Ember Tetra: Care, Diet, Lifespan, Tank size and more

EMBER TETRA (FULL CARE GUIDE)

Who wouldn’t love a fish that is not just beautiful and captivating to look at but at the same time quite easy to maintain. I guess that’s the main reason why Ember Tetras are one of the most beloved and commonly recommended fish to hobbyists of all experience level.

What I like about the Ember Tetras;

  • Their striking visual appearance coupled with their tiny size
  • Their peaceful nature when in community aquariums
  • Their high degree of activity; ember tetras are not known for staying in one place
  • Not picky eaters
  • Their tolerance for decent water parameter changes
  • How it is possible to successfully keep a happy school of ember tetras starting with just a 10-gallon tank 

Bear with me as you go through this guide that covers everything you need to know to successfully keep the Ember Tetras in your tank from water parameters, tank size, diet, breeding, disease, tank mates and much more.

Let’s start with the first step of aiming for the best care possible for your ember tetra which is; understanding their origin. 

We need to go through that if we are to have a shot at fashioning the best tank possible for them that  mimics their ideal habitat conditions.

Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae) sometimes called the fire tetra, is a small freshwater fish belonging to the Characidae Family. 

This is a family of numerous freshwater subtropical and tropical fish belonging to one of the most diverse orders containing well over 2000 fish across 19 families; the Characiformes.

Even though classifying the majority of fish in the Characiformes order is a daunting task, distinguishing the ember tetra from them is undoubtfully simple, thanks to their very unique visual appearance.

Ember Tetra originated from the Araguaia River Basin of Brazil. The habitat is characterized by slow-moving river, lakes and sometimes swamps most of which are blackwater containing heavily planted vegetation of trees and small plants. 

The vegetation cover serves as a shelter, food and breeding ground for the fish.

Those areas also contain soft and low pH water. But, it has been established that Ember Tetras can live in a hard water environment as well. 

Ember Tetra Care Snippet

  • Maximum fish size: 1.0 inches’ long
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner – Expert
  • Temperament: Very peaceful
  • Temperature: 73°F to 84°F
  • PH: 5.0 to 7.0
  • Hardness: 5-17dGH
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Ideal tank mates: Neon Tetras, Dwarf Gourami, Pygmy Corydoras, Rasbora, Hachetfish, Discus, Barbs.

Ember Tetra Size

Being one of the smallest tetras, a typical Ember Tetra will reach a maximum length of 0.7- 0.8 ich. It is very uncommon for this fish to grow higher than 1.0 inch as there were very few instances and reports of that happening. 

Bear in mind that their tiny size is one of the major factors that convince many novice aquarists to have an interest in keeping them.

If you haven’t seen them personally you will most likely be astonished by their size and how they stand out despite that.  Especially if you haven’t seen other similar nano fish before like the Chili Rasbora for example.

Appearance

Appearance is largely where the Ember Tetras got their popularity, undoubtedly, they are one of the most visually appealing fish in their family.

Majority of Ember Tetras are orange in color while others come in a shade of red. 

They have an elongated body with their dorsal fin being way larger than the caudal fin. This makes the body look a bit compressed towards the back which in turn aid their swift movement in water. 

The dorsal fins are tall and slim with a gradient of the primary color of their body to a slightly darker tone at the back. 

The edge of their fin is slightly transparent and the transparency moves backwards to join the slightly dark area.

They have forked caudal fins which transition in color although, sharper than in the case of their dorsal fin. 

The full body transition is like this; the tail end of the pin has the same color as the rest of the body, from there it drastically transitions into a darker orange then to becoming completely transparent. 

They have almost transparent pectoral fins.

Sometimes the area above their eyes and around the mouth is reddish.

The color gradient of their anal and dorsal fins makes Ember Tetra stand out from the rest of their body and also help them stand out among other similar size fish especially, in community aquariums.

