Top 10 Midwater Schooling Fish for your Next Aquarium


Top 10 Midwater Schooling Fish for Your Next Aquarium

When planning out what kind of fish to add to an aquarium, we like to pick species that live in different layers of the water column. The whole tank is full of interesting activity, rather than animals that are concentrated in one area. We’ve talked about the top-dwelling and bottom dwellers of our favorites, so let’s talk about the brightest and most active fish that swim in the middle.

1. Green Neon Tetra

Paracheirodon simulans

The green neon-tetra is a smaller version of the regular neon. It is distinguished by a horizontal iridescent blue/green stripe that glows brightly even in the aquarium. The green neon tetra can grow up to one inch (22.5 cm) in length, meaning that six of them can live in nano tanks as small as five gallons. Because of their small size, they feel most comfortable in larger groups with lots of aquarium plants and other cover. They also need tiny food that fits in their mouths such as Easy Fry, Frozen Cyclops and Small Fish Food, crumbled flake foods, and baby brine shrimp.

2. Pygmy Corydoras

Corydoras pygmaeus

Cory catfish are considered to be bottom dwellers. But, there are some species like the Pygmy Cory that display unique behaviors. This 1-inch dwarf corydoras is known for fluttering its fins and hovering like a hummingbird in the middle of the tank. They also like to perch on plant leaves and driftwood that are above the ground. They can find food such as Repashy gel food and sinking wafers with their whisker-like barbels. To breed them in a colony, consider putting the pygmy corys in a mature, species-only tank with plenty of mulm, biofilm, and plants for the fry to graze off.

3. Serpae Tetra

Hyphessobrycon eques

Sometimes smaller species can be shy, so the serpae Tetra is a good choice if you want a fish that has bright colors and a confident personality. Their red-orange bodies with black and white markings provide a pop of color, especially in planted aquariums. Serpae and zebra tetras can reach up to 5 cm in length. They are bold swimmers who will often venture out into the open. We recommend that you get at least 8-10 of these fish in a school. They can also be prone to fin nipping due to their rowdy behavior.

4. Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish

Melanotaenia praecox

Technically, rainbowfish prefer to hang out in upper water columns, but we wanted this beautiful, almond-shaped fish to get in, thanks to its shimmery bluescales and red-orange-colored fins. These quick swimmers can grow upto 3 inches (8 cm) and can get along with most fish similar in size, with peaceful or semi-aggressive temperaments. You can get them the most vibrant colors and healthy growth by feeding them a healthy mixture of bloodworms (brine shrimp), flakes, and fish foods. For more information, please refer to our complete care guide.

5. Von Rio Tetra

Hyphessobrycon flammeus

This species, also known as flame tetra is strikingly beautiful with a yellow front side and a red back side. Their height ranges between 1.5-2 inches (4-5cm) and they have a deep, bodied profile. They are a great choice for a community tank with their calm nature and small size. Minor chasing may occur, but this behavior is typical of tetras. In which males show off and establish their social hierarchy, you will see them interacting with each other.

6. Harlequin Rasboras for Lambchop and Harlequin

Trigonostigma heteromorpha and Trigonostigma espei

These peaceful rasboras make a great addition to community tank life. Their orange bodies and the black triangle spots near their tails look great in a forest full of underwater plants. Harlequin rasboras can grow up to 5 cm (5 inches) in length, while lambchop or lambchop are smaller at 1.5 inches (4 inches). Due to their toughness and ability to adapt to a variety of conditions, they are great for beginners and are readily available at most pet shops. For more information, please refer to their care instructions.

7. Congo Tetra

Phenacogrammus interruptus

Another bigger schooling fish on our list that does well in medium to large aquariums is the 3-inch (8 cm) congo tetra. The males are well-known for their brightly colored finnage and flowing horizontal stripes, while the females are smaller and have a silvery sheen. These tetras are able to live with most community fish such as rainbowfish, livebearers, unaggressive catfish, so long as their tank mates don’t have fin nippers.

8. Celestial Pearl Danio

Danio margaritatus

Celestial Pearl Danio (CPD), otherwise known as the galaxy rasbora, has become a cult favorite in aquascaping. They are reminiscent of tiny brook trout because of their bright red-orange body and golden-dotted fins. This makes them perfect for creating nature scapes. Although they can be timid, we have been able to coax them out of their shells by increasing the size of their school, giving them shelter and making sure that none of their tank mates bully them. You can also keep them alive without an aquarium heater if you have room temperature between 72-76°F and 22-24°C. Please refer to their full care guide for further information.

9. Cherry Barb

Puntius titteya

Cherry barbs are often overlooked because barbs have a bad reputation for being boisterous fin nippers, but this species is an excellent tank mate for peaceful community aquariums. The males are bright red, while the females are more tannish-red. Both have a horizontal stripe of black running down their sides. They are friendly, just like rasboras. You can help your baby survive by providing dense foliage and a marble substrate. Once the parents have been removed, you can also remove them from the nest.

10. Rainbow Shiner

Notropis chrosomus

The multicolored minnows from the Southeastern United States are a great choice if you can’t decide which color is best for your aquarium. They can display oranges, purples, hot pinks, blues, and black depending on their breeding conditions. Rainbow shiners like cold temperatures below 72°F (22°C), so they are the best species to use in a coldwater aquarium, or mini-pond. You will only live for about two to three years. We have tips and tricks on how you can successfully breed them at your home.

There are so much amazing midwater-dwelling animals that we cannot cover them all. We recommend you browse our recommended online fish retailers to view the current stock.