Ember Tetra 101: Care, Tank Mates, Size & More

If you are looking for vibrant, colorful fish to add to your community tank, then the Ember Tetra is perfect. With their fiery coloring and playful behavior, it’s no wonder this tropical fish is so popular among the aquarium hobbyists. They are a relatively inexpensive fish as well, only costing about $1 to $2 per fish.

The Ember Tetras are a schooling fish. You will want to have at least eight Embers in your tank to encourage them to school together. The more Embers you have in your tank, the larger and more brilliant and beautiful their school will be as they dart around playfully in your tank. 

These fish are relatively easy to take care of and are perfect for beginner aquarists. They get along with all fish and are the ideal addition to your community tank, although you will want to protect them by not keeping larger and aggressive fish in the same tank as them. Larger fish and aggressive fish could bully them, causing undue stress to your Ember Tetras, or the larger fish could actually eat your small Ember Tetras, which would be tragic.

Ember Tetra Care Guide 

Species Profile Overview (lifespan, size, etc.)

The Ember Tetra was first discovered in 1986 by a man named Heiko Bleher in the South American Araguaia River basin. He named the tiny, tropical, freshwater fish Hyphessobrycon Amandae, or the Amanda Tetra, after his mother, Amanda Bleher. It is now most commonly called the Ember Tetra, Red Tetra, Fire Tetra, and Dwarf Red Tetra. The names stemmed from the fish’s vibrant and fiery appearance. 

The Ember Tetra fish belong to a genuinely diverse species called Characiformes, which has about 2,000 fish spread out amongst 19 families. 

Because of its playful nature and vibrant coloring, the Ember Tetra has become very trendy in the past couple of years with more than just the nano aquariums. They are a popular choice for all sizes of aquariums. But don’t let its fiery appearance fool you. The Ember Tetra is a peaceful and easy-going fish. Perfect for both the beginner and experienced aquarium hobbyists.

Within their natural habitats of densely vegetated, forested areas and slow-moving water, these fish have been known to live up to three years. You can enjoy them for the same amount of time if you care for them properly and keep them in a densely planted, well-kept aquarium. 

Their lifespan is an added attraction for beginner aquarists, as well. They are a relatively short term commitment at two to three years, as opposed to some fish that live for five to ten years.

Behavior

The Ember Tetra is a schooling fish, so you need to keep them in groups of at least 5, but preferably many more. They make a beautifully vibrant school, and the more you have, the more striking the school is darting and dancing around your tank. Watching them is truly a treat, and they add so much character to your tank, you’ll be glad you got them. 

Although the Ember Tetras are a peaceful fish, they are also quite active. Despite their small size, they are not a timid fish. With one exception – when they have just been introduced to a new tank, you’ll notice that they can be a bit cautious until they become used to their new tank environment. But once they have become acclimated to their new tank, you will see their frisky, playful nature come out as they swim around your tank in schools, darting in and out of the plants, and decorations. 

These are very non-aggressive fish who don’t compete with the other fish either. They are a perfect addition to any community tank with their peaceful, non-aggressive, and playful behavior as they school together and interact with the other fish in their tank.

Appearance

The Ember Tetra is one of the smaller fish of their species. A completely grown adult fish can grow up to 0.8 inches long. Both the females and males look alike, so it can be challenging when you are trying to distinguish between them. Both are a fiery red color, sometimes with a saturated orange gradient coloring. Their eyes will sometimes have an orange rim around them as well. 

They have an elongated, semi-transparent body. Their bodies have a large caudal fin and a somewhat small dorsal fin. Both of these fins have a little bit of a black or grey gradient. They only have one merged anal fin.

Around the upper part of their heads, around the mouth and above the eyes, they can have a reddish coloring sometimes. Towards the back of their bodies, they look slightly compressed, but this actually allows them to swim around more smoothly. They do have scales, which are very compact, lying next to each other. This is what gives them a slightly transparent appearance.

There are small differences in the females that, if you know what you are looking for, you can identify. The female Ember Tetras usually have a larger air bladder than the male. Also, during the breeding period, the female’s abdomen will get a little bigger than the male’s abdomen. 

The male’s coloring will get much brighter when the females start spawning, as well. When you notice these changes in the females and males, you can transfer them to a breeding tank for spawning.

Diet and Feeding

The Ember Tetra’s feeding habits will directly affect their color and appearance. In its natural habitat, the Ember Tetra’s diet consists mainly of various zooplankton and small invertebrates. Occasionally you will see them grazing on the plants and vegetation, scraping off microbe colonies that live on the vegetation.

When you begin planning their diet, you want to create as diverse a menu as possible. You will want to include dry food such as granules or flakes, as well as frozen or live foods. You can feed them Grindal worms, Daphnia, or Artemia. 

You should also take into account their size when planning their diet. Because Ember Tetras are so small, you might need to grind up their food. You can feed them small portions either two or three times daily. For the fry, you will need to grind the food into even smaller pieces for them to be able to eat it. It’s also a great idea to add plants to their tank that they can naturally graze on for an added vegetation supplement. 

As long as you take care of your Ember Tetras and feed them a suitably diverse diet, they won’t need any other supplementations than what you are already feeding them.

Tank Setup

The Ember Tetra is one of the smallest fish in its species that are kept in tanks. They have become very popular with the nano aquarists, and are perfect for a 10-gallon tank.

A good rule of thumb to avoid overstocking your tank is to make sure you only have roughly one inch of fish per gallon of water. For example, the Ember Tetra is approximately 0.8 inches. If you were to have just Ember Tetras in your 10-gallon tank, you could have a maximum of 12 Ember Tetras in your tank.

In its natural habitat, the Ember Tetra comes from slow-moving waters that have dense water plants, as well as the thick vegetation that grows in the forest above the waters. All of the plants above and in the water tend to block the sunlight, which causes the lighting to be dim. With all the trees and vegetation surrounding their environment, the floor of their habitat is usually covered with branches and leaf debris.

For happy Ember Tetras, you want to mimic those characteristics in their tank. Floating plants are ideal for your aquarium, giving your fish plenty of shadowy places to hide amongst the plants and roots. Anacharis, Java fern, and Java moss will help your Ember Tetras feel right at home. These plants can also serve as shelter, breeding grounds, and food.

