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Setting up a community aquarium can seem like a daunting task.

There will be several questions that you will have to consider. For example, which Fish will get along well together? What species of Fish should I consider buying?

At first answering, all these questions may feel cumbersome. However, this article will provide you with an overview of the different types of schooling fish and their characteristics, as well as answers to various questions that need to be considered when looking to set up a community of schooling fish.

We will also discuss and recommend some stocking options too.

Further Reading: Best freshwater aquarium fish

Why Do Fish Form Schools?

First, let’s go through and understand the difference between shoaling vs. schooling fish.

Shoaling Fish are a group of fish that stay together for social purposes, while if a group is swimming in the same direction in a coordinated manner, then they are referred to as schooling fish.

The first reason why Fish tends to form schools is for protection against other predatory species. It’s the same as wanting to stay in groups when traveling to dangerous parts of metropolitan cities.

It certainly is reassuring to belong to a group, because the singling out and attacking of one individual fish would be a tiresome task — an extreme but common strategy amongst schools in the formation of a circle when attacked by predators.

Schooling makes it easier for Fish to search for food too. With more eyes on the lookout for food, a school can find what it needs more quickly. This is the second reason why Fish form schools.

Finally, schools allow the opposite sexes to interact, which increases the odds of successful reproduction — fish species group in schools when they feel the need to mate. On the flip side, some schools consist of females only trying to defend themselves from male harassment.

Why Do Schooling Fish Look So Good In An Aquarium?

The reason schooling fish look so good in aquariums is because they help bring distinction, activity, and color to the aquarium. Typically, schooling fish are shy in isolation, but when surrounded by other Fish of their kind, their real persona stands out.

One aspect that makes schooling fish remarkably interesting to watch is their beauty. The way they move so close to each other while maintaining perfect rhythm is mind-blowing. It feels as if every Fish is being controlled by one mind simultaneously. The hive-mind mentality is at play.

What Fish Are Schooling Fish?

If you are starting to construct an aquascaped aquarium and looking to find fish for schooling, then look no further than the list below:

  • Cardinal Tetra
  • Harlequin Rasbora
  • Angelfish
  • Neon Tetra
  • Black Neon Teta
  • Discus
  • Cherry Barb
  • White Cloud Mountain Minnow
  • Zebra Danios
  • Clown Loach
  • Black Widow Tetra
  • Neon Blue Tux Guppy
  • Hatchet Dadio

What Is The Best Freshwater Schooling Fish For Beginners?

The best freshwater schooling fish for beginners are Tetras. Tetras are small fish that are best suited for beginners due to the following reasons:

  • There are many different peaceful species full of color that will enhance the look of your aquarium.
  • They are easy to care for and look after
  • You can find them in any chain or local fish store.

Easy To Keep Species of Schooling Fish Perfect for Beginners

Tetras:

Best Schooling Fish For Aquariums_ Tetras

Neon Tetra

The Neon Tetra is one of the most popular species among fish keepers due to its attractive colors and ease of care. They are the most-selling tropical Fish in the world and the second most expensive freshwater Fish sold in the world, only after the humble goldfish.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 10+ Gallons
 Water Temperature 72-78 F
Ph Level 5.5-6.8 pH

Glowlight Tetra

The Glowlight Tetra is a beautiful freshwater fish with a bright strip along its body. With aging, the color of the body becomes more and more saturated, which adds to the appeal of the Fish.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 10 Gallons
Water Temperature 74-82 F
Ph Level 5.8-7.5 pH

Ember Tetra

The Ember Tetra is a light orange freshwater fish with a semi-transparent body and an ideal fish for aquarium. Its scientific name is Hyphessobrycon amandae, and it measures between 0.75 and 1 inch as adults. You will primarily find them in the Araguaia River basin located in South America.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 20 Gallons
Water Temperature 75 – 82 F
Ph Level 5 – 7 pH

Cardinal Tetras

The Cardinal Tetra is probably the flashiest amongst the tetra species, with its fabulous bright red belly with sparkling blue-green scales on the top of the body. The Cardinal Tetras are the ideal tropical Fish in a tank. This type of Fish has slightly more specific needs requirements to flourish in your aquarium. The water needs to be soft and acidic, with low mineral content.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 20 Gallons
Water Temperature 76 – 81 F
Ph Level Below six pH

Bloodfin Tetras

Bloodfin tetras are known for the bright red coloration on their ventral and tail fins. Furthermore, they are able to tolerate a wide range of water temperatures and conditions, making them known for their extreme ease of care.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 15+ Gallons
Water Temperature 72 – 78 F
Ph Level 6.0 – 7.5 pH

