Rummy Nose Tetra 101: Size, Care, Tank Mates and More…

The Rummy Nose Tetra is one of the most popular Tetras around.

Their bright red nose and shimmering silver body have helped make them so popular. With their peaceful temperament and attractive colors, these tiny fish are a must-have for any nano tank.

But did you know that there are actually three different species that are all commonly referred to as the Rummy Nose Tetra?

  1. True Rummy Nose
  2. False Rummy Nose
  3. Common Rummy Nose

Keep reading to learn how to tell the difference between the three species and which one is right for your aquarium…

Rummy Nose Tetra

Rummy Nose Tetra 101

True Rummy Nose Vs Common Rummy Nose
True Rummy Nose (Left) Common Rummy Nose (Right)

Rummy Nose Tetras are very popular freshwater aquarium fish.

Their popularity mainly comes from their unique appearance: a glistening silver body with a bright-red head.

These species are all native to South America, and they belong to the Characidae family.

Interestingly there are actually three types of Rummy Nose Tetra. All three are native to the Amazon River in South America, but each species occupies a different region within the basin.

  1. The True Rummy Nose (Hemigrammus rhodostomus) typically lives in the Orinoco River which is closer to the Atlantic coast.
  2. The False Rummy Nose (Petitella georgiae) is found in the upper regions of the basin towards Brazil and Peru and is further away from the coast.
  3. The Firehead (Hemigrammus bleheri) inhabits the middle of the blackwater tributary of the Amazon River between Colombia and Venezuela.

This article will focus on Hemigrammus rhodostomus; however, all three species are very similar in terms of their care requirements and compatibility.

These tiny fish are very peaceful which means that they thrive in a community tank.

They typically live for five to six years but can live longer than this if they are kept in a stress-free environment.

Each specimen will cost around $4. However, you can find them cheaper if you buy them in a group. This is recommended as these social fish are at their happiest when they are kept in a group.

Key Facts:

  • Experience Required: Intermediate.
  • Nicknames: True Rummy Nose Tetra, Common Rummy Nose Tetra, Brilliant Rummy Nose Tetra.
  • Color Forms: Silver body with a bright red head.
  • Size: 1.75-2.5 inches.
  • Tank Size: Minimum 20 gallon.
  • Tank Temperature: 72°F to 84°F.

  • Unique appearance
  • Community tank friendly
  • Shoaling fish
  • Simple diet

  • Difficult to sex
  • Easily stressed
  • Not compatible with large fish
  • Very sensitive to tank conditions

Rummy Nose Tetra Care Guide

Rummy Nose Tetra Swimming

Rummy Nose Tetras are very sensitive to changes in their environment and are more prone to stress than other fish.

If they are stressed out then their lifespan can be reduced considerably. Stress can also impact their fertility, and dramatically reduce their chances of reproduction.

The most common disease these fish can get is Ich.

Ich is caused by a parasite and fish with Ich will have white spots all over their body and fins. Fortunately it is very easy to cure. Quarantine is advised for any infected fish to prevent the infection spreading further.

Another disease that is particularly common is Dropsy (sometimes known as bloat).

This illness is caused by a build-up of fluid inside the body.

Symptoms include swelling, bulging eyes, protruding scales, swimming close to the surface, pale gills, curved spine, and loss of appetite.

If left untreated skin lesions can form and internal organs can become damaged. Tetras that are under any stress are more prone to Dropsy as their immune system has been weakened. Internal bacteria are the main cause of this disease but thankfully it can be treated with medicine if detected early enough.


These fish are natural omnivores so there is a wide range of options when it comes to feeding them.

In the wild they will often feed on aquatic insect larvae, eggs and vegetation, or anything they find that can fit in their mouths!

To keep their colors vivid you will need to feed them a balanced and healthy diet. Pale or faded colors can indicate malnutrition.

Flakes and pellets will contain all the nutrients they need but it is important to include different foods too.

Live feed, fresh chopped or grated vegetables or frozen/fresh meaty foods can also be fed to them.

Care should be taken to make sure that their food is small enough to fit in their mouths. These Tetras should be able to finish their meal within 4 minutes. Feeding them two or three times a day is more than enough to make sure that they are being fed well and to prevent overfeeding.

They will only eat what they can fit in their mouths so too much food should never be given.

Overfeeding can cause issues such as reducing the water quality in the tank. This can cause sickness as their immune systems will become compromised.

What Food Can They Eat?