Putting down a dark substrate will help to mimic the dim lighting from their natural habitat. You can also put vegetation and other dry leaves along the bottom of the tank to recreate the conditions of a natural river bed. This will help to dim the lighting as well, and the decomposing leaves will leave behind some beneficial bacteria in your tank.

To duplicate the slow-moving waters that they prefer, you will want a water filtration system that is gentle, not too strong. Remember, they are used to slow-moving rivers and lakes. 

Tank Conditions

As mentioned above, the Ember Tetras are freshwater fish that favor smaller rivers that have slow-flowing water. In order to recreate the water conditions, make sure the pH is within the 5.5 to 7 range, the water hardness should be around 18 dH, and the water temperature should stay within the 68 to 82°F range.

Because they are usually located in slow-moving tributaries, far away from the main streams, you want to use a silent aeration and filtrations system that is slow-moving, as well. A regular sponge filter will work quite well for the Ember Tetra’s tank.

Unless you are going with a 5-gallon nano tank, your ideal tank should be at least 10-gallons. Everyone loves plants, vegetation, and decor in their tank, but make sure that you don’t go overboard with them. You want to remember moderation is the key. You want plenty of things for them to hide in and feel safe and secure, but you don’t want to overcrowd the space they swim around in. They may be small, but they are definitely active fish that love to school together and dart around the tank.

How To Care For

Despite their small size, they tend to be healthy and are not particularly prone to diseases. However, similar to other freshwater fish, the Ember Tetra is sensitive to fluctuations in the water acidity and temperature, as well as changes in lighting.

With small fish, you always need to be careful not to overfeed them because it could cause them digestive system problems. The quality of the food you feed your fish can affect their health, as well. Keep an eye on their behavior, and if they start acting strange or lethargic, re-evaluate their food, and possibly consider buying a higher quality of food.

Another consideration for keeping them happy and healthy is regular water renewal. Having consistent water aeration and filtration is also essential to good health.

Your aquarium will require constant attention and upkeep because of all the dense vegetation and plants that you put in there. If you do not keep up with the regular cleaning, water renewal, and filtration, you will end up with a tank full of bacteria and algae.

As well as being ugly to look at, excessive amounts of algae could harm your fish. You also want to make sure that parasites are not added to your tank via other fish, or live or frozen foods. Parasitic diseases can cause their bodies to bloat and sometimes even get creamy dots on their scales and skin. Another indication of the presence of the parasite is dysfunctional shoaling behavior.

Ember Tetra Tank Mates

Ember Tetras make the perfect community fish because of their friendly and peaceful natures. They are non-aggressive and rarely cause any problems among the other fish. Because they spend most of their time in the middle of the water column, they don’t usually pick food off the floor of the tank, making pygmy catfish the perfect tankmate.

Small Corydoras and other fish from the Characidae family with similar temperaments and size are also perfect tankmates for the Ember Tetra. Other kinds of fish that compliment them are fish that swim in a different layer of the water column, such as Neons, Micro Rasboras, Rasboras, Dwarf Cichlids, and Hatchetfish. Other compatible fish include Dwarf Gourami, Discus, Barbs, and Red Cherry Shrimp.

Avoid bigger fish, especially predatory ones. A lot of the larger fish will eat anything that is small enough to fit inside their mouth, even if they are non-aggressive fish. And of course, you do not want to put aggressive fish in the tank with your Ember Tetras. They might bully your fish, compete for food, attack, and possibly kill your fish.

The same goes for non-fish tankmates. For example, most snails and shrimp get along well with the Ember Tetras, as long as they don’t start destroying your plants.

Keeping Ember Tetra Together

Ember Tetras are a schooling fish, so the more, the merrier. It’s recommended that you have at least eight in your tank so they can school together. The more you have, the more comfortable they will feel in your tank, which will decrease any possible stress significantly.

Breeding

It’s not that difficult to breed Ember Tetras. They are actually free spawners, meaning the parents don’t care for their fry.

Spawning can occur regularly without any required intervention under well-monitored conditions. But if you want to increase the number of fry that are spawned, you should control this process. In order to do this, you will need a small breeding tank. Use should use water from your main tank to optimize the acclimation process for the parent fish. 

The females will get bigger when they have eggs, and the male’s coloring will get even brighter and stand out even more in order to attract females. You will want to put the fatter females that are carrying eggs into the breeding tank and place the brightest, most vibrant males in the breeding tank with the females.

If you want to encourage spawning, the lighting should be dim, and the water needs to be gently filtered. Set the water’s pH level to neutral and keep the water temperature between 80-82°F.

You should also consider upping their diet to live foods for two weeks before you want spawning to occur. Once the female has spawned her eggs, it usually takes approximately 36 hours for the eggs to incubate and hatch. Once they hatch, it will be 3 – 4 days before the juveniles start swimming around the tank. 

Once the fry have hatched, you will want to either remove the parent fish from the tank or place a breeding mesh along the base of the tank to separate them from the fry. This will keep the parent fish from eating the fry. Remember, fish will eat anything that is smaller than itself.

As for feeding the fry, since they are so small, you may need to grind the food into smaller pieces than you normally would for the adults.

Conclusion

Although they are super easy to take care of, you do want to take into consideration their small size and their sensitivity to certain water conditions.

In order to keep your Ember Tetras safe, remember to avoid larger fish and aggressive fish. With their peaceful natures, these fish will fit perfectly into almost any kind of aquarium. They even do well in a nano tank of around 10-gallons.

Michele Taylor
Michele Taylor

Hello, fellow aquarists! My name is Michele Taylor, and I am a homeschool mother of six children, which includes five boys and one girl. Growing up, our family had a large aquarium with angelfish, goldfish, and lots of different varieties of neons.

The Ultimate Guide to the Neon Tetra 2020 (Care, Grading, Breeding)

Enchanting, vibrant, and active, these fish are also easy to care for, which makes them a favorite among aquarium hobbyists. 

If you want to enjoy these fish to the fullest and for many years to come, you will want to give them the proper care. 

