Preferred Tank Levels for Community Fish Species

Where Aquarium Fish Prefer to Swim

Community Aquarium - 80 Gallon
Travis Lee

A community aquarium is one with several different species all in the same tank. Many considerations need to be taken when setting up a community aquarium. It's important to make sure you select good neighbors. For example, it can be problematic to introduce species with widely divergent adult sizes or species that prefer widely different temperature or water chemistry. Predatory species should normally be avoided in a community aquarium, especially if some of the species are small ones.

Sometimes overlooked among the considerations is at what water level the fish prefer to swim and school. Along with all the other considerations, you want species that prefer different water levels rather than ones that will all congregate at, for example, the top of the tank. Keeping the preferred water level in mind will help create a more attractive tank and assures the fish will not compete for the same space.

This list, split by the preferred level, includes more popular aquarium fish. Keep in mind that water conditions (pH, temp, and hardness), size, and compatibility must also be considered when choosing fish for your community tank.

Prefer Any Level

The following fish are flexible and will likely move within the full tank.

Prefer Top Level

These fish will remain at the very top of the tank:

  • Common Hatchetfish
  • Halfbeak

Prefer Top and Mid Level

This large list of fish will move between the middle and top of the tank:

  • African Glass Catfish
  • Axelrod's Rainbowfish
  • Banded Rainbow
  • Black Neon Tetra: These should be kept in schools.
  • Bloodfin Tetra
  • Blue Gourami: Keep these fish with fish of similar size.
  • Boesmans Rainbow
  • Celebes Rainbowfish
  • Congo Tetra
  • Dwarf Gourami: Do not keep with large or aggressive fish.
  • Guppy
  • Harlequin Rasoboras
  • Honey Gourami
  • Kissing Gourami: Keep these with medium to large-sized fish.
  • Lake Kutubu Rainbowfish
  • Lake Wanam Rainbowfish
  • Lemon Tetra
  • Marbled Hatchetfish: Keep these in schools.
  • Molly
  • Moonlight Gourami: Do not keep with aggressive fish.
  • Mosquito Fish
  • Neon Rainbowfish
  • Papuan Rainbowfish
  • Pearl Gourami
  • Pencilfish
  • Penguin Tetra
  • Red Rainbowfish
  • Scissortail Rasbora
  • Swordtail

Prefer Mid-Level

These fish will stay in the middle of the fish tank:

Prefer Mid- and Bottom Level

These fish will move between the middle and bottom of the tank:

  • Agassiz's Dwarf Cichlid
  • Algae Eater
  • Bolivian Ram
  • Butterfly Ram
  • Cardinal Tetra
  • Cherry Barb
  • Chocolate Gourami: Do not keep with other Gouramis.
  • Clown Loach
  • Discus
  • Dwarf Loach
  • Farlowella
  • Festivum
  • Flying Fox
  • Gold Barb
  • Green Barb
  • Headstander
  • Neon Tetra
  • Otocinclus: These fish are best suited for live planted tank.
  • Paradise Fish
  • Red-Tailed Shark
  • Snakeskin Gourami
  • Spanner Barb
  • Tinfoil Barb

Prefer Bottom Level

These fish prefer the bottom of the tank and will not likely venture upward: