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FAQs about Cardinalfishes, Family Apogonidae, Stocking/Selection

Related Articles: Cardinalfishes

Related FAQs:  Cardinalfishes 1, Cardinalfishes 2, & FAQs on: Cardinal ID, Cardinal Behavior, Cardinal Compatibility, 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,

How many pajama cardinals?      5/4/15
<Six megs of pix... is it a full moon?>
Hi Crew.
I can't find the information I need about schools of pajama cardinals, so I am hoping you can help me figure out what to do. I am not particularly enamored with single, mature pajama cardinals, but thought a youthful school might be interesting. I ordered 5 of them, but they are going to be really small and I want to be able to notice and enjoy them while they are
still cute, so I am wondering if the tank could manage a few more (they are supposed to be easy to catch, so if/when they fade, get ugly, or get too big, I will just take them out). My other thought is that because this species of fish forms an hierarchy, a greater number of them will mean less stress on the fish at the bottom of the totem pole.
<I do know you're right>
The tank is a 75
<Oh; too small for any more; in fact, you'll likely end of with three, possibly one.
See (as in READ) on WWM re the family of Cardinalfishes. There are other genera, species of use here>
gallon reef tank with fairly open rock structure which will give the fish some hovering options (attached a picture of the rockwork... tank is looking messy and bare because I lost most of my coral in a crash a while back, but I wanted to send a picture because I believe my rockwork makes a significant difference in livestock options when compared to walls,
mounds, and towers... I did it this way for the sake of a yellow tang which died a month ago, because I wanted it to have a lot of swimming choices so the tank would seem bigger). The other fish include: pair of clowns that only leave their Duncan host at meal time; little green clown goby that just perches around rather than using swimming space; one Firefish which
is mostly in the lower part of the tank; and a Kole tang to arrive along with the cardinals (not real fond of the Kole appearance, but my yellow tang died a month ago and algae is now on my outputs... there are no other tang options for a 75g besides Kole and yellow,
<.... no. See WWM re Ctenochaetus, other Zebrasoma>
and I will get too attached to another yellow so I ordered the Kole). The only tankmate that will really be swimming all over the tank (except at feeding time) is the tang, and since the pajama cardinals are nocturnal, the tang and the other fish will be resting when the cardinals are most active (plus I can feed them after dark, so they won't have much competition for feeding time either). I usually give a lot of thought and planning to fish choices, so I am hoping to hear from you while I can still change the order.
Thanks folks.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: How many pajama cardinals?      5/4/15
Thanks for the quick response Bob. I think some of my WAMAS buddies are trying to convince me to forget about the pajamas entirely.
<I do agree... the genus Sphaeramia are argumentative.... worse than Banggais; and much bigger species
I won't order more of them. I still have time to cancel the pajama cardinals, and if I do not cancel them, I still have a some weeks of QT time in which to make a final decision (indecisiveness.... one more reason to use a QT!). By the way, I hope you are going to visit us WAMAS folks when we host MACNA this year
<Had thought the folks would be asking me to present; if not; will be out dive-traveling>
(FYI, I was the person who made that plate we gave to you).
<Ahh; have the plate on top of my cabinets (writing and slide storage); see it every day. I thank you>
Sincerely, Forrest
<Cheers, BobF>

Re: How many pajama cardinals?     5/5/15
I changed the order - no pajama cardinals. I guess I'm going back to the plan I had a few years ago, which was to have an assortment of gobies even though I won't see them half the time. The good thing about gobies is the scalelessness, but the bad thing is their short life spans (which is why, I ended up changing my plans). I ordered a citron goby (which will probably
perch on corals and damage them like my green clown goby), a Hectors goby (had one before and loved it), and a yellow rose goby (have wanted one for several years but keep putting it off for other things). Usually I make an exception for the scaleless gobies and only QT them a couple days, but would like to hear your opinion on it (the tang QT plan is three weeks or more) . Thanks again for your advice!
<Glad to share. B.>

Orbic cardinal - stroke?       5/27/14
Hello. Thank you in advance for your feedback and assistance.
<Certainly welcome>
Hi all. I've had an Orbic Cardinal
<An; as in a single specimen I take it...>
for almost 1 month and it has been healthy and vibrant until 2 days ago. It is currently looking lethargic
and hanging out in an upper corner of my tank where there is less water turbulence from my power jets. For lack of a better word, it appears like it's had a stroke - it's rear tail is not open and fanned out like my
Pajama Cardinal, it's not eating (brine shrimp) and it's movements appear slow and almost strained. I just noticed a bit of a velvety/slick stuff on 1 of its sides (see attached picture). Otherwise the eyes and other fins appear clean and normal.
What are your thoughts on what the fish may be experiencing and how I can help fix it. Thanks again.
<The genus Sphaeramia members are VERY social animals... though they may bicker in too-small volumes in captivity. They're always found in shoals/groups in the wild. I suspect at least one major source of stress for your individual is that it is alone. IF you have room, I'd have at least 3, 5...
Bob Fenner>

