Add some zing to your dim-lit tank with the presence of the ruby tetra fish- one of the smallest and newest fish of the tetra family.

Research data suggests that among the 157 species, this tetra is the trendiest freshwater fish. While you are muddled about whether they will require deep-seated maintenance, you can rest assured.

This specie of tetra emerging from the waters of Colombia is not only a simple fish to look after but are also good shoaling fish that add a dark tropical aesthetic to the tank.

Let us get right into ruby 101’s care guide.

Species Synopsis

Quick Species Facts
Scientific Name Axelrodia Riesel
Common Names Pepper tetra
Family Characidae
Origin South America
Lifespan Approx. 3 years – can extend till 5
Size 4 cm
Type Freshwater Fish

History- Habitat & Place of Origin

It is found that the red ruby fish originated from Rio Meta, Colombia, South America, which is their native place.

Although, you will also currently find them distributed in Brazil, which has become their primary habitat.

Considering they inhabit the Upper Meta River Basin and inland waters, they are freshwater fishes that naturally dwell in acidic black waters. It implies that it is likely that they are found swimming in smaller tributaries rather than larger rivers.

The ruby tetras belong to the Orinoco and Neotropical ecosystem, which is highly crucial to model in your tank.

Interesting Fact: The Ruby tetra fishes were first published in the year 1966.

How Big Do They Get?

I can assure you that you don’t have to waste too much scale while measuring them. The ruby tetras are extremely small in size.

They are popularly known as the ‘dwarf tetra’ and don’t grow more than 2.1 inches.

The most common size of the ruby tetra is approx. 1.6 inches.

Hence, they become extremely convenient to accommodate.

Ruby Tetra - Size and Color
Image Credit: Reddit

Appearance and Physical Characteristics

The term ‘ruby’ refers to the hue of their body, which extends to their pelvic area and is complemented by a black tail.

The ruby tetra is a bony fish with an oval shape, almost like a raindrop with a tail, showcasing a dorsal placement.

Although, they tend to be a little discolored when newly acquainted in the tank.

The external environment you provide to them has a lot to do with the intensity of their pigmentation.

We will further be learning about the appropriate parameters that will keep this fish red and happy in your tank.

Life Expectancy

The size of the tetra correlates with their lifespan. The ruby tetra fish can live comfortably between 3-5 years.

Keeping the necessary nutrition, parameters, oxygen level, the number of tanks, and plant mates is crucial, of which we will further gain knowledge.

Following the correct guidance can assist you in extending their lifespan for one or two years.

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Male or Female – Sexing

The hack you are about to learn will help you identify the gender of this specie at first glance, and it can make you a credible breeder.

Closely look at the following factors to understand the gender of ruby tetra:

Size: Contrary to popular belief, the female ruby is much larger than the male ruby. The approx length gap is 1-2 cm. The average length of a male tetra is 6cm, while a female tetra easily grows up to 7.5cm.

Shape: Like the other tetras, the female ruby tetra will possess a fuller and rounder body than the male. Being the reproducing gender, the curvy body makes the procedure more suitable.

Color: The color concentration in rubies is a primary lookout for any fish owner. The male ruby has a higher concentration than a female, appearing to be brighter.

Strength: While the physical difference is a key giveaway, habits also help in sexual dimorphism. If you keep tabs on their behavior, you will notice that the female tetra is stronger than the male tetra. 

Price and Availability

Imagine being able to combine trends with a budget? A dream, isn’t it? Well, that is the ruby tetra to the fish-keeping world.

While it is best to approach an adoption center that will give you the ruby for free, with a cause of virtue, they are readily available on many online forums.

Specialist shops and aquarium centers also assist in giving you insight, making it the better option.

Regardless of the medium of purchase, the price shouldn’t exceed $4-$5.

Care Sheet and Manual

Quick Care Facts
Care Level Medium
Socializing Social: particularly with similar genus
Temperament Calm and Shy
Food Habit Insectivore
Breeding Process Moderate – Difficult

What Should you Feed them?

