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 axelrodi has to be on our list because of the striking red and blue stripes that run down the sides of their bodies. 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 withstand temperatures up to 80°F so they often go along with discus or Germanblue rams.
Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon Innesi) are very similar to cardinal and other tetras. Their stripes only go about half the length of their bodies, giving them the appearance of having blue heads and red tails. Neon tetras also don’t grow as large as and are usually cheaper than cardinal tetras. Different types of neon tetras are sometimes available. These include longfin and gold varieties. You can find more information on neon tetras and cardinals in our care guide.
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. They are distinguished by a brightly colored nose and a black-and-white-striped tail. You’ll find them often hanging around the top and middle of the 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. Check for bullying in your tank, improper water parameters, stress, or any other causes of rednitus.
There are several species that are commonly called “rummy nose tetras,” such as Hemigrammus rhodostomus, Hemigrammus bleheri, and Petitella georgiae.
3. Tetra with Silver Tip
You are looking for an unusual, but entertaining 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. 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 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 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. You can read the full article on lambchop and harlequin rasas for details about their care.
Lambchop rasboras are known for their docile nature, easy care, and 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. This tiny ball of fire only gets 0.8 inch (2 cm) long and displays a brilliant red-orange color that pops against a background of live aquatic plants. To keep them happy, feed them tiny foods like Easy Fry and Small Fish Food.
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.