congo cichlid Care Guide: Tank Setup and much more – 2021

congo cichlid



congo cichlid Introduction 


Congo cichlid is excellent freshwater fish that can make a great addition to your community aquascape. The beautiful fish is affordable and easy to take care of. You don’t need special skills or tools to make the fish thrive and last long in your tank. Whether you have just started as an aquarist or have been in this field for a long time, it will be sensible to love this fish from top to bottom.

If you are looking for low-maintenance but beautiful specimens to be added to your community tank, this species is an excellent choice for you and your family. You can even tag your kids to treat and care for the fish group from the fry to adult.

It is not difficult for any level of the aquarists’ experience. All you need to do is follow all the requirements to ensure that the fishes can live in the most appropriate condition to survive for a long time.

For a reason above, I have put together the tips in this post. So, without further ado, let me share everything I’ve found about caring for congo cichlids.

congo cichlid Overview


As the name suggests, the colorful small tetras have their origin in the Congo river in Africa. If you have seen it somewhere in South America, you’ve guessed it right. The counterparts have close relationships with the other species.


Congo cichlid fishes have some resemblances with their tetra counterparts.


Precisely, the experts traced back the origin in the Congo river basin. They have been living in some areas like pools, streams, marshes, as well as tributaries. They prefer to live and spend most of their time in more acidic water. This type is a schooling one. So, you won’t add a single congo tetra in your tank since it will die from anxiety.  


The species is still relatively new since the researchers only found it back in 1949. But domestication started in the 1970s. Nowadays, you can easily find healthy and attractive specimens in the nearby pet stores in your location.


The size of the fish in captivity is around 3 to 3.5 inches. In nature, it can reach up to 4.5, which is normal.


Their bodies are long, flat, and scaled. This fish has stunning rainbow luminescence all over its body. They have a blue top, a red and gold midsection, and a blue belly. The mail’s tail fin is lengthy and flowing along the vertical medial line.


Congo tetras are ideal for producing a vivid display in your freshwater aquarium (Phenacogrammus interruptus).


Congo tetras (Phenacogrammus interruptus) swimming along the aquarium’s sandy bottom


They’re perfect with rainbow-colored scales and an iridescent luster.


Congos are African Characins. One of the newer tetras to acquire popularity among aquarists. Although slightly new introduced, it has quickly gained popularity amongst hobbyists, especially beginners. There is no reason to resist the beauty of this fish anyway.


The species was named in 1949, but it was difficult to breed, so aquarists took them from the wild.


In the 1970s, a Florida fish farm discovered the breeding solution. Breeding is not as hard as we thought. We’ll explain it later in the breeding heading.


Finally, aquarists could add these colorful freshwater dwellers to their tanks.


Category Rating
Level of care Easy
Temperament Peaceful, schooling fish
Appearance generally blue on top, red and gold in the middle, and blue on the belly
Life expectancy 3-5 years
3 to 3.5 inches


Diet Omnivores
Family Alestidae
Tank size 55 gallons
Tank environment dark and sandy substrates along the bottom with greenery
Tank Mates species around the same size



congo cichlid Tank Requirements & SetUp / Tank Guides


These fishes are schooling. They are striving for the larger group. Therefore, you can expand the tank size to a larger one. At a minimum, you will want to provide a 30-gallon tank.


If you want to provide an excellent environment for your pets, consider following every requirement from the experts, and you will have the green light to proceed.


And any others if you wish to build a community.


Canister filters are best for reducing waste. Or you can use a HOB filter with carbon filters. Wild Congos prefer blackwater areas.


The gorgeous rainbow hues will fade, and the flowing fins may be damaged if you don’t follow their best needs.


These fish live in tropical Congo. So they love 72-82°F (22-28°C) water. Their sweet spot is 76°F (24°C). To avoid stress, keep the temperature steady.


Blackwater tanks must be slightly acidic. They can handle a pH range of 6.0-7.5, but you should aim for the lower end (say 6.0-6.5).