Rummynose Tetra

The Rummynose Tetra is among the most popular of all freshwater schooling fishes and is named due to the bright red marking that stretches across its face. These flashy fish are amusing to watch as they are incredibly lively schoolers, and their dazzling facial coloration will make it an excellent addition to any aquarium.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 25+ Gallons
Water Temperature 72 – 77 F
Ph Level 6.0 – 7.0 pH

Congo Tetras

Congo tetras are known for their sparkling orange and silver scales, which can include hints of flickering green or blue. They are shy freshwater fish that should not be surrounded by large, fast, or aggressive Fish. If their coloration no longer remains bright or begins to fade away, this is an indication of stress due to their environmental conditions.

Difficulty of Care Intermediate
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 30+ Gallons
Water Temperature 75 – 81 F
Ph Level 6.0 – 6.5 pH

Black Widow Tetra

Aptly named the black widow because of its unique black fins and black stripes on the body and its tendency to become aggressive towards smaller Fish, the Fish thrives in schools of 3 or more in one aquarium.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Semi-Aggressive
Minimum Tank Size 15+ Gallons
Water Temperature 70 – 79 F
Ph Level 6.0 – 6.5 pH

Rasboras:

Best Schooling Fish For Aquariums Rasboras

Photo Credit: Drew Tyre

Harlequin Rasbora

The Harlequin Rasboras are a popular schooling freshwater fish due to their peaceful temperament and ease of care. Typically, they do excellent in schools of 6-8 fish. It is recommended that they are grouped with smaller Fish. The dazzling and stunning colors will attract the bigger Fish a little too much. As a result, your Harlequins may be under threat.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 10+ Gallons
Water Temperature 73 – 78 F
Ph Level 6.6 – 7.0 pH

Scissortail Rasboras

Scissortail rasboras are little freshwater Fish with branched tails that resemble the blades of a pair of scissors. While swimming, they open and close their tails, making their distinct tail fins to look like scissors. This type of Fish is highly adaptable with many other fish species that are commonly held in a community aquarium.

Live Bearers:

Best Schooling Fish For Aquariums_ Live Bearers

Guppies

The Guppy fish, also referred to as a rainbow fish or million fish, was named after Robert John Lechmere Guppy in the 1920s. He sent the first samples of Guppy to a British Museum “Natural History Museum – London.”

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 20+ Gallons
Water Temperature 73 – 78 F
Ph Level 6.6 – 7.0 pH

Platies

Platies are prevalent freshwater tropical Fish that come in a range of striking colors. It is effortless and easy to care for them, which makes them an excellent beginner fish. Platies are generally not schooling Fish. However, they do best in smaller groups and should not be left in isolation.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 10+ Gallons
Water Temperature 72 – 78 F
Ph Level 7.0 – 8.5 pH

Corydoras Catfish:

Best Schooling Fish For Aquariums_ Corydoras

Pygmy Cories

Pygmy cories are little freshwater catfish that are a stunning addition to any aquarium. These Fish typically do best when kept in groups of 6-8, yet they can become shy in groups of less than 6. Due to their small size, pygmy cories can be frightened by larger Fish. Therefore, it is best when these fish are placed in an aquarium with other dwarf Fish, snails, or shrimp.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 10+ Gallons
Water Temperature 72 – 79 F
Ph Level 6.5 – 7.5 pH

Loaches:

Clown Loach

Clown loaches are tropical freshwater Fish that originate from the botiid loach family. They were first discovered in Indonesia, and with time, their unique appearance drew more attention to them.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 75+ Gallons
Water Temperature 75 – 81 F
Ph Level 6.0 – 6.5 pH

Danios:

Best Schooling Fish For Aquariums_ Danios

Zebra Danios

The Zebra Danios is a freshwater fish that belongs to the minnow family native to South Asia. These extremely tough Fish are lasting breeders and mate for life.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size  20 Gallons
Water Temperature 65 – 75 F
Ph Level 6.5 – 8.0 pH

Aggressive Schooling Fish

Cichlids:

Best Schooling Fish For Aquariums_ Cichlids

Discus

This type of Fish is known as the King of the Aquarium. It is probably the most beautiful out of all the tropical freshwater fishes and is considered an aquarium fish. This is one of the more difficult tropical Fish to maintain and is certainly not recommended for beginners.

