How do I set up a Congo biotope?

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Advice -

I have 120x60x60cm tank that I would like to set up to keep Congo te­tra. Please could you tell me how best to dec­o­rate it to repli­cate their nat­u­ral habi­tat?

What’s the best tem­per­a­ture and ph for th­ese fish? Also what cat­fish would you rec­om­mend as tank­mates? I only want those that come from the same sort of re­gion please.

How many Con­gos should I keep in a tank of this size and is there a ra­tio of males to fe­males to aim for? The tank will have an ex­ter­nal fil­ter. JOOLS, EMAIL

BOB MEHEN SAYS: Congo te­tra,

Phenacogram­mus in­ter­rup­tus, are mag­nif­i­cent fish when ma­ture so I can to­tally un­der­stand why you’d want to make them the cen­tre­piece of your dis­play.

In­for­ma­tion on their wild habi­tat is sparse, but most sources point to adding branch­ing wood along­side hardy African plant species such as

Anu­bias and float­ing plants where pos­si­ble. A sandy sub­strate with scat­tered larger gravel and stones usu­ally makes a nat­u­ral-look­ing base. How­ever, most peo­ple re­port that th­ese fish show their best coloura­tion when housed with denser plant­ing, so some com­pro­mise may be nec­es­sary un­less you’re de­ter­mined to fol­low as close a biotope as pos­si­ble.

I would start with a group of be­tween 10 and 15 ju­ve­nile fish (ma­ture fish are some­times avail­able but at­tract a pre­mium price tag) and al­low them to ma­ture to­gether — hope­fully this should give you a good mix of males and fe­males; 50:50 is about right, and you could al­ways add a few more ma­ture males later if the ra­tio is un­bal­anced (I once bought a group of young Con­gos and they all turned out to be fe­male).

De­spite their size (and quite fear­some den­ti­tion, if you look closely!), Congo tetras are peace­ful fish, so this of­fers plenty of op­por­tu­nity for tank­mates, as long as they them­selves aren’t overly ag­gres­sive. Cat­fish-wise then,

Syn­odon­tis are the ob­vi­ous choice, al­though the large adult size of many of the most at­trac­tive species, such as S. an­geli­cus and S. decorus, prob­a­bly dis­counts them from in­clu­sion. How­ever, the ever pop­u­lar Up­side-down cat­fish, S. ni­griven­tris, and the lovely Py­jama cat­fish,

S. flav­i­tae­nia­tus, are both an ex­cel­lent match in terms of size and tem­per­a­ment. A de­cent sized group of ei­ther would re­ally add to your dis­play.

Syn­odon­tis mix well with Congo tetras.

Congo tetras make a great cen­tre­piece.

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