5 Best Schooling Fish for Beginners
It’s so peaceful and inspiring to see a large group of fish swimming in perfect harmony. 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. The tetra, which measures in at 5 cm (5 inches) is a tight-knit schooling fish. They like to stay close to one another to protect from predators and forage together for food. They can handle warmer temperatures above 80degF, so you often see them paired with discus or German blue rams.
Neon tetras are similar to cardinal Tetras. However, their stripes only run partway down their bodies making it appear like they have red heads and blue tails. They are also smaller than and usually less expensive than cardinal Tetras. Different types of neon tetras are sometimes available. These include longfin and gold varieties. Our full care guide contains more information about cardinals and neon tetras.
Put a large school of cardinal tetras in a planted tank filled with greenery, and you won’t be able to pull your eyes away.
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. The rummy nose tetra is a bright red fish with a black-and white striped tail. They can often be found hanging out in the middle to the top of your 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 you see their red noses lose their color, check for bullying in the tank, incorrect water parameters, or other sources of stress.
There are several species that are commonly called “rummy nose tetras,” such as Hemigrammus rhodostomus, Hemigrammus bleheri, and Petitella georgiae.
3. Tetra Silver Tip
Looking for a slightly unusual but fun schooling fish? You might consider the Hasemanianana or 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. They are a very docile fish, only reaching 2 inches (5 cm) in height. Males have a rich yellow-orange hue while females are a lighter yellow color, and both have little, white-silver tips on all their fins.
If you want an interactive species that eagerly greets you every day, you can’t go wrong with the silver tip tetra.
4. Lambchop Rasbora
Trigonostigma espei gets its common name from the black, triangular patch on its body that looks like a little lambchop or porkchop. 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 larger, more distinct triangle shape, and they come in both pinkish-brown and purplish-black varieties. You can read the full article on lambchop and harlequin rasas for details about their care.
Lambchop lambchop rasboras have a reputation for being gentle, easy-to-care for and their bright colors.
5. Ember Tetra
If you’re searching for a smaller schooling fish that can go in a nano tank, consider the Hyphessobrycon amandae. 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. Feed them tiny foods like crushed-up krill flakes and Easy Fry and Small Fish Food to keep them happy and healthy.
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. Because they are social creatures, they feel more at home when they are surrounded by their species. You can find our article about the top 5 best showpiece fish for small-to-medium-sized community tanks.