Ember Tetra Species Info and General Care Guide

ember tetra
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Last Updated: May 11, 2023 by Flora Gibbins

Want to see fire underwater?

Check out Ember Tetras (Hyphessobrycon amandae), a tetra species so named because they look like glowing embers in a fire.

These striking fish, with their vibrant reds and oranges and peaceful demeanor, have captivated the hearts of aquarium enthusiasts worldwide. Small yet stunning, Ember Tetras are perfect for those who seek an eye-catching addition to their freshwater aquarium, particularly if it’s a planted or community tank.

In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating world of Ember Tetras, exploring their characteristics, natural habitat, and how to keep them as pets. Whether you are an experienced hobbyist or a newcomer to the aquarium scene, Ember Tetras offer a unique combination of beauty and adaptability that will surely enhance your underwater world.

Ember Tetra Facts and Overview

  • Common names: Ember Tetra, Fire Tetra, Amanda’s Tetra
  • Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon amandae
  • Adult size: 0.8-1.2 inches (2-3 cm)
  • Lifespan: 2-4 years
  • Colors and Markings: Bright orange-red with a near-translucent body
  • Origin: South America, specifically the Araguaia River basin in Brazil

Origin and Distribution

Ember Tetras are fascinating little fish that hail from the tropical freshwater rivers and streams of South America. Specifically, they call the Araguaia River basin in Brazil their home. This beautiful region is known for its lush vegetation and slow-moving waters, providing the perfect natural habitat for these vibrant creatures.

In the wild, Ember Tetras thrive in blackwater environments, where the water is stained with tannins from decaying organic matter. The water in these habitats is typically soft, acidic, and low in minerals, which creates a unique ecosystem for various species of plants, invertebrates, and fish.

As for their history in the aquarium hobby, Ember Tetras have been gaining popularity since the early 2000s, when they were first introduced to the scene. Their fiery appearance, combined with their peaceful nature, made them an instant hit among aquarists. Today, Ember Tetras are bred in captivity and readily available in most local fish stores and online.

Appearance

Ember Tetras are known for their distinct and captivating appearance. Measuring between 0.8 to 1.2 inches (2-3 cm) when fully grown, they may be small, but they certainly make a statement.

Their bodies are near-translucent and adorned with a bright orange-red color, which gives them their characteristic ember-like glow. This fiery coloration is what sets them apart from other tetra fish species and makes them a popular choice for aquarists looking to add a touch of vibrancy to their tanks.

The brilliance of their colors can vary depending on factors such as age, diet, and stress levels. Ensuring optimal care, a balanced diet, and the right water parameters will help your Ember Tetras maintain their stunning appearance and stay healthy.

group of ember tetras with live plants

Behavior and Temperament

Swimming

Ember Tetras are active swimmers that love to dart around the tank, exploring their surroundings. They are most comfortable when swimming in the middle to upper levels of the aquarium. Their dynamic movement adds life and energy to your underwater world, making them a pleasure to observe.

Personality

These small fish have a peaceful temperament, which makes them an ideal addition to a community tank. They get along well with other non-aggressive fish of similar size, making them a popular choice for a variety of freshwater aquarium setups.

Shoaling and Schooling

Ember Tetras exhibit both shoaling and schooling behaviors, depending on the situation. When feeling secure, they may form a loose shoal, casually swimming together without a specific formation. In response to perceived threats or while searching for food, they can switch to a more organized schooling behavior, swimming in unison with synchronized movements.

Keeping at least six Ember Tetras together in your aquarium allows them to display these natural behaviors, adding a unique visual appeal and highlighting their stunning coloration. Just make sure you have a big enough tank to accommodate the number of fish you plan to keep.

Ember Tetra Tank Mates

Compatible Fish Species

Ember Tetras are peaceful fish that do well in community tanks with other non-aggressive species of similar size. Some compatible tank mates include:

  • Other small tetras (Neon Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, Rummy Nose Tetras)
  • Rasboras (Harlequin Rasboras, Chili Rasboras)
  • Corydoras catfish
  • Dwarf Gouramis
  • Otocinclus catfish
  • Small peaceful barbs (Cherry Barbs, Gold Barbs)

Non-Fish Tank Mates

Ember Tetras can also coexist peacefully with some invertebrates, like:

  • Amano Shrimp
  • Cherry Shrimp
  • Nerite Snails
  • Mystery Snails

Tank Mates to Avoid

It’s essential to avoid housing Ember Tetras with large or aggressive fish species, as they may become stressed or end up as prey. Some examples of tank mates to avoid include:

  • Cichlids (especially larger or aggressive species)
  • Large Barbs (Tiger Barbs, Tinfoil Barbs)
  • Oscars
  • Bettas (due to potential territorial behavior)

Ember Tetra Care

Providing the best care for your Ember Tetras is crucial for their health, happiness, and longevity. By understanding their specific needs and preferences, you can create an environment that helps them thrive and display their vibrant colors.

In this section, we will discuss the essentials of Ember Tetra care, including tank setup, water parameters, diet, and disease prevention. By following these guidelines, you’ll learn how to create the perfect home for your Ember Tetras and ensure they live their best lives in your aquarium.

