Care Guide for Ember Tetras – Orange Jewels of The Nano Aquarium

Care Guide for Ember Tetras – Orange Jewels of the Nano Aquarium

The ember tetra is a staple in the freshwater nano-aquarium world. 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 and how do they work?

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. Although this species is only 0.8 inches (2 cm) in length, it packs a punch with its bright red-orange body with a slight translucent sheen and 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.

Hyphessobrycon amandae

How to set up an aquarium for Ember Tetras

Due to their small size, they can be kept in a 5-gallon Nano tank with a smaller school or larger tank with a large group. They are mildly acidic, but can be adjusted to pH levels of 5.5 to7.5, 72 to 82degF (22 to 28degC), very soft to moderately difficult water. Slow flow with gentle filtration using a sponge filter or pre-filter sponge is preferred. Our experience shows that ember Tetras are more vibrant in tanks with dark backgrounds and substrates. To create more of a South American biotope look, some hobbyists also like to add catappa leaves, driftwood, and other interesting botanicals.

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. Be aware that some dwarf gouramis or bettas are territorial and may need to be moved if they get too aggressive.

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. Although ember tetras don’t have a preference for particular foods, their little mouths prefer small, slow-sinking food. 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. The profile of males is slimmer than that of females, and they are rounder when seen from the top. 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 of ember tetras in a densely planted tank

A mature, small tank can be used to produce more. 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 feeding and conditioning the adults to spawn, you can transfer them to your breeding aquarium. After several days of spawning, remove the adult fish and fry if possible.

For babies to thrive, they need very small foods, such as vinegar eels, infusoria, and powdered fries. Feed them small meals multiple times a day, and keep the water quality clean and stable by doing small water changes every day. They may be able, depending on the temperature and the size of the fry to begin eating baby brine shrimp within a couple weeks. This will greatly increase their growth rate 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.