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African Long-finned Tetra – Brycinus longipinnis

African Long-finned Tetra

Tetras are amongst the most popular aquarium fishes. There are probably more than 150 distinct species of tetra from which the aquarist may choose and this includes a large number of visually stunning fishes that are bound to enhance any home aquarium.

Is the African Long-finned Tetra a good community fish? The African Long-finned Tetra should be considered to be an excellent community fish and gets on with most species. It is, however, a larger than average Tetra at around five inches so a shoal of six or more may be intimidating to smaller species The male is distinguishable by having an elongated dorsal fin. Females tend to be plumper than males.

Key Facts

CategoryKey Facts
Common name(s)African Long-finned Tetra
Scientific name Brycinus longipinnis
Originate fromWestern coastal regions of Africa from The Gambia to Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa
Care requiredEasy to care for and hugely popular
TemperamentActive but placid, shoaling fish
Colour & FormSilver, almost transparent body with black patch on lower caudal peduncle and caudal fin.
LifespanUp to 5 years
Adult sizeUp to 5 inches
DietOmnivorous – eat aquatic insect larvae and worms in nature
Aquarium size48 inches in length or greater
Compatible withMost other Tetras, Barbs, Danios, Guppies and other livebearers, cichlids, Gouramis, catfish and loaches
Avoid keeping withAggressive species
BreedingEasy if you put the fish in the right environment.
Water temp71 – 79 Fahrenheit
Water pH6.0 to 7.5
Water hardness (dGH or dH)Up to 19 dGH

Origins of the African Long-finned Tetra

Tetras, as a “family” of fishes belonging to the biological family Characidae are found in nature in Africa, Central America and South America.

The African Long-finned Tetra originates in western coastal regions of Africa from The Gambia to Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. The vast majority of African Long-finned Tetras available to aquarists are captive-bred. The African Long-finned Tetras inhabits larger rivers but is known also to migrate into smaller streams and to be able to tolerate brackish (salty) water, such as will be found in an estuary.

Characteristics of the African Long-finned Tetra

As you can see, the African Long-finned Tetra is characterized by its pale, silver body and the dark (black) patch on the lower half of the caudal peduncle, leading into the caudal fin. It also displays an orange/yellow highlight over the top of the eye. It will grow to up to 5 inches in the aquarium and live for around five years. 

African Long-finned Tetras prefer fairly neutral water with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5 with a temperature range between 71 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 19 dGH.

The African Long-finned Tetra is a shoaling fish and should be kept as a group of at least six fish, though a shoal of, say, ten or more fish is highly recommended. Having plenty of vegetation to break up lines of sight will also help to protect your African Long-finned Tetras from predation but it is obviously advised that African Long-finned Tetras are not kept with predatory species. The larger size of the African Long-finned Tetra may intimidate smaller species but it is not known for being predatory. If in doubt, keep them in a single-species tank or with species of a similar size.

The body of the African Long-finned Tetra is a pale silver, almost transparent in colour.  The eyes are remarkable in that there is a black band running down them from top to bottom and “through” the pupil and a red arc around the pupil over the top half.

The dorsal fin of the male are elongated when compared with the female and its anal fin is convex, which makes the sexes easier to distinguish. The female is also plumper than the male. The fins of the African Long-finned Tetra are generally clear (hyaline) though the black patch in the caudal peduncle “bleeds” into the caudal fin, slightly.

The African Long-finned Tetra has a deeper body than, for example, a Neon Tetra and the female has a slightly deeper body than the male and also a rounder body, especially when gravid (carrying eggs). The colouring of the male tends to be fuller and richer than that of the female, especially as spawning approaches.

The African Long-finned Tetra tends to inhabit the middle and upper areas of the aquarium (top to bottom). That said, it is a vigorous fish when breeding and will readily traverse the entire aquarium.

The African Long-finned Tetra is, by nature, a shoaling fish and it is generally recommended to purchase six or more fish, as their nature is to swim together as a shoal and they will tend to thrive much better as a shoal. African Long-finned Tetras are excellent community fish and are ideal for aquarists with moderate experience, as they don’t tend to have aggressive tendencies towards other species. It is advised not to include African Long-finned Tetras in an aquarium containing predatory species, as their wellbeing may rapidly deteriorate.

African Long-finned Tetras prefer a shaded tank, as this mimics their natural environment, so consider including floating leaves and/or allowing vegetation to grow so that it floats on the surface of the water to provide shade.

It is generally advised that the minimum tank size for African Long-finned Tetras should be one of 48 inches in length or more due to the shoaling nature and size of the species, which will enable a small shoal to move around freely. The tank should be well-planted but with clear areas where the fish can swim freely. The water should only have gentle movement.