Cardinal Fish Compatibility     5/13/14
<Big E!>
Do you think it is possible to mix different types of Cardinal Fish in reef display?
<Oh yes... have seen this done... and occurs in the wild>
I currently have 8 red spot cardinals(Apogon parvulus) and wanted to add a trio of yellow stripped cardinals (Ostorhinchus cyanosoma). Do you think this would work?
<If you have room... the bigger the better system-wise. BobF>

Fish dynamics. Easily over and mis-stocking a small marine sys. Apogonid f' stkg./sel., Chromis as well      2/10/14
Hi Crew, Just sharing. I have a 24 gallon and usually have six small fish. A year ago I had a Pajama Cardinal about 4 years old, a Clown Goby about 5 years old, a Firefish about 3 years old and a Bicolor Blenny about a year old. So I decided to get a pair of Hi Fin Cardinals and one really dominated the other.
<Yes; not enough room here... but for one Apogonid>
So I sold the dominant one. Then the remaining Hi Fin became bossy and My Pajama Cardinal would not come out and the Firefish rarely came out so I sold  that Hi Fin. The Firefish came out and stayed in the middle most of the day. It took The Pajama Cardinal about 4 weeks to come out and even then it was very skittish. I decided to add an Orange Striped cardinal
 so rather than 2 I decided on 3 and I also went for a Black Axil Chromis.
<Not a good choice here>
 I know it is too crowded but I can always fix that. The Chromis is around the size of the Pajama and is active. The Pajama Cardinal now is out all day protecting his little corner from the Chromis. Didn't expect that. The Firefish is hiding. I think the Blenny unnerves him. The Blenny is moving around much more and doesn't seem to like the fact that there is more competition for him. The Orange Stripes are very small, maybe 3/4 of an inch. But their mouths are very big. They compete for the food and can really eat some big pieces. As of now they look yellow rather than orange. Probably will not be able to keep all three when they are full grown. They stay together near the bottom and don't seem to mind that they are smallest in the tank. When food is there they go to the top besides getting it from the water column. Sam
<Sam; you're a candidate for a much larger system... or systems! I'd be looking about the place; maybe work as well... for location/s. Bob Fenner>

Re: More re: Nassarius Snails Versus Fish, hand-fed dragonetttes!  12/19/11
Thanks.  I'll check some of those out.  I had ordered some blue eyed aka glass aka threadfin cardinals that never made it to my were poor shippers, I'd have never ordered them, let alone order a second batch to doom even more of them.   Poor beautiful fishies :(
On a more positive note, one of the dragonets ate from my hand last night!
Here's a video of them doing their mating dance:
Happy Holidays to you all!
<And to you and yours. BobF>

Cardinal for my tank...   10/11/11
<Hello Maggie>
I have a 25g tank that I have set up and I am just now starting to think about stocking it.
Basically, I am looking for a Cardinalfish as I hear they are a great choice in an SPS tank (which I am planning to keep) because they circulate fresh oxygen through polyps deep in the colonies and they directly "fertilize" the coral by defecating usually near/in it (and I love the way they swim).
I am concerned about them in general, however: it seems like most need to be kept in groups or pairs to thrive.
<Better, either a small group or a known pair>
It sounds like those that are kept in pairs that spawn become very aggressive towards tankmates and like most cannot be kept in groups in Nano aquariums.
<A group of three of one of the smaller species should be ok>
Basically, my question is, is there any Cardinalfish that will do well kept by itself?
<Yes, Pterapogon kauderni and probably others can be kept alone, but better in groups if poss.>
Also, how are Threadfin Cardinals for groups?
<Mmm, have a read here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/cardinal.htm w/ the related FAQS... should provide all you need>
Someone online suggested them to me, but I'm also wondering how high is their bioload?
<Low, they are not aggressive swimmers>
On ReefCentral someone said their bioload is almost non-existent but I'm not sure I believe this. Perhaps if a Cardinal isn't a good idea, you could suggest a Nano fish that would be beneficial to SPS coral?
<I think one of the Cardinals would make a fine choice>
Thank you ever so much!
<No problem>

