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Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus)

Welcome to the enchanting world of the Congo Tetra, a vibrant and mesmerizing addition to any freshwater aquarium. In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at the the fascinating aspects of the Congo Tetra, uncovering its natural beauty, unique characteristics, and essential care requirements.

Congo Tetra Facts

Scientific Name Phenacogrammus interruptus
Common Name Congo Tetra
Origin Congo River Basin, Africa
Adult Size Up to 4 inches (10 cm)
Lifespan 3-5 years
Diet Omnivore
Water Temperature 72-82°F (22-28°C)
pH Level 6.0-7.5
Minimum Tank Size 20 gallons
Temperament Peaceful and Social
Compatibility Best with small to medium-sized non-aggressive fish
Breeding Egg Scatterer
Coloration Iridescent; Males are more colorful than females
Unique Feature Long, flowing fins in males
Group Behavior Schooling; prefers groups of 6 or more
Environment Softly lit aquarium with dark substrate, plants, driftwood, and rocks
Feeding Flake food, brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia
Special Care Requires clean, well-maintained water conditions

Congo Tetra Profile

The Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus) is a popular freshwater fish native to the Congo River Basin in Africa. Known for their shimmering colors and peaceful nature, these fish are a favorite among aquarium enthusiasts. They typically grow to about 4 inches in length and have a lifespan of 3-5 years in a well-maintained aquarium.

Congo Tetra Coloring

One of the most striking features of the Congo fish is its iridescent coloration. Males display a brilliant blend of blue, red, and yellow hues, with distinctive finnage that includes a long, flowing tail and dorsal fins. Females, while less colorful, still possess a subtle beauty with their silverish body and faintly colored fins.

Congo Tetra Habitat

The Congo Tetra fish originates from the Congo River Basin in Central Africa. This habitat is characterized by soft, acidic water with abundant vegetation. These conditions offer a dimly lit environment due to canopy coverage, creating a tranquil setting. In their natural habitat, Congo Tetras are found in slow-moving waters, surrounded by dense plant life and a substrate rich in organic matter, providing them with ample hiding places and food sources.

Congo Tetra Aquarium Setup

Creating the ideal environment for Congo Tetras involves understanding their natural habitat and needs. This section will guide you through the various aspects of setting up an aquarium that is both aesthetically pleasing and conducive to the health and happiness of your Congo Tetras.

  • Tank Size and Type

The minimum recommended tank size for Congo Tetras is 20 gallons. Larger tanks are better, especially for maintaining a school, as these fish are active swimmers. A rectangular tank is ideal, providing ample space for swimming. The tank should have a secure lid, as Congo Tetras can jump when startled.

  • Water Conditions

Congo Tetra fish thrive in water with a temperature range of 72-82°F (22-28°C) and a pH level of 6.0-7.5. Soft to moderately hard water is preferred. It’s crucial to maintain stable water parameters and perform regular water changes to keep the environment healthy.

  • Filtration and Aeration

A high-quality filtration system is vital to keep the water clean and oxygen-rich. The filter should provide adequate flow without creating strong currents, as Congo Tetras prefer gentle water movement. Regular maintenance of the filter is essential to ensure its effectiveness.

  • Lighting and Cover

Soft, subdued lighting is recommended to mimic the natural habitat of the Congo fish and to bring out their best colors. Additionally, providing plenty of cover with live or artificial plants, driftwood, and rock formations can make these fish feel secure and reduce stress.

  • Substrate and Decorations

A dark-colored substrate can help highlight the vibrant colors of Congo Tetras. Fine gravel or sand is suitable. Decorations should include a mix of plants and hiding places. Live plants not only add beauty to the aquarium but also contribute to the health of the tank’s ecosystem.

Congo Tetra Breeding

Breeding Congo Tetras can be a rewarding challenge for aquarium enthusiasts. Understanding the specific needs and behaviors of these fish during the breeding process is essential for successful breeding.

Breeding Environment

Setting up a separate breeding tank is crucial for Congo fish. This tank should be around 10-20 gallons and have soft, acidic water with a pH of about 6.0-6.5 and a temperature slightly higher than the main tank, around 75-80°F (24-27°C). Dim lighting and the presence of fine-leaved plants or spawning mops are important to provide places for egg depositing. The water level can be lowered to about 6-8 inches to mimic their natural breeding conditions.

Conditioning for Breeding

Prior to breeding, adult Congo Tetras should be conditioned with a diet rich in live foods, such as brine shrimp and bloodworms. This helps to trigger the breeding process. Select healthy and vibrant males and females for breeding, typically in their prime age between one and two years.

Spawning Process

The actual spawning process begins when the male displays vibrant colors and performs a dance-like ritual to attract the female. During spawning, the female scatters her eggs among the plants or spawning substrate, and the male fertilizes them. Congo Tetras are known to produce up to 300 eggs per spawning session. It’s important to remove the adult fish from the breeding tank after spawning to prevent them from eating the eggs.

Egg Care and Fry Development

The eggs of Congo Tetras typically hatch within 6-8 days. The fry are initially very small and require infusoria or commercially available fry food. As they grow, they can be fed micro worms and eventually crushed flake food. Consistent water quality and a stable environment are crucial for the healthy development of the fry.

Successful breeding of Congo fish requires patience and attention to detail, but it can be a highly rewarding experience for any aquarist. By providing the right environment and care, you can witness the fascinating lifecycle of these beautiful fish.

Congo Tetra Diet & Feeding

Congo Tetra fish are omnivores and require a varied diet for optimal health. This diet should include high-quality flake food, frozen or live brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia. Feeding them small amounts several times a day is preferable to one large feeding, as it mimics their natural feeding habits and keeps the water cleaner.

Congo Tetra Compatibility

As peaceful and social fish, Congo Tetras do well in community tanks with other non-aggressive species. Ideal tank mates include other small to medium-sized tetras, livebearers, mollies, guppies, barbs, swordtail, rainbowfish and dwarf cichlids. It’s crucial to avoid keeping them with large or aggressive fish that may bully or harm them. A group of 6 or more Congo Tetras is recommended to promote natural schooling behavior and reduce stress.

Congo Tetra Fish Common Diseases

Congo Tetras, like many aquarium fish, are susceptible to common diseases such as Ich (white spot disease), fin rot, and fungal infections. These ailments often stem from poor water conditions or stress. Ich presents as tiny white spots on the body and fins, while fin rot causes the edges of fins to appear frayed or discolored. Maintaining clean water and a stress-free environment is crucial for prevention and recovery.


The Congo Tetra is a true jewel in the world of freshwater aquariums. Their vibrant colors, peaceful demeanor, and fascinating behavior make them a delightful addition to any tank. With proper care, a suitable environment, and compatible tank mates, these beautiful fish can thrive and bring a lively and colorful dynamic to your aquatic world.