Can Ember Tetras Live In Blackwater?

Ember Tetras are a type of tetra fish known for their bright orange, red and yellow coloring. They are native to South America but can be found in the wild all over the world today, as people have been breeding Ember Tetras since they were first introduced by aquarium enthusiasts decades ago. But Can Ember Tetras Live In Blackwater?

Yes, Ember tetras are great fish for blackwater aquariums because they are very adaptable to their surroundings. In addition, they have a wide variety of requirements that make them perfect for blackwater aquariums.

Blackwater is a type of aquatic habitat where the water tends to be murky, dark brown, or almost black in color due to tannins being dissolved into it from decaying organic. These colorful and lively fish can thrive in this environment that you might not expect them to be able to live in.

In this blog post, we will talk about the requirements of a blackwater tank and how Ember Tetras can make it work! There are a few things to know and understand before starting an aquarium.

What Is A Blackwater Aquarium?

Blackwater is tannin-stained water or tea-colored water. It refers to a body of water that has changed due to decaying organic matter such as fallen leaves on the bottom.

A blackwater aquarium is a fish tank that mimics the natural environment of many freshwater tropical fish.

Blackwater aquariums are characterized by dark water, rich in tannins and other organic material from decaying leaves on the floor of rainforest rivers.

Blackwater aquariums are often planted, and the water is soft, acidic, low in minerals, and contains very little carbonate hardness.

These waters have very little light penetration due to their almost opaque darkness (hence “black”), and their water is stained brown or black from the tannins and other substances.

Why Is The Water So Dark In Blackwater Aquarium?

Blackwater aquariums are freshwater fish tanks similar to the Amazon biotope tanks but with one major difference.

Blackwater ecosystems flow from clearwater rivers into dense jungle and swamp regions throughout South America and Africa.

The brownish coloration comes from the tannins dissolved in the water. Decaying organic matter releases these tannins in the water. When you keep it in a fish aquarium, blackwater is botanical or tea-colored water.

The dark color comes from decaying leaves and other organic matter that has settled on the bottom of the rivers.

A blackwater aquarium is an aquarium that has substrate or water that is colored darkly to imitate the environment of Ember tetra’s natural habitat: heavily vegetated rivers and streams with very little light penetration. The coloration creates a diurnal effect.

The water in blackwater aquariums is also much softer and has a lower pH level than other freshwater tanks.

Can Ember Tetras Live In Blackwater?

Yes, Ember tetras can live in a blackwater aquarium.

The most common fish kept in a blackwater aquarium are known as “dither” or “peaceful shoaling” tetras, such as Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae). Other species often kept are hatchet fish, pencil fish, and various other small peaceful tropical fish.

Some tetra species are not compatible with the low pH of soft dark water habitats. Ember tetras stomachs cannot handle acidic foods.

Ember Tetras can live well in this environment as long as they have a varied diet to ensure proper nutrition.

You can set up a blackwater aquarium like any other peaceful community tank. However, the water parameters will vary from those needed for fish that prefer harder and more alkaline waters.

Tetra fishes such as Ember Tetras can naturally occur in dark waters with many dissolved humic substances due to the rapid decomposition of leaf litter and other organic materials.

This is famous as blackwater in the aquarium hobby, a biotope that has become very popular for its aesthetics of dark water, with tannins producing a tea-like coloration.

Blackwater Aquarium Setup For Ember Tetras

Unfortunately, this environment can be difficult to replicate, making keeping Tetra species from naturally occurring blackwaters quite challenging. These types of aquariums are blackwater aquariums, and there are a few basic setup requirements. You must meet those for the species you plan on keeping to thrive within this type of environment.


The size of the aquarium is significant when keeping a blackwater tank and Tetra species. You need a minimum 20 gallons long or 40-gallon breeder size this type of setup. However, I recommend larger depending on your plans to keep other fish with Ember Tetras in the same enclosure.


The substrate is critical to creating a blackwater environment for your fish. It should be fine gravel, sand, or even small pebbles.

The size of particles will affect how quickly water flows through them. For example, gravel with larger pieces will allow water to flow through faster than finer gravel or sand.

Sand and pebbles will also let the water move more freely, needed for blackwater freshwater aquariums. The organic matter that gives these types of fish tanks their dark color can be found in the substrate when it settles on the bottom of your tank.

Choose the dark-colored substrate to mimic a shady forest floor where bright light never reaches.

Black sand or gravel can also be used for this purpose because they do not show as much colorful organic matter that gives this type of aquarium the blackwater look.

