The Rummy-nose Tetra Hemigrammus bleheri is a striking addition to a community aquarium. This beautiful fish has a bright red nose and a black and white striped tail fin, and it only reaches about 1 3/4 of an inch (4.5 cm) in length. This nicely colored community fish is not only attracitve but peaceful with tankmates and not shy.

This fish is most commonly found under the name Rummy-nose Tetra. However, it is actually just one of three species of Rummy-nose. To distinguish it from its close relatives, it is more properly known as the Firehead Tetra or Brilliant Rummy Nose Tetra. Its other names are the Rednose Tetra and Blehers Rummy Nose Tetra.

This Firehead Tetra is very similar in appearance to its “Rummynose” cousins: the “true” Rummy-nose Tetra or Banded Rummy-Nose Hemigrammus rhodostomus and the “false” Rummy-nose Tetra or Black-fined Rummy-Nose Petitella georgiae. This species, H bleheri, was actually considered to be H. rhodostomys for many years until it was finally described as its own species by Géry in 1986. The differences separating these three characins are extremely slight, but H. bleheri is the only one that can have the red of its nose extend beyond the gills.

All three of these tetras are occasionally available. But because of its superior color, the Brilliant Rummy Nose Tetra H. bleheri is the primary species of Rummy-Nose found in pet stores. This tetra has also been selectively-bred by commercial breeders to produce a “golden” variation, and this color morph is sometimes available.

A school of Rummy-nose Tetras will thrive in a well-established, well-planted aquarium. In the right conditions, they will be very active and have glowing noses.These ‘black-water” fish need soft, acidic water. It is unwise to introduce these fish into a new system as they will not do well with the unstable water conditions. These tetras are highly sensitive to water pollution and susceptible to ich.

These fish are robust if kept in precise conditions. However, if your Rummy-nose Tetras are unhappy or stressed, their discontent is easily recognized as they will lose most of their color and hardly even look like the same fish. Keep in mind that this will also happen when you first bring them home. After introducing them to their new tank, give them a couple of days to get their full color back.

Scientific Classification


Rummy-nose Tetra – Quick Aquarium Care

Aquarist Experience Level:Intermediate
Aquarium Hardiness:Moderately Difficult
Minimum Tank Size:15 gal (57 L)
Size of fish – inches1.8 inches (4.50 cm)
Temperature:72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8&deg C)

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Rummy-nose Tetra Hemigrammus bleheri was described by Géry and Mahnert in 1986. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List. They are found in South America in Rio Vaupes in Columbia and in the Rio Negro in Brazil. This species is said to be confined to black water tributaries noticeably upstream off the Amazon. Their waters are usually stained brown from decaying organic material and very acidic. Other common names it is known by are Firehead Tetra, Brilliant Rummy Nose Tetra, Rednose Tetra, and Blehers Rummy Nose Tetra.

  • Scientific Name: Hemigrammus bleheri
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed


The Rummy-nose Tetra is a full-bodied, elongated, large tetra species. This fish will generally reach about 1.75 inches (4.5 cm) in length and has a lifespan of about 5 years. Its silvery color picks up flashy neon highlights. Their most distinguishing characteristics are the bright red nose, thus the name ‘rummy-nose,’ and the striped black and white tail fin.

The H bleheri is very similar in appearance to two of its “Rummynose” cousins: the “true” Rummy-nose Tetra or Banded Rummy-Nose Hemigrammus rhodostomus. It is also looks similar to the “false” Rummy-nose Tetra or Black-fined Rummy-Nose Petitella georgiae.

Because of its superior color, this species is the primary Rummy-Nose found in pet stores. The differences separating these three are extremely slight. The H. bleheri is the only one of the three on which the red nose coloring can extend beyond the gills.

The two Hemigrammus species can be distinguished from P. georgiaby the black blotch on the bottom lobe of the caudal fin, which is missing from P. georgiae. Some other distinctions between the Hemigrammus species are that the thin lateral line is bolder on H. rhodostomus and fainter or non-existent on H. bleheri, and the H. rhodostomusis stockier and less elongated than H. bleheri.

  • Size of fish – inches: 1.8 inches (4.50 cm)
  • Lifespan: 6 years – They generally have a lifespan of about 5 to 6 years, though some have reportedly lived for up to 8 years.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Rummy-nose Tetra is a bit difficult to keep and is best suited for an aquarist with some fish keeping experience. It is robust if kept in very precise conditions but highly sensitive to water pollution and, by extension, susceptible to ich. It is unwise to introduce Rummy Nose Tetras into a new system as they will not do well with unstable water conditions. Otherwise, these tetras are very adaptable, and in well-insulated homes, can do well without a heated aquarium.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult – This fish is more sensitive to aquarium conditions than most other tetras.
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Foods and Feeding

Since they are omnivorous, the Rummy-nose Tetra will generally eat all kinds of live, fresh, and flake foods. To keep a good balance, give them a high-quality flake food every day. Feed brine shrimp (either live or frozen) or blood worms as a treat. This tetra has a small mouth, so make sure the food is small enough for them to consume. These tetras like several feedings a day, but offer only what they can consume in 3 minutes or less at each feeding.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day

