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!
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!