Apogon compressus shipping issues 1/25/11
Hello Crew,
I work in a small wholesale facility and we are/have been having problems with some of the larger Apogon sp. Our problem is not keeping them, but how they arrive. In particular, *Apogon compressus *have been giving me problems lately. When the fish arrive from the Philippines, which is a direct flight, they are "bloated" and floating as if they have swallowed air. I've asked our supplier to try different methods as far as packing and shipping go, but to no avail. Do you have any ideas I can give them to try or is this a problem that I will have to deal with?
<I'd ask for smaller specimens... if possible. There are intermittent and inherent troubles with collecting and handling larger size Apogonids>
If it were one or two out of forty, I would not be too concerned. However, the last batch I received was more like twenty five out of forty. I'm not going to order them anymore if this continues to be a problem. I've had this problem with a couple of other cardinal species (typically the larger species with the same body shape) from several different suppliers. Beating my head against a wall isn't working so I thought I'd put the question out there. Thank you.
<Mmm, once the damage is done (i.e. before you get them) there's not much to be done. Collectors should leave larger individuals in the wild... to breed, live... and their wholesale distributors should refuse to buy larger ones of these and most other fish groups. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Cardinalfish and Mandarin Addition (some consideration needed here) -- 10/12/10
<<Hiya Steve>>
I was glancing online at Cardinalfish for sale, and came across this species, Fowleria flammea (common name is the "red stop light cardinal"). I looked for more information on WWM, but was unable to find anything.
<<Does appear to be absent'¦though it is listed on fishbase: http://fishbase.org/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=25073&genusname=Fowleria&speciesname=flammea&AT=Fowleria+flammea&lang=English >>
I was curious if you knew much about the species
<<I do believe this is the first I have seen/heard of it>>
and if their care was similar to other cardinal species?
<<I would expect it to be very similar to other like species, yes>>
From the pictures, this appears to be a colorful fish; the site recommends a small group can be kept together and will form a "strict hierarchy".
<<I would agree>>
I am interested in possibly adding a group of these fish to my 90g reef aquarium (130lbs LR, 120lbs LS). Current residents include a small purple tang, small Copperband butterfly, pair of ocellaris clowns, royal gramma, and a lawnmower blenny. I would like to add a mandarin dragonet in the future as well.
<<Not a good mix in this volume with the Blenny>>
The tank has been up for one year, and all parameters are within normal limits (0 nitrate/nitrite/ammonia/phosphates, spg 1.024,
<<This is 'ok'--though I prefer to see a higher reading closer to NSW values (1.026)>>
temp 77, pH 8.2). I have a few frags of SPS, LPS, and softies, and a 2" maxima clam. I always see a ton of amphipods roaming the rock at night; this leads me to believe I may be ready for a mandarin. (Maybe?)
<<Still best to find one that will accept prepared foods (frozen Mysis, etc.)--rarely does a system of this size provide enough natural foodstuffs for these fish>>
I was originally interested in a group of blue-green chromis (Chromis viridis) but came across these cardinals.
<<The Cardinals are a better choice--less likely to 'self-destruct' in a system of this size, in my opinion>>
Would a small group of chromis get along ok in this size of aquarium (with these tankmates)?
<<I don't think they would be a 'group' for long. Even in tanks twice the size of yours, I have seen groupings of Chromis slowly dwindle from the imposed 'stresses of the hierarchy'>>
Or should I keep looking more in the Cardinalfish direction?
<<This would be my choice here>>
Or could I even have both?
<<Not in my opinion--I think both species would suffer in this instance>>
I am wanting some "colorful" eye-catching fish that like to swim in the water column.
<<Not uncommon--just unfortunate that this is usually an afterthought to system design/stocking>>
Please advise if this would over-stock my tank (or if it is already). Also, any suggestions for peaceful, colorful schooling fish are great too!
<<I don't think it's so much a matter of stocking density here as it is species selection. A group of five small Cardinalfishes could 'fit' here in my estimation, but the boisterous Tang and territorial Clowns and Blenny may prove problematic in this volume. I'm not saying the Cardinals won't work out here, and I do think they are your best choice in this situation (as opposed to Flasher Wrasses, Anthiines, etc.) But as alluded earlier, systems with 'peaceful, colorful schooling fish' really need to be designed around these fish for the best chance at long term success>>
Thanks again for your help,
<<Happy to share'¦ EricR>>
P.S. One last question - do you foresee a problem keeping a mandarin with the lawnmower blenny?
<<I do'¦ The Blenny's 'territory' will be most if not all of your rockwork (apart from what the clowns may have staked out)--and will defend it vigorously, even viciously, from other 'bottom dwelling' fishes>>
The blenny has been in the tank for ~6-7 months and has gotten quite large (5"). He's a little snippy towards the butterfly if the butterfly starts grazing near "his spot".
<<Indeed'¦ It's your decision, but I would not add a Mandarin to this system. EricR>> 

