The Complete Congo Tetra Care Guide: Tank Mates, Size, Lifespan & More

The Congo Tetra is an amazing freshwater fish that is perfect for any community tank. Learn about the beautiful, low-maintenance, and easy-to-care-for fish here.

Congo Tetra – Quick Facts

In a rush? Check out the quick facts about Congo Tetra below.

Fish Info

Scientific NamePhenacogrammus interruptus
Common NamesCongo tetra
AppearanceSmall fish with large scales. In adults, these fish have a colorful pattern along the length of their body, starting with blue on the top going through red, yellow, and finishing with blue again on the bottom.
DifficultyThe difficulty of caring for congo tetra is moderate.
DistributionThe congo tetra is found in the Zaire River region of Africa. They are found in streams, pools, and acidic and murky waters in marshes.
LifespanThe lifespan of a Congo tetra is 8-12 years.
ShoalingYes, Congo tetras are shoaling fish.
TemperamentThe Congo Tetra is a very peaceful species.
Keep in Groups of5 or more
Tank Matestetras, guppies, mollies, platies, loaches, rasboras, danios, swordtails, corydoras, African dwarf frogs
DietCongo tetras are omnivores and enjoy live, fresh, and flake foods.
LengthThe average Congo Tetra size is between 2-3.5 inches.
Sexual DimorphismMales are larger than females. Males have brighter coloration. Males have longer fins.
Breeding DifficultyBreeding Congo Tetras is rather simple, although a larger tank is necessary due to their size and the number of eggs they produce.

Water/Tank Recommendations

Water TypeThe Congo Tetra is a freshwater fish.
Water TemperatureThe ideal water temperature for Congo tetra is 23-26°C (73-79°F).
Water pHThe ideal water pH for congo tetra is 6.0 to 8.0.
Water HardnessThe ideal water hardness for Congo Tetras is 5-19 dH.
Tank sizeThe minimum tank size for Congo tetra is 30 gallons.


Congo tetras are a beautiful freshwater fish that can add a lot to your tank. They’re an active and fun species with quite the personality!

The good news is that caring for Congo tetra fish isn’t as difficult as it seems at first glance. In fact, if you have the space needed for them in your aquarium, and the right set-up, then owning one of these creatures should be within reach!

About Congo Tetra

The Congo Tetra is a very popular fish among aquarists. This species of tetras has its roots in the South American continent.

These freshwater fish are named after their country of origin: The Democratic Republic Of Congo (DRC). They have become some of the most sought-after tropical fish on the market!

The DRC region these fish thrive in contains several large bodies of water, such as Lake Edward and Lake Tanganyika, for them to live in naturally. They prefer warmer waters filled with vegetation at the bottom.


Congo tetras have a rather distinct look. The body features many scales that are quite vibrant in coloration. Many shades of color can be seen on these fish, including red, blue, orange, purple, and more. The particular color and shade depends on how the light catches the fish at any one moment.

The fins of this fish are transparent and shimmer beautifully.

Their Length

The average Congo Tetra size is between 2-3.5 inches long when fully grown. They’re on the small side and are perfect for smaller tanks.

Note: Many aquarists have reported seeing their fish reach 4 inches long, but this is uncommon.


The average lifespan of Congo Tetras is 8 to 12 years when properly cared for. Their quality of life can greatly affect the length of their lives, so you need to be committed if you want them to live a long and happy life.

With that said the lifespan of these fish can be drastically shortened if you don’t provide them with proper care. While they aren’t particularly hard to keep alive, their dependence on a healthy environment makes it imperative for you to monitor conditions regularly.

Sexual Dimorphism

There are a few ways to tell which is male or female with Congo tetras.

For one, males tend to be larger than females. Males also have more vivid colors on their bodies. Females tend to be duller in color, although they still hold some red or gold spots around their fins. Females also tend to be rounder than males.


The Congo Tetra typically lives in freshwater environments that are surrounded by trees and plants. This means that their water is usually quite murky and contains a lot of plant matter.

When choosing the decor of your fish’s home aquarium, you should try to create an environment as similar to their natural habitat as possible. This will provide them with additional comfort and satisfaction when living in captivity. Make sure to include a good amount of hiding spaces to allow these fish to feel comfortable.

Caring for Congo Tetra

If you want to help your congo tetras live as long as possible, you must provide them with the best care possible. Some important things to remember about caring for these fish:

Water Conditions & Quality

One of the most important aspects of giving congo tetra proper care is ensuring that their water quality and conditions are top-notch. This means keeping parameters within a specific range and performing regular tests on the water to ensure this.

You should also change roughly 20 percent of their tank water every other week so that ammonia levels aren’t too high. Ammonia is dangerous for a wide variety of freshwater fish, and if allowed to go unchecked, can lead to death! So always check your levels regularly!

