Congo Tetra: Ultimate Guide (Care, Breeding, Diet & More)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

Congo Tetras are vibrant freshwater fish with a long history in the aquarium community. Apparently, these fish were first introduced to the pet community in the 1970s, with their simple care requirements quickly endearing them to fish lovers across the globe just a few years later.

Today, it’s almost impossible to find a Tetra lover who hasn’t considered introducing this beautiful African fish to their home aquariums at some point.

No matter your experience level, Congo Tetras are a perfect addition to any aquarium, boasting a colorful sparkle that has made them so hard to ignore in the fishkeeping community.

If you’ve been looking for an eye-catching, low-maintenance freshwater Tetra with a pleasant personality to go with it, perhaps the search ends today.

This guide will give a detailed insight into Congo Tetra care. Precisely, it will focus on the fish’s average size, general appearance, tank size, diet, behavior, tank mates, breeding, and a lot more.

Species Overview

The ever captivating Congo Tetras originate from the Congo River basin in Africa, just as their name alludes.

These species are sometimes called Phenacogrammus interruptus and belong to the Alestidae family. They’ve steadily risen in popularity since they were first introduced to pet lovers sometime in the 1970s.

The colorful Congo Tetras resemble their South American counterparts in many ways and boast a sparkling luster that will instantly light up any aquarium. Like many Tetra species, the Congo Tetras are shoaling fish that thrive in small groups both in the wild and in captivity.

But, unlike standard Neon Tetras, the Congo Tetras belong to the Alestidae family.

ColorOlive, iridescent shimmering base color with a varying color palette
LifespanUp to 3-5 Years
Care LevelEasy
Behavior & TemperamentPeaceful
CompatibilityOther tetras, catfish, rainbowfish
Food and DietOmnivores
Size3-3.5 Inches
Tank SetupFreshwater, floating plants, caves
Tank Size (Minimum)20 Gallons


Congo Tetras have an average lifespan of 3 to 5 years in captivity. Of course, you can keep them for much longer at home, but it all depends on the existing environmental conditions.

As we’ve always emphasized, the easiest way to maximize their lives is to maintain the best possible conditions inside their habitat. That means you must protect your Congo Tetras from increasing levels of stress inside the aquarium, the dangers of incompatible tank mates, and the devastating effects of poor living conditions.


At first glance, you won’t have second thoughts about adding the colorful Congo Tetras to your aquarium.

These species have a distinct appearance that begins with a long, flat body configuration. However, the middle part appears stretched, giving the fish a characteristic compressed pattern like many Tetra species.

Usually, male Congo Tetras are larger than the plump females, and that’s one of the easiest ways to determine their genders at home.

As for the rest of the body, Congo Tetras have semi-transparent fins that are more pronounced in males. In addition, males tend to have longer dorsal fins with beautiful purplish coloration.

What’s more, the beautiful fins are arguably the most outstanding features in Congo Tetras. Such fins have an iridescent appearance to perfectly supplement the fish’s smooth look. Sometimes, the shimmering appearance almost represents the colors of the rainbow.

To complete the almost flawless configuration, Congo Tetras possess a beautiful stripe running the length of the body and covered in beautiful luster.


A typical Congo Tetra measures only 3 to 3.5 inches in full length. This is smaller than most freshwater fish but definitely larger than most Tetra species.

They may reach up to 4 or 4.5 inches long in the wild, but that’s only because they get pristine living conditions in such environments.

You can mimic the natural living conditions to set your pets free in captivity and that will involve the chosen tank mates, quality care, and actual tank water conditions.

Congo Tetra Care

Congo Tetras are quite fun to take care of in captivity. You only need to master a few basics, and you will be good to go, regardless of your experience level.

Their resilience in a home aquarium means you can remain flexible with the tank water conditions as long as you maintain everything within the recommended levels.

Let’s get into more detail then;

Tank Size

Many aquarists assume that Congo Tetras will thrive inside a small tank just because they are a small-sized species, and that’s where they go wrong. Hopefully, you won’t fall into the same trap when designing their habitat.

Even with their small size, Congo Tetras are an active schooling fish and deserve the right tank size to reach their full potential in captivity. A minimum of 30-gallon capacity is the best option to keep healthy species from the start.

As usual, larger is always better. But in our opinion, the chosen tank should never go below 20 gallons. As you aim to introduce more fish to the same territory, you will even want to go beyond the standard 30-gallon capacity.

Water Parameters

The easiest way to keep healthy Congo Tetras is to mimic the actual conditions in their habitat. And, that should be clear to aquarists from the start.

Fortunately, this also entails the water parameters. The general idea is to recreate the natural conditions by providing slightly acidic waters with warmer temperatures in a murky environment.

And the actual ranges are highlighted below;

  • Water Temperature: 72°F to 82°F
  • Water Hardness: 3 to 18 dGH
  • pH Levels: 6.0 to 7.5

Like diet, stable water conditions are paramount to keeping healthy Congo Tetras in captivity. That’s why you should monitor the tank water status frequently using the right aquarium testing kit. Then, make the necessary adjustments to prevent potential ailments as soon as possible.

What to Put in Their Tank?

With pristine water conditions in captivity, it’s time to focus on the tank decorations. And here, substrate choice will be just as important as the actual tank water conditions.

