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. The whole tank is full of interesting activity, rather than animals that are concentrated in one area. Since we’ve already talked about our favorite top-dwelling fish and bottom dwellers, let’s show off the most colorful and lively options that swim in the middle of the aquarium.
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. 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
Cory catfish, although generally thought to be bottom-dwellers, can display some unusual behaviors. This 1-inch dwarf corydoras is known for fluttering its fins and hovering like a hummingbird in the middle of the tank. They also like to perch on plant leaves and driftwood that are above the ground. Their whisker-like barbels help them to find foods such as sinking wafers and Repashy gel food. If you want to breed them in a colony of birds, place the pygmy corys into a mature tank that is species-only and has plenty biofilm, mulm, and plants.
3. Serpae Tetra
Smaller species can sometimes be a little on the shy side, so if you’re looking for a fish with bright colors and a confident personality, try the serpae tetra. The red-orange body with black and white markings adds color to planted aquariums. Serpae Tetras can reach 2 inches (5 cm) and will swim freely in open water. 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
Technically, most rainbowfish like to hang out in the upper half of the water column, but we wanted to sneak in this beautiful, almond-shaped fish because of its shimmery blue scales and red-orange fins. 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 for Lambchop and Harlequin
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. For more information, please refer to their care instructions.
7. Congo Tetra
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. These tetras can be paired with many community fish, including rainbowfish, livebearers and unaggressive catsfish, as long their tank mates do not become fin nippers.
8. Celestial Pearl Danio
The celestial pearl dragon (CPD), or galaxy rasbora is a popular aquaticscaping choice. They look almost like tiny brook trout with their bright red-orange fins. Their golden-dotted bodies are perfect for creating a nature scape. We have had success in getting them to be more confident. 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
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. Both males and females have an intense red color, while the males have a darker hue. They also both have a horizontal black stripe running down their sides. Not only are they as friendly as similar-sized tetras and rasboras, but they also spawn fairly easily. You can help the babies survive by providing dense foliage with a marble substrate. Once the babies are born, remove the parents.
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? Depending on the breeding condition of the fish, they can display orange, purple, hot pink, blue, black, and more. Rainbow shiners are more comfortable in cooler temperatures than 72 degrees F (22 degrees C), making them the ideal species for outdoor mini ponds or coldwater aquariums. Their life span is only about 2 to 3 years. Our forum has tips and tricks for breeding them successfully at home.
There are so many awesome midwater-dwelling fish that we couldn’t cover them all, so make sure to browse the current stock of our preferred online fish retailers to see everything they have available.