Brilliant Rummynose Tetra – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Brilliant Rummynose Tetra (Hemigrammus bleheri) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding

The Brilliant Rummynose Tetra, scientifically known as Hemigrammus bleheri, is a stunning fish. It has gained popularity among aquarium enthusiasts worldwide due to its availability and peaceful temperament.

However, despite its popularity, I would strongly discourage beginners from choosing this fish, despite certain claims suggesting it could be an excellent option.

In reality, the Brilliant Rummynose Tetra can be quite challenging to care for. This species of fish is highly sensitive to water quality and pathogens, doesn’t handle transportation well, easily becomes stressed, and is difficult to breed.

In this article, I will try to shed light on everything known about Hemigrammus bleheri, including its preferences for care, diet, and breeding.

Quick Notes about Hemigrammus Bleheri

Name Brilliant Rummynose Tetra
Other Names Red-nose Tetra, Rummy-nose Tetra, Diamond head rummy-nose tetra, Firehead Tetra, Blehers Rødnæse, Punapäätetra, Rotkopfsalmler, True rummy nose tetra, Hemigrammus tetra, 布氏非洲裙魚, 布氏非洲裙鱼
Scientific Name Hemigrammus bleheri
Water type Freshwater
Tank size (minimum) 20 gallons (~80 liters)
Keeping Medium-difficult
Breeding Difficult
Size 2 inches (up to 5 cm)
Optimal Temperature 75 – 82°F (24 – 28°C)
Optimal PH 6.0 – 7.0 
Optimal GH 1 – 8 
Dwellers bottom to mid-dwelling
Nitrate Less than 40
Diet Omnivore
Temperament Peaceful
Life span up to 5 years
Color Form Red color of the head with silvery-gray body

Etymology of Hemigrammus Bleheri

The genus name “Hemigrammus” is derived from the Greek words “hemi,” meaning “half,” and “grammus,” meaning “line.” This likely refers to the distinct black horizontal band that runs across the midsection of many species in the genus Hemigrammus.

The species name “Bleheri” is given in honor of Heiko Bleher, a renowned German aquarist, ichthyologist, and researcher. Heiko Bleher has made significant contributions to the aquarium hobby.

Distribution of Hemigrammus Bleheri

Brilliant Rummynose (Hemigrammus bleheri) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - destributionThe Brilliant Rummynose Tetra occurs in the wild in the Amazon Basin, especially in Rio Meta and Rio Negro blackwater tributaries in Colombia and Brazil, and in Peru.

Habitat of Hemigrammus Bleheri

These fish usually inhabit the margins of streams and marginal floodplains with dense vegetation, submerged logs, and tangled roots.

The Brilliant Rummynose Tetras prefer shallow (less than 5 ft or 1.5m), calm, shaded areas with slow water flow. They are often found near the bottom and rarely at the surface.

Description of Hemigrammus Bleheri

Brilliant Rummynose Tetra (Hemigrammus bleheri) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding profileThe Brilliant Rummynose Tetras are relatively small, typically reaching a length of 1.2 – 1.6 inches (3 – 4 cm), with a maximum size of 2 inches (5 cm) being possible.

These fish have a silvery-gray body, with a barely noticeable greenish hue, which is complemented by a redhead and a beautiful black and white striped pattern on its tail. In the finest specimens, the red color of the head smoothly transitions beyond the gill covers, sometimes reaching the beginning of the dorsal fin.

This striking coloration makes them a visually appealing addition to any aquarium.

Lifespan of Hemigrammus Bleheri

These fish typically live around 3-5 years.

However, with proper care and optimal water conditions, they can sometimes live up to 7 years or even longer.

It is absolutely important to provide them with a suitable environment, a balanced diet, and regular maintenance to ensure their well-being and longevity.

Differences Hemigrammus Bleheri, Hemmigramus rhodostomus, and Petitela georgiae

It can be really difficult to identify Hemigrammus bleheri from Hemigrammus rhodostomus and Petitella georgiae without a trained eye, as they are morphologically very similar to each other. However, there are some aspects that can help in this regard.

