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The Most Beautiful Schooling Fish For Your Community Tank

When you are deciding which fish to add to your aquarium, what factors matter most to you? The color of your fish? The personality? How well they get along with each other?

If you pick out schooling fish, you can get the best of all of these dimensions. Schooling fish add a great deal of activity to the tank and can also help brighten up the overall appearance of your aquarium. As small, brightly colored individuals, schooling fish may not look that remarkable on their own, but get them around others of their own kind and you will have quite a beautiful display of activity!

Schooling Fish

Not all schooling fish are compatible with every kind of tank. Make sure you select the fish whose needs will match best to the conditions you have established in your tank

Want to learn more about all the fish you can raise? Here are some of the best schooling fish for your freshwater aquarium.

The Best Species Of Schooling Fish

1 Cherry Barbs

Cherry Barb

The cherry barb is a fish that is easy to care for, even for beginners. This shy, peaceful fish tends to keep to itself – this instinct is magnified if you keep it by itself. Make sure you keep this fish in a school!

You should keep your cherry barb in a large school with at least half a dozen other individuals. It will hang out at the middle and bottom of the tank, which should be no smaller than twenty or thirty gallons.

These fish have bright re scales and dark bands that extend from their heads to their tails. The brightest colorations can be seen among males, but theses schooling fish look colorful in a large group no matter what the gender might be.

Cherry barbs are happiest when schooling as this prevents them from feeling threatened by other fish. It can reduce hiding behavior and will also allow their schooling instincts and colors to really show.

Although these fish don’t grow very large, it’s important that you maintain appropriate male to female ratios in a school. Otherwise, you may risk over aggression on the part of the males and timid behavior from the females.

2 Harlequin Rasboras

Harlequin Rasboras

Everybody loves the colorful harlequin rasbora, and truly – the more the merrier with this colorful fish! An easy fish to care for, it is often chosen by beginner or intermediate – level aquarium hobbyists. This fish is a peaceful species but can sometimes get nervous around larger individuals. It prefers temperatures between 72 and 80 degrees and a pH of 5.5 to 7.0.

This fish can be kept in a large school – it tends to inhabit the top and middle levels of the water column. You should keep a school of six to eight fish in a 10 gallon tank.

The harlequin rasbora is a lovely silver and red-pink color, but it has a black-blue triangle on its back half. This fish is quite flashy and enjoyable to watch as it navigates the aquarium. It is best kept in a school, as it does not handle isolation well and will become stressed if it is left by itself.

Luckily, though, the harlequin rasbora is very adaptable to most water conditions, which is why it is often chosen by beginning fish keepers. And if you don’t want to stick to just harlequin rasboras, you can school this fish with other types of rasboras, too.

3 Rummynose Tetras

Rummynose Tetras
Photo by Peter Maguire

Another popular schooling fish is the rummynose tetra. This fish is designed for beginners and a s peaceful schooling fish, it is quite fun to watch. Although it will occasionally duck into a castle or behind a plant to hide, this fish tends to spend most of its day exploring the tank.

These fish should be kept in tanks that are no smaller than 25 gallons in volume. They prefer to inhabit the middle levels of the water column and have bright facial colors along with slim silver bodies and white and black tails. The coloration of the faces of these fish is really something to pay attention to – they have red noses that can indicate your water quality! What better way to figure out whether your tank needs to be cleaned than to see what your fish have to say, after all!

4 Zebra Danios

Zebra Danio 3
Photo by tim colegate-smith


The Zebra Danio is another excellent species for a community tank of schooling fish. A peaceful fish, it sometimes has a tendency to nip at the fins of other fish. As a result, you should keep this fish in a school so that it does not feel the need to showcase this aggression as often.

Zebra danios should be kept in tanks that are no smaller than 25 gallons. They will explore all of the different levels of the tank, offering lovely bluish black and silver colors along with stripes that cover the length of their bodies.

