Care Guide for Rummy-Nose Tetras – Aquatic Canary in 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. This dazzling tetra is a great way to bring out its vibrant colors.
What are Rummy Nose Tetras exactly?
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. You can also find other colors, such as the albino or golden varieties. These are the three most common species sold as rummy nose 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
Apart from their striking appearance, three distinctive characteristics make them stand out. 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 is extremely soft and acidic because of fallen leaves and other organics. However, we have found that they can do well in pH levels of 5.5-7.5 with soft to moderately hard 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.
For a biotope design that replicates their natural environment, you can cover the ground in catappa leaves, driftwood and botanicals such as 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. 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. 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. You can also keep them at higher temperatures alongside other warmer-water species, as we have already mentioned. 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. It is best to give them small foods such as daphnia and baby brine shrimp. 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. To avoid any nutrient deficiencies, you should offer a variety of options.
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. The eggs hatch well in water that is soft and less acidic than pH 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 scatterers will predate on their own young, so get some plastic craft mesh to cover the bottom and allow the eggs to fall through while stopping the adults. 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. The eggs don’t have to be kept in complete darkness, but hobbyists recommend turning off the lights in case they become sensitive to light. After a few days, you can remove the adults. Start the newborns with tiny foods like infusoria, live vinegar eels, and powdered fry food, and then switch them over to live baby brine shrimp as soon as they’re big enough to increase their growth and survival rate.
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. Find out more about stocking ideas for the top 10 tetras that you should try.