Ember Tetra With Betta Fish – Can They Live Together?7 mins read

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Ember tetra with betta fish | can they live together?
Image from Flickr

When looking for Betta Fish tankmates it’s essential that they are compatible. As a result, many people play it safe and go for foolproof options like Cory Catfish, and Cardinal or Neon Tetras. However, if you want to break out of the mold, there are so many options that you can consider.

The Ember tetra is a fantastic less popular tetra that may catch your eye due to its distinctive soft coral-red color and translucent body. But are these fish suitable to keep with a Betta? Like many things in aquaria, there’s not a straightforward answer, and it all depends on the way you set up your tank. Read on to find out how.

Can Ember Tetra Live With Betta Fish?

Ultimately, the answer to this question is yes, but before we go into it in further detail, remEmber that very few fish species will get on if they are in dirty and overcrowded conditions. Ensure you have a high-quality environment for your fish before mixing any species – or even getting a fish in the first place.

That being said, there are specific considerations that you need to know before keeping these attractive little Tetras with a Betta Fish.

What Makes A Good Betta Fish Tankmate?

A good Betta Fish tankmate is non-fin nipping and generally peaceful. However, they are not so small that they will trigger the Betta Fish’s predatory instinct (as can happen with shrimps occasionally). They must also be dull or at least uniformly colored because otherwise, the male Betta will see them as a threat.

Luckily the Ember tetra fits all these criteria and also requires similar conditions to the Betta Fish. Thus, read on to find out more about the individual needs of the species and how you can meet them to ensure compatibility.

Ember Fish Profile

Ember fish profile
Ember Tetras come from the Araguaia river basin in Brazil, where they were discovered as recently as the 80s. Image from Flickr

Ember Tetras come from the Araguaia river basin in Brazil, where they were discovered as recently as the 80s. The Araguaia River is a relatively soft, slow-moving, and acidic environment, meaning these fish can tolerate a pH as low as 5.5. However, they can still share with a Betta fish at a higher pH.

Ember fish are a brick red color that is slightly translucent and one unique feature is that you can see their skeletal structure within their body, giving them a mesmerizing and jewel-like appearance.


Ember Tetras swim in a school and they need a minimum group size of 5 or 6 to thrive. However, they really do best in slightly larger groups of 8-9 so that they can fully express their schooling behavior.

Schooling is a mechanism fish use to stay safe from predators. The safety in numbers makes it harder for a predator to pick off any individual fish.

However, if you do keep a school of Ember Tetras this large, make sure you account for the extra water needed. A good rule of thumb is about 1 extra gallon per extra fish.


Temperature76-80 F (23-27 C)
Tank sizeMinimum 10-20 gallons (38-76 liters)

Betta Fish Profile

Betta fish profile
Betta Fish come from the opposite side of the world to Ember Tetras – the rice paddies of Southeast Asia in countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.

Betta Fish come from the opposite side of the world to Ember Tetras – the rice paddies of Southeast Asia in countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.

They are famous for being selectively bred so they have vividly colored, long fins. This makes them one of the most popular aquarium fish and they are great for beginners as despite their delicate appearance they are relatively simple to take care of.


There are two major things that make Betta Fish behavior stand out. The first is the tendency of the males to fight each other, sometimes to the death and this is why you should always keep Betta Fish in separate tanks if male. A female sorority tank is a different matter and setting this up is a project in its own right.

For the purpose of this article, we are mainly talking about male Betta Fish and Ember Tetras. However, you can keep a school of Ember Tetras with a female sorority of Bettas if you wish. Just ensure to account for the extra space needed.

It’s good to note that increased acidity can cause Betta Fish to be more aggressive. This is because acid water tends to be a sign that other Bettas have already fought in it. Don’t let the pH drop below 7!

The other thing that stands out about Betta behavior is that they are labyrinth breathers. This means they have a special labyrinth organ that they use to breathe air from the water’s surface.

Author’s Note: For Betta Fish, the labyrinth organ is a clever adaptation that allows these fish to always get enough oxygen in low-oxygen rice paddies. It also means Betta Fish love hanging out near the top of the tank.


