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5 Tropical Fish That Can Live Together Peacefully

Eric is an aquarium enthusiast with over two decades of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish.

Peaceful Fish That Can Live Together

Peaceful Fish That Can Live Together

If you hope to run a successful aquarium, it is important to choose fish that can live together. This can mean many things, such as stocking only large fish that keep a wary distance from one another or having a tank full of aggressive fish that manage their relationships through a pecking order. In this article, we will focus on peaceful community fish.

A community tank is the way to go for most casual fish keepers, and there are many peaceful fish to choose from. However, if you were to ask me to pick 5 fish that are almost guaranteed to live together peacefully, these would be my choices.

Notice, I said almost. It is important to remember that we can never know for sure how individual fish will get along in our tanks. You can consider this a starting point but always do extensive research before choosing fish for your aquarium.

Here are my choices for 5 fish that can live together peacefully.

1. Neon Tetra

The neon tetra is one of the most popular fish in the aquarium trade. These tiny blue and red fish find their way into many beginner fish tanks, but they’re beloved by expert aquarists as well. Neons are schooling fish, which means you’ll want to stock at least six of them together. When we keep them in groups, it helps cut down on stress and improves their chances of living long, healthy lives.

These little tetras are peaceful fish and no danger to any other fish in your tank. However, they can get nippy at each other when stressed. Be sure to avoid overstocking and keep track of your water conditions so you know your tank is safe.

Neon Tetra Overview

  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallon
  • Adult Size: 1.5-2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Social Requirements: Schooling, keep in groups of six or more

There are many types of tetras available in the aquarium trade, and most of them make good community tank fish. Others you might consider include:

  • Cardinal Tetras
  • Green Neons
  • Black Neons
  • Lemon Tetras
  • Bleeding Heart Tetras
  • Rummy-nose Tetra

2. Fancy Guppy

Guppies are energetic little fish that come in a wide range of colorful varieties. They are small, so they aren’t much of a danger to other fish in your tank, but are extremely active, so if you are looking for a serene tank, they might not be the fish for you.

They are also livebearers, and the “rule of thumb” for livebearers is to stock them in groups of three, two females for every one male. This helps cut down on some of the amorous attention females receive as part of the courtship process. It’s normal, but it is also stressful for female fish when many suitors relentlessly look for her attention.

Like neons, guppies can get a little nippy if overly stressed. Monitoring your water parameters is one way to make sure your aquarium is healthy. There are many water test kits on the market. I prefer API Freshwater Master Test kit because of its ease of use and accuracy, but be sure to do some research and choose what is best for you.

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Fancy Guppy Overview

  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons
  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful, active
  • Social Requirements: Keep in 2:1 female to male ratio

3. Otocinclus Catfish

Many people are familiar with plecostomus, the “sucker fish” that clings to the glass and eats algae. They do a decent job of cleaning up the tank, but they come with a few problems that those seeking a peaceful aquarium may not appreciate. Plecos get huge, some species up to two feet, and they can get ornery when their needs aren’t. They are also tough on live plants.

Instead, think about getting a school of otocinclus. They look like little plecos, and some people even refer to them as “dwarf suckerfish”. They only grow to a couple of inches in length, but you’ll see them stuck to the glass just like their much bigger distant cousin. They are excellent algae eaters, and best of all, they are peaceful fish that won’t cause any issues in your tank.

Otocinclus Overview

  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Adult Size: 1-2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Social Requirements: Schooling

4. Cory Catfish

Cories are among the most popular catfish for the home aquarium. They inhabit the bottom of your tank and much up uneaten fish food, old plant matter, and other debris. Consider them part of the “clean-up crew” of the tank, and their work helps to keep your tank tidy and your water conditions safe. Even though they are such effective scavengers, it is still smart to feed sinking pellets to make sure they get enough to eat.

They are schooling fish, best kept in groups of six or more. You’ll find many varieties available in a typical pet store, and while they may school together, the best practice is to stock six (or more) of the same variety. If you have a big enough tank, you may wish to stock schools of several varieties.