But make sure that it’s not sharp and doesn’t have any large particles of rock within it, which could damage your Ember Tetras’ delicate fins when they swim through the tank.


It would help if you kept Blackwater freshwater aquariums dimly lit to create a dark, shady environment for these types of fish tanks.

Most Tetra species come from extremely shallow waters where little to no light penetrates. So, you need shallow lighting for them to feel comfortable living within a blackwater environment.

Some lighting is important for the photosynthesis process, so you will need at least one light to keep some aquatic plants growing in your tank if desired by the Tetra fish species inhabiting it.


Use a heater with this type of aquarium setup because these fish are tropical fish and need warm water temperatures to thrive. The ideal temperature for Ember Tetras is between 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit, but you will want your heater set up to heat the entire aquarium to keep all of the inhabitants happy.


The quality of blackwater freshwater aquariums with Tetra species can be quite low because of the organic matter that will quickly build up in these aquariums.

Because of this, you need a good filtration system tank to keep it clean and healthy. This helps Ember Tetras can live long lives within their new home.

Water movement should be gentle but noticeable. Most blackwater habitats are okay with slow-moving currents where little light reaches the bottom of their environment.

Water movement is significant for maintaining these types of aquariums. This will prevent any algae build-up on your Ember Tetras’ tank.


When setting up a blackwater freshwater aquarium with Tetra species, you will want to make sure your filtration system is effective enough for the size of your tank.

If it’s too small, you cannot clean these types of aquarium setups properly. It causes a build-up of hazardous chemicals. If you expose these tetras to this chemical for long periods of time, it can kill them.

They are sensitive to changes in pH levels, making them difficult fish to keep. Blackwater aquarists often use peat or driftwood filtration systems. This will alter the aquarium’s chemical balance quickly if not monitored carefully.


You can use a driftwood filtration system often in blackwater freshwater aquariums. It works well at keeping the environment clean while also adding nutrients to support plant growth.

Most commonly, Driftwood tree roots are hollow and then placed into the tank as a filtration system.


You can place large rocks into blackwater freshwater aquariums. This will add more cover and hiding places for Ember Tetras. These types of fish tanks should have plenty of large cave-like areas where the Tetra species in your tank will feel safe enough to sleep during the day.

Leaf Litter

Many Ember Tetra aquariums have leaf litter used as part of their substrate for the blackwater look. This is a great way to bring in organic matter that will make your aquarium appear like it’s coming from an actual habitat. Still, you should take care when using this type of substrate. These Tetra species are susceptible to changes in their environment.

Maintaining The Blackwater Aquarium For Ember Tetras

Blackwater freshwater aquariums require some maintenance like other types of fish tanks. Therefore, you should monitor them carefully before deviations occur. Any deviations could kill your Ember Tetras’ or make them extremely ill.

You will want to check the water temperature and clean your aquarium gravel. Check pH levels, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate regularly.

Blackwater fish tanks should be between 75° to 83° Fahrenheit with a pH level of around six or just under seven on the scale; anything higher than that will cause issues for Ember Tetras like you wouldn’t believe.

The ammonia and nitrite levels should be zero, while the nitrate levels should not exceed 20 parts per million, or they will suffer from a deficiency of oxygen in their blood which can cause them to die rapidly.

You also want to vacuum your gravel regularly and clean any excess algae on structures like rocks or driftwood with an algae-eating fish.

You will also need to replace the water in your blackwater aquarium with clean dechlorinated water weekly and should do about 25 percent of that amount every week as well; so if you have 20 gallons, change five-gallon at a time until you change all of it out for fresh dechlorinated water.

Rinse the gravel as you do this to remove any excess debris that may have built up over time; otherwise, it will rot and kill your Ember Tetras.

Make sure not to overdo it with the cleaning, or your fish tank could experience a mini-cycle of sorts which can be just as bad for them if they were in a cycled tank. You will also want to make sure that your lighting is on about eight hours a day.


In conclusion, Ember tetras can live in blackwater aquariums. They are great fish for blackwater aquariums because they are lively and colorful.

To set up an Ember tetra blackwater tank, you need the following: substrate, lighting, water heater, filtration system, and driftwood. There are also several other key components to consider to maintain your aquarium properly. The quality of light source going into your aquarium, whether you would like to have live plants and how often your tank needs cleaning.

Hopefully, this blog post has helped answer the Can Ember Tetras Live In Blackwater? question and provide you with all the information needed to set up a blackwater aquarium for these beautiful fish!

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