  • Fish pellets and flakes can be the main part of their diet if you are looking for the easiest option which contains all the essential nutrients.
  • Plant material including any grated green vegetables is considered a healthy option for these Tetras.
  • Meat-based foods can include Daphnia, Brine Shrimp and Bloodworms. They are not fans of mosquito larvae as they do not like to feed near the surface and prefer to stay in the middle or towards the bottom of the tank.


Hemigrammus rhodostomus

Rummy Nose Tetras are sociable fish.

You will often find them in shoals of around six members and they like to establish strong bonds between individuals. Their peaceful and passive nature means that they are undisturbed by the presence of other fish (especially other tetras).

They are rarely seen swimming alone and the only time they are doing this is if they are looking for food or shelter. Schooling is considered a group behavior which increases the chances of survival.

See if you can spot their burst-and-coast swimming style. This is where they will flick their tails a few times and then glide through the water. This behavior is thought to enhance sensory functions and conserve energy.

In the wild they occupy the bottom of the river and so are seen swimming around in the middle and towards the bottom of the aquarium. They like to hide among plants and rocks, especially if they are stressed out or require privacy for breeding. They are also quite sensitive to light and do not like to spend time at the surface.

Overall these gentle fish like to keep to themselves and rarely create problems for other fish.

Habitat and Aquarium Set Up

Rummy Nose Tetra Tank Setup

In the wild Rummy Nose Tetras tend to live in slow flowing rivers that are acidic and soft.

The acidity is due to the decaying organic matter and vegetation from plants in the rivers. Light levels tend to be moderate here too. The river bed is fine and sandy and also contains a lot of plants, rocks and other debris scattered around.

So how do you replicate these wild conditions in your aquarium?

First let’s look at water parameters:

  • Temperature: 72-84°F
  • pH: 5.5-7.0
  • Water Hardness: 2-8 dGH

Because they are shoaling fish they need a lot of space in the tank.

This means that there should not be too many plants and decorations which can overcrowd the tank. Instead, you should scatter a few rocks around the tank or add some caves to replicate the natural conditions of the riverbed.

You can also include some plants to give them a place to hide when they feel stressed out. Anubias Nana, Water Wisteria and Cabomba are great options.

The middle to lower section of the tank needs to be empty as this is where Tetras spend most of their time.

You can use either fine sand or gravel for the substrate. Dark sand replicates their natural habitats better, but because they do not dig gravel is safe to use too.

Peat filtration is ideal for these species as it helps to keep the water soft. You can also use an undergravel filter to remove any waste collecting at the bottom of the tank.

Finally, for the lighting you can use a standard aquarium light if you do not have many plants. If you do not have any plants then use dim lighting as bright lighting can stress these fish out.

Tank Parameter Requirement
Minimum Tank Size 20 Gallons
Tank Type Freshwater planted
Temperature 72-84°F
pH 5.5-7.0
Hardness 2-10 dGH
Flow Medium
Substrate Fine sand substrate or gravel

What Size Aquarium Do They Need?

Just because they are small does not mean they need a small tank.

A 20 gallon aquarium is needed.

Follow the general rule that each Tetra will need 2 gallons. So 10 will be able to fit in a 20 gallon tank.

Rummy Nose Tetra Appearance

Schooling Rummy Nose Tetra

Rummy Nose Tetras tend to have very slim and slender bodies with larger heads.

Their body is silver with the occasional tint of green. This makes them look almost translucent as they glide through the water. The silver will shimmer as they swim which creates sparkles around the tank.

Of course their most prominent feature is their fiery-red heads.

The redness extends around their head and into their eyes. With Common specimens it can even extend out towards their gills. This difference makes the Common Rummy Nose more popular.

Their caudal fin is characterized by horizontal black and white stripes. This pattern will vary among individuals as the number of stripes can vary from three to five. There is also a black line that runs through the center of their caudal fin. The other fins are colorless.

Common Color Varieties

The appearances of all three species are very similar. The main differences in the color of certain body parts such as the heads of fins.

These differences are hard to spot, so another way to determine the species is by their size. All Rummy Nose Tetras range from 1.75-2.5 inches long, but the Common variety is on the smaller end of this range, reaching up to 1.75 inches when fully matured.

History and First Sighting

The True Rummy Nose tetra was first described in 1924.

Common Rummy Nose Tetras are thought to have been discovered by Heiko Bleher in 1965, whilst the False Rummy Nose’s origins trace back to the late 1950s, when they were noticed by H. Boutiere in an aquarium imported from Peru to Switzerland.

