5 Best Schooling Fish For Beginners

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 axelrodi has to be on our list because of the striking red and blue stripes that run down the sides of their bodies. 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 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. Neon tetras also don’t grow as large as and are usually cheaper than cardinal tetras. There are many varieties of neon tetras available, including longfin, gold and diamond head. 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. 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 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? The silver tip tetra and Hasemania nana are two options. 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. Despite their high energy level, they’re a relatively docile community fish that only gets to 2 inches (5 cm) in length. Both males and females have a yellow-orange color. They both have small, silvery tips on 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 are approximately 1 inch (22.5 cm) in length. If you want a larger fish that can reach twice the size, the harlequin or Trigonostigma heteromorpha is a good choice. 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 well-known for their gentle nature, easy to care for, and bright colors.

5. Ember Tetra

The Hyphessobrycon Amandae is a small schooling fish that can be kept in a nano tank. 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. They are naturally social creatures that feel most comfortable when surrounded by their own kind, so the more the merrier. If you’re looking for a beautiful showpiece to complement your new schooling fish, check out our article on the top 5 centerpiece fish for small- to medium-sized community tanks.