How Many Chromis For A 55? -- 10/20/09
Good morning crew,
<<Evening now'¦Hiya Matt!>>
I have a pretty simple question today.
I have a 55gal tank with live rock that I would like to turn into a reef. The only fish that I want to keep are a school of blue green chromis.
<<Mmm, I see'¦ Your tank may be a bit small for these/this species>>
How many of these fish do you think I will be able to keep in my 55gal tank with no other tankmates.
<<As far as bioload goes, the tank should handle about nine of these fish (given good filtration/husbandry), but It has been my experience that even these 'so-called relatively-peaceful' Damsels will still trouble conspecifics to the point of extermination, leaving one or two individuals in the end, if/when housed in a too-small system. A better choice, in my opinion, would be a small Cardinalfish species. These will do much better, given proper species choice, than the Chromis.
I think this would look great if they were to school around a reef as the only inhabitants.
<<I am much in agreement; but for the 'Chromis' selection. Perhaps Apogon leptacanthus or Sphaeramia nematoptera would appeal to you'¦>>
Thanks for your input.
<<Happy to share'¦ EricR>>
Re: How Many Chromis for a 55? & Apogonid sel. f'  -- 10/21/09

Thanks so much for the advice.
<<My pleasure>>
Apogon leptacanthus actually seems to resemble the chromis in shape somewhat, so if you feel that this would be a better choice then I will try to find them somewhere.
<<Indeed'¦and quite a striking little fish when kept in groups>>
(They seem pretty difficult to find).
<<Do check online sources>>
Now, being that these guys seem to be smaller than the chromis, how many of these would you recommend for my 55gal reef?
<<A dozen should be fine>>
Also, I am really trying to go for the schooling look, so what are my realistic chances with these guys?
<<That depends on your definition of 'schooling look.' If you are expecting them to whip around in a cloud of flashing scales like a school of Sardines under attack then no'¦not these or any other fish available/suitable to the average home aquarium. But'¦ It is my experience that the more social species of Cardinalfishes (of which these are one) will 'hang out in a group''¦though you may want to add a small compatible wrasse species to your tank (e.g., Halichoeres chrysus) for a bit of 'movement'>>
Thanks again!!!
<<Always welcome'¦ EricR>>

Re: Stocking For A 75 Gallon Tank, now Banggai, PJ Cardinal sel.  12/5/08 James thanks for the response. <You're welcome.> Is there any possibility in stocking a school of Banggais. I had tried once, but they all mysteriously died one by one. I was thinking maybe 5 or so same as the PJ. <Sure, the Banggais are relatively peaceful toward their own <<Mmmm, not always... RMF>> and readily breed in the home aquarium. Do provide cave-like rock arrangement for them. You may want to read here and related FAQ's on the subject. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/cardinal.htm James (Salty Dog)> Zach

Small Water Column Fish -- Revisited, Apogonid sel.  -- 06/15/07 Hey thanks once again Mich. <Welcome!> I have access to some Apogon cyanosoma (yellow-lined or gold striped cardinals). Some folks seem to be ok keeping them long term in a small group, others experience aggression as they mature. Any thoughts on these? <I have never kept this species of fish, so I'm not able to draw on personal experience here, but the literature describes these as one of the "bolder" members of the family and recommends keeping a group of 5-7 individuals, all introduced at the same time. You may want to consider dimming your lighting when they are introduced. There is more info here, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/cardinal.htm but nothing as far the behavior of this species versus others in the genus. It can be difficult to predict behavior as it can vary greatly between the individual. Other fish in the system can also impact behavior. I would avoid overcrowding and provide plenty of hiding places. Good luck! Mich> Randall Douglas

