The Ultimate 15 Schooling Fish for your Aquarium

Schooling Fish

The schooling behavior of schooling fish is particularly fascinating to observe in an aquarium.

What are schooling fish?

Schooling fish are small, brightly colored fish that are predominantly shy in isolation become extroverted and show their true personalities when surrounded by fish from the same species.

You should consider the following before introducing other fish in a tank with the schooling fish:

  • Water requirements
  • Tank requirements
  • Temperaments

A school is a large group of fish of the same species.

A distinction is made between “real” and “fake” schooling fish:

  • “Real” schooling fish orient themselves in the school throughout their life, communicate with one another, are isolated and disoriented and keep a constant distance from one another.
  • “Fake” schooling fish, on the other hand, only form a school when certain external factors occur, such as when threatened. For example, loggerhead fish are not disoriented in isolation or are not necessarily under stress.

Only a few species that actually meet all the criteria of a real schooling fish show real schooling behavior in freshwater.

Penguin tetras schooling

The Ultimate 15 Schooling Fish for your Aquarium

Tetras are real schooling fish with more than 2000 species and form one of the most extensive orders for freshwater fish.

They should always be kept in an aquarium with at least ten to 20 conspecifics.

In addition to the redhead tetra, probably the most classic schooling fish, shark barbs and oblique swimmers also belong to the group of schooling fish.

In order for these species to swarm naturally in the aquarium, the tank must be large enough.

Below is a list of the top 15 schooling fish that you can have for your aquarium. The list also briefly explains what each species needs for a healthy and long life in the aquarium.

1. Red Tetra

Red tetra

The redhead tetra is a classic schooling fish that comes from Colombia and Brazil.

This tetra has a patterned tail so that the swarm can register a change of direction even in cloudy water.

This species shows real swarming behavior even in an aquarium.

The red head tetra is quite slender and is between 3.5 and 4.5 centimeters long.

Since schooling fish need enough space to swim, the Aquarium should be at least 80 centimeters long.

In addition to dry food, this tetra also prefers live and frozen food and feels most comfortable at a water temperature between 24 and 27 degrees Celsius.

2. Penguin tetra (Thayeria boehlkei)

schooling fish
Pengui tetra (Thayeria boehlkei)

The penguin tetra, whose Latin name is Thayeria boehlkei, belongs to the tetra family and, like the red-headed tetra, also comes from Brazil.

However, at six centimeters, this species of tetra is larger than its relative.

This schooling fish lives mainly in the upper areas of the aquarium, which should be at least 60 centimeters long and a constant water temperature of between 22 and 28 degrees Celsius if kept appropriately.

3. Redfin tetra (Aphyocharax anisitsi)

schooling fish
Redfin tetra (Bloodfin tetra)

The redfin tetra is a very easy to care for fish and is therefore ideal for aquarium beginners.

It is very nice to look at with its basic silver color and bright red fin.

However, this tetra only shows its full color when the water temperature is below 20 degrees Celsius.

Since real schooling fish feel most comfortable in a group of the same species, at least seven animals should be kept in a densely planted tank.

4. Neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)

schooling fish
Neon tetra

The neon tetra are among the most popular fish for freshwater aquariums.

There are three types:

  • Neon tetra
  • Red tetra
  • Blue neon

The neon tetra is the most widespread species and is also very easy to care for.

With about four centimeters, neon tetra are quite small and very tolerant of water values.

Since it is this species and pronounced schooling fish, at least 20 specimens should be kept in a tank that is at least 60 centimeters long.

These tetras feel most comfortable in subdued lighting and dense planting in the aquarium with finely feathered aquatic plants and tree roots, as this environment corresponds most closely to their natural habitat in the blackwater streams of the tropical rainforest.

Neon tetra are lively but peaceful schooling fish that get along well with other small South American fish.

5. Red neon (Paracheirodon axelrodi)

schooling fish

Along with blue neon and neon tetra, red neon is one of the best-known and most popular ornamental fish for the aquarium.

In contrast to its relative, it is less tolerant of water values and only slowly adapts to a change.

This tetra species also feels very comfortable in the group, which is why at least ten fish are kept in a tank with loose planting and dimmed lighting.

Socialization is only possible with other peaceful, not too big fish.

6. Blue neon (Paracheirodon simulans)

schooling fish
Blue neon

The blue neon is a very calm schooling fish that is sensitive to nitrate, which is why regular water changes are necessary.

Their well-being is heavily dependent on the water quality in the aquarium.

Under no circumstances should these tetras be kept in a tank with angelfish, as they eat neons.

