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Ember Tetra: Lifespan, Diet & Size

Do you want to add a vibrant-colored, active fish to your tank that will keep you happy and get along with your other fish? Are you looking for a non-aggressive fish to add to your tank? Do you want a low-maintenance fish?

The ember tetra is a perfect addition to your fish tank. Whether you are a new aquarist or a seasoned professional, this Brazilian tetra will not disappoint. Easy to care for, non-aggressive, beautiful fish that thrive when kept in numbers they are a must-have in any tank.

This guide provides you with information about ember tetras: general care information, tank setup, food and diet, and their social lives.

Ember Tetra



You can expect your ember tetras to live approximately two-four years. To ensure a long, healthy, and happy life, it is helpful if you understand how to set up their tank properly and keep them properly fed. and the right friends to include in the tank.

Habitat is important to these fish and their survival. Your fish tank setup mimics their natural habitat and reduces their stress while keeping them happy.

Expert Tip: Ember tetras are omnivores-meaning they will chow down on plants and meat. Providing them with the right diet helps ensure a long, healthy life.

Friends-everybody needs a friend or two or as with ember tetras, a handful of friends. These fish are social fish and do best when kept in moderate numbers.


The fiery orange-red color of the ember tetra is one reason they are popular among fish keepers. Their dorsal fin transitions from the orange-red on their back to a darker shade towards the tip. Their anal fin also transitions, changing from the orange-red of their body to a more translucent appearance.

Maintaining the orange-red appearance of your ember tetras depends on the quality of their care. Feed them well, give them a happy home, and your ember tetra’s appearance will last their lifetime.

How Many Ember Tetras Should Be Kept Together

How Many Ember Tetras Should Be Kept Together?
How Many Ember Tetras Should Be Kept Together?

Ember tetras are social fish, and yours will thrive best when surrounded by others like them. Since the recommended tank size is 10 gallons, it is best to keep these guys and gals in a group of 8-15. Grouping them like this allows them to show off their lively personalities and colors as they dart around your tank.

Kept in small numbers, embers may stress easily and hide. Who wants to live a life like that? The more embers, the happier they are.


The ember tetra is the smallest tetra coming in at a max length of 0.6-0.8 inches. This makes them smaller than the neon tetras, another popular fish in the fish-keeping community. But hey, smaller means room for more embers.


It is important to know that while the ember tetra is a very easy fish to care for, proper tank maintenance, appropriate water quality, diet, and habitat setup are important when caring for these fish. If you take care of these four items, you will have no problem keeping embers and they will be around for a long time.

Tank Size

The first aspect of caring for embers is the tank size. Is your tank roomy enough to house a shoal? The recommended minimum tank size is 10 gallons. 10 gallons ensure there is room to roam and helps maintain the right balance of plants.

The general rule of thumb is one gallon per inch of fish, which is perfect for the ember tetra since their max length is less than one inch.

Water Parameters

Ember Tetras are easy to care
Ember Tetras are easy to care

It is important that you have the right water parameters to ensure your fish will live long, happy lives. Luckily, embers are easy to care for if you follow these parameters:

• Water filtration- Embers like slow-moving water, so keep that in mind when purchasing the filter or deciding if embers are the right fit for your aquarium. They don’t need a fast-moving current as it can tire them out easily as they try to navigate the tank.

Expert Tip: If you find that your current filter is producing current too quickly for them, you can toss a sponge in the return to help reduce it.

• Water temperature- Remember the ember tetra is native to Brazil? They really like warm waters. Ember tetras thrive best at a tropical temperature between 73 and 84 F. You can choose from the many types of aquarium thermometers available, ranging from floating mercury glass tubes to digital thermometers.

Make sure you do your research when searching for a thermometer. Inaccurate readings can severely affect your embers and their tank mates.

• Water pH- Perhaps the most important element to maintaining a proper habitat for your tetras, pH is the measure of the acidity of water. The pH scale is 0-14, 0 is highly acidic, 7 neutral, and 14 indicates the water is very alkaline (or basic.) When the pH increases, the percentage of ammonia also increases.

If the percentage of ammonia in your tank increases, it can severely affect your embers’ ability to eliminate their waste. Although ember tetras can survive in a neutral acid environment, they prefer a slightly more acidic environment, ranging between 5.5 – 7.0.

This ideal pH level reduces the stress on them, enables them to fend off diseases easier, and can enhance their appearance and behavior.

• Water hardness- Identified as the degree of general hardness (dGH) dGH measures the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in your water. Water hardness is important because it allows your fish to regulate the amount of salt within their body with what is outside of their body.

For ember tetras, the recommended dGH for your tank is between 5-17 dGH. Many test kits are available for your aquarium that you can use to maintain these safe levels. Make sure you do your research on the best one that fits your needs.

What to Put in their Tank?

