Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae) – Tank Mates, Diet, Care

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The Ember tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae) is also known as the Fire tetra thanks to the fish’s beautiful, glowing orange-red coloration. 

These active little shoaling fish make the perfect addition to any peaceful community setup, being not only easy to care for, but dazzling to look at, too. 

Ember tetras are undoubtedly one of the most popular tropical aquarium fish in the hobby. But how long do these little fish live for? And would a group of these delightful swimming gems suit your tank? 

Read this guide to find out everything you need to know about Fire tetras.

Ember Tetra – Overview

Scientific Name

Hyphessobrycon amandae

Common Name (species)

Ember tetra, Fire tetra

Family

Origin

Araguaia River basin of Brazil

Diet

Omnivore

Care Level

Easy

Activity

Active, shoaling species

Lifespan

2 to 4 years

Temperament

Peaceful

Tank Level

All areas

Minimum Tank Size

10 gallons

Temperature Range

73o to 84o F

Water Hardness

5 to 17 dGH

pH Range

In the range of 6.6

Filtration/Flow Rate

Slow to moderate

Water type

Freshwater

Breeding

Egg-layers, fairly easy to breed in home aquarium

Compatibility

Peaceful community species

OK, for Planted Tanks?

Yes

Origins And Habitat

Ember tetras are found in the Araguaia River basin in Central Brazil.

The fish live in slow backwaters where the habitat is filled with very dense aquatic vegetation and the lighting is dimmed by the overhanging tree canopy.

Ember tetras feed on tiny invertebrates and plant matter.

What Do Fire Tetras Look Like?

The diet and care that your Ember tetras receive directly influences the vibrancy of their color.

Ember tetras are popular because of their brilliant orange-red color. For such a tiny fish, you certainly get plenty of bang for your buck! These guys have the typical stocky tetra body shape that gradually becomes slimmer toward the caudal.

The fishes’ tall, slender dorsal fins are graded, fading from orange to a slightly darker shade toward the back of the fin, fading further to virtual transparency at the edges. The tail (caudal) fin is forked with a base color that matches that of the body. The tail color becomes darker in shade from the base, before the back half of the fin becomes almost transparent.

The pectoral and ventral fins are almost translucent, creating a pretty, flickering illusion as the fish swims.

How Big Are Ember Tetras?

Group of Ember Tetra or Hyphessobrycon amandae in planted tropical fresh water aquarium

These tiny fish grow to just under an inch in length at maturity, making them the ideal nano fish for a small tank.

How Long Do Ember Tetras Live?

Tank-kept Ember tetras have a life expectancy of two to four years. Interestingly, fish that are kept in heavily-planted tanks tend to live longer than those in aquariums where plants are sparse.

Temperament And Activity Level

Despite their diminutive size, there’s nothing shy about the lively Ember tetra! 

These dynamic little fishes love to swim in a sparking school in the middle area of the water column or spend time darting in and out of the plants like aquatic fireflies.

What Are Good Tank Mates For Ember Tetras?

The Importance Of A School

The first thing to note about Fire tetras is that they need to be kept in schools of at least 8 to 10 individuals, ideally more. Not only will the fish thrive in large conspecific groups, but they create a much more colorful display in your aquarium.

Want more colorful tetras? Click here.

Small beauty Ember Tetra or Hyphessobrycon amandae (male)

Schooling fish don’t do well in isolation or when kept in twos and threes. That can stress the fish, leading to a weakened immune system, poor health, and dull coloration.

Good Tank Mates

As these tetras are peaceable creatures, they get along with pretty much all other fish.

I recommend that you choose species that gravitate to different areas of the water column to avoid potential clashes, such as small bottom-dwelling catfish, especially Corydoras. Also, small fish such as rasboras, and danios make good companions for Fire tetras.

Shrimp and snails can also make colorful additions to the tank, and they earn their keep by cleaning up detritus from the substrate and grazing on algae. 

Fish Species To Avoid

Since Fire tetras are so small, I recommend that you avoid including large, omnivorous or carnivorous fish in your community that might regard the tetras as a food source.

silver shark - Bala Shark fish swimming fish tank underwater aquarium - Balantiocheilos melanopterus

Although they don’t have a reputation as fin nippers, some hobbyists have reported that their Ember tetras have shown nippy behavior. However, when kept in large numbers, the problem apparently disappears.

What Do Ember Tetras Eat?

As previously mentioned, these fish are omnivores whose diet directly affects how brightly colored, or not, they are. 