Difficulty of Care Moderate
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 55+ Gallons
Water Temperature 80 – 86 F
Ph Level 6.4 – 8.5 pH

Further Reading: 12 Awesome Discus Tank Mates For Your Not-so-social Discus Fish – Compatibility List and Care Guide

Angelfish

This Fish has a unique body shape. The body of this Fish is laterally compressed, which means visually its body is tall and skinny. It usually lives only in freshwater habitats and considered to be an aquarium fish. This type of fish species, along with its near relatives, lives in South America.

Difficulty of Care Moderate
Temperament Semi-Aggressive
Minimum Tank Size 30 Gallons
Water Temperature 78 – 84 F
Ph Level 6.5 – 7.1 pH

African Cichlids

Cichlids are one of the very popular types of aquarium fish. Due to their distinct colors and aggressive nature, they are of great charm to a wide range of aquarists. This Fish originates from South America from an area with a rock-solid base within a freshwater lake.

Difficulty of Care Moderate
Temperament Aggressive
Minimum Tank Size 30+ Gallons
Water Temperature 72 – 82 F
Ph Level 7.8 – 8.5 pH

Barbs:

Best Schooling Fish For Aquariums_ Barbs

Tiger Barb, Albino Tiger Barb

This semi-aggressive Fish is generally very nippy and will hunt other slow or long-finned Fish. Originally from Indonesia and Malaysia, you can most commonly find the Tiger Barb most commonly in hot, shallow medium/fast-moving streams.

Difficulty of Care Easy-Moderate
Temperament Semi-aggressive
Minimum Tank Size 15+ Gallons
Water Temperature 64 – 82 F
Ph Level 6.5 – 7.5 pH

Cherry Barb

Cherry Barb is a schooling fish primarily found in Sri-Lankan rivers. It is a relatively small fish with an elongated body and arched back.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 15+ Gallons
Water Temperature 64 – 82 F
Ph Level 6.5 – 7.5 pH

Denison Barb

This is an active fish that originates from South India, particularly from Kerala and southern Karnataka. The Denison Barb is typically found in large schools in streams, pools, and rivers.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 55 Gallons
Water Temperature 60 – 77 F
Ph Level 6.8 – 7.8 pH

Five Banded Barb

The Five-Banded Barb is a quiet schooling species that is the best pick for a planted aquarium. This particular Fish hails from Peninsular, Malaysia.

Difficulty of Care Easy-Moderate
Temperament Peaceful but can be aggressive
Minimum Tank Size 20 Gallons
Temperature 70 – 79 F
Ph Level 4.0 – 7.0 pH

Freshwater Aquarium Sharks:

Iridescent Shark

This Fish originates from Thailand and other parts of South-east Asia. This fishes’ dynamic and lively nature makes it a popular choice as a pet.

Difficulty of Care Advanced
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 300 Gallons
Water Temperature 70 – 75 F
Ph Level 6.5 – 7.5 pH

Bala Tropical Shark

This type of Fish is also referred to as the Silver Shark and is popular among tropical fish hobbyists. They are referred to as silver sharks due to their appearance and shape of dorsal fins.

Difficulty of Care
Easy-ModerateTemperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 125 Gallons
Water Temperature 72 – 82 F
Ph Level 6.0 – 8.0 pH

Rainbow Shark, Albino

This Fish is a tropical freshwater cyprinid that is difficult to keep. Its best suited for fish keepers that have a few years of experience under their belt. The Rainbow Shark originates from the warm rivers of Southeast Asia.

Difficulty of Care
Easy-ModerateTemperament Semi-aggressive
Minimum Tank Size 50 Gallons
Water Temperature 75 – 81 F
Ph Level 6.5 – 7.5 pH

Miscellaneous Schooling Fish:

White Cloud Mountain Minnow

The White Cloud Mountain Minnow is a tropical fish that is complimented and known for its beauty around the world. The White Cloud Mountain originates from the rivers of China and makes for an excellent schooling fish pet.

Difficulty of Care Easy-Moderate
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 10 Gallons
Temperature 64-72 F
Ph Level 6.0 – 8.0 pH

Pencilfish

The Pencilfish is an easy breed and is best maintained in the aquarium due to its easy-to-meet tank requirements. This Fish hails from various river systems in South America.

Difficulty of Care Moderate
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 20 Gallons
Temperature 72 – 82 F
Ph Level 5.5 – 7.0 pH

Rainbowfish

The typical rainbowfish is of a variety of colors. However, the most common one has silvery, blue-green bodies with a pink belly. It originates from tropical, warm places, which include Australia, New Guinea, and Madagascar and is considered to be an aquarium fish.