You are in luck because caring for them is super easy, and this guide will walk you through all the ins and outs of providing the best care possible for your little critters.

Neon Tetra Care Guide

Species Profile Overview (lifespan, size, etc.)

A native to South America, the small Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) is a member of the Characidae family. First discovered in the Amazon jungles in 1934, it became known as the neon fish. 

This fish ranks among the most popular aquarium fish for several reasons. Fish keepers love it not just for its vibrant neon coloring but also because it’s one of the easiest fish to take care of in the aquarium world, which makes it perfect for both beginners and seasoned pros. 

In the U.S. alone, approximately two million Neon Tetras are sold every month, with the majority of them having been bred in captivity in Thailand, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Fewer than 5% of the Neon Tetras that are sold have been caught in the rivers of South America.

The Neon Tetra can live upwards of eight years in their natural habitat, but they only live approximately five years in an aquarium.

Behavior

With a peaceful but energetic temperament, this fish brings dazzling color to your tank, especially when they school together. Perfect for your community tank, this non-aggressive fish will spend most of its time in the middle of the tank’s water column.

These fish feel more secure in schools of at least 15 or more Neon Tetras. Anything smaller could cause them to feel threatened, which can cause unnecessary stress for your fish.

Your Neon Tetras will be happier if you provide them with a mixed environment of open spaces to swim around in and plenty of plant cover. They will school together in the open swimming areas when they are feeling safe and secure, but as soon as they feel threatened, they will dart into the nearby vegetation and plants.

Neon Tetra Appearance

What draws people to the Neon Tetra is their brilliant coloring with the neon stripes. The neon red and turquoise blue coloring help to make them one of the most popular and recognizable fish among hobbyists.

The Neon Tetra has a vibrant red stripe that stretches from their caudal fin, all the way up to the middle of their bodies. There is also a turquoise blue stripe that extends from its adipose fin to its eyes. The small, rounded adipose fin is located between the dorsal fin and the tail. 

With the exception of their iridescent stripes, their bodies are almost transparent. In the wild, this transparency helps them hide from their predators. If they begin to feel threatened, they will even mute their blue and red iridescent stripes to keep them safe from predators. When they are sick or sleeping, their neon stripes will fade, as well. The vibrant iridescence is also used to help the Neon Tetras locate each other in water conditions that are unclear and murky. 

Their body is spindle-shaped with a rounded nose and large eyes that take up the majority of the space on their head. The average size of the Neon Tetra is approximately 1.5 inches, but they have been known to grow up to 2.5 inches. The females tend to be slightly shorter than the male Neon Tetras.

Cardinal Tetra vs. Neon Tetra

The Cardinal and the Neon Tetra’s appearances are so similar that they are often mistaken for one another. But once you know what to look for, you can easily distinguish one from the other. 

The Cardinal Tetra’s red stripe extends across the full length of its lower body, beneath the turquoise blue stripe. The red stripe goes all the way from its eye are to the tail area. However, the Neon Tetra’s red stripe starts below the dorsal fin and runs along the body to the tail.

The Neon Tetra has been around longer than the Cardinal Tetra for aquariums and tends to be slightly less expensive than the Cardinal. The Cardinal Tetras are usually a bit larger than their Neon cousins, as well. The Neon Tetra does best with soft, acidic water that has a pH of 6.0 – 6.5, with a hardness level of 5 – 10 dGH. 

The Cardinal Tetra has exceeded the Neon Tetras in popularity, and with the aquarium trade, they are primarily in high demand these days. Because of their popularity, sellers will often price them a little higher than their less vibrant, smaller cousins. They also prefer the soft acidic water like the Neons do, but Cardinals specifically prefer a pH that is below 6, with a hardness level that is below 5 dGH. 

Habitat and Tank Requirements

In their natural habitat, the wild Neon Tetra can be found in the clearwater as well as the blackwater of the Amazon tributaries in Peru, Columbia, and Brazil. They like dark waters and dense roots and vegetation. They do not like bright lights, preferring dim hiding places such as driftwoods and rocks. Driftwoods also soften, as well as darken the water. 

For the aquarium environment, you can mimic the Neon Tetra’s natural habitat by placing a dark substrate along the bottom of the tank, and even a dark background along the rear and sides of the tank. You can fill the tank with lots of plants, especially the floating varieties, if possible.

Neon Tetras are partial to tall plants such as the Cryptocoryne Wendtii, Cabomba, Vallisneria, Brazilian Pennywort (can also be a floating plant), and the Ludwigia Repens. They love floating plants such as red river floaters, dwarf water lettuce, and frogbit. They like to swim around in the hanging roots of these plants.

If you add live plants to your tank, they will help you by removing nitrates from your tank’s water. They are beautiful and functional – a perfect combination.

If you would rather not bother with the upkeep of live plants, then the tall fake ones are an option for you as well. As for any other kind of tank decor, that’s really up to you and what you prefer. The Neon Tetras don’t typically hide in caves or even stake out a territory. 

Neon Tetras do best when they can school together with at least six other Neons, but the more, the merrier for this fish. For this reason, you shouldn’t put them in anything smaller than a 10-gallon tank. However, the Neon Tetra tends to be more striking when they can school together in larger groups, which requires a tank bigger than 10-gallons. A larger tank will allow the school to swim back and forth in the tank beautifully, rather than a smaller tank with the school huddling together. 

Also, a taller tank will give them more area to move around in and feel comfortable since they inhabit the middle of the water column. When planning for the lighting in your aquarium, make sure you go with more subdued lighting. You can use a low wattage fluorescent light should be used. A good rule of thumb is two watts per gallon. 

Neon Tetras will only produce a tiny bio load, and because of this, their filtering should be minimal as well. You can use a regular sponge filter for their tank. Water changes should take place each week, with a 25% water change. Don’t go overboard with the water changes, though. Too many changes in your tank water could harm and possibly even kill your Neon Tetras.