Temperature76-80 F (24-27 C)
Tank size20 – 30 gallons (76 -114 liters)

Ember Tetra With Betta – The Similarities

Ember tetra with betta - the similarities
One thing that unites Ember Tetras (pictured) and Betta Fish is their ability to live in slow-moving bodies of water. Image from Flickr

Water Conditions

One thing that unites Ember Tetras and Betta Fish is their ability to live in slow-moving bodies of water. That means you won’t need to install a filter that is too strong for them.

They also both enjoy leafy environments with lots of organic matter, so make sure you have a well-planted tank.


When it comes to coexistence, it’s very fortunate that Ember Tetras and Betta Fish live at different parts of the tank, or at least prefer these. As schooling fish, Ember Fish enjoy ganging out in midwater where they have room to swim.

Betta fish, on the other hand, spend their time at the top of the tank, which is where they may even build a bubble nest if they are exceptionally well cared for.

Ember Tetras With Betta Fish – Possible Difficulties

Ember tetras with betta fish - possible difficulties
Betta Fish are often kept in small tanks like this one pictured, whereas a school of Ember Tetras can require a surprising amount of space to move. Image from Flickr

Water Conditions

If you are very fussy about mimicking the exact conditions your fish live in in the environment, you will find the habitat of the Ember Tetras is too soft and acidic for the Betta Fish. However, Ember Tetras are relatively hardy and you can indeed keep them at higher pHs.

You may want to ensure you have some driftwood in your tank as this can make the water softer and slightly more acidic, mimicking the Ember Fish environment without compromising the needs of your Betta too much.


Betta Fish are often kept in small tanks, whereas a school of Ember Tetras can require a surprising amount of space to move. You can solve this by having a tank that is longer than it is tall. This mimics the rice paddy shape that the Betta’s ancestors were used to living in whilst also giving your Ember Tetras enough space to swim.

Considerations For Keeping Ember Fish And Bettas Together

Ember Tetra With Betta Five Gallon Tank Myth

Unfortunately, there are lots of myths about the correct tank size for fish, especially small fish like Ember Tetras and Betta Fish, which are often kept in very small containers before sale (a process known as jarring).

In reality, if you go by the metric that one gallon is fish is needed per tetra, then with a five-gallon (19 liter) tank you could only keep about five Ember Tetras – definitely not a school of Ember Fish AND a Betta on top of that.

In fact, this is confirmed by the minimum recommended tank size from professional aquarists for Betta Fish – 10 gallons (38 liters) for a Betta Fish – although many fishkeepers believe that a Betta will thrive better in a 20 (76 liters) or even 30-gallon (114 liter) tank. There are other myths about Betta Fish, such as that they can survive without a filter, but in truth, a proper tank setup is always best.

In the end, the idea of a nano tank may be attractive – but it’s ultimately not viable or healthy for your fish.

How To Set Up A Community Tank

Luckily, it’s easy to set up a proper community tank. Pick one that is big enough and longer than it is tall – a 20-gallon (76 Liter) tank is a good idea for this species combination. Then, plant it heavily so your fish have plenty of species to hide, and add a weak filter such as a HOB or sponge filter that filters around an average of 4x your tank capacity per hour.

Other Things To Think About

ember tetra with betta 5 gallon
Feed your Ember Tetras a basic tropical fish food. Image from Flickr

Once you’ve got your tank up and running, you may think that’s it. However, whilst fish are low maintenance and can be left to their own devices, here are a few things you should otherwise consider:


One thing to consider is if you want to breed either of these species, you won’t be able to do it in the same tank.

This is because, despite their peaceful coexistence, when breeding, all the same rules fly out of the window. Betta fish may eat the eggs that your Ember Tetras lay, leaving you to try and figure out where they have gone or how to get your Ember Fish to spawn again (something which is occasionally luck for beginner aquarists.

Many fish can be more aggressive when mating and this also means your Betta Fish may attack your Ember Fish if they go between him and a potential mate. Or, your Ember Fish may start fin nipping, although they are not normally a species that does this.

Either way, it’s best to keep them separate and invest in a proper breeding tank if you wish to breed any of your fish. If you do wish to breed Bettas, some scientists have found adding Indian almond leaf extract can promote bubble nest creation. However, it is unknown what effects this has on Ember tetras.

