Care Guide for Ember Tetras – Orange Jewels of the Nano Aquarium
A staple of the freshwater nano aquarium world is the ember tetra. Just imagine a school of tiny, flame-colored fish darting back and forth amongst a lush forest of green aquarium plants. Plus, its peaceful nature and hardiness makes it an attractive choice for both beginners and veterans in the fishkeeping hobby. If you’ve never tried keeping ember tetras before, then keep reading to find out why they’re such a top-selling species at our fish store.
What are Ember Tetras, you ask?
Hyphessobrycon is a Brazilian tetra. It comes from the same genus that many well-known pet tetras, such as the Von Rio tetra and black neon tetra. The species can grow to just 0.8 inches (2cm) but its bright, orange body is a big draw. It has a slightly translucent appearance with a coppery sheen. Unlike many other nano fish, ember tetras are relatively outgoing, especially in large groups, and won’t dart away as soon as you approach their tank.
How to set up an aquarium with Ember Tetras
You can keep them in either a 5-gallon tank with a smaller group or a larger tank that holds a large number of students, due to their small size. They come from mildly acidic waters but are adaptable enough to handle pH of 5.5-7.5, 72-82degF (22-28degC), and very soft to moderately hard water. A sponge filter sponge or pre-filter sponge can be used to gently filter the water. Slow flow is preferred. We find that ember tetras tend to show brighter colors in planted tanks with a dark substrate and background. Hobbyists like to add driftwood, catappa leaves and other interesting botanicals to give their tanks a South American look.
How many ember tetras should I keep together? As with most tetras, they are naturally social creatures that feel the most comfortable when surrounded by their own kind. They do not tightly school together but hang out mostly in a loose group or shoal. We like to have at least 6-10 of these tiny fish so that they can make an impact in the aquarium.
What fish can live with ember tetras? They are the perfect community fish and do fine with any similar-sized, peaceful animals that won’t eat them. For example, you can keep them with other nano schooling fish such as rasboras, tetras, and danios. Since they tend to swim around the middle of the aquarium, we like to pair them with bottom-dwelling corydoras catfish and surface-dwelling hatchetfish or pencilfish. Plus, their gregarious nature makes them well-suited as dither fish for Apistogramma dwarf cichlids or other timid creatures. We also find they get along with algae eaters like otocinclus catfish and dwarf shrimp. While they will leave the adult shrimp alone, almost all fish will opportunistically go after baby shrimp, so provide plenty of dense plants and caves for them to hide.
Can I put a betta fish with ember tetras? A blue betta fish or powder blue dwarf gourami would look amazing as a centerpiece fish among a sea of ember tetras because blue and orange are complementary colors. Some dwarf gouramis and bettas can be territorial so it is important to be ready to move them.
Ember Tetras in a Community Tank
What are Ember Tetras able to eat?
In nature, they are omnivores that enjoy eating zooplankton, small invertebrates, and plant matter. Even though ember tetras do not have picky eating habits, they do have small mouths that love slow-sinking foods. Plus, feeding a varied diet of different fish foods will help them get plenty of essential nutrients and vitamins to live a long and healthy life. Our favourite foods are:
Nano pellets Crushed flakes Baby brine shrimp Easy Fry and Small Fish Food Daphnia – Cyclops – Rotifers
How to Breed Ember Tetras
It can be hard to sex ember tetras, so we recommend buying at least six fish to have a higher chance of getting both males and females. Males are slender in profile, while females have rounder bodies, especially when viewed from above. They are egg scatterers and do not need parental care. That being said, ember tetras can be bred in a colony setting where the parents are kept with the young. The key is to put them in a seasoned, matured aquarium with lots of natural microfauna for the fry to feed on and dense plants (like Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’ and water sprite) for the fry to hide amongst.
A school for ember tetras within a densely-planted tank
For greater yields, use a mature, small tank that has a sponge filter. Cover the entire bottom of the tank with plastic craft mesh, and underneath it, place a bed of java moss (or DIY spawning mop) as shelter. The barrier protects the eggs and prevents adults from getting to them. To make biofilm, add some catappa leaves to the soil. If your pH is higher, you can also acidify the water by adding them to the water. After heavily feeding the adults and conditioning them to spawn, transfer them to the breeding aquarium. After several days of spawning, remove the adult fish and fry if possible.
Tiny babies need tiny foods like infusoria and vinegar eels. Feed them small meals multiple times a day, and keep the water quality clean and stable by doing small water changes every day. Depending on the water temperature and size of the fry, they may be able to start eating baby brine shrimp after a couple of weeks, which will greatly increase their growth and survival rates. If you see a great disparity in the sizes of the baby fish, you may need to move the bigger fry to another grow-out tank so the smaller fry won’t get outcompeted for food.
While Aquarium Co-Op does not ship live fish, we have a list of preferred online vendors for you to browse that can ship aquarium animals right to your door. And for further inspiration, read our article about the top 5 nano fish that can live in a 5-gallon aquarium on your office or room desk.