Species, Characiformes (Characins), Freshwater fish, Information, Tetras

Congo Tetra: Complete Species & Care Overview

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by Jason Matthews



The Congo tetra is a fish perfect for anyone who wants dynamic movement and vibrant sparkle in their aquarium.  So if you are thinking about getting Congo tetra, here is what you need to know.

The congo tetra is a freshwater omnivore schooling fish from Africa that is easy to care for and brightly colored with a visible shimmer and can grow up to 2.5-3.5 inches long with a lifespan of 3-5 years. It thrives in slightly acidic water and should have at least a 30-gallon tank.

In this guide, we’ll explore the origins of congo tetra fish and their characteristics. So sit back, relax, and learn something new today!


Scientific name: Phenacogrammus Interruptus
Common Names: Congo Tetra
Life Span: 3 to 5 years
Adult Size: 2.5 to 3.5 inches


Diet Omnivores 
CareEasy – Moderate
BehaviourPeaceful schooling fish
Breeding Egglaying 
Minimum tank size30 gallons 
pH of water6.0-7.0
Temperature of water73 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
Water hardness 3-8  dGH 

Fun Fact Corner

In addition to their regular colors, these creatures have a shimmer on their bodies that’s especially visible in their transparent fins. The hue can be bright mauve or ocean-colored, but apart from blue. When the light hits them just right, they might even look like they’re rainbow-colored!

What Is a Congo Tetra Fish?

The Congo Tetra, or the Phenacogrammus Interruptus scientifically, is a freshwater fish mainly found in Africa. They are related to other fishes of the Alestidae family which fall under the order Characiformes. This family of Tetras includes 18 genera with more than 119 species.

These tetras are synonymous with tranquility, elegance, and beauty. Hailing from the depths of the ocean, they have become a staple in many home aquariums. They are largely capable of morphing themselves to adapt to different situations.


African characin fish, also known as Congo tetras, are freshwater fish indigenous to the Congo River Basin in Africa. 

They were first discovered in 1949 and were not imported as common aquarium fish until the 1960s. It was named by Belgian-British zoologist George Albert Boulenger.


The Congo tetra fish inhabits streams, tributaries, pools, and marshes, preferring murky waters that are slightly acidic. This Tetra typically congregates near tall vegetation in areas with sandy, muddy or silty substrates.

Peat-filtered water that is still, soft, and dark with low light levels is ideal for them. This environment can be created by using dim aquarium lights and floating plants. They also prefer darker substrates and enjoy nibbling on bottom-growing plants.

Body Stature

They have elongated bodies with large, flat scales. In comparison to their gorgeous fins that boast hints of transparency, their bodies appear significantly smaller. 

The fins on these fish are one more contributing factor to their popularity and high esteem, with the sporty tail fin being a particularly notable feature.


Compared to other tetras, Congo Tetras are of slightly above-average size; however, their big midsections make them appear compressed.

  • In captivity – The typical Congo Tetra measures 3 to 3.5 inches long in captivity slightly larger than most other tetras.
  • In the wild – Congo Tetras usually grow to be about 4.5 inches long in wild.


Congo Tetras are so gorgeous because of their combination of colors and fins. They have a beautiful array of colors on their body, with blue on their heads and bellies, red in the middle, and a touch of gold.

A stripe along their midsection is the most notable feature of Congo Tetras. This band begins at their head and goes to their tail. In addition, because they have long and translucent fins, these fish are a joy to watch as they swim.

In addition to the standard colors, these creatures also have a visible shimmer on their bodies that changes color depending on the lighting. The hue can appear bright mauve or ocean colored apart from blue.

Behaviour – Fierce fighters

The Congo Tetra is a schooling fish that tends to be very peaceful and shy and does best with others of its own kind. If any other fish in the tank exhibit aggressive or active behavior, the Congo Tetra will become skittish and spend most of its time hiding.

