Rummy nose tetra (Hemigrammus rhodostomus)

Rummy nose tetra (lat. Hemigrammus rhodostomus) is a fish with bright red spot on its head, its fluke has black and white stripes and the body is silvery. At that tetra is quite small fish – about 4.5 cm long, with a peaceful temper and it can be a good tank mate for any peaceful fish.

In fact, there are 3 types of tetra fish that can be encountered with such a name. The classical Hemigrammus rhodostomus actually is a rummy-nose tetra.

Brilliant rummy-nose (Hemigrammus bleheri) was discovered later and it inhabits in other parts of Brazil. And one more fish – Petitella georgiae or false rummy-nose, which inhabits in water with higher hardness level.

Though the fishes have different requirements as for their care, they are very much alike and only true specialists can see between them.

Habitat in the wild

Hemigrammus rhodostomus habitat is in South America. The fish comes from the river Rio-Vaupes, Columbia and the Rio Negro river in Brazil. Also inhabits in the Amazon river tributaries.

These rivers water has brownish tint and is highly acidic, since there are a lot of fallen leaves and other organics on their bottom.


Body is semi-transparent with greenish tint. When the fish is stressed, its red coloring gets pale significantly. The fish’s flesh fin and fluke are whitish, when the other fins are completely transparent.

There are three wide black stripes on fluke, they go between four more thin white stripes. There are three black elongated spots on the fish’s tail-stem.

The most significant feature of tetras is their bright-red spot on the head, due to which the fish got its name. The lifespan is about 5 years and size is up to 4.5 cm.

Difficulties in keeping

Is rather demanding fish and it’s not for unexperienced aquarists. To keep this fish in a tank you should be very attentive to water purity and parameters, besides the fish is very sensitive to ammonia and nitrates content in the water.

Care and keeping in a tank

Scientific NameHemigrammus rhodostomus
Common NameRummy-nose tetra, red nose fish, red nose tetra, red head tetra,
Tank size25 gallon/80 litre
Temperature75–81 °F (24–27 °C)
pHpH around 6.4–7.0

It’s better to keep a school of rummy nose tetras in a tank (from about 7 species). In this case they create their own hierarchy where you can see their behavior and coloring in full.

A tank of 25 gallons capacity is quite enough for this number of fish. Is more demanding to the tank conditions than other fishes, the water should be soft and acidic (pH 6.4–7.0, 2 – 8 dGH), water temperature: 23-28 °C.

It’s desirable to use an external filter, since they are sensitive to ammonia and nitrates content in the water. The tank lights should be dim, because in the wild Hemigrammus rhodostomus lives in the areas with a lot of trees and leaves above the water surface. School will feel comfortable in well balanced, thickly planted tank.

The fishes show the best of their coloring and activity in the water with parameters close to the ones they have in the wild. This is soft and acidic water typical for rain forests – blackwater. That’s why it’s not sensible to put fish into a new not balanced tank, where water parameters are still changing.

Is your rummy nose tetra not red? It has a unique ability to change its bright red color into pale color, if the tank water is too contaminated or has a big amount of nitrates and ammonia in it.

That’s why the water should be regularly renewed: 30% of water capacity should be added once a week as well as the external filter should be used – this is how your fish will surely get its initial coloring back.


Can eat all types of live, frozen and artificial feed. They may also be fed with qualitative flakes and to make the diet more diversified you can give it some blood worm and tubifex sometimes.

Compatibility and tank mates

Is a peaceful and schooling fish. Care should be very delicate, since the fish gets scared when transferring and transporting it (it may be shocked – it may freeze and stop moving or move harshly and uncoordinated, the body gets dark).

The fish may die because of this. Of course, rummy nose mustn’t be kept in one tank with large and predatory fishes.

Tank mates can be diamond tetra, black neon tetra, cardinal tetra, neon tetra, angelfish, bettas and livebearers, sometimes with discus fish.

Gender differences: male vs female

It’s hard to see between male and female by their appearance. The males are more fit with small abdomen, however the female’s abdomen is more pronounced and rounded.


Becomes reproductive depending on the tank conditions they live in, in the average it’s the age of 8-12 month. Optimal size of a spawning pond tank is 50×40×40 cm and the water level in it should be about 15 cm.

The main difficulty in breeding is to choose the males correctly. The fishes that are about to breed are usually put apart before spawning. During this time their diet should include different live feed. Water temperature should be risen at 1-2°, hardness is gradually decrease up to 4-6°, pH level 6.6-6.8.

For breeding rummy nose tetras you’ll definitely need a protective net. The water should be prepared by mixing the equal amount of rainwater, settled water and some turfy brew.

This water has to be thoroughly filtered and poured into the tank prepared several days earlier than the breeding fishes will be put in it. At this time water parameters are to be the following: hardness 2-4°, pH 6-6.2, temperature 25-27 °C.

If the fish didn’t start spawning in 1-2 days, rise the temperature at 1-2° and than gradually decrease it at 2-3° with simultaneous adding of osonized settled water through a drop bottle. At first male actively haunts the female.

She goes to the water surface and it seems that she stops vertically under a tank plant leaf. At that the male comes close to her and bends and turns the female. When they part about 6-7 large transparent eggs fall on the tank plants and bottom.

The number of eggs depends on how strongly the male turns the female. This happens about several dozen times.

After spawning the fishes hide in the tank plants and their coloring gets pale. At this moment they should be removed from the spawning pond and the tank should be shaded with some dark paper.

Juveniles incubation time is 24 hrs and start to swim just in 6 days after they appear from eggs. Compared to other species of tetra fishes these juveniles are very large.

Now you can remove the plants and net from the tank and feed the fishes. As a rule juveniles are not demanding to the feed: they eat cyclops dust, rotifers. Fishes grow very fast.

Just when being 1 month old the juveniles get the coloring of adult species: their head becomes red and black and white stripes are seen on their tail.

In 4 month their gender can be defined and in 6-8 month rummy nose is ready for breeding. Spawning period is the same as all tetra fishes have – 7-10 days.

While the juveniles grow you can gradually make the tank water harder.

About author: Sergey Schulz

Sergey is a founder and author of He’s been fond of aquarium husbandry since his early childhood. His favorite aquariums are biotopes (Amazon River), with Echinodorus and freshwater angelfish. However, through the years he’s had experience of keeping almost all types of freshwater fish and shrimps.