What to Put in their Tank
What to Put in their Tank

Aside from your fish, you want to make sure there is a substrate along the bottom of the tank, such as gravel or pebbles. Bacteria useful to the tank environment live in substrate and if you’re keeping live plants, a 2-inch base is recommended. Your embers may have a field day uprooting your plants if there is not enough substrate to anchor the plants.

Moss plants such as java moss or peacock moss are great for embers, as are bladderwort and duckweed. If you want to coax your ember tetras to the surface, try floating plants such as duckweed or anacharis. Plants also provide extra space to play and hide.

Plants mimic the ember’s native habitat found in Brazil and being the social fish they are, it is entertaining to watch them play, darting in and out of the tank foliage. Make sure you don’t over-plant the tank. Your fish need just enough room to dart between the plants, rest, and live a stress-free life.

You may see your embers chowing down on your live plants. Remember, they’re omnivores and like a snack too! It should not be damaging to your plant. Adding a few decorations helps provide hiding spaces, remember not to overcrowd the tank.

Common and Potential Diseases

Although ember tetras do not develop tetra-specific diseases, improper care can negatively affect their health. Common ailments are bloat which develops from a bacterial infection and ich, a parasite that appears as white spots.

Introducing sick fish to the tank can also affect your ember tetras’ health. It is important to introduce healthy fish properly and maintain a clean, safe tank to prevent problems.
Poor food habits, improper water care, and tank maintenance may also increase the risk of infection.

If you find you have a sick fish in your tank, transfer them to a “sick tank” so you can nurse them back to health without their tank mates getting sick.

Food and Diet

Food and Diet
Food and Diet

Considering that embers are omnivores, it helps if you balance their diet between frozen/freeze-dried food and flakes. You want to feed them two-four times a day. There is an abundance of types of flake food you can purchase, ranging from basic tropical fish food to trait-specific foods.

When deciding on the food to purchase for your embers, make sure you get the right-sized flakes. Feeding them an XL flake food is more than a mouthful for them and can inhibit their ability to eat.

Expert Tip: If you find you are going to be away from your home for more than a day, you may also want to research “weekend feeders” blocks of food designed to release sporadically while you are gone, ensuring that your embers and their tank mates still receive their high-quality food.

Regarding frozen or freeze-dried foods, daphnia and brine shrimp are excellent sources of protein. Bloodworms are also an excellent source of meat as they provide vitamins, protein, carbs, and minerals that are important in maintaining health. Your embers may consume any of the three types of bloodworms: frozen, freeze-dried, or live.


Ember tetras are peaceful, non-aggressive tetra and will be tank-buddies with other types of similar-sized fish. Their temperament is another reason they are one of the popular fish to keep.

Tank Mates

Ember Tetra tank mates
Ember Tetra tank mates

Since ember tetras like hanging out in the middle of the tank (middle-dwellers), this opens up options for other types of fish that you can house with them. The rule of thumb for tank mates is to keep similar-sized fish.

If you introduce a fish twice the size of your ember, there may be some bullying by the bigger fish, which can stress your embers and affect their health and safety. There is also a possibility a bigger tank mate may view them as a snack.

Neon tetras make a good tank mate as they are right around 1 inch long. Rasboras are also an ideal tank mate, and there are many beautiful different breeds that are right around the 1-inch mark, too.

Cory catfish are bottom-dwelling scavengers, sifting through the substrate with their whiskered little snoots, vacuuming leftovers that sink to the bottom. There are different cory catfish that are compatible with your embers, so grab a few cories add diversity and rich color to your tank, and help maintain the substrate.


Ember tetras are a shoaling fish. This means they do best when in a group because of the social need to hang out with others like themselves. Shoaling is not to be confused with schooling. Schooling is more a defense mechanism fish use to give the appearance they are bigger and better than a predator.

Shoaling is when fish live in a group for social reasons: hanging out with others like themselves. Shoaling is also beneficial to your embers’ health. For example, if one sees you dropping in food, she may tell her friends. “Hey! Time to eat!” and the rest will then also search for the food.



Keeping a decent number of any fish of the same species together is bound to produce offspring, especially if you have a mixture of males and females. The challenge with letting nature take its course in a shoal is that other embers may view the fry (baby fish) as a meal.

Expert Tip: You can successfully breed ember tetras by setting up a breeding tank separate from their home. You can easily tell the females from the males as females will have a more round body than males and males are brighter in color.

When breeding starts, mom and dad let the small fry go which is a great opportunity to separate the fry from the fish tank you keep them in and let them grow in a separate tank, or if you are using a breeding tank, put mom and dad back in with the shoal.


Ember tetras truly are a joy to keep. Beautiful, curious and energetic, and low-maintenance, there’s no question as to why this fish is one of the most popular fish to keep. Provide them with quality care and your ember tetras will have a healthy long life being the highlight of your fish tank, just like for many other aquarists.

About Rencel Leyran