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You can certainly keep way more fish in you tank then you have. Just look at how many fish they cram into those feeder fish tanks.

The point is what kind of an effect do you want to have?

It is better for the fish and there is less competition if you keep the number low. The old rule of thumb was 1 inch of fish per gallon of water. I think from an artistic and fish stress point of view this would still be an upper limit.

I have a 52 gal tank and stared with 16 cardinal and now have 14. They look great in the tank.

It really is a matter of preference.
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