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Brilliant Rummy Nose Tetra

Scientific Name: Hemigrammus bleheri
Family: Characidae, Hemigrammus Clade

About the Brilliant Rummy Nose Tetra

Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Category: Characins

Care Level: Moderate. May tolerate only a narrow range of water parameters, have specific dietary requirements including frozen or even live foods, may have behaviors that severely limit potential tankmates or may require a specialized aquarium setup.

Origin: Basins of the Rio Meta and Rio Negro in Columbia and Brazil, and the Atabapo in Venezuela. Occurs in quiet blackwater streams and flooded forest; often sympatric with Paracheirodon axelrodi (cardinal tetra).

Compatibility/Temperament: Very peaceful shoaling tetra, must be in a group of at least six but will do best with 12 or more. Well suited to a well planted community aquarium of non-aggressive fish such as other characins, dwarf cichlids, and small barbs, rasbora, anabantids, catfish and loaches. Very suitable for discus.


There are three distinct species, Hemigrammus bleheri, H. rhodostomus and Pititella georgiae, under the common name "Rummy Nose Tetra" and H. bleheri is certainly the most colourful and is now the most commonly available of the three. This species is easily distinguished from the other two; only in this species does the red colour extend beyond the head onto and past the gill covers. Also, the central caudal fin band extending laterally onto the body of the fish that is quite evident in the two similar species is almost non-existent in H. bleheri. The chart included above illustrates the three species. The red colouration is brightest in this species, though this can be misleading as it pales if the fish is under stress and it usually would be in dealer's tanks.

While most of the characins are shoaling fish, this tetra is the one that almost always remains within a group. It remains in the lower third of the aquarium, normally surfacing only to feed. Swimming space is essential, as the species likes to regularly venture out from among the plants as a group to swim the full length of the aquarium.

This fish will take on its brightest colouration in a well-planted aquarium with a dark substrate and slightly acidic and soft water, and shaded by floating plants since it does not appreciate bright lighting.

Females are rounder than males, but this species is not easy to spawn and this will only be successful in very soft acidic water. The eggs are scattered in fine leaf vegetation to which they adhere, and will be eaten by the adults if not removed. Eggs and fry are very sensitive to light, another indicator of the dark waters in which this fish occurs.

The brilliant red colouration will only appear when the fish is comfortable with its environment, and any paling of the red is an indicator of deteriorating or unsuitable water conditions.

This species was the last of the three "Rummy Nose" tetras to be discovered, and this occurred in 1965 by Heiko Bleher; the species was described and named in honour of its discoverer by Gery and Mahnert in 1986.

The genus Hemigrammus--the name from the Greek meaning "with half line," a reference to the incomplete lateral line--was erected as a subgenus of Poecilurichthys by T.N. Gill in 1858 but has been recognized as a distinct genus since Gery (1977). There are presently about 50 valid species. The classification is deemed incertae sedis [Latin, "of uncertain placement"]. It was formerly considered within the Subfamily Tetragonopterinae, but Javonillo (2010) suggest that this subfamily should be restricted to species within the genus Tetragonopterus since they do not share physiological characteristics with species in other genera such as Hemigrammus.

None of the diagnostic characteristics presently used to describe species in Hemigrammus, including the incomplete lateral line which gave rise to the genus name, are unique to the genus. Mirande (2009) states that the genus is not monophyletic, a view shared by most ichthyologists working with the characidae. [A monophyletic genus is one wherein the species share a common ancestor, thus linking them together physiologically.] Mirande has proposed several revisions to the Family Characidae based upon phylogenetic diagnosis. Some genera have been moved to a new Subfamily, while others are now (temporarily) assigned to a specific clade within the Family pending further study.

Hemigrammus has until recently been differentiated from Hyphessobrycon solely on the basis of the fish in Hemigrammus possessing a scaled caudal fin; this however is now known to be unreliable, since it occurs in intermediate conditions (de Lucina, 2003).


Bleher, Heiko (2010), "Rummynose Tetras," Practical Fishkeeping 7 (July 2010), pp. 18-21.

de Lucena, Carlos Alberto Santos (2003), "A new characid fish, Hyphessobrycon scutulatus, from the Rio Teles Pires drainage, upper Rio Tapajos system (Ostariophysi: Characiformes: Characidae)," Neotropical Ichthyology 1 (2), pp. 93-96.

Gery, Jacques (1977), "Characoids of the World," TFH Books.

Javonillo, Robert, Luiz R. Malabarba, Stanley H. Weitzman and John R. Burns (2010), "Relationships among major lineages of characid fishes (Teleostei: Ostariophysi: Characiformes), based on molecular sequence data," Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Vol. 54, No. 2 (February 2010).

Mirande, J. Marcos (2009), "Weighted parsimony phylogeny of the family Characidae (Teleostei: Characiformes)," Cladistics, Vol. 25, No. 6 (July 2009).

Brilliant Rummy Nose Tetra Diet

Omnivorous, it accepts prepared foods including flake and frozen.


Attains 2 inches, usually smaller.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches in length.

Ideal water parameters for Brilliant Rummy Nose Tetra

Soft (hardness not exceeding 12 dGH but preferably below 5 dGH) and acidic (pH below 7.0, preferably below 6.5) water, temperature 23-26C/74-79F. Tolerates warmer temperatures to 29C/84F. Habitat waters are very soft with a pH from 3.7 to 5.

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