Articles Stocking aquarium

9 Peaceful community fish!

December 5, 2014
carnegiella strigata

Setting up and stocking a tropical community aquarium can be a challenge. All fish have different temperaments, and combining the wrong ones can be quite disastrous! If you want to prevent fin nipping, chasing behavior and even fish deaths, it can be a great idea to go for a 100% peaceful community. Luckily, peaceful doesn’t mean boring – there are many suitable species for a peaceful community, all of which are also beautiful and interesting to keep. Keep reading for a list of peaceful community fish for all aquarium sizes and every water layer!

Schooling fish

Neon tetra (Paracheidoron innesi)
I know what you’re thinking – Mari, are you serious?! Neon tetra are considered by many to be the ultimate beginner tropical fish, and they are therefore often overlooked by more serious hobbyists. Which is a shame!

Neons, and their larger cardinal tetra cousins, are great fish for a peaceful community due to their timid nature. Their super bright colors and interesting schooling behavior make them a great centerpiece, especially if you have a larger aquarium and are able to keep very large groups of 30 or more. Keep your neon tetras in schools of at least around 8 fish in a planted aquarium of 15 gallons (54L) or more and they will be a great addition to your setup.

A neon tetra caresheet will appear on Aquariadise soon.

Threadfin rainbowfish (Iriatherina werneri)
Though males can often be seen intimidating and “fighting” with each other, these colorful schooling fish are actually very peaceful and will not harm their tankmates or each other. In fact, due to their long fins they are often the victim of fin-nipping fish, which means they should only be kept with other peaceful species. When kept in a suitable aquarium (at least around 15 gallons/58 L) in groups of 6 or more, they will display very interesting behavior and really make a great centerpiece.

Marbled hatchetfish (Carnegiella strigata)
Marbled hatchetfish (pictured at the top of the article) are a great choice for the top water layer of a peaceful aquarium of at least 15 gallons (58 L). They are calm and shy and will leave other fish alone. If they have the top water layer to themselves and are kept in groups of at least 6 they will form a tight, interesting looking school. Be sure to always have a lid on your aquarium though, as these fish are naturally jumpers, especially when startled. Don’t be surprised if you occasionally hear one hitting the top of the tank!


Twig catfish (Farlowella vittata)
If you’re interested in keeping Plecostomus catfish but want an even more calm, peaceful species, twig catfish are a great choice. In fact, these herbivorous catfish are so timid they are easily outcompeted for food and should therefore be kept with only the most peaceful tankmates. They grow to a size of around 6 inches (15) cm, which makes them unsuitable for the smallest setups: 30 gallons (115 L) or more is preferable.

Water quality should be pristine, as these fish are very sensitive! Twig catfish are great algae eaters and can actually be found on the list of the best algae eaters. Be sure to keep in mind, though, that most aquariums just don’t contain enough algae. It’s a good idea to supplement the diet of your twig catfish with regular foods such as blanched zucchini and algae wafers to make sure it stays healthy.

Otocinclus catfish (Otocinclus affinis)

One of the calmest catfish species and quite adorable looking, Otocinclus catfish are definitely a species to consider for your peaceful community aquarium. Like twig catfish, they are fantastic algae eaters and because they stay quite small and are not usually active swimmers they are suitable for smaller aquariums. A 10 gallon (38L) tank is a good place to start.

A heavily planted setup and a group of at least 6 fish is preferred; these catfish are very shy and need hiding places and larger groups to feel safe. Adding caves and tubes is also a great option. Otocinclus catfish are quite fragile and don’t deal well with bad water quality, so be sure to do regular water changes and water tests.

Panda Corydoras (Corydoras panda)
Panda cories are one of the smaller Corydoras varieties and can be kept in aquariums of 15 gal (58 L) and up. Because Corydoras are bottom feeders, a longer (rectangular) aquarium with a sand substrate is preferred. Like other cory catfish they should be kept in groups of at least 5-6 fish to help them feel safe. When provided with this, they will be very interesting to keep and really cheer up an aquarium with their friendly, hyperactive behavior!

If you’re looking for an even smaller but equally peaceful Corydoras variety, check out the Pygmy Corydoras caresheet.


Popular dwarf shrimp species (cherry shrimp, crystal red shrimp, rili shrimp) and Amano shrimp are a great choice for a peaceful community. They help keep the tank clean by eating leftover foods and will not bother their tankmates in the slightest. Be sure to only keep them with other very peaceful aquarium species, though, because they may become the victim of nippy fish themselves.

