10 Best Top-Dwelling Fish for Your Aquarium


10 Best Top-Dwelling Fish for Your Aquarium

Bottom dwellers are quite popular because they cruise around the bottom of the fish tank and clean up any food scraps from the ground. Try adding top-dwelling fish, which will feed from your tank’s surface and fill the upper third. This will balance out your aquarium.

1. Brown Pencilfish

Nannostomus eques is a cheap and simple surface dweller that we will be starting our list with. Also known as the hockeystick, diptail pencilfish or diptail pencilfish, they are a great choice. Their common names came from their slanted swimming style in which the head points toward the surface and the tail dips down at a 45-degree angle. They like to drift along the surface looking for tiny foods (like crushed up flakes or baby brine shrimp), so avoid having high flow near the top of the aquarium. They can be docile and social schooling fish. They feel at ease in groups of six or more brown pencilfish. Our full article on pencilfish provides more details.

Brown pencilfish

2. Silver Hatchetfish

Gasteropelecus Sternicla is a great choice for those who naturally gravitate towards oddball fish. Their body is a shiny, silvery, and narrow fish with a curving tail. They like to surf along the water surface, their fins acting as little wings. As with most surface dwellers in this list, they are excellent jumpers and always seem to find the smallest crack in your aquarium top to leap out of. They are often wild-caught fish. Make sure to get at least six silver hatchetfish. Also, consider proactive treatment for ich and white spot disease.

Silver hatchetfish

3. Golden Wonder Killifish

All surface dwellers don’t have to be schooling fish. Aplocheilus Lineatus is a beautiful and hardy centerpiece fish, measuring up to 4 inches (10 cm). The male is brighter with a bright yellow body and orange edges and tail. They require a tight cover that doesn’t allow air to get in between the power cables and airline tubes. These larger fish enjoy meaty foods such as bloodworms and brine shrimp. They should not be kept with small fish. They can also be aggressive toward each other so it is a good idea to keep more males than females and to introduce obstacles (like floating plants), to reduce line of sight.

Golden wonder killifish or striped panchax

4. African Butterflyfish

Pantodon buchholzi is another oddball surface dweller that looks like a miniature arowana with large wings and spiky fins. Freshwater butterfly fishes can grow to a length of up to five inches (13 cm). They should be kept in larger tanks, such as a 30-gallon aquarium. They are an ambush predator and prefer slow moving waters. They also like a rich diet of frozen foods and freeze-dried Krill. They can be aggressive towards other surface-dwelling animals, especially their own species. To avoid this, get one butterflyfish and keep a small number of them with lots of floating plants.

African butterflyfish

5. Furcata Rainbowfish

Pseudomugil furcatus is one of our favorite dwarf rainbowfish with bright blue eyes and yellow-tipped fins that look like little pom-poms waving in the air. They are fast and will eat anything. Don’t mix them up with slow fish such as long-tailed guppies or other slower fish. These rainbowfish can be a bit more expensive than the average fish of 2 inches (5 cm), and they have a shorter life span of only 2 to 3 years. You might consider buying six schools and breeding them with spawning mops, separate fry grow-out tanks and separate fry grow-out tanks. For more info, see our detailed care guide on forktail rainbows.

Forktail blue-eye or furcata rainbowfish

6. Betta Fish

Betta splendens, the most common beginner fish, is not to be overlooked. Yes, bettas will technically swim all over the aquarium, but if your tank is set up correctly, they do prefer to hang out in the upper third level. A floating betta log and betta hammock are all good options. You can also use floating plants like an Amazon sword or large Anubias to give them a resting spot. You can feed them frozen bloodworms, freeze dried brine shrimps, and betta pellets. Read our complete care guide for more information regarding betta fish and potential tank mates.

Dumbo halfmoon beta fish

7. Common Danio

Common danios are zebra, leopard and blue danios. They have a narrow, torpedo-shaped, fast-paced body. They are able to swim at any level, but they tend to hang out at the top of the pool looking for food. This schooling fish likes to be in a group of six or greater and thrives in cool water tanks at 72-74 degrees F (22-23 degrees C). Both novice and experienced fish keepers enjoy keeping a lively tank of these energetic, hardy fish.

Leopard danio

8. Clown Killifish

Epiplatys annulatus, a colorful nanofish with striking vertical bands and piercing blue eyes is known for its bright colors. Clown killifish, unlike the golden wonder killi are smaller and can only grow to 1.5 inches (3.8cm) in length. You should have at least six to eight clown killers in your school. They need very small food like microgranules and crushed flakes. While they are not annual killifish, they do have a shorter life span of around three years, so you can try to breed them in a species-only tank with spawning mops or floating plants to collect the eggs.

Male and female clown killifish

9. Orange Hatchet Danio

Laubuka dadiburjori, formerly known as Chela dadiburjori, is a different type of danio. It has a slightly rounder and more hatchet-shaped stomach than your average zebrafish. The shiny orange body is distinguished by a horizontal stripe that runs down one side and contains several black spots. Similar to common danios they love to swim near the surface and can survive in colder water temperatures. For a rarer species, you can purchase six or more to enjoy their quick chases around the tank.

10. Halfbeak

This unique mouth shape is characteristic of this group of livebearers. It is distinguished by the fact that the lower jaw is slightly longer than its upper jaw. Some halfbeak species require brackish water, so do your research and stick with the Celebes, silver, and golden halfbeaks for freshwater only tanks. Their size allows them to eat small fish and their own fry. To increase the survival rate of your fry and reduce squabbling between males, provide plenty of floating plants and cover. They sometimes don’t have enough food from the fish shops or wholesalers so make sure they have plenty of small meaty foods such as bloodworms and daphnia.

Celebes halfbeak (Nomorhamphus liemi)

Check out our top online fish sellers to find the best selection of top-dwelling fishes. Enjoy the outdoors every day and ensure that your aquarium lid is tight fitting.