When it comes to ruby tetras, there is a platter of nutritious food you can feed them. They will happily consume dry, fresh, and frozen food. Although, their primary preference suggests they are insectivores and Piscivorous.

Given below is a list of food items that will keep them healthy and fulfilled:

  • Dry Flakes
  • Pellets
  • Bloodworms
  • Grindal worm
  • Cyclops
  • Artemia Nauplii
  • Daphnia
  • Moina
  • Anthropods like crustacean

They are primarily subjected to deficiencies due to improper or monotonous diets. Hence, keep on mixing their foods to give them the proper nutrition.

Be sure to feed them small portions multiple times rather than one large meal. It avoids both: pollution and over-feeding. 

Expert Tip: Feeding them cyclops will assist in increasing the concentration of their color.

General Behavior

The ruby tetras are the chippers of a tank and will give you almost null difficulties in interacting with your tank’s environment. They are diurnal and thus, found active during the daytime.

Their social and friendly nature makes them even more delightful to watch. Moreover, they don’t exhibit any territory issues, making them an optimal pal.

Although, you would want to steer clear from integrating gregarious species in the tank. The ruby tetras tend to hide out in their presence.

You will find them residing in the mid-water of the tank. Don’t be shocked if you find them hidden in all those plants and decorations.

These shoaling fishes are often witnessed interacting with species of their same genus.

Breeding Behavior

While it is difficult to breed the ruby tetras, there are conditioning methods that take all the stress off your shoulders.

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The mating and breeding procedure is highly dependent on the external environment. And the good news is that it is in your control.

Keep the following points in mind to create a surrounding that ensures the mating procedure.

  • Ensure the water is soft and doesn’t mark a value of more than 6 DH
  • Increase the acidity of the water and set it on a 5 PH
  • Decrease the lighting of the tank.
  • Mitigate any form of carbonate hardness from the tank.
  • Including fine-leaved plants proves to be a great hiding place.
  • Set the temperature to 25 degrees C. 

The ruby tetras exhibit a sexual method of reproduction which is polygamy in nature. Hence, be sure to maintain an appropriate male-to-female ratio in your tank.

After the successful mating procedure, you will witness your pet performing a rapid locomotive action. That would mean the fish is finally spawning.

Notably, they are oviparous and lay eggs in the open water.

After the ruby tetra fish spawns the egg, separate the fry from the tank to mitigate any harm to it.

Health and Diseases

Like any other species, the ruby tetra fish can also be subjected to diseases and deficiencies.

Observing their daily habits and discovering a change in them is a suited method of detecting any potential disease, and it helps to nip the problem in the bud.

Cited below are the most common symptoms they will show upon falling sick:

  • A discrepancy in their swimming style.
  • They will show an intense discoloration
  • The biggest giveaway is when you witness them sucking air from the surface.
  • Swollen body, fins, or eyes.
  • Spiked scales.

The primary reason for diseases in fish is overcrowding, overfeeding, or a stressful environment.

Upon detecting any of the symptoms, it is best to consult a veterinarian.

Pro Tip: Check the injuries and symptoms of the ruby tetra fish while purchasing them. Else, the chances of a decrease in their lifespan rise exponentially.

The Ideal Water Set Up for Your Tank

Quick Tank Facts
Minimum Size Minimum 30 liters
Water Temperature 20 to 26 degrees Celsius
Water Hardness 5 to 8 GH (soft water)
Water Ph Level 5 to 7 (acidic)

Tank Size – Ideal Dimensions

Purchasing a single ruby tetra is not recommended. A school of at least 8 fish should be bought together. Hence, it is best to invest in a tank that complies with the requirement.

A minimum of 8 gallons of tank space is recommended for this genus.

Moreover, a 30 cm width and 60 cm height will be optimal to place a school.

While they are highly mobile, their pocket size is an added advantage allowing you to opt for a compact tank that can easily adjust to your workspace or house. 

Plant Mates

Ruby Tetras originate from a place that has very dense vegetation. Hence, it is highly essential to model that in your tank.

