Gold Tetra: A Guide to Tank Setup, Feeding, and Breeding

gold tetra
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Last Updated: May 6, 2023 by Flora Gibbins

Did you know that the gold in Gold Tetras isn’t actually natural? These fish, Hemigrammus rodwayi, are actually silver-grayish blue. So how is it that some of them look gold?

In this blog post, we’ll check out the Gold Tetra and get into its origins, behavior, and appearance. I’ll also show you how easy they are to care for.

Let’s jump right in!

Gold Tetra Facts and Overview

  • Other Common names: Golden Tetra
  • Scientific name: Hemigrammus rodwayi
  • Maximum Adult size: 5.5 cm (2.2 in)
  • Lifespan: 3 to 5 years
  • Colors and markings: Bright gold with a black stripe along the body
  • Origin: South American countries of Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana

Origin and Distribution

In the clear and blackwater streams that flow through South America’s coastal floodplains, there’s a fish that’s made itself right at home. Meet the Gold Tetra! These fascinating fish have adapted to their aquatic environment with ease, sporting a shimmering gold color with a bold black stripe along their body.

But they’re more than just a pretty face. Gold Tetras are a vital part of the aquatic ecosystems of Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Peru, and Brazil. They help keep the ecosystem in balance by feeding on small insects, crustaceans, and other aquatic invertebrates. And they’re not just any fish – they have specific needs when it comes to the salt level in their habitat, making them a true testament to the power of adaptation in nature.

It was discovered in 1909 by Marion Durbin Ellis, an scientist who specialized in the study of insects and fish, who gave it its scientific name, Hemigrammus rodwayi, in honor of James Rodway, a travel writer and naturalist who participated in Carl Eigenmann’s collecting trips in South America during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

It is also worth noting that the Gold Tetra is sometimes called Hemigrammus Armstrongi, which some thought was a different fish altogether but eventually concluded to be the same species.

Many intriguing facts are coming your way — so read on!


The Gold Tetra is a stunning fish with a unique and eye-catching appearance. These fish have a bright gold color with a black stripe running along the body, but their true color is actually silver-grayish blue. The gold color is due to a parasite that irritates the skin and scales of the fish. In response to the infection, the fish’s body contains tiny powdery crystals which produce mucus, which gives the fish a shimmering golden tint. But if there’s no infection, then there’s no gold. This just blows my mind!

The tail fin of the Gold Tetra has a black spot in the middle and red on the top. Their dorsal fins are gold with white speckles, and they also have a soft ray dorsal fin that is red. But really, their fin colors can vary depending on where they’re from. While some populations might show off black, red, and blue tones in their fins, others might stick to a more muted color palette.

Behavior and Temperament

Gold Tetras are a joy to watch and interact with. They are social and highly active fish that do best when kept in groups of six or more. These fish are peaceful and get along well with other non-aggressive species. However, it is worth noting that Gold Tetras can become territorial if they feel crowded or if they are kept in small groups.

In the wild, Gold Tetras are schooling fish and often travel in large groups for protection and to improve their chances of finding food. In an aquarium setting, it is essential to replicate this environment by providing plenty of hiding places and open swimming areas. A well-planted tank with driftwood, rocks, and other decorations can help create a natural environment that allows these fish to thrive.

gold tetra shoal

Gold Tetra Tank Mates

Gold Tetras are peaceful fish that do best when kept with other non-aggressive species. They are not well-suited to live with very boisterous or much larger tankmates, as this can cause stress and potentially even harm to the Gold Tetras.

I keep my Gold Tetras with other South American species, such as other Hemigrammus or Hyphessobrycon species, Penguin Tetras, pencil fish, Apistogramma dwarf cichlids, Corydoras, and small Loricariids. They can also live with smaller rasboras, barbs, Anabantoids, and West African dwarf cichlids such as Pelvicachromis species.

Remember that Gold Tetras are shoaling fish and do best when kept in groups of six or more, preferably ten or more. Providing a larger group will allow them to thrive and create a more natural environment, as they will be happier in the company of their own kind.

Gold Tetra Care

Caring for Gold Tetras is a breeze, making them an ideal choice for both novice and seasoned aquarists alike. These fish are incredibly hardy and can adapt to various water conditions, as long as their basic needs are adequately met. Whether you’re an expert in the hobby or just starting, this section is essential reading to ensure your Gold Tetras thrive in your aquarium.

Here, we’ll cover everything from tank setup to feeding and common health issues, so you’ll have all the tools you need to give your Gold Tetras the best care possible.

Tank Setup

Creating the ideal environment for Gold Tetras is crucial to their health and well-being. These fish require a well-maintained tank that provides ample space for swimming and hiding, as well as plenty of natural decorations and filtration.

Tank Size

Gold Tetras are small fish that typically grow to a size of 1.5 to 2 inches. However, they are social and active swimmers, which means they require a larger tank than you might expect. As a general rule, you should aim for a minimum tank size of 10 gallons for a small group of Gold Tetras. However, if you plan to keep a larger group, you should consider a larger tank to provide plenty of space for swimming and socializing.

What to Put in the Tank

Gold Tetras prefer a well-planted aquarium with plenty of hiding places and open swimming areas. I have a mix of live plants and artificial decorations, such as driftwood and rocks, can help create a natural environment that allows these fish to thrive. Additionally, providing plenty of hiding places can help reduce stress and promote natural behaviors.