Dwarf shrimp can be kept in pretty much any tank size (although some species are quite fragile) and Amano shrimp do fine in anything over 10 gallons (38L). I personally keep shrimp in all my aquariums if possible, as they are fun to watch and quite useful.

Most aquarium stores should stock some species of freshwater aquarium shrimp, but you can also buy them online!

If you’re looking for the ultimate peaceful tankmate, snails are probably your best bet. Although some are considered pests, almost all species are 100% peaceful. For the smaller setups, Nerite snails are a great species to start with; they will not harm other species at all and are actually known as great algae eaters. In tanks of at least 15 gallons (54L), apple snails, mystery snails and rabbit snails will also work well.

For more information on shrimp and aquarium snails, check out the Aquariadise invertebrate tag!


Kuhli loaches (Pangio kuhlii) – Kuhli loaches are definitely a species that belongs on a list of peaceful community fish. They are entirely peaceful and will spend most of their time with other kuhli loaches, forming ‘piles’ of fish in hiding places when they’re not foraging.

When kept in a suitable setup of at least 15-20 gallons (54-75L) they will be fun to keep and interesting to watch. A rectangular (longer) aquarium is preferable, as these loaches mostly live on the bottom, finding their food on the substrate. This also means gravel is not the best option, as it can hurt their bellies. Providing sand is a much better idea and your Kuhli’s will thank you for it by displaying their natural burrowing and foraging behavior.

For more information on Kuhli loaches, have a look at the Kuhli loach caresheet!

If you’re looking for more information about setting up a peaceful community aquarium or if you have a suggestion, leave a comment below. Happy fishkeeping!

Cover photo: Carnegiella strigata by nanjenchan

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  • Reply Bee August 3, 2016 at 12:56 am

    Hi! I’m going to be upgrading from 10 gallon to a 30-gallon tank soon, and I’m looking for some stocking recommendations! Currently, in the 10 gal I have a pleco, about 20 guppies (although I’m going to bring it down to 2 males and 4 females, they breed like crazy) and 4 nerite snails. I understand that plecos get big (he’s the main reason I’m upgrading, although he’s still fairly small) so if I need to in the future, I’ll upgrade again.

    So am I maxed out at this point, or are there any fish you’d recommend to go in the 30-gallon? Thanks in advance!

    • Reply Mari August 3, 2016 at 11:21 am

      Hi! Great to hear you’re upgrading, though unless your Pleco is a bristlenose I would still recommend rehoming him as they need 150+ gallon tanks. Waiting too long with upgrading can cause them to become stunted and damaged by the ammonia in the water. If it’s a bristlenose or other small species then 30 gallons is perfect.

      If you’re dealing with a common pleco you’re definitely maxed out with your current stock, their bioload is crazy. If it’s a bristlenose, you still have some room for one small species. Because guppies completely take over the middle and top water layers, I think a bottom dweller like the Kuhli loach or panda Corydoras would be best. Both of these should be kept in groups of at least six. 🙂

      Good luck!

  • Reply Prab July 7, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Many thanks for your advise. can you explain the “cycle the tank” process before adding the fish please? don’t know what to do for this.


    • Reply Mari July 7, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      cycling the tank is a crucial process that should always be taken care of before adding any fish – if you skip it, the fish will most likely die. You can find out how to do it here. 🙂

      • Reply Prab July 7, 2016 at 4:20 pm

        thanks. Understand it and I am already in the process of week 2 of cycling. but, didn’t know the technical term (“cycling”) to the process.


  • Reply Prab July 4, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    I have just recently acquired a 120 litre fish tank with the 3D background which is in a good condition.

    Previous owner used it as a tropical fish tank. When the previous owner removed all the tropical fishes and emptied the tank, he left 2 inches of water at the bottom of the tank before I took it to my home.

    I came home and set-up the tank with water. The next day I found a Pelco fish (approximately 3” in length – I hope it’s a pelco fish) at the bottom of the 3D background in the tank. It was hiding underneath the 3D background all the time. I am surprised it survived when I filled three quarter of the tank with cold water on the first day before switching on the heater.

    Can you advise me on the following please?

    1. Tank Setup:

    I am looking for suggestions as to a very attractive setup of community fish to make use of the space and all layers of the tank.

    2. Sand or Gravel:

    As far as my limited knowledge goes, sand substrate is comparatively better than the gravel (to avoid damage to the bottom feeder fishes). Please correct me if I am wrong.

    3. Can I keep the Pelco in this mix as well?

    4. I would like to have some unusual fish, invertebrates and single-species setup as well but I am afraid the size of the tank does not allow me to do it.

    Please advise.


