Community Fish for the Aquarium
Many keepers that set up their tanks wish to keep more than one species of fish and as such they create a community tank that is suitable for their needs, the word community actually means a population of interacting species that live together in one place and as such socialise within the tank. A lot of planning is required to create a successful community tank, you can’t just add species that appeal to you without checking out if they are peaceful and willing to share the tank space with other fish without becoming aggressive to them.
As a keeper it is your responsibility to create an environment that is healthy and stress free for your fish as well as being pleasing to the eye with the décor or plant life that the aquarium contains. Research the fish species that you wish to keep thoroughly so that you know you will not encounter problems when the tank is up and running, also check out the correct order for adding the fish, some species may become territorial if added to the tank first or may not be as hardy as other fish species so will require the tank to be running for longer before they are added into the community.
Selecting the correct aquarium can also play a major part in the success of your community tank, use one that is large enough to house the number of species you wish to keep, overstocking a smaller tank will lead to a lot of problems, smaller tanks will also restrict the number of different fish species that you can keep. Make sure that the filtration in your tank will handle the waste that fish will produce over time and always use a cover on the tank. This serves two purposes, firstly it will reduce the amount of evaporation from the water, secondly some species of fish are known to be jumpers. These species of fish will occasionally try to leap out of the water when you least expect it usually resulting in mortality.
When you research the different species of fish you may notice that some prefer different water parameters to others, the way around this is to set up your community tank with a happy medium, if some fish prefer the temperature at 25°C whilst others prefer the temperature at 27°C, set your tank temperature to 26°Cand this will keep both species happy.
I have found in my experience that using neutral water levels (pH 7.0) will also benefit most species of community fish, this level will give you a wider range of choice in the long run.
Another important point to remember is that different species prefer to inhabit different levels of the tank, we normally split the tank into three levels, top, bottom and middle. Try to select species to cover all of these levels, it will make your tank more interesting and seem more active.
When stocking your tank use a basic rule so that you know you have not added too many fish, 1” of fish per gallon of water is a good guideline but you must take into account the adult size of the fish as they will be small when you first purchase them. Take your time adding your stock, just add a few each week or so so that the filters can keep up with the extra waste each time.
Below there is a guide to species of fish that are ideal for a community tank, this is a brief guide as it is nearly impossible to include all species of fish that are suitable so the most popular ones are listed for you to look at.
This group of fish have always been popular and most species of these are generally quite easy to care for but as with all fish the water quality needs to be kept high and regular tank maintenance must be performed. They usually occupy the middle levels of the tank and will accept all foods offered to them. They prefer to be kept in small groups of at least 6 specimens and they rarely grow to a large size, the average size for the Tetra species is 2”. They are peaceful species that will not bother other tank inhabitants and they are very undemanding.
- Black Widow tetra (Black Skirt Tetra)
- Neon tetra
- Cardinal Tetra
- Rummy-Nose Tetra
- Glow-light Tetra
- Bleeding Heart Tetra
- Penguin tetra
- Flame tetra
Barbs are also undemanding like the Tetras and also prefer to be kept in small groups. Some species of these have a reputation for being fin-nippers especially when they are being kept with slow moving species but if kept in a large enough group this problem is usually dissipated.
Danios and Minnows prefer sightly cooler temperatures but are happy with a tank set at 26°C. They need to be kept in small groups and are not fussy about their food so any commercial food added to the tank will satisfy them.
This group of fish are bottom dwellers and will require certain foods adding to the tank especially for them. They are usually more active at night so try to feed them just after the tank lights go out. Corydoras need to be kept in small groups but some species of catfish are best kept as solitary specimens. Research through the fish profiles to make sure that you are adding the right species for your tank.
Some species of Plecs and Catfish also require wood in their diet, placing bog wood in the tank will supply them with this.
There are many species of Live bearers to choose from, they do require a vegetable based diet and may nibble at some of the live plants in the tank. These do not need to be kept in groups but it is always best to try to keep one male with at least two females. They will occupy all levels of the tank exploring and looking for food all day long.
These fish require air to breathe so ensure that they can reach the surface of the water and leave a gap between the water surface and the lid of the tank. With Gouramies it is best to only keep one male in the tank but several females can be kept together. These fish will normally occupy the top levels of the tank.
The list of fish above is only intended to give you an idea of species that are suitable, there are many more to research and look at in the aquatic stores. Choose carefully and never impulse buy just because a fish looks nice, that fish could upset the whole balance of your tank.