Sometimes, we just don’t have the luxury of having a huge aquatic display in our homes. In fact, nowadays many of us need a showstopper that’s low-maintenance, hassle-free, and straightforward. It’s all about practicality, and if that comes in a tiny, beautiful orange package, then all the better. Fortunately, there is a bite-sized fish that checks all the boxes: the Ember Tetra.
The table below gives a quick overview of the Ember tetra profile:
|Color(s)||Pale orange-Red orange|
|Maximum Size||0.8 inches|
|Minimum Tank Size||10-20 gallons|
|Tank Setup||Freshwater/heavily planted|
Below is our Ember tetra care guide, continue reading to find out more about its size, tank size, lifespan and more.
The Ember tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae), is a nano freshwater fish from the family Characidae. These fish originally hail from the Araguaia river basin of South America. It also goes by many names in the fishkeeping world, such as the Red Dwarf tetra, Red tetra, and Fire tetra (my personal favorite).
Ember tetras are small, freshwater fishes that have a slightly translucent orange color. It’s one of the more popular tetras, being both gorgeous and yet of a peaceful disposition in life. In fact, many owners of Ember Tetras find that schooling these fishes make them happier and healthier. Additionally, Fire Tetras are super easy to care for. Aside from standing out in any aquatic display, you can be sure these little guys are hardy as they come and won’t succumb to diseases easily. Naturally, this makes them ideal fishes for beginners, or those who just don’t have much time on their hands.
One of the more compelling reasons people get Ember Tetras is because of their vibrant looks. These tetras boast a striking orange color you can spot from far away, distinguishing them in any tank.
They have a slightly translucent body, but with a notable orange color. Fire Tetras’ body complexion becomes more translucent as you reach their pelvic fins. In fact, you can sometimes peer through their bodies and get a glimpse of their spine and organs.
Ember tetras have a variety of orange tones as well, from a light pale orange to an almost red shade. Their eyes are similarly colored, but outlined in black. To top it all off, these fishes possess iridescent scales that ultimately give a fascinating glittery sparkle to their appearance.
But for those interested in breeding these magnificent nano fishes, sexing Fire Tetras can be difficult. At a glance, both males and females have a generally similar appearance. Some differences you can watch out for are that males have a slimmer torpedo-shaped body, whereas females look more swollen. Male Embers are also said to be more vividly-colored.
An interesting fact about Embers is that their appearance is pretty much a reflection on how happy they are with your care. Their diets, water conditions, tank mates and overall tank setup all have an obvious effect on their vibrancy and glow.
Fire Tetras are what’s called true nano fishes. They are extremely tiny tetras that have a maximum overall size of just under an inch. (0.8 inches or 2 cm). This maximum size is even smaller than their relatives, the Neon Tetra.
While some report their Ember Tetras exceeding an inch, this is incredibly rare and probably insignificant as well. No matter how much you care for these guys, they won’t grow any larger (sorry!).
We’re sad to report that Fire Tetras don’t last as long as we might like. They have an average life expectancy of 2-4 years, which is undoubtedly too short once you grow attached to them. While there are unofficial reports of Ember Tetras living surprisingly long lives, they’re widely considered as tall tales. What we are sure of is that your love and care will go a long way for these fiery fishes.
Ember Tetra Care Advice
In this guide, we categorize caring for the Ember Tetra as easy. To clarify, this doesn’t mean you won’t need to take care of them at all. Instead, it means that these little guys will do their best to give you an easy time with their upkeep.
Ember Tetras are hardy by nature and are able to withstand a wide range of temperatures and conditions. They’re not sickly by any means, and as long as you care for them properly, are unlikely to catch a disease. The only thing to note about these tetras is that they are sensitive to suboptimal water changes. Because of this, regular water maintenance is absolutely essential.
Ember tetras are native to South American river basins where there are plenty of branches and plant life. To help ease them into a life in captivity, try and emulate their natural environment.
Typically, Fire Tetras have easy tank requirements. They have a need for plants in their lives, so place some in their tanks. Fire tetras can also sometimes be shy, so they normally flit in and out of these aquatic plants. Plants also serve as protection for fry, once your Tetras start breeding. Some great options are Java ferns, Java moss, Hornworts, Bladderworts, Anacharis, Nadjas grass and crypts. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether the plants are live or plastic, as long as they’re there. To complement your flora, put in some rocks, cave-like structures and driftwood. The important thing is to make your fishes comfortable by giving them some type of shelter.
Amidst all the decorating, do not overcrowd your tank and leave some space free. Fire Tetras love to swim in generous expanses with their schools, so this is a must. If you can, keep your tank in an area where the light hits it as well. These nano fishes are diurnal creatures, and thereby need a light period in their lives. You might also need a heater to keep the temperature optimal, and a low flow external filter to get a mild current going.
As to their substrate, many owners prefer a darker-colored fine gravel substrate since it looks better against your Ember Tetras.
Probably the main thing to worry about with these Tetras is their water quality. These nano fishes are very sensitive to the condition of their water. Ember Tetras will definitely suffer from bad water quality, and will cause these normally hardy fish to become sick.
With that being said, Fire Tetras can actually tolerate a relatively wide range of temperatures and pH levels. This means you have some allowance as to their parameters, which is why they are often regarded as beginner-friendly.
- Temperature: 73°F-84°F or 23°C-29°C
- Ph levels: 6.6-8.0
- Water Hardness: 5-15 dGH (prefer softer waters)
- Water flow: Mild current
In the end, what’s more important for Ember Tetras is the regular maintenance of their water. Have a set schedule for cleanups and make sure your water is well cycled (no ammonia and nitrite levels are less than 20 ppm). Cleanups every two weeks should suffice, which includes removing old leftover food debris and other detritus.
