Congo Tetra Care Guide & Species Profile

If you are looking to add a group of colorful fish to your tank then you should consider the Congo Tetra.

They are tropical freshwater fish from Africa that are very resilient and also very colorful.

Their striking colors and shy personality are what make them perfect for peaceful community tanks.

The main thing to consider with this fish is the water parameters. You should keep an eye on the quality of the water to make sure it stays clean.

Keep reading to learn more about the Congo Tetra, from their personality to ideal tank mates and much more…

Congo Tetra
Scientific Name: Phenacogrammus interruptus
Family Name: Alestidae
Distribution: Congo
Size: 3 inches
Color: Iridescent blue with red and orange-gold bands
Care Level: Intermediate
Temperament: Peaceful
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Minimum Tank Size: 40 gallons
Tank Mate Compatibility: Small and peaceful community fish

Congo Tetra Overview

Congo Tetra

The Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus) is a small peaceful freshwater fish.

They come from the Congo and belong to the family Alestidae, a family which is also known as the African Tetras. This family of Tetras is only found in Africa and it includes 18 genera with more than 119 species.

Congo Tetras are very colorful, but shy fish which will live for about 5 years if kept in the right water conditions.

They are ray-finned fishes or Actinopterygii, which means their fins are supported by a range of rays or spines.

Their scientific name (Phenacogrammus interruptus) is from the Greek word phenax, meaning deceptive, and gramma meaning letter or signal. This refers to their coloration, which gives them a deceptive look to prevent predators from finding them.

They are quite easy to find both online and in stores. Prices can vary from about $7 to $15 per fish but you typically have to buy them in groups of at least 6.

Key Facts:

  • Experience Required: Intermediate
  • Color Forms: Iridescent blue with red and orange-gold bands
  • Size: 3 inches
  • Tank Size: 40+ gallon
  • Tank Temperature: 73-82°F


Congo Tetra Apperance

Congo Tetras are small and very colorful fish.

They are slightly larger than the other Tetras and have large body scales. Even though they have a distinct coloration, the signature characteristic of this fish is their fins. They have long veiled fins which are almost see-through, with a grayish-violet tint and white edges.

Congos are an iridescent blue with red and orange-gold bands.

Their iridescent colors run along their bodies.

Males and females show slight dimorphisms.

The males are slightly bigger with longer tail and dorsal fins, and can reach up to 3 inches long, while females are slightly smaller and only reach up to 2.75 inches.

Males are also a brighter color which helps them to attract the opposite sex.

If you want to improve their opalescent color then you can give them more protein in their diet. You can also help the appearance of their colors by simply using a darker substrate.

Suitable Tank Mates

The Congo Tetra is very timid so choosing the right tank mates is vital.

Even though they are quite shy, Tetras are generally very good community fish.

They should be kept with similar size fish that have similar temperaments.

Congo Tetras should be kept with other Tetras, Rainbowfish, Corydoras, Loricariids and peaceful Dwarf Cichlids. Mollies, Platies and Guppies are also suitable tank mates.

Barbs and Rasboras can also work as companions. However they might cause some distress as they tend to show signs of aggression so it will depend on their individual nature. You can also add some non-fish inhabitants such as shrimps or snails with caution, but make sure you regularly feed your Congo Tetras or they may start snacking on them.

You should avoid any large and aggressive fish that are likely to bully them.

Just remember that Congo Tetras are slow swimming fish and can often be outcompeted for food. Avoid keeping them with fast swimming fish that will outcompete them.

How Many Congo Tetras Should Be Kept Together?

Congo Tetras are shoaling fish and need to be kept together in small groups.

You should keep a group of at least six individuals. When keeping a group, the ratio of females to males is quite important to develop group dynamics. You should aim to have at least twice the number of females to males.

These fish should not be kept on their own.

Care Guide

Congo Tetras are small hardy fish.

As long as you keep the water conditions stable and clean they will thrive in your aquarium.

Keeping the fish in their optimal environment and water conditions is the best thing you can do to prevent any outbreaks of diseases.

Ich is also known as the white spot disease and is very common with Congo Tetras, especially if the fish are kept in colder water temperatures. Ich is caused by an ectoparasite called Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. It causes white spots on the fins or body scales of your fish. This is very common in freshwater community tanks, but fortunately it is also quite easy to cure.

You can either raise the temperature or treat the disease with more effective treatments such as formalin.

These fish are quite resilient and outbreaks are likely to be contained among two or three fish by the time you catch and treat the disease.

