Congo Tetra: Care, Size, Lifespan, Diet & More

Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus) are small colorful fish that make excellent aquatic pets. They have a very active personality, unique colors, and fins that set them apart from other species.

Generally, these fish are easy to care for but they have some personality traits that might make keeping them a challenge for some. They also need some specific water and tank conditions to be able to thrive. 

So we made this article to help you fully understand the Congo Tetra and its care requirements. 

Species Profile & Overview

As the name suggests, Congo Tetra is native to the Congo River Basin in Central Africa. They are often found in the slow-moving parts of the river where water is somewhat clear and well-planted. 

Congo basin is a large river that rams through Africa; however, congo tetra fish lives in the central parts of the congo basin. Even still, it’s a vast area and water conditions change depending on the region. This made these fish quite resilient and hardy. 

In the wild, they live in schools among aquatic vegetation where they feed on small invertebrates such as insect larvae and crustaceans. This means you will need to recreate a similar environment in your aquarium as well.

These fish are famous among aquarists for their striking coloration which includes beautiful fins. But that’s not the only good thing about them; these fish are also extremely calm and peaceful species.

Despite their long and flowing fins, these fish are very strong swimmers. They are also very fast eaters which can leave the other fish in the dust. So they need to be with similar fish. 


Congo Tetra (phenacogrammus-interruptus)
Congo Tetra

The Congo Tetra is a beautiful fish that stands out in any aquarium. With its bright colors and unique body shape, it’s sure to be the star of your tank! 

This fish has an elongated body with a light blue and orange coloration on its back and sides, while its belly is silver or white. Its fins are also quite striking; they have white tips with transparent gray coloration. 

This gives them a very distinct look that really stands out against other fish in the tank. The patterns and fin shape of this species vary greatly depending on their age. At younger ages, they lack the colors and their fins are short with no waves. 

Some species developed to have larger fins that give these fish a unique appearance. But I personally prefer the regular congo tetras with shorter fins. In larger fin variants, the fin shapes are not as defined as in the sorter variants. 

Males and females can look very similar, but they have some visual differences that make it easy to identify them. Usually, males are large and more colorful than females. The fins are also longer with more white at the tips of them. 

Overall, Congo Tetras make great additions to any freshwater community tank. However, these fish are a large type of tetra so they can be the showpiece of a tank. 

Adult Size

The Congo Tetra typically grows to be around 3 inches in captivity. Males and females of this species grow to about the same size but males can be slightly larger. Females are usually around 2.75 inches in length.

This difference is not always noticeable though, as both sexes have the potential to reach around the same size. 

The wild specimens tend to grow bolder and can even be larger. This is because of the vast variety of foods they can eat in the wild. The small aquarium environment and the less nutritious foods in captivity make them stay at around 3 inches max.


The average lifespan for Congo tetra is between 3 – 5 years. In the wild, however, they have an even shorter lifespan due to predation from larger predators such as birds or other fishes.

Environmental factors like water temperature and quality can affect their longevity significantly. With proper care and diet, these fish can easily reach up to 8 years in an aquarium environment. 

If the water is too cold or has high levels of pollutants it can cause stress on the fish which can lead to early death. Diet, diseases, and genetics are other factors that affect their lifespan. 

Behavior & Temperament

Congo Tetras are peaceful and active fish that enjoy being in groups. They are known to be very social, so they should be kept in schools of at least six or more individuals. 

In the wild, these fish can form large schools of up to hundreds of individuals living in a small section of the water. They show similar behaviors in a tank environment as well.  

These fish need to be in a group living with their kind so they don’t feel threatened by other fish. Congo tetras will swim around peacefully in a school and often hang out near the middle and top levels of the aquarium.

When kept in a small aquarium, the fish may become stressed due to a lack of space. At the same time if aggressive fish are available in the tank they can stress the Congo Tetra and bully them. If the aquarium is overcrowded with other species, they might get aggressive toward congo tetras for food and territory. 

These active little swimmers require plenty of space and hiding places within an aquarium setup so that they can explore and seek shelter when needed.

These fish can be very entertaining when the tank setup is right and their tank mates are peaceful. In such conditions, they will become very outgoing and active and will swim toward the frog of the tank. 

Congo Tetra Care

Congo Tetra fish are a great choice for home aquariums because they require minimal care and maintenance. As long as your aquarium parameters fall within the range they need, you will not need to do anything special. 