  H. Bleheri
Brilliant Rummy-nose
H. rhodostomus
True rummy-nose
P. georgiae
False rummy-nose
Head coloration extends into the bodybeyond the gill covers only head area only head area
Color intensity vibrant medium little lighter in tone
Caudal peduncle bottom blotch bottom blotch No bottom blotch
Lateral line
(from the central caudal fin band into the body)
never prolonged forward narrow broad
Maxillary very short and round short a long and wide
Premaxillary teeth tworows two rows single row
Dentary 6, with 6 or 7 cuspids 5–6 with 5 cuspids 9–11 teeth with 5 cuspids
Distribution Rio Negro and Rio Meta basins Brazil and Venezuela, in the lower Amazon basin in Pará State, and Orinoco River Upper Amazon basin in Peru, Rio Purus, Rio Negro, and Rio Madeira basins

Note: In 2020,according to the study, based on the sister-taxon relationship of the rummy-nose tetras using molecular data, it was proposed to transfer the rummy-nose tetras Hemigrammus bleheri and Hemigrammus rhodostomus to the genus Petitella.

Differences Hemigrammus Bleheri, Hemmigramus rhodostomus, and Petitela georgiae

Typical Behavior of Hemigrammus Bleheri


The Brilliant Rummynose Tetras are generally peaceful. They typically get along well with other fish species. However, it’s important to note that individual fish may exhibit slightly different behaviors.

For example, they may even start nipping at the fins of long-finned or slow-moving fish when they are kept in toocramped or overcrowded conditions.

These fish are very easy to scare. If they feel stressed they lose their color on the head and tail. Additionally, they often play dead (swim upside down) once in the net.

Note: Interestingly, the Brilliant Rummynose Tetras also lose their red spot at night and become almost completely silver.


Brilliant Rummynose Tetra (Hemigrammus bleheri) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding schoolingThey are schooling fish, so it is recommended to keep them in groups of at least 8 individuals to ensure their well-being and encourage natural behavior. They are very cohesiveand swim in a highly synchronized and polarized manner.

A school provides a fish with the potential to enhance its ability to identify prey, detect predators and swim efficiently. According to the study, the BrilliantRummynose Tetras rely on vision and flow sensing to facilitate schooling.

They usually do not school with other fish species.


The BrilliantRummynose Tetras are active and lively fish. They are known for their energetic swimming behavior featuring a delightful alternation between swift, darting movements, and graceful, gliding motions. 

They enjoy exploring their environment and are particularly fond of areas with dense vegetation or places to hide.

They are good jumpers. So, you need to cover the tank or lower the water level by at least a few inches.

Placement in Tank:

The Brilliant Rummynose Tetras are bottom and mid-level swimmers. They can often be seen swimming fast on the bottom and darting around the aquarium in schools.

When considering their placement in the tank, it’s important to provide ample swimming space in the bottom and middle levels of the aquarium.


  • Social: Yes
  • Activity: High
  • Placement: Bottom and middle dwellers
  • Peaceful: Yes
  • Nippers: Sometimes (when stressed)
  • Jumpers: Yes

Diet of Hemigrammus Bleheri

When it comes to diet, these tetras generally do not cause much trouble for aquarium owners.

The species is omnivorous, has a broad diet, and consumes a significant portion of the food that is naturally available in its habitat such as filamentous and conjugate algae, along with microcrustaceans (Cladocera, Copepoda, and Ostracoda), detritus, animal protein, insect fragments, seeds, eggs (from insects and fish), etc.

Stomach content analyses revealed seasonal variations in the diet compositions, with microcrustaceans during the flooding/flood periods, whereas during the dry season, the diet mainly consists of filamentous algae, chironomids, and vegetal fragments.

In aquariums, the Brilliant Rummynose Tetras will accept food of all kinds (live food, dry food, or freeze-dried) as long as it is adapted to their mouth size. A varied and balanced diet is always recommended. For example:

They also accept frozen and commercial food as well, such as (links to Amazon):

How to feed Hemigrammus Bleheri:

This is a diurnal species, so it is better to feed them in the morning. Use the «five-minute rule».

