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Rummy Nose Tetras – 3 species


Rummy Nose Tetra

Tetras are amongst the most popular aquarium fishes. There are probably more than 150 distinct species of tetra from which the aquarist may choose and this includes a large number of visually stunning fishes that are bound to enhance any home aquarium.

Is the Rummy Nose Tetra a good community fish? The Rummy Nose Tetra should be considered to be an excellent community fish and gets on with most species. It requires ”blackwater” chemistry throughout its life in order to be capable of breeding so, unless you are keeping them just for display then water chemistry is most important. It is also difficult to sex the Rummy Nose Tetra, making successful breeding all the more difficult.

Key Facts

CategoryKey Facts
Common name(s)Rummy Nose Tetra – three species, as follows:
True Rummy Nose Tetra – Hemigrammus rhodostomus
Brilliant (or Common) Rummy Nose Tetra – Hemigrammus bleheri
False Rummy Nose Tetra – Petitella georgiae
Scientific nameSee above
FamilyCharacidae
Originate fromTrue Rummy Nose Tetra is native to the Lower Amazon basin and Orinoco River
Brilliant (or Common) Rummy Nose Tetra – is native to the Rio Negro and Rio Meta basins
False Rummy Nose Tetra is native to the Upper Amazon basin in Peru, Rio Purus, Rio Negro and Rio Madeira basins
Care requiredEasy to care for and hugely popular
TemperamentPlacid, shoaling fish
Colour & FormSilver or pale gold body with red head and zebra-striped caudal fin – streamlined body
LifespanUp to 8 years
Adult sizeUp to 2.5 inches
DietOmnivorous – eat aquatic insect larvae in nature
Aquarium size24 inches in length or greater
Compatible withMost other Tetras, Barbs, Danios, Guppies and other livebearers, smaller Gouramis, catfish and loaches
Avoid keeping withLarge and/or aggressive species
BreedingEasy if you put the fish in the right environment.
Water temp75 – 84 Fahrenheit
Water pH5.5 to 7.4 (prefers “blackwater” conditions)
Water hardness (dGH or dH)Up to 10 dGH

Origins of the Rummy Nose Tetra

Tetras, as a “family” of fishes belonging to the biological family Characidae are found in nature in Africa, Central America and South America.

The Rummy Nose Tetra originates in South America. Having established this, you need to know that there are three distinct species of Rummy Nose Tetras as follows:

True Rummy Nose Tetra – Hemigrammus rhodostomus – has three distinct black, horizontal stripes on the caudal fin – is native to the Lower Amazon basin and Orinoco River

Brilliant (or Common) Rummy Nose Tetra – Hemigrammus bleheri – has five distinct black, horizontal stripes on the caudal fin – is native to the Rio Negro and Rio Meta basins

False Rummy Nose Tetra – Petitella georgiae – is similar to the above two species but is a distinct species in its own right – is native to the Upper Amazon basin in Peru, Rio Purus, Rio Negro and Rio Madeira basins. It isn’t really a Rummy Nose Tetra at all but is currently classified as being a Rummy Nose Tetra due to the similarities in form and colouring.

False Rummy Nose Tetra
False Rummy Nose Tetra – Petitella georgiae

I have elected to cover all three species in this single article in the hope that it will facilitate a simpler and clearer understanding of the differences for you, gentle reader.

Characteristics of the Rummy Nose Tetra

As you can see, the Rummy Nose Tetra is a stunning little fish. It has a slender body – often described as being “torpedo-shaped”. It will grow to up to 2.5 inches in the aquarium (depending on the specific species) and lives for up to eight years.  

The Rummy Nose Tetra is a very adaptable little fish because it can tolerate both clear, almost neutral water and “blackwater” which is quite acidic. That said, it is important to note that if you intend to attempt to breed Rummy Nose Tetras it is essential always to keep them in “blackwater” conditions, otherwise, they will probably become infertile.

The Rummy Nose Tetra is a shoaling fish and should be kept as a group of at least six fish, though a shoal of, say, ten or more fish is highly recommended. Having plenty of vegetation to break up lines of sight will also help to protect your Rummy Nose Tetras from predation but it is obviously advised that Rummy Nose Tetras are not kept with predatory species, as they are very shy little fishes.

The body of the Rummy Nose Tetra is silver or pale gold in colour.  The head is a vibrant red in colour, stretching back to the gills. The richness of this red is a good indicator of the condition of the fish: the deeper the red, the better the conditions. The brow of the head, when viewed from above is green in colour.

With the exception of the caudal fin, the fins of the Rummy Nose Tetra are, essentially, without colour (known as “hyaline”). The caudal fin displays either three or five black, horizontal stripes with white colouring between these stripes. The number of these stripes is determined by the species of the fish (see photographs above).

The Rummy Nose Tetra tends to inhabit the middle area of the aquarium (top to bottom). That said, it is a vigorous fish when breeding and will readily traverse the entire aquarium.

The Rummy Nose Tetra is, by nature, a shoaling fish and it is generally recommended to purchase six or more fish, as their nature is to swim together as a shoal and they will tend to thrive much better as a shoal. Rummy Nose Tetras are excellent community fish and are ideal for novice aquarists, as they don’t tend to have aggressive tendencies towards other species. It is advised not to include Rummy Nose Tetras in an aquarium containing predatory species, as their wellbeing will rapidly deteriorate.

