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. Learn more about this dazzling tetra and how to best bring out its crimson colors.
What are Rummy Nose Tetras exactly?
These 2-inch (5 cm) South American characids have a torpedo-shaped profile typical of tetras. The body is shiny and silvery with a red-orange snout. The tail features horizontal, white, and black stripes. Other color variants, such as albino and golden types, are also available. Three main species are sold as rummy tetras.
– Hemigrammus rhodostomus (true rummy-nose tetra): standard red nose and striped tail – Hemigrammus bleheri (firehead or brilliant rummy-nose tetra): more redness on the head that goes past the gill plate and sometimes has a tapered, diamond shape – Petitella georgiae (false rummy-nose tetra): the middle black stripe on the tail extends onto the back half of the body and looks like a short, horizontal line
Hemigrammus Rhodostomus or true, rummy-nose Tetra
Besides their striking appearance, they are known for three interesting characteristics. First off, they tightly school together and change directions like a giant flock of birds. This behavior can be used to confuse predators. It will make it more difficult for them to capture a single tetra when they are surrounded by many 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 indicator is great for beginners as well as veterans. It allows you to quickly see if things are going smoothly or not.
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 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
The care requirements for these three species are very similar because they all come from blackwater rivers and streams in the Amazon basin. These areas have very soft water and are acidic due to fallen leaves and rotting wood. 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.
If you want to make a biotope setup that imitates their natural environment, cover the ground with catappa leaves, driftwood, and botanicals like alder cones. These organic materials will eventually become less useful and slowly lower the pH. Personally though, we find that their red and silver colors look amazing in a planted aquarium with lots of greenery. Tetras seem to stand out more when there is a darker background or substrate.
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. It’s worth 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 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. The key is to provide a variety of different options to avoid potential nutrient deficiencies in their diet.
How to Breed Rummy Nose Tetras
In terms of sexing these tetras, the males are slenderer in shape and the females tend to have rounder bodies, especially when full 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. Add a heater to raise the temperature to the 80sdegF and a sponge filter with gentle flow that won’t suck up the babies. These egg-spreaders will predate on their own offspring, so make sure to cover the bottom with plastic mesh. This will allow eggs to fall while the adults are stopped. 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. 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 the babies with tiny foods such as infusoria, live vinegar, and powdered fried food. Then, when they are large enough to support their growth and survival, switch to live baby salt shrimp.
A school of Hemigrammus rhodostomus in a planted community tank
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. Find out more about stocking ideas for the top 10 tetras that you should try.