Author’s Note: Regardless of the species, it’s often best to separate a breeding pair from the rest of the tankmates. This is because breeding is a time of high stress for fish and therefore they generally need as much space as possible. If you are short on space you can use a tank divider to keep other fish away from your breeding pair.


Feeding Ember Tetras and Betta Fish isn’t a problem, as generally they need different diets. This can have its pros and cons. On the plus side, it means there is less likelihood to be competition over food. If you feed your Ember Tetras a basic tropical fish food, you may find your Betta Fish doesn’t touch it due to the fact they prefer protein.

In fact, this is not just a treat but a healthy and nutritious food. Artemia, or brine shrimps, were found to stimulate growth in Betta Fish fry. Breaking up some frozen protein can also create two separate spots for feeding and thus allow your Betta and Ember Fish to both have a taste of daphnia, brine shrimps, and tubifex worms whilst staying out of each others’ way.

Other Tankmates

Other Tankmates
The best tankmates are other schooling fish that get on with the Ember tetra and Betta, such as non-fin-nipping Tetras, or bottom dwellers like pleco fish (pictured back) and cory catfish. Image from Flickr

If you do want a varied community tank, it’s best to add other tankmates according to their habit. The best tankmates are other schooling fish that get on with the Ember tetra and Betta, such as non-fin-nipping Tetras, or bottom dwellers like pleco fish and cory catfish.

It’s a good idea to avoid most barbs as they can be aggressive, as well as any other labyrinth fish like gouramis that will share space with your Betta and could come into conflict. Likewise, cichlids and semi-hierarchal fish like angelfish or larger Amazonian species like the discus are best avoided as they will inevitably trigger your Betta’s fighting instinct.

Lastly, when adding any tankmates, it’s best to figure out their ideal minimum tank capacity and add this to the volume of your total aquarium calculation.

Author’s Note: With minimal space, you can avoid fish fighting by choosing species that occupy different parts of the tank. This is why how you set up the tank can be as important as how big it is. For example, if you have two species that like hanging out near the surface, like a Betta and a school of small rasboras, having a tank that is wider than it is tall, with a large surface area, can give them both plenty of space to establish territories.

Bottom Line

Ember Tetras are a great lesser known tetra and the fact that they get on so well with Bettas shows the surprising variety of fish that these elegant paddy dwellers can actually coexist with.

Betta fish may have a reputation as sensitive or aggressive – especially due to their other name, Siamese fighting fish – and this is indeed grounded in reality. But it doesn’t apply to all species, and if you set up your tank correctly, you will find that your Ember Tetras and Betta get along swimmingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Tetras are fin-nipping fish?
Due to your Betta Fish’s impressive fins, it’s important to choose tankmates that don’t nip fins as a general rule. Therefore, the following tetra species are best to avoid at all costs: Neon Tetras Emperor Tetras Serpae Tetras Rosy Tetras Black Skirt Tetras White Skirt Tetras Diamond Tetras
Will Betta Fish ever attack tankmates of a different species?
Betta fish will attack tankmates of a different species if they pose a threat, generally in terms of competition for mates. This tends to happen to fish that look similar to a Betta. This means fish with flamboyant and colorful finnage. However, it can happen within dirty water conditions and if the tank is too small. As a fish that is more sensitive and aggressive in general, in poor conditions, the Betta Fish is most likely to react. However, in good conditions, your Betta won’t attack your Ember Fish.
How do I know my Fish have settled in?
Acclimatizing fish to a new tank is always a gradual process. Your fish may be a bit reluctant to feed over the first few days and may be wary of each other, especially if they didn’t share a tank before. Your Betta may spend time hanging out amongst plants. You can tell when fish have settled in as your Ember Tetras will be confidently swimming midwater and your Betta will explore all parts of the tank. Likewise, all your fish will eat when fed, and generally seem happy and healthy, with no trouble balancing and with clear scales and bright eyes.
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Sydney Perry

Sydney Perry has loved fish since she was a child and has enjoyed keeping many varieties over the years, ranging from black moors and shubunkins to betta fish. As a lover of nature and of Japanese culture, her dream tank is an Iwagumi aquascape, combining fish with carefully crafted aquatic landscapes in miniature.