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. Instead of having animals that cluster in the same area, the entire tank is filled with interesting activity. 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 the smaller cousin of the regular neon tetra and has an iridescent blue-green horizontal stripe that shines brightly even when the aquarium light is turned off. Their length is only 1 inch (22.5 cm), so six green neons could live in a nano tank of 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

Corydoras pygmaeus

Cory catfish, although generally thought to be bottom-dwellers, can display some unusual behaviors. This dwarf corydoras measures 1-inches and is famous for its ability to flutter its fins and hover like a hummingbird in central tank. They love to perch on driftwood and plant leaves that are higher than the ground. Their whisker-like barbels help them to find foods such as sinking wafers and Repashy gel food. 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. The red-orange body with black and white markings adds color to planted aquariums. Serpae tetras are able to grow to as large as 5 cm (5 inches) in length and can swim boldly out in the open. Because of their rowdy behavior and potential for fin nipping, we recommend getting at least 8-10 in a school and keeping them with other fast-swimming fish, like black skirt tetras and zebra danios.

4. Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish

Melanotaenia praecox

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. Feed them a healthy mix of bloodworms, brine shrimp, flakes, and live fish foods to get the brightest colors and healthy growth out of them. For more information, please refer to our complete care guide.

5. Von Rio Tetra

Hyphessobrycon flammeus

Also known as the flame Tetra, this species is strikingly beautiful with a yellow front side and a red back side. Their length ranges from 1.5-2 inches (4-5 cm) with a deep-bodied profile. They are a great choice for a community tank with their calm nature and small size. 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 peaceful rasboras make a great addition to community tank life. Their orange bodies with their black triangle patches on the tail look amazing amongst a forest of aquatic 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

Phenacogrammus interruptus

The 3-inch (8 cm), congo tetra is another larger schooling fish that can be found in large to medium-sized aquariums. The red-orange and shiny horizontal stripes of male congo tetras and their flowing finnage are what are most known. However, the smaller females have a silvery gold sheen and are smaller in size. 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

Danio margaritatus

Celestial pearl daanio (CPD), also known as galaxy rasbora, is one of the most popular aquascaping species. Their bright red-orange fins and golden-dotted bodies make them look like tiny brook trout, which is perfect for building 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. They can live in cooler water temperatures of 72-76degF (22-24degC), and may be able to survive without an aquarium heater depending on the room temperature. See their complete care sheet for more information.

9. Cherry Barb

Puntius titteya

Cherry barbs are often overlooked due to their reputation as noisy fin nippers. However, this species makes a great tank mate and is a good choice for peaceful community aquariums. The males are bright red, while the females are more tannish-red. Both have a black horizontal stripe running along 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

Notropis chrosomus

You may not be able to decide what color will best suit your aquarium. This multicolored minnow comes 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. They do have a shorter life span of around 2-3 years, so check out our forum for tips and tricks on how to successfully breed them at home.

There are so many incredible midwater-dwelling species of fish, we can’t even cover them all. Make sure you check out our top online fish retailers for the latest stock.