Two ember Tetras swimming in a heavily vegetated tank

By Gordon Axmann CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Ember Tetra Lifespan

Although there have been some reports of Ember Tetra living up to ten years, experience and facts have shown experts aquarists that those reports were largely inaccurate.

The fact is; a typical Ember tetra lifespan is between 2-4 years. However, most of them do not approach the 3 or 4 years mark unless kept in a tank that mimics the basic setting of their natural habitat quiet impeccably.  

When caring for the Ember Tetra, strict water parameters is not as important as the presence of ideal plants.

Now I’m not saying you could care less about their water quality and parameters, that’s highly important too. It’s just that it has been determined that their lifespan tends to increase when they are kept in heavily planted tanks. It’s about the about the only factor that seem to affect their longevity more than anything else.

I guess that’s because they are hardy and don’t have very strict water requirements.

Care

Can you guess why Ember Tetras are recommended even to beginners at fish keeping? It’s not because of their popularity, appearance or their size. It’s because they one of the easiest nano fish one can keep in an aquarium.

       You just need to take care of these simple requirements;

  • Keep them in the recommended minimum tank size
  • Set up their tank with the recommended easy-care aquarium plants 
  • Provide the tank with a substrate that is similar in characteristics to their habitats substrate 
  • Set up the tank with a filtration system that gently delivers water to mimic the slow-moving water of their habitat.
  • Keep their water parameters within the recommended levels, this shouldn’t be a big deal since the range is considerably wide.

I talk about how the above requirements can be met.

Tank size and requirements

One could think that since Ember Tetras are very small in size therefore can be kept in a very small tank such as a 3.5-gallon or a 5-gallon tank

However, that is if you forget to consider the fact that they are schooling fish who happen to be very active swimmers.

Due to that, the recommended minimum tank size for Ember Tetra is 10-gallons. This will allow you to comfortably keep 7-8 of them together which is the recommended minimum number of Ember Tetra one should keep together.

The 10-gallon tank will also allow you to have the needed space to decorate the tank as required.

Keeping Ember Tetras in a decently sized school has been proven to improve their health, happiness and overall lifespan.

The tank needs to have lots of vegetation as I stated earlier. Their natural habitat contain abundant vegetation cover. So to mimic that, their tank has to be heavily planted as well.

In the course of selecting the plants, using ones that are easy to grow and require minimal care is very important.

Java Fern, Anacharis and Java Moss have fit the profile.  Any of these plants could be planted at the base substrate level.

Ember Tetras usually stick to swimming in the middle layer of the tank, therefore, it’s highly recommended you add some free-floating plants such as Hornwort.

Additionally, consider throwing in dry leaves into the tank as they help improve the water quality after they decompose.

Another useful detail from their habitats study is that it contains slow-moving water. 

With that in mind, any filtration or aeration system you use for them should gently deliver the water. Set up a decent level of water movement while keeping it aerated.

Lastly, the substrate, try putting in one that is dark in color to resemble the nature of their habitats’ substrate but of course, this is not a necessity.

Water parameters

This is the trickiest part of keeping many fish in a tank specifically because of their strict water parameters with no enough room for mistake. However, that’s not so for Ember Tetras as they are quite hardy.

That said, you should always strive to achieve and maintain all your fish ideal requirements whether hardy or not.

The recommended water temperature ranges for keeping an Ember Tetra is between 73°F to 84°F, the pH level is between 5-7 and lastly, the water hardness range is between 5-17dGH.

As you can see, the parameters ranges are quite open. Therefore, as long as you are performing regular water level tests at least twice a week, maintaining them won’t be a problem.

I had to say; be sure to make use of good quality tests kits.

Bear in mind even the most experienced aquarists commit to the recommended scheduled water tests. This can help them reap the benefit of having a very healthy fish with potential of living above the average recorded lifespan of the species.

Ember Tetra Food and diet

Even though ember tetras are not picky eaters you mustn’t skimp on their diet. Their diet is so important and it has been proven to directly affect the color and appearance of their body. 

