The Amber Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae) is also known as the Fire Tetra thanks to the fish’s beautiful bright red-orange coloration.
These active little fish are the perfect addition to any peaceful community setting as they are not only easy to care for but also stunning to look at.
Amber tetras are undoubtedly one of the most popular tropical aquarium fish in the hobby. But how long do these little fish live? And would a group of these lovely swimming gems suit your tank?
Read this guide to find out everything you need to know about fire tetras.
Amber Tetra – Overview
- Scientific name: hyphessobrycon amandae
- Common name (species): Amber Tetra, fire tetra
- Family: Characin
- Origin: Araguaia river basin of Brazil
- Diet: Omnivore
- Care level: Easy
- Activity: Active species, schools
- Life expectancy: 2 to 4 years
- Temperament: Calm
- Tank level: All air
- Minimum tank size: 10 gallons
- Temperature Range: 73 o to 84 o F
- Water hardness: 5 to 17 dGH
- pH range: In the range of 6.6
- Filtration / Flow Rate: Slow to moderate
- Type of water: Fresh water
- Breeding: Egg layers, fairly easy to breed in home aquariums
- Compatibility: Species of peaceful communities
- For planted tanks? Yes
Origins and habitat
Amber tetras are found in the Araguaia River basin in central Brazil.
The fish live in slow-moving pools where the habitat is filled with very dense aquatic vegetation and lighting is dimmed by overhanging treetops.
Amber tetras feed on small invertebrates and plant matter.
What do fire tetras look like?
The diet and care your Amber tetras receive have a direct influence on the vibrancy of their color.
Amber tetras are popular because of their bright red-orange color. For such a small fish, you certainly get a lot for your money! These types have the typical robust tetrabody shape that gradually becomes thinner towards the caudal.
The fish’s tall, thin dorsal fins are graduated, transitioning from orange to a slightly darker shade towards the back of the fin, further fading to virtual transparency at the edges. The caudal (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 rear half of the fin becomes almost transparent.
The pectoral and ventral fins are almost translucent, creating a nice flickering illusion as the fish swims.
How big are Amber tetras?
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?
Amber tetras kept in tanks have a life expectancy of two to four years. Interestingly, fish kept in tanks with lots of plants tend to live longer than those kept in tanks where plants are sparse.
Temperament and activity level
Despite its diminutive size, there is nothing shy about the lively Amber Tetra!
These dynamic little fish love to swim in a shoal of sparks in the middle of the water column or spend their time darting in and out of plants like aquatic fireflies.
What are good tank mates for Amber tetras?
The importance of a school
The first thing to note about fire tetras is that they should be kept in schools of at least 8 to 10 individuals, ideally more. The fish will not only thrive in large conspecific groups, but will create a much more colorful display in your aquarium.
Schools do not do well in isolation or when kept in groups of two or three. That can stress the fish, leading to a weakened immune system, poor health, and dull coloration.
good tank mates
As these tetras are peaceful creatures, they get along with almost 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 like rasboras and danios make good companions for fire tetras.
Shrimp and snails can also make colorful additions to the tank, making a living by cleaning debris from the substrate and eating 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 may consider tetras a food source.
Although not reputed to be fin-piercers, some hobbyists have reported their Ember Tetras displaying agile behavior. However, when kept in large quantities, the problem apparently goes away.
What do amber tetras eat?
As mentioned above, these fish are omnivores whose diet directly affects how bright 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 the like are good choices for protein and essential vitamins.
What about live foods?
Amber tetras enjoy live foods, but remember that these are tiny fish that would have a hard time eating a large bloodworm!
Also, live food and the liquid it is supplied in are the main sources of parasites that you could accidentally introduce into your tank. So, unless you want to have a brine shrimp hatchery at home, I recommend feeding frozen food as a safe and nutritious substitute.
How much and how often to feed
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 wasting and overfeeding, which can cause serious health problems.
If you plan to keep a small school of Amber tetras, a 10-gallon aquarium will do just fine. However, if you want to keep a mega school of 20 fish or more, you will need to increase your aquarium size to 25 gallons or more.
A dark colored sand or gravel substrate works exceptionally well to display Amber tetra colors for maximum impact, but it is entirely up to your personal preference.
The most important decorating element for a tank housing fire tetras is the planting. These fish live in a heavily vegetated environment, so you need to replicate that in your aquascaping.
Driftwood, smooth stones, and rocky outcroppings can also give your aquarium a natural look. However, don’t overcrowd the tank and remember to leave enough room for the fish to swim and move around.
Floating plant species are a low-maintenance option that looks great and helps diffuse light.
Amber tetras are not as picky as many other species when it comes to water quality. That said, you must provide the correct water parameters and keep the tank clean for your fish to thrive.
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.
