African Long-Finned Tetra
The “African Long-Finned” Tetra, “Brycinus longipinnis”, comes from the Atlantic coastal region of Africa from Angola to Senegal.
Alternative Common Names
Other common names are “African Longfin Tetra”, “African Tetra”, “African Tetras”, “Long Finned Characin”, “African Longfin”, and “Silversides”.
Apart from the names that are reasonably specific to the species, it is sometimes referred to by more general names like “Characin”, “Long-Finned Characin”, “Long-Fin Tetra” and “Longfin Tetra”.
The African Long-Finned Tetra comes from a wide range of habitats in a large area in Africa. It will live in the big rivers, including the mighty Congo River, but also inhabits the tributaries and even the very small streams leading to these tributaries. In addition, it will live in the estuaries of the rivers, including water with some mix of sea water with the very fresh water of these rivers.
Many of the rivers it lives in have acidic tea coloured water stained from the tannins from the vegetation of the forests.
The African Long-Finned Tetra will grow to at least 5 inches (12.5 cm) long although most of the ones we see are smaller than this.
The populations from the small streams are smaller fish than those in the big rivers.
The African Long-Finned Tetra is a large and active fish and needs quite a lot of food to maintain its lifestyle. It is an omnivore with a preference for high protein animal food like Mosquito larvae, Daphnia, frozen Blood Worms, Frozen Brine Shrimp etc. They will also eat fish flakes and pellets readily.
The high requirements for food of this fish carry the potential for polluting the water.
The African Long-Finned Tetra swims mainly in mid water, but feeds both on the surface and in mid water. If necessary it will eat from the bottom of the aquarium, but does not do this for preference.
The African Long-Finned Tetra can tolerate a wide range of conditions in an aquarium just as in the wild. The ideal water may be soft and moderately acidic, but they will adapt to water of pH between 6 and 8. Moderate levels of hardness also do not seem to worry this versatile fish.
Some people use peat filtration to try to mimic the tannin stained water of some of the rivers this fish comes from, but this does not appear to be necessary.
The ideal temperature range is from 22-26 degrees F (71-79 degrees F); it will tolerate variation from this range, and in the wild, some of the rivers they come from definitely get hotter than 26 degrees C.
This fish requires well oxygenated water and is intolerant of ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. A good filtration system is recommended, and it is better if a current be maintained in the aquarium.
The African Long-Finned Tetra is a bigger fish than most tetras as well as being very active. Therefore, it needs a big aquarium, preferably at least a 48 inch (120 cm) one. It needs plenty of swimming room. But some plants are also beneficial to provide the fish with the illusion of security.
The African Long-Finned Tetra is naturally a schooling fish and I suggest that at least 5 be kept together. It is a very peaceful fish as well as being big and fast enough to be able to look after itself. I don’t recommend it as a companion for the smallest tetras like Neon and Cardinal Tetras, and I have never tried it with slow moving long finned fish like Siamese Fighting Fish and Guppies. There is a very wide range of fish that would be suitable companions for a school of these beauties.
Although the African Long-Finned Tetra does not seem to harass the other fish, it is a very ready eater and there is a danger that the other fish in the tank will not get enough food.
Nearly all the African Long-Finned Tetras offered for sale are caught in the wild. It is not one of the more common fish and is more expensive than most of the commercially bred tetras. As a very rough guide you can expect to pay about 4 times as much for this fish as for most tetras. However, it also tends to be bigger when sold than most tetras.
The sexes of the African Long-Finned Tetra are easy to distinguish. To me the most obvious difference is in the dorsal fin. In the males it is longer and more pointed while in females it is shorter and rounded. The males grow a little bigger than the females, and the body of the males tends to be deeper than that of the females.
The anal fin of the male tends to be convex and edged in white while that of the females to be straight or concave.
Breeding in the Wild
Some observations suggest that in the wild an African Long-Finned Tetra school may breed over an extended period, laying a few eggs each day over plants. It is a reasonable guess that this versatile fish has several different breeding strategies in the wild adapted to the wide range of habitats it lives in.
Breeding in an Aquarium
The African Long-Finned Tetra can be bred either as a school or in a pair. This is not an easy tetra to breed but people who make a serious attempt may succeed.
The parents need to be very well conditioned on high protein foods.
The water in the breeding tank should be soft and acid. Plants, preferably fine leaved ones, need to be present. The fish may not spawn the first day, but with luck will spawn within a few days. As with many fish, the most common time for this fish to spawn is the early morning. The actual spawning may be stimulated by the early morning light. I suggest that the breeding tank be situated to allow this light to fall on the aquarium.
About 200-300 eggs are laid per female. The eggs are 2-2.5 mm in diameter and are orange. The parents have been reported to not eat their own eggs. There have not been enough reports of this to be sure if this is normal. If they do not eat their own eggs this is unusual behaviour for an egg scattering tetra.
The eggs hatch in 4-6 days. The babies are about 7 mm long. This is bigger than the fry of most egg scattering small fish.
Raising the Babies
Despite the large size of the African Longfin Tetra babies they have small mouths and need infusoria (protozoa) for the first few days. After this they can eat newly hatched Brine Shrimp and other tiny live food. The live food of suitable sizes can be supplemented with liquid and dry fry foods. The fry need frequent feeding and plenty of space to grow. Great care needs to be taken with the water quality, avoiding any build-up of ammonia, nitrite or nitrate.
For the early stages, an air operated foam filter may be the safest type to use.
Origin of the African Long-Finned Tetra
It is known to be native to the following countries: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Republic of the Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
The IUCN Red List lists the African Longfin Tetra as being a species of least concern. The assessment was done in 2009. No information is available about its population trend.
Although there appears to be no immediate threat to this species, the large-scale clearing of the forests in the watersheds of the rivers it lives in could be a long-term problem. In some of the countries it lives in there are enormous problems of pollution, often caused by companies from Europe and America doing things that they would not be allowed to get away with in their own countries. This pollution has the potential to wipe out whole ecosystems. It has already devastated many villages and threatened the population of cities.
Despite being referred to as a tetra, the African Longfin Tetra is not very closely related to the South American tetras. The tetras are not really a valid scientific group, but rather a convenient name for fish with superficial similarities. The Characins are an actual scientific group, but the use of this word in several of the common names for the African Longfin Tetra is misleading because it is not technically a Characin but it is related to this group.
The Congo Tetra, Phenacogrammus interruptus, is not in the same genus as the African Longfin Tetra, but they are related and there are similarities; their habitats also overlap.
There are currently 34 species in the Brycinus genus, but none of them are popular aquarium fish.
Alternative Scientific Names
The only valid scientific name for this fish is “Brycinus longipinnis”, (Günther 1864) but several other names have been used. These include: “Alestes longipinnis” (Günther, 1864), “Bryconalestes longipinnis longipinnis” (Günther, 1864), “Brachyalestes longipinnis” (Günther, 1864,) “Alestes chaperi” (Sauvage, 1882) “Brycinus longipinnis bagbeensis” (Géry & Mahnert, 1977) and “Bryconalestes longipinnis chaperi” (Sauvage, 1882).
Do not allow any fish or other pet to get into ecosystems that they are not native to.
UICN Red List.