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. An aquarium is not filled with animals that live in the same place. 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

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. The green neon tetra can grow up to one inch (22.5 cm) in length, meaning that six of them can live in nano tanks as small as five gallons. Because they are small, they prefer to be in large groups with plenty of aquarium plants and other cover. Plus, they require tiny foods that can fit in their mouths, such as frozen cyclops, Easy Fry and Small Fish Food, crumbled flake food, and baby brine shrimp.

2. Pygmy Corydoras

Corydoras pygmaeus

Cory catfish are widely considered to be bottom dwellers, but some species like the pygmy cory display 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. They can find food such as Repashy gel food and sinking wafers with their whisker-like barbels. 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

Hyphessobrycon eques

The shyness of smaller species can sometimes make them a bit timid. If you are looking for bright colors and a confident personality in your fish, the serpaetetra might be the right choice. 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. We recommend keeping at least 8-10 Serpae tetras in a school to avoid fin nipping and their rowdy behavior.

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. Read our full care guide to learn more.

5. Von Rio Tetra

Hyphessobrycon flammeus

Also known as the flame tetra, this species has a striking appearance with a yellow front half and red back half. Their length is 1.5-2 inches (5-5 cm), with a deep-bodied profile. They are a great choice for a community tank with their calm nature and small size. There may be some minor chasing between them, but this is normal Tetra behavior. This is when the males display their dominance to the females. It establishes their social hierarchy.

6. Harlequin Rasboras for Lambchop and Harlequin

Trigonostigma heteromorpha and Trigonostigma espei

Both of these peaceful rasboras are well-loved staples in the world of community tanks. The orange body with black triangle patches at the tail is stunning in a forest filled with underwater plants. Harlequin rasboras can reach up to 2 inches (5 cm), while lambchop rasboras stay slightly smaller around 1.5 inches (4 cm). They are easy to handle and can live in many different environments. For more information, please refer to their care instructions.

7. Congo Tetra

Phenacogrammus interruptus

A larger schooling fish, the congo tetra (3 inches) is another that works well in medium-large aquariums. Males are known for their shiny blue and red-orange horizontal stripes and flowy finnage, whereas females are smaller in size and have a silvery-gold sheen. 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

One of the darlings of the aquascaping world is the celestial pearl danio (CPD) or galaxy rasbora. The bright red-orange bodies and golden-dotted fins make them look like tiny brook tilapia, making them ideal for building nature scapes. Although they can be timid, we have been able to coax them out of their shells by increasing the size of their school, giving them shelter and making sure that none of their tank mates bully 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. You can find more information on their care here.

9. Cherry Barb

Puntius titteya

Cherry barbs are often overlooked because barbs have a bad reputation for being boisterous fin nippers, but this species is an excellent tank mate for peaceful community aquariums. Males display an intense red while females are more tannish-red, and both have a black horizontal stripe running down their sides. They are as friendly as rasboras and similar-sized Tetras. 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

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. The color of the fish will vary depending on its breeding status. They may display orange, pink, blue or 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. 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 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.