Care Guide for Rummy-Nose Tetras – Aquatic Canary in the Coal Mine

Rummy-Nose Teetras Care Guide – Aquatic Canary at the Coal Mine

The rummy-nose tetra is a long-time favorite in the hobby because of its unique colors and tight schooling behavior, which is why it ranks in the top 20 fish sold at our retail fish store. This outgoing fish gets its common name comes from the reddish flush on its face, and there’s nothing like seeing a large group of gorgeous redheads darting back and forth amidst an emerald forest of live aquarium plants. Learn how to best showcase the vibrant colors of this magnificent tetra.

What are Rummy Nose Tetras exactly?

These South American characids, which measure in at 5 cm (5 inches) long, have a profile that is similar to tetras. While the body is shiny and silvery, the snout is red-orange and the tail has horizontal, white and black striping. There are other color options, including albino and gold types. Three main species are sold as rummy tetras.

Hemigrammus Rhodostomus (true red rummy–nose tetra),: standard red nose with striped tail. Hemigrammus Bleheri (firehead or brilliant red rummy–nose tetra),: More redness on the head beyond the gill plate. Petitella Georgiae, (false false rummy–nose tetra),: The tail’s middle black stripe extends onto half the body, and appears as a line.

Hemigrammus Rhodostomus or the true rummy-nose Tetra

Besides their striking appearance, they are known for three interesting characteristics. They are known for their unique ability to form large flocks of birds and tightly school together. This is useful for confusing predators. Predators will have a difficult time trying to pin down a single Tetra that is surrounded in a swarm. Secondly, they can live in higher-than-normal temperatures in the low to mid 80sdegF and therefore are often paired with other warmer water fish like discus, German blue rams, and Sterbai corydoras. Finally, they often get called the “canary in the coal mine” of aquariums because their noses lose their color when stressed. This visible indicator can help warn you of bad water quality, low temperatures, disease, bullying, or other problems in the aquarium. This happiness gauge can be used by both novices and experts to instantly determine if things are going well.

Are rummy-nose tetras hardy? Because of their sensitivity to sources of stress, many people do not recommend them for new fishkeepers. We have found that they can be kept in a beginner’s aquarium and are very adaptable to different parameters. The key is to buy healthy specimens and always quarantine them. We have sold thousands of rummy nose tetras at our retail fish store, and they sometimes arrive with ich (white spot disease) or bacterial infections. Look for fish that have red noses, slightly rounded bellies, good activity level, and no white spots or other symptoms. Their noses may be pale because they have just arrived or they were being chased with a net. Wait a few hours or return to the fish tank again the next day to see if their noses turn red. When you take them home, it is quite normal for them to “play dead” in the fish bag, but once you place the bag on a solid surface, they will easily right themselves again. Make sure to quarantine them in a separate hospital tank and consider proactively treating them with broad-spectrum medications. Once they pass the quarantine stage with a clean bill of health, then you can add them to your main display aquarium and fully enjoy their beauty. When kept in a seasoned aquarium with good husbandry, they can live up to 5 years or more.

Hemigrammus bleheri or firehead tetra

How to Set Up an Aquarium for Rummy-Nose Tetras

These three species require similar care because they are all from the Amazon basin’s blackwater streams and rivers. These areas are very soft and acidic, with rotting wood and fallen leaves. They can tolerate pH levels from 5.5 to 7.5 with soft to moderately high GH. Despite their small size, a 20-gallon tank or bigger is more suitable because rummy nose tetras are active schooling fish that prefer a longer tank to swim back and forth. Plus, they enjoy warmer waters between 74-84degF (23-29degC), so get an aquarium heater if needed.

You can create a biotope that mimics the natural environment by covering the ground with driftwood, catappa leaves and other botanicals, such as alder cones. The organic materials will slowly degrade, turning the water brown and gradually decreasing the pH. Personally though, we find that their red and silver colors look amazing in a planted aquarium with lots of greenery. The tetras are more noticeable with a darker substrate and background.

How many rummy nose tetras should be kept together? While six is the typical number suggested for a school of fish, rummy-nose tetras need a bigger group to see their special swimming behavior. Get at least 8-12 tetras and you won’t regret it.

What fish can live with rummy nose tetras? They get along with any peaceful community fish that are similar-sized, such as other tetras, rasboras, and corydoras. Their bold personality makes them great dither fish for shy or territorial fish like Apistogramma dwarf cichlids. They can be kept at higher temperatures together with warmer species of fish, as I mentioned earlier. Conversely, do not put them with cooler water fish because of the mismatched temperature requirements. Like most fish, they will opportunistically snack on baby shrimp and fry, but they tend to leave the adult dwarf shrimp and snails alone.

Petitella georgiae or false rummy-nose tetra in a biotope aquarium


What do Rummy nose Tetras eat

These omnivores are so fun to feed because they’ll swim all over the tank to chase down almost any community fish food you drop in the tank. In fact, since they are such eager eaters, we always use them to test out new foods in our retail fish store. Ideally, you want to feed smaller foods that can fit in their small mouths, such as baby brine shrimp, nano pellets, and daphnia. To bring out their rosy blush, offer fish foods that contain naturally color-enhancing ingredients, like the krill in Xtreme Krill Flakes and salmon in Easy Fry and Small Fish Food. It is important to offer them a range of choices to ensure they don’t have any nutritional deficiencies.

How to Breed Rummy Nose Tetras

When it comes to sexing these tetras the males are smaller and the females rounder, especially when they have eggs. To ensure you have both sexes, start with a big breeding group of at least six fish. Ideally, use a mature, 10-gallon aquarium as the breeding tank so it has plenty of mulm and microfauna for the fry to feed on. The eggs hatch best in very soft water and acidic pH less than 6.5. The heater should be turned up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A sponge filter with gentle flow will not suckle the babies. These egg scatterers will prey upon their own young so put some plastic craft mesh on the bottom to allow the eggs to fall and stop the adults. Put java moss, DIY spawning mops, or other dense and fluffy plants under the mesh as added protection.

You can condition the adult fish for breeding by giving them high-quality food like baby brine shrimps. Then, you place them in the tank. While the eggs don’t need to be kept in total darkness like certain species of tetras, some hobbyists recommend keeping the lights off in case of light sensitivity. After a few days, you can remove the adults. Start the babies with tiny foods such as infusoria, live vinegar, and powdered fried food. Then, when they’re old enough, switch them over to live infant brine shrimp.

A school Hemigrammus in a tank community

Hopefully we’ve convinced you to try this fantastic schooling fish in your next community tank. While we do not ship live fish, our preferred online retailers often carry rummy-nose tetras so check out their current selection. You can find more stocking tips here.