Ember tetra is popular among aquarists for being an eye-catchy freshwater fish. Its active and playful behavior can keep anyone hooked for hours.
The fish is so lovable, social, and inexpensive that any beginner can add 10 or more of them to their collection. You won’t even have to worry about them breaking into a fight.
If you want to introduce this fish in your tank, keep reading!
|Origin||Araguaia River basin, South America|
|Scientific Name||Hyphessobrycon amandae|
|Common Names||Ember tetra, Amanda’s tetra, dwarf red tetra, red tetra, fire tetra|
|IUCN Red List Status||Least Concern|
|Appearance||Bilaterally symmetric red-to-orange body|
|Size||Up to 2.0 cm (0.8 in)|
|Lifespan||Up to 2-5 years|
|Tank Level||Middle to top-dwellers|
|Water Temperature||70-82 °F (21-28 °C)|
|Water Hardness||4-17 dGH|
|Minimum Tank Size||20 gallons for 10 of the same species|
|Tank Environment||Vegetation-rich spacious tank|
|Diet||Omnivorous but inclined to carnivorous habits, micropredator|
|Tank Mates||10 of its kind, similar-sized or smaller peaceful tank mates|
The species naturally prevails in South America’s blackwater streams, tributaries, and lakes of the Araguaia River basin. It is found in slow-moving freshwater and dimly lit streams.
It mainly covers the states of Mato Grosso, Goiás, and Tocantins of Brazil.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species assessed the fish last in 2018 and enlisted it as Least Concern.
The fish is classified under the order Characiformes and the family Characidae. Scientifically, it is known as Hyphessobrycon amandae.
Commonly, it is known by many names like ember tetra, fire tetra, dwarf red tetra, and red tetra.
It also has an interesting name: Amanda’s tetra. The founder of this fish, Heiko Bleher, named it after his mother, Amanda Bleher.
Fun Fact: When the fish swims around in groups in the tank, it looks like a bunch of orange bullets or darts.
The fish has a bilaterally symmetric body shape similar to most tetras. Now, let’s know about some other intriguing features.
The fish grows at most to 2.0 cm (0.8 in). However, captivity may stunt its growth to 1.5 cm (0.6 in).
Its body has a reddish-orange shade with slight translucent areas around the pelvic fins. Due to their translucency, they seem to glow like fire in light.
The dorsal fin has a gradient that fades from the primary shade to something darker towards the back. Its dorsal fin has a black tip.
The base of the caudal fin is the same color as the body or even brighter. It transitions further into a darker orange shade and then slowly turns transparent near the back half of the fin.
Its ventral and pectoral fins are almost transparent. The eyes are black with an orange outline.
However, the brightness of this color varies with age, diet, and even stress.
The fish has tall and thin dorsal fins and forked caudal fins. It also has a hearing range of 200-2000 Hz and a 70 dB hearing threshold.
The adult male fish is way more brilliantly colored than the females. During spawning season, males show even more prominent bright colors, and females become rounder. Females also have a larger swim bladder, which adds to their round shape.
Behavior & Temperament
It is a peaceful shoaling fish, i.e., it prefers to swim around in a group of its own species. It never creates trouble with tank mates. Instead, it gets intimidated by bigger and fiercer tank mates and hides from them.
With great care and a well-maintained tank environment, the fish may live for 4 years. But in my experience, lack of enough vegetation in the tank and care reduces their lifespan to 2 years.
Author’s Note: Though the fish is quite social, it rarely shows fin-nipping behavior. If your pet fish does the same, it’s because of the small group. You must add more ember tetras in this case.
Ember Tetra Care
Now, let’s learn to prepare the perfect cozy and safe house for your pet fish.
Since it is a shoaling species, you need to keep 10 conspecifics (same species) together. To house them all, a minimum of 20-gallon tank is required.
Increase the tank size if you wish to add more conspecifics or other tank mates.
The fish’s health depends a lot on water conditions, so you can keep them free of diseases with –
- pH Levels: 6.0-7.5
- Water Temperature: 70-82 °F (21-28 °C)
- Water Hardness: 4-17 dGH
- Carbonate hardness: 3-12 dKH
- Ammonia: 0 ppm
- Nitrite: 0 ppm
- Nitrate: Below 30 ppm
A healthy fish is not JUST about water. If you want to sustain it for long, you must also provide it with a good environment, which includes:
They aren’t picky between sand or gravel substrate. However, choose a dark-colored substrate since they are seen more in blackwater tributaries.
Keep your embers in a heavily vegetated tank, allowing them to hide and resting place and cover from light. It also makes an incredible egg depositing site as it can keep it hidden from others. Floating plants like Salvinia are a great option.
Moderate to dim lighting will help the fish feel safer.
To mimic the Amazonian acidic blackwaters, add dry beech, oak, or catappa leaves and driftwood to stain the water with tannins. However, change the wood and leaves regularly to avoid rotting.
Use a gentle powered filter in the tank that has a sponge-styled unit.
Water Flow Rate
The fish enjoys a slow water movement rate.
Fish Care Tip: Some aquarists say adding more plants can increase ember tetras’ longevity to 10 years. However, that’s false, so keep only a limited number of plants. Don’t overcrowd the tank and leave space for swimming.