If you are interested in breeding your own fish at home, you should consider a zebra danio. These fish are prolific breeders and are unique in that they mate for life. Peaceful yet active fish, these species should be put in tanks with fish who do not have long fins – placing your zebra danio in a tank with long-finned species can result in damage to those fish’s fins.

5 White Cloud Mountain Minnows

White Cloud Mountain Minnows
Photo by Daniel Piglesan

Another small schooling fish designed for novice fishkeepers, the White Cloud Mountain Minnow must be kept in a tank that is no smaller than 10 gallons. This fish likes to hang out in the middle to top levels of the water column, and while it is not as popular as a tetra, barb, or rasbora, it is still a great schooling fish for your aquarium.

An affordable fish, the White Cloud Mountain Minnow is usually silver and red in color. Named for the region in which they were originally discovered – the White Cloud Mountain region in China – this fish remains very small throughout the course of its life. It has interesting schooling behaviors that are augmented by its attractive colors.

This fish is extremely hardy and easy to keep – but also very active and fun to watch. It can tolerate temperatures as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 72 degrees, making it the ideal fish for someone with a cold water aquarium.

6 Scissortail Rasboras

Scissortail Rasboras
Photo by Judith Totten

Scissortail rasboras are small fish with tails that are formed so that they look much like a pair of scissors. These fish are best housed in tanks that are twenty gallons or so in size – but the larger tank you can add, the better.

Why? These fish love to school. You should keep them in groups of at least six of their own kind, but keep in mind that you can also keep them with other fish species that are commonly found in community tanks, like cories, danios, angelfish, and other rasboras. They do require some swimming space, so it is recommended that you keep them in larger tanks – ideally ones that are longer than they are tall.

7 Cardinal Tetras

Cardinal Tetras
Photo by NEO

Another excellent fish for beginner to intermediate fishkeepers, this fish is also best kept in schools. They should be kept in tanks of 20 gallons or more because they prefer the company of others of their kind. These fish school in large groups and have gorgeous red coloration with greenish-blue scales.

These fish have somewhat specific water requirements, needing waters that are somewhat soft, acidic, and low in minerals. These friendly fish are quite sociable and should be kept in groups of six or more, but can be kept with rasboras, danios, and other tetras.

These fish need to be introduced to an established aquarium. Make sure your tank is fully cycled before you introduce your Cardinal Tetras, as you will want to make sure your fish aren’t exposed to changing water conditions, to which they are quite sensitive.

8 Bloodfin Tetras

Bloodfin Tetras
Photo by Juan Valdivieso Vicuña

Another tetra you should consider is the bloodfin tetra. This fish, also a good option for beginners, is the best house in a tank that is around fifteen gallons in size. It has gorgeous red colors on its tail and ventral fins, and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions.

This peaceful fish prefers to be housed in a school that is larger than six individuals. Even larger groups are even better. They do have a tendency to nip at other fish’ fins, particularly if you house them in a tank that contains a limited number of other fish species.

An active fish, the bloodfin tetra needs a large enough tank to accommodate for its high activity level. Planted tanks are also recommended, as they will give the bloodfin tetra a place to hide.

9 Pygmy Cories

Pygmy Cories
Photo by shuwae

The pygmy cory is an ideal candidate for a tank of schooling fish. This peaceful creature tends to hang out at the lower levels of the tank, which should be about 10 gallons in size. A peaceful fish, the pygmy Cory is essentially just a miniature catfish. It’s absolutely adorable, with a silver body and small whiskers that help it sense the obstacles in its environment.

These fish should ideally be kept at schools of six to eight. If you keep them in smaller groups, you may find that they become shy and hide away from the other tank inhabitants. You should keep your pygmy cories in a tank that has smooth substrate – otherwise, your pygmies might eat the substrate by mistake.

Pygmy cories are often targeted as a potential food source by larger fish in your tank. You should only keep them with other small fish or even invertebrates.

