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. The whole tank is full of interesting activity, rather than animals that are concentrated in one area. We’ve talked about the top-dwelling and bottom dwellers of our favorites, so let’s talk about the brightest and most active fish that swim in the middle.


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. Their length is only 1 inch (22.5 cm), so six green neons could live in a nano tank of 5 gallons. They are more comfortable with larger groups that have lots of aquarium plants or other cover because of their small size. 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. The dwarf corydoras, measuring 1-inch in length, is well-known for flapping its fins and hovering in the middle of the tank like a hummingbird. They also like to perch on plant leaves and driftwood that are above the ground. Their whisker-like barbels allow them to locate foods like Repashy gel food or sinking wafers. You can breed them in colonies by placing the pygmy Corys in a mature, only-species tank with lots of mulm and biofilm.

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. For best results, give them a mix of brine shrimps, bloodworms, flakes, and other live fish foods. 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. 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. 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 and Lambchop Rasboras

Trigonostigma heteromorpha and Trigonostigma espei

These two peaceful rasboras have become a staple in the world community tanks. Their orange bodies and black triangle patches near the tail looks amazing in a forest of underwater plants. Harlequin rasboras can grow up to 5 cm (5 inches) in length, while lambchop or lambchop are smaller at 1.5 inches (4 inches). 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. These tetras will live with rainbowfish, unaggressive catfish and livebearers as long as they aren’t fin nippers.

8. Celestial Pearl Danio

Danio margaritatus

Celestial pearl daanio (CPD), also known as galaxy rasbora, is one of the most popular aquascaping species. Their bright red-orange fins and golden-dotted bodies make them look like tiny brook trout, which is perfect for building a nature scape. 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 can be overlooked as they have a reputation for being noisy fin nippers. But this species is an excellent mate for peaceful community tanks. 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. To help the babies to survive, add lots of dense foliage with a marble substrate and remove the parents soon after breeding.

10. Rainbow Shiner

Notropis chrosomus

If you cannot decide which color would best fit your aquarium, why not try this multicolored minnow 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 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 amazing midwater-dwelling fish we could not cover all of them, so be sure to check out the stock of our favorite online fish retailers to see what they have.