Water Parameters

It’s always best to try to mimic a fish’s natural environment. For the Neon Tetra, that means mimicking the waters of the Amazon river basin. The water should be soft and slightly acidic, with conditions as follows:

  • The temperature should be between 72°-76°F (22.2°-24.4°C)
  • Ammonia levels should be 0 ppm
  • Nitrite levels should be 0 ppm
  • Nitrate levels should be less than 20 ppm
  • pH levels should be between 6-7
  • GH levels should be less than 10 dGH (<166.7 ppm)
  • KH levels should be between 1-2 dKH (17.8- 35.8ppm)

Do not use aragonite sand for your substrate. Because it’s made of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), it will leach bot calcium and carbonate into your tank’s water, raising the pH, KH, and GH levels.

Diet and Feeding

When they are in their natural habitat in the wild, the Neon Tetras are omnivores, meaning they will eat meat and plant/vegetable matter. In order to keep your Neon Tetras healthy and happy, you should mimic this kind of diet in their tank. 

You want to feed them a balanced diet of high-quality flake food and the sinking micro-pellets. For a treat, you can feed them frozen or freeze-dried bloodworms as well as frozen brine shrimp. If you want, you can raise brine shrimp yourself inexpensively. That way, you will always have live food in order to supplement their diets.

Because the Neon Tetras are active and they have a higher energy requirement than others, you should feed them about once a day. You could even divide their meal and feed them half in the morning and the other half in the evening.

Neon Tetra Tank Mates

The Neon Tetra is a small and peaceful fish and will do best with fish that have a similar personality. Some good choice for tankmates are:

  • Snails
  • Freshwater shrimp, such as red/black crystal, red cherry, or the ghost shrimp
  • Rainbow fish, which can grow over 6 inches but are peaceful and non-aggressive
  • Bristlenose or Clown plecos
  • Otoclinus Catfish
  • Corydoras Catfish
  • Platies and other livebearers such as guppies and endlers
  • Other species of Tetras such as Cardinal Tetras, Black Neons, and Black Skirt Tetras

Avoid aggressive and even semi-aggressive fish because they will bully the Neon Tetras. You also need to be aware that fish will eat anything small enough to fit into their mouths, so you don’t want to put larger fish like the Arowana or Oscar in the tank with them. You might not see your Neon Tetras again!

Can You Keep Neon Tetras Together?

Your Neon Tetras need to be kept in a school of other Tetras, as large a group as you can manage. When they are in their natural habitat in the wild, they will shoal together in large numbers, sometimes ranging in the thousands.

The Neon Tetra will become unhappy and stressed if there aren’t that many of them. They will feel more secure, less threatened in larger numbers. You need an absolute minimum of six Neon Tetras preferably more, lots more! Anything less than this will have them becoming nervous, and they could get aggressive with each other.

Diseases

There is a disease called the Neon Tetra disease, which is caused by Pleistophora hyphessobryconis, a protozoan organism. The disease was first identified in Neon Tetras, thus the name. However, this disease can also affect other Tetras and even completely different species. 

Neons can become infected by eating food that has been contaminated, such as live tubifex worms, which are known to carry the protozoan’s spores. Or they could become infected from feeding on a dead fish that was already infected. 

Currently, there is no cure for the disease, and if your fish become infected, they will die. The parasite will start eating the muscles of the intestinal tract, starting from the inside out.

Symptoms of Neon Tetra Disease Include:

  • A sudden loss of color
  • Fish stop schooling with others and hide
  • Irregular swimming patterns
  • Lack of coordination
  • Dwelling along the bottom of the tank
  • Developing cysts on their stomach
  • Stomach shrinkage and loss of mass
  • White patches on the body
  • Lumps under the skin
  • Spinal deformities

Chances are if one of your fish becomes infected with the Neon Tetra Disease, your other fish will have it as well. Unfortunately, it is recommended that you destroy all of the other fish in your tank once one fish is infected.

In order to prevent this from happening to your tank, you should maintain the tank’s water temperatures properly. Make sure you inspect and quarantine any new fish prior to adding them to your main aquarium tank. Make sure that all of the live organisms and fish that you add to your tank are disease-free and healthy before putting them in your tank.

Breeding

Breeding the Neon Tetra can be challenging because they require specific water conditions in order to ‘trigger’ its mating season. Due to the challenge, they are not the ideal fish for beginner aquarists looking to experiment with fish breeding in their home aquarium.

However, you may be rewarded with persistence. The first thing you need to do is to distinguish the males from the females. For the males, their blue stripes are straighter than the females because they have a slimmer, flatter stomach. The females have a bit of curve to their stripe because their bellies are rounder.

Once you have determined the male from the female, you need to place each of them into a separate breeding tank. The water conditions in the breeding tank should be slightly different than those of their main tank. The pH level should be lowered to between 5.0 – 6.0, and the temperature should be dropped to 75°F.

When spawning, the female will scatter approximately 100 eggs around, and the male will go behind her and fertilize them. Once the male has fertilized the eggs, you will need to remove both the male and the female from the breeding tank. Tetras are not known for carrying for their young. Instead, they tend to eat them.

You will want to keep the tank dark when you are raising eggs and fry. The Neon Tetras eggs are very light sensitive. Bright lights will actually kill them. It is best to keep the breeding tank as dark as possible for several weeks until the fry are strong enough to be transferred to the main tank.

Once the fry have hatched from their eggs, they will eat their egg sacks for several days. Once the egg sacks are gone, about 2 – 3 days, you should start feeding them tiny pieces of food.

Is the Neon Tetra Right for Your Aquarium?

Because these fish are so vibrant and make such beautiful schools together, they are trendy among the aquarium hobbyists today. 

Just remember to keep them in a group, the more, the merrier. They may be too sensitive for a cycling tank, but in an established tank, you can enjoy these brilliant fish for many years. 

These little electric-neon-looking fish are dazzling to watch as they swim around your tank, schooling together. They are non-aggressive and will get along with other peaceful fish. They make wonderful additions to your friendly community tank.

Michele Taylor
Michele Taylor

Hello, fellow aquarists! My name is Michele Taylor, and I am a homeschool mother of six children, which includes five boys and one girl. Growing up, our family had a large aquarium with angelfish, goldfish, and lots of different varieties of neons.