Difficulty of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 30 Gallons
Temperature 74-78 F
Ph Level 7.0 – 8.0 pH

African Reedfish or Ropefish

The Ropefish belongs to the Polypteridae family and is a freshwater species that lives in rivers located across the West and Central Africa. They are primarily found in Benin, Cameron, the Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria.

Difficulty of Care Easy-Moderate
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 45 Gallons
Temperature 64-72 F
Ph Level 6.0 – 8.0 pH

Blue Amur Taiwan Bitterling Fish

This Fish, also is known as the Tanakia Bitterling, is a reasonably uncommon fish that is native to China and Taiwan.

Difficulty of Care Easy-Moderate
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 40 Gallons
Temperature 64-72 F
Ph Level 6.0 – 8.0 pH

Archer Fish

The Archer Fish belongs to the Toxotidae family. This Fish can be found in India, Sri Lanka, all the way through Southeast Asia.

Difficulty of Care Easy-Moderate
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 100 Gallons
Temperature 64-72 F
Ph Level 6.0 – 8.0 pH

Stocking Ideas For Beginner Community Tanks

There are several species of Fish that are eligible as community fish. In other words, there are several options for stocking your community aquarium.

Primarily, live-bearing species of Fish such as the guppies, mollies, platies, and swordtails are all great community fish. Schooling species, which include tetras, rasboras, barbs, danios, and rainbowfish, are the best examples of community fish.

Typically, some groups of Fish contain species that comprise of good community fish, as well as species that are more aggressive. For example, some species of Cichlids like Discus make excellent community fish, while others like Angelfish and African Cichlids are known to be aggressive and ideal for a small fish tank.

How Many Schooling Fish Should I Get For My Tank Size?

10 Gallon Tank

Option #1: Glowlight Tetras 4-6

Option #2: Neon Tetras 4-6

Option #3: Harlequin Rasbora 4-6

20 Gallon Tank

Option #1: Neon Tetra: 5-6, Ember Tetra: 5-6

Option #2: Cardinal Tetra: 8-12

30 Gallon Tank

Option #1: Harlequin Rasboras: 10-15, Neon Tetras 8-10

Option #2: Guppies: 15-20

Option #3: RainbowFish: 4-6

For more info on stocking your aquarium please check out a few of my other guides.

Factors You Need To Consider Before Keeping Schooling Fish

There are a few critical factors that need to be considered prior to keep schooling fish in your community tank. These include the following:

  1. Ensure that your Fish have enough space. Even peaceful fish species can start causing some trouble if the aquarium begins to become overcrowded.
  2. Most schooling species prefer to be kept in groups of at least 5 or 6 of their own species. Consider the quantity you plan to purchase of each schooling fish.
  3. Another critical factor is to consider the hiding places for the various different fish species. When your community aquarium is being decorated, ensure there are plenty of live plants, large rocks, and caves to provide cover for the tamer fish. This helps in reducing aggression among the fish.

Tips For Setting Up Community Tanks For Schooling Fish

If you are planning to keep schooling fish, you are making a great decision, one that you will never regret. Starting a community is the best way for you to get nearer to nature.

However, make sure to understand how to take care of the community aquarium correctly. Otherwise, you will find that it will quickly lead to failure and disappointment. Therefore, keep the following tips in mind when planning to keep schooling fish.

  1. Cycle your New Aquarium: Cycling the aquarium even prior to purchasing Fish is critical since ammonia and other nasty substances can accumulate in an aquarium to the point that it can prove to be poisonous for the Fish. With the absence of healthy microorganisms, you will find this process tends to be a quick one.
  2. Purchase a Water Testing Kit: The second factor is to purchase a good water testing kit and remember to use it. This kit will allow you to test water conditions by measuring pH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrites.
  3. Research the Fish Before you Buy: Make sure you complete your research before approaching a store. Blindly relying on the staff for recommendations is a terrible idea. Make sure that you complete your research at home prior to buying Fish. The only real way to select the right Fish for your aquarium is to take out time from your schedule to know what you’re doing.
  4. Add Fish Periodically: Get into the habit of purchasing and adding new Fish every week. This allows your community aquarium to keep up with the bioload and provides your new Fish a better shot at survival. Ensure that you are testing the community tank’s water conditions in parallel.

Is An Aquarium Of Schooling Fish Right For You?

Creating a thriving community aquarium can pose to be a bit of a challenge. However, it can also be rewarding. By following the above factors and tips, you can certainly increase your chances of achieving your goal – which is to create and maintain your own community aquarium.

Best Schooling Fish For Aquariums Beginner Friendly Guide