The general rule for Tetras is that by keeping six or more of the same species in an aquarium they will be fully aware of which is male and which is female and they will act accordingly.

Most (but not all) Tetras have an additional fin which identifies them as being Tetras and the African Long-finned Tetra is no exception. If you look between the dorsal fin and the caudal (tail) fin of the African Long-finned Tetra you will observe a tiny, additional fin, known as the adipose fin. The purpose of this fin is not fully understood but, if it is present on a freshwater tropical fish then you can be pretty certain that the fish is a Tetra.

Tetra comes from the Greek word “Tetragonopterus” which means square-finned and appears to relate to the four fins on vertical plane of the fish (dorsal, adipose, caudal and anal fins) which span the central line of the fish (when viewed from above or below, front or rear) and are not present as a pair (e.g. the pectoral or pelvic fins).

African Long-finned Tetra – Video

How do African Long-finned Tetras breed?

Tetras, in general, will scatter eggs by laying them over fine plants such as Cabomba, Fontanalis or Java Moss.

African Long-finned Tetras, like most species, are noted to leap above the water surface during breeding and in general, so it is advised that the tank should be covered to mitigate the risk of losing fish.

As the female African Long-finned Tetra becomes ripe with eggs, the difference between the sexes becomes even more evident. If you plan to attempt to breed African Long-finned Tetras then it is recommended that you have a breeding tank prepared. Such a tank can be empty but you may wish to include a mesh or grid under which the fertilized eggs will fall and/or a sterilized breeding mop.

That said, African Long-finned Tetras will breed in a community tank and, if the tank is well planted, it is likely that at least a few fry may survive to reach adulthood.

Some say that a novice may find it difficult to breed African Long-finned Tetras but, in my experience, by understanding the conditions that are ideal for breeding, most species will breed quite readily, as it is natural for them so to do and, in general, nature finds a way.

The female will swim vigorously around the breeding tank and, if you include two males then they will encourage her to lay her eggs by bumping into her. She will lay her eggs which will immediately be fertilized by the male(s) and will either stick to plants or spawning mop or will fall to the bottom of the tank (preferably through the mesh or trap). Once spawning is complete, remove the adults, as they are likely to consume the eggs, given the chance, and take no further parental responsibility.

Spawning usually takes place in the early morning. In nature, African Long-finned Tetras spawn at the start of the rainy season.

Breeding tank for African Long-finned Tetras

You should prepare a tank of around 30 gallons in size with mature water. The water should be at a pH of around 6.0 to 6.5, a dGH of 2 to 5 and, ideally around 75 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit with a low level of light.

You may wish to introduce mosquito larvae or bloodworm as an inducement to reproduction.

The female will swim amongst the plants, laying her eggs whilst the male will swim alongside or behind her and fertilize the eggs as they are laid. Typically, the female can lay several hundred orange eggs during a spawning, which may adhere to plants or will sink to the bottom of the tank.

Once the female has scattered her eggs and the male has fertilized at least some of them then the adults should be removed carefully from the breeding tank because they will have nothing more to do with the eggs but they may simply eat them.

Keep the lights off and the tank dark because Tetra eggs and fry are particularly sensitive to the light.

The tank should, from this point, be heavily aerated.

The eggs will hatch typically in 4 to 6  days or so depending on tank temperature and conditions and the fry will become free-swimming a couple of days after hatching. Keep the tank unlit for the first week or so then gradually increase the lighting.

The newly hatched fry will firstly feed on their yolk sac but, once free-swimming, can be fed infusoria (particularly rotifers) and will also thrive on egg yolk during the first two to four weeks. It is worth mentioning that immediately after hatching, fry seem quite vigorous but will soon go into a resting state before they become free-swimming so please don’t mistake this initial stage as being free-swimming.

After around four days or so add baby brine shrimp. Once the fry are sufficient in size not to be treated as a snack then they can be introduced into the community tank where they will join the existing shoal. Before moving the adolescent fish into the community tank ensure that you have balanced the water temperatures to mitigate the risk of White Spot or other diseases being triggered.

Should your African Long-finned Tetras have a special diet for breeding?

Adult African Long-finned Tetras don’t need any particular inducement to breed. That said, it has been suggested that adding mosquito larva may encourage them, presumably because the addition of a new food may “fool” the fish into thinking that it is breeding time. From my own experience, I would always recommend keeping all of your fish in the best possible condition at all times, as this is good for the wellbeing of your fish.

Mike Wheeler

I started keeping freshwater tropical fish in 1972 and it has been something of a passion ever since. In this website, my aim is to build up an everyman's guide to help the everyday aquarist get the best from this inspiring and entertaining hobby.

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