Keeping Ember Tetras: Care Tips and Advice for Aquarium Hobbyists

Ember tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae) is one of the smallest tetra fishes kept in tanks. Ember tetra has become a popular nano tanks dweller due to its size, good temper and its simplicity as for tank conditions. Ember tetras are generally hardy and adaptable, making them suitable for both beginner and experienced fishkeepers. With proper care and suitable tank conditions, they can thrive and provide a vibrant splash of color to your aquarium.

Ember tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae)

Habitat in the wild

The Ember Tetra belongs to the family Characidae, commonly known as the characins or characids. Characidae is a diverse family of freshwater fish that includes many popular aquarium species. Some other well-known members of the Characidae family include neon tetras, black skirt tetras, and serpae tetras.

Characidae is one of the largest fish families, consisting of over 1,500 recognized species. These fish are primarily found in South America, especially in the Amazon River basin and its tributaries. However, some species can also be found in other parts of Central and North America.

The ember tetra inhabits in Brazil, in Araguaia River basin and in its tributary Rio das Mortes river. This attractive small fish was discovered in 1986 by Heiko Bleher, German popularizer of aquarium husbandry. He was the first to describe the fish in 1987 and named it after his mother Amanda Bleher, who was a researcher.

Typically the ember tetra inhabits in slow waters of forested streams and tributaries with thick-set water plants. Araguaia River basin pH values are low and the bottom is covered with a layer of fallen leaves and tree branches. The water sometimes has light yellowy-brown tint due to the presence of tanning agents and other chemicals produced while organics decays – the bottom is covered with fallen leaves and branches. The water in their natural habitat is usually soft and slightly acidic, with a pH range of 5.0 to 7.0. The water is also often warm, with temperatures ranging from 72-82°F (22-28°C).

Such medium usually has soft, slightly acidic or neutral pH water and quite often is poorly lightened due to the thickly growing plants and the forest above the water. Ember tetras inhabit densely vegetated areas in their native habitat. They are commonly found in areas with submerged aquatic plants, floating vegetation, and overhanging branches that provide shade and cover.


The dominant color of ember tetras is a striking fiery red or orange. The intensity of their coloration can vary depending on their health, diet, and environmental conditions. When well cared for, their colors can become vibrant and eye-catching.

How big do ember tetras get?

The shape of the body is the one typical to all tetra fishes, but it is just 2 cm (0.8 in) long. They are considered one of the smaller species within the tetra family. Their petite size makes them suitable for smaller aquarium setups and well-suited to be part of a community of small fish. Despite their small size, ember tetras are known for their vibrant coloration, which adds a striking visual element to any aquarium they inhabit.

How long do ember tetras live?

Ember tetras have an average lifespan of 2 to 3 years. However, with proper care and optimal tank conditions, it is possible for some individuals to live slightly longer. The lifespan of any fish can be influenced by various factors, including water quality, diet, genetics, and overall care.

Scientific NameHyphessobrycon amandae
Common NamesEmber Tetra, amber tetra, orange tetra
Adult SizeApproximately 0.8 to 1 inch (2-2.5 cm)
Lifespan2-3 years (with proper care)
Body ShapeSlender and streamlined
ColorationVibrant fiery red or orange, intensifies when healthy
Black PatchNear the base of the tail
TemperamentPeaceful and social
Preferred pH6.0-7.0
Water HardnessSoft to moderately hard
Temperature Range72-82°F (22-28°C)
HabitatSlow-moving freshwater streams and rivers in Brazil, South America
Natural BehaviorShoaling fish, social and active in groups
DietOmnivorous, accepts high-quality flake/pellet food, supplemented with live/frozen foods
CompatibilityPeaceful, suitable for community aquariums
BreedingRelatively easy, scatter adhesive eggs among fine-leaved plants or spawning mop
Special ConsiderationsProvide suitable hiding spots and plant cover, replicate natural blackwater conditions

Keeping in a tank

Tank size

Small size of the fish allows it to dwell even in nano tanks. Though, for this fish I wouldn’t recommend tanks smaller than 10 gallons (37 liters). However, keep in mind that a larger tank will provide more stable water conditions and ample swimming space for the fish. A larger tank also allows for more plantings and hiding spots, which mimic their natural habitat and provide a more enriched environment.

It’s important to note that ember tetras are social and thrive when kept in groups. A group of six or more ember tetras is recommended to promote natural behavior and reduce stress. Therefore, consider the number of tetras you plan to keep when determining the appropriate tank size.

Tank decor

Considering the above mentioned a small aquascape or nature aquarium will be good for the fish. Ember tetras appreciate densely planted aquariums. Include live aquatic plants such as Java Moss, Java Fern, Anubias, or Amazon Sword. These plants provide cover, oxygenate the water, and create a natural and comfortable environment for the fish. Additionally, floating plants like Amazon frogbit or Water Lettuce can help diffuse light and provide shade. Floating plants will create shadowed areas in a tank and make the fish fill safe, which will lead to forming of shiny orange red coloring of its body.