Ideally, feed Hemigrammus bleheri in small portions multiple times a day rather than a large amount once a day. This mimics their natural feeding behavior and helps prevent overfeeding and digestive issues.


  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Food Preference: Meat
  • Feeding Frequency: Daily

Are Hemigrammus Bleheri Plants Safe?

Generally, the Brilliant Rummynose Tetras are completely plant safe.

However, it is worth noting that there are also some reports where they nibbled soft and small plants such as Utricularia graminifolia, Dwarf baby tears (Hemianthus callitriodes), Echinodorus tenellus, etc.

Note: It is difficult to say what caused this behavior, but according to the main theory, it could have been triggered by a stressful situation combined with inadequate nutrition.

Keeping and Caring for Hemigrammus Bleheri

It is important to emphasize once again that Brilliant Rummynose Tetras are quite difficult to keep due to their high water quality requirements and the difficulty of adapting to new conditions.

To maintain these fish, it is necessary for the aquarium not only to complete the cycling process but also to be completely established.

These fish do not tolerate ammonianitrites, or nitrates really well.

Tank size:

Despite their small size, a group of 8-10 fish will require an absolute minimum aquarium size of 20 gallons (80 liters).

The reason is that these fish are highly active and move around a lot. If you want to fully appreciate the beauty and grace of their movements, it is recommended to have a long aquarium rather than a tall one.

Additionally, there are a couple of important reasons for that, such as:

  • Maintaining water balance and parameters is easier in larger aquariums because they provide a larger volume of water.
  • This allows for more stable water conditions and dilutes any potential fluctuations in water chemistry.

Important: Brilliant Rummynose Tetras are jumpers! So, it is imperative to take measures, for example: using a tank cover, lowering the water level, and using floating plants, which is essential to ensure their safety.

Related article:

Water Parameters:

Important: If you are buying captive-bred (for several generations) the Brilliant Rummynose Tetras, I would strongly recommend finding out the water parameters they were bred in.

If you can’t find this information, you will have to presume that these fish are wild-caught. So, you need to keep them in water parameters that are close to the natural ones.

Related article:

Temperature: Brilliant Rummynose Tetras need water temperatures ranging between 75 to 82°F (24°C to 28°C).

pH: The ideal pH range is 6.0 to 7.0. In their natural habitat, they live in acidic water.

Hardness: The recommended general hardness (GH) range for these fish is 1 to 8. These fish do not do well in very hard water. They prefer soft water.

Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate: It is important to maintain the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels at 0 ppm, 0 ppm, and below 40 ppm, respectively.

Monitor the water parameters regularly. It was noticed that in hard and in alkaline conditionsthey lose their colors. 

Copper. According to the study, Hemigrammus sp. is also very sensitive to copper. Experiments showed that, after 96 hours, LC50 values (Lethal Concentration to 50% of a test population) ranged from 12.8 to 40.5 mg Cu.


Slightly subdued lighting will be the best choice for the Brilliant rummynose tetras.

However, if you decide to keep these fish in planted tanks, lighting should be adapted to the needs of plants.

Related articles:

Water flow:

Although the Brilliantrummynose tetras have the ability to swim against the current while maintaining a fixed position against the flow.In the natural environment, they are found in slow-moving water.

Still or very slow water currents are recommended for tanks housing this species


Brilliant rummynose tetras spend lots of time close to the substrate, so it is important to provide them with a substrate that will not harm them (such as sand or smooth gravel).

In planted tanks you can use an active substrate, besides boosting plants’ growth rate it will also help you to maintain a low pH level in the water.

Avoid coarse gravel. Its sharp edges can injure/scratch the body of the fish as they swim in the lower regions of the tank.


Since Brilliant rummynose tetras are very sensitive to the quality of the water, a powerful filtration system with filtering materials that increase acidity is desirable.

Soft water can be achieved using a reverse osmosis system.


This species thrives in its natural habitat, which is characterized by an abundance of driftwood, leaf litter, and vegetation.

This should be replicated in an aquarium.