Tank Setup

Tank Size

A minimum tank size of 10 gallons is recommended for a small group of 6-8 Ember Tetras. As a general rule of thumb, for every additional 1-2 Ember Tetras, you should increase the tank size by 2-3 gallons to accommodate their bioload and swimming space requirements. If you plan to house them with other fish species, be sure to factor in the size and needs of those species as well.

For instance, if you’re adding a group of Corydoras catfish, which require an additional 2-3 gallons per fish, you would need to adjust the tank size accordingly.

In most cases, a 20-gallon long tank or larger is preferable for a community setup with multiple species.

What to Put In Their Tank

Ember Tetras enjoy a planted aquarium that mimics their natural habitat. Incorporate a variety of live plants, such as Java Fern, Anubias, and Vallisneria, to provide shelter and hiding spots.

Adding driftwood and leaf litter can also help create a more authentic environment. Floating plants can be used to diffuse lighting and make the tetras feel more secure.

Filters

A good-quality filter is essential for maintaining water quality and ensuring the health of your Ember Tetras. Choose a filter with a gentle flow rate, as these fish prefer slow-moving waters. A sponge filter or hang-on-back filter with adjustable flow can work well for this purpose.

Substrate

Ember Tetras prefer a dark-colored, soft substrate, which helps them feel more at ease and can also enhance their vibrant colors. Fine sand or smooth gravel can be used as the substrate for their tank. Make sure to clean the substrate regularly to prevent the buildup of debris and maintain water quality.

Water Parameters

Maintaining the appropriate water parameters is essential for the health and well-being of your Ember Tetras. Since they originate from blackwater habitats in the wild, they prefer soft, slightly acidic water. Here are the ideal water parameters for Ember Tetras:

  • Temperature: 73-84°F (23-29°C). Aim for a stable temperature within this range, as fluctuations can cause stress and lead to health issues.
  • pH: 5.5-7.0. Ember Tetras do best in slightly acidic water. Regularly test and monitor the pH levels to ensure they remain within this range.
  • Hardness: 1-10 dGH (soft to moderately hard water). These fish thrive in soft water conditions, so it’s essential to maintain the appropriate water hardness.
  • Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate: Ammonia and nitrite levels should always be at 0 ppm, as any presence can be harmful to your fish. Keep nitrate levels below 20 ppm, as high concentrations can be detrimental to their health.

To maintain optimal water parameters, perform regular water tests using a reliable aquarium test kit. Conduct 25-30% water changes weekly to keep the water clean and stable. If needed, use water conditioners, buffering agents, or RO water to adjust the water parameters to match the needs of your Ember Tetras.

Diet and Feeding

A balanced diet is essential for the health and coloration of your Ember Tetras. These fish are omnivorous and require a mix of both plant-based and protein-rich foods to thrive. Here are some guidelines to ensure your Ember Tetras receive the nutrition they need:

  • Staple diet: High-quality, small-sized tropical fish flakes or micro pellets make up the staple diet for Ember Tetras. These foods are formulated to provide essential nutrients and should be fed to your fish daily.
  • Live and frozen foods: Supplement the staple diet with live or frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms, to provide variety and additional protein. Feeding live or frozen foods 2-3 times per week will help enhance your fish’s coloration and overall health.
  • Vegetable matter: Although not a major part of their diet, incorporating some vegetable matter, such as blanched spinach or spirulina flakes, can help ensure they receive a well-rounded diet.

An important note on feeding frequency: Feed your Ember Tetras small portions 2-3 times per day, providing only as much food as they can consume within 2-3 minutes. Overfeeding can lead to water quality issues and obesity, so it’s crucial to monitor their food intake and adjust as needed.

Remember that the dietary needs of your fish may change with age, water conditions, and activity levels. Regularly observe your Ember Tetras to ensure they remain healthy and well-fed.

Common Diseases

Like all fish, Ember Tetras can be susceptible to various diseases if not properly cared for. Maintaining optimal water conditions, providing a balanced diet, and reducing stress are crucial for preventing health issues. Here are some common diseases to watch out for and tips on how to address them:

Ich (White Spot Disease)

Ich is a common parasitic disease that causes white spots on the fish’s body, gills, and fins. Affected fish may also exhibit signs of distress, such as rubbing against objects or rapid breathing.

To treat Ich, increase the water temperature to 86°F (30°C) for a few days and use over-the-counter Ich medication as directed.

Fin Rot

Fin rot is a bacterial or fungal infection that causes the fish’s fins to appear ragged or disintegrate. Poor water quality is often the main cause.

Improve water conditions, perform regular water changes, and use antibacterial or antifungal medication to treat the infection.

Swim Bladder Disease

Swim bladder disease causes difficulty in maintaining buoyancy and swimming. Affected fish may swim at odd angles or have difficulty staying upright. This condition can result from overfeeding, constipation, or injury.

To address swim bladder disease, fast your fish for 2-3 days and then feed them a blanched, deshelled pea to help with digestion. If the issue persists, consult an aquatic veterinarian.

