If you’re looking to set up a colorful aquarium, you might want to consider fish like ember tetras and betta fish. Ember tetras are fiery red to orange, while bettas occur in many color patterns.
But, can you keep ember tetras with betta fish in the same tank?
Ember tetra can live with betta fish in the same tank because they thrive in similar water conditions and feed on the same diet. The two are active swimmers, so provide a big tank with many plants and hiding places to reduce the chances of aggression from bettas toward ember tetras.
Ember tetras are small and peaceful fish, while bettas are territorial. Theoretically, these two seem to clash in temperament, but with proper tank setup, they can live together.
After experimenting, I learned that keeping the two fish together is possible. Below is my guide for keeping bettas with ember tetras in the same tank safely.
Why it is possible
Despite the difference in size and temperament, bettas and embers have a few characteristics that make it possible to keep them as tank mates.
- Surface vs. middle dwellers: Bettas are surface dwellers, while ember tetras are middle dwellers. They’ll rarely clash if the tank is big enough.
- Diet: The dietary requirements of betta fish and ember tetras are fairly similar despite bettas being carnivores.
- Similar tank requirements: The two fish can quickly acclimatize to each other’s water parameters.
I recommend keeping 6 ember tetras and one betta fish in a long (not tall) 15-gallon tank or bigger.
Guide to keeping ember tetras with betta fish
Here are the care and requirements to keep ember tetras and betta fish together:
Water temperature and pH
Ember tetras need aquarium water temperatures between 74°F and 82°F, and a pH of 6 – 7. They can tolerate various water conditions, making them great tankmates with various freshwater fish such as bettas.
Bettas prefer a temperature of 75°F–80°F and a pH of 6.8-7.5.
The pH and temperature conditions overlap. That’s why ember tetras can acclimatize and get used to the temperature and pH of betta fish.
Ember tetras and bettas have different diet requirements, but ember tetras can also eat food meant for bettas.
Ember tetras are omnivores (they feed on meaty food and plants), while betta fish are carnivores (they feed only on flesh).
If you keep ember fish and bettas together, give them fleshy food and vegetables once or twice a day. For example, drop some live worms, brine shrimp, flakes, and frozen fish food inside the aquarium.
Feed the fish once a day to avoid overfeeding. Feed bettas with meat and the ember tetras with both flesh and vegetables.
Plant the aquarium
Decorate your aquarium with plenty of plants such as java moss, java fern, willow moss, and duckweed to provide enough hiding spots for the tetras and avoid aggression.
Betta fish are territorial, so adding plants reduces the chances of the tetras and betta seeing each other often. The less the fish see each other, the lower the chances of fighting.
Add plenty of foreground and midground aquarium plants to keep bettas and ember tetras from conflicting.
Here’s a list of good plants for betta fish to choose from.
Pro tip: Aquarium plants are essential carbon sinkers and improve water quality by absorbing CO2 and other heavy metals that would otherwise kill your fish.
Tank size for ember tetras and bettas
The minimum tank size for keeping ember tetras with betta fish is 15 gallons. A 15-gallon fish tank should accommodate one betta and six ember tetras.
You can use much larger tanks if you want to keep many fish. Although they have small body sizes, ember tetras and betta fish are active swimmers. Therefore they need a lot of free space.
A larger tank also reduces fin nipping and accommodates both fish. It means fewer fish fights, injuries, or stress in the aquarium.
Stocking ember tetras and bettas
The rule of thumb for keeping ember tetras with betta fish is to provide plenty of space in the tank. A big tank is recommended, but avoid overcrowding the aquarium.
A small, overcrowded tank can lead to fish diseases, insufficient oxygen, and other ember complications.
Here are my fish stocking recommendations for embers and bettas:
|Tank size in gallons||Number of tetra and betta|
|5||Too small to keep both fish|
|15||1 betta, 6 ember tetras|
|25||1 betta, 15 ember tetras|
|35||1 betta, 25 ember tetras|
|55||1 betta, 45 ember tetras|
A 5-gallon tank is too small for ember tetras and betta fish. You can only keep one fish species inside a five-gallon tank. Choose to keep one betta fish or three ember tetras.
Otherwise, a 5-gallon tank cannot provide sufficient oxygen, space for plants, and swimming space for the fish. I don’t recommend a 5-gallon tank size if you want to keep ember tetras and betta together.
A 15-gallon tank is the minimum tank size for keeping betta fish and ember tetras together. A 15-gallon tank can accommodate one betta fish and up to six ember tetras. The tank should be long to provide a large surface area for the fish.
Bettas are usually surface feeders; they swim, dwell, and sometimes breathe at the tank’s surface. On the other hand, ember tetras are middle tank dwellers. They are also active swimmers who love playing in the aquarium.
Adult ember tetras grow approximately an inch. You will not necessarily need a bigger tank unless you are breeding them. A 25-gallon tank is big enough to keep a single betta fish and up to 15 ember tetras.
The tank is also spacious enough to accommodate live or artificial decorative plants and substrates. Your betta fish and ember tetras will have more feeding, hiding, and breeding spaces inside a 25-gallon fish tank.
Keep one betta and up to 25 ember tetras in a 35-gallon fish tank. A 35-gallon tank also allows you to add plants, rocks, and pebbles inside your aquarium without significantly impacting the fish and their territories.
A 55-gallon can accommodate one betta fish and close to 45 ember tetras. Because it is heavy, a 55-gallon aquarium requires proper handling.
Will ember tetras nip betta?
Ember tetras have small bodies that make them less aggressive. It is rare for ember tetras to nip bettas, but when you find them nipping, your tank is overcrowded, or the fish are starving.
Ember tetras can nip betta fish out of shyness and for self-defense but not necessarily for food. That happens especially when ember tetras are fewer than betta fish in the aquarium.
To discourage fin nipping, increase the number of ember tetras in the tank. That will increase their confidence, and they will not shy away from the betta fish or feel the urge for defense.
How to introduce ember tetras into a betta tank
It is easy to cause tension and stress to your fish if you do not take great care when introducing embers into a betta tank.
Here are my guidelines for introducing ember tetras safely into a bettas tank:
- Keep the ember tetras in quarantine for 2-3 weeks. It enables you to observe their behavior. If they are sick, treat them first and ensure they are healthy before putting them in the main tank with your bettas.
- Ensure the water used in the quarantine tank is similar to that in the main tank. These will familiarize the ember tetras with the water they will live in.
- Ensure the tank has enough plant decorations and logs. To accommodate the fish and the decorations, use a 25-gallon tank to provide the most suitable environment.
- Observe the ember tetras and betta fish behavior every day for a month and see if they have adapted to each other and if they are living peacefully.
Here’s how to care for ember tetras and betta fish as tank mates.
- Clean the tank weekly and remove food leftovers to avoid toxins buildup.
- Change 50% of the aquarium water once every two weeks
- Clean the plants and other decorations inside your tank weekly to keep them clean and free from germs.
- Ensure your aquarium decorations and substrates do not have sharp edges that might injure the fish.
- Carter, K. (2020). Betta Fish Care in a Community Tank. Betta Fish Rescue Organization.