Aquarium Care

Rummy-Nose Tetras are very sensitive to water condition changes, so pristine water is a necessity. Make sure to have a testing kit on hand. Aquariums are closed systems, and regardless of size, all need some maintenance. Over time, decomposing organic matter, nitrates, and phosphate build up and water hardness increases due to evaporation. To combat these ever-changing conditions, water should be replaced on a regular basis, especially if the tank is densely stocked. At least 25 to 50% of the tank water should be replaced every other week.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly

Aquarium Setup

These fish are fairly hardy, and a school of of 7 or more will do best in a 15 to 20 gallon aquarium. They are more difficult to keep than many other tetras, and water conditions should be soft and acidic for them to thrive. Peat filtration is advisable. They need a high quality filter to keep the water level stable. These fish will also appreciate an undergravel filter to help keep the tank oxygenated and to filter waste that makes it to the substrate between cleanings. Lighting in the tank should be dim as they come from areas with dense forest cover.

The aquarium should be an established tank that is well planted with some open space for swimming. A biotope tank is best. Using a substrate of river sand with a handful of dried leaves will give the tank a natural feel. Make sure to remove and replace the dried leaves every few weeks. Woodwork and floating plants will make them feel comfortable. A few hiding places with bogwood or driftwood would be appreciated.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L) – A 15-gallon or larger aquarium is needed for a small school.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8&deg C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 79.0° F – A temperature of 77 to 82° F (25- 27.7° C) is best for breeding.
  • Range ph: 5.5-6.8 – A ph of 6.0 to 6.5 is best for breeding. This blackwater native is very intolerant of harder, alkaline water. Peat filtration is advisable.
  • Hardness Range: 2 – 8 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: All – These fish will swim in all areas of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

The Rummy-nose is a peaceful community species. These tetras will do better and look best when kept in a group of 7 to 10 fish. They look great in a planted aquarium with some free space for swimming. The Rummy-nose does not do well with overly boisterious fish. Good tankmates are smaller rasboras, peaceful barbs, some peaceful dwarf ciclids, peaceful bottom feeders, and discus. Tetras will be startled by loud sounds or excessive movement outside the tank, so be sure to situate them appropriately.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes – These fish are more comfortable in larger schools of at least 7 to 10 individuals.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Safe
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe – not aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sexual differences

The male is thinner than the female, and the female is more compact with a larger stomach during spawning.

Breeding / Reproduction

Rummy-nose Tetras are egg layers that are reportedly more difficult to breed than many other tetras. To breed them, the water must be soft and slightly acidic. These are “blackwater” fish, so peat filtration is suggested for breeding. They will spawn on the bottom of the aquarium or on pinnate leaves of plants. A separate breeding tank will help get the best number of fry.

A 10-gallon spawning tank is adequate, with a warmer temperature around 82 to 86° F (27.7 – 30° C). The water should be soft and slightly acidic with a pH of 6 to 6.2 and a hardness of 4 to 6°. Keep the tank dimly lit as both the eggs and fry are light sensitive. Provide clumps of spawning mops or java moss, so the female has a place to deposit the eggs. A layer of mesh also works as long as the spaces are wide enough for the eggs to pass through but small enough to keep the parents out. A small air-powered sponge filter is all that is really needed for filtration. Filtering the water through aquarium safe-peat is a good choice.

They can be bred in pairs, but the most successful way to spawn these fish is in groups of about 6 males and 6 females. To optimize breeding success, condition the males and females in separate tanks prior to breeding. Feed them a rich diet that includes plenty of small, live foods. Select a breeding pair or small group and transfer them into the breeding tank in the evening. A mature female’s belly will become nicely rounded when she is full of eggs. Choose males that are the most colorful.

They typically spawn in the morning. The parents will pale in color after spawning and must be removed immediately, or they will eat the eggs. Eggs will hatch in approximately 24 to 36 hours. The tiny fry will be free-swimming 3 to 4 days later. The smallest foods possible, like infusoria, are needed for the first few days until the fry are large enough to feed on microworm or brine shrimp nauplii. See Breeding Freshwater Fish: Characins for a general description of breeding processes, and see Fish Food for Fry for information about types of foods for raising the young.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate

Fish Diseases

Rummy-nose Tetras are prone to develop ick if their water is not soft and acidic. They will resist disease as long as the tank is well-maintained and stable. Overall, they are hardy, and disease is not usually a problem in a well-maintained aquarium. That being said, there is no guarantee that you won’t have to deal with health problems or disease. Anything you add to your tank can introduce disease. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so as not to upset the balance.

A good thing about the Rummy-nose Tetra is that due to their resilience, an outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if dealt with at an early stage. When keeping more sensitive types of fish, it is common for all fishes to be infected even before the first warning signs can be noticed. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your Firehead Tetra the proper environment and a well-balanced diet. The more closely their enviornment resembles their natural habitat, the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happier. Stressed fish are more likely to acquire disease.

As with most fish, they are prone to skin flukes, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), ichthyobodo infection, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), bacterial infections (general), and bacterial disease. Aquarists should read up on common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


The Rummy-nose Tetra is readily available and reasonably priced.



Featured Image Credit: Grigorev Mikhail, Shutterstock