Finally, make sure you have a good filtration system in place because these fish produce waste just like any other creature! A great filter will keep everything running smoothly without causing undue stress on your fish.


Congo tetras are omnivores and will eat most things you give them. Therefore, the best diet for these fish is a balanced one that includes both plant-based foods and protein-rich snacks.

They’re known for their fondness of bloodworms, which are high in protein. However, they do well on almost any food you can think of (blanched vegetables like peas or spinach work great).

It’s important to provide the fish with enough variety to not upset their nutrient intake balance. Also, make sure that there is always some live food available because these fish love it!

How Often & How Much to Feed Them

Most Congo Tetras will eat once or twice a day. Feed them small portions of food that they can consume within 3 minutes.

Too much food at once could cause the fish to get sick and even die from an affliction called swim bladder disease, which is common in these fish.

Feeding them too often will also result in overfeeding and other potential health problems.

Possible Diseases

There is a common disease that can harm your fish called Ich (ick) parasite. This is a common issue with tropical freshwater aquariums, and there are many different species of this parasite, so it’s important to know how to prevent and treat it if needed.

Ich causes white spots on your fish. These will multiply quickly if not treated, so knowing how to take care of them is paramount!

Luckily, most fish diseases are easy to avoid as long as you maintain good water quality through regular testing and cleaning.

Tank Setup

The tank setup for Congo tetras should mimic their natural habitat. Start by adding a layer of substrate to the bottom of the aquarium. You can choose gravel or sand, although fine sand is preferred if you want live plants in your tank.

Next, add some driftwood and rocks. These items add some aesthetic appeal to your freshwater aquarium, and also provide good hiding places for this shy fish species. Remember that congo tetras are shoaling fish who stick together most of the time. When one goes off on its own, it needs somewhere secluded to feel comfortable exploring!

You can then introduce plants throughout the rest of the underwater environment as well as floating ones above water level. These fish prefer dimly lit environments with plenty of vegetation and shelter, so don’t be afraid to go wild when choosing plants for your aquarium!

Note: The best option would be a well-planted tank because they help keep ammonia levels low due to all those beneficial microorganisms living in them (this will help avoid nitrate problems too). Plants also increase oxygenation, which is crucial since these Congo Tetra love oxygen-rich environments.

Aquarium Size

The minimum tank size for Congo Tetra is 30 gallons. This will allow you to keep a small school without overcrowding the space.

A larger aquarium, at least 50-75 gallons, is preferred if possible. Bigger tanks offer more swimming room for each fish and encourage group behavior.

Note: Smaller aquariums must be kept very clean to avoid stress and disease. With a smaller tank, you’ll have to perform water changes more frequently.

Water Conditions

The ideal water conditions for congo tetra are a little stricter than other tropical fish. However, they’re still very manageable and easier to achieve than you might think.

These freshwater fish have been known to suffer from skin infections caused by poor water quality (specifically acidic waters). To avoid that, stick with the following parameters.

Note: Make sure to perform regular water tests with your Congo Tetra in order to ensure that the parameters listed below are being maintained.


The ideal pH value for Congo tetra is between 6.0 and 8.0, which should be easy to maintain in your tank.

Most new tanks will start with a more acidic pH balance while they cycle, but you can easily shift it up closer to the middle of that scale range once everything’s settled down. Contrary to popular belief, shifting the level of acidity isn’t as hard as some people believe.

Note: The importance of maintaining a proper pH level shouldn’t be understated when talking about fish care. We recommend doing this no matter how “easy” or difficult your fish are!


The ideal water temperature for Congo Tetras is between 23-26°C (73-79°F). Avoid getting the water too warm, as this will only stress out your fish.

Make sure that you invest in a good thermometer to ensure accurate readings and stay on top of any fluctuations.

Note: Always keep an eye on your tank’s heater. Faulty heaters are the number one cause of high water temperatures.


The hardness of the tank is also extremely important for Congo Tetras. The ideal water hardness level for these fish is 5-19 dH. Anything outside that range could be potentially dangerous to your fish and cause stress, disease, or death.

While this is a wide range, always keep in mind that if the water parameters are too far out of range, it could be fatal to your fish.


A strong filtration system is essential for keeping fish like the Congo Tetra healthy. These are medium-sized fish that produce a lot of waste!

If you want to keep water conditions and parameters stable, you’ll need a filter that can handle this. This means an external canister or hang-on-back filter will be best. A good HOB filter should have no problem maintaining quality in tanks up to 30 gallons (in larger aquariums, two might be needed).

