14 Best Schooling Fish for Aquariums

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click one, I may earn a commission at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Whether you are an experienced aquarist or a complete beginner, searching for fish for a new aquarium can be overwhelming. 

However, choosing a few species of schooling fish is arguably one of the best options to add vibrant colors and activity to your tank. 

Schooling fish are typically small, brightly colored, and easy to care for. 

Plus, they have fun and curious personalities and will liven up any tank if given the right conditions. 

In this article, we will discuss 14 of the best schooling fish for aquariums.

Let’s dive in! 

14 Best Schooling Fish for Aquariums 

If you are looking for vibrant, easy-to-care-for schooling fish for your aquarium, here are 14 of the best schooling fish options.

Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra care

Neon Tetras are common aquarium fish and are one of the most colorful, vibrant, and best schooling fish to have. 

They are beautiful and brightly colored and they have a very peaceful and easy-going temperament.

In the wild, Neon Tetras are most commonly found schooling together with hundreds or thousands of other Neons. This means they are happiest when they are housed in a large group. 

If they are not kept together in larger groups, they tend to become anxious, stressed, and sometimes even aggressive. 

Therefore, It’s best to house at least 6-10 of these fish together in a 10-gallon tank or larger.

Read more: Neon Tetras Not Schooling? Here’s Why & What To Do Next

If you choose to house more than 10 together, it’s best to upgrade your tank to a 20 gallon or larger. This will help accommodate their needs by providing enough space for plants and swimming distance. 

  • Care Level: Beginner 
  • Size: Between 1-1.5 inches long 
  • Lifespan in Captivity: About 5 years 
  • Recommended Tank Size: 10 gallons or larger for 6-10 Tetras
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 72-76°F (22-24 Celsius)

Read more:

Corydoras 

best schooling fish corydoras

Corydoras (Corys) are small, dwarf catfish that linger around on the bottom of your tank searching for sunken food in the substrate. 

These fish are fairly small and don’t require a lot of space. However, they prefer to school together in groups of 3-6 and should be kept in a 20-gallon tank minimum.

It’s also recommended to keep these fish in a long tank instead of a short, tall tank. 

This will ensure they have enough space to swim around the bottom together in a school comfortably. 

Corydoras are also bottom-feeders, which means they will clean up any food that sinks to the bottom of the tank. 

Be sure to feed them foods that will sink to the bottom of the tank such as sinking food tablets, shrimp pellets, and algae rounds. 

If you are searching for the best schooling fish, Corydoras are a great option because they live for a very long time in captivity!

  • Care Level: Beginner 
  • Size: Up to 4 inches long (depending on the type) 
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 12-15 years 
  • Recommended Tank Size: 20 gallons or larger for 3-6 Corydoras 
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 72-82℉ (22-28 Celsius)

Read more: Cory Catfish and Betta compatibility

Dwarf Otocinclus

best schooling fish dwarf otocinclus

Dwarf Otocinclus is another small, schooling catfish that roams around the bottom of the fish tank searching for fallen food.

These fish are extremely peaceful and love to school together near the bottom of the tank.  

Because they are schooling fish, you will want to keep at least 6-10 Dwarf Otocinclus in a 10-gallon tank or larger. However if you choose to house more, make sure to upgrade the tank size. 

Considering these fish are bottom feeders, you should provide them with a diet of algae wafers, Catfish pellets, and blanched vegetables for a balanced diet. 

These cute little catfish are some of the best schooling fish around! 

  • Care Level: Beginner 
  • Size: Up to 1.5 inches long 
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 3-5 years 
  • Recommended Tank Size: 10 gallons or larger for 6-10 fish 
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 72-82°F (22-28 Celsius)

Zebra Danio

best schooling fish zebra danio

Zebra Danios are small, hardy fish with horizontal stripes down their bodies. 

This is more of a shoaling fish, which means they will cluster together loosely as they swim around the tank. 

These fish are also cold-water fish that prefer cooler temperature water around 70℉ (21 celsius), so keep that in mind when housing these fish with other tankmates. 

Zebra Danios likes to shoal in groups, so having a few types in your aquarium isn’t an issue. This active fish also needs a 10-gallon tank or larger so they have room to swim around.

Because this fish is so hardy and easy to care for, they are some of the best schooling fish to keep in captivity.

  • Care Level: Beginner 
  • Size: Up to 2 inches long
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 2-3 years 
  • Recommended Tank Size: 10 gallons or larger for 5-10 Zebra Danios
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 70-75℉ (21 to 24 Celcius)

Harlequin Rasboras 

Harlequin Rasboras best schooling fish

Harlequin Rasboras are some of the best schooling fish to keep in an aquarium. 

