Neon And Ember Tetras: Light Companions or Dark Nemesis?

neon and ember tetras
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Last Updated: September 4, 2023 by Flora Gibbins

I love adding colorful fish to my aquarium. Do you share the same sentiments?

If yes…

You must have come across neon and ember tetras.

There is no denying that the two tetras are indeed beautiful and would brighten any aquarium. In addition, many fish keepers affirm that these tetras are easy to care for and are generally healthy fish.

But can you house neon tetras with ember tetras? What conditions must you meet for both tetras to live healthily? Can you breed the two?

This article answers these questions and more. Read on.

Quick Overview

If you are in a hurry, here is a glance at these freshwater fish.

Overview Neon Tetra Ember Tetra
Size 1.5 inches 0.6 to 0.8 inches
Colors Blue, silver, red Bright Orange, Bright Red
Temperature 70 to 81 degrees F 68 to 82 degrees F
pH 6 to 7 5.5 to 7
Hardness of water 2 to 10 dGH 5 to 17 dGH
Diet Omnivore Omnivore
Temperament Peaceful Peaceful
Care Level Easy Easy

Can Neon and Ember Tetras Live in the Same Tank?

tetras in a fish tank

Yes. You can house a neon and ember tetra in the same community tank. Both species live in similar natural habitats in the wild. Embers are native to the Araguaia River Basin, while Neons come from the Amazon River Basins.

Moreover, both neon and ember tetras have a peaceful temperament and will not transform your aquarium into a battlefield. Also, they share a similar diet.

Besides, neons and ember tetras are easy to care for. So you can keep these freshwater fish whether you are a beginner or a hobbyist.

Neon and Ember Tetras: Body Appearance

You can easily distinguish a neon tetra from an ember through its body coloration and size.

Neon Tetras

two neon tetras in fish tank

Neons are quite large in the wild, with some growing to 2.5 inches. However, the average size of neon tetras housed in an aquarium is 1.5 inches. They are small, thin bodies and have big, beady-like eyes.

Thanks to evolution, neon tetras have a magnificent, glass-colored body. They have a metallic blue line that runs from the head through the body but does not touch the tail and a bright orange line on the opposite side that runs from the belly to the beginning of the tail.

Neon tetras thrive in freshwater, and their colors look bright and colorful. However, these colors fade and become darker when the fish live in black water.

If you observe color fading, it could be a normal occurrence, or your fish could be suffering from stress, unhealthy diet, parasites, poor water parameters, or Neon Tetra Disease.

Ember Tetra

red ember tetra with plants background

Embers are smaller than neon tetras. They grow to 0.8 inches and have an elongated shape for swift movement. They are a favorite among many fish owners because of their brightly colored orange bodies. Even their eyes radiate the color of their body.

Like neon tetras, embers, too, lose their colors.

The fading colors are caused by stress, poor diet, and poor water parameters.

However, this can be reversed by feeding the ember tetra a high-protein diet, adding hiding spaces, and paying more attention to the water parameters in the aquarium.

Neon and Ember Tetras: Temperament

Both neons and embers are calm and docile fish. However, under specific conditions, neons can display aggressive behavior.

Neon Tetras

neon tetras with aquarium decorations

Generally, neon tetras are peaceful. They fish are shy and do well in schools of six to eight individuals. Here, they become more exploratory, and you will find them darting around the aquarium.

Neons are schooling fish. Schooling means that the group moves together at the same time, speed, and direction as a whole, even though each neon tetra acts independently.

Though calm, a neon tetra can exhibit aggressive behavior.

This often happens when the biggest neon in the school becomes a bully and chases smaller fish.

But, you can rectify this aggression by adding more tetras that are about the same size as the aggressive fish. Also, if you observe that the aggressive behavior is caused by insecurity or food scarcity, consider adding more tank decorations as well as an additional meal.

Ember Tetras

group of ember tetras with live plants

Embers, too, are a peaceful species. They are healthier when kept with other tetras to form a school of at least six tetras.

These fish spend their day swimming fast through plants in the middle section, chasing each other or hiding. Their small size makes them extra cautious, but they are not timid.