Redtail Catfish 101: Tank Mates, Diet, Size, and More…

If you like the idea of caring for the Redtail Catfish, and you are committed to providing your fish with everything it needs for a healthy and happy life, then they will make a very unique and beautiful addition to your home aquarium or pond.

This care guide will give you all the information you need in order to educate yourself on everything about the beautiful Redtail Catfish so that you can decide for yourself whether you are ready for the commitment of caring for a Redtail Catfish.

Redtail Catfish Care Guide

Species Profile

The Redtail Catfish belongs to the Phractocephalus hemioliopterus species and is a member of the pimelodid catfish family, which are the long-whiskered catfish. It is, in fact, the only living member of the Phractocephalus species left.

They are often referred to as an RTC, the flat-nosed Catfish, the banana catfish, as well as the antenna catfish.

A native to South America, the Redtail Catfish live in the Amazonian freshwater river basins, streams, and lakes in Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, as well as other nearby countries. 

Redtails Catfish Appearance

The South American Redtail Catfish is considered to be the most attractive fish of its species. It’s caudal and dorsal fins have an orange-red color, which gives it its name. Along the sides of the dark grey and brown body, there is a wavy band of pale yellow or white that stretches down the length of the body. For juveniles, this band reaches all the way to the mouth, but in adults, it breaks up close to the mouth.

The body is cylindrical in shape, a flat, white belly, and laterally compressed red tail. It also has two pairs of unusually long barbels (whiskers) located on the bottom jaw and one pair located on the upper jaw. 

Beginning life around 5cm in size, the Redtail Catfish starts out small but grows larger quickly when it’s taken care of and well-fed and can grow an impressive inch every week when they are young. By the time they are a year old, most are approximately two feet long. They can reach up to 1.8 m (5ft, 11in) in length, and they can weigh around 80 kg (180 lbs).  

Beware of your pet store telling you that the Redtail Catfish will stop growing when it reaches 12 inches in your aquarium. Do not believe the lie that a fish will not outgrow its tank; they will, and they do. This is a dangerous myth amongst the hobby aquarist. They can grow to over four feet in home aquariums, even more massive when left to grow wild in nature.

Because of the large sizes they can grow to, the Redtail Catfish is considered by anglers to be a game fish. A challenge to catch, they can use their size and strength to put up an impressive fight and test the competency of any angler. The International Game Fish Association’s world record for weight belongs to Gilberto Fernandes from Brazil with a catch of 56 kg (123 lbs, 7 oz) that was 63 inches long.

Behavior

When the Redtail Catfish is young, they can be nonsocial, shy even. In order to help them overcome their shyness, you could provide areas for them to hang out in, such as caves and dens. It would help if you also kept the tank out in the open where you will be spending a lot of your time so that they can become accustomed to seeing you and interacting with you. 

These fish like to swim at the bottom of the aquarium. As adults, they may stay motionless for long periods of time. Due to their stealth capability and fully evolved receptors, the RedTail Catfish is a predator that will wait patiently for its prey.

These fish have a nasty habit of putting things in their mouths and sometimes swallowing them, which results in them regurgitating the object later. This habit is dangerous for the fish and can sometimes cause them to choke and die. Do not put anything in their tank that will fit into their mouths.

They are territorial with their own kind as well as others from the catfish family. However, they can be good community fish if they are in a tank with fish that are their same size. In the vast public aquariums, the Redtail Catfish can exist peacefully in large groups, but it’s because they are in tanks that are large enough for the fish to have its own territory.

They are not venomous, but they are highly predatory towards anything that is smaller than them, especially shrimp, crabs, and other crustaceans.

Redtails Catfish Tank Mates

Redtails Catfish are natural predators who will attack and eat smaller fish. Because of this, they are best housed on their own. However, if you do decide to get another fish, you need to pick one that will not fit into the Redtail Catfish’s mouth. 

They don’t have any problems eating something that is half their size, and sometimes, the more aggressive ones will try to eat something that is nearly their size but slightly smaller. This habit is dangerous and could cause them to choke and perhaps even die.

Because they will eat any fish that is smaller in size than them, other fish should include ones that are as big as the Redtail Catfish, or bigger. Suitable tanks mates include Datnoids, Stingrays, and Gars. It is also ideal to raise them together from the time they are juveniles.

Food & Feeding

The Amazon natives will not eat the Redtail Catfish because the meat is black in color. The natives will only eat white meat according to Aquarium Fishes of the World (1998) by Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod. The native Amazonians have been crossbreeding the Redtail Catfish other fish species in order to develop a viable food fish. Some of the fish they have hybridized are the Tiger Redtail Catfish.

As for what they eat themselves, the Redtail Catfish are not picky about what they eat. In fact, if it will fit in their mouth, they’ll try to eat it. They will eat stones, gravel, filter parts, aquarium decor, and basically anything that is loose.

Although these fish are omnivorous, they do prefer meatier foods, high in protein, such as cut meat and fish, cockles, mussels, lance fish, crayfish, earthworms, shrimp, and sinking carnivore pellets. Adult fish will also quickly eat an entire white fish, as well. 

In order to ensure your Redtail Catfish is being fed the best possible diet, you could also consider making their food yourself. You should include fruits and vegetables regularly to even out their diet. 

It’s also worthy to note that crustaceans are wonderful color enhancers that will bring out the signature red in the Catfish’s tail.

Another feeding option is live feeds, although they are not necessary. They tend to be more expensive compared to other sources of more nutritional and healthier choices. Before buying the feeders, make sure you are getting them from a reputable source. 

Quite often, feeders are grown in crowded and unsuitable conditions. These conditions can cause them to have very little, sometimes no nutritional value. The feeders could also harbor parasites and diseases, which could potentially affect your fish. Live feeders can also more expensive.

Do not feed them the meat from mammals. Meat such as chicken and beef heart contain lipids that they can’t metabolize properly. Excess deposits of fat, as well as organ degeneration, can occur as a result of feeding them these kinds of meat. 

Be careful that you do not overfeed. After each feed, they become quite sluggish while their body digests their food correctly. The juvenile Redtails Catfish needs to be fed every other day, while the adults will only need to be fed one large meal a week.

When you become more familiar with them, you will begin to notice signs of them being sluggish and active. As you learn their habits, you will also learn when the best time to feed them is. You can also train them to eat food from your hands.