Rummy Nose Tetras, like most rainforest species, prefer a shaded tank, as they can hide from predation, so consider including floating leaves and/or allowing vegetation to grow so that it floats on the surface of the water to provide shade. They are used to habitats that include decomposing wood and vegetation, which tends to make the water brown (the effects of tannins) and acidic but seem equally happy in clear water.

It is generally advised that the minimum tank size for Rummy Nose Tetras should be one of 24 inches in length or more due to the shoaling nature of the species, which will enable a small shoal to move around freely. The tank should be well-planted but with clear areas where the fish can swim freely. The water should have gentle movement.

Rummy Nose Tetras prefer fairly acidic water with a pH of 5.6 to 7.4 with a temperature range between 75 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 10 dGH. In order to maintain appropriate water conditions, an aquatic peat filter is recommended as is the addition of plenty of shade including floating leaves and, perhaps, driftwood.

It has been mooted that the presence of calcium ions in the water can render the Rummy Nose Tetra sterile. Calcium ions will certainly be present if the pH of the water exceeds 7.0 so if you intend to try to breed the Rummy Nose Tetra then it is recommended that the pH is maintained under a value of 7.0.

The general rule for Tetras is that by keeping six or more of the same species in an aquarium they will be fully aware of which is male and which is female and they will act accordingly.

Most (but not all) Tetras have an additional fin which identifies them as being Tetras and the Rummy Nose Tetra is no exception. If you look between the dorsal fin and the caudal (tail) fin of the Rummy Nose Tetra you will observe a tiny, additional fin, known as the adipose fin. The purpose of this fin is not fully understood but, if it is present on a freshwater tropical fish then you can be pretty certain that the fish is a Tetra.

Tetra comes from the Greek word “Tetragonopterus” which means square-finned and appears to relate to the four fins on vertical plane of the fish (dorsal, adipose, caudal and anal fins) which span the central line of the fish (when viewed from above or below, front or rear) and are not present as a pair (e.g. the pectoral or pelvic fins).

Rummy Nose Tetra – Video

How do Rummy Nose Tetras breed?

Tetras, in general, will scatter eggs by laying them over fine plants such as Cabomba, Fontanalis or Java Moss.

Rummy Nose Tetras, like most species, are noted to leap above the water surface during breeding and in general, so it is advised that the tank should be covered to mitigate the risk of losing fish.

As the female Rummy Nose Tetra becomes ripe with eggs, the difference between the sexes may become more evident, as the body expands because it is carrying eggs. If you plan to attempt to breed Rummy Nose Tetras then it is recommended that you have a breeding tank prepared. Such a tank can be empty but you may wish to include a mesh or grid under which the fertilized eggs will fall and/or a sterilized breeding mop.

That said, Rummy Nose Tetras may breed in a community tank and, if the tank is well planted, it is possible that at least a few fry may survive to reach adulthood.

Some say that a novice may find it difficult to breed Rummy Nose Tetras but, in my experience, by understanding the conditions that are ideal for breeding, most species will breed quite readily, as it is natural for them so to do and, in general, nature will find a way.

The female will swim more vigorously around the tank and, if you include two males then they will encourage her to lay her eggs by bumping into her. She will lay her slightly adhesive eggs which will immediately be fertilized by the male(s) and will either stick to plants or spawning mop or will fall to the bottom of the tank (preferably through the mesh or trap). Once spawning is complete, remove the adults, as they are likely to consume the eggs, given the chance, and take no further parental responsibility.

Spawning usually takes place in the early morning. 

Breeding tank for Rummy Nose Tetras

You should prepare a tank of around 20 gallons in size with mature water. The water should be at a pH of around 6.0 to 6.8, a dGH of 10 or lower and, ideally around 82 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit with a low level of light.

You may wish to introduce mosquito larvae or bloodworm as an inducement to reproduction.

The female will swim amongst the plants, laying up to 8 eggs at a time whilst the male will swim alongside or behind her and fertilize the eggs as they are laid. Once the female has laid all her eggs she tends to become much paler in colour and this is a good indicator as to when the adults should be removed from the breeding tank.

Keep the lights off and the tank dark because Tetra eggs and fry are particularly sensitive to the light.

The eggs will hatch typically in a day or so depending on tank temperature and conditions and the fry will become free-swimming after around five to seven days after hatching. Keep the tank unlit for the first week or so then gradually increase the lighting.

The newly hatched fry will firstly feed on their yolk sac but, once free-swimming, can be fed infusoria (particularly rotifers) and will also thrive on egg yolk during the first two to four weeks. It is worth mentioning that immediately after hatching, fry seem quite vigorous but will soon go into a resting state before they become free-swimming so please don’t mistake this initial stage as being free-swimming.

After around four days or so add baby brine shrimp. Once the fry are sufficient in size not to be treated as a snack then they can be introduced into the community tank where they will join the existing shoal. Before moving the adolescent fish into the community tank ensure that you have balanced the water temperatures to mitigate the risk of White Spot or other diseases being triggered.

Should your Rummy Nose Tetras have a special diet for breeding?

Adult Rummy Nose Tetras don’t need any particular inducement to breed. That said, it has been suggested that adding mosquito larva may encourage them, presumably because the addition of a new food may “fool” the fish into thinking that it is breeding time. From my own experience, I would always recommend keeping all of your fish in the best possible condition at all times, as this is good for the wellbeing of your fish.

Mike Wheeler

I started keeping freshwater tropical fish in 1972 and it has been something of a passion ever since. In this website, my aim is to build up an everyman's guide to help the everyday aquarist get the best from this inspiring and entertaining hobby.

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