Ruby Tetra Care: Complete Guide for Beginners

Discover how to care for Ruby Tetra (Axelrodia Riesei) from this guide for beginners! This striking, small fish is a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts. Follow this guide to help you successfully keep, maintain, and enjoy these vibrant and beautiful fish in your home aquarium.

ruby tetra

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Axelrodia riesei – Ruby Tetra – Photo by Sword CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Ruby Tetra Species Profile and Identification

The Ruby Tetra (Axelrodia riesei) is a small and stunning freshwater fish, native to the slow-moving forest streams of Colombia. Known for their striking red color and delicate body shape, these little fish are growing in popularity among aquarium enthusiasts.

  • Scientific Name: Axelrodia riesei
  • Common Name: Ruby Tetra
  • Family: Characidae
  • Origin: Colombia
  • Size: Up to 1 inch (2.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Temperament: Peaceful and social
  • Water Conditions: Soft, slightly acidic water

To identify a Ruby Tetra, take note of their small size and relatively elongated body. The key feature to look for is their stunning, deep red coloration which ranges from translucent to bright red, sometimes with hints of golden or orange hues. Younger Ruby Tetras often display a less intense coloration; however, as they mature, their colors become more vibrant.

Another characteristic of the Ruby Tetra is their rounded, fan-shaped caudal fin. This delicate, flowing fin resembles the shape of a broad, fan-like tail. The fish also have a small dorsal fin and a subtle adipose fin located between the dorsal and caudal fins.

Ruby Tetras are peaceful, social fish that make a stunning addition to an aquarium. Their small size, attractive coloration, and friendly nature make them perfect for beginners looking to add a touch of elegance and vibrant color to their tank.

Ruby Tetra Supplies

To ensure a healthy environment for your Ruby Tetra, it is essential to gather all the necessary supplies before setting up the tank. Below is a list of items you need to create a suitable habitat for these vibrant little fish:

  • Tank: A 10 to 20-gallon tank is recommended for a small group of Ruby Tetras. A larger tank will give them more swimming space and better water quality.
  • Filtration System: A high-quality, gentle filter will help maintain proper water conditions. Choose a sponge filter or a hang-on-back style filter that allows for flow adjustment.
  • Heater: Ruby Tetras thrive in warm water, so investing in a reliable, adjustable heater is crucial. Aim for temperatures between 74-82°F (23-28°C).
  • Thermometer: A simple, easy-to-read thermometer will help you monitor the tank’s temperature and maintain optimal conditions for your fish.
  • Lighting: Dim, indirect lighting is ideal for these fish as they originate from dimly-lit forest streams. Use LED lights or fluorescent bulbs on a timer to mimic a natural day/night cycle.
  • Substrate: A dark-colored, fine-gravel, or sandy substrate will help bring out the brilliant colors of your Ruby Tetras and provide a natural, comfortable environment.
  • Plants and Decorations: Provide plenty of plants, like Java Fern or Anubias, and natural driftwood or rock to replicate their natural habitat and offer hiding places.

By acquiring these supplies, you’ll be well-prepared to create a comfortable, healthy environment for your Ruby Tetra. After setting up the tank, you can move on to monitor water requirements and establish a feeding schedule to ensure your fish thrive.

Ruby Tetra Tank Setup

Setting up a comfortable and suitable tank environment is crucial for the well-being of your Ruby Tetras. First and foremost, a 10-gallon aquarium is the minimum size recommended for housing these petite creatures.

Here are some essential tank setup tips for your Ruby Tetras:

  • Substrate: Ruby Tetras thrive in a dark-colored, fine-grained substrate, which will mimic their natural environment. This kind of substrate not only sets the stage for these vibrant fish to stand out but also creates a much-needed contrast against their gleaming shades of red.
  • Plants and Decorations: In the wild, Ruby Tetra resides in densely planted waters. Therefore, to replicate this natural environment, fill your aquarium with a mix of live plants such as Java Moss, Dwarf Hairgrass, and Anubias, which provide excellent hiding spots for these shy creatures. Additionally, you can add driftwood or rocks to the tank, offering more places for them to explore.
  • Lighting: Ruby Tetras are used to dimly lit environments. Maintaining low to moderate lighting levels will keep them content and comfortable, which will contribute to their overall health.
  • Filtration: A sponge filter is ideal for a Ruby Tetra tank, as it gives a mild flow and does not present a risk to these delicate fish. Sponge filters also serve a dual purpose, as the biofilm build-up attracts Ruby Tetras, which like to graze on these nutritious microorganisms.

