Congo Tetra Care: Habitat, Diet, Tank Mates & Breeding

André Karwath aka Aka, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The Congo tetra makes a beautiful addition to any freshwater aquarium. Originating from Africa, they are found in the Congo River Basin where they like to in slightly acidic, densely vegetated waters.

The best part of this species is its beautiful orange, silver, and light blue iridescent coloration. As bigger fish, they are responsive to their owners and will show personality.

The species that are relatively popular are typically readily available locally.


The Congo Tetra is one of my favorite tetras, partly for their beautiful coloration, but also for their flowing fins. In the right lighting, Congos will show a spectrum of colors. Most prominently atop their lateral lines, Congos have an orange line that contrasts very well with the rest of their body’s coloration, which oscillates between blue, green, and silver. Their fins are flowy, in comparison to other Tetras, and is similar to Diamond tetras.

Congos are sexually dimorphic. Males will have bigger fins, especially the dorsal and caudal fins. Males will also show stronger coloration when compared to their female counterparts, who will be more brownish.

Congos are large compared to tetras. When they reach sexual maturity, Congos will generally be between 6 to 8.5 centimeters in length or 2.75 to 3 inches.

Habitat & Tank Condition

Phenacogrammus interruptus.
Phenacogrammus interruptus. 7TP (Krzysztof Bartosik), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Like all tetras, the Congo tetras like to swim in groups. As a schooling fish, it is important that you have at least 6 tetras in the same aquarium. To house that many tetras, your aquarium should be able to hold 10 gallons or more.

In the wild, Congo tetras are typically found in slightly acidic waters with pH values ranging between 6 and 7. This can easily be achieved in the aquarium, through the use of botanical, peat moss, driftwood, blackwater extracts, and pH buffer products.

You will find that if you live in colder climates, you may not be able to maintain the suggested range. For this, we recommend heaters from EHEIM or Fluval.

It is highly recommended that you use a filter with your aquarium. This will help you maintain your aquarium clean, and greatly benefit the health of your fish.


Congo tetras are omnivorous. 

They are not very picky eaters and will eat practically anything you give them. 

As with all other fish, it is recommended that you provide your Congos with a varied diet. This will ensure that your fish has all the nutrients it needs to be in the best possible health. 

Dry foods such as flakes, granules, crisps, algae wafers, and pellets are good choices.

Their diets should be complemented with live foods, frozen or freeze-dried foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, tubifex, daphnia (water fleas), earthworms, and infusoria. 

Since tetras are small, they might not be able to swallow all types of foods. To help them swallow their food, break it up into smaller pieces.

Be mindful of how much food you give to your fish. Overfeeding opens the door to a wide range of issues, including indigestion and deteriorating water chemistry. To avoid this, feed your fish only twice a day, and provide only enough food for the fish to eat within 5 minutes. If your fish are still feeding after 5 minutes, adjust the amount you feed them during the next feeding.


A school of Congo tetras (Phenacogrammus interruptus).
A school of Congo tetras. KoS, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Congo tetras are quite peaceful in a community tank. Generally, Congos are a peaceful fish when place in a group of 6 or more. A schooling fish, however, may be prone to aggressive behavior if not part of a big enough school. If your Congo is nipping other fish in the aquarium, then adding more of their own species within the aquarium may help reduce such behavior.

If your tetras are being predated by other fish in the aquarium, adding more tetras of the same species can help discourage the attack of predators. As the school of fish gets bigger, its ability to evade predation is increased.


Congos can be bred in an aquarium setting, however, fishkeepers should expect some difficulty. As is the case with many other species of tetras, females are oftentimes fickle and may not spawn even when all the parameters are set right.

The key to success is always to separate the breeding pair into a separate tank. This will give them ample safe to feel at ease and will not be distracted by other fish.

In preparing the aquarium, ensure that there are plants for the pair to spawn over. Congo tetra eggs are adhesive and will stick to plants, but also rocks and the glass of the aquarium. You might want to bottom the tank with java moss, or a spawning mop.

The pH level in the aquarium should be slightly acidic, between 5.5 to 6, and the water hardness as low as possible, with a dGH below 1.5.

Once you have chosen your breeding pair, add them to the breeding tank and close the lights of the aquarium. If possible, cover the glass of the aquarium, and prevent light from entering.

A day or two days later, begin to slightly increase daily the amount of light penetrating the aquarium. This will encourage spawning behavior.

When the female has spawned, remove the pair from the aquarium to prevent them from eating the eggs.

A day after they have spawned, the eggs will hatch. The fry will remain near the eggs for about a day after which they will begin to swim in the aquarium.

At this point, you will need to feed them, preferably small live foods, like infusoria. Other live foods like brine shrimp are too big for the fry to eat and will only be a viable option until week 2 or 3. You may also feed the fry commercially available foods specifically made for fish fry.

Throughout the whole breeding process, it is important that you keep the lights dim, as both the eggs and the fry are hypersensitive to light.

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