These fish are very peaceful and easy-going. They have a great temperament and are great for beginners. 

They only grow to about 2 inches long and they are very brightly colored. 

Harlequin Rasboras do best when housed with 8-10 others to shoal around with. They also do well with other tankmates of the same temperament and size. 

  • Care Level: Beginner to Intermediate 
  • Size: About 2 inches long 
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 5-8 years 
  • Recommended Tank Size: Minimum 20 gallons for 8-10 fish
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 72-80°F (22-27°C) 

White Cloud Mountain Minnow 

white cloud mountain minnow

White Cloud Mountain Minnows are small, cold-water fish. 

Unlike tropical fish, they prefer cooler water temperatures ranging between 64-72°F. This means they should only be housed with other cold-water fish. 

They only grow to about 1.5 inches long, and should be kept in schools of at least 6, but preferably more. 

Because of their small size, a school of 6 White Cloud Minnows can be kept in a 10-gallon tank, but make sure to upgrade the size if you choose to house more. 

These fish are some of the best schooling fish to keep, as they are small, energetic, and very hardy. 

  • Care Level: Beginner 
  • Size: About 1.5 inches long 
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 5-7 years 
  • Recommended Tank Size: Minimum 10 gallons for 6-10 fish 
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 64-72°F (18-22°C)

Cherry Barb 

cherry barb

Cherry Barbs are hardy, low-maintenance shoaling fish. 

These fish are fairly peaceful and are a fun pop of color in community tanks.

The males have a vibrant red color while the females are more dull-colored. 

They are most comfortable when housed with other Cherry Barbs and really enjoy the company. 

Cherry Barbs are easy to care for and are fairly small (1-2 inches), which makes them an excellent option for beginners. 

To avoid any aggression in the tank, make sure to stock two females per one male.

  • Care Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Size: 1-2 inches long 
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 4-7 years 
  • Recommended Tank Size: Minimum 30 gallons for 5-6 fish 
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 73°F-81°F (23-27°C)

Cardinal Tetra 

best schooling fish cardinal tetras

Just like some other species of Tetra, the Cardinal Tetra is a vibrant, small fish that are easy to care for and fun to watch. 

This makes them one of the best schooling fish to keep in any aquarium. 

These fish like to school together in groups of at least 6, but preferably more. 

Being a smaller fish (about 1.5 inches long), it is easy to keep a medium to large school together in the same tank. 

A school of 6 should be kept in a 20-gallon tank or larger. Make sure to provide an extra 2 gallons per additional Cardinal Tetra. 

The ideal water temperature for these fish is between 73-81⁰F with a pH ranging between 5.5 – 7.5.

  • Care Level: Beginner 
  • Size: Up to 1.5 inches long 
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 4-5 years 
  • Recommended Tank Size: Minimum 20 Gallons for 6 fish 
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 73°F-81°F (23-27°C)

Read more: Neon Tetras vs Cardinal Tetras – What’s The Difference?

Platy

platies schooling together

Platies are one of the most common fish kept in aquariums. 

These beautiful, low-maintenance fish are both fun to watch and easy to care for, which makes them one of the best schooling fish to keep.

They come in many different colors and varieties and are very brightly colored. 

Platies love to school together and prefer to be surrounded by other fish of the same species. 

They are also livebearers and they breed very quickly and easily. A group of 6 Platies should be kept in a 20-gallon tank or larger. 

You may need to upgrade if your tank becomes overrun with babies.

If you prefer not to have a large population of these fish at once, stick to only keeping a school of males in the same tank. 

  • Care Level: Beginner 
  • Size: About 2 inches long 
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 3-4 years 
  • Recommended Tank Size: Minimum 20 gallons for 6 fish 
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 65-77°F (18-25°C)

Rummy Nose Tetra 

rummy nose tetra best schooling fish

Rummy Nose Tetras are considered to be one of the best schooling fish because they swim tightly together and almost always face the same direction while swimming. 

These fish are extremely active and are very fun to watch. They have bright red coloration on their faces which adds a fun pop of color to any tank.

Because they are schooling fish, it is best to keep at least 6-10 Rummy Nose Tetras in a 20-gallon tank or larger. 

This will provide them adequate space to swim around the tank together comfortably. 

Keep in mind that these fish are fairly sensitive to water changes and can easily become stressed. For this reason, these fish are typically not recommended for beginners. 

  • Care Level: Intermediate 
  • Size: 2-2.5 inches long
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 5-6 years 
  • Recommended Tank Size: Minimum 20 gallons for 6-10 fish
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 64-82°F (18-27.7°C)

Black Skirt Tetra 

black skirt tetra

Black Skirt Tetras are a fairly common, hardy fish that are easy to keep. 