Plants provide good hiding spots as well. You can use floating plantsfake plantsdriftwoodleaves, and small rocks to provide great hiding spots for them.

Related article:


Before putting Brilliant rummynose tetras into the tank, you need to acclimate them.

Give them time to acclimatize before adding to the tank. Do not rush the process!  Be very careful during the acclimation process and use the drip method. Sudden changes in habitat can harm them.

Related article:

Breeding Hemigrammus Bleheri

Breeding Brilliant rummynose tetras in captivity can be challenging as it requires a special approach and conditions. In most cases, the fish available in pet stores are wild-caught.


Brilliant rummynose tetras exhibit secondary sexual dimorphism related to body size. Females are slightly rounder and larger in size (from 33.0 to 37.0 mm) whereas males are usually 30.0 to 32.0 mm.


They reach sexual maturity at the age of 5 – 7 months at 1.1 inches(2.8 cm) for females and 1 inch (2.6 cm) for males.

In their natural habitats, females get mature during the flooding season between December and May and most of the spawning occurs at the end of the flood, between March and May.

Mating and Fertilization:

The male does not have the gonopodium and fertilization is external. The mating process involves the female laying her eggs on vegetation, and the male fertilizing them.

The fish swim actively in an open area, with the male closely following the female. Suddenly, he dives beneath her, aligning perfectly with her speed and position. They spin together, and 5 – 7 transparent eggs are released as they briefly separate.

The entire process happens quickly, within a second. It also repeats approximately 25-30 times during the spawning process.


The results of the study indicate that this species has multiple spawning, with oocytes varying between 0.06 and 0.66 mm in diameter, and fecundity between 101-721 oocytes.

Note: In the second year of life, on average, a female  can lay around 150-200 eggs.

Brilliant rummynose tetras are egg scatterers. They do not exhibit any parental care and will readily eat their own eggs given the chance.

Depending on the temperature, the incubation period is typically around 24 to 48 hours. During this time, the eggs will develop and hatch into fry.

The eggs, and especially the fry, unlike any other fish in the Hemigrammus genus, are very sensitive to pathogens and requirea clean environment.

How to stimulate the breeding process:

1. Condition both the females and males by providing them with live foods such as brine shrimp, black worms, and daphnia. This will help prepare them for breeding.

One of the reasons for the lack of success in breeding this fish species is also related to their diet. Many aquarium hobbyists start to feed their fish heavily when the spawning period is approaching.

Unfortunately, it has been observed that this is not enough!

Brilliant rummynose tetras require constant good feeding with high-quality foods to ensure successful breeding, not just before the spawning period.

2. To avoid stressing your fish unnecessarily, breeding fish are usually placed into the spawning tank in the evening.Catch them from the main aquarium using a pocket flashlight. This method of capturing is considered the safest.

Typically, the fish will enter a deep sleep within 10-15 minutes after the lights are turned off, and during the brief period when the aquarium is illuminated by a weak, directed beam of the flashlight, they do not fully wake up.

3. Transfer the fish to a separate breeding 5 – 10 gallon (20 – 40 liters) tank.Make sure that it has appropriate parameters for water quality.

4. Set up the bare-bottom breeding tank with items like a spawning mop, sponge filter, or a few plants that do not require a substrate, to give the fish somewhere to deposit their adhesive eggs.

5. Provide very low lighting as they usually spawn in the morning.

6. Gradually lower the hardness and pH of the water over a period of several hours (at least 4 – 6 hours). For example, if you have a pH about 7.0, you need to aim for a pH of around 6.5. Hardness should be between 3 – 6. Additionally, it is also necessary to raise the water temperature by a few degrees. For example, if your aquarium is at 79°F (26°C), along with adjusting the pH, it is recommended to increase the temperature to 84°F (29°C).

Note: Some aquarists also claimed thatinfusion of alder also helped them to stimulate spawning behavior.

7. Regularly check the tank every couple of hours to monitor for signs of spawning, such as the presence of eggs or active mating behavior.