    • Reply Mari July 4, 2016 at 6:02 pm


      That’s definitely not the first time I’ve heard of this happening! Fish get stuck behind those background quite often and they can be pretty resilient. To answer your questions:

      1. In a 120 liter, if you want to go for a community type setup, I would stick to three smaller fish species: one for every layer. Example: 2x honey gourami (top dwellers), 15x small schooling fish (Rasbora or peaceful Tetra, etc.), 7x small bottom dweller (Corydoras panda, Pangio loaches, etc.). Of course you can vary this, as long as you do your research on whether the fish are compatible. You can also add (dwarf) shrimp like Neocaridina and/or snails like Neritina.

      2. I prefer sand and I recommend it if you’re planning on getting bottom feeders. It’s quite personal, though, some aquarists prefer gravel. Just be sure not to get a sand type that gets compacted easily (like play sand) – something like river sand or pool filter sand is better.

      3. I can’t tell you this unless I know what type of Pleco we’re talking about here. If it’s an Ancistrus (bristlenose Pleco) then yes. Larger Pleco types are definitely a no.

      4. Your tank size definitely allows you to do this. There are some cool oddballs for this tank size: single-species puffer fish setup, Goby setup, etc. There are also plenty of unusual catfish that stay relatively small (Hara jerdoni is a good example) and interesting inverts would be dwarf crayfish or maybe even some type of crab species. Just be sure to research research and research more because some of these fish do need single species setups or specific care. You can always check back with me if you’re unsure about your setup!

      I hope that helps a bit!

      Good luck, sounds like you’re on the right path 🙂 don’t forget to cycle the tank before adding any fish.

  • Reply Shandelle Henson May 20, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Hi I want to start a community tank of neon tetras, albino corys and cherry shrimp. What’s a food size tank for all of them? How many of each should I get and any other pointers please. This will be my first community tank so I need all the tips and tricks. Lol. Thanks.

    • Reply Mari May 21, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      30 gallons would be the minimum due to the albino cories. If that’s too big for you, you can also opt for panda cories, they stay smaller and about 20 gallons would be fine for them. These are both group fish, and if you don’t get any other fish you could do something like 10 cories and 15 neons. The amount of cherry shrimp doesn’t matter too much as they breed like crazy, but you could also start with 10 for those. Sounds like a lovely stock and great to hear you’re doing your research! If you have any more questions be sure to ask 🙂

  • Reply mandy May 16, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Hello I have just recently got rid of all my chicklet fish and re done my tank. It is a 190 litre tank. I have kept my albino brisselnose male and 2 peppermint ones. I have loads of live plants and rocks plus drift wood in… with all the plants I had an abundant supply of snails, so was advised to get clown loach fish. I have bought 4 and all seam very happy. But I have a huge tank with mostly no fish. Please could you advise me on good tank mates. Please no discus as I have them already in another tank. Looking for colourful and peaceful fish.

    • Reply Mari May 21, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      Hi! Apologies for the late reply.

      You were unfortunately misadvised. As mentioned in this article, they grow VERY large and are not suitable just for snail cleanup. They might seem happy now but you should really rehome them unfortunately!

      Your tank is also already quite heavily stocked with just the plecos, they produce loads of waste. I would rehome the clown loaches and then maybe just go for a nice, peaceful schooling fish like some type of Tetra or Rasbora species and then maybe a top dweller like gourami species.

      Good luck! 🙂

  • Reply Andrew March 30, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    After many years of not having a tank, i finally purchased a 50 gallon tank for my new home. I want to go the freshwater route for this tank and wanted to know what are some fish i should go with? I prefer easy to maintain fish as I do a great deal of traveling for work and my wife and kids will have to take care of the fish while im away and i’d also like them to be long lasting as i dont want the kids to get attached and have them die.

    Could you suggest some fish i should get and what number of them you recommend for a 50 gallon tank?

    Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time!

    • Reply Mari April 3, 2016 at 12:01 pm


      Great to hear you’re setting up a new tank. The fish on this list are great choices if you combine them effectively. I would stock the tank very lightly so not too much maintenance has to be done. Weekly or at least biweekly water changes will still always be necessary, though! Going for schooling fish will prevent the kids from being disappointed if any fish die, they probably won’t notice any are gone.
      A great stock would be something like:
      10x Corydoras panda OR 15x Corydoras pygmaeus/hastatus/habrosus
      15-20x pretty much any type of small tetra or rasbora (neon tetra, black neon tetra, harlequin rasbora, mosquito rasbora – this list may help you choose)
      2x dwarf gourami, honey gourami (or another peaceful top dwelling fish – gourami do often carry a disease that causes them to die relatively soon after purchase)
      Optional: Amano shrimp, nerite snails

      For a stock like this, I would use plenty of live plants, including tall ones, all of these fish will appreciate them. Be sure to leave some open space in the middle. Gourami will also really appreciate floating plants. I’d also go for a pretty big canister filter so water quality is stable while you are away.