While other species of Tetra are bright and colorful, the Black Skirt Tetra has a more subtle look. 

These fish are slightly larger than other schooling fish and require lots of space to swim around.

Make sure to house six or more Black Skirt Tetras together in a tank that is at least 20 gallons. They also appreciate live plants that grow around the edges of the tank. 

Although they are not as colorful as some other species, Black Skirt Tetras are some of the best schooling fish around!

  • Care Level: Beginner to Intermediate 
  • Size: Between 2 – 2.5 inches long
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 3-5 years 
  • Recommended Tank Size: 20 Gallons minimum for 6 fish 
  • Recommended Water Temperature: Between 70-85°F (21-29°C)

Bloodfin Tetra 

Bloodfin Tetras are slightly less colorful than other Tetra species, however, they are still one of the best schooling fish to keep. 

These fish are extremely easy to care for and are very tolerant to a wide range of water parameters and conditions. 

They are also very peaceful and are great additions to a community tank with other peaceful species. 

Bloodfin Tetras do best when kept in schools of at least 6-8, but the more the better. 

They also require lots of swimming space, so make sure to give them 20 gallons or larger. 

  • Care Level: Beginner 
  • Size: About 2 inches in length 
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 5-8 years 
  • Recommended Tank Size: Minimum 20 gallons for 6-8 fish 
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 70-82°F  (21-27.7°C)

Ember Tetra 

ember tetra shoaling

Ember Tetras are beautiful, colorful freshwater fish that are a great addition to any tank. 

These fish are fairly small, with their size ranging between 0.5-0.8 inches long.

They are shoaling fish, so it’s best to keep at least 8-10 Tetras in the same tank. This allows them to group together and swim throughout the tank.

Allowing Ember Tetras to shoal is important, as it helps them feel more comfortable and less stressed. 

It is recommended to house 8-10 Ember Tetras together in a 10-gallon tank. 

  • Care Level: Beginner 
  • Size: Between 0.5-0.8 inches long 
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 2-4 years 
  • Recommended Tank Size: Minimum 10 gallons for 8-10 fish 
  • Recommended Water Temperature: Between 72-82℉ (22-28℃) 

Tiger Barb 

best schooling fish tiger barb

Tiger Barbs are beautiful, active fish with black stripes running vertically along their bodies.

These fish are known to be aggressive and tend to nip at the fins of other fish. 

For this reason, Tiger Barbs are not great for beginners that are just getting into the hobby.

Keeping these fish in a shoal of 6-8 fish will help keep their aggressiveness down, but they should be housed with other semi-aggressive fish to avoid any fatalities. Avoid housing them with slow-moving, peaceful, or long-finned fish. 

Because these fish are larger (2.5-3 inches), they require at least 30 gallons for 6-8 fish. 

If you can get past their slightly aggressive temperment, you will see that Tiger Barbs are some of the best schooling fish to keep.

  • Care Level: Intermediate 
  • Size: 2.5-3 inches long 
  • Lifespan in Captivity: 5-7 years 
  • Recommended Tank Size: 30 gallons or larger fr 6-8 fish 
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 77-82°F (25-28℃)

Schooling Fish vs. Shoaling Fish 

Some people assume that shoaling fish and schooling fish are the same, and use these terms interchangeably. 

However, schooling fish and shoaling fish are different. For instance:

Schooling fish all swim in the same direction and cluster tightly together as they swim. They do this so that they collectively appear like a much larger fish from a distance, which can scare away predators. 

Schooling together also reduces friction in the water and allows them to swim more efficiently and conserve more energy. 

Shoaling fish, on the other hand, is a group of fish that clusters loosely together in the same general area. They may not even swim together as a group, they just feel more comfortable with others nearby. 

Either way, both of these types of fish require a group of the same species with them to feel safe and reduce stress.

In an aquarium, it’s best to house at least six schooling or shoaling fish together in the same tank, but preferably more. 

How Many Schooling Fish Should I Get? 

As stated before, schooling fish require to be housed with other fish of the same species in order to feel safe and reduce stress. 

You should aim to house at least six schooling fish together in the same tank, however the more the merrier. 

This will help them feel secure in the tank and will encourage their natural schooling behavior that they would do in the wild. 

The Bottom Line

Schooling fish are fun, active, and brightly colored fish that look great in any aquarium. 

These are fish that feel most comfortable when surrounded by a group of the same species.

This means that the more of them there are in one tank, the better.

Hopefully this article on the best schooling fish gave you some ideas on some fish you would like for your next tank. 

Happy fishkeeping! 

Related: 

10 Low Maintenance Fish: The Best Fish for Beginners

Blackwater Aquarium: The Complete Guide

Electric Blue Ram: The Ultimate Care Guide