10 Clown Loaches

Clown Loaches
Photo by Mark Connell

There are many different types of loaches in the world, but the clown loach is one of the most popular. These peaceful fish appreciate a large tank of 100 gallons or more – ideally one that has lots of hiding spots. Clown loaches are quite sensitive to poor water quality, so if you keep one of these fish it is important that you make a special effort to keep your tank extremely clean.

The clown loach has a long nose and barbels that help it sense its environment. With a streamlined, orangish-gold body, this fish has dark bands that cover its body as well.

The clown loach tends to hang out at the bottom of the aquarium, but will move around in a group of five or more if given the chance. It is a large fish, usually growing to well over eight inches in length.

11 Platies

Platies fish
Photo by Jessica MacDougall

The platy is a great choice for a schooling aquarium. A good option for novice fishkeepers, this peaceful fish can hold its own against aggressive tank mates because it has a high activity level. This high activity level is part of what makes the platy such an excellent fish for a schooling tank.

A tropical fish, the platy can be found in a wide variety of gorgeous colors. It is easy to care for and is not aggressive to other fish – therefore, you can easily keep it with mollies, tetras, and other small fish. Most platies are found with color combinations of orange, red, silver, and black.

Although platies often aren’t regarded as schooling fish, we have included them in this list because they are best housed in small groups in your community tank. If you do not include them in a group, they will become depressed. A school of platies, on the other hand, will be enjoyable to watch.

12 Red Rainbowfish

Red Rainbowfish
Photo by sakichin

The red rainbowfish is a more challenging fish to raise, but if you are able to keep it healthy, your effort will be well worth it. This fish is incredibly peaceful, preferring to live in a large tank of 75 gallons or more. These fish are sexually dimorphic, with males displaying vibrant hues of orange, silver, yellow, and red. Females are primarily silver.

These fish are prone to shoaling, which means they will hang out with each other and face different directions. As active fish, they can grow to a whopping six inches when they are fully mature. This is why you need such a large tank to keep them happy. They can also be somewhat sensitive to changing water conditions.

13 Congo Tetras

Congo Tetras
Photo by Jindrich Shejbal

The last popular schooling fish on our list is definitely not the least! This lovely creature is best for intermediate fishkeepers, as it requires a somewhat large tank of thirty gallons or so in size.

You need to be careful about the other species you house with your congo tetra. These fish are quite beautiful, with iridescent silver orange, green, and blue scales, but they’re quite sensitive to stress and poor water conditions. They cannot be kept with fast, large, or aggressive species.

What You Need To Consider Before Deciding To Raise Schooling Fish

Think schooling fish might be the right choice for your freshwater tank? Awesome! However, you should keep the following things in mind before you decide that schooling fish are right for you.

First, keep in mind that schooling fish can have some unique temperaments. You won’t want to keep a school with large or quick-moving fish, as they can be quite shy and skittish when kept in school that aren’t large enough.

Also, while most schooling fish are not aggressive, there are some that may have aggressive tendencies when housed with other species of certain fish. You will want to closely watch the interactions between all of your fish to make sure they are getting along.

You should also think carefully about the water parameters in your tank. Temperature and pH must be suitable for all of your inhabitants- including, of course, your schooling fish. Remember that a difference of just a few degrees in temperature can cause your fish to become sick or even die. Overcrowding is a common concern in community tanks, so you will want to remember to balance out your tank size with the number, size and type of schooling fish you have in there.

Think carefully about which tank mates you are keeping with your schooling fish. While most schooling fish are peaceful, some can become territorial and overly aggressive if there are too many fish – or the wrong types of fish. You should choose schooling fish that will work well with your existing aquarium. Take the time to make sure that your fish will coexist well.

Should You Start An Aquarium Of Schooling Fish?

If you think you can handle the demands of raising a school of fish – which, to be honest, are not that challenging! – then you should consider keeping a school in your freshwater aquarium. These fish exhibit some of the most beautiful colors, behaviors, and natural patterns when kept in a school – and you can have one of the most authentic-looking tanks around.

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