I recommend a diet of high-quality tropical fish flakes and frozen meaty foods for these fish. Daphnia, bloodworms, brine shrimp, and similar are all good choices of protein and essential vitamins.

What About Live Foods?

Ember tetras do enjoy live foods, but do remember that these are tiny fish that would struggle to eat a large bloodworm! 

Also, live food and the liquid it’s supplied in are prime sources of parasites that you might accidentally introduce to your tank. So, unless you want to run a brine shrimp hatchery in your home, I advise feeding frozen food as a safe, nutritious substitute.

How Much And How Often To Feed

Little girl feeding fishes in the aquarium.

Feed your fish twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. 

Offer your fish only what they will eat in a couple of minutes to avoid waste and overfeeding, which can cause serious health problems.

Tank Requirements

Tank size

If you plan on keeping a small school of Ember tetras, a 10-gallon aquarium will do fine. However, if you want to keep a mega-school of 20 fish or more, you’ll need to upsize your aquarium to 25 gallons or more.

Tank Setup

Substrate 

A dark-colored sand or gravel substrate works exceptionally well to display the Ember tetra’s colors for maximum impact, but it’s entirely down to your personal preference.

Decoration

The most important element of decoration for a tank housing Fire tetras is planting. These fish live in a heavily vegetated environment, so you need to replicate that in your aquascaping.
Driftwood, smooth stones, and rocky outcrops can also give your aquarium a natural look. However, don’t clutter the tank, and remember that you need to leave plenty of swimming and schooling space for the fish.
Floating plant species are a low-maintenance option that looks great and helps to diffuse the light.

Water Quality

Ember tetras are not as demanding as many other species when it comes to water quality. That said, you do need to provide the correct water parameters and keep the tank clean if your fish are to thrive.

Filtration

These fish live in waters with little current, so it’s best to use a filter system that doesn’t create too much flow such as a sponge filter.

Water Parameters

Water Temperature

Ember tetras can tolerate a wide range of water temperatures, ranging from 73°F to 84°F.

Water Hardness and pH Range

The pH in the tank should be between 5.0 and 7.0, although 6.5 is ideal. The water hardness should be kept in the range of 5 to 17 dGH.

Lighting

close up image of underwater landscape nature style aquarium tank with a variety of aquatic plants inside.

Ember tetras are fairly undemanding when it comes to lighting, although the light in their natural habitat is generally fairly subdued.

Aquarium Maintenance

You’ll need to keep the fish tank clean and safe for your fish by performing partial water changes of around 25% to 30% every week, depending on stocking levels. Use an aquarium siphon vacuum cleaner to remove uneaten fish food, fish waste, and rotting plant matter from the substrate. That’s critical, as decaying organic matter will pollute the water and put a greater load on your biological filter.

Every month or so, rinse the filter media in tank water to remove sludge so that the filter doesn’t become clogged. You’ll need to change spent filter media periodically, as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

Test Water Conditions

To be sure that the water parameters are remaining stable and that the levels of ammonia and nitrites are at zero and nitrates are around 20ppm, use an aquarium water testing kit once a week.

close up image of landscape nature style aquarium tank with a variety of aquatic plants inside.

How To Set Up Your Fish Tank

Before you start, assemble everything you need to set up your tank, including:

  • LED light unit
  • Substrate
  • Sponge filter
  • Heater
  • Fish tank thermometer
  • Decorations
  • Plants
  • Water conditioner

How To Set Up A Fish Tank

  1. Wash the gravel or sand to get rid of dust. 
  2. Add a few inches of substrate to the tank. 
  3. Add the filter and heater to the aquarium, but don’t switch them on yet. 
  4. Next, fill the aquarium to an inch or two under the fill line, using a dechlorinator for your tap water. You can avoid displacing the substrate by putting a dish upside down in the center of the tank and slowly pouring the water over it.
  5. To start the nitrogen cycle in the biological filter media, the water must have a small amount of ammonia in it. So, add a drop or two of pure ammonia, some fish food, or a handful of gravel from a mature setup.
  6. Wash dust from your tank decorations and arrange everything in the aquarium. 
  7. Prepare your plants by trimming away dead parts, nip the ends off the stems, and plant the stems in the substrate. Place floating plants onto the water surface.
  8. Switch on the heater and filter. Live plants need light to photosynthesize, so have your lights on for eight to 10 hours per day.
  9. Allow at least ten days for the nitrifying bacteria to colonize the biological filter media and surfaces within the tank. These bacteria process the ammonia in the water to make it safe for your fish.
  10. Test the water every other day. When the levels of ammonia and nitrites are both zero and the nitrates are close to 20ppm, the tank is cycled and ready for your fish. If the levels are still too high, allow more time, and keep testing the water. 