Congo Tetras are also relatively hardy when it comes to disease, making them easy to keep healthy with regular water changes and proper filtration. Keeping these fish can bring a unique sense of joy as they interact with each other in the aquarium environment while providing beautiful visual appeal at the same time!

 To ensure optimal health and longevity for your fish, it is important to match their aquarium parameters as closely as possible to what they have in the wild. This includes maintaining stable pH levels and clean waters with no fluctuations. 

In the next few sections, we will go through the specifics of care requirements these fish need to prepare you to be the best parent for your congo tetras.

Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a Congo Tetra fish is 30 gallons. This is because the fish can grow up to 3 inches in length and require plenty of swimming space. 

The ideal number of Congo Tetras that should be kept together in a tank this size is 5 to 6, as they are social fish who enjoy living in groups. 

However, if possible we recommend giving them a larger aquarium so they can display their true schooling behaviors. These fish are large so to see the schooling behaviors you will need to have them in a tank that has enough space for them to swim freely. 

A larger tank also provides a more stable environment for the fish, which helps them stay healthy and active. Additionally, having more water volume means that there is less chance of sudden changes in temperature or pH levels that could be harmful to the fish.

What To Put In A Congo Tetra Tank

Congo Tetra fish are native to the Congo River Basin, so it is best to create an aquascape that reflects their natural habitat. This means using a dark substrate such as black sand or gravel and adding plenty of plants and driftwood for hiding places. 

You can also add rocks, caves, and other unique decorations like sunken ships or treasure chests to give your aquarium a unique look. These fish are not picky when it comes to decorations but they definitely prefer to live in a planted tank.

That being said, we encourage you to create a natural-looking aquascape. By using natural decorations, you can create a more natural look to an aquarium that both you and the fish can enjoy. 

driftwood, rocks, and live plants will help to make the tank look good but more importantly, they will keep the aquarium more balanced and stable. This is something you can’t get from artificial decorations.

Because these fish need slightly acidic waters, you will need to add as much driftwood as you can. Driftwoods will slowly release tannins into the water which will make the water acidic. With regular water changes and tannins from driftwood, you can have a very well-established tank for congo tetras.

Same as driftwood, live plants will also add some functionality to the tank. Live plants will constantly filter the toxins out of the water. This makes the water more stable and clean for your tetras. 

When selecting plants for your tank, choose ones with large leaves that will provide cover for the fish. Anubias, Java Fern, Amazon Sword, and Hornwort are all good choices for this purpose. 

For more unique plants you can also try adding Marimo Moss Ball, Subwassertang, or Java Moss.

Be sure to leave some open swimming space in the middle and front of the tank. Placing these plants at the back will let you see the fish and the fish can freely swim in the tank.

Congo Tetra (phenacogrammus-interruptus)
Congo Tetra

Light Requirements

Congo Tetra fish need bright, indirect light to look their best. High-quality lighting helps bring out the vibrant blue and orange colors of the fish and can also be beneficial for plants in the tank. 

Quality lighting provides a full spectrum of light which allows plants to photosynthesize properly and grow more efficiently. The correct intensity and duration of light are essential for healthy plant growth, as well as providing an attractive environment for your Congo Tetras.

When buying lights for your Congo Tetra fish tank, make sure to get one that is specifically designed for aquariums. Ideally, they should have adjustable settings so you can adjust the brightness and color temperature as needed. 

Look for LED lights with Kelvin ratings between 5000K – 6500K which will provide an optimal spectrum for bringing out the vivid colors in your fish’s scales.

Water Conditions & Parameters

Congo Tetra is also a very adaptable and hardy fish. They can survive in a wide range of water parameters which makes it easy for us to keep them in the aquarium. 

Ideally, you should aim to match the water parameters to their natural habitat. This means that you should aim for a pH level between 6 – 7, hardness levels between 3-15 dGH, and temperatures around 72 – 82°F. 

Keeping the aquarium water conditions within the range mentioned will ensure their health, comfort, and longer lifespan. 

The Congo Tetra also prefers soft water with low levels of dissolved minerals such as calcium or magnesium. Maintaining these parameters will help keep your fish stress free and healthy while providing them with an ideal environment for breeding purposes.

Weekly water changes are important for keeping the tank healthy and stable. The water should be changed by about 10-15% of the total volume each week. This helps to remove any toxins that have built up over time and replenishes oxygen levels in the tank. 

Filtration System

Congo Tetra fish need a strong filtration system as they can produce more waste when food is available. A good filter will help keep the tank clean by removing debris, uneaten food, and other pollutants from the water. 

