Schooling fish are a great addition to any community tank. Most fish schoal, not school. There is a difference, although the words are used pretty interchangeably (I’m going use school in this post). Fish usually aren’t acting together like one single organism working in a pattern like a ‘school’ you would see in the wild would. But, your average aquarium fish can swim together as a somewhat cohesive group, which is really the desired effect.


I’m going to go over some options and their pros and cons to help you pick some schooling fish for your tank! I’ll include some helpful tips and tricks too.


Cardinal Tetra– Pro: Great colour, if given the space, will school really well.

Con: Not a hardy fish. Can be aggressive compared to other tetras (ember is a good choice too)

Numbers: Will school with as little as five, but 20+ for ideal behaviours.



Harlequin Rasbora – Pro: Beautiful orange tones with black contrast. Wider body style is very aesthetically pleasing.

Con: May not maintain school over time.


Numbers: Will school with as little as five, but 20+ for ideal behaviours.


Cherry barb – Pro: Briggt colour, they grow a little larger than tetras. Can be put with wide variety of fish including dwarf cichlids.

Con: Tend to chase females and ruin the school. Can be competitive so buy a lot or the alpha male will dwindle them down.


Numbers: Will start to school with 7/8, but 20+ for ideal behaviours.

Image: Francis Wazeter Flikr


Mosquito Rasbora– Pro: Great nano tank fish! You can get these in large numbers and they are all really sweet to eachother. These guys have really fun behaviours.

Con: So small you may not notice if one dies. Takes a lot to get the desired effect.


Numbers: Will school with six+, but 20+ for ideal behaviours.


Rummy Nose Tetra – Pro: tight schoolers, definitely one of the best on this list. The longer body style and mixed patterns look really great. Can be mixed with larger fish.

Con: VERY prone to ich and will spread easily amongst themselves because they stick together so much.


Numbers: Will school with as little as five, but 20+ for ideal behaviours.


Small Species of Cory–  Pro: Panda, pepper or pygmy can have really cool schooling behaviours and move all around the tank. Great as a stand alone, they don’t need a predator to group together.

Con: Not as flashy as other species. More sensitive to water quality.


Numbers: Will school with as little as five, but 10+ for ideal behaviours.


Congo tetra– Pros: Bigger size, great for a 40gal+ amazing rainbow colour.

Cons: females are very plain.


Numbers: Will school with as little as three (they’ll join another school even), but 7+ for ideal behaviours.

Rainbows- Pros: Tonnes of colourful variety, dwarf neon, boseman and Irian are some of my favorites. They lead the school and other types of fish will join in with them. They set a non aggressive tone in the tank and will break up conflict.

Cons: They can get pretty big so you’ll need 50+gal to really enjoy these guys in a proper school.


Numbers: Will school with as little as five, but 7+ for ideal behaviours.

My biggest tip for achieving a tighter school is to introduce a bigger predator. For example angelfish, a larger fish that moves around the tank and occupies several areas will help to strike some fear into the fish and make them stick together; safety in numbers!


Another tip if you really want the schooling fish to be the focal point of the tank, then choose a more bare-style scape with lots of space, such as Iwagumi style. Bigger tanks will also make a huge difference and gives the fish the space they need to get together. Hiding places and plants are tempting forms of safety for any fish and they may choose cover over the comfort of friends.


Getting the right ratio is also important. Some fish just get too distracted trying to mate, so a lot of people will have all male schools to avoid this. It’s also important to try and have them all the same size so the group doesn’t pick on the weakest links.

It can be tricky to perfect the art of the schoal, but when you do it can be an amazing focal point in the tank that makes it look more together and planned