Make sure you feed them a balanced diet with lots of variation so they can get the useful nutrients their body need. 

Ember Tetras are omnivorous but they mostly consume carnivorous foods. 

They readily accept foods like micro worms, Tubifex, finely chopped bloodworms, brine shrimp, Daphnia, freeze or dried Artemia, pellets and High-quality flake foods.

Occasionally, they can even eat some of the plants in the tank and that’s normal. The good news is they don’t consume so much that they end up damaging the plants.

Develop a habit of feeding them 2-4 times a day. Preferably 3 as overfeeding them can create undesirable consequences in your tank.

Breeding

Breeding Ember Tetras is not a challenging task. It does not require a lot of preparations on your part. Under ideal and monitored tank conditions, they spawn frequently without any intervention

First, make sure your tank is adequately spacious to ease the process. Then, make sure there are both male and female in the tank. Since sexing them can be a bit difficult for some people let’s clear things off.

To differentiate the sex, you need to watch out for two things.

First; the air bladder and second; the structure of the female during the breeding period.

Female Ember Tetras have relatively larger and round air bladder, while males have smaller, pointed air bladder. During the breeding period, the females develop a slightly depressed abdomen.

To induce the spawning process, you need to adjust the pH and temperature of the tank to the required levels. Keep the pH level to around neutral while the water temperature should be kept around 80-85°F. 

Filtering the water at least once a week and adjusting the lighting in the tank to lower levels is highly recommended during this period.

After the spawning has taken place, it’s highly recommended you move the fry to a separate tank to avoid the possibility of the parents eating them (which is very common by the way). 

If you are not keeping the fry in a separate tank, place a mesh at the bottom of the tank. This will make it difficult for the parents to get to them.

The incubation process takes around 3 days after which you will start to see juvenile Ember Tetras starting to swim without any difficulty.

Ember Tetra Tank mates

Choosing ideal tank mates is a very important subject in keeping the Ember Tetra. They are schooling fish which don’t do well if not kept in schools with other tetras or other ideal mates.

When you consider their size, behavior and temperament, coming up with their ideal mates will not be of any issue. 

To start, let’s discuss their behavior. 

Ember Tetras are very active fish that stick to swimming in the middle layer and very rarely swim up or down the tank. 

By knowing this, we can put other fish that are either top or bottom dwellers. The essence of this is so they don’t cross each others territories.

As for their temperament, Ember Tetras are very peaceful and not aggressive in any way. They mind their business and do not disturb other fish despite their activeness. 

Using this we know we should find them mates that are very peaceful and non-territorial as well.

Lastly their size, we have already established that they are small nano fish. 

Accordingly, we should find them mates within their size bracket. The last thing we want is to put them together with other fish that could mistake them for a snack. 

With these guidelines or requirements, we can say that we are looking for either a non-aggressive fish within the same size bracket or a slightly bigger or a bit aggressive fish that completely stick to the top or bottom of the tank.

The species below have fit the requirement of being the ideal tank mates for the Ember Tetra

It’s important to make sure you don’t keep Ember Tetras with fish or other pets that eat plants. Like I mentioned before, they are very important components of their tanks.

A group of Ember tetras schooling together in a heavily planted tank

By Luis E, flickr Commons

Common Diseases

A major contributing factor to Ember Tetras ease of care is the fact that they are very health species and not prone to any specific diseases. However, this does not mean they don’t get attacked by any diseases at all.

There have been some cases from different owners of Ember Tetra disclosing that their fish was attacked by a very peculiar disease. 

The disease symptom is characterized by the appearance of a black spot on the fish caudal fin which grows bigger and occupies the rest of the body.

This process occurs within a few days and if not treated in time can lead to the death of the fish. 

To avoid this, it’s recommended you observe the body of your fish regularly to make sure that there are no black spots present and if so, get in touch with your doctor as soon as you notice that.