Health And Disease

Ember tetras are hardy fish that don’t generally succumb to diseases, as long as the tank is correctly maintained and they are fed a balanced, nutritious diet.

Signs Of Health in Ember Tetras

Healthy Ember tetras should be active, swimming around the tank in a school or darting around the plants.

Signs Of Ill Health

The following behaviors could indicate potential health problems for your fish:

  • Poor appetite
  • Inactivity
  • Hanging at the water surface
  • Rubbing against plants and tank decorations
  • Sores, ulcers, torn or bloody fins

Common Ember Tetra Health Issues And Treatment

Health Issue

Symptoms or Causes

Suggested Action

Ich (White Spot Disease)

Ich is also called White Spot Disease and is caused by an aquatic parasite. 
Infected fish have a rash of white, salt grain-like spots across the fins, gill covers, and body. The fish might also rub against things in the tank, including the substrate.

Treat the tank with an OTC Ich medication.

External parasites

External parasites include fish lice, anchor worms, and flukes.
The parasites attack the fish’s gills and body and can often be seen with the naked eye.

Treat the aquarium with an OTC antiparasitic medication.

Fungal infections

White fluffy patches on the fish’s body, head, and around the mouth.

Treat the tank with OTC antifungal medication.

Bacterial infection

Ulcers, sores, torn and bloody fins, open wounds anywhere on the fish.

Use an OTC antibacterial medication to treat the aquarium.

Health Issue

Ich (White Spot Disease)

Symptoms or Causes

Ich is also called White Spot Disease and is caused by an aquatic parasite. 
Infected fish have a rash of white, salt grain-like spots across the fins, gill covers, and body. The fish might also rub against things in the tank, including the substrate.

Suggested Action

Treat the tank with an OTC Ich medication..

Health Issue

External parasites

Symptoms or Causes

External parasites include fish lice, anchor worms, and flukes.
The parasites attack the fish’s gills and body and can often be seen with the naked eye.

Suggested Action

Treat the aquarium with an OTC antiparasitic medication.

Health Issue

Fungal infections

Symptoms or Causes

White fluffy patches on the fish’s body, head, and around the mouth.

Suggested Action

Treat the tank with OTC antifungal medication.

Health Issue

Bacterial infections

Symptoms or Causes

Ulcers, sores, torn and bloody fins, open wounds anywhere on the fish.

Suggested Action

Use an OTC antibacterial medication to treat the aquarium.

Breeding

Breeding Ember tetras is pretty straightforward, provided that the tank conditions are suitable and you have a good mix of male and female fish.

Ideally, you need the pH in the tank to be around 7.0 and the temperature needs to be on the high side of the fishes’ preferred range, i.e., above 80°F. That replicates the arrival of the warmer spring weather in the tetra’s natural environment and usually kicks off the spawning process.

Once the eggs are laid and spawning is complete, the parents won’t show any interest in the fry. At that point, it’s best to remove the youngsters to a small fry tank where they can grow. Feed the fry commercially prepared fry food, infusoria, and baby brine shrimp when they’re large enough to take that.

Are Your Ember Tetras Male Or Female?

Male Ember tetras are usually more slender and darker in color than females, which tend to be plumper and slightly paler.

Availability

Ember tetras are generally available from fish stores and from online dealers and auctions for a couple of dollars per fish. Often you can get a discount if you buy a group of fish, which is perfect, as you want to keep a shoal of at least 8 to 10.

Sometimes, these fish are advertised as Fire tetras, although they are the same species.

What You Need To Buy

I recommend that you buy a good book on keeping tropical fish, too, especially if you’re new to the hobby.

In Conclusion

I hope you found our guide to the Ember tetra helpful.

How many Ember tetras do you have? How did you aquascape your tank?

We’d love to hear about your fish, so tell us in the comments box below.

And remember to share this article if you loved it!

Alison Page has been an avid fish keeper for over 35 years and has owned many different species of freshwater tropical fish including bettas. Currently Alison has two large freshwater tanks. The first tank has two huge fancy goldfish who are almost ten years old and still looking as good as ever. In the other, she has a happy community of tiger barbs, green tiger barbs, corydoras catfish, platys, and mollies.

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