Hardiness of Pajama Cardinals vs. Banggai Cardinals   2/13/07 Hi again crew, I have been having the same problems with Banggai Cardinalfish that I have read about on your site-- they cease to eat, start breathing rapidly, and then die. <Does happen... and all too often... and this should not be the case... That is, Apogonids such as these can be, should be raised in captivity... regionally... and be well-ready to withstand the rigors of moving, captivity...> All of this happens very quickly. I'm not sure, but I think I remember them having stringy, white feces as well. Recently, I lost eight! I bought these eight in groups of three, three, and two, so they did not all come from the same shipment.  I quarantined them in a 30 gallon bare tank, first all together, and then separated the next batch into three 10-gallon compartments. I tried FW dips before quarantining, and when that batch died, I skipped the FW dip. None of this made any difference.  I have kept many more difficult fish successfully, but I just can't keep the Banggais alive (yes, the water parameters are all where they should be). <Mmm... I want to say a few things (thanks for this prompting)... the vast majority of Pterapogon ARE cultured (somewhat), but still imported (from Indonesia mainly)... and they ARE way too often BUNK! Your experiences are not atypical...> The only answer I can comes up with is the mysterious parasite  I have read about which supposedly infects Banggai Cardinals. I was told the fish I purchased were tank-raised, but who knows if this is true-- and maybe tank-raised Banggais carry this parasite as well. So here is my question: are Pajama Cardinals susceptible to the same parasite? <... not as far as I'm aware, but have not seen definitive proof of such a parasitic involvement in the high incidental mortality of this species> I have not seen much written on your site about the Pajamas since they have been so overshadowed by the popularity of the Banggais. <Are old-timey favorites... the two principal species...> Have you been receiving emails with Pajama Cardinals suffering from the same symptoms and dropping dead? <Not as far as I recall, no> Also, I read that while a group of Pajama Cardinals will establish a pecking order, they do not display conspecific aggression ( aggression to other  Pajama Cardinals, if I used the term incorrectly) to nearly the same degree as Banggai Cardinals, making it easier to keep them in a group. Is this true in your experience, or reports from your readers? <Mmm, yes... though Sphaeramia can indeed be territorial... though not as often to as the degree as Banggais> As always, thanks for taking the time to read this and for offering your advice. Art <Thank you for asking. Bob Fenner>

Question on where to acquire Apogon leptacanthus in the U.S.? Hi Bob, <Anthony Calfo in his stead> I've been searching for these cardinals (A. leptacanthus) for a while now. I've contacted The Marine Center, who is usually good about finding rare fish  <agreed... a fine choice> (but they told me they only come along as a "fluke") and Walt Smith, who lists these as one of his products, but he replied back and said that he doesn't believe he exports these at this time. I noticed that next to your description by the photo of these fish, you mention they're from a friend's tank?  Would you happen to know where they were purchased or of another source where I may be able to find these fish? <Hmmm... Bob can check this out when he returns from Indonesia> Thank you very much! I really find your site helpful and useful! Thomas <let me suggest too that one of the very best places to get rare and cherry picked fishes is by contacting an aquarium service person in LA (use Internet Yellow Pages). These are chaps that visit the biggest wholesalers several times weekly in the course of their business and can keep and eye out for you and monitor status of special orders. SDC, Quality Marine, Walt Smith and a dozen other of the biggest wholesales are all virtually within walking distance of each other. Do consider hiring a jobber to peep for you. Best regards, Anthony>

Looking for marine fishes for research Dear Sir or Madam: <Hello> My name is Kim Akers, a research biologist at the New Jersey State Aquarium.   We are trying to purchase ~30 Pterapogon mirifica and possibly as many Vincentia conspersa.  We are interested in obtaining live fish to conduct a study on their reproductive biology in comparison with other Cardinalfish, and for some phylogenetic work. Would you have any ideas on whom I should contact?  I have tried almost every online US fish store and supplier, plus several more in other countries, to no avail.  If you have any thoughts, I would appreciate hearing them... <I have cc'd friends/associates in the marine livestock wholesale industry above. I am confident they will follow-up and contact you in turn. If you would like my further assistance, please feel free to contact me here. Bob Fenner> Best regards, Kimberly Akers Research Biologist NJ State Aquarium Looking for marine fishes for research Wow, thanks for the prompt reply and for sending this request out....I'll be keeping my fingers crossed! <Glad to be of service, link between the science and trade. As stated, please make it known if these folks don't get back to you expediently, and I'll do some prodding. Bob Fenner>

Cardinal Solo? I would really like a Banggai Cardinal for my 50 SW.  However, I know this is a schooling fish and only have room for one.  Will a single Banggai do o.k., or will the lack of schooling stress it out? <Not particularly. I have seen them kept successfully in groups in larger aquariums. The problem in groups is that one or more of the fish will "fall out of favor" with the "alpha" fish, resulting in the individual being subjected to constant harassment, which can lead to. well- you get the picture! One will do just fine! Good luck Regards, Scott F>

Cardinal Fish Hello, I would like to know if the Banggai or spotted cardinal fish is the easiest overall to keep. <This fish is very hardy, but so are many others.> I have heard that the lights should be kept off most of the time with these fish as they are nocturnal. <I have not heard this.> Is this true?   <I have not heard this, but wouldn't they just come out when the lights are off?> Also, is it better to get a pair of three?   <Depends on the tank size and other inhabitants.> Thank You.
<Take care James, Don>

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