How to Care for Rummy nose Tetras: A Beginner’s Guide

a healthy rummy nose tetra

The Rummy Nose Tetra is a species that has never failed to capture my heart in more than five years of fascination with the captivating world of aquariums. With their striking red noses and mesmerizing schooling behavior, these fish are a true gem in the world of fishkeeping. In this guide, I’ll share my personal experiences and insights on how to care for Rummy Nose Tetras, making it the perfect read for beginners who are eager to embark on this rewarding journey.

What are Rummy Nose Tetras?

The Rummy nose tetra, Hemigrammus rhodostomus, is a small, freshwater fish native to South America. Its bright red head makes it one of the most popular aquarium fish in the world.

Rummy nose tetras are small fish, only growing to about 2 inches in length. They have a slender, torpedo-shaped body and a large head. The body is silvery in color, with a red stripe running from the snout to the tail. The tail fin is also red, with black and white stripes.

There are three species of Rummy nose tetra:

  • Hemigrammus rhodostomus is the most common species and the one that is most commonly found in aquariums.
  • Hemigrammus bleheri is also known as the firehead tetra. It is similar to H. rhodostomus but has a more pronounced red head.
  • Petitella georgiae is also known as the false Rummy nose tetra. It is smaller than H. rhodostomus and has a less pronounced red head.
close up of rummy nose tetra
Hemigrammus bleheri or the firehead tetra. Photo: Peter Maguire, Flickr

All three species of Rummy Nose Tetras have more or less identical maintenance requirements. This allows them to live together in the same aquarium. They make a great addition to any community tank and bring joy to any aquarist.

Tank Size and Setup

When setting up a comfortable home for your Rummy Nose Tetras, there are a few important factors to consider. These active swimmers always swim in tight groups, so provide them with a spacious tank of at least 20 gallons long to give them ample space to move and thrive. I’ve found that this encourages their natural schooling behavior and reduces stress.

Moreover, to bring out their vibrant colors, I suggest using a dark substrate and decorating the tank with live plants like Amazon Sword, Java Fern, and Anubias. You can also put in hardscapes like driftwood and rocks. Not only do these plants and hardscapes mimic their natural habitat, but they also offer hiding spots for your tetras.

However, these little beauties are also good jumpers. When they become startled by the sudden change in lighting and noise level, they will jump out of your aquarium. This is especially true if the light is turned off suddenly, as this can create a sense of disorientation for the fish. A sudden loud noise can also startle them, especially if it is unexpected. Furthermore, if a Rummy nose tetra feels threatened, such as by the presence of a predator or a sudden drop in water temperature, it may also jump in an attempt to escape.

To prevent this, it is important to:

  • Cover the top of the aquarium with a lid. Even if a loud noise or sudden change in light startles them, this will stop them from jumping out.
  • Provide them with a programmable light with sunrise and sunset settings. This will lessen the likelihood that sudden changes in light will startle the fish and help to create a natural light cycle for them.
  • Place the aquarium far from noise sources like TVs. The noise from TVs and other appliances can startle the fish and make them jump.
  • Add plenty of hiding places to the aquarium. This will give the fish a place to feel safe and secure, which can help reduce stress and the risk of jumping.
  • Keep the water quality clean and stable. This will help to keep the fish healthy and reduce stress, which can also help to prevent jumping.

Water Parameters

As for the water parameters, here are some guidelines to follow:

pH 6.0-7.5
TEMPERATURE75-80°F (24-27°C)
NITRATE0-20 ppm
KH2-10 dKH
GH5-10 dGH
TDS150-250 ppm

Maintaining water parameters within their preferred range is vital. Keep the temperature between 75-80°F (24-27°C) to provide them with a cozy habitat. Aim for a pH range of 6.0-7.5 and avoid extreme fluctuations in water hardness. Always check the water for traces of ammonia and nitrite. While nitrate is less toxic to fish, high levels of it can still stress them and make them more susceptible to illness.

Schooling Nature and Tankmates

One of the most captivating features of Rummy nose tetras is their schooling behavior. They exhibit tight schooling behavior both in the wild and in the aquarium. To encourage this behavior, it is recommended to keep these fish in groups of no fewer than six individuals. Trust me, the sight of them swimming together in harmony is a sight to behold.

