Betta fish are well known for their aggressive behavior, making it a challenge to find a suitable tank mate.
With the right setup, however, bettas will tolerate and even enjoy the company of other fish such as the ember tetra.
Here, we’re going to go over why ember tetras make an ideal addition to most betta tanks.
Choosing a Tank Mate for Your Betta Fish
Bettas prefer fish that they don’t view as competition. Their tankmates must be small, peaceful, and display muted colors.
Choosing the wrong tank mate can lead to issues such as fin nipping and stress, which opens the door to more serious illness and infection.
If you want to keep your betta in a community tank, you need to be careful about your residents.
Fortunately, fish such as the ember tetra can live harmoniously in most betta tanks under the right conditions.
About Ember Tetras
Most aquarium enthusiasts are familiar with tetra. They’re a popular freshwater tank fish that’s attractive and easy to care for.
It’s also important to remember that the tetra is a schooling fish. You need a small shoal to keep them happy and comfortable inside your tank.
There are over 100 different species of tetra, and not all are suited to life with a betta. Some are too aggressive, while others are too flashy.
Tetra can be particularly problematic as tank mates when traveling in a large, brightly-colored shoal. This can trigger aggression in even relatively laid-back betta fish.
Bettas also have a voracious appetite, and they may end up eating small or slow fish, including some species of tetra.
The ember tetra is one of the few species that makes a good tank mate for betta fish.
Before introducing a shoal to your tank, though, it’s important to understand the basics of owning an ember tetra.
Up until the late 1980s, most tank owners hadn’t heard of ember tetras.
Native to the Araguaia River in Brazil, they weren’t introduced to pet stores until their discovery by fish explorer Heiko Bleher.
Also known as the fire tetra, the ember tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae) has quickly become a popular fixture in freshwater aquariums.
The fish is a member of the Characidae family. This family also includes other diverse fish native to South America, ranging from the piranha to the blind cavefish.
Color and Appearance
As the name suggests, ember tetras have a bright, almost fiery red appearance with orange-rimmed eyes.
They have a merged anal fin along with a small dorsal fin. A larger caudal fin is usually covered with a grey or black marking.
While it’s difficult to tell the sexes apart, females often appear slightly larger than males around breeding season.
Their vivid color isn’t the only thing that attracts betta owners to ember tetras. With a mellow personality and an active lifestyle, this fish makes an ideal tank mate for bettas.
While small enough to be prey, ember tetras are quick enough that they usually manage to avoid hungry betta fish.
They tend to hang out in the middle of the tank, away from betta territory. During the day, they like to swim around, often swimming amongst plants and aquarium decor.
Ember tetras prefer to live as a school, and so you should aim to keep at least five or six in your tank at a time.
As long as both your tetra shoal and your betta have plenty of space, you shouldn’t have to worry about clashes.
Size and Lifespan
Ember tetras are small fish, only growing to about two centimeters in length at full maturity.
You can expect ember tetra and betta fish to share a similar lifespan of around two to four years on average.
Older ember tetras may be slightly less active than their younger counterparts. They’re also more susceptible to bullying by young bettas.
The Best Environment for Ember Tetras
Keeping both betta and ember tetras in the right conditions will help to reduce stress and maintain harmony within your tank.
While ember tetras might be small, don’t let their size fool you. They need plenty of space, as does your betta fish.
With a big enough aquarium, you ensure all fish have enough room to stake out a territory without conflict.
A large tank also gives ember tetra plenty of swimming space so that they can stay active and healthy.
While it’s important to have plenty of space in your tank, try to ensure that you don’t get anything too deep.
Bettas feed on the surface but dwell towards the bottom of the tank. Their heavy fins can make this journey a challenge in deep tanks.
Instead, you should opt for a tank that’s long yet relatively shallow. With a single betta and a small shoal of ember tetra, it’s best to opt for at least a fifteen-gallon tank.
As tropical fish, both bettas and ember tetras favor the same conditions when it comes to temperature.
While betta fish prefer a temperature between 75° to 81°, ember tetra can withstand a wider range of temperatures between around 68° to 82° Fahrenheit.
Like most freshwater fish, both bettas and ember tetra prefer a near-neutral pH.
While bettas thrive between a pH of around 6.5 and 7.5, ember tetra can live in anything between 5.5 and 7.0.
Both bettas and ember tetras come from environments teeming with underwater plant life. They like to have plenty of nooks and crannies where they can play, hide, and explore.
Be sure to include plenty of plants and rocky decor to keep both your tetras and your bettas occupied. They’ll be less likely to direct pent-up energy at each other.
If possible, you may want to opt for live plants instead of the fake variety you find at the pet store. Live plants are more gentle on fins and can help to improve water quality.
Feeding Ember Tetra and Betta Together
Both ember tetra and betta eat a similar diet, though bettas require more protein overall. They’ll usually end up eating more than your ember tetras.
You can feed both fish the same diet of high-protein flakes or pellets to keep them feeling fit and healthy.
It’s a good idea to add the occasional brine shrimp or frozen bloodworms to your tank to boost protein levels for your fish.
You can also feed betta and tetras live daphnia or grindal worms to give them a bit more of a challenge. A more diverse diet is always better for your fish.
You may notice your fish occasionally picking at algae on tank decor and substrate.
Both ember tetras and betta fish enjoy the occasional algae snack to boost their nutrient intake.
You should allow algae to build up to a certain degree so that they always have some available to eat.
When feeding, try to deliver meals in small portions several times throughout the day. This reduces the risk of organic matter settling and causing issues such as ammonia poisoning.
How to Introduce Ember Tetras to a Betta Tank
When setting up a community tank, it’s best to introduce betta fish last.
Bettas are territorial by nature, and they quickly stake out what they see as their personal space in a new aquarium.
Any new additions will be seen as a threat to an established betta’s territory. This can lead to sometimes brutal turf wars.
If other fish are already present, a betta will usually work around them to establish its territory. If a betta feels like the newcomer, they’re less likely to act aggressively.
Always remember to quarantine any new fish before adding it to your community aquarium. Even if they look healthy, new fish can carry contagious diseases, such as ich.
You should keep new fish in a smaller quarantine aquarium for two to four weeks before introducing them to your main setup.
Watch quarantined fish closely for any visual or behavioral sign of illness. This will prevent you from accidentally infecting your entire community tank.
When pairing betta fish with ember tetras, aggression can be an issue on both sides. Tetras may nip the fins of your betta, causing tissue damage.
If you notice fin nipping, your shoal of tetra may need a bigger tank. You may also need to add more members to help reduce stress levels.
If your betta is nipping at your ember tetras, you may have a more serious issue on your hands. A betta can do significant damage to a fish that small.
Some fish owners choose to put up a partition between aggressive betta and other tank members. However, this may still stress out fish who swim in each other’s eyelines.
In extreme cases, it may be best to separate your betta from its tank mates. While some betta fish thrive in a community, yours may prefer a more solitary lifestyle.
Betta fish can live in harmony with ember tetras as long as you give them both the conditions they need to thrive.
With enough space, plenty of food, and a comfortable environment, you can establish a healthy and colorful community tank with both betta and ember tetras.
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