Remember to cycle your tank before adding your fish, allowing beneficial bacteria to establish. This process ensures that toxic ammonia and nitrite levels remain under control, providing Ruby Tetras with a healthy and thriving tank environment.

Ruby Tetra Water Requirements

Ruby Tetras come from an environment with soft, acidic water. Therefore, it’s essential to replicate these conditions in your home aquarium to ensure their overall health and well-being.

Temperature: Ruby Tetras thrive in water temperatures between 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit (22-25 degrees Celsius). It’s critical to maintain this temperature range consistently, as drastic fluctuations can cause stress and lead to illness.

pH: The ideal pH range for a Ruby Tetra tank is between 6.0 and 7.0, with the best being closer to 6.0. Remember to monitor pH levels frequently and make necessary adjustments when needed.

Hardness: As mentioned earlier, Ruby Tetras prefer soft water. The preferred water hardness range is between 2-10 dGH (degrees of General Hardness).

Water Flow: Ruby Tetras dwell in slow-moving waters in the wild. So, it’s better to provide a slow to moderate water flow in the tank using filters and pumps. Too strong water flow can stress them out.

Here are some vital water parameter guidelines for Ruby Tetras:

Temperature pH Hardness Water Flow
72-78°F (22-25°C) 6.0-7.0 2-10 dGH Slow to Moderate

To maintain these water quality parameters, invest in quality equipment such as a heater, thermometer, filter, and water test kits. Additionally, practice regular water changes to eliminate waste buildup and promote pristine water conditions. Replace 25-30% of the tank water every two weeks or as needed, depending on the tank occupancy and water quality.

Adhering to these water requirements will provide a conducive environment for your Ruby Tetras, ultimately impacting their health, coloration, and longevity positively.

Ruby Tetra Diet and Feeding

Ruby Tetras are omnivores, which means they will eat both plant-based and animal-based foods. Feeding them a balanced diet is essential for their health and vibrant coloration.

To provide that balanced diet, follow these guidelines:

  • High-quality flake food: Feed them a good quality flake food, preferably one made for tropical fish that contains essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Live and frozen food: Supplement their diet with live or frozen foods, like brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms to provide protein and variety. Feed these 2-3 times per week.
  • Plant-based food: Include some plant-based food like spirulina and blanched vegetables, such as spinach or zucchini, to ensure they receive essential nutrients.

When feeding your Ruby Tetras, remember these important tips:

  • Feed in small amounts: Avoid overfeeding. Offer small amounts of food that can be consumed within 2-3 minutes to prevent waste buildup and maintain water quality. Feed them once or twice a day.
  • Adjust the feeding schedule: Keep an eye on their body condition. If they appear thin or their color dulls, increase the food quantity or frequency.
  • Observe your fish: Watch your fish during feeding times to ensure all are eating well and getting enough nutrients. Make any necessary adjustments to their diet based on observed behaviors and needs.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure your Ruby Tetras are healthy and thriving on a well-rounded diet. Paying attention to their needs will improve their potential for longevity and help maintain their stunning appearance.

Ruby Tetra Care Schedule

A consistent care schedule is essential in maintaining your Ruby Tetra’s health and happiness. Below is a weekly care schedule to help you stay on track so your little fishy friends can thrive in the best possible environment.

  • Water changes: It’s crucial to replace 20-25% of the tank water with fresh, treated water every week. This helps to maintain water quality and remove harmful waste and toxins. Remember to use a gravel vacuum to clean the substrate and remove debris.
  • Filter maintenance: Clean the filter at least once a month, but avoid cleaning it too frequently to maintain healthy bacteria levels. Check the filter media and replace or wash it as necessary.
  • Equipment checks: Perform weekly checks on your equipment, such as heaters, lights, and thermometers, to ensure they are still functioning correctly.
  • Tank cleaning: Clean the tank’s glass to remove algae, which might affect water quality and hamper visibility. An aquarium-safe algae scraper or a clean cloth will do the trick.
  • Feeding: Ruby Tetra should be fed twice daily with a high-quality flake or pellet food, as well as live or freeze-dried treats like brine shrimp or bloodworms. Monitor their feeding to avoid overfeeding and remove any uneaten food to keep the tank clean.

Maintaining a regular care schedule is key to keeping your Ruby Tetra healthy and happy. By sticking to the routine above, you’ll ensure that your fish live in a safe and pristine environment, allowing them to flourish in your home aquarium.

Ruby Tetra Health Problems

Ruby Tetras are generally hardy fish, but they can still suffer from health problems if their living conditions are not properly maintained. Providing a clean environment and a balanced diet will help prevent many common health issues.