However, it was not until 1986 that these fish were described in detail by Géry and Mahnert. Although they have definitely been around for much longer, their description seems to be relatively recent.

Not much is known about how these fish first entered the fishkeeping hobby.

What we do know is that their exotic background and attractive appearance are taking the hobby by storm.

Tetras are one of the most popular fish species in the hobby and there are more than 150 species available in the aquarium hobby.

Tank Mates

These fish are very peaceful and make wonderful tank mates.

They get along with most tropical freshwater species and some of the best tank mates are:

  • Neon Tetras
  • Angelfish
  • Harlequin Rasboras
  • Betta Fish
  • Gold Tetras
  • Mollies
  • Corys
  • Loaches
  • Snails
  • Shrimp
  • Zebra Danios
  • Dwarf Gouramis
  • Hatchetfish
  • Cherry Barbs

As you will have noticed, most of the examples mentioned are small tropical freshwater fish that have very similar tank conditions to these stunning Tetras.

Their most compatible mates include bottom-dwelling fish, which often surround them in the wild, as they spend most of their time towards the bottom of the river and among vegetation.

Because of their tiny size and fragile nature they should not be kept in tanks with large or aggressive species such as Cichlids. Larger fish can severely stress them out which can impact their health. Bigger fish can also snatch up all the food during feeding time which can lead to malnourishment in the smaller Tetras.

Other fishes to avoid include Goldfish, and any other carnivorous or predatory fish that may see the tiny Tetras as a tasty treat.

Keeping Rummy Nose Tetra Together

The Rummy Nose Tetra is a very social fish and likes to shoal.

Because of this it is recommended that they are kept in a group of at least six.

Watching them shoal is fascinating. Their vivid colors and striking patterns created a stunning display as they swim around the tank in unison.

They do not do well when kept alone.

Breeding Rummy Nose Tetra

Breeding Rummy Nose Tetra

Breeding Rummy Nose Tetras is fairly straightforward.

Whilst the actual breeding is easy, the main challenge is sexing them as they are incredibly difficult to tell apart. A study in 2017 that investigated the reproductive biology of the Common Rummy Nose tetra found that sexual maturation in females occurs when they are just over an inch.

The easiest option is to put a group of them in a tank (a ratio of 6 males to 6 females) and see which individuals begin to pair up.

These breeding pairs should then be given a protein-rich diet.

Certain conditions have to be created to initiate the breeding process. Water temperature should be slightly raised to 84°F and pH should be around 6.6-6.8 and the water should be softer (use peat to soften it).

Add lots of plants as this is where they are likely to breed and where females will lay their eggs. You will see that a female is about to lay eggs if she appears rounder and larger.

Lighting should be dim as the fry can be sensitive to bright lights.

Females are most likely to initiate the breeding process. She may swim to a leaf and turn over, making it easier for the male to fertilize her eggs. These eggs (often five to eight large ones) will be deposited onto a surface such as a leaf and will hatch around a day later.

At this stage it is important to remove the males from the tank as they may try to eat the eggs.

Once hatched the fry will feed on their yolk sac. A few days later powder solutions or infusoria should be given.

It will take around six months for these fry to grow into mature adults.

Species Summary Table

Rummy Nose Tetra
Other Common Names: True Rummy Nose Tetra, Brilliant Rummy Nose Tetra, Common Rummy Nose Tetra
Scientific Name: Hemigrammus rhodostomus, Hemigrammus bleheri, Petitella georgiae
Family Name: Charicidae
Distribution: South America
Size: 1.75-2.5 inches
Color: Silver body with bright red head
Care Level: Intermediate
Temperament: Peaceful
Lifespan: 5-6 years
Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Tank Mate Compatibility: Compatible with most small fish species

Should You Keep The Rummy Nose Tetra? (Summary)

Rummy Nose Tetras are a joy to observe in the tank especially when they are shoaling with their own kind.

The most important thing to remember is that they are extremely sensitive to their environmental surroundings.

Precision is key when setting up your Tetra tank as they need warm, slightly acidic, soft and clean water. Water changes should be done fortnightly to avoid dirty water.

The tank should not be too crowded with decorations as these tiny Tetras like to take up a lot of space swimming and shoaling.

It is not hard to see why this Tetra is one of the most popular fish around.

Rummy Nose Tetras will brighten up any aquarium.

Do you want to try your luck with these Tetras?

Let us know what you think about the Rummy Nose in the comments section below…