Tetra-Congo (20-30MM)

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The colourful tetras of South America have Old World relatives in the region of the Congo River in Africa. These African counterparts are equally colourful. One of these species is the Congo tetra, which shimmers in all the colours of the rainbow. This loud colouring is used for extravagant courtship displays toward both the male and female.


Family Alestiidae
Origin Congo River, Zaire
Adult Size 7.5-9cm
Social Peaceful schooling fish
Lifespan 3 to 5 years
Tank Level All levels
Minimum Tank Size 151L
Diet Omnivores
Breeding Egg layer
Care Moderate
pH 6.0 to 6.5
Hardness 3 to 18 dGH
Temperature 22.8 to 27.8 C

Origin and Distribution

These African characin fish are found in the upper reaches of the River Congo in Zaire. They populate streams, tributaries, pools, and marshes, preferring murky, slightly acidic water. The Congo tetra generally congregates in areas with tall vegetation, few trees, and substrates made up of sand, silt, and mud. Swimming in large schools, the Tetra feed on worms, crustaceans, insects, plant matter, and algae.

This species was not discovered until 1949 and was not imported as a common aquarium fish until the 1960s. During the 1970s, Florida fish farms perfected a breeding line, and most specimens found in pet stores descend from this line. They will breed true, having all of the color and beautifully trailing tails of the native African fish.

Colours and Markings

The fish in nature approaches 9cm. However farm-raised varieties, though full finned and rich with colour, will generally not grow beyond 7.5cm. They have long, flat bodies with large scales. This fish shows amazing rainbow luminescence along the whole body from back to front. They are generally blue on top, red and gold in the middle, and blue on the belly. Males also have long, flowing fins that are violet with white edging; the mail's tail fin is long and flowing along the vertical medial line.


Congo tetras are schooling fish that can get anxious if they are not part of a group of at least six of the same species. If kept with other fish of the same size or smaller, Congo tetras are generally peaceful. Ideal tankmates include other tetras, rainbowfish, and Corydoras catfish.

Avoid aggressive species, as they will bully your Congo tetras. Do not keep Congo tetras with any fin-nipping fish as the spectacular fins of the males will be destroyed.

Congo Tetra Habitat and Care

Congo tetras are fairly hardy, but only if kept in habitats that are maintained correctly. They prefer still, dark, soft, peat-filtered water with low light levels. This can be achieved with dim aquarium lights and floating plants. They like darker substrates and enjoy nibbling on bottom-growing plants.

To help your fish maintain good health, you'll need to provide them with plenty of space and carefully filtered water. If the quality of the water drops, Congo tetras may lose some of their colourations or wind up with damaged fins.

Congo Tetra Diet and Feeding

Congo tetras are omnivores; in the wild, they eat insects, worms, plant matter, and algae. As pets, they are easy to feed: They enjoy live, fresh, and flake foods as well as brine shrimp and blood worms. They should be fed small amounts several times a day. Don't worry if you don't observe your Congo tetras coming to the food, as they can be shy about partaking while being watched. If fish are not getting enough food, try a behavioral feeding ring.

Gender Differences

Males are much more colourful than females; they are considerably larger and have more elaborate fin structure with a centrally extended caudal fin and a large and pronounced dorsal fin. The females are mostly golden with shades of silver and greenish. Females have no such fanciful fins.

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