The Congo tetra is less well-known that its famous relatives the Neon tetra and Cardinal tetra and it is seldom found in beginner aquariums. The Congo tetra has an elongated body with big eyes. The scales are quite large. The middle rays of the caudal fins are very long in male Congo tetras. You can also tell the male apart from the female on his big dorsal fin that reaches all the way back to the caudal fin. Males will also grow bigger than females. A male Congo tetra can become 3.5 inches long, while the female typically stay smaller than 2.5 inches. A group of Congo tetras can be comfortably housed in aquariums measuring 40 inches or more in length.
The native habit for Congo tetra is the Zaire River basin in Central Africa. Wild caught Congo tetras are still very common in the aquarium trade since captive bred specimens tend to be of lower quality. This species is really not very hard to breed in aquariums, and hopefully we will se an increased quality in the captive bred specimens offered by aquarium stores in the future. Today, the wild caught Congo tetras usually have longer fins than the captive bred specimens and display more pronounced colors.
Congo tetras sport iridescent colors that very from specimen to specimen. The main body colour is olive green and the fins can be gray or of a pale red shade. The belly is usually violet or purple. Each side of the body is decorated with a large light brown stripe under which many smaller stripes can be seen. These stripes are usually green or golden. The tail fin and anal fin have white edges, and the anal fin is also decorated with a darker spot.
The Congo tetra will feel stressed if kept in a barren aquarium and can become very shy and skittish. A well planted aquarium with plenty of hiding spaces is therefore recommended. You should also keep at least six Condo tetras together, preferably even more, since the Congo tetra is a schooling species. Aggressive species can also cause stress and shyness in Congo tetras, so housing it with other peaceful species is advisable.
The recommended temperature range for the Congo tetra is 73º – 79º F (23º – 26° C). The levels of soluble waste must be kept very low and frequent water changes are necessary. The water circulation should also be quite powerful. Congo tetras prefer somewhat acidic waters, but a pH from 6.0 to 7.5 is usually tolerated. Soft water is advisable, but this species is known to adapt to harder conditions in the aquarium.
In the wild, the Congo tetra feed on insects, but it is not very hard to train onto flakes or frozen food in the aquarium. If you give your Congo tetra nothing but flakes, it can however become dull and loos its striking colors. Using flakes as a base and supplementing them with brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, or similar foods is therefore recommended.