Amber tetras can tolerate a wide range of water temperatures, ranging from 73°F to 84°F.
pH range and water hardness
The pH in the tank should be between 5.0 and 7.0, although 6.5 is ideal. Water hardness should be kept in the range of 5 to 17 dGH.
Amber tetras are fairly undemanding when it comes to lighting, although the light in their natural habitat is generally quite dim.
You will need to keep the tank clean and safe for your fish by doing partial water changes of around 25% to 30% each week, depending on population levels. Use an aquarium siphon vacuum to remove uneaten fish food, fish waste, and decaying plant matter from the substrate. That’s critical, as decomposing organic matter will contaminate the water and put a greater load on your biological filter.
About every month, rinse the filter media in the tank water to remove sludge so the filter doesn’t clog. You should change the worn filter media periodically, according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Water conditions test
To ensure that the water parameters remain stable and ammonia and nitrite levels are at zero and nitrates around 20ppm, use an aquarium water test kit once a week.
How to set up your fish tank
Before you begin, gather everything you need to set up your tank, including:
- LED light unit
- sponge filter
- fish tank thermometer
- water conditioner
How to assemble a fish tank
- Wash gravel or sand to remove dust.
- Add a few inches of substrate to the tank.
- Add the filter and heater to the aquarium, but don’t turn them on yet.
- Then fill the aquarium to an inch or two below the fill line, using a tap water dechlorinator. You can avoid displacing the substrate by placing a saucer upside down in the center of the tank and slowly pouring the water over it.
- To start the nitrogen cycle in the biological filter medium, the water must have a small amount of ammonia. So add a drop or two of pure ammonia, some fish food, or a handful of gravel from a mature setup.
- Wash the dust off your tank decorations and organize everything in the aquarium.
- Prepare your plants by trimming off dead parts, cutting off the ends of the stems and planting the stems in the substrate. Place floating plants on the surface of the water.
- Turn on the heater and filter. Live plants need light to photosynthesize, so you should have the lights on eight to 10 hours a day.
- Allow at least ten days for nitrifying bacteria to colonize biological filter media and surfaces within the tank. These bacteria process the ammonia in the water to make it safe for fish.
- Test the water every two days. When ammonia and nitrite levels are zero and nitrates are close to 20 ppm, the tank is cycled and ready for fish. If the levels are still too high, wait longer and continue testing the water.
Health and sickness
Amber Tetras are hardy fish that generally do not succumb to disease, as long as the tank is properly maintained and they are fed a balanced and nutritious diet.
Signs of health in Amber Tetras
Healthy Amber Tetras should be active, swimming around the tank at a school or darting around plants.
signs of ill health
The following behaviors could indicate potential health problems for your fish:
- poor appetite
- Hanging from the surface of the water
- Rub against plants and tank decorations.
- Sores, ulcers, torn or bloody fins
Common Ember Tetra Health Problems and Treatment
|Health problem||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-like spots on their fins, gills, and body. The fish can 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 gills and body of the fish and can often be seen with the naked eye.
|Treat the aquarium with an over-the-counter deworming medication.|
|fungal infections||Fluffy white spots on the body, head and around the mouth of the fish.||Treat the tank with over-the-counter antifungal medications.|
|bacterial infection||Ulcers, sores, torn and bloody fins, open wounds anywhere on the fish.||Use an over-the-counter antibacterial medication to treat the aquarium.|
Breeding Ember tetras is fairly straightforward, as long as the tank conditions are right 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 should be on the high side of the fish’s preferred range, i.e. above 80°F. That replicates the arrival of warmer spring weather to the natural environment of the tetra and usually initiates the spawning process.
Once the eggs are laid and spawning is complete, the parents will show no interest in the fry. At that time, it is best to take the young to a small fry tank where they can grow. Feed the fry commercially prepared fry foods, infusoria, and brine shrimp when they are large enough to take.
Are your Amber Tetras male or female?
Male Ember tetras are typically slimmer and darker in color than females, who tend to be plumper and slightly paler.
Amber tetras are generally available at fish stores and online dealers and auctions for a couple of dollars per fish. You can often get a discount if you buy a group of fish, which is perfect since you want to keep a school of at least 8-10.
Sometimes these fish are advertised as fire tetras, even though they are the same species.
what you need to buy
- algae magnet
- fish tank thermometer
- Siphon aspirator for aquariums
- Sponge filter44
- Fish tank (10 or 25 gallons, depending on how many fish you want to have)
- LED light unit
- live plants
- tank decorations
- fish food
- dark colored substrate
- water conditioner
I recommend that you also purchase a good book on tropical fish farming, especially if you are new to the hobby.
I hope you found our guide to the Amber Tetra helpful.
How many Ember tetras do you have? How did you aquascape your tank?
We’d love to hear about your fish, so let us know in the comment box below.
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