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Emperor Tetra

(Nematobrycon palmeri)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Easy   • Temperament: Peaceful   • Maximum Size: 2"
• Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons   • Water Conditions: 74-82° F; pH 5.5-7.5; dH 1-12
• Diet: Omnivore   • Origin: Rio San Juan, Rio Atrato, Colombia   • Family: Characidae
• Species: Tetras   • Aquarium Type: Community

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Species Information

Emperor Tetra native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

The Emperor Tetra (Nematobrycon palmeri) are widespread throughout the Rio San Juan and Rio Atrato river basins in Colombia. Due to their attractive coloration, ease of care and adaptability to the aquarium environment, Emperor Tetra have become very popular within the aquarium trade. So much so that they are now commonly bred in Southeast Asia in huge numbers in order to satisfy the demand for them within the hobby.

The peaceful disposition and adult size of 2 inches (5cm) of the Emperor Tetra makes them suitable tank mates for a wide range of tropical community fish species. While they are large enough to not be eaten by Angelfish, Gourami, smaller Catfish and Sharks species, they are also very peaceful and will not harm other smaller or delicate tank mates.

As most Emperor Tetras sold within the hobby are captive bred specimens, they are quite tolerant to a wide range of water conditions and aquarium setups. However, they will do best when housed in aquariums that emulate their native Amazonian habitat.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Emperor Tetra in the home aquarium.

The natural river habitat of the Emperor Tetra is comprised of slowly moving river tributaries that with leaf covered river bottoms, plenty of tree root structures, filtered light from the jungle canopy above and a soft sandy river substrate. The waters of their natural habitat are also stained a brown tea color from the fallen leaves of the jungle canopy above.

Ideally aquariums housing Emperor Tetra should have areas containing root structures, some vegetation, diffused lighting in some areas and low to moderate water currents. While this species can adapt to a variety of tropical community aquarium habitats, they should be provided with some key elements of their own natural habitat.

Most importantly some areas of the aquarium should contain wood root, plants and low water currents. Aquariums with darker substrates and dense vegetation will help bring out better coloration in the Emperor Tetra and provide them with a good sense of security.

It is highly recommended to buy a group of at least 6 to 10 or more individuals of these and other native schooling fish species. Shoaling species by nature will fare much better when in the company of its own kind, and will be much more active swimmers and spend more time out and about where they can be enjoyed.

Despite being a very peaceful species, rival males will squabble over control of the group from time to time, but no serious damage is done during their battles. In larger aquariums these battles will be very few and far between if at all, as there will generally be plenty of territory for a large group or multiple smaller groups of Emperor Tetra to coexist.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to properly feed Emperor Tetra and provide a healthy diet.

In their native habitat, Emperor Tetra feed primarily on small invertebrates and insect larvae along the banks of their native river homes. However, they will easily adapt to commercial fish foods and readily accept a variety of flake, crisp, freeze-dried, frozen or live foods.

A typical tropical species staple flake will satisfy their complete nutritional needs; however, they can be offered bloodworms, brine or other similar foodstuffs to give them some variety in their diet. Ideally the Emperor Tetra should be fed 2 to 3 times per day small amounts of food that they will consume within a 5 minute period.

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