  • Ich is one such illness caused by a parasite which can lead to white spots on your Tetra’s body and fins. You should treat ich immediately with a medication designed specifically for it, and also maintain proper water conditions.
  • Fin rot is another common ailment in Ruby Tetras, which is caused primarily by poor water quality and bacterial infections. To prevent fin rot, focus on maintaining good water quality, perform regular water changes, and add aquarium salt to your tank.

Some other health problems that may affect your Ruby Tetras include:

  • Fungal infections: Caused by poor water quality or injury, leading to fuzzy, cotton-like growths on the fish’s body. Treatments include medicated foods, medicated baths, or specific antifungal medications.
  • Internal parasites: Symptoms include weight loss, lack of appetite, and long, white feces. To treat internal parasites, use an anti-parasitic medication available at your local pet store, and ensure proper water quality and tank maintenance.
  • Swim bladder issues: Indicated by abnormal swimming patterns and difficulty maintaining balance. Prevent swim bladder issues by avoiding overfeeding and offering a varied diet to your fish.

Remember, prevention is key when it comes to your Ruby Tetra’s health. Always maintain excellent water conditions, provide a balanced diet, and closely monitor your fish for any signs of stress or illness. Early detection and intervention can significantly improve your fish’s chances of recovery.

Ruby Tetra Tank Mates

Finding suitable tank mates for your Ruby Tetra is an important factor in maintaining a healthy environment for your fish. You want to ensure that you select species that are peaceful and compatible with your Ruby Tetra’s temperament, as well as their water requirements.

  • Peaceful and Compatible Fish: When selecting fish to share your tank with Ruby Tetra, it’s crucial to choose non-aggressive species. Great tank mates include other small tetras, like Neon Tetras and Ember Tetras, as well as other peaceful fish such as Rasboras, Corydoras, and small livebearers like guppies or platies.
  • Avoid Aggressive Fish: You should avoid housing Ruby Tetras with larger, aggressive fish like Cichlids and Arowanas. These bigger fish may see the small Ruby Tetra as food, leading to a stressful environment and potentially the death of your Ruby Tetra.
  • Maintain a Proper Balance: In addition to selecting peaceful tank mates, it’s essential to maintain a healthy balance of fish in the tank. Overcrowding can cause stress and lead to health problems. As a rule of thumb, you should allocate a standard aquarium size of 10 gallons per group of 6-8 small and non-aggressive fish.

When selecting tank mates for your Ruby Tetras, always research the compatibility between the species and ensure they have the same water requirements. By carefully selecting your fish and managing a proper balance in your tank, you’ll create a peaceful home for your Ruby Tetras and their new friends, ensuring they thrive together.

Ruby Tetra Breeding

Breeding Ruby Tetras can be a bit challenging, but it is possible with the right conditions and attention to detail. It is important to create a separate breeding tank to provide the best environment for your Ruby Tetras to breed. Here are some tips for successfully breeding Ruby Tetras:

  • Choose a Pair: Select a healthy, mature male and female pair of Ruby Tetras from your community tank. Males tend to be slimmer and more colorful than females, which are rounder and heavier.
  • Breeding Tank: Set up a 5-10 gallon breeding tank with plenty of plants, hiding spaces, and a sponge filter. You can also use a breeding net or tank divider to separate the breeding pair from other fish.
  • Water Parameters: Maintaining ideal water parameters is crucial for breeding Ruby Tetras. Aim for a temperature of 77-82°F, a pH of 5.5-6.5, and soft water (50-150 ppm).
  • Spawning Site: Provide a breeding mop or fine-leaved plants (e.g., Java moss) as a place for the female Ruby Tetra to deposit her eggs.
  • Conditioning Diet: Feed your Ruby Tetras a high-quality and varied diet, including live or frozen foods, to promote spawning behavior.
  • Dim Lighting: Keep the lights in the breeding tank low, as Ruby Tetras prefer dim conditions for breeding.

After the female lays her eggs, she should be removed from the breeding tank to prevent her from eating them. The male should be removed after fertilizing the eggs. The eggs will typically hatch in 1-2 days, and the fry will become free-swimming in about 3-4 days. Be sure to provide adequate food for the newly-hatched fry, such as infusoria or finely crushed flake food.

By following these best practices, you’ll increase your chances of breeding Ruby Tetras successfully in your aquarium. Good luck!


The Ruby Tetra (Axelrodia riesei) is a fascinating and beautiful addition to your aquarium. With proper care, tank setup, and a compatible community, these fish can bring life and vibrancy to your aquatic world. If you have any questions or personal experiences with Ruby Tetra, please feel free to leave a comment below!

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