Congo Tetra Care & Information

Congo Tetra Care & Information

When thinking of aquarium fish that hail from the waters of Africa, most minds will immediately go to the African cichlids from the rift lakes. But did you know there’s much more? Some of the most beautiful species available in the aquarium trade are actually naturally found in Africa. One of them is the Congo tetra, an absolute jewel with flowy fins and shimmery shades of orange and blue.

Keep reading for everything you need to know to keep the Congo tetra in your own aquarium!

Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus Interruptus) Description

The Congo tetra is a pretty spectacular addition to the aquarium thanks to its intense orange coloration and metallic blues that can be seen shimmering from the right angle. Although the smaller females are notably less colorful than males and lack the flowy fins, they’re still quite lovely to see. 

With a maximum size of 3”, these fish are a bit larger than we usually imagine when thinking of tetras. They make a great eye catcher for your aquarium when kept in an appropriately sized school and are a popular choice for African biotope aquariums due to their relatively easy care.

Name (common, scientific) Congo tetra, Phenacogrammus interruptus
Minimum tank size 30 gallons
Minimum group size 8
Temperature 75-81 °F
pH 6.0-7.5
Difficulty level Intermediate


Congo tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus) aquarium

If you’re looking to set up a Congo tetra aquarium, the best route to take is heavily planted African biotope style. This allows you to really see the amazing colors of this species: in bare aquariums they can become stressed and revert to a dull grey. All plants work, but if you want to keep it specific to the species’ natural habitat you can use the common Anubias. Do be sure to leave some swimming space as well, as the Congo tetra is an active swimmer that likes having room to move.

Because the Congo tetra is a large and active fish that should be kept in shoals, it’s not a good choice for the smaller aquariums. Something like a 55 gallon long tank is probably the smallest you should consider for 8-12 Congo tetras. A smaller school is not an option, since these tetras are rather shy and will be visibly uncomfortable when safety in numbers is lacking. The water should be on the soft and acidic side.

When it comes to tankmates, choose species that won’t bother the shy Congo tetra too much. Special care should be taken to avoid fish that might nip the males’ long fins, which are irresistible to some species. Friendly catfish, other schooling fish and peaceful small cichlids will make good neighbors for your Congo tetras. Other long-finned species should be ruled out as well, because although peaceful and shy the Congo tetra can be slightly nippy itself at times.

Caring for Congo tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus)

The waters the Congo tetra naturally inhabits are fast flowing and clean, which means in the aquarium this species doesn’t respond well to less than ideal water values. You’ll have to keep a close eye on your water quality and perform regular water changes to avoid issues. Don’t overstock the aquarium and avoid shocking the fish with sudden changes in water consistency.

Diet-wise, Congo tetras are omnivores and not picky at all. A high quality mini pellet or flake food works just fine as a staple, although you should also be sure to switch things up regularly. Thawed frozen foods will be much appreciated, though it’s live foods that will really spark this species’ enthusiasm. You can also try greenery-based foods like spirulina tabs.


A West African biotope aquarium that imitates the Congo tetra’s natural habitat, the Congo river basin, is a fascinating addition to any home. Not sure how to go about setting one up? That’s where we come in: just contact us and we’ll get your dream aquarium set up.