You want 3-18 DH waters. Stability is crucial with Congos.


To strive well and sound, you need to prepare the heavily planted aquarium. The congo tetras are fond of exploring the mid to top dwelling areas in the water.


You could add the sandy and darker substrates in the bottom areas. The darker color will provide a convenient base for all the fishes in your community tank.


The next thing to consider is to set up the lighting for your community aquascape. The dim lighting will be the best for your congo tetra pets. Besides adding darker bases, you can also add the top part of the aquarium with the floating plants. There are a lot of floating plants that you can find in the local market. But if you don’t see any for the aquarium, you could swap them with the water lettuce, for instance.


The little congos will need more places to hide and situate. They can be shy all the time, especially if they notice something big is watching them (you).  They tend to hide in caves, holes, or rocks. So, make sure to provide them enough places for this purpose.


Choose the soft and tender plants if you want to add more greeneries to the aquascape.



The Congo Tetra produces many eggs and grows swiftly. Thus a large tank is required to breed them. For breeding, we suggest a 15–20 gallon tank. Prepare multiple tanks to separate the adults and their fry. The small fry tends to be tempting for the other tankmates.


The ideal breeding tank has boiled peat moss on the bottom, reverse osmosis, and Java moss on top.


Breeding Congo Tetra requires 77°F water.


Aeration and filtration in the breeding tank can disturb the peat moss substrate and cloud the water.


Congo Tetras love gloomy regions to spawn. Therefore you want to keep dim the lighting in their breeding tank. Reduced lighting should be controlled for 8 hours before spawning.


What if I only have 20-gallon tanks? It is okay. There are a lot of stories where the owners of the congo cichlid can succeed with smaller tanks. But the sizes of the fish are also smaller. Some reported that the life expectancy could be lesser than the other species.


The larger tank is always better than, the smaller one. The first reason is that this can be an excellent condition for breeding. The second apparent reason is that they will have more space to explore. Moreover, you can add more plants and other objects, which allow your congos to hide and rest.



congo cichlid Tankmates



Choosing Congo Tetra tank mates is not tricky. These fish perform nicely in tranquil tanks with other gentle and docile fish of comparable size.


And other Congo Tetras are the best tankmates. We suggest a minimum of 6 people.


More Congo Tetras in the aquarium is better. Just make sure your tank is big enough for your fish.


There are few famous names that you can add to your community tank, such as corydoras, neon tetras, ember tetras, rainbowfish, mollies, chili rasbora, etc.


As mentioned, it is a schooling fish. So, they will feel anxious when they are present without their group. Always keep at least six of the identical specimens. You can add more if you think you still have the space for them. Your congo buddies are peaceful and friendly. They tend to ignore the other fishes and never bully. You can even add corydoras catfish and let it clean the aquarium for you.


congo cichlid Diets/Food/Feeding


Congo cichlid fishes are omnivores. You can add a good mix of foods for your pets.


They are mostly satisfied with the mix of veggies, worms, algae, and insects. Commercial pellets can also make great choices. But you will not see a lot of action in your aquarium. You could use insects to see your congos darting to devour their prey. They also don’t mind consuming frozen foods. Some alternatives are mouth-watering for them, including brine shrimps, tubifex worms, bloodworms, etc.


The balanced mix of meaty foods and veggies will be great for them. Do not overfeed them with proteins since it will be risky.


congo cichlid Breeding guideline


Congos produce a lot of eggs.


Both males and females have their courtship methods.


To differentiate them, male congos are usually larger than females.


Provide a separate tank for the breeding.


Obtain enough moss to cover the bottom so that the parents can put the eggs there.


Then the next to add is java moss. Both mosses will host the spawning area for them.


Do not add filters in the mating season since it will affect the quality of the moss.


The mating could happen in the dawn. You will see that the females produce up to 500 eggs at once. The hatch will be in five to eight days. The babies will turn into adults in only three months.