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. Let’s not forget about the bottom dwellers and top-dwelling fish. Now let’s see the vibrant and colorful options that swim in and around the tank’s middle.


1. Green Neon Tetra

Paracheirodon simulans

The green neon tetra, which is smaller than the regular neon tetra, has an iridescent horizontal stripe of blue-green that shines brightly even when the aquarium lights are off. The green neon tetra can grow up to one inch (22.5 cm) in length, meaning that six of them can live in nano tanks as small as five gallons. They are more comfortable with larger groups that have lots of aquarium plants or other cover because of their small size. Additionally, they need small foods such as baby brine shrimp, Easy Fry and Small Fish Foods, frozen cyclops and flake food.

2. Pygmy Corydoras

Corydoras pygmaeus

Cory catfish are widely considered to be bottom dwellers, but some species like the pygmy cory display unusual behaviors. This 1-inch dwarf corydoras is known for fluttering its fins and hovering like a hummingbird in the middle of the tank. 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

Sometimes smaller species can be shy, so the serpae Tetra is a good choice if you want a fish that has bright colors and a confident personality. Their red-orange bodies with black and white markings provide a pop of color, especially in planted aquariums. Serpae tetras can grow up to 2 inches (5 cm) in size and aren’t afraid to boldly swim out in the open. Because of their rowdy behavior and potential for fin nipping, we recommend getting at least 8-10 in a school and keeping them with other fast-swimming fish, like black skirt tetras and zebra danios.

4. Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish

Melanotaenia praecox

Although rainbowfish are technically known to prefer the upper half the water column, it is not common for them to live there. We wanted to capture this beautiful fish with its sparkling blue scales, red-orange fins, and almond-shaped body. These swift swimmers can grow to as large as 3 inches (8 cm) and are able to get along well with other similar-sized fish of peaceful to aggressive temperaments. Feed them a healthy mix of bloodworms, brine shrimp, flakes, and live fish foods to get the brightest colors and healthy growth out of them. For more information, please refer to our complete care guide.

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. Their length ranges from 1.5-2 inches (4-5 cm) with a deep-bodied profile. They are a great choice for a community tank with their calm nature and small size. 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 Rasboras and Lambchop Rasboras

Trigonostigma heteromorpha and Trigonostigma espei

These peaceful rasboras make a great addition to community tank life. Their orange bodies and black triangle patches near the tail looks amazing in a forest of underwater plants. Harlequin and lambchop rasboras are both larger than their counterparts, measuring in at 1.5 inches (4 cm). Because of their hardiness and ability to live in a wide range of parameters, they do well with beginners and are commonly available in most pet stores. 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. The males are well-known for their brightly colored finnage and flowing horizontal stripes, while the females are smaller and have a silvery sheen. As long as their tank mates are not fin nippers, these tetras can live with most community fish like rainbowfish, livebearers, and unaggressive catfish.

8. Celestial Pearl Danio

Danio margaritatus

One of the darlings of the aquascaping world is the celestial pearl danio (CPD) or galaxy rasbora. Their bright red-orange fins and golden-dotted bodies make them look like tiny brook trout, which is perfect for building a nature scape. We have had success in getting them to be more confident. 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 are often overlooked because barbs have a bad reputation for being boisterous fin nippers, but this species is an excellent tank mate for peaceful community aquariums. The males are bright red, while the females are more tannish-red. Both have a black horizontal stripe running along their sides. Not only are they as friendly as similar-sized tetras and rasboras, but they also spawn fairly easily. Add lots of dense foliage and a marble substrate to help your babies survive. The parents should be removed as soon as possible after they have bred.

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. They do have a shorter life span of around 2-3 years, so check out our forum for tips and tricks on how to successfully breed them at home.

There are so many awesome midwater-dwelling fish that we couldn’t cover them all, so make sure to browse the current stock of our preferred online fish retailers to see everything they have available.