Remember that any addition to your tank can be a source for a new bacteria or outbreak. Always clean properly or quarantine any new additions such as new plants or decorations or substrates.

Prevention is better than a cure, and keeping a good healthy, balanced diet along with the proper water conditions will ensure a happy and healthy life for your fish.

Congo Tetra Close Up


Congo Tetras are omnivores and feed on both plants and meat.

In the wild, will you find them feeding on plant matter, insects, worms, crustaceans, algae and other zooplankton. In their natural environment they are mainly insectivores balancing out their diet with some algae.

They are happy to eat live, fresh or flake foods.

You should feed them several times a day in small portions. They should be able to finish these portions in under 3 minutes.

We recommend feeding them high quality flake foods using brine shrimp or bloodworms as a treat.
You should try to provide them with a healthy and diverse diet. Their diet and protein intake tend to influence their appearance and their coloration. The more protein these fish have, the more vivid their color will be.

Given their small size you might want to also grind up their food before feeding them.

Congo Tetras do not have any other special food requirements. As long as you give them a diverse balanced diet, you will have happy fish.

Behavior and Temperament

Congo Tetras are peaceful shoaling fish.

They tend to be very shy and prefer spending their time with other Tetras.

Congo Tetras are benthopelagic fish which means that they live and feed near the bottom of the tank.

If you keep these fish alone they will get very uneasy.

Keeping them in small shoals or schools helps deter aggression. Tension within a group can happen depending on the ratio of males and females in the shoal. You should keep a mix of 2 or 3 females to 1 male or all males to prevent mating aggression.

Tank Set Up and Parameters

Congo Tetras are found in Africa in the Congo River region and in the upper Congo Basin.

Pools and rivers in these regions have tall vegetation and sandy beds often layered with silt and mud. The river beds are scattered with rocks.

You will always find these fish in quite large populations in these rivers.

A small shoal of six Congo Tetras needs at least a 40 gallon tank.

You should allow an extra 6 gallons of water for each Congo you add.

Water requirements are as follows:

  • Temperature: 73-82°F
  • pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Hardness: 4-18 dGH

Moderate water movement will mimic their natural environment.

These fish are quite hardy; however they are still sensitive to water parameters.

For this reason these fish are recommended to aquarists with a bit of experience. Congo Tetras need regular tank maintenance to keep the water clean. Your fish will lose coloration and their fins might get damaged if the water quality is not optimal.

Replace water regularly with at least 25% of the water changed weekly and up to 50% every other week if the tank is heavily stocked.

To better show their coloration, set up a tank with a dark substrate such as dark gravel or river sand and some vegetation to offer some shelter.

Congo Tetras are more at ease with heavily planted tanks and some open space for free swimming in the middle.

You can decorate your tank as you prefer with drift food and twisted roots.

Breeding Congo Tetras

Breeding ornamental fish such as the Congo Tetras is not the easiest task.

Finding a breeding pair can be quite challenging and they require precise water conditions. They are egg layers and only breed seasonally.

You can purchase a separate 20 gallon breeding tank, with peat filtered water and bright lighting. Light can play an important part because brighter coloration can induce spawning.

They can spawn in pairs or groups with two males for each female. You can encourage breeding by feeding them a rich small live food diet for about 15 days.

To encourage spawning the water should be slightly acidic with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8 with a water hardness of 1.5-3 dGH. Temperature should be quite warm between 77 to 82°F. Filtering water through an air-powered sponge or aquarium safe peat can help with the spawning.

The males will start chasing the females through the tank and among the plants. This can take up to six days.

Once copulation occurs, females will appear with rounded bellies full of eggs and will spawn about 300 eggs.

Females deposit the eggs on plant surfaces; therefore you should provide some plant substrate such as Java Moss or artificial grass. You can also use a mesh to separate the eggs from the parents.

Once they spawn, separate the parents from the eggs, so they do not get eaten.

You should now change the lighting to very dim light as the eggs are sensitive to bright light.

The eggs will hatch in about 6-7 days and the fry will be free swimming in no time. You can feed them brine shrimp or finely crushed flakes right away.


The Congo Tetra is the perfect new addition for most aquariums.

They are colorful, peaceful and resilient fish.

If you find the right tank mates and keep them in a peaceful community they will thrive. Remember unity is strength and Congo Tetras must be kept in a group of at least 6 individuals.

Breeding is a great reward and there is nothing better than a bit of a challenge to watch the eggs hatch.

Are you up for the challenge?

Let us know in the comments section below…