It’s a very peaceful species that won’t compete well with very boisterous or much larger tankmates. Ideally, keep it with other South American species, such as other Hemigrammus or Hyphessobrycon species, pencil fish, Apistogramma dwarf cichlids, Corydoras and small Loricariids. In a more general community it can be combined with smaller rasboras, barbs, Anabantoids and West African dwarf cichlids such as Pelvicachromis species.
Always buy a group of at least 6 of these, preferably 10 or more. It is a shoaling species by nature, and will fare much better when in the company of its own kind. Like most tetras it actually looks far more effective when maintained like this anyway.
This species has something of a confused taxonomic past. The standard colour of the fish is a rather dull silvery grey, with a little colour 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 colouration formed by deposits of guanin. When initially discovered, these golden fish were mistakenly described as a new species, Hemigrammus armstrongi. This is now considered a junior synonym of H. rodwayi.
Unfortunately, captive bred specimens do not exhibit this colouration, 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.