To make sure that the blue neon does not live in constant threat, you should try and house it with very peaceful fish such as small armored catfish or dwarf tetras.

7. Emperor tetra (Nematobrycon palmer)

Schooling fish
Emperor tetra

The emperor tetra is a peaceful and sociable fish that is easy to keep and care for.

However, this species must be kept in an aquarium with a slightly acidic and soft water environment.

After a certain acclimatization phase, this tetra species is also adaptable and can thus get used to harder water.

The emperor tetra can easily be kept together with other fish species such as different tetras, armored catfish or South American dwarf cichlids.

8. Lemon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis)

schooling fish
Lemon tetra

The lemon tetra is only comfortable in a very large group and therefore needs space to swim accordingly.

A swarm of 20 individuals should be kept in a tank at least one meter long.

The main occupation of the Lemon Tetra is to draw long tracks through the aquarium in his group. For this he needs fresh and oxygen-rich water, as this species also likes to swim against the current.

Lemon tetras like to swim through the pool together with red neons, which creates a great color contrast.

9. Copper tetra (Hasemania nana)

schooling fish
Copper tetra

The copper tetra owes its name primarily to the males, as they shine in a bright copper red, while the females shine rather silver.

As a schooling fish, the copper tetra is tolerant of changes in water conditions, but only develops its full color splendor in soft, slightly acidic water.

For a school of this type consisting of 15 to 20 fish, a tank with a length of 60 centimeters is sufficient.

The copper tetra is a very lively schooling fish that is almost constantly on the move, but is extremely peaceful.

10. Buenos Aires Tetra (Hyphessobrycon anisitsi)

schooling fish
Buenos Aires tetra

The Buenos Aires Tetra is very easy to care for as it adapts to almost all water conditions very quickly.

Since this tetra is omnivorous, it needs dry and live food as well as green food such as spinach or finely chopped, scalded lettuce leaves, as otherwise it will mess about the aquatic plants.

The Buenos Aires Tetra is particularly suitable for a community tank, as this species is an undemanding schooling fish that feels most comfortable in an aquarium with partly dense planting and plenty of space for swimming.

11. Glowlight rasbora (Trigonostigma hengeli)

schooling fish
Glowlight tetra

The Glowlight rasbora are ideal for aquarium owners who like to watch their fish for longer, as this species lives in simple but interesting social associations with short-term pairing.

With a size between 2.5 and 3.5 centimeters, this species is quite small.

The Glowlight rasbora originally came from the black water streams and swamps of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

They are also easy to care for in the aquarium.

The Glowlight rasbora are particularly comfortable in soft water.

12. Redstripe rasbora (Rasbora pauciperforata)

schooling fish
Redstripe rasbora

Incandescent Redstripe rasbora are shoaling fish that live near the surface and colonize a large area of Asia (including Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia) in their natural habitat.

At least six animals should be kept in one tank to ensure that the animals are kept appropriately.

Other barred Danio are also suitable for socialization.

The light Redstripe rasbora feels particularly comfortable in subdued light and dense vegetation. A partial shadowing of the aquarium can be achieved by a few floating plants.

13.  Glowlight danio (Danio choprae)

schooling fish
Glowlight danio

The Glowlight danio is a real schooling fish that needs a group of at least ten conspecifics in order to be kept species-appropriate in an aquarium.

They grow to about three to four centimeters tall.

The females of this species being are considerably plump compared to the males.

This species feeds on live and dry as well as vegetable food and feels most comfortable at a water temperature between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius.

14. White Cloud Mountain minnow (Tanichthys albonubes)

schooling fish
White Cloud Mountain minnow

The White Cloud Mountain minnow belongs to the carp-like family and originally comes from southern China.

The White Cloud Mountain minnow shows no aggression towards other species, which makes it suitable for socialization.

An aquarium with a minimum size of two feet should keep at least twelve specimens of this species.

Warning: the White Cloud Mountain minnow fish is sensitive to fluctuations in water temperature. Above a maximum water temperature of 22 degrees Celsius, this species can get sick.

15. Red-Eye tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae)

schooling fish
Red-eye tetra

The Red-eye tetra has a red glowing upper half of both eyes which is a particularly noticeable feature.

The body of the fish is covered in large, silvery scales.

The Red-eye tetra is a very lively schooling fish that lives mainly in the upper and middle water layers of the aquarium.

This fish is probably the most undemanding species of tetra, as it tolerates a wide range of water values. This species also has no special requirements when it comes to its food: the red-eye tetra is omnivorous, but prefers live food. This peaceful schooling fish needs a large tank with enough space to swim back and forth – its favorite pastime.

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