Ember tetras are shoaling fish, unlike neons. Although they hang out in groups, they do not have synchrony as neon tetras.

Embers are social and will interact with other tank mates. What’s more, they may even try to mimic their behaviors.

These tetras do not get aggressive. However, they are intrigued by fish with long, trailing fins, and you may catch the ember chasing them.

Neon and Ember Tetras: Tank Conditions

When housing neons and embers, it is crucial that you look into their ideal water parameters and tank setup. This includes:

  • Tank size
  • Water temperature
  • pH
  • Hardness
  • Decorations
  • Light
  • Filtration

Let us divulge more details about each requirement.

Tank Size

two aquariums with complete setup

Both ember and neon tetras live happily in schools. This means that you will own at least 12 tetras (six neons and six embers to form a school). The general rule is to get a minimum tank of 20-gallons to ensure the tetra fish have plenty of space to move around.

Neon tetras can start fin nipping if they have limited space in the tank, a behavior that will stress the embers.

Water Temperature

Neon and ember tetras are tropical fish. They live in warm temperatures in the wild, a condition you should replicate.

Neon tetras require their water to stay between 70 to 81 degrees F and 68 to 82 degrees F for ember tetras. This means you have to strike the perfect balance when housing these tetra fish.

It would be best to maintain temperatures between 72 and 75 degrees, so it is not too cold for neons. Get a submersible heater and thermometer to ensure the water temperature is perfect.


The perfect pH of tetras depends on their natural habitat. For instance, some neon tetras thrive in streams with a pH of 4.39, while others have a pH of 7. Understanding the origin of a tetra will help you set up the right water conditions.

However, if you do not have this information, we recommend you keep the pH at 6. Pay attention to your fish’s health since the wrong pH contributes to stress and illness.

Hardness of Water

The water’s hardness also affects the health of your tetra. Ember tetras survive in 5 to 17 dGH, while neon tetras require 2 to 10 dGH. The perfect balance for these tetras is between 5 to 10 degrees of hardness.


Neon and ember tetras love a decorated aquarium. Adding plants into the tank replicates how these tetras live in the wild.

The plants create hiding places where the tetra can hide from predators.

The hiding spots create a sense of comfort and security.

The plants also block light since these fish are not adapted to bright lights. Moreover, live plants oxygenate the tank water to maintain water balance and quality. You could add wood, driftwood, or plastic plants.

In terms of substrate, neon and ember tetras are not choosy. They are comfortable with sand and mineral rocks at the base. However, make sure that the rocks do not have sharp edges that could injure your fish.


Neon and ember tetras are black water fish who are not accustomed to bright lights. Therefore, get adjustable lights or dim lights to prevent stressing the tetras.


A dirty tank will also stress your neon tetras and ember tetras. Neon tetras, in particular, do not do well in aquariums with ammonia and nitrites.

So, cleaning the tank and maintaining water quality is a must. Tetras need a 25% water change every week to keep nitrates and phosphate levels low.

Also, get a quality filter to clean your tank. It would be best if you invest in one that offers mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration.

Neon and Ember Tetras: Dietary Requirements

You should feed neon and ember tetras a well-balanced diet. The food should be sufficient to prevent fights among the school of fish.

At the same time, avoid overfeeding as it imbalances water quality and leads to internal health problems. If possible, feeding should only last two minutes.

Neon Tetras

Neon tetras are opportunistic feeders who are not fussy about their food. This is why they eat insect larvae, dead crustaceans, and dead vegetation in the wild.

However, since you have these tetras in your aquarium, provide flakes, pellets, live foods, or frozen proteins. Bloodworms and brine shrimp are excellent live foods. But only buy these from reputable pet stores as they can cause parasitic diseases.

How many times should you feed neon tetras a day?

Juveniles should eat two meals a day while adults should feed once.

Ember Tetras

Embers, too, love feeding on flakes, live food, frozen, and freeze-dried foods. They will nibble on the live plants in the tank and also eat live brine shrimp and daphnia. You should feed the school 2 to 4 times a day but do not overfeed them.