Clean the filter media monthly and perform partial (30%) water changes weekly.
Food & Diet
It is not a picky eater and can thrive on various diets like pellets, frozen, freeze-dried, and flake feed. Variety is essential to sustain it for longer.
Always keep live feed in its diet as it helps maintain its bright color. Some are:
- Fry and small fish food
- Finely chopped bloodworms
- Brine shrimp
It enthusiastically consumes any small feed or even species.
Don’t feed them a lot at once to avoid bloating. Instead, provide them thrice a day.
Its best buddies are schooling fish of similar size, like neon tetras, livebearers, and rainbowfish. Neon and ember tetras may even join to form one school.
Since this species swims in the middle to top levels, you can keep it with peaceful and small bottom-dwelling fish like pygmy corydoras and loricariids.
If you want to choose any other tank mate, make sure it is peaceful and smaller than embers. Some examples are:
- Harlequin rasboras
- Cardinal tetras
- Glowlight tetras
- Bolivian rams
- Black skirt tetras
- Longfin albino bushynose plecos
- Dwarf cichlids
- Otocinclus catfish
- Similar-sized shrimps
- Nerite snails
Tank Mates to Avoid
Never keep aggressive and bigger fish in a tank with ember tetras. Some aquarists say Gouramis can make good tank mates, but they may also act territorial. So, don’t take such chances. You must also avoid:
- Larger cichlids
- Large barbs
Don’t house invertebrates that can fit in this fish’s mouth. Otherwise, they will become food for it.
The fish is hardy and can resist many diseases, but you must be careful about the following.
|Ich||Protozoan parasite||Flashing, white raised spots, appetite loss, lethargy||Tank water temperature elevation, aquarium salt or ich medicine adding|
|Columnaris||Bacterial infection||White to grey patches, fin fraying, appetite loss, lethargy||Enhanced water quality, antibiotics, reduced stress|
|Fin and tail rot||Bacterial infection or excess waste in the tank||Frayed and reddened fins, white spots, flesh rotting, redness, swelling, lesions, appetite loss, lethargy||Enhanced water quality, physical injury sources removal, antibiotics (malachite green), stress reduction|
|Skinny disease||Viral infection||Reddened anus and/or belly, scale loss near fins, appetite loss, high activity, weight loss||No particular treatment. But try antibiotics|
|Swim bladder disease||Bacterial infection, high nitrate concentration, sudden temperature change||Fish floating on the tank surface, swimming in curves, sideways, or upside down||Antibiotics, water maintenance, avoid feeding for 3 days, feeding cooked and skinned peas after 3 days, and temperature fixing|
|Pop eye||Immune Response from Injury||Protruding and swollen eyes||Water changes, quarantining, salt addition, balanced diet, antibiotics|
|Impaction||Excess dry food consumption, overfeeding, parasitic infection||No bowel movement, appetite loss, bloating, lethargy, discoloration, rectal prolapse||Reduce feeding amount and frequency, water quality enhancement, fibrous diet, stress reduction, medicine|
|Neon tetra disease||Microsporidian parasite||Restlessness, color loss, lumpy flesh, swimming difficulties, curved spine, bloating, fin rot||Incurable Try treating with methylene blue|
Important points to keep in mind:
- Though the fish needs live feed, try cultivating your own instead of buying from outside. Otherwise, parasites may get introduced to tetras through live feed making them sick.
- Always quarantine ember tetras before adding them to a tank with existing fish.
Breeding & Reproduction
The species is pretty easy to breed as they spawn even without external stimulation. You can still induce spawning by maintaining a temperature of 80 °F (27 °C) or higher and a neutral pH.
It’s hard to make the fry survive as the parents aren’t protective, and they often become food to other fishes. So, build another tank (5-10 gallons) specifically for breeding with mature water. Maintain water chemistry at:
- Temperature: 81-84 °F (27-29 °C)
- pH: 5-7
- Water Hardness: 1-5 dGH
Use soft lighting and spawning mops for egg laying. Add a thin layer of a dark substrate.
House a group or mated pairs in there. Choose equal numbers of round and thick females and the most brightly colored males (if you’ll keep them in pairs).
In favorable conditions, female fish lay eggs, and male fish follow behind to fertilize the eggs.
By the next morning, spawning will occur. When you notice eggs, shift the parent fish back to their original tank.
Avoid any lighting during the incubation phase (24-48 hours). Once the fry starts swimming freely, feed them infusoria, home-cultivated chopped brine shrimp, or high-quality fry food.
As the fry grows, adjust the water chemistry similar to that of the tank with parent fish.
Breeding Tip: It’s difficult to check for eggs in the spawning tank as they are transparent and tidy. So, make sure you notice the tank closely. If you miss the eggs and let the parent fish stay in the breeding tank, the fry may get eaten.
Since a balanced diet can improve the color of this species, beginners often overfeed their new pet fish. This may lead to health concerns. So, while buying this fish, ask the seller about the meal portions and frequency.
A word from FIA
If you want a splash of contrasting colors against the vegetation-rich tank, ember tetra is a perfect choice. The fish can cheer you up with its vibrancy after a long and tiring day.
If that answers your questions, don’t forget to share it with fellow hobbyists. And if some question is still bugging you, drop us a mail, and we’ll get back to you shortly!