The Gold Tetra, Hemigrammus rodwayi, is a peaceful little tetra from The Amazon River basin in Brazil and Peru as well as the Rivers of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
In the wild this fish is usually found in areas of soft acid water, but is sometimes found in slightly brackish water. In an aquarium, the maximum recommended pH is 7. It is a tropical fish, and needs warm water all the time. The minimum temperature I would suggest for this fish is 23 degrees C (73 degrees F). This fish can tolerate up to 15 degrees of general hardness.
The tank should have some plants to give the fish a feeling of security as well as open water for swimming.
Length and Longevity
The Gold Tetra is a small fish. It can grow to 6 centimetres long, but is usually smaller than this. It can live up to 4 years.
Wild Gold Tetras look as if they have been sprinkled with gold dust. The gold colour that gives this fish its most common name is a reaction in the skin to a trematode parasite. This parasite is a successful one in the sense that it does not cause much harm to its host.
The parasite does not appear harmful to the Gold Tetra, or to other fish in the same tank. Captive bred Gold tetras do not have this parasite and the fish are silvery grey.
This tetra is an easily fed omnivore. It will eat normal fish flakes and granules. As with most animals I recommend that a variety of food be given, including live or frozen foods like daphnia, bloodworms, mosquito larvae and brine shrimp.
The Gold Tetra is a schooling fish and is more likely to thrive in a reasonably big group; 10 or more is a good number. This is a small and peaceful fish; it is better kept with other small peaceful fish such as some of the smaller and more peaceful tetras, rasboras and live bearers. Corydoras catfish are also good companions. The Gold Tetra is mostly a midwater swimmer.
Avoid large, excessively boisterous and aggressive fish.
The female is more rounded in the body. Males are more colourful and have some white on the front of their anal fin.
Some people consider that the Gold Tetra is difficult to breed while others find it easy.
The Gold Tetra is a strongly schooling fish and the more natural way of spawning this fish is in a school. It can be spawned as a pair, but this may be more difficult.
The water needs to be soft and acid. A pH of 6 is often used. The tank should be in subdued light. Some fine leaved plants such as Java moss should cover much of the bottom of the tank. The eggs will fall into this and be more difficult for the parents to find.
Raising the Babies
Gold Tetra fry are very small and will need to eat microscopic food for the first several days of their free-swimming life. At all stages, the babies will benefit enormously from live food, but commercial fry food can be used as the basis diet.
Spawning in a Community Tank
There are many people who have observed baby Gold Tetras appearing in their community tanks. This suggests that this fish may actually be one of the ones which will readily spawn if they are healthy and are kept with plenty of plants. The baby Gold Tetras are so good at hiding that some survive predation by their larger tank mates.
Gold Tetras will eat some of their own eggs and babies. But if you have a small school of Gold Tetras in a large aquarium with plenty of plants but no other fish, it seems likely that the Gold Tetras would produce some surviving babies and that the ones to survive would be more likely to be suited to the aquarium conditions than fish bred in a less natural way intended to maximize the number of survivors, and grow them as quickly as possible.
Probably not in Danger
The IUCN Red List has not evaluated the risk of this species becoming extinct in the near future, but commercial and other information suggest that it is still common in much of its extensive range.
The Gold Tetra is an inoffensive fish, but should still be prevented from getting into waterways it is not native to.
Sources and Picture Credits
The first picture above the companions section is from Aquario Santa Ana.