Keep your Rummy nose tetras with peaceful companions, as aggressive or fin-nipping tankmates stress them out. They can coexist with many fish, such as dwarf gourami, tetras, barbs, danios, Australian rainbows, and some catfish like otocinclus. But avoid African cichlids and angelfish. These fish need different water parameters and may eat your tetras.

Rummy Nose Tetra Diet

Feeding Rummy nose tetras is a delight, and they need a balanced diet. As omnivores, they enjoy high-quality flake foods and pellets. They also like occasional live foods, such as baby brine shrimp, which trigger their hunting instincts. This keeps them active and healthy. However, not all Rummy nose tetras like live food. Some may prefer flakes or pellets. Therefore, try different foods to see what your fish like.

During my years of keeping these fish, I’ve found that feeding them twice a day with small portions keeps them active and healthy. Remember, a varied diet enhances their colors and supports their overall well-being.

newly hatched baby brine shrimps
Newly-hatched baby brine shrimp, Artemia salina. Photo: Sam T, Flickr

Maintenance and Care

Rummy nose tetras are very sensitive to water quality and changes in their environment. When the water quality is poor, their red noses will start to fade. This is a sign that there is a problem with the tank and that you need to take action to improve the water quality.

Rummy nose tetras are called the “mine canaries” of the aquarium because their red noses fade when water quality is poor. This is an early warning sign that the tank needs attention to improve water quality.

If you see the red noses of your Rummy nose tetras start to fade, it is a sign that something is wrong with the water quality. Use a freshwater test kit to check for ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate buildup in the water column. If these water parameters are elevated, perform a 20–30% water change. To prevent ammonia spikes, decrease the feeding frequency and remove uneaten food.

Rummy nose tetras can also lose their red noses temporarily when they are sick or stressed. If you notice this, check for any signs of disease, such as white spots, clamped fins, or lethargy. If you see any signs of disease, treat the fish immediately. You can also check if there are any bully fish in the tank that may be stressing your Rummy nose tetras. If you find any bully fish, remove them from the tank. By taking action early, you can prevent more serious problems from developing.


Rummy nose tetras are not as difficult to breed as some other fish species, but they do require some special care and attention. Here are the steps on how to breed Rummy nose tetras:

  1. Set up a breeding tank. The breeding tank should be at least 10 gallons in size and have a soft substrate, such as sand or fine gravel. You can also add some plants to the tank, such as Java moss or Anubias.
  2. Condition the fish. Before you start breeding, you need to condition the fish. This means feeding them a high-quality diet and keeping the water quality excellent. You can also add some peat moss to the tank to soften the water.
  3. Introduce a breeding pair. Once the fish are conditioned, you can introduce a breeding pair to the tank. Rummy nose tetras are notoriously difficult to sex, but there are a few ways to tell the difference between males and females. Females are generally larger and have a fuller body than males. They may also have a slightly larger belly, especially if they are carrying eggs. The best way to confirm the sex of your Rummy nose tetras is to have them sexed by a qualified breeder.
  4. Raise the water temperature. The water temperature should be raised to around 82°F (28°C) to stimulate breeding.
  5. Add spawning mops. Spawning mops are pieces of cloth or nylon that are tied to a rock or plant in the tank. The female will lay her eggs on the spawning mops.
  6. Remove the breeding pair. Once the female has laid her eggs, you should remove the breeding pair from the tank. This will prevent them from eating the eggs.
  7. Incubate the eggs. The eggs will hatch in about 2-3 days. To encourage the fish to spawn, lower the temperature by a few degrees on the third day if they have not done so in the first two days. Then increase it again on the fourth day. This temperature fluctuation should stimulate the spawning process. Once they hatch, you can feed the fry baby brine shrimp or other live food.
  8. Grow out the fry. The fry will grow quickly and will be ready to be moved to a larger tank in about 6-8 weeks.

Breeding Rummy nose tetras at home can be a rewarding experience, but it also requires some care and attention. One of the most important factors is to keep the water quality very clean, as poor water conditions can harm the eggs and fry. You should also avoid sudden changes in water temperature or pH, as they can stress the fish and prevent them from spawning. Additionally, you should provide plenty of hiding places for the female to lay her eggs, such as plants, moss, or spawning mops. Finally, you should remove any dead or dying eggs or fry, as they can attract fungus or bacteria that can infect the healthy ones. By following these tips, you can increase your chances of successfully breeding Rummy nose tetras.

