5 Best Schooling Fish for Beginners
A large school of fish swimming together in harmony is so peaceful and 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 must be on our list due to the striking blue and red stripes that run down their bodies. This 5-inch (2.5 cm) tetra is a very tight schooling fish. It likes to stick close to each other to protect them from predators, and to forage for food. They can withstand temperatures up to 80°F so they often go along with discus or Germanblue 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. Also, neon tetras are smaller and more affordable than cardinal tetras. You can sometimes find different varieties of neon tetras, such as gold, diamond head, and longfin types. For more information on cardinal and neon tetras, read our full 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. 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. You should check for bullying, insufficient water parameters or other stress sources if you notice their red noses turn yellow.
There is a variety of species known as “rummy nostril tetras,” like Hemigrammus, Hemigrammus, and Petitella georgiae.
3. Tetra with Silver Tip
Looking for a slightly unusual but fun schooling fish? The silver tip tetra and Hasemania nana are two options. 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. Although they are energetic, these tetras can only grow to about 2 inches (5cm) in length. The males are richly yellow-orange while the females are lighter yellow. Both have very few, white-silver tips and their fins are small.
If you are looking for an interactive species that greets you every morning, the silver tip Tetra is your best choice.
4. Lambchop Rasbora
Trigonostigma espei’s common name comes from its triangular black patch on the body. It looks like a small 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 grow to about 1 inch (22.5 cm), but if you are looking for a fish that is twice as big, consider the Trigonostigma heteromorpha or Harlequin rasbora. They are larger and more distinctive and come in pinkish-brown or purplish black varieties. Read our full article about both lambchop and harlequin rasboras for more details on their care requirements.
Lambchop lambchop rasboras have a reputation for being gentle, easy-to-care for and their bright colors.
5. Ember Tetra
Hyphessobrycon amandae is an ideal choice if you are looking for a schooling fish that will fit in a nano-sized tank. This tiny ball of fire measures just 0.8 inches (2cm) long. It has a vivid red-orange hue that stands out against a backdrop of live 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. 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.