Best Tankmates for Tropical Fish

Tropical fish community aquarium

Daniel Caja/Getty Images

Tropical community aquariums are great for beginners and seasoned fish hobbyists alike. Choose from a wide variety of fish that get along together in a mixed-community setting. Before you start mixing fish, be sure to always check their water quality parameters. Not all fish will like the same environment and trying to find a common ground can be detrimental to all. Don't forget about proper quarantine protocol before adding any new fish to your aquarium.

Male red swordtail fish

FYMStudio/Getty Images


These bright fish come in a variety of colors and are great for community tropical aquariums. They like living in a group, so plan on four to five swordtails per tank. Only the males have the long "sword" extending from the bottom of the caudal fin. Keep in mind that these fish are live bearers, so they will reproduce quickly.

Peppered Corydoras catfish resting on a piece of wood

AG/Getty Images


These benthic catfish stay small and come in a variety of patterns. They will dutifully groom your substrate, picking up pieces of food and detritus missed by other fish. Corys tend to be shy, so give them lots of plants and other places to hide. They prefer living in groups of three or more. The females tend to be larger than the males.

Two congo tetras in planted fish tank

Mirko_Rosenau/Getty Images

Congo Tetra

Among the many species of peaceful schooling tetras, the Congo tetra is a beautiful fish with a shiny, rainbow appearance. With their ornate, elongated fins, they make a stunning addition to community aquariums.

Golden dojo loach

Lauren Anderson/Flickr

Dojo Loach

Also known as the weather loach, the dojo loach is a peaceful, small-growing loach species. A stark contrast to many other tropical fish with its elongated body, the dojo loach is known for becoming more active just before a storm approaches. It comes in a golden color variety as well as the grey and black spotted wild type.

Golden Barb in aquarium

Daddy1971/Getty Images

Gold (Chinese) Barb

If you're looking to add a splash of color to your tropical tank, then you need to consider a golden barb. In the rivers of Asia, the Chinese barbs are a naturally green-colored fish. The bright yellow appearance of the golden barb is a genetic mutation that has been selectively bred over countless generations. Like other barbs, the golden barb is a schooling fish and should be kept in a small group.

Bristlenose pleco resting on aquarium substrate

Anney-Lier/Getty Images

Bristlenose Pleco

There are many species of plecostomus in the aquarium trade, and some will get significantly larger than others, but the bristlenose pleco stays small, making it a suitable choice for most community tanks. Plecostomus fishes are very peaceful and will make their way around your tank, feasting on algae coating décor and your tank's sides. This fish comes in the natural dark color or a golden color variation. Only the males get the large bristles on their head.

Tank of parrot platy fishes

slomotiongli/Getty Images


With endless color varieties, platys are easy-going community fish with one life goal in mind: make more platys. These fish are live bearers and can easily over populate community aquariums if left to their own devices. If you aren't able to keep the boys and girls apart, expect to have many more Platys than you started with.

Betta fish at surface



Although usually kept in isolation, some individual betta fish have the right mentality to thrive in a community tank, if only one male betta is kept in the aquarium. Female bettas are less pugnacious and usually several can be added with other fish species. Provided there are no other aggressive fish and plenty of room for everyone, a betta can fit right into a mixed species aquarium.

School of harlequin raspbora in planted aquarium

Arkadivna/Getty Images

Harlequin Rasbora

The brightly colored harlequin rasbora does well in larger groups in community aquariums. These fish are a red-copper color with a triangular black patch on their sides, providing contrast to many other tropical fish. They like to have plants, alive or fake, to swim through as their school moves around your tank.

Striped rainbow fish

Charlotte Bleijenberg/Getty Images

Rainbow Fish

There are many species of rainbow fish available in the freshwater hobby. They are well known for their vibrant coloration and do very well in community aquariums. Please carefully consider the individual species before you purchase, since many rainbow fish are on the verge of extinction from over fishing. Ask the fish dealer to ensure your fish are being bred on farms rather than wild collected.

Glowlight tetra resting on aquarium substrate

GordZam/Getty Images

Glowlight Tetra

Amongst the many tetra species available, the glowlight tetra is known for its darker body with vivid orange to yellow iridescent stripe. Another schooling fish, the glowlight tetra likes to be kept in small groups, but will often school with other similar tetra species.

Fancy guppies female (left) and male (right)

crazyartboy/Getty Images


Another easy-going, live bearer, guppies are good community aquarium additions. These peaceful fish get along with other fish and are very easy to keep. Just remember, they will reproduce quickly! The males are smaller than the females but with bigger tail fins. The males come in a large variety of colors and patterns, with many tail shapes. The females are usually plain but often have a colorful caudal fin.

No matter what combination of species you choose for your aquarium, be sure everyone has enough room! The rule of "1 inch of fish per gallon of water" is an oversimplification of a very tricky equation. Most of these fish, being small, schooling fishes, will not require much room. When in doubt, always go with fewer fish than you think your tank will accommodate. This will give all your fish room to breathe and your water chemistry some wiggle room—just in case.