Sex Identification 

male and female congo tetra
Image credit: Valeronio, depositphotos

You can clearly tell males and females apart in Phenacogrammus Interruptus because sexually dimorphic.

  • Males – The male Congo Tetra fish is characterized by its vibrantly colored body, large size, extended caudal fin, and white-edged violet dorsal fin.
  • Females –  Females tend to be shorter and plumper, especially when they are ready to breed. They also have a golden color with a silverish-green shade.


On average, 300-500 eggs are laid at a time, hatching five to eight days after they are spawned. The school of fry will grow rapidly to a size larger than full-grown neon tetras in just four or five weeks. When Congo tetra fry appears from the peat substrate, they are fully free-swimming and ready to eat.

Choose a long tank that can hold 15-20 gallons of water for your breeding project. Boil peat moss to cover the bottom of the tank with 1 inch of loosely packed substrate. For example, if you’re using a 20-gallon long tank, you’ll need about 1/2 cubic foot of peat moss.

Life Span 

The Congo Tetra has a lifespan that differs based on individual fish and conditions but is, on average, 3 to 5 years. If you want your fish to live as long as possible, pay attention to their diet, and tank maintenance, and make sure the environment suits them.

What Other Fish Can Live Harmoniously With Congo Tetras?

They prefer the company of other peaceful fish and may become stressed or hide if placed with aggressive fish. It is best to avoid placing them with hostile fish such as

  • Flowerhorn Cichlid
  • Tiger Barb
  • Bucktooth Tetra
  • Afer Knife
  • Wolf Cichlid
  • Jaguar Cichlid

However, some good fish to keep with your Congo Tetras are:

What Do Congo Tetra Fish Eat?

Congo Tetras are omnivores and will eat almost anything they come across, including insect larvae, algae, plants, and more.

While dried flakes or pellets are enough to sustain them, we recommend adding some nutrient-rich snacks(supplements) to their diet. Many owners use these processed foods as the primary base of their pet’s diet for convenience, and it works out okay.

In addition to regular fish food, try giving your fish some live food like

  • Brine shrimp
  • Daphnia
  • Tubifex
  • Bloodworms
  • Small pieces of fresh vegetables for a boost of vitamins.

What are the minimum tank size and other housing requirements for a betta fish?

Although Congo Tetra care is simple, you need to be informed and give them the right environment and water conditions for their happy and healthy life.

Tank Size 

You don’t need a giant tank to keep Congo Tetras happy and healthy! A 20-gallon or 30-gallon tank is sufficient. Although some people have been able to sustain 20-gallon tanks, it is generally better to have a bit larger size.

As earlier noted, Congo Tetras prefer living in large groups. They commonly become stressed when not kept with several fish of the same species, so an aquarium that is lower than 30 gallons may not provide a sufficient environment.

Water Parameters

Tetras are no different from any other fish in that they prefer clean water. Their natural habitats consist of slightly acidic and soft waters, so it is best for their health if they are kept in similar conditions. They will be active and healthy if provided with an environment that resembles their natural habitat.

Congo Tetras are known to be relatively easy-going fish. Following these parameters will help ensure your success.

  • Water temperature: 72°F to 82°F (76°F should be your ideal target)
  • pH levels: 6.0 to 7.5 (stick to the lower end of this range)
  • Water hardness: 3 to 18 dGH

Is a Congo Tetra the Best Fish For Your Home Aquarium?

Congo Tetras are a great option if you’re in the market for an aesthetically pleasing and docile fish to add to your household aquarium. This species is easy to take care of and interesting to watch in your tank. 

These Social creatures do best when kept in groups, so be sure you have enough space in your tank for them! You’ll spend a lot of time admiring these little creatures as they swim around!

Featured image credit: Valeronio, depositphotos


Jason Matthews

My name is Jason Matthews, and welcome to my website. When other kids were bragging about how their dog could sit and roll over, I was bragging about my latest Betta Fish and the cool sea castle I just added to his aquarium. 

Jason aquariume

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