It’s also very important to regularly clean your tank with these kinds of fish. Since they produce so much waste, it doesn’t take long before ammonia and nitrates start affecting their health if things get out of hand in terms of build-up.

Aquarium Plants

Congo tetra prefer to live in habitats with plants. In their natural habitat, these fish are often seen swimming through plants and hiding among them as well.

When choosing tank plants for your Congo Tetras, choose species that grow slowly. These fish can easily destroy fast-growing vegetation! The best choice would be floating plants like java ferns or water sprite.

If you’re looking for traditional anchored plants, go with species that grow slowly. The best choices include:

  • Anubias Barteri var. nana (dwarf) – this is a very slow-growing variety of Anubias that works well in small tanks because it stays relatively short
  • Java Fern
  • Limnophila sessiliflora (floating plant) – most congo tetra don’t like hanging around the bottom of their tank, but they do love to swim through and hide among these floating water ferns. These work especially well if you have mollies or guppies as tank mates since they won’t be able to chew them up!

Behavior and Compatibility

Congo tetras are very active fish that will spend most of their time darting around the tank. However, they’re pretty timid, so you might see them staying in hiding spots until they feel comfortable enough to make an appearance!

Because of this, it’s important to have a well-planted tank so that these fish can dive into vegetation when they need some alone time. It also helps with hiding if they feel scared or threatened by other fish.

These types of plants will help calm your congo tetra down and give them another area to explore when things get too hectic for them (which won’t be uncommon). Congo Tetras are used to living in dense areas with lots going on, so don’t expect them to zip about the whole aquarium every day!

How Many to Keep Together

As mentioned earlier, Congo Tetras should be kept in groups of five or more. The larger the group is, the better.

This will allow them to feel comfortable and safe. It will also improve their overall health by boosting up their immune systems and alleviating stress-related issues.

When you have a smaller group, Congo Tetras can easily get lonely. This can lead to fighting and stress that impacts the fish’s overall health.


The Congo Tetra is a peaceful fish that gets along with other similar species. They are not aggressive and will swim around the tank without bothering others.

However, they do get intimidated easily by larger or more aggressive fish in their vicinity. As such, you need to be careful about which species share their tank.

Congo Tetras can also exhibit some aggression towards each other if kept in too small of a space.

Tank Mates

You can keep a variety of tank mates with Congo Tetras. What you must always keep in mind is that these fish are shoaling creatures, so it’s best if you have at least five or six in the same tank.

Other freshwater fish that do well with congo tetras include:

You should avoid keeping any aggressive fish in the same environment as your congo tetra. They will almost certainly attempt to attack them! Invertebrates like snails and shrimp make good tank mates, too (so long as they don’t eat the plants).


Breeding congo tetras is a bit tough but possible. You’ll need to set up a breeding tank with the right conditions to trigger spawning. For the best results, feed your fish with live and frozen foods and choose the male with the best colors and the roundest female to put into your breeding tank.

Make sure the breeding tank is well planted with live plants, and that there is a mesh at the base for eggs to fall through. The mesh ensures that the parents do not eat the eggs, which they are prone to do.

Are Congo Tetra Fish a Good Choice For Your Tank?

All in all, Congo tetras are a great freshwater species for any aquarist. They’re fun to look at and a joy to care for!

But like anything else, there are some things you should know before getting them. As we mentioned earlier, these fish do best in slightly acidic waters. There are also certain tank conditions that will make their life more comfortable.

If you can provide those things, then the Congo tetra is likely a great choice for your aquarium.


The Congo Tetra has several positive qualities that make it a great fish for your freshwater tank.

The first is its size. These are very small and unobtrusive fish that don’t take up much space at all (even in large groups). It makes keeping them in tanks fairly painless!

They have a beautiful pattern as well. This easy-to-spot coloration is one of the reasons why they’re so popular with aquarists looking to add some variety to their tank. The red, blue, yellow, and black combination stands out nicely against many décor elements too!

These are also peaceful fish which can be another plus if you want something nonaggressive for your tank. While larger groups will definitely get feisty from time to time, these aren’t overly aggressive like some catfish or cichlids.


The biggest concern with keeping Congo tetras is their sensitivity to copper-based medications. Many of the common treatments for various fish ailments can harm your congo tetra, so you’ll need to be extra careful about this (or just avoid these meds altogether).

Another possible issue with Congo Tetras is overfeeding. These fish are more prone to overeating than other species, impacting their overall health and lifespan.

Finally, these fish can easily get sick if you do not keep their water in good shape.


As you can observe, owning Congo tetras has many benefits. First, they’re beautiful fish that are easy to care for and fun to watch!

If you have any questions about this freshwater fish or need help deciding if they’re right for your tank, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. We love talking shop with other aquarists.

Leave a Comment