5 Best Schooling Fish for Beginners
The sight of a large schooling fish swimming back-and-forth in perfect harmony is both peaceful and awe inspiring. If you’re looking for a beautiful schooling fish to get started with, check out our top five species that are easy to care for and will look amazing in your aquarium.
1. Cardinal Tetras
Paracheirodon.xlrodi is a striking example of Paracheirodon.xlrodi’s distinctive red-and-blue stripes running down their sides. This 5-inch (2.5 cm) tetra fish is very close-knit, so they tend to be close to each others to avoid predators and to forage together. They can tolerate temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so you will often see them paired up with discus or German-blue rams.
Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon Innesi) are very similar to cardinal and other tetras. Their stripes only go half way down their bodies. This makes them appear like they have blue heads with red tails. Also, neon tetras are smaller and more affordable than cardinal tetras. There are many varieties of neon tetras available, including longfin, gold and diamond head. You can find more information on neon tetras and cardinals in our care guide.
You won’t be capable of removing your eyes from a large number of cardinal tetras if you have a tank full of greenery.
2. Rummy Nose Tetras
This very popular species is known as one of the tightest schooling fish in the aquarium hobby because the fish tend to all face the same direction while swimming together. They are distinguished by a brightly colored nose and a black-and-white-striped tail. You’ll find them often hanging around the top and middle of the tank. An interesting fact is that the rummy nose tetra is sometimes known as a “canary in the mine” because it can alert you to potential problems in the aquarium. If they lose their red noses, you should investigate for bullying or insufficient water conditions.
There’s a wide variety of species that are known as “rummy-nose tetras”, including Hemigrammus and Hemigrammus.
3. Tetra of Silver Tip
Looking for a slightly unusual but fun schooling fish? Have you thought of the Hasemania-nana silver tip tetra? When you put your finger on the outside of the aquarium wall, these energetic tetras have the unique behavior of swarming toward your hand, begging for any food scraps you’re willing to part with. Despite their high energy level, they’re a relatively docile community fish that only gets to 2 inches (5 cm) in length. The males have a deep yellow-orange color while the females have a lighter yellow hue. Both have very few, white-silver tips and their fins are small.
The silver tip tetra can be your interactive species, eager to greet you every single day.
4. Lambchop Rasbora
Trigonostigma epei is named after the triangular, black-colored patch on its body. This looks almost like a little porkchop or lambchop. Put that black lambchop on a bright orange body, and you’ve got a very eye-catching color pattern that stands out in a planted aquarium or community tank with other fish. Lambchop rasboras stay around 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, but if you’re looking for a slightly bigger fish that reaches twice the size, try the harlequin rasbora (or Trigonostigma heteromorpha). They have a distinct, larger triangle shape and are available in pinkish-brown as well as purplish-black versions. We have more information about lambchops and harlequins rasboras.
Lambchop lambchop rasboras have a reputation for being gentle, easy-to-care for and their bright colors.
5. Ember Tetra
Hyphessobrycon Amandae is a smaller schooling fish which can be kept in nano tanks. The tiny fireball measures only 0.8 inches (2 cm) in length and has a bright red-orange color against a background of aquatic plants. You can feed them tiny foods such as Easy Fry and crushed-up krill flake to keep them happy.
A school of ember tetras swimming in a planted aquarium is a jaw-dropping sight to behold.
As with all schooling fish, make sure to get a group of at least six to ten fish (all from the same species) for your aquarium. They are naturally social creatures that feel most comfortable when surrounded by their own kind, so the more the merrier. If you’re looking for a beautiful showpiece to complement your new schooling fish, check out our article on the top 5 centerpiece fish for small- to medium-sized community tanks.