Heavy vegetation implies the need to include many plants in the tank. Although, it is necessary to choose them wisely.

The plants that will be accommodated in the tank will be subjected to acidic water, given that the plants tend to decompose at a low PH.

Here are the best plant mates your tetra can have:

  • Floating plants such as Pistia or Salvinia (play an essential role in giving a secure hiding place)
  • Java fern
  • Java moss
  • Water trumpet
  • Water sprite
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The addition of such marsh and aquatic plants makes them feel at home and provides credible hiding spots.

Lighting, Oxygen & Filtration

Since the ruby tetras mainly reside in the mid-depth of the water, setting dim lighting for your tank is the best option.

Keeping them in the black waters is preferable as they are accustomed to that environment.

Freshwater fishes always require a very high level of oxygen in the tank. Hence it is necessary to choose the filtration accordingly.

Author Note: Avoid the natural peat filter in the tank as there are more suitable and natural filtration measures we will learn below.

Substrate and Decoration

The ruby tetras belong to a habitat with sand and hummus as the substrate. Hence, picking out a sandy and dark substrate in your tank is essential.

As we’ve previously established, they prefer lush foliage, so it’s time to put your creativity and tank supplies to good use.

Be sure to include dry leaf litter at the bottom of the tank. They lead to the growth of microbe colonies due to decomposition, which is very healthy for the fry.

Decoration items such as Alder cones are a helpful addition as they release a chemical from the decomposition that turns out to be a natural filter for the tank.

Quick Tip: It is crucial to avoid biologically-immature aquaria in the tank.

Water Parameters

Findings suggest that the ruby tetra fishes are highly sensitive when it comes to water parameters, and incorrect setup can be fatal for them.

Keep the following parameters in mind for this genus:

Temperature: The ideal temperature for this genus is 23 degrees C. This shows they are more comfortable in a tropical environment.

PH Value: Ruby tetras require acidic water for their survival. Anything above 7 PH is not recommended.

Water Hardness: Hard water is a big no for this genus. To be safe, ensure the parameter is set to 6 GH. Ruby tetras appreciate soft water.

Our Advice: Renew at least 20-30 percent of the water every month for maintenance.

The Ideal Tankmates

The primary reason an amiable species like ruby tetra falls sick is that they are subjected to loneliness.

While a bunch of other tetras is their perfect match, you can always opt for smaller fishes with a calm temperament.

Keeping them in one species tank is highly recommended to maintain their interaction level.

Although instead of interacting with them, they will be busy hiding in the vegetation.

Here is a list of some decent tank mates the ruby can have:

Frequently Asked Questions

Are ruby tetras venemous? 

No, ruby tetras show a null threat to humans or any other kind of specie. 

What kind of species should I avoid in the tank? 

When it comes to the ruby tetra, it is best to avoid bigger and gregarious species. Crustaceans are the biggest example you must steer clear of. 

Is there any limit on the temperature? 

Ensure that the water temperature doesn’t cross more than 29 degrees C; it could be dangerous for their well-being. 

Lastly – Are They A Good Option?

If a zesty red fish in the dark blue background of the tank is the aesthetic you are looking for, then the ruby tetra fish fits just right in.

From a comfortable size to zero fuss in care, they are a very convenient option for all fishkeepers and aquarium hobbyists.

All you have to do is keep some crucial points in mind for their well-being.

Conclusively, Ruby Tetras are an excellent option for your fish tank.

About the Author

Victoria Lamb

Victoria is a freshwater aquatics specialist, fish keeper, and amphibian enthusiast. She has had more than 6 years of experience caring for aquariums and keeping several fish species, and her home boasts of 3 aquariums and a garden pond. Her goal is to educate fish owners on raising healthy and happy aquatic pets.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior and Welfare

  • University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK (2014-2018)

Writing Experience

Victoria has done ghostwriting for many aquarium and pet websites in the past. She has also worked for Canada's largest natural health magazine- ALIVE, with 300,000 monthly circulations as a freelancer. She had six published articles on animal behavior and welfare during her graduation for her thesis.

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