Usually, Congo Tetras appreciate a dark smooth substrate that you can recreate with fine sand. This will be key to mimicking the natural-looking environment they are quite fond of in the wild.

After that, introduce as many hiding places as possible using suitable natural plants like Java Fern, Anubias, and Java Moss.

More plants mean more protection from direct sunlight, which could be key to keeping a flourishing Congo Tetra community in the long run.

One thing your Congo Tetras will love even more is the sight of enough swimming space inside the tank. After all, they are an active species that will want to explore their new home as much as they can.

So, be sure to give them ample space in the middle of the tank by arranging the live plants the right way. Plus, you can use driftwood, rocks, and caves to cover the remaining parts of the tank.

Of course, Congo Tetras will sour the tank water at some point. So, you must fix the right filtration system to properly eliminate the possible contaminants without jeopardizing the lives of your little Tetras.

If you can’t get a standard canister, go with a carbon filter as long as it can reduce the waste products to minimum levels.

Common Diseases

We are glad to inform you that Congo Tetras are a pretty hardy species that are well fashioned to survive different conditions inside the aquarium. Also, they are not vulnerable to any species-specific disease in the aquarium community.

However, the fun of owning these beautiful fish at home could be short-lived if you ignore their critical needs in captivity.

If you want to guarantee their health and wellbeing, you must first protect them from common infections like Ich, dropsy, and other ailments that might threaten their existence. 

Ich, for example, can attack a healthy community without warning and have a ravaging impact without early intervention. Typically, it is a highly contagious parasitic infection that will never go away until you use the right medications.

On the other hand, dropsy is a sign of fluid buildup in the fish’s body and can be lethal, if you fail to act straightaway. At some point, you may be forced to seek a professional’s advice if you are unsure how to contain such infections.

In all honesty, the easily overlooked aspect of disease prevention is maintaining stable tank water conditions. And you could be part of the lucky few who successfully keep healthy Congo Tetras by simply adhering to the recommended standards.

To achieve that, be sure to monitor what Congo Tetras eat, their tank mates, and how they swim in captivity. After all, is there a better way to manage infections than preventing them in the first place?

What Do Congo Tetras Eat?

You will be happy to introduce Congo Tetras to your aquarium knowing they are natural omnivores who eat anything they can find in captivity.

Insect larvae, plant matter, and algae are among the best food choices they will gladly feed on in the wild. Similarly, they will accept dried flakes and pellets in captivity.

Still, you should consider supplementing such meals with high-quality protein-rich foods such as tubifex worms, bloodworms, daphnia, and brine shrimp.

Blanched vegetables are important vitamin sources for proper nourishment.   

Behavior & Temperament

Congo Tetras are among the most peaceful Tetra species in the aquarium community. Therefore, their biggest nightmare in captivity is facing larger species that will want to prey on them under no one’s watch.

The easiest way to maintain these fish in perfect shape is to keep them alone or as part of a peaceful community tank.

If you keep Congo Tetras together, they will have their best lives in captivity, tirelessly swimming from one position to another as they explore their new habitat.

It’s worth reminding that Congo Tetras are not true bottom dwellers despite spending much of their time in the middle of the tank and sometimes towards the upper section. Therefore, you will want to avoid similar-sized species that will want to occupy the same positions inside the aquarium.

Congo Tetra Tank Mates

Congo Tetras have a variety of tank mates that will perfectly complement their lives in captivity. And when selecting the most suitable companions, ensure you prioritize the newcomer’s behavior, size, and activity level inside the tank.

Typically, Congo Tetras would thrive if kept together with similar-sized species of a passive demeanor. Still, they will readily enjoy the company of similar species if you can’t identify suitable tank mates straight away.

In that case, you will want to keep up to 6 species in the same habitat. Logic dictates that the larger the number of fish, the bigger the aquarium. But for Congo Tetras, the higher the number of fish, the greater the comfort.

That being said, these are some of the best tank mates you can keep together with the special Congo Tetras at home;


Want something to lift your spirits now? Congo Tetras are easy to breed in captivity.

When the process commences, you will need a new tank to house the mature fish as you aim to pair them up in captivity. We recommend nothing less than the standard 20-gallon tank to help you achieve that.

Then, you should include suitable breeding elements like the spawning mops and live plants to support the entire process.

At this stage, it will be important to start with a low temperature before increasing it slowly up to 77°F. Also, don’t forget to switch off the lights when breeding begins until the following day.

The males will try to attract the female’s attention by doing a conventional mating dance around them. Then, when everything is right, female Congo Tetras will lay at least 500 eggs on the spawning mops and live plants, and as expected, the energetic males will be tasked to fertilize them.

Like many Tetra species, Congo Tetras are notorious for eating their eggs. And, you must return them to the primary tank as soon as breeding is complete.

The fertilized eggs will take about one week to hatch, with the new fry ready to feed on infusoria for the first couple of days. Later, they will likely switch to baby brine shrimp and other suitable fish food until they are ready to scavenge for new food.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have mastered everything about Congo Tetra care, wouldn’t it be nice to introduce the peaceful, fun-loving Tetra variety to your home aquarium?

As you can see, caring for these fish has never been a challenge to aquarists, not when you are keen to create a picture-perfect aquarium with beautiful Congo Tetras as the center of attraction.

The best thing about these fish is that they are a low-budget, low-maintenance species that can thrive in different conditions.

Maybe it’s time to consider them for your aquarium, then!