals, Banggai ID, Banggai Behavior, Banggai Compatibility, Banggai Selection, Banggai Systems, Banggai Feeding, Banggai Disease, Banggai Reproduction,

Related Articles:  Cardinalfishes of Indonesia,

Cardinal Fish, The family Apogonidae    


By Forrest Phillips


These beautiful slow moving and generally peaceful mouth brooders make excellent aquarium pets when kept with other peaceful tank mates.

Some interesting facts about these fish:

  1. They are Gonochorist Paternal Mouth brooders, meaning they do not change sex, they are hatched a sex and stay it, and that the father holds the eggs and sometimes the babies in his mouth.
  2. They are carnivorous and will attempt to eat most things that will fit in their mouth, including crustacean and fish.
  3. In the wild Cardinals, Banggais come to mind, will associate with Long Spine Urchins, But in the confines of aquaria have been observed to hide in the tentacles of corals and anemones such as elegance coral and Long Tentacled Anemones.

Some species specifics:

PJ cardinals, Sphaeramia nematoptera, are best kept in odd numbered groups, say 3,5,7 etc. Solo PJ's have been known to waste away over time, even formerly voracious eaters may stop eating if kept alone.

Some compatible fish to go along with your PJ's include the fire goby (Nemateleotris magnicifica ), seahorses, and most other peaceful fish that will not harass or attempt to eat them. These fish also go by the name of Polkadot Cardinal fish.

PJ's will eat most carnivore preparations. Please, please, PLEASE, do not feed them a diet of only brine shrimp. Gut loaded brine shrimp or baby live bearers may be necessary to elicit a feeding response initially, but do switch to a more nutritious food such as mysis shrimp, Cyclops, or other carnivore prepared foods as soon as possible. Sweetwater plankton and New Life spectrum pellets are also good choices. A varied diet is always best.

Some tank mates to be avoided include Sally light foot Crabs, and for that matter all true crabs, larger clownfish, Flame Hawkfish Tangs and other "Fast Movers" as well as Banggais in most systems. There are of course other poor choices, do research on the other fish especially anything that could potentially eat these peaceful fish.

Banggai Cardinals (Pterapogon kaudneri ) are interesting in that the young exit the males mouth fully formed, and are ready to eat newly hatched Artemia, Baby Brine Shrimp as they are commonly known.

Banggai Cardinals share much in common with the above mentioned PJs. One very important behavioral difference is that a single Banggai is quite happy by itself. The aggression between Banggais, called conspecific aggression, is often fatal to the subdominant fish. A subdominant BC will usually demonstrate a color of dark gray to black and shy and subdued behavior.

There is good news however for those wishing to keep more than one. If you have a large enough system, BC's can be kept in large shoals, say 10 or so individuals, this does require a large system though. Another option is to keep a breeding pair. If you can, watch them at the fish store and look for a pair. They will be seen together and trying to push away the others in the tank. If however this is not possible obtain a small group. A group of 5 is a good number, this will give you a good chance of getting at least one male and female in this Gonochorist fish. Once a pair has formed they will begin to harass the remaining three fish. At this point you will want to isolate the pair from the remaining fish.

The male will hold the eggs for approximately 21-25 days, though this is temperature dependant. It is a good idea to keep on eye on the male once he stops eating and observe him for behavior of holding. If you want to raise the babies there are a great many articles on this topic, a google search is in order, and a trip to the breeders registry.

As is mentioned above they will eat eagerly newly hatched Artemia and it has been suggested to slip some Cyclop-Eeze into the feeding frenzy to increase the nutritional value of their diet. Pleas report any success using such a feeding regimen.

If you succeed in keeping a group of these fish and one dies off, your safest bet is to leave the remaining fish alone and not try to introduce new fish. If however you still wish to introduce some new fish, Dip them Quarantine them then once they are eating what you are feeding the main tank introduce the new cardinals at the same time as a group, of at least 2 to disperse aggression from the invaders.

Some good tank mates for these cardinals include those suggested for the PJ's and a Flame angel may also work well if the system is appropriate for the angel. In larger systems they may be ok with Tangs but exercise due caution. These fish are easily scared especially upon introduction.

If you can include a Pod Fuge, a refugium for growing Amphipods and Copepods, your fish will have access to food all day. They also enjoy such fare as Mysis shrimp, Sweetwater plankton, and shredded seafood. They have been observed to be pretty indiscriminate about the size of their prey items, though be sure it will fit in their mouths.

If they are being finicky then live brine shrimp and baby livebearers can elicit a feeding response. Once eating move in the more nutrient rich foods, they might not notice in their eagerness to feed on their known food.

Banggais can be obtained from captive bred sources and it is best to get them as such. They will be better acclimated to aquarium life and prepared foods. Wild Banggais are often host to internal parasites such as worms and protozoans. White stringy Feces is indicative of an internal parasite. Yellow cysts have also been observed and likely linked to a bacterial infection. The typical Saltwater diseases will strike at cardinal fish, such as Crypt and Velvet. Velvet has been observed to appear as a "cloudy eye" in the Cardinals. Banggais may also be listed as Hi-fin, High fin, and Banner cardinal fish.

There are other species of Cardinal available and for the most part their captive care falls in with the above mentioned species. Do research individual species before purchase.

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