5 Best Schooling Fish for Beginners
It’s so peaceful and inspiring to see a large group of fish swimming in perfect harmony. 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 is a striking example of Paracheirodon.xlrodi’s distinctive red-and-blue stripes running down their sides. 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 are able to withstand temperatures higher than 80 degrees F so they are often paired with discus and German blue rams.
Neon tetras (Paracheirodon innesi) look fairly similar to cardinal tetras, except their stripes only go partway down their bodies, making them seem like they have blue heads and red tails. Also, neon tetras are smaller and more affordable than cardinal tetras. Different types of neon tetras are sometimes available. These include longfin and gold varieties. Our full care guide contains more information about cardinals and neon tetras.
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 are many species that are often called “rummy nose Tetras,” including Hemigrammus Rhodostomus and Hemigrammus Bleheri.
3. Tetra with Silver Tip
Are you looking for something a little different but still fun to school fish? Consider the silver tip tetra or Hasemania nana. 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. Males have a rich yellow-orange hue while females are a lighter yellow color, and both have little, white-silver tips on all their fins.
If you want an interactive species that eagerly greets you every day, you can’t go wrong with the silver tip tetra.
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 stay around 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, but if you’re looking for a slightly bigger fish that reaches twice the size, try the harlequin rasbora (or Trigonostigma heteromorpha). They have a larger, more distinct triangle shape, and they come in both pinkish-brown and 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. Keep them healthy and happy by feeding them small foods such as Easy Fry, crushed-up Krill Flakes 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. They are naturally social creatures that feel most comfortable when surrounded by their own kind, so the more the merrier. You can find our article about the top 5 best showpiece fish for small-to-medium-sized community tanks.