Aquarium Fish That Like Strong Current – Our Helpful Guide

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Alison Page


aquarium fish that like strong current

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Finding fish for community tanks with a strong current can be tricky since not all species appreciate a fast flow. If the current is too fast for your fish, they will suffer from stress, leading to disease and a failure to thrive.

But what aquarium fish species appreciate an environment with a fast flow?

Read this guide to discover 12 beautiful aquarium fish that can do well in a tank with a strong current.

Strong Current – Naturally!

All fish do best when kept in an environment that closely replicates the conditions in their natural habitat. The fish you buy in your local fish store all have a preference for a fast or low flow, even if they’re captive-bred rather than wild-caught.

If you keep the fish in a tank with unsuitable water chemistry, the wrong temperature, or a flow that’s too fast or slow, the fish won’t thrive.

So, it’s essential to do plenty of research before you bring the fish home and ensure that your tank conditions resemble the fish’s natural habitat as closely as possible.

Ideally, you should choose peaceful fish species that enjoy the same basic water conditions and dietary requirements to build your community.

Fish that appreciate a strong flow typically come from environments such as free-flowing streams or rivers. However, species that don’t like a strong current tend to be found in habitats such as stagnant ponds, lakes, ditches, etc.

Is the Current Too Strong for My Fish?

Some fish hate a strong current in the tank, and that’s usually pretty easy to spot. Watch out for the following behaviors that could tell you that the current in your tank is too fast for your fish:

  • Difficulty swimming or struggling to make any progress against the flow
  • Avoiding areas in the tank where the current is strong
  • Hiding in caves, behind decorations, or among dense planting
  • Damaged or torn fins
  • Staying in one place in the tank to avoid the current
  • Poor appetite
  • Inability to grab food from the water column since the flow carries the food away too quickly

Stress is one of the biggest killers of aquarium fish, and keeping a high-flow species in a tank with a weak current or keeping low-flow species in a tank with a strong current will definitely stress the fish.

12 Aquarium Fish That Like a Strong Current

So, what fish love to live in an aquarium with a strong current?

Here are 12 of the most popular species that you should consider for a tank with a strong flow.

Hillstream Loach (Balitoridae)

Tiger Hillstream Loach
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Size: 2 to 3 inches
  • Water temperature: 68° to 75° F
  • Lifespan: 8 to 10 years
  • Care level: Beginner

Hillstream loaches are popular fast-flow fish that come from the tropical regions of Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, where the fish live in river rapids and shallow riffles.

These quirky little fish are evolved to cope with fast-moving water, having a unique shape that creates hardly any hydrodynamic drag, and they need a strong-current fish tank to be happy and thrive.

In the wild, the fish spend most of their time using their sucker-like mouths to cling to rocks or foraging in the substrate for food.

In captivity, loaches are bottom-dwellers, sending much of their time scavenging on the substrate, helping to keep your tank clean.

Zebra Danio (Danio rerio)

Zebrafish (Danio rerio) in planted aquarium
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Water temperature: 65° to 75° F
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Care level: Beginner

Zebra danios are beautiful little freshwater fish that come from the fast-moving streams and rivers of South Asia. That makes these danios suitable for life in a strong-current tank with fish of a similar size and peaceful temperament.

These cute little fish are beginner-friendly and make a popular addition to many community tanks.

Although these fish love a fast current, their small size can make them vulnerable to attack by larger, predatory fish, so you must choose their tank mates carefully if you want to keep Zebra danios.

Stiphodon Goby (Stiphodon)

Stiphodon Goby (Stiphodon)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Size: 1.2 to 1.4 inches
  • Water temperature: 71° to 82° F
  • Lifespan: 12 to 18 months
  • Care level: Intermediate

The Stiphodon goby comes from locations across Asia and Oceania, where the fish lives in strong-current streams near the coast.

There are currently 36 recognized species of these gobies, many of which are restricted to individual islands or even single streams.

These fish have a fascinating start to their lives. The goby’s eggs hatch into larvae that drift out to sea, drawing nutrition from their yolk sacs. The larvae spend a few months developing in the sea before swimming back inland, slowly morphing into tiny adult fish.

Once the juvenile gobies are back in freshwater, they swim upstream to the fast-flowing streams where they live as adults.

Flying Fox Fish (Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus)

Flying Fox Fish: How To Care For These Freshwater Species
  • Temperament: Aggressive toward their own species
  • Size: 4 to 5 inches
  • Water temperature: 73° to 81° F
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Care level: Intermediate

The Flying Fox fish is native to Sumatra, Java, parts of Malaysia, Thailand, and the Greater Sunda Islands of Borneo.

In the wild, the fish inhabit fast-flowing streams and high-current rivers, migrating into floodplains and heavily forested areas when the wet season arrives.

These active tank fish can make good community members in a large aquarium with plenty of space. But Flying Fox fish are highly territorial and can be aggressive toward their own species.

In addition, we recommend that you don’t keep other bottom-dwellers within a community with Flying Foxes, as the feisty foxes can be bullies.

Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus cirrhosis)

Bristlenose Pleco
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Size: 4 to 5 inches
  • Water temperature: 73° to 80° F
  • Lifespan: 10 to 15 years
  • Care level: Easy

There are around 150 species of plecos, many of which enjoy a habitat with a strong flow of current. The Bristlenose pleco can make an excellent addition to a peaceful community tank, provided the flow is fairly fast.

Bristlenose plecos are strange-looking, non-aggressive fishes that come from rapidly flowing tributaries in the Amazon Basin.

