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


Rummy-Nose Tetras: Aquatic Canary in 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. This dazzling tetra is a great way to bring out its vibrant colors.

What are Rummy Nose Tetras?

These South American characids measure 2 inches (5 cm) in length and have the typical torpedo-shaped profile of Tetras. The body is shiny and silvery with a red-orange snout. The tail features horizontal, white, and black stripes. 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 true rummy-nose tetra

They are not only striking in appearance but also have three unique characteristics. They are very tightly grouped together and can change direction like a large flock of birds. This behavior is useful for confusing predators, who will have a tougher time pinning down an individual tetra that is surrounded by a swarm of doppelgangers. 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. You need to ensure that you only purchase healthy specimens. 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 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. 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

Because they are all blackwater rivers and streams, the care requirements for each species is very similar. The water in these areas is very soft and acidic from fallen leaves, rotting wood, and other organics. They can tolerate pH levels from 5.5 to 7.5 with moderately hard to soft 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. These organic materials will break down over time, tinting the water brown and gradually lowering the pH. Personally though, we find that their red and silver colors look amazing in a planted aquarium with lots of greenery. A darker background and substrate seem to make the tetras stand out even more.

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. You won’t regret getting at least 8-12 Tetras.

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. As mentioned, they can be kept at higher temperatures than other warm-water species. 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 are Rummy Nose Teetras Eating?

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. You should feed them smaller foods, such as daphnia, baby brine shrimp and nano pellets. 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

These tetras can be sexed by males who are slimmer and females with rounder bodies. This is especially true when they have a lot of 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. Eggs hatch best in soft water with a pH of less than 6.5. To raise the temperature to 80 degrees F, use a heater and a sponge filter that doesn’t sucking the babies. These egg scatterers can prey on their own children, so cover the bottom with plastic craft mesh and let the eggs fall through. For extra protection, add javamoss, DIY-spawning mops or other dense, fluffy plants underneath the mesh.

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. Although the eggs do not need to be kept in darkness as some species of Tetras, hobbyists recommend that they are kept off the light source in case of light sensitivities. After a few days, you can remove the adults. Start your newborns off with small foods such as infusoria and live vinegar eels. Once they are big enough, switch them to live baby brine shrimp to improve their survival rate and growth.

A school of 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. For more stocking suggestions, learn about the top 10 favorite tetras you have to try.