8. Once spawning has occurred, to prevent the parents from eating the eggs, it is recommended to move the adult fish back to their regular tank. To additionally protect the eggs, some aquarists cover the base of the tank with some kind of mesh. So, the eggs can fall down and slip through a gap.

9. Allow the eggs to hatch in the breeding tank, providing a suitable environment for their development. Keep the lights dim. The fry do not like bright light.

10. Once the fry have consumed their yolk sac, start feeding them Infusoria until they are large enough to consume brine shrimp (BBS) or other live foods.

After 3 – 4 days, from hatching to swimming. During this time, it’s crucial to provide them with food promptly as they lose their ability to catch prey after just a few hours of fasting. Feeding them a small amount of food 3 – 4 times a day at this stage is highly recommended.

The first signs of adult coloration typically appear after the 3rd week. Hemigrammus species show early development: white spots on their tails can be seen as early as 2 weeks, while the red coloration on their heads emerges slightly later.

Hemigrammus Bleheri and Suitable Tankmates


Its tank mates should be all small fish species that are not big enough to eat or harass them. Ideally, you need to choose species which prefer warm and acidic aquarium water, such as:


Keeping Brilliant rummynose tetras and dwarf shrimp will be a bad idea, especially if you plan on breeding shrimp.

The reason is that these tetras, can be quite active and may prey on small shrimp or harass molting shrimp, leading to unfavorable outcomes. Shrimp are vulnerable during molting, as their new exoskeleton is soft and they are unable to defend themselves effectively.

Even heavily planted tanks may not provide sufficient hiding places for baby shrimp. Therefore, if you are serious about maintaining a thriving shrimp population, the safest course of action is to keep the shrimp separate from Brilliant rummynose tetras .

Freshwater snails:

Brilliant rummynose tetras can share the same tank with any type of freshwater snails.

However, it is important to note that the majority of snails prefer hard water and do not tolerate acidic water well in long term as it can have a negative effect on their shells over time. Meanwhile, this fish species actually prefers soft and acidic water.


Keep Brilliant rummynose away from most types of crayfish and freshwater crabs.

Even African Dwarf Frogs may try to catch them.

In Conclusion

Without a doubt, this small schooling fish is incredibly beautiful and can truly enhance any aquarium. It is no wonder that the Brilliant Rummynose Tetras are quite popular, especially among professional aquascapers.

However, when purchasing them, it is important to understand that their care and breeding are not easy tasks, as these fish are not hardy, they arevery demanding when it comes to water parameters, and do not tolerate mistakes. Therefore, I would not recommend them to beginners.


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  2. Duarte, Rafael Mendonca, Ana Cristina Leite Menezes, Leonardo da Silveira Rodrigues, Vera Maria Fonseca de Almeida-Val, and Adalberto Luis Val. “Copper sensitivity of wild ornamental fish of the Amazon.” Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 72, no. 3 (2009): 693-698.
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  6. CHAO, N.L.; PETRY, P.; PRANG, G.; SONNESCHIEN, L.; TLUSTY, M. Conservation and management of ornamental fish resources of the Rio Negro basin, Amazonas, Brasil- ProjetPiaba. Manaus, EDUA, 2001. 301p. CHAO, N.L.; PRADA-PEDREROS, S. Diversity and conservation of ornamental fishes and fishery of Rio Negro, Amazonas, Brazil. In: VOIGTLANDER, C.W. Protection of aquatic biodiversity. Proceedings of World Fisheries Cogress, Oxford & IBH Publication. New Delhi, 1995. p.241-260.
  7. GERY, J.; MAHNERT, V. 1986 A new rummy-nose tetra from the Rio Negro, Brazil: Hemigrammus bleheri n. sp. (Characidae, Tetragonopterinae), with comments on Paracheirodon. Tropical Fish Hobbyist, 34(11): 37-52.
  8. Bittencourt, Pedro Senna. “Pedro Senna Bittencourt1, Valéria Nogueira Machado1, Bruce Gavin Marshall2, Tomas Hrbek1 and Izeni Pires Farias1.” Neotropical Ichthyology18, no. 2 (2020): e190109.
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