      I hope that helps! This is just a suggestion, but it’s what I would most likely go for. 🙂

  • Reply Ron grisoli March 13, 2016 at 4:01 am

    I have a 90 gal tank with a few plants, and I’m trying to slowly add more plants and fish. I have a shoal of 15 neons, 6 male guppies, 4 otocinclus, 4 Sterbai Corys, and 1 bristle nose Pleco. I plan to add 15-20 rummy nose tetras (they are my favorite and will hopefully be the main attraction) . I think I’ll still have room for other fish- perhaps a top dweller to swim with the guppies. Would a rainbow fish bother anything listed here? Or swords, mollies or platties? Any other suggestions would be welcomed. Thanks

    • Reply Mari March 13, 2016 at 12:41 pm


      Before getting any other fish, I would definitely expand your groups of Otocinclus and Corydoras, they’ll love a few extra friends. I do think things will look pretty crowded if you add another schooling species like the rummynoses to your middle water layer, but it’s definitely possible.
      I would personally go for either a top dweller or the rummynoses to prevent overcrowding. Marbled hatchetfish are a strictly top-dwelling species that requires a very peaceful setup such as yours, definitely what I would go for in your case 🙂

      Good luck, sounds like a wonderful tank!

  • Reply Brad January 23, 2016 at 7:30 am

    I just cleaned out my 30 gallon tank and swapped what fish I had into my 10 gallon tank and am ready to get new fish for a new freshwater community fish tank. My water temp stays around 70-72 and I am going to put a Pleco in there and wanted some Angel fish, will they do ok in that temp? What other fish could I put with them, wanna make it a community freshwater tank with different kinds of fish.

    • Reply Mari January 23, 2016 at 11:31 am

      Hi! Unfortunately, angelfish get much too big for a 30 gallon setup, the minimum to keep them is actually around 80 gallons for a group of 6 despite what many sites will tell you. What kind of fish did you downgrade to the 10 gallon? That’s a very small tank and unsuitable for most species. You can also only really keep a single species in there to prevent overstocking.
      If you could tell me a bit more about which fish you have at this time I may be able to help you figure out a new stocking plan 🙂

      • Reply Brad January 23, 2016 at 7:30 pm

        I had 6 Tiger Barbs and a Pleco in my 10 gal fish tank before the heater went out on me and I lost all Tiger Barbs. The Heater also went out on me in my 30 gal tank at the same time go figure, and I lost all fish in that tank…I cleaned both tanks out, replaces the heaters, filled them back up, and was able to save a Pleco, 1 Albino Corry Catfish, and 1 Spotted Corry Catfish which are in my 10 gal tank. I want to get a new Pleco and maybe a few more Algae fish for my 30 gal tank along with some other kinds of fish for this freshwater community tank but want bottom, middle, and top feeders…what do you suggest?

        • Reply Mari January 23, 2016 at 9:31 pm

          Sorry about your heater malfunction! That’s super unfortunate.

          Plecos need a minimum of 20-30 gallons due to their waste output, so your pleco should definitely be moved into the 30. I assume by albino Corydoras you mean an albino Corydoras aeneus, which is also a species that needs a 30 gallon minimum (there’s a caresheet on them on Aquariadise here. I’m not sure what type you mean with spotted Cory – is it Corydoras ambiacus or Corydoras paleatus? Either way, they unfortunately aren’t suitable for a 10 gal either.

          This means you should move the fish that are in your 10 gal back to the 30 (sorry!). Try expanding one of your Corydoras schools to at least 8, the remaining one of the other species should hopefully stick with them. You can then maybe go for a schooling fish for the top or middle zone that requires similar water conditions, like marbled hatchetfish, tetra species, that sort of thing. A pair of peaceful dwarf cichlids or dwarf gourami is also an option. Due to the pleco’s high waste output, that unfortunately pretty much maxes out your stocking level.

          In a 10 gal, you can only really keep one small fish species (and some inverts of course!). A betta, dwarf puffer, pair of sparkling gourami or the fish on this list will work. Cherry shrimp, nerite snails and dwarf crayfish are also good options. Most of these fish have caresheets on Aquariadise!