When it comes to diseases and ailments of all sorts, we have the luxury of not worrying too much. This is because there aren’t many diseases specific, or common to the Ember Tetra. They’re relatively tough, so they don’t get sick easily.
Of course, this isn’t to say that your tetras are invulnerable or immortal. Neglecting your aquatic pets completely (especially their water quality) will certainly get them ill. They can contract the more common conditions like Ich or parasites, borne from neglect.
These are nano fish, so the good news is you won’t need a giant tank in your home. However, Ember Tetras are shoaling fish who appreciate some swimming space. These guys can be a ball of nerves, so they need the comforting company of around 8-10 fellow Fire Tetras. Get at least a 10-gallon tank, or 20 if you plan on getting more Fire tetras in the foreseeable future.
Diet & Food
Back in their native habitats of South American river basins, Ember Tetras are indiscriminate omnivores. They’re far from picky and will eat anything from invertebrates to zooplankton. If they can fit it in their mouths, they will most likely eat it. For life in captivity, they are often seen nibbling on the nearest plant. They can also adapt to your choice of convenient food like flakes or pellets. If you want to treat them with some live or frozen food, you can do that too. Indeed, what matters more for Fire Tetras is that they receive a nutritious and balanced diet. It’s up to you how you plan out their meals, as long as your tetras are not over or underfed. A feeding schedule of 2-3 times a day should be ideal and keep your little Fire tetras healthy.
Preferred Food for Ember Tetra includes:
- Flakes (crush into fine powder)
- Live baby brine shrimp (fave!)
- Tubifex worms
- Grindal worms
Ember Tetra Breeding Behavior
What may be both good news or bad news, is that breeding Ember Tetras is practically effortless. In fact, many owners find their tetras spawning without even doing anything to trigger it. As long as you have healthy males and females in your tank, you’re almost good to go already.
But if you truly want to hurry things along, you can try adjusting the pH level in your tank to around 7.0, and set the temperature to a higher than normal range (80°F). Feed your budding moms and dads baby brine shrimp for a couple of weeks to get them in the mood.
You also have the choice of setting up a breeding tank for your tetras. This tank should have a breeding mesh and be planted with some Java moss, because Ember tetras are egg-scatterers.
You can usually determine if your Fire tetras are ready to get it on when the males turn exceptionally vibrant. Male tetras are done playing around at this point and are ready to get to business (the baby-making business). Meanwhile, the females also become swollen with eggs during this time and their large abdomens become apparent.
Your female Tetras usually scatter their eggs soon after, and as soon as this happens, remove them from the tank. This is essential if you don’t want the ‘moms’ to eat their own children. Fire tetra eggs typically hatch within two days. Once they do, start feeding them infusoria or paramecium.
Ember Tetra Tank Mates
You can have a lot of fun thinking about potential Ember tetra tank mates. The possibilities are almost limitless. These tetras are meant to be community fish even in the wild. In fact, they are known to live harmoniously with a variety of fish species back in their South American home. These neighbors even include Arowanas, though I wouldn’t risk placing an Arowana in your community tank just to be safe!
While you have plenty of choices, it’s best to house your Ember tetras with equally peace-loving fish. Gentle bottom-dwellers are also very welcome, as they will not bother with fishes who swim up top. Bottom-dwellers can also have the added benefit of cleaning up leftover food that falls to your tank substrate. As per usual, we suggest avoiding much larger fish or those with predatory/aggressive tendencies. These predators will likely eat your Ember tetras with only a burp to remember them by.
Suitable Tank Mates for Ember Tetra:
- Tetras (Gold, Neon, Rosy)
- Snails (Mystery, Nerite)
- Shrimp (Neocaridina, Cherry)
- Certain gouramis (Dwarf, Honey, Sparkling)
- Dwarf Corydoras
- Rasboras (Chili, Pygmy, Harlequin)
- Pea puffers
- Cory catfish
- Clown pleco
Ember Tetra Temperament
Ember or Fire Tetras are some of the most adorable fishes you could ever own. These fishes are normally very gentle, which can turn into timidity. They need a lot of plants and hiding places so they can quickly retreat when they are feeling nervous or stressed. While naturally shy, they become more at ease when they are with their pals. Once in a big school, Ember tetras let out their playful side and are seen to chase each other around in the tank. They become more active mid-level swimmers. When frightened, Ember tetra shoals also tighten in formation thereby acting as their source of comfort in an uncertain world.
They’re not always shy however. Many owners swear that Ember tetras recognize their faces and will remember if you are a frequent visitor. Conversely, Ember tetras can also be wary of new faces prowling around their tank, and will probably hide from them (stranger danger). Another funny thing about the Fire tetras is that they’re sometimes seen with other species of fish. They can socialize and school with some of their neighbors, such as the Neon tetra. This sight not only makes you wonder, it also inadvertently brings a smile to your face.
With all of that said, it’s no wonder why Ember Tetras are favorites in the aquarium trade. They practically have it all: they’re beautiful with their glittery orange bodies, they’re low-maintenance, friendly, and space-saving!
Their gentle and shy natures will charm you to bits, and you won’t be able to keep a smile off your face. We highly recommend these tetras for aquarists of all types. It won’t even matter if you’re a budding hobbyist, or a seasoned expert. With just a bit of care, these bright orange beauties can be the belle of any ball (or tank).
Note: Please consider the environment before printing this Ember Tetra care sheet.