Cory Catfish Overview

  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Adult Size: 3 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Social Requirements: Schooling; groups of six or more

5. Zebra Danio

The zebra danio is among the hardiest fish you can choose for your aquarium. They are small and docile, but also energetic and fun to watch. Zebras are egg layers, not livebearers, so you don’t need to worry about your tank getting suddenly overrun with babies as you would with guppies, swords, and platies. They are best kept in groups of six or more.

Remember that little fish like zebras, neons, and guppies are easy prey for predatory and semi-aggressive fish. They may even be on the menu for large fish otherwise considered docile. Remember that big fish eat little fish, so be wise when choosing which fish to stock with these little guys.

Zebra Danio Overview

  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Adult Size: 1-2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Social Requirements: Schooling; groups of six or more

5 Fish For Beginners to Avoid in a Community Tank

My general advice here is to avoid these fish if you are a beginner, as I’d bet you’ll find them more trouble than you’d expect. Experienced fish keepers can and do keep all the fish listed below in peaceful aquariums. Knowledge, as usual, is the key, and until you have some experience under your belt, you are between off with the fish listed above.

1. Angelfish

Angelfish can get along fine in a community tank when they are juveniles. However, they are semi-aggressive new world cichlids, and stealthy ambush predators. As adults, they will pick off your smaller fish and eat them for lunch.

2. Gourami

Some fishkeepers have luck with dwarf gouramies in community tanks, but in my experience, all gouramies come with some complex social behaviors and can rattle the tranquility of a peaceful aquarium. They can be territorial and aggressive and are best for larger tanks where there is a lot of space.

3. Bala Shark

Balas are beautiful, peaceful fish. As tiny juveniles, they are tough to pass up. But these guys grow to a foot in length, as are best kept in schools of six or more. Obviously, they are very large fish not appropriate for any but the biggest home aquariums. Most hobbyists should give them a pass.

4. Barbs

Most barbs are notorious as fin nippers. You need to consider the impact they will have on your tank before stocking them. Fish with long fins will be vulnerable, and there will be elevated stress for all aquarium inhabitants.

5. African Cichlids

African cichlids are beautiful fish, but when you see them in the fish store, it is best to keep on walking. They are best kept in cichlid-only tanks, and there is a steep learning curve in their management. You can take that on if you want, and well-kept African cichlid tanks are gorgeous, but they do not belong in your community aquarium.

Kept incorrectly, tiger barbs can cause havoc in your tank.

Kept incorrectly, tiger barbs can cause havoc in your tank.

How to Choose Peaceful Fish That Can Live Together

If you have your eye on a fish that isn’t listed in this article, you can do a little research and see if it might fit into your plan.

Here are a few things to look for:

  • Fish that won’t bother each other. Cory catfish and tiny tetras don’t care all that much about any other fish in the tank, except for staying out of their way. They just don’t have the inclination or ability to cause harm, and if you want a peaceful tank, that’s a good thing.
  • Fish that are active but harmless: Some fish, such as guppies, can add some frantic activity to your tank. They might shake things up, and they might up the tension level, but they can’t hurt other fish in your tank.
  • Fish too small to eat other fish: Big fish eat little fish. Bala sharks are peaceful fish, but when they grow to almost a foot long, they can pose a danger to little fish in the tank. Stick with fish around the same size, or too small to consider each other lunch.
  • Avoid Semi-aggressive Fish: Fish labeled as semi-aggressive can make good community tank inhabitants, but there is a bit of a learning curve that comes along with them. Unless you know what you are doing, it might be best to give them a pass.

Good luck stocking your tank! Remember, nothing is certain when we bring two animals together, and while we can make some educated guesses from experience and the natural behaviors of individual species, we still have to be smart. We still need to follow the usual rules for choosing fish, and that means researching every new fish we intend to stock before we bring it home.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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