I know they are widely recommended as tank mates for bettas, but I have a couple questions.
1) With a male betta, if I want to leave room for a handful of ghost shrimp, how many would be recommended? 5 at absolute minimum obviously, but how many more could I safely go with? (I've a 10gal w/ HOB filter)
2) I'm having a hard time tracking any of these down! Have any of you ever seen them for sale at any of the big chains? If not, where do those of you who recommend them purchase them from?
I'd do 7. Embers need soft water, and preferably a lower pH. They will be pale if kept in a higher pH. It's important to choose a fish that will work in your params. If you have harder water, endler livebearers would be a better choice in a 10 gallon. Here are ember tetra param requirements: http://www.seriouslyfish.com/profile.php?id=462
I'm not sure yet, I'm in the middle of cycling. I'm honestly just trying to get a general idea currently so I know what to budget for cost wise. I'm not entirely sure if there are any parameters I could provide you with right now that would be helpful. Let me know if I'm being clueless/missing something here, please.
I'll have to double check my Ph and hardness/softness. I just tested everything the other day, but I've moved so many times in the last 4 years I don't know if what I'm remembering is for here or another place. I need to start a notebook!
Thanks for the other suggestions as well, I had also considered Endlers so its nice to know those would work too. How many of those would you recommend?
You should take a water sample to your LPS/LFS that tests water. Ask them to check your water for pH and hardness or ask them what they are. We don't need the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, though cycling is good :)
I've a master test kit I just recently replaced any old indicators in, so I redid my GH and pH here. Did each test three times just to be sure of my readings. My water is quite soft and pH is right between a 7 and a 7.5
Soft water is great for Embers. :) I have them in my tank. My water is super soft with a pH of 6.8 (it used to be 7 and they did fine in that too). They really appreciate live plants in a tank, plenty of them, and it sets off their colours magnificently. I would go for 6-8 in a ten gallon with a betta.
Here in Australia I haven't seen these little beauties at any major shops - I found mine at a little LPS, and I've also seen them in the local aquarium society. Online may be your best bet.
I may have to shoot my LFS another email, see if they don't stock them/could get some for me. I really hate going in there though. The shop is primarily for marine tanks and they definitely seem to talk down to their freshwater customers. That aside, the owner is a total <insert your choice of four letter word here> who thinks he's the final, most expert word in anything and everything. Meanwhile all of his bettas are kept in bags with so little water or oxygen they're usually literally lying on their sides in a puddle whilst a baggie collapses in around them. Any display tanks set up for them are unheated, unfiltered, and usually around 2L, its miserable! Not really the sort of practices I'd like to condone with my business, but it might be more affordable for me to get them through him.
That's one thing I've noticed about saltwater shops - they think very little of freshwater, and only consider fish like cichlids worth keeping. Community fish and bettas are really looked down upon. Too "easy", I suppose.