          I know many US based websites will tell you a higher stocking level is possible, but I really wouldn’t recommend it. Hope everything turns out well, good luck! 🙂

  • Reply darcy October 17, 2015 at 4:13 am

    Hi i have just recently aquired an 80 gallon tank and have about 16 zebra danios. I am looking for suggestions as to a very attractive setup of community fish. I was hoping to get some neon tetras and threadfin rainbows but really have no idea haha. Any suggestions as i was hoping for a couple bigger show fish but many suggest not to with the smaller fish i do have?? Should i look into rehoming my zebras if im looking into bigger fish?

    • Reply Mari October 17, 2015 at 11:29 am

      Hello! Congrats on your 80 gal, that’s a wonderful size tank. As for your zebra danios, they are not fully tropical. They also mayharrass fish with larger fins, and more than two schools in the middle water layers are likely going to look messy. Those are all things to keep in mind!
      I’m not 100% sure what you mean with bigger fish, but peaceful larger species that do well at 73-74 °F would be fine. Rainbowfish, tetras, catfish, loaches etc. can all work! If I were you, I’d really take my time to browse around aquarium stores and fish databases and look up info and other aquarist’s experiences with the combinations you’re considering.
      I can list a bunch of species here but my preferences stock-wise are likely completely different from yours, so it’s best to figure things out yourself. I love unusual fish, invertebrates and single-species setups, and in an 80 gal, I would probably be thinking of puffers instead of a community!

      If you have any more questions, especially about specific species, feel free to ask. Also be sure to let me know what stock you settle on eventually! 😀

    • Reply Pam December 6, 2015 at 6:25 pm

      I have an active, planted 55 gallon community tank that is colorful and easy to keep. The most active are the fantail guppies. However, I have given so many away that no one wants any more so males only it is. Also Bandit (or Panda) cats, oto cats, neon tetra’s, black neon tetra’s, true siamese algae eaters, and Ramshorn snails. The fish are all schoolers doing best with 3 or more of each species and some need hiding places. The lights are on a lot for the plants so the snails, oto cats and SAE help with algae. There is activity at all levels of the tank.

      • Reply Mari December 7, 2015 at 12:26 pm

        Thanks for sharing! That sounds wonderful, although I think the Siamese algea eaters do require a slightly larger setup (80+ gallons). 🙂

  • Reply Lloyd October 16, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    I’d like to keep a thew snails in my setup .
    But I’ve got loaches
    2 clown
    2 polka dot
    1 ladder
    1 zebra & 1 yo yo
    Will they get eaten.

    • Reply Mari October 17, 2015 at 10:59 am

      There is a chance of them being eaten or at least harrassed, yes, especially once the (clown) loaches start growing larger. I wouldn’t risk it! Also, it’s better to stay at one or two loach species – each species needs a group of at least around five. I would consider rethinking your current stock a bit before adding anything else!

  • Reply Josh October 11, 2015 at 9:49 am

    I am looking for a center piece fish for my 115 litre aquarium (25 imperial gallons) but i have a problem because i have a betta he will ni colorful long finned fish like dwarf gourami or angel fish i have a bn peleco, 10 galaxy rasboras and 4 peppered cories any ideas for a center piece fish i’m looking fo something that will stand out and is about 5 inches Ideas?

    • Reply Mari October 11, 2015 at 10:21 am

      Hi! I’m afraid there isn’t much room in your setup for another centerpiece fish. It’s pretty much fully stocked now with a betta, bristlenose pleco and two schools! The only thing I would recommend is getting a few more cories, they will really appreciate a few extra friends. Good luck! 🙂

  • Reply Mindi Angeli December 21, 2014 at 12:50 am

    My husband and I have a 27 gallon cube tank that is full of glo fish and glo danios and I have been noticing a lot of fin nipping going on any ideas on why?

    • Reply Mari December 21, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      I’m not sure how many fish you have in your tank, but if it’s overstocked that can definitely contribute, so you may have to review your stock. Also, normal Glo fish are tetras, which don’t always do well with danios. The danios are more aggressive and could be responsible for the nipping. I’d recommend reviewing your stock, making sure there are plenty of plants/decorations in the tank and possibly rehoming one of the species if nothing helps. Good luck! 🙂

  • Reply Faith Eileen Bryan December 15, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    I had never thought about adding snails to my aquarium, as I was thinking in terms of fish only! But you make a good point about some of them actually being beneficial to the environment, particularly in their capacities as algae eaters! Thanks for the eye-opener!

    • Reply Mari December 19, 2014 at 11:55 am

      Snails are definitely beneficial to their environment! They can help clean up leftover foods and some do eat algae. I keep them in all my aquariums!

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