When picking a filter for an aquarium it is important to consider its flow rate, size, type of media used, noise level, and cost. The ideal filter that checks all these boxes is the canister filter. 

But you can also use sponge filters if you don’t have any problem with noise. We do not recommend hanging on back filters for a congo tetra tank. These fish can get large and a group of them can produce more waste than most hang-on-back filters can filter. 

Common Diseases and Prevention

Congo Tetra fish are susceptible to many of the same aquarium diseases as other freshwater fish. These include bacterial infections, parasites, fungal infections, and viral diseases. 

Common symptoms of disease in Congo Tetras can include lethargy, loss of appetite, discoloration or spots on the body and fins, white patches on the skin or gills, cloudy eyes, and frayed fins. 

You should also quarantine any new fish before introducing them into your tank. The disease is often introduced to a tank by other fish and when water conditions are poor they will start to appear. 

To help prevent disease it is important to keep their tank clean by performing regular water changes with a good quality dechlorinator. Provide the fish with a varied diet that includes high-quality food.

Diet and Feeding Requirements

Congo Tetra fish are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter. In the wild, Congo Tetras feed on a variety of small insects, crustaceans, worms, and other aquatic invertebrates. 

They also consume algae and detritus as part of their diet. To find food in the wild, Congo Tetras use their highly developed sense of smell to detect small prey in the water column or near the substrate.

In captivity, they should be fed a variety of foods including live, frozen, freeze-dried, and flake food. A balanced diet should include protein sources such as brine shrimp or bloodworms as well as vegetable matter like spirulina flakes or a blanched herbivore diet.  

Ideally, you will want to feed congo tetras twice daily with small amounts of food that can be consumed within 2 minutes. Avoid overfeeding to prevent water pollution from uneaten food particles. 

Breeding Congo Tetra

Breeding Congo Tetra fish in an aquarium is a relatively easy process. To start, you will need to have a large tank with plenty of plants and hiding places for the fish. The water should be kept at around 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit and slightly acidic (pH 6.0-7.5). It’s also important to keep the water clean by performing regular partial water changes and adding dechlorinator when needed. Once the tank is set up, it’s time to add some pairs of adult Congo Tetras – they should be healthy specimens that are roughly the same size and age. When ready, introduce them into the tank during evening hours so they can acclimate overnight before spawning begins in earnest the next day. Make sure there is plenty of vegetation for them to spawn on or near as well as some floating plants which will provide cover from predators once their fry hatch out!

Congo Tetra fish are egg scatterers, meaning they lay their eggs on the substrate and do not provide any parental care. To increase the survival of the fry, it is important to provide a clean environment with plenty of hiding places for the fry. The water should be well-oxygenated and free from predators such as other fish or invertebrates that may feed on the fry. A regular water change schedule should also be maintained to keep nitrate levels low. Additionally, providing a nutritious diet for both adults and juveniles can help ensure the healthy growth and development of young Congo Tetras.

Congo Tetras are a popular species of fish that can be found in the rivers and streams of Central Africa. They are known for their vibrant colors and peaceful nature, making them an ideal addition to any aquarium. When it comes to breeding, Congo Tetras lay anywhere from 20-100 eggs each time they breed. The number of eggs laid will depend on the size and health of the female fish, as well as environmental factors such as water temperature and pH levels. After laying her eggs, the female will guard them until they hatch after 3-4 days. Once hatched, the fry should be moved into a separate tank with plenty of hiding places so they can grow without being eaten by other fish or predators in the main tank.

Tank Mates

Congo Tetra fish are very peaceful and can be kept with other small, non-aggressive tank mates. They prefer to school in groups of six or more and will become stressed if they don’t have enough space. 

A larger tank size allows them to swim freely and reduces their stress levels, which helps them display more natural behavior toward their tank mates. A large tank is needed especially if you want to see them schooling in the tank.

Because these fish have longer fins, some fin-nipping species like Barbs species are known to do so. You should also avoid aggressive or territorial species as they can bully or harm your congo tetras. 

Considering these, here are our top picks of tank mates for Congo Tetra:

Congo Tetra (phenacogrammus-interruptus)
Congo Tetra


Congo Tetras are a unique and beautiful addition to any aquarium. They have bright colors, peaceful temperaments, and are easy to care for. Their active swimming style is sure to add some life and color to your tank. 

With proper care, they can live a long life in captivity, making them an excellent long-term investment for any aquarist. Congo Tetras also make great companions for other small fish species due to their peaceful nature. 

All in all, these colorful little fish make a wonderful addition to any home aquarium!