Breeding

Redtail Catfish juveniles are impossible to distinguish males from females. When they are housed together in a home aquarium, they will not breed. There are no documented cases of these fish are being successfully bred in an aquarium. This might have to do with the Redtail Catfish’s territorial nature when it comes to other Catfish. However, by using hormones, some South American fisheries have accomplished breeding these fish. Some of them make it into the aquarium trade, but most are used primarily as a food source.

When in their natural environment, they will breed the same way as other Catfish do. It is also oviparous (meaning it lays eggs that hatch later). They like to have places to nestle down into the weeds and rocks. They also prefer the water temperature to be around 75-80℉ (24-27℃) 

The female Redtail Catfish will choose a secluded place that is also a flat surface to lay her eggs. The spot should be well guarded from predators. The female can lay anywhere from a couple of hundred eggs to roughly 21,000 eggs in just one spawning. Redtails Catfish that are younger and smaller will lay fewer eggs than the full-size adults. They are the ones that lay the greatest amount of eggs.

In order to fertilize the eggs, the male will then spray the spawned eggs with his sperm. The eggs will then hatch in approximately ten days. We are not sure whether it’s the male or the female that safeguards the eggs while they hatch, but one of them does. The male will then guard the fry for another week before they are ready to strike out on their own.

Tank Setup

Because of the size, the Redtail Catfish can grow to, the absolute minimum tank size should be 1,000 gallons, which should be 12x4x3. But when the fish becomes an adult and reaches its full size, a 1,500-gallon tank or larger will be needed. Remember, this is just for one fish! For this reason, a lot of people choose indoor ponds instead of aquariums, which are more appropriate for this size of fish.

The juvenile Redtail Catfish grows very fast, up to one inch a week, within the first two years of its life. Because of this, they will need a large tank within a year. However, upgrading to a larger tank can be stressful for your fish. To help ease the stress, you can transfer the tank water from the old tank to the new tank to make sure the water parameters stay the same, and your fish doesn’t go into shock. 

You can even have material transferred from the old filter to the new filter to help with cycling the tank. The nitrification cycle should be completed prior to transferring the fish.

If you choose to display any decor in the tank, make sure it doesn’t have any parts that could be swallowed by your Redtail Catfish. The decor will need to be as large as your fish to keep them from putting it in their mouths and trying to eat it. 

Because of this habit, they are likely to destroy any decor you put in your tank, or at the very least, rearrange the entire tank. If you do decide you want decor in your tank, your best bet is to go with large branches and big rocks that won’t fit in their mouths. A tank with nothing on the bottom is best. However, if you don’t like that look, you could put sand down on the bottom of the tank. But you should take into consideration that an empty tank will be easier to clean.

Since these are not social fish, the lighting should be more subdued. If this isn’t an option, make sure you have plenty of caves or dens for the fish to find comfort and hide in.

These massive fish have been known to try to eat heaters and filters, which could kill them if they succeed. It’s best to use external heaters and filters so that the fish won’t be able to get to them.

The water temperature should be between 68.0 to 79.0° F (20.0 to 26.1° C), with the pH range between 5.5-7.2. The hardness range should be around 3 – 12 dGH. Also, the water should not be brackish.

Diseases are much more common in unclean environments, they do best with a large sump filter system that will keep the water circulating and clean. If the water is not clean, they will swim to the top and gulp air before swimming back to the bottom of the tank. When you see this happening, you will know that the quality of the water is deteriorating, and you will need to check your water parameters. It is necessary to change the water by 30% each week. This will help keep your fish healthy and happy.

How to Care for the Redtail Catfish

The Redtail Catfish may be a hardy fish, but they susceptible to the same diseases as other tropical fish. Because they are a kind of resilient fish, diseases are usually not an issue in a well-maintained aquarium.

However, there are some conditions that can harm them, such as high nitrate levels. This can cause infection on the barbels, which makes it difficult for them to eat and navigate normally. The water nitrate should remain at levels below 20 ppm with regular water changes.

As always, use all medications with caution. Catfish are extremely sensitive to medicines. It’s best to treat them with melafix and pimafix because they are a scaleless fish. Do not try to treat them with copper-based medications or potassium permanganate. Formalin and malachite green can be used, but only at one-half to one-fourth of the recommended dosage. 

By giving your Redtail Catfish a well-balanced diet and the proper environment, you can proactively prevent your fish from contracting any diseases. Keeping them in a habitat that is close to their natural habitat will avoid unnecessary stress and result in happy and healthy fish. Keeping them stress-free is essential because a stressed fish will be more susceptible to diseases. 

Be careful what you put in your tank. Anything you add can bring diseases to your tank. Plants, substrate, decorations, and even other fish can harbor harmful bacteria. You must properly clean and quarantine anything that you add to an established tank in order to avoid adding a disease to the tank.

Should You Keep a Redtail Catfish?

The Redtail Catfish may start out small and cute, but they grow big, and they grow quickly. When they are fed well and taken care of properly, they will promptly outgrow most aquarists’ tanks. Once that happens, one option the aquarist has is to donate the Redtail Catfish to a zoo or public aquarium. However, these organizations do not always accept large, privately kept fish. 

If cared for properly, the Redtail Catfish can live approximately twenty years or more. Because of their long-life span and their size, they are mainly kept by experienced, professional aquarists. If you are not confident that you can care for the Redtail Catfish for the duration of its life, you might consider looking at smaller fish.

So, the question is, can you provide the Redtail Catfish with the best life possible for the duration of their life? This includes a tank that is large enough for them to swim around in as full-size adults, or preferably an indoor pond. You will need to commit to taking the time to properly feed them and change their water regularly, as well as researching and caring for the fish.

Michele Taylor
Michele Taylor

Hello, fellow aquarists! My name is Michele Taylor, and I am a homeschool mother of six children, which includes five boys and one girl. Growing up, our family had a large aquarium with angelfish, goldfish, and lots of different varieties of neons.

The Ultimate Glass Catfish Care Guide 2020: Tank Mates, Breeding and More…

Glass Catfish Care Guide

These amazingly transparent fish have become super popular with hobby aquarists. And it’s no wonder! The Glass Catfish is the perfect fish to add that special pizazz to your tank that will make everyone envious. 

