Congo Tetra – The Jewel of Tetras

Updated on:

** This post contains affiliate links and we will be compensated if you buy after clicking on our links.

Congo tetras are bright little freshwater fish that are easy keepers and suited to beginner fish keepers.

Before you decide to add a few to your tank, make sure to keep on reading to learn more about these cool guys!

Origin and Natural Habitat

The congo tetra (scientific name Phenacogrammus interruptus) was first discovered in 1949.

It took 20-odd years for them to be readily available on the public market as they initially proved difficult to breed.

Now, congo tetras are considered quite a staple in fish keeping.

They are endemic to the Congo River basin and live in small streams and marshes.

They like to be in groups and tend to stick to large schools whenever the opportunity arises.

Appearance and Size

As soon as you see a picture of a congo tetra, you’ll quickly realize why they are so popular.

They are unique, with few other fish having the same coloring.

These fish have long, flat bodies, and the males tend to be larger than the females.

They have flowing semi-transparent fins, the males featuring longer dorsal fins than the females.

Male congo tetras have a slight purple tinge to their fins with a white edging.

On their bodies, congo tetras show an iridescent shimmer that gives them their distinctive rainbow coloring.

Depending on how the light hits them, they can show different shades of gold, turquoise, blue, violet, and red.

Most congo tetras have a visible stripe that runs from their head to their tail, which is seen along the middle of their body.

As for size, they are generally 3 to 3.5 inches long.

They are still on the small side but larger than other common tetras.

Congo Tetra Care


Congo tetras live between 3 and 5 years in captivity.

Some may live slightly longer, but that is rare.

It is important to ensure the best care for any fish you are keeping to get the most time out of them.

Keep reading to see how you can offer these fish a long and happy life.

Tank Size and Setup

Congo tetras should be kept in at least a 20 to 30-gallon tank.

They are schooling fish and are happiest when kept with other congo tetras. If you are able to, try to size up when buying a tank.

Once you have your tank, now you need to set it up!

The natural habitat of congo tetras provides them with many hiding spots. This means that a bare tank can cause stress and reduce your fish’s quality of life.

Try to keep your bottom substrate darker in color and add objects like artificial caves, live plants, driftwood, and anything that they can easily swim through without getting stuck or injured (provided it is aquarium safe, of course).

When decorating your tank with either objects or plants, make sure not to overcrowd things. Your fish still need space to swim.

Tank mates congo tetra

Water Parameters

Correct water parameters are key to a healthy fish setup.

Whether you are keeping more advanced fish that require specialized care or simpler ones like goldfish (or congo tetras), having clean and correct water is the first step in providing the best possible habitat for the fish.

As mentioned above, you need to keep in mind the natural environment that the fish came from.

The Congo River basin is located in Africa, where temperatures are warmer than in other parts of the world.

That means that the congo tetra’s ideal water temperature is from 72°F to 82°F.

In terms of PH, they like to be around 6.0 to 7.5 (try and stay in the 6s) and aim for a water hardness of 3 to 18 dGH.

Congo Tetra Care

Congo tetras are hardy and can live good lives if their water conditions and tank requirements are met.

Keeping stress to a minimum and feeding them the highest quality food you can afford makes for happy congo tetras.

They are not complicated fish to care for, which is why they are beginner friendly.

Congo Tetra diet

Temperament and Behavior

These fish are known for their docile temperaments and peaceful nature.

They are usually not aggressive, and more often than not, they will shy away from conflict.

This is why it is important to house them with other gentle fish, or else your congo tetras will spend most of their time hiding.

Tank Mates

Speaking of tank mates, what works best with them?

As mentioned above, congo tetras should be paired with other docile fish (though something like a betta fish that doesn’t feel threatened by the congo tetras would also work).

The first prize tank mates would be other congo tetras.

Groups of 6 plus congo tetras work well together.

Other than fellow congo tetras, fish like neon tetras, rainbowfish, corydoras, ember tetras, and mollies are good tank mates for congo tetras.


