Bio Facts: Tetra, Golden
South America: Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Peru and Brazil
Slow moving rivers, tributaries and floodplain lakes. It is abundant in coastal floodplains, where it is sometimes found in mildly brackish conditions.
Adult length: 2 in. (5 cm); coloration and appearance: bodies are a shimmering gold to silver (wild caught tetras are more gold, while captive bred tetras are more silver) with a black dot at the base of the tail. Adult females are more rounded in the belly than males. The anal fin of the male has a white leading edge, and contains more red pigmentation than that of the female.
About 3 years
In the wild, they eat a varied diet of plant and animal materials; in the Zoo, they are fed a scientifically developed, commercially available high quality flake fish food.
Golden tetras are a peaceful, hardy, schooling community fish and have been successfully bred in captivity.
The golden tetra looks gold because of a specialized protective protein, guanine, which is secreted onto its skin. This tetra is more prone to disease than many of the tetras, especially skin parasites, and guanine is secreted in response to parasite attacks. Guanine can vary depending on the nutrition of the fish and may account for the multiple scientific names and common names.
Common names include golden tetra, gold tetra, bass tetra or Rodway’s tetra.
This species has something of a confused taxonomic past. The standard color of the fish is a rather dull silvery grey, with a little color in the fins. However in certain areas in nature, the species is sensitive to a particular type of trematode parasite. This causes a reaction in the skin of the fish, resulting in a spectacular metallic gold coloration formed by deposits of guanine. When initially discovered, these golden fish were mistakenly described as a new species, Hemigrammus armstrongi. This is now considered a junior synonym of Hemigrammus rodwayi.
Unfortunately, captive bred specimens do not exhibit this coloration, as they are not exposed to the parasite. This is why most of the ‘golden tetras’ seen for sale do not live up to the common name stated on the tank. Infected wild caught fish are available from time to time, and are truly stunning.
Like all Hemigrammus, the taxonomic status of this species is currently Incertae Sedis, meaning uncertain. The genus is currently used as something of a catch-all for over 70 species of small characin. Most experts agree that a full revision is required, with the likely outcome that many species will be placed into new or different genera.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
Golden tetras first arrived in our animal collection in 2004 and have successfully bred here.