These fish prefer subdued lighting, so it’s beneficial to create shaded areas in the tank. This can be achieved by strategically placing taller plants, driftwood, or other decorations that help diffuse or block direct light.

Tank decorations aren’t that crucial, however the fish demonstrates its best coloring is a well decorated tank with a dark substrate. Soft, sandy bottom will be the closest to the one of the biotope where the fish inhabits as a rule. You can put some dry leaves on the bottom, but keep in mind that they’ll make the tank water darker.

Consider adding natural elements such as dried leaves, seed pods (e.g., Indian Almond Leaves, Catappa Leaves), or botanicals like Alder Cones. These can help simulate the blackwater conditions found in their native habitat and provide additional hiding spots and foraging opportunities.

Adding driftwood or rocks can offer natural hiding places and create visual interest in the tank. Ember tetras may use these features to explore, find shelter, or establish territories.

Water parameters

Here are the recommended water parameters for keeping ember tetras:

  • In the wild ember tetra dwells in soft, acidic water, however the fish that grew in a tank can adapt to various water parameters.
  • The recommended tank water temperature is ranging from 72-82°F (22-28°C).
  • Ember Tetras thrive in slightly acidic to neutral water conditions. The ideal pH range for them is around 6.0-7.0.
  • Ember tetras are adaptable to a wide range of water hardness levels. They can tolerate both soft and moderately hard water. Ideally, the water hardness should be maintained between 4-12 dGH (degrees of General Hardness).
  • Ember tetras are sensitive to ammonia and nitrite levels in the water. It is crucial to keep these levels at zero. Regular monitoring of water parameters and performing routine water changes can help maintain good water quality.
  • Water filtration shouldn’t be too strong, since the fish main habitat is in slow waters and it doesn’t like fighting with fast water flow.


The ember tetra is omnivorous, but it has a small mouth, that’s why small grained food is more preferable. In the wild the fish feeds on small insects and zooplankton, while in a tank it eats both artificial and live food. The main thing you should keep in mind is that the food has to be small sized.

Ember tetras readily accept high-quality commercial fish foods such as flakes or pellets specifically formulated for tropical fish. Look for a reputable brand that provides balanced nutrition.

To ensure a varied diet and promote optimal health and coloration, supplement their diet with live or frozen foods. These can include options like brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, and other small invertebrates. These foods provide essential proteins and can stimulate their natural feeding behaviors.

Tank mates

Ember tetra is a very peaceful fish, it won’t compete neither with other fishes nor with small shrimps as well (like cherry shrimp, for example). Tiny size of the adult fish also means that it won’t hurt even a new born shrimp.

It’d be perfect to keep the fish with other even-tempered fishes of South America and South-East Asia – such as neon tetra, honey gourami, pygmy corydoras and oto. This is a schooling fish, usually there are 8-10 species in a school. That’s why it is recommended to get exactly this number of tetra fish, to make them feel and behave more confident as well as demonstrate their natural habits.

Ember tetra is always in its school, they always swim in a flock and it is almost impossible to scatter them, because they feel more comfortable in a company of its kind. The fish swims mainly in the bottom part of the tank. At that if the fish lives together with other small fishes, they are active and swim around all the tank volume.

However, if there is just a school of this fish in a tank, they tend to spent most of the time at one place. Ember tetra will be a good companion for a shy celestial pearl danio.

Here are some popular tank mates that can be suitable companions for ember tetras:

Ember tetras and neon tetras

Gender differences: male vs female

There is no color differentiation between ember tetra males and females. However, the adult females have more rounded and fat abdomen, than the males. You may also differentiate the females due to their air-bladder, that is clearly seen through almost transparent body of the fish. Air-bladder of the male is a bit pointed and odd shaped, at that it is smaller than that of the females.

Ember tetras in its school


Ember tetra breeding is easy and very much alike to that of other Hyphessobrycon species. You’ll have to find a separate tank for spawning, if you want to have a large number of juveniles.

The tank of 30 x 20 x 20 cm size will do for this purpose. It should have dim lighting and bunches of thin-leaved plants such as Java moss or some other spawning substrate. The water should be of low hardness with acidity in the range pH 5-7, GH 1-5, temperature about 27-29 °C. Water filtration through peat will be of great use as well as using osmotic water for breeding.

A small airlifting filter is a perfect one in terms of choosing a proper one for the tank. Ember tetra spawning in a group of about 5 species of each gender is a very interesting process to observe. Besides the fish may spawn in couples.

But to perform this kind of spawning it’s better to keep males and females in separate volumes.

When the female have eggs and the males demonstrate their best coloring, you should select the fatter females and the males with the brightest colors and put them into the spawning tank in the evening.

The fish should spawn the next morning. Adult species may eat the eggs anytime they have a chance to do this, so remove them from the tank right after the spawning is over. The eggs incubate for 24-36 hours, the juveniles start swimming in 3-4 days after this.