Originating from the brackish waters of South East Asia in Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Thailand, these fish are most at home in aquariums full of vegetation and other peaceful fish, such as the Tetras. This kind of environment mimics their natural habitat, creating a peacefully calm environment that mirrors their nature.

Species Profile overview (lifespan, size, etc.)

Sharing various common names with other species of skeleton catfish, the Glass Catfish is also known as the Phantom Catfish and the Ghost Catfish.

This popular species of aquarium fish are known as Kryptopterus vitreolus, not to be confused with the larger, more aggressive Glass Catfish known as the Kryptopterus bicirrhis. These more aggressive catfish are no longer popular among the aquarium hobbyists and have now become quite rare in the aquarium trade.

Kryptopterus means’ hidden fin,’ which refers to the Glass Catfish’s barely visible tail fin. Kryptos is Greek for hidden, and pterýgio means fin. Because of their transparent bodies, you can see their organs and bones, which makes them an exciting addition to your tank.

Typically, people tend to think of catfish as the large ugly freshwater fish that feed on the bottom of the streams and lakes. But the Glass Catfish defies that image. They still have a pair of barbels that belong to the catfish family, but these fish are not bottom feeders. They love to swim all around the tank and will school together with other Glass Catfish. 

When they are first introduced to the tank, they can be somewhat timid because of their peaceful nature. They may even stick around the bottom of the tank, hiding in the vegetation and tank decor. But within a few weeks, they will become comfortable in your tank and begin to swim around the middle of the tank. They are active swimmers and bring a fantastic liveliness to the tank.

In order to avoid bright, direct lights, these fish will hide in the tank’s vegetation and plants, so make sure they have plenty to choose from. 

If you take care of them properly, a healthy Glass Catfish can live up to eight years old.

Typical Behavior

The Glass Catfish loves to school together with other Glass Catfish, which creates a fantastic show of skeleton-looking fish swimming and dancing around your tank!

These fish are not limited to the bottom of the tank like others in its species. The Glass Catfish enjoy swimming energetically around the entire aquarium but stick mainly to the middle. They make wonderful additions to a peaceful community tank, keeping mostly to themselves or schooling together, hiding only when they have been disturbed.

Some of them can even detect an electromagnetic wave, which fascinates scientists who are trying to comprehend how this information can benefit patients with Parkinson’s and Epilepsy. They respond to the electromagnetic field because they have the Electromagnetic Perceptive Gene (EPG) protein. 

According to recent studies, the Glass Catfish may be able to help and possibly strengthen the treatment for anyone suffering from Parkinson’s disease. In the future, Parkinson’s patients might be able to receive an injection of the EPG in a specific region. This injection may help keep the tremors in check and help to control the patient’s disease.

Appearance

The most apparent attribute for the Glass Catfish is its transparency, which allows you to see its skeleton and organs. Down the entire length of their body, you can see the central spinal column and their vertical ribs.

With a laterally compressed, elongated body and sub-terminal silver mouth, they have a lower jaw that protrudes a bit. It also has an extended anal fin that is large, clean, transparent, crescent-shaped, and runs the length of the Glass Catfish from the caudal fin to its head. The anal fin has approximately 48 to 55 fin rays. 

The Glass Catfish is a unique fish that lacks body pigmentation, scales, and a dorsal fin. There is a spot along their back where their dorsal fin should be that is slightly raised. The two fins that make it possible for them to swim up and down in the water column, their ventral and tail fins, are barely visible. They have long slender bodies and grow to be about five inches long.

Their transparency is not just for looks. It also serves as camouflage to keep them safe from predators. This transparency makes them hard to see, which in turn makes them harder to eat! 

Like most catfish, the Glass Catfish has the characteristic barbels on their head, which extend out from their nose and past their face. The barbels look similar to the whiskers on a cat, hence the name catfish. The barbels cause them to be remarkably sensitive to any changes in their environment.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

Originating from Thailand, the Glass Catfish lived in moderately moving streams and rivers. Without straying too far from the river and stream beds, they stay mostly in the middle of the water column. Because the water in rivers tends to be on the murky side, the Glass Catfish relies on its barbels quite heavily to keep it safe within these kinds of environments. 

Another intelligent survival adaptation is the Glass Catfish’s camouflage. Because of the transparency of its skin, it can be difficult to distinguish these fish from debris when visibility is low, and the water conditions are poor.

The Ideal Tank Conditions

It’s essential for the Glass Catfish to feel as at home in an aquarium as it would in a stream or river. These fish live up to their moniker because of their fragility when it comes to water conditions. They don’t do well with fluctuations in the pH, temperature, or any additional chemical fluctuations. If you don’t keep the water conditions within the proper parameters, they will die.

Plants and vegetation will help keep the water clean while providing hiding places for the fish, and will also feed other organisms that live in your tank, as well. The hardy Hornwort, Java Moss and Java Fern are all great choices for adding to your tank. Either sand or small gravel is preferred to the larger gravel or sharp substrates that can possibly damage their barbels.

Tank Setup (size, temperament, pH, lighting, etc.)

As mentioned above, these fish do not do well when there are fluctuations in the pH levels, temperatures, or additional chemical changes in their tank water. Tank conditions need to be just right for the Glass Catfish to stay healthy and thrive.

Water Conditions:

  • Temperatures should be between 75-80°F
  • Hardness should be between KH 8-12
  • pH should be between 6.5-7.0
  • Water flow should be moderate

Because of the stringent water conditions these fish need, they are a bit more challenging to care for than other beginner species that are easy to care for.

The Glass Catfish will thrive in a 30-gallon tank or larger. With such a large tank, they will have ample room to swim around in the middle regions of the aquarium. This size tank will also give you an abundance of space to add vegetation, plants, and decor for them to hide in if disturbed. 

How Many Can Be Kept Per Gallon?

Because they love to school together, it’s ideal to have at least six or more Glass Catfish in a 30-gallon tank, which is equivalent to keeping one Glass Catfish for every five gallons of water. They need ample space. Otherwise, you may be risking their health. 