Equipment and Accessories

When setting up a tank for Gold Tetras, it’s important to include adequate filtration and lighting. A good filtration system will help keep the water clean and healthy for your fish, while proper lighting can promote plant growth and natural behavior.

In addition, I recommend having a heater to maintain a stable water temperature between 75°F and 82°F, which is ideal for Gold Tetras. You can also add aeration to provide additional oxygen for your fish.

Water Parameters

Maintaining the right water parameters is critical to the health and well-being of Gold Tetras. These fish require stable water conditions that mimic their natural habitat, which typically consists of soft, slightly acidic water with minimal mineral content. Here are the essential water parameters to keep in mind when caring for Gold Tetras:

  • Temperature: between 75°F and 82°F
  • pH: between 5.5 and 7.0
  • Hardness: between 1 and 5 dGH
  • Ammonia, Nitrite: zero
  • Nitrate: maximum 20 ppm

To maintain stable water conditions, I make it a point to perform regular water changes of 25% to 50% every two weeks.

Diet and Feeding

Feeding Gold Tetras is relatively easy, as they are not picky eaters and will accept a variety of foods. They may be small, but they’ve got big appetites! These fish are omnivorous and need a diet that includes a mix of both plant and animal matter to thrive.

In the wild, they love chowing down on small insects, crustaceans, and other tiny invertebrates that they can find in the water. In the aquarium, I try to replicate this diet by feeding them a mix of high-quality flake, pellet, and frozen foods. I also supplement their diet with brine shrimp or bloodworms.

Also, I only feed them small amounts of food two to three times a day, as overfeeding can lead to health problems and poor water quality.

feeding gold tetras

Common Health Issues and Diseases

Gold Tetras are generally hardy fish that can adapt to a wide range of water conditions. However, they are not immune to health issues and diseases that can affect aquarium fish. Here are some of the most common health problems that can affect Gold Tetras:

  • Ich: Ich, or white spot disease, is a common parasitic infection that can affect Gold Tetras. Symptoms include white spots on the fish’s body, fins, and gills, as well as rapid breathing and rubbing against objects in the tank. Treatment typically involves raising the temperature of the water and using a medication designed to kill the parasite.
  • Fin Rot: Fin rot is a bacterial infection that can cause the fins and tail of Gold Tetras to become frayed and discolored. It’s typically caused by poor water quality or a weakened immune system. Treatment involves improving water quality and using a medication designed to kill the bacteria.
  • Dropsy: Dropsy is a bacterial infection that can cause Gold Tetras to become bloated and develop pinecone-like scales. It’s typically caused by poor water quality or a weakened immune system. Treatment involves improving water quality and using a medication designed to kill the bacteria.

To prevent these and other health issues, it’s important to maintain stable water conditions and provide a clean and healthy environment for your Gold Tetras. Regular water changes, proper filtration, and a balanced diet can all help prevent health problems and ensure your fish live happy and healthy lives in your aquarium.

Breeding Gold Tetras

Breeding Gold Tetras is possible and not too difficult. You’ll need a separate breeding tank that’s not too big, around 18″ x 10″ x 10″ in size, and it should be very dimly lit. The tank should have fine-leaved plants like java moss or spawning mops where the fish can lay their eggs. You can also cover the tank’s bottom with mesh that allows the eggs to fall through but not the adults.

For successful breeding, the water in the breeding tank should be soft, slightly acidic, and warm, between 80-84°F. A small air-powered sponge filter is enough for filtration. Gold Tetras can be bred in pairs or in groups, and you should feed them plenty of small live foods to condition them for spawning.

When the fish lay their eggs, the adults will eat them if given the chance. So it’s crucial to remove them as soon as you notice the eggs. The eggs will hatch in a day or two, and the fry will start swimming on their own in 3-4 days. You should feed them infusoria-type food at first and then small live foods like microworms or brine shrimp nauplii.

Related Species

While Gold Tetras belong to the Hemigrammus genus, there are several other species of tetras from other genuses that have similar care requirements:


Can Gold Tetras jump out of the tank?

Yes, like many fish species, Gold Tetras have been known to jump out of their tank if they feel stressed or if the water quality is poor. Be sure to provide a tight-fitting lid or cover for your aquarium.

What should I do if my Gold Tetras get sick?

If you notice that your Gold Tetras are showing signs of illness, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or abnormal behavior, take action immediately. Quarantine the sick fish, and perform a water change to improve water quality. You can also consult a veterinarian who specializes in aquatic animals for further advice.

How can I tell if my Gold Tetras are male or female?

It can be difficult to tell the sex of Gold Tetras just by looking at them, as they look very similar. However, during breeding season, males may display more vibrant colors and may chase after females. Additionally, females may appear rounder and plumper when full of eggs.

What are some signs that my Gold Tetras are healthy?

Healthy Gold Tetras have clear eyes, fins that are not frayed or torn. They are also active and alert.

Are Gold Tetras Right for Your Aquarium?

If you’re looking for a colorful and peaceful fish species that’s relatively easy to care for, Gold Tetras may be the perfect addition to your aquarium. While Gold Tetras are relatively hardy and adaptable, they still require attentive care and regular maintenance to thrive. With the right setup and attention, however, these fish can live happy and healthy lives in your aquarium for up to five years.

By following the care guidelines outlined in this article, you can provide your Gold Tetras with a safe and healthy home that will allow them to thrive. With their vibrant colors and playful behavior, Gold Tetras are sure to bring joy and beauty to any aquarium.

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