These are usually not fussy fish and they have a varied diet when living in the wild.

They happily eat insect larvae, plants, and algae, plus other tasty snacks.

Dried pellets and flakes designed for tetras will do these fish well and help keep your daily fish routine simple.

If you want to add some variety (which is a good idea), you can feed your congo tetra blood worms, brine shrimp, and even small chunks of fresh veggies.

Congo tetras can sometimes bite chunks out of live plants in the tank. This is often a sign that they are not getting enough food.


Congo tetras are hardy fish that usually don’t run into health problems if they are kept in the right conditions.

That being said, they can suffer from common fish ailments.

Ich can develop if the water temperatures are too low.

New fish can bring disease to a healthy tank, so make sure to quarantine any new fish and thoroughly clean new tank additions (with aquarium-safe cleaners, not soap!).

size tank for congo tetras

Sexing and Breeding

Breeding Congo tetras is a fairly simple process.

They are egg layers and need dedicated spaces for them to lay their eggs.

You will want to set up a dedicated breeding tank. Something around 20 gallons will do. Then add some breeding mops, appropriate plants, and peat moss to the base of the tank.

Make sure the water has cycled properly before adding your bonded male and female congo tetra.

Now you need to raise the temperature to about 77°F and turn off all aquarium lights and check back in 24 hours later.

With any luck, your fish will have started spawning.

The eggs will fall into the peat moss, which keeps them protected. Once the breeding has finished, remove both congo tetras.

They are known egg eaters and are not needed for raising the fry.

Roughly seven days later, you should see tiny fry coming out of the peat moss.

Start by feeding them infusoria and then switch to baby bring shrimp once they are bigger in size. When they are two weeks old, they should be able to eat regular powdered fish food.

Bare in mind female congo tetras can produce 500 eggs in one breeding.

If just 1/5th of these made it to adulthood, you are going to have a lot of fish on your hands!

Male congo tetras can be distinguished from female congo tetras by looking at their body shape.

Males have exaggerated fins and are brighter and more colorful.

Females do not have those fancy fins and are usually greenish or silver.

Should You Add Congo Tetras To Your Tank?

If you want fish that are eye-catching, like to school in groups, are friendly, and easy to handle, the congo tetras are for you!

These guys make good options for beginners and can form part of a successful community tank.


Are Congo Tetra fin nippers?

They are not known as fin nippers but can chase each other while playing and nip each other. They typically do not nip other fish and are more likely to be on the receiving end of other fin nipping fish.

Can I keep all male Congo Tetra?

Yes, you can. If you want both males and females then make sure you have a ratio of two females for every male.

How many Congo tetras should be together?

You should no less than 6 individuals as these are schooling fish that will become stressed if they are not part of a shoal.

Are Congo tetras hard to keep?

Congo Tetras are very hardy fish but like all aquarium fish they must have their needs met as far as water parameters and food is concerned.

How big will Congo tetras get?

The males get up to 3.0 inches (8.5 cm). Females up to 2.75 inches (6 cm).

Are Congo tetras peaceful?

Yes, they are peaceful fish.

Can I keep one Congo Tetra?

It is best not to as these fish prefer to be in schools. The minimum group should contain at least 6 individuals.

How many Congo Tetras can you put in a 55 gallon tank?

You can put between 8 to 12 Congo Tetras in a 55 gallon tank.

How many Congo tetras in a 75?

That size tank should be able to accommodate around 15 Congo Tetras depending on how many other fish are already in there.

Can Congo Tetra live with discus?

Yes, they are very compatible with discus fish.

Check out all these different types of freshwater fish.

Photo of author


Irma Bense is the founder of She has over 42 years of experience in keeping fish.She has kept both freshwater and saltwater fish through the years.She has extensive knowledge in breeding numerous species of fish from Show Guppies, Cory Catfish, German Blue Rams to Apistogrammas.You can learn more about Irma on the 'About' page.

Leave a Comment