These chilled-out bottom-dwelling fish can be an excellent choice for beginners, provided you ensure that the plecos get plenty of veggies, algae, and suitable wafer foods to eat.

Gold Barbs (Barbodes semifasciolatus)

Gold Barbs (Barbodes semifasciolatus)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Size: 3 inches
  • Water temperature: 64° to 75° F
  • Lifespan: 4 to 6 years
  • Care level: Easy

Gold barbs come from fast-flowing streams and rivers in Laos, the Red River Basin in China, Thailand, and Vietnam, and are also known as the Chinese barb.

These beginner-friendly fish are popular with hobbyists because of their gorgeous bright colors. However, the natural wild form of the Gold barb is actually a rather drab green hue, and it’s thought the golden variety was created in captivity.

Gold barbs are shoaling fish that must be kept in groups of at least six individuals, but they can make a peaceful, hardy addition to a community setup.

Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)

Harlequin Rasbora
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Water temperature: 72° to 81° F
  • Lifespan: 5 to 8 years
  • Care level: Intermediate

Harlequin rasboras are perennially popular aquarium fish that love to live in a tank with a strong current.

The fish come from Southeast Asia, specifically Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore, where they live in small freshwater streams and rivers with a moderate to strong current.

These small fish make an excellent addition to any peaceful community tank and can do well, provided you keep them in a shoal of at least six individuals.

Denison Barb (Sahyadria denisonii)

The Need To Know's of Denison Barbs
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Size: 3.5 to 4.3 inches
  • Water temperature: 65° to 79° F
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Care level: Easy

Denison barbs are popular aquarium fish that do best when kept in a tank with a reasonably strong flow that replicates their natural habitat in India.

In the wild environment, the fish live in streams, pools, and well-oxygenated waters, where they swim against the flow.

In captivity, the Denison barb makes a generally peaceful community member that is easy to maintain if you keep them in a large shoal.

White Cloud Mountain Minnows (Tanichthys albonubes)

Tanichthys albonubes
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Water temperature: 64° to 72° F
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Care level: Easy

The White Cloud Mountain minnow is a beautiful, small shoaling fish that comes from fast-flowing, cool water streams in Vietnam and China.

Unfortunately, many of the wild populations of these popular aquarium fish are now thought to be extinct due to pressure from tourism and pollution. For that reason, all the White Cloud Mountain minnows that you find in the hobby are captive-bred.

In captivity, White Cloud Mountain minnows are an excellent choice for a beginner’s strong-current freshwater tank. These fish should be kept in large groups so that they feel safe and secure, as well as create a striking display.

If the minnows are frightened, they will try to hide away for safety, so you should avoid keeping large predatory fish in the same community as these tiny minnows.

When kept in ideal conditions, the fish spawn readily, making breeding them a fun project for kids and adults alike.

Rainbowfish (Melanotaeniidae)

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Size: 5 to 8 inches
  • Water temperature: 74° to 78° F
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Care level: Easy

There are thought to be around 100 different varieties of Rainbowfish! These gorgeous fish are becoming extremely sought after in the hobby, thanks to their beautiful colors and ease of care.

Rainbowfish are native to Papua New Guinea, Australia, and some parts of Indonesia, where the fish inhabit swamps, lakes, rivers, and streams. Here, the current is generally pretty strong, making these fish perfect for a tank with a fast flow.

These omnivorous fish are peaceful shoalers that need to be kept in groups of at least six individuals to be happy and to create an eye-catching display.

When spawning, male Rainbowfish exhibit their brightest colors to grab the attention of females.

Panda Garra (Garra flavatra)

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Size: 2.8 to 3.5 inches
  • Water temperature: 70° to 80° F
  • Lifespan: 5 to 6 years
  • Care level: Intermediate

The Panda Garra is an active, inquisitive, playful fish that makes a great addition to a tank with a strong current. You can even interact with these intelligent, characterful little fish.

These fish belong to the Cyprinidae family. Panda Garra is native to the subtropical and tropical mountain areas of Western Myanmar, where they live in fast-flowing, well-oxygenated water.

In fact, in your aquarium, you’ll most likely see your Panda Garra swimming against the flow generated by a powerhead or filter outlet.

These fish are omnivorous and love to graze on algae, helping to keep your tank clean and tidy.

Corydoras Catfish (Corydoras paleatus)

corydoras catfish
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Size: 1 to 4 inches
  • Water temperature: 61° to 75° F
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Care level: Easy

There are thought to be over 160 species of Corydoras, and they are one of the most popular fish in the hobby!

These cute little fish are ideal community tank fish for beginners, being peaceful bottom-dwellers that keep themselves to themselves, occasionally darting to the surface to take a gulp of air.

Corys must be kept in groups of at least five individuals of the same species to be happy, but they mix well with other livestock, including shrimp and snails, and get along fine with other Corydora varieties.

Corydoras can tolerate a wide range of water temperatures and are equally happy with life in a high-current tank or one with a normal flow rate.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed our guide to 12 species of aquarium fish that enjoy living in a habitat with a strong current. If you found inspiration from our article, please take a moment to share it!

As you’ve learned, there are quite a few fish that need to live in an environment with a strong water flow.

Some species, such as the Panda Garra, need a rapid flow and well-oxygenated water to thrive, whereas others can simply tolerate a moderate to strong current.

So, if you want to build a community tank with a filter that generates a strong current, any of these fish could be an ideal choice for you!

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