Rummy Nose Tetra 101: Diet, Tank Mates, Breeding & More

The Rummy Nose Tetra is a neat-looking freshwater fish that are a good fit for many aquariums. While there are some considerations you need to have when it comes to caring for them, we believe anyone can handle these fish with the right knowledge.

These are one of our favorite freshwater species and when you see them in person you’ll understand why. It’s easy to get sucked into watching them swim around your tank (even if you’ve owned them for a while).

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about Runny Nose Tetra care. Everything from basic information on size, advice for breeding, diet, and ideal tank mates can be found here!

Species Summary

With their quirky appearance and gentle nature, it’s no surprise that Rummy Nose Tetras have become so popular among aquarium owners. They have some unique color patterns that make them stand out amongst the crowd regardless of their habitat.

Technically speaking, there are three types of fish called the Rummy Nose Tetra. The primary species (scientifically known as the Hemigrammus rhodostomus) is the true Rummy Nose Tetra.

Other varieties, such as the Hemigrammus bleheri and Petitella georgiae, look very similar. In fact, most seasoned breeders wouldn’t even be able to tell them apart!

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That’s because they all hail from a similar region. The True Rummy Nose Tetra resides in the Amazon Basin. Though, they can also be found in the Rio-Vaupes River in Colombia and the Rio Negro River in Brazil. The other “imposter” species are also found in the Amazon river, though they tend to occupy other areas.

True Rummy Nose Tetras offer a beautiful addition to any tank. With that said, they do require some special care and attention. Here are some important things you need to know about this unique fish.


The average Rummy Nose Tetra lifespan is 5 to 6 years in captivity. However, some owners have managed to help these fish live up to 8 years (great genetics comes into play when exceeding 6 years).

While several factors contribute to lifespan, water conditions and diet are two of the biggest. These fish do require some vigilant care to help them reach their full potential.


The most notable part of the Rummy Nose Tetra is its appearance. It’s almost like the fish is comprised of parts from several wildly unique species.

When it comes to shape, the fish has a torpedo-like body. It’s a relatively small fish with a slender profile that’s slightly more bulbous towards the head. The base color of the fish is silver. Some specimens also have a subtle translucent tinge of green.

A side profile of Hemigrammus rhodostomus

Most of the fins are translucent. They’re all small and squared-off, giving the fish a clean appearance. The only fin that’s not translucent is the tail fin. Here is where things get interesting.

The tail fin has vibrant black and white stripes. The exact number of stripes vary from fish to fish. However, there’s always a single central black stripe that separates the two sides of the fin. The zebra pattern offers a stark contrast to the relatively muted hues of the body.

As if that weren’t enough, the head of the Rummy Nose Tetra is bright red. The eye-catching color covers the entire head and even extends into the fish’s irises. On rare occasions, the color stretches past the head and to the gills.

There’s not much difference between males and females. Some breeders claim that females get a bit plumper than their male counterparts, but that physical feature hasn’t been tested or established. All in all, sexing the fish is very difficult.


These aren’t big fish at all. The average size of the Runny Nose Tetra is around 2.5 inches when fully grown. Some specimen don’t even grow past 2 inches.

Author Note: This size makes them one of the best fish for small tanks. If that’s your thing, you should definitely consider this species!

Rummy Nose Tetra Care

Despite their gentle nature, Rummy Nose Tetra care can be a little tricky at times. The difficulty comes with managing water conditions and ensuring that the fish have everything they need to stay healthy.

Here are some need-to-know care facts about Rummy Nose Tetras that will make the ownership process a whole lot easier.

Tank Size

The good news is that you don’t need a giant tank to care for these fish. Ideally, Rummy Nose Tetras should not be kept in a tank smaller than 20 gallons. A larger habitat is always preferred, as the fish like to swim around and explore.

Individually, Rummy Nose Tetras don’t need a ton of space. It’s recommended that you provide at least 2 gallons of tank space per fish. So, with a 20-gallon tank, you can keep up to 10 fish comfortably.

Author Note: This doesn’t mean you can keep one of these fish in a 2 gallon tank though. Consider 20 the minimum no matter how few you own.

Water Parameters

The goal with any fish is to mimic the water conditions of the natural habitat in the wild. The Amazon Basin is a tricky environment to replicate, especially in colder climates.

Waters in the Amazon River are warm and soft. The particular rivers these fish call home are pretty sparse. The water doesn’t contain a ton of minerals.

Most of the stuff at the bottom is decomposing leaves from the trees above. As a result, the water turns slightly acidic.

Rummy Nose Tetras are particularly sensitive to changes in water conditions. Excess waste and a buildup of algae can alter the water chemistry significantly, which leads to stress and disease. It’s important to perform water changes regularly and stay on top of conditions to keep your fish healthy.

  • Water Temperature: 75°F to 84°F (aim for the middle)
  • pH Levels: 5.5 to 7.0
  • Water Hardness: 2 to 6 KH

Author Note: Make sure you have a trusted water level testing kit handy so you can have confidence in the numbers you’re getting back. Plenty of owners get tricked into acting on bad information due to a low-quality kit and end up making things worse.

What To Put In Their Tank

When you’re setting up your fish tank, you have a lot of flexibility. Starting at the bottom, you can add a thick layer of sandy substrate. Sand is what these fish are most used to.

