5 Best Schooling Fish for Beginners
There’s something so peaceful and awe-inspiring about seeing a large school of fish swimming back and forth 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 axelrodi has to be on our list because of the striking red and blue stripes that run down the sides of their bodies. This 5-inch (2.5 cm) tetra is a very tight schooling fish. It likes to stick close to each other to protect them from predators, and to forage for food. They can withstand temperatures up to 80°F so they often go along with discus or Germanblue rams.
Neon tetras are similar to cardinal Tetras. However, their stripes only run partway down their bodies making it appear like they have red heads and blue tails. They are also smaller than and usually less expensive than cardinal Tetras. There are many varieties of neon tetras available, including longfin, gold and diamond head. You can find more information on neon tetras and cardinals in our care guide.
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. If you see their red noses lose their color, check for bullying in the tank, incorrect water parameters, or other sources of stress.
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
Looking for a slightly unusual but fun 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. Although they are energetic, these tetras can only grow to about 2 inches (5cm) in length. 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 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. Read our full article about both lambchop and harlequin rasboras for more details on their care requirements.
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 measures just 0.8 inches (2cm) long. It has a vivid red-orange hue that stands out against a backdrop 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.