congo tetra

Congo Tetra 101: Care, Tank Mates, Size & More!

Are you looking for a beguiling addition to your freshwater tank? 

The Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus) may just be the dream fish for you! Not only are these fish beautiful, but they are also relatively easy to care for. With proper setup and maintenance, you can expect your Congo Tetra to thrive in any aquarium environment. 

In this article, we will discuss everything from tank size to diet, so that you’ll be able to give your Congo Tetra the best possible care.

congo tetra
Splash of vibrant colors with the stunning Congo Tetra.

Species Summary

Congo Tetras have been beloved in the aquarium community since their discovery in 1949. These vibrant fish, native to the Congo River basin, inhabit small streams, ponds, and marshes. 

Though attempts to breed Congo Tetras in captivity were largely unsuccessful until the 1970s, today they are an increasingly popular freshwater fish species in both public aquariums and home aquariums alike.


Once properly cared for, your Congo’s can live up to five years in captivity – though some lucky owners may experience life spans even beyond that. As always, the best way to secure a longer life span is to provide your fish with a healthy and stress-free home.


Congo Tetras boast an impressive appearance. Their long and flat bodies are fairly tall in the midsections and males typically grow larger than females. However, females tend to become rounder before breeding.

Meanwhile, the coloring of these fish can be quite mesmerizing – males display a shimmering iridescent rainbow hue that comes from an overlay of purple fins accented with stark white edges.

Congo Tetra Size

Your Congo Tetra’s size will depend largely on whether or not it is wild or captive. In its natural habitat, a Congo Tetra may reach up to 4.5 inches in length; however, they are usually smaller when kept in captivity, rarely exceeding a length of 3.5 inches.

Note: Owners who have been able to push this maximum size limit have kept their fish in tanks significantly larger than the recommended minimum, and have also provided excellent care.


Though Congo Tetras are quite hardy, it is still incredibly important to provide them with the right habitat and water conditions.

They are prone to experiencing times of stress, so it’s essential to spend time getting their environment just right.

Tank Size

Ideally, you should house your Congo Tetra in an aquarium with a capacity of at least 30 gallons. With such a tank size, your fish will have plenty of space to swim around in a school, as well as room for instructional elements like decorations and hiding places.

Some aquarists have had success in 20-gallon tanks, but going for a slightly larger tank is always a safe bet. After all, you don’t want your Congo Tetra to feel cramped in its new home!

Water Parameters

In order to keep your Congo Tetra happy and healthy, you must ensure that their environment mimics their natural habitat as much as possible. This means carefully monitoring the water parameters in their tank to maintain optimal condition.

Your Congo Tetra should enjoy clean water with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5 and a temperature range between 77 and 87 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, you should aim for a hardness level of at least 8 dH.

It’s also important to note that this species is quite sensitive to the presence of ammonia and nitrite, so regular water changes are necessary to prevent any issues.

Tank Mates

Congo tetras are peaceful and sociable fish that can be kept with a variety of other fish species in a community aquarium. Here are some suitable tank mates for Congo tetras:

1. Other tetra species: Congo tetras get along well with other tetras, such as neon tetras, black skirt tetras, and lemon tetras.

2. Rasboras: Congo tetras can be kept with other peaceful rasboras, such as harlequin rasboras and chili rasboras.

3. Gouramis: Dwarf gouramis and honey gouramis can be good tank mates for Congo tetras. Avoid larger gouramis that may become aggressive.

4. Corydoras catfish: Corydoras catfish are peaceful bottom dwellers that can coexist peacefully with Congo tetras.

5. Loaches: Kuhli loaches and other small, peaceful loaches can be suitable tank mates for Congo tetras.

6. Livebearers: Peaceful livebearers such as guppies, mollies, and platies can be good companions for Congo tetras.

It’s important to note that while Congo tetras are generally peaceful, they can be intimidated by more aggressive or territorial fish.

It’s also important to make sure that all fish in the aquarium are compatible in terms of water temperature, pH, and other water parameters.


If you would like to breed your Congo Tetra, you’ll need at least one male and two female specimens. When it is breeding time, the males will be quite active chasing after the female.

You should also set up a separate spawning tank for the process, complete with plants and spawning mops so that the females have somewhere to lay their eggs. These eggs will hatch in approximately two days, and after about ten more days, the fry will be ready to be moved.

You must also remember to give your fry small, protein-rich foods like brine shrimp or daphnia.

Make sure you feed them often and keep the water clean!


Congo Tetras are omnivores and should receive a balanced diet of both plant matter and animal protein. 

Fresh or frozen foods like bloodworms and mysis shrimp are great choices, as are high-quality flakes or pellets.

For the plant matter, you should provide blanched spinach, boiled lettuce, and other vegetables as part of their regular diet.

Keep in mind that your Congo Tetra should be fed small, frequent meals instead of one big meal. This will help keep their digestive system healthy and prevent any issues down the line.


In the wild, Congo Tetras naturally form schools with other fish of their own species. This behavior is also seen in captivity, so it’s best to keep them in large schools of at least six individuals. In larger groups, these fish tend to be more active, vigorous, and playful.

When kept in pairs or smaller groups of three to four, Congo Tetras can often become shy and display timid behavior. They also tend to harass each other more in this situation, so it’s important to keep an eye out for any bullying.


To ensure your Congo Tetra has enough room to swim, you need to give it plenty of hidey-holes and hiding places. Rocks, driftwood, and artificial decoration all make great additions to their tank. You should also consider adding some plants like Java Fern and Anubias to create areas of shade and refuge.

You’ll also want to create some strong water circulation by installing a powerhead or two. The current should be moderate, without being too strong for the fish.


As long as your Congo Tetra is kept in the proper environment with appropriate care and nutrition, it should remain healthy. Still, it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs of illness like decreased appetite, white spots, or listless behavior.

If you suspect your fish is ill, you should immediately separate it from the rest of your tankmates while you treat it. You can treat some illnesses with medication, but it’s always best to consult a veterinarian before administering any type of treatment.


Congo Tetras are a beautiful addition to any freshwater tank. With a little patience and care, you can expect to keep these vibrant fish for many years to come. 

All you need to do is provide them with the right environment and diet, and you’ll soon have a thriving school of Congos!