Maintain a scheduled water renewal plan. Maintain the plants in your tank properly and refrain from overfeeding your fish

The good news is as long as you maintain very good quality water, good tank condition and good diet, your fish will have a very minor possibility of developing an infection or illness.

Temperament and general behaviour

Ember Tetra are highly peaceful fish and despite what their small size might suggest, they are highly active and playful swimmers.

They are schooling fish who love to swim among their kind or at least other similar nano fish. They can be found swimming through planted vegetation and love hiding in them. 

They normally stick to swimming in the middle section of the tank and very rarely swim-up or down the lower section.

At first, when you introduce them in your tank, you will notice they don’t behave actively. That’s because they normally need some time to adapt to new environment.

Ember tetra

By Usien CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Commonly asked questions

In this part of the guide, I answer some of the most common questions asked by people who are keeping the Ember Tetra or considering keeping it.

Q1. Are Ember Tetras aggressive?

No, Ember Tetras are not aggressive in the least. Although, some people in the online aquarium community I hang out in reported that theirs have shown some aggressive behavior. 

That situation is extremely rare and if the aggression is between them and another fish species it’s most likely caused by the other fish.

Q2. Are Ember Tetras fin nippers?

People ask this question because unfortunately, majority of Tetras are fin nippers. The most commonly known fin nippers are Neon Tetra, Emperor Tetra, Sarpae Tetra, Black Skirt tetra. 

Fortunately, Ember Tetra are not known for fin nipping.

Q3. How many Ember Tetras are in one gallon?

Keeping Ember Tetras in a 1-gallon tank is not ideal particularly because they are schooling fish who love to hang out with their kind in a heavily planted tank.

You should remember that you need to keep at least 7-8 of them together to make them happy and active. The recommended minimum tank for that number is 10-gallon.

However, there are many people (beginner aquarists mostly) who keep them in their small 1-gallon tank. In a tank of that size, it’s recommended you keep no more than 3 Ember Tetras.

Q4. Can Ember Tetras live with Guppies?

The challenge of keeping most Tetras with Guppies is size and fin nipping. Since Ember Tetras are not as big as the Buenos Aires Tetras and are not fin nippers like the Emperor Tetra they can be kept together with guppies without any problem.

Q5. Can Ember Tetras live with Bettas?

The behavior of betta is unpredictable, sometimes they can live peacefully with other fish and sometimes show a high level of aggression to other fish. 

For this reason, it’s recommended you don’t keep them together with any fish that will be crossing their territory so much.

Provided your tank is highly spacious and your Betta will have lots of space to explore then it can work out with Ember Tetras.

Otherwise, keep your Betta with fish that occupy the bottom section of tanks. Example, Kuhli Loach or Otocinclus, so that they will in no way cross each others territories.

Q6. Can you mix Tetras?

Yes, you can mix Tetras but the rule is; combine ones within the same size bracket together.

That said, don’t combine one-one tetra from different groups together. Instead, from each group have at least 4 of their kind together. For example, if you want to keep your Ember Tetra with Neon Tetra have at least 4 of them each.

Conclusion

Ember Tetras are one of the most recommended fish by many experienced aquarists to hobbyists of all experience level. 

That is due to their general ease of care, enticing appearance and popularity. 

It’s very hard if not impossible to get tired watching these beautiful creatures swim in a tank especially when in large groups. Someone describes that experience as like watching orange bullets move in slow motion.

If you have been keeping fish but have never kept Ember Tetras before, I highly recommend them. There is a high chance of finding out that taking care of them is like a breeze for you. Especially if you have never kept other small, hardy fish before.

If you are a beginner hobbyist considering them, I say go for it. Keeping them is about as easy as it gets with fish keeping.

I hope this guide has given all the answers you might have had about keeping Ember Tetras the right way. 

Please feel free to rich out if you have any question we haven’t covered or if you have any info you think will help improve this guide. We’ll be more than happy if you do.

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