Gold Tetra (Hemigrammus rodwayi): Ultimate Care Guide

The Gold Tetra (Hemigrammus rodwayi), also known as X-Ray Tetras because of their bone structure, are found in large schools in the freshwaters of the South American coast.  Specifically, they are native to the coasts of Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, and Suriname.  They are shy and peaceful fish. 

Their appearance can cause some confusion.  Despite their name, they are naturally silverfish gray fish.  The Gold Tetra may exhibit hints of black, gold, white, and red on its fins.  The name “Gold” Tetra comes from the fact that in the wild, they may be exposed to the dangerous parasite, trematode.  When exposed to this parasite, a chemical reaction on its skin occurs.  This chemical reaction turns its skin to a lovely gold color.  Therefore, if you are lucky enough to find a “gold” Gold Tetra, you know that it was bred in the wild.  Whereas, if you choose to breed the Gold Tetra in captivity, the result will be silverfish-gray fish.

Gold Tetra Care

The Gold Tetra is a peaceful, hardy, and adaptable fish. However, they do require special care and aren’t the easiest fish to care for. They are not recommended for beginner aquarists.  They are prone to skin disease.  Further, they have a relatively low immunity and tend to get sick quite often.  Additionally, slight changes in water parameters have been known to cause stress and health issues in the Gold Tetra.

Gold Tetra (Hemigrammus rodwayi)
Gold Tetra (Hemigrammus rodwayi)

Gold Tetra Temperature and pH

The Gold Tetra should dwell in an aquarium with a temperature that is maintained between 78 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (25.6 to 26.8 degrees Celsius), although they have been observed to survive in a temperature range of 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (23.9 to 27.8 degrees Celsius). The pH of the tank should, optimally, be maintained as close to 6.0 as possible to simulate the conditions of their natural habitat; however, they are known to survive in water with a pH range of 5.5 to 7.0.   The Gold Tetra is somewhat flexible but sudden changes of temperature and pH should be avoided as this is known to cause health problems and stress in the Gold Tetra.

Gold Tetra Size 

The Gold Tetra is a full-bodied tetra species.  These fish will generally reach about 1 ½ inches (4 cm) in length as full-grown adults.  However, in the right conditions they are known to grow as large as 2 ½ inches (5.5 cm)

Gold Tetra Tank Size

The Gold Tetra should be housed in a tank that is at least 15 gallons in volume. However, the Golden Tetra is a school fish and it is recommended that they are kept in schools with at least 6 fish with 10 being preferable.  The rule of thumb is to add 1 gallon for every additional fish.  For example, if you have a school of 6 Gold Tetras in your tank, the minimum tank size would be 20 gallons. (15+5)

Gold Tetra Food & Diet

The Gold Tetras, similar to other tetra fish, are omnivores.  They will eat all sorts of food including both plants and animals.  In their natural habitat, they feed mostly on dead plants and small crustaceans and fish.  In captivity, however, it is recommended that you feed them high quality pellets and flakes.  Although they will eat live foods such as daphnia, brine shrimp, and frozen bloodworms, care must be taken to avoid overfeeding them which will lead to health complications and also pollute the water.  As a rule of thumb, you should feed them an amount that can be consumed in three minutes.  Additionally, keep in mind that the Gold Tetra is a shy fish and therefore, may be overpowered by more aggressive fish if they are fed together.

Gold Tetra Lifespan

The Gold Tetra, if cared for diligently, can live as long as five years.  Their expected lifespan is three years.  However, it is not uncommon for the Gold Tetra to die shortly after being added to the tank.  It is speculated that this is due to the stress of the transition, or more likely, a sudden change in temperature and/or pH.  Therefore, it is recommended to match the temperature and pH of your tank to the tank that they were bred in.

Gold Tetra Tank Setup

The tank setup for the Gold Tetra is relatively straightforward.  They will thrive in a tank with any type of bottom; however, a soil and sand substrate is recommended. Care should be taken to ensure that the substrate doesn’t have any pointy surfaces so it won’t harm the fish scales. To best simulate their natural habitat add live plants, natural or synthetic driftwood, and aquarium rocks. The Gold Tetra needs open space to swim so be sure not to overly crowd your tank with decorations.  The Gold Tetra prefers a dimly lit tank.  Consider the use of decorations on the sides of the tanks along with some floating decorations that can dim the lights in the aquarium.

Breeding Gold Tetra

If you are interested in breeding Gold Tetra fish, you may be disappointed.  Breeding Gold Tetra fish is very challenging and rarely occurs in captivity.  If you are so inclined to try, you should start by setting up a separate smaller breeding tank.  This tank should be 10 gallons in volume with a lot of plants with wide leaves.  Breeding takes place at night, so make efforts to keep the tank in a dark location.  The parameters of the tank should be as close as possible to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (25.3 degrees Celsius) with a pH level of 6.0.  Prior to transferring your fish into the breeding tank, feed them live foods for 2-3 days.  When you are ready to transfer the fish to the breeding tank, populate the tank with 6 males and 6 females.  The differences between the male and the female Gold Tetra are subtle.  The male Gold Tetras are shinier and smaller than the female.  The female will likely have a wider stomach and a duller color.

If the conditions are ideal, and you are very lucky, the females will lay their eggs on a smooth surface in the breeding tank where the male fish will fertilize them. You should remove the parent fish after they lay the eggs as they are a threat to eat the eggs and/or the future fish fry.  The fish fry may hatch out of the eggs in less than a day.

Where to Find Gold Tetra for Sale?

The Gold Tetra is not as common as other tetra fish, although not as rare as others.  Therefore, they are priced slightly above the average price range for a tetra fish.  It is recommended that you buy a school of fish with a size of at least 6 fish.  You should expect to pay approximately $30 for a school of 6 fish.  However, that price may vary depending upon availability and demand.