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. Instead of having animals that cluster in the same area, the entire tank is filled with interesting activity. Let’s not forget about the bottom dwellers and top-dwelling fish. Now let’s see the vibrant and colorful options that swim in and around the tank’s middle.
1. Green Neon Tetra
The green neon Tetra is a smaller cousin to the regular neon Tetra. It has an iridescent, blue-green horizontal stripe which shines brightly even if the aquarium light is off. They only grow to 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, so a school of six green neons can live in a nano tank as small as 5 gallons. Because they are small, they prefer to be in large groups with plenty of aquarium plants and other cover. Additionally, they need small foods such as baby brine shrimp, Easy Fry and Small Fish Foods, frozen cyclops and flake food.
2. Pygmy Corydoras
Cory catfish, although generally thought to be bottom-dwellers, can display some unusual behaviors. The dwarf corydoras, measuring 1-inch in length, is well-known for flapping its fins and hovering in the middle of the tank like a hummingbird. They like to perch on plants leaves and driftwood above the ground. Their whisker-like barbels allow them to locate foods like Repashy gel food or sinking wafers. You can breed them in colonies by placing the pygmy Corys in a mature, only-species tank with lots of mulm and biofilm.
3. Serpae Tetra
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. They are a bright and vibrant addition to planted aquariums with their red-orange bodies that have black and white markings. Serpae tetras are able to grow to as large as 5 cm (5 inches) in length and can swim boldly out in the open. We recommend keeping at least 8-10 Serpae tetras in a school to avoid fin nipping and their rowdy behavior.
4. Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish
Although most rainbowfish prefer to be in the upper part of the water column, we were able to sneak this gorgeous fish in because of its red-orange fins and shimmery blue scales. These fast swimmers can reach 3 inches (8cm) in length and will get along with any similar-sized fish, with peaceful to aggressive temperaments. For best results, give them a mix of brine shrimps, bloodworms, flakes, and other live fish foods. For more information, please refer to our complete care guide.
5. Von Rio Tetra
Also known as the flame Tetra, this species is strikingly beautiful with a yellow front side and a red back side. They are 1.5-2 inches long (4-5 cm) and have a thick-bodied profile. Because of their calm nature, and small size, they are ideal for living in a planted community tank. You may see some minor chasing amongst themselves, but this is typical tetra behavior in which the males show off to the females and establish their social hierarchy.
6. Harlequin Rasboras and Lambchop Rasboras
Trigonostigma heteromorpha and Trigonostigma espei
These two peaceful rasboras have become a staple in the world community tanks. The orange body with black triangle patches at the tail is stunning in a forest filled with underwater plants. Harlequin and lambchop rasboras are both larger than their counterparts, measuring in at 1.5 inches (4 cm). 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. Read about their care requirements for more info.
7. Congo Tetra
A larger schooling fish, the congo tetra (3 inches) is another that works well in medium-large aquariums. The males are well-known for their brightly colored finnage and flowing horizontal stripes, while the females are smaller and have a silvery sheen. As long as their tank mates are not fin nippers, these tetras can live with most community fish like rainbowfish, livebearers, and unaggressive catfish.
8. Celestial Pearl Danio
One of the darlings of the aquascaping world is the celestial pearl danio (CPD) or galaxy rasbora. They look almost like tiny brook trout with their bright red-orange fins. Their golden-dotted bodies are perfect for creating a nature scape. They can be a little timid, but we’ve had good luck in coaxing them out by increasing their school size, providing lots of aquarium plants as shelter, and ensuring none of the tank mates are bullying them. You can also keep them alive without an aquarium heater if you have room temperature between 72-76°F and 22-24°C. You can find more information on their care here.
9. Cherry Barb
Cherry barbs can be overlooked as they have a reputation for being noisy fin nippers. But this species is an excellent mate for peaceful community tanks. Males display an intense red while females are more tannish-red, and both have a black horizontal stripe running down their sides. Not only are they as friendly as similar-sized tetras and rasboras, but they also spawn fairly easily. To help the babies to survive, add lots of dense foliage with a marble substrate and remove the parents soon after breeding.
10. Rainbow Shiner
If you cannot decide which color would best fit your aquarium, why not try this multicolored minnow from the Southeastern United States? They can display many colors depending on their breeding conditions, including orange, purple and hot pink as well as blue and black. 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. The lifespan of these species is approximately 2-3 years. However, you can find tips and tricks in our forum on how to breed them at home.
There are so many amazing midwater-dwelling fish we could not cover all of them, so be sure to check out the stock of our favorite online fish retailers to see what they have.