However, most Rummy Nose Tetras aren’t going to spend a ton of time at the bottom half of the tank. They may visit occasionally, but these fish aren’t diggers. Thus, you can utilize gravel if you want.

A group of swimming Rummy Nose Tetras

As for plants and rocks, you pretty much have free reign to do what you want. Rummy Nose Tetras aren’t going to harm your plants like other fish. But, they will make great use of any available hiding places.

Rocks, driftwood, and other decor are important for giving your fish shelter. Not only do they provide some security for scared fish, but they also offer some relief from bright lights. This will reduce their stress levels and help them live a long and happy life.

Whatever you decide to decorate your tank with, just make sure to leave plenty of room to swim. Rummy Nose Tetras tend to occupy the middle area of the aquarium. Leave the center of the tank relatively barren so that your fish can swim freely.

When it comes to equipment, we recommend external filters and water heaters. External filters tend to be more efficient at cleaning water than traditional units. Considering the fish’s sensitivity to ammonia and nitrates from waste, a high-performance filter (like the Fluval FX4) is always a good idea.

An in-water heater will make it easier for you to keep temperatures constant. You don’t need any air stones or even a pump. The return pipe from your filter should provide enough movement to keep the fish happy.

Common Possible Diseases

Failing to keep your aquarium in good condition can lead to a host of issues for your Rummy Nose Tetras. While there aren’t any health conditions unique to this species, your fish could experience any of the common freshwater ailments.

Two of the most common to affect Rummy Nose Tetras are Ich and Dropsy. Ich is a relatively common parasitic infection. It manifests itself in time of stress and appears as white spots all over the fish’s body.

If your fish come down with Ich, it’s important to quarantine them as soon as possible. The disease is highly contagious and can lead to death if not treated. Luckily, there are plenty of simple over-the-counter medications to treat the issue.

Dropsy is when fluids inside the fish’s body accumulate and their otherwise slim profile to become swollen. It can be caused by several things. However, it’s usually a direct result of bacterial infections or parasites.

Author Note: The best way to deal with these is to prevent your fish from getting them in the first place. While nothing is guaranteed, you can drastically reduce the chance of this happening by maintaining impeccable water in their tank. Also, be careful that any new fish you introduce to their tank are healthy.

Food & Diet

Feeding Rummy Nose Tetras couldn’t be easier. They’re omnivores and thrive well on plant-based materials and protein. Generally, the fish will eat small bits of plant debris or algae.

However, you need to supplement those snacks with a regular balanced diet. Fish flakes and pellets work just fine. They should contain everything your Rummy Nose Tetra needs to stay healthy.

If you want to provide some treats every once in a while, try live or frozen foods. Daphnia and bloodworms are well-liked by the fish and act as a good source of protein.

You should aim to feed your fish two small meals a day. Don’t overfeed them, as the excess food will cause the water chemistry in the tank to change. Watch how much food they’re eating to get an idea if you’re giving them too much or not.

Behavior & Temperament

As we mentioned earlier, Rummy Nose Tetras are very passive and gentle (like most types of tetras). They’re not going to cause any issues with other gentle fish.

A shoal of Rummy Nose Tetra socializing

This species loves to swim in groups. Typically, they’ll stick together as they explore the tank. More often than not, these fish will stay in the middle of the water column. The only times they’ll stray from this area is when they’re grabbing food or hiding.

Rummy Nose Tetra Tank Mates

The best tank mate for Rummy Nose Tetras is more Rummy Nose Tetras. The shoaling fish do best when they’re in groups of 6 or more. They coordinate their movements and put on a nice little display.

Other gentle fish can be kept in the same tank. The only thing you need to worry about is keeping aggressive or large fish out of the tank. While they won’t bother other fish, the distinct markings of the Rummy Nose Tetra make them a target for other bully fish.

Here are some fish that make great tank mates for the Rummy Nose Tetra:

This list is definitely not all-inclusive, but it’s a great place to start. As long as you avoid aggressive or large fish you’ll probably be ok!


Rummy Nose Tetras aren’t hard to breed. However, you do need to achieve optimal conditions in your tank to trigger spawning.

Before you do that, there’s the issue of ensuring that you have both males and females in the tank. Because it’s so hard to sex the fish, try to multiple fish in the tank and keep an eye out to see which ones pair off.

Then, raise the temperatures to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. This mimics the warmer breeding season in the wild.

If successful, the female will swim to a leaf and turn over so that the male can fertilize the eggs. She’ll then lay large eggs onto the leaf.

At this point, remove all of the adult Rummy Nose Tetras. They are notorious for feeding on eggs, so it’s best to keep them separated.

After about 24 hours, the eggs will hatch. The tiny fish fry will survive off of their egg sacs for the next days or so. Then, they’ll be able to swim around the tank a bit. Provide them with some food that fry can eat. This includes specialized powder solutions, infusoria, or brine shrimp.

Once the babies get as big as the adults, you can introduce them to the community tank with the rest of your Rummy Nose Tetras.


Rummy Nose Tetra care doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In fact, once you get the hang of it the whole thing becomes very simple!

These fish are rewarding to own and bring a unique look that stands out in a crowd. A shoal of these fish swimming around is really a sight to see!

We highly recommend giving this species a shot if you’re looking to stray from the most common freshwater species a bit. You won’t regret it.

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