Common Diseases and Treatment

Like all fish, they are susceptible to various diseases that can compromise their health and vitality. Ensuring proper care and promptly addressing any health issues is crucial for maintaining a thriving Rummy nose tetra population in your aquarium. Here are some common diseases that can affect these beautiful fish:

1. Ich

Snakeskin Barb (Desmopuntius rhomboocellatus) with ich infection

Rummy nose tetras can get ich, a parasitic infection caused by a protozoan. It is characterized by the appearance of white spots on the fish’s body. To prevent ich, you must keep the water quality clean and stable, and quarantine new fish before adding them to the tank. If you observe any indications of ich, such as white spots on the fish’s body, take immediate action by treating the fish with a medication specifically formulated for ich treatment. Raising the water temperature to 82–84 degrees Fahrenheit can help kill the ich parasite.

2. Dropsy

Goldfish with dropsy
Goldfish with dropsy

Dropsy causes the swelling of a fish’s body due to the accumulation of fluid within its tissues. It is not a specific disease in itself but rather a symptom of an underlying health issue. Poor water quality, stress, and bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections are just a few of the causes of dropsy in fish.

Treating dropsy can be challenging, and the success of treatment depends on identifying and addressing the underlying cause. Isolate the fish with dropsy from the others to stop infection spread. A veterinarian may give antibiotics or antimicrobial medications if they suspect a bacterial or parasitic infection. Use these medications under a veterinarian’s guidance. Some aquarists use Epsom salt baths to ease fluid retention but do this cautiously and under professional guidance, as incorrect dosage can harm the fish. Keep the affected fish in a comfortable and stress-free environment. Reduce feeding during the treatment period to minimize waste production.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some frequently asked questions about Rummy nose tetras:

How many Rummy nose tetras should be kept together?

Rummy nose tetras are schooling fish, so it is recommended to keep at least 6 of them together. This will help them feel more comfortable and secure. If you have a larger tank, you can keep even more Rummy nose tetras.

Are Rummy nose tetras top swimmers?

No, Rummy nose tetras are not top swimmers. They are mid-level swimmers, often found in the middle regions of the aquarium. They prefer to school in the middle to lower areas of the water column.

How big do Rummy nose tetras get?

Rummy nose tetras typically grow to be about 2 inches long. However, some individuals may grow slightly larger. They are relatively small fish that is suitable for most aquariums.

How long is the lifespan of Rummy nose tetras?

The lifespan of Rummy nose tetras is around 3 to 5 years on average, but with proper care, they can sometimes live even longer.

Do Rummy nose tetras eat cherry shrimp?

Rummy nose tetras do not usually eat adult cherry shrimp. However, very young or newborn cherry shrimp might be at risk.

Do Rummy nose tetras prefer soft or hard water?

Rummy nose tetras prefer soft to slightly acidic water conditions. They thrive in water with a pH range of 6 to 7.5 and prefer softer water with lower hardness levels. Providing appropriate water conditions helps maintain their health and vibrant coloration.

Are Rummy nose tetras suitable for beginners?

Yes, Rummy nose tetras are generally suitable for beginners. They are hardy and adaptable fish that can tolerate a range of water conditions. However, their sensitivity to water quality requires proper tank maintenance. It’s essential to ensure compatible tankmates and provide a suitable environment for their well-being.

Are Rummy Nose Tetras Right for Your Tank?

Rummy nose tetras are one of the most beautiful and hardy fish you can keep in a community tank. They have a striking red nose and a black-and-white striped tail that add color and contrast to your aquarium. They are also very active and playful fish that form tight schools and swim around the tank. However, Rummy nose tetras are not for everyone. They require soft, acidic water, a varied diet, and regular water changes to thrive. They also need plenty of plants and hiding places to feel secure and comfortable. If you can provide these conditions, these fish can be a joy to keep. They will reward you with their lively behavior and bright colors for years to come. Before you add rummy nose tetras to your tank, make sure you do your research and prepare your aquarium accordingly. With proper care, these beautiful and hardy fish can be a wonderful addition to your aquatic community.

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