Internal Parasites

Internal parasites like nematodes and flukes are organisms that live inside the fish’s body, typically in the digestive tract, and can cause various health issues like weight loss, bloating, and lethargy.

To treat internal parasites, use an anti-parasitic medication designed for aqufish and follow the instructions provided.

Regularly monitor your Ember Tetras for any signs of illness and act quickly to address any health concerns. Quarantine any new fish or plants for at least two weeks before introducing them to your main tank to prevent the introduction of diseases or parasites.

Breeding Ember Tetras

Gender Differences

To begin, it’s important to know how to distinguish between male and female Ember Tetras. Males and females share similar coloration, but males tend to have slightly more intense hues.

Also, males are often a bit slimmer and more streamlined compared to their female counterparts. As they swim around the tank, their vivid colors shimmer and create an enchanting display, especially when they’re kept in a group.

Breeding Tips

We’ve put together these instructions for you to follow to increase your chances of breeding success:

  1. Set up a separate breeding tank: Prepare a dedicated breeding tank with a 5-10 gallon capacity. Add a soft, dark substrate, some fine-leaved plants or spawning mops, and a sponge filter. Keep the water parameters within the optimal range for Ember Tetras, and maintain a slightly warmer temperature of around 80°F (27°C) to encourage spawning.
  2. Condition the breeding pair: Select a healthy, mature pair of Ember Tetras and condition them with a high-quality diet of live or frozen foods. This will help improve their overall health and encourage them to breed.
  3. Introduce the breeding pair: Place the conditioned male and female Ember Tetras into the breeding tank, ensuring that they have plenty of hiding spots and feel secure. Dimming the lights or using floating plants can help create a more comfortable environment for them.
  4. Monitor for spawning: If conditions are favorable, the breeding pair will likely spawn within a few days. The female will lay her eggs among the plants or spawning mops, and the male will follow to fertilize them. Ember Tetra eggs are tiny and transparent, making them difficult to see.
  5. Remove the adults: After spawning, it’s crucial to remove the adult Ember Tetras from the breeding tank, as they may eat the eggs or fry. Monitor the eggs closely, as they should hatch within 24-48 hours.
  6. Raising the fry: Once the eggs have hatched, you’ll need to provide the fry with suitable food. Start by feeding them infusoria or liquid fry food for the first few days. As they grow, gradually introduce larger food options like baby brine shrimp and microworms.
  7. Gradual transition: As the fry grow and become more independent, monitor their development and adjust the water parameters to match those of the main tank. Once the fry are large enough, you can safely transfer them back to the main aquarium or a grow-out tank.

Remember that patience is key when breeding Ember Tetras. It may take several attempts to achieve successful spawning, but with persistence and attention to detail, you can enjoy the fascinating process of raising these beautiful fish.

Related Species

If you’re interested in Ember Tetras, you may also enjoy learning about and keeping other closely related species. Here are a few popular and visually striking species that share similarities with Ember Tetras:

  • Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi): With their vibrant blue and red stripes, Neon Tetras are a popular choice among aquarists. Both Neon and Ember Tetras have peaceful dispositions and share similar care requirements.
  • Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi): They are another striking species, sporting an iridescent blue stripe and a bold red stripe that extends the length of their body. Cardinal Tetras are slightly larger than Ember Tetras but share similar care requirements.
  • Rummy Nose Tetra (Hemigrammus rhodostomus): Known for their distinct red nose and striking black and white striped tail, Rummy Nose Tetras are an attractive addition to any community tank. They have a peaceful temperament and thrive in similar water conditions as Ember Tetras.
  • Black Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon megalopterus): Black Phantom Tetras feature a unique black patch on their bodies and a peaceful nature, making them a great option for community tanks.
  • Red Line Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amapaensis): With their thin red stripe and vibrant coloring, Red Line Tetras are a popular and easy-to-care-for species. They make a great addition to any community aquarium, and can thrive in similar water conditions as other tetra species like the Ember and Neon Tetras.

Ember Tetra FAQs

Are Ember Tetras fin nippers?

No, Ember Tetras are not known to be fin nippers. They are peaceful fish that generally get along well with other non-aggressive tank mates.

Can Ember Tetras live in a planted tank?

Yes, Ember Tetras thrive in planted tanks, which closely resemble their natural habitat. Live plants provide hiding spots, making them feel more secure and comfortable.

Do Ember Tetras need a heater?

Yes, Ember Tetras require a heater to maintain a stable water temperature within their preferred range of 73-84°F (23-29°C). Temperature fluctuations can cause stress and health issues.

Are Ember Tetras for You?

Ember Tetras are an excellent choice for aquarists who appreciate small, vibrant fish that are relatively easy to care for. They are an ideal option for both beginners and experienced hobbyists looking to add a splash of color to a peaceful community aquarium.

If you take good care of them, you can enjoy the beauty and fascinating behavior of these stunning fish for years to come. If you’re ready to take on the responsibility of caring for these captivating creatures, Ember Tetras can be a rewarding and delightful addition to your aquatic family.

Cover photo credit: Klaus Rudloff, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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