Neon and Ember Tetras: Breeding

Both embers and tetras have behavioral changes during the spawning season. This is the time to provide the right breeding conditions, including a high protein diet if you want some fish fry.

Neon Tetras

It is the male neon tetras that exhibit spawning behavior. The courtship features the male swimming around the female in square patterns, in short, quirky movements, and then laying motionless. But to get healthy babies, the breeding male and female should be at least 12 weeks.

Once you observe this spawning behavior, move the breeding tetras into a separate tank. The tank should have dim to dark lighting, a sponge filter, live plants, and slightly acidic water with hardness at 1 to 2 dGH.

Adult neon tetras can eat the eggs. For this reason, move the breeding couple back to the main tank immediately after breeding.

Female tetras lay up to 130 eggs that take a day to hatch. Cover the tank to keep it dark and feed these little fish tiny, dried foods until they have grown.

Here is a YouTube video on how to go about it.

Ember Tetras

Breeding couples should be at least six months old, unlike neon tetras. The spawning season is characterized by playful behavior, tetras chasing each other, and frequent nods.

They, too, require a separate breeding tank.

Male embers can get aggressive towards the female during this time. If this happens, separate them.

Female ember tetras lay about 12 transparent jelly-like eggs. They scatter the eggs wherever they find convenient, so you may have trouble spotting them. Be quick to move the breeding parents from the fry tank since they can consume their eggs and babies.

Watch this YouTube video about how to breed ember tetras.

Are Neon Tetras Aggressive Towards Ember Tetras?

Though rare, neon tetras can be aggressive. But several factors come into play.

Tank Size

Neon tetras will get aggressive when kept in small tanks. They become territorial over the small space and will nip at anything that encroaches on their territory. This is why it is best to get a minimum 20-gallons tank.


A change in water balance, disease, or too much lighting can stress a neon tetra. When this happens, it will nip an ember’s fins.

You can prevent this by maintaining prime water conditions, isolating the sick fish in a quarantine tank, and using dim tank lights.


Neon tetras are territorial. So, if they have been the only animals in your tank, they are bound to feel entitled to the space. The introduction of any new fish will lead to aggressive behavior.

To avoid this, we recommend you introduce the non-aggressive embers first as the tank matures and then add the neon tetras.

Food Scarcity

Both neon and ember tetras are opportunistic feeders. With neon tetras being larger than ember tetras, they will fight over the limited food in the tank. But you can overcome this by providing just enough food.


Neon tetras are protective of their breeding grounds and will be aggressive towards any lurking ember tetra. So, move the breeding neon tetras to a new fry tank to achieve a peaceful cohabitation.

Other Tank Mates Compatible with Neon and Ember Tetras

As previously mentioned, neon tetras and ember tetras are calm and peace-loving. Therefore, ensure that any neon and ember tetra tank mates you get are peaceful and docile.


These tank mates should be about the same size or smaller than the tetras. If you add bigger species, your tetras will serve as a tasty snack for them.

Moreover, choose ember and neon tetra tank mates for who are either top tank dwellers or bottom dwellers. Neon and ember tetras are middle dwellers who only get to the surface to feed.

Having said that, here are other fish that are compatible with these schooling fish:

Fun Fact: Let’s try adding guppies into the mix. What do you think would happen between guppies and tetras? Look into our article — Guppies And Tetras: Are They Made For Each Other As Pals?

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I breed neon tetras and ember tetras?

Breeding these tetras is possible but challenging and purely accidental. Most of the young die even under optimum breeding conditions.

Do neon and ember tetras form a school?

Yes, neon and ember tetras will form a school if they have the same color and size. They will also do so if they are under threat from multiple predators and do not have their own kind to school together.


Yes, neon and ember tetras can share an aquarium. They share similar temperaments and live happily with their kind.

However, ensure that you strike a perfect balance when setting up their tank. This is in terms of water temperature, pH, hardness, lighting, and filtration. Also, limit the factors that could get neon tetras aggressive towards bettas.

You will have a beautiful and peaceful aquarium if you meet these conditions.

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