Various diseases and growth defects can occur if your tank is overcrowded. For this situation, the saying, ‘Less is more,’ is appropriate. There are times when having less fish is better, especially if all of them are healthy and happy in their environment.

Glass Catfish Tank Mates

The Glass Catfish is the perfect addition to any community tank. Just in case you are unsure of what that means, community tanks are filled with peaceful fish of various species that live well together and are not aggressive and attack others.

Celestial Pearl Danios, Mollies, and Swordtails are the perfect tank mates for the Glass Catfish, as well as Tetras, Dwarf Gouramis, Dwarf Cichlids, Loricarids, Platies, Kribensis, Loaches, Hachetfish, Corydoras, and the Redtailed Shark. They also do well with some larger Gourami, Angelfish, and Silver Dollars

These tankmates are all peaceful fish who will not try to outcompete your Glass Catfish. They are also easy to keep and will get along great with your catfish. You could begin with them, adding more fish when you are ready.

One of the things you don’t want in your community tank is an aggressive fish. They are known to attack the peaceful, slower fish. Also, the aggressive fish will compete for food, which can cause slower fish to slowly starve to death as they struggle to find food and compete with the more aggressive fish for food.

Aggressive fish such as sharks and Tiger Barbs will not work in your community tank. The same goes for fish such as Oscars and Cichlids. These are aggressive fish that will attack your fish and eat them, as well.

It’s vital to these fish’s health and well-being to keep them together. When together, they will form intimate social groups similar to the way they do in the wild, so mimicking that is vital. Keeping only one of these Glass Catfish in your tank could lead to that fish dying from stress and unhappiness.

Diet and Food

When in their natural habitat in the wild, the Glass Catfish mainly eat invertebrates, small worms, and zooplankton. Even though they inhabit the middle of the water column, they can be selective feeders. They have been known to eat mosquito larvae and baby guppies, as well.

You can replicate their feeding environment with the use of frozen or live foods such as Moina, Brine Shrimp, Daphnia, and Grindal worms. However, in your aquarium tank, they will eat a wide variety of foods that includes flakes and pellets. You could even consider making your own fish food to ensure your fish are eating the absolute best ingredients, and they have the best diet possible.

As they eat, you will want to keep an eye on them, making sure that they are actually eating the food that you are feeding them. Also, watch for any aggressive fish that could be bullying them and competing for their food. 

Because of their timid nature, it’s vital to ensure they are eating the food that you are feeding them. Other species of fish, even the peaceful ones, can sometimes be more alert and proactive when getting to the food and eating, which could possibly scare your catfish away. 

Once you identify any fish that are causing issues during feeding, you can then take steps to ensure your catfish gets the food it needs. One thing you can do is to feed the side of the tank that has the active fish before adding any food to the other side of the tank for your catfish. Doing this ensures that the more active fish will get to eat first, and the slower, more timid fish will have plenty of time to eat on their own.

These fish will stay healthy and happy if you feed them once or twice daily. You will want only to feed them what they will eat in a couple of minutes. Make sure there is no food leftover. Overfeeding your fish can cause excess nutrients in your aquarium tank, which will lead to an infestation of bacteria and algae.

Breeding

In their natural habitat, in the wild, the Glass Catfish will spawn seasonally, usually during heavy rain times. To mimic this in a tank setting, you will need to reduce the water temperature to about 73°F, while daily adding small amounts of freshwater. These conditions, the lower temperature, and the daily freshwater mimic the rainy season, making the catfish believe it’s time to breed.

When in the wild, the Glass Catfish has an abundance of live food during the breeding season, which gives them the energy they need to spawn. You will want to do the same and provide them with an abundance of live food when breeding them in your aquarium tank. 

When you have successfully bred these fish, the female will then spread the eggs all along the vegetation and plants in your aquarium. It takes about 3 to 4 days for the eggs to hatch. Although the newly hatched fry are tiny, they are still big enough to feed on baby brine shrimp.

Distinguishing the male from the female can be challenging. The male Glass Catfish are only slightly smaller than the females, with the females having a larger stomach for storing her eggs.

Glass Catfish Care Guide

The biggest challenge when taking care of the Glass Catfish is making sure the water conditions stay within the proper levels. Maintaining the strict water parameters makes these fish harder to keep healthy for novices and beginner aquarists.

In order to limit any risk or harm to your fish, you will need to make sure that you add them to an already established tank that has been cycled. There are any diseases or illnesses that are specific to the Glass Catfish, but they are susceptible to the common sicknesses that can affect aquariums, such as:

  • Ich, which is a grainy, white matter on their skin that resembles sand. It can also cause them to gasp for air at the surface of the tank.
  • Dropsy, which is the fish bloat up and their scales start protruding.
  • Fungus looks like white/gray growth on the fins.
  • Lice cause the fish to become restless and start rubbing themselves on the tank walls and other surfaces to try and remove the lice.

As mentioned previously, keeping the water parameters within the proper levels, avoiding overfeeding them, changing the water on a regular basis will go a long way to ensuring your Glass Catfish are not exposed to any of the above illnesses.

Another critical thing to remember is always to quarantine the fish you purchased prior to adding them to your community tank. The purpose of the quarantine is to observe the fish and ensure that they are not already ill.

Is a Glass Catfish Suitable for your Aquarium?

If you are a beginner aquarist, don’t be pulled in by the appeal of owning some Glass Catfish. They look easy to care for, but they are challenging and will require more work and attention that other beginner fish would.

The tank conditions must be within the proper range and water conditions or your Glass Catfish could be adversely affected. These fish can be more challenging than a beginner aquarist is ready for and they are not right for everyone. 

However, if you are an experienced aquarist and are ready to take on the challenge of keeping your Glass Catfish healthy and happy in your community tank, then they will make a great addition to your aquarium. Because of their transparency, these fish will give your tank an exciting and unique look that others will envy.

Michele Taylor
Michele Taylor

Hello, fellow aquarists! My name is Michele Taylor, and I am a homeschool mother of six children, which includes five boys and one girl. Growing up, our family had a large aquarium with angelfish, goldfish, and lots of different varieties of neons.