Building a Fish Community

A small community of fish that are low maintenance is the way to start.

Most new fish owners start with a community tank, where multiple fish species are kept. What should you consider as you plan this new community? Read on for some tips.

  • Start with robust and inexpensive species. Swordtails, mollies, platies, zebra danios, and coryadoras catfish are hardy, easy to care for and relatively inexpensive. These fish also have the benefit of being available in different colors.
  • Move on to slightly more expensive fish. As your knowledge and experience grows, try tin foil barbs, brilliant Rasbora, silver dollars, red hook metynnis, and Australian rainbow fish. Although these species tend to be slightly more expensive, they add color and beauty to a tank. Once you feel confident that you know how to care for them, the added expense will be well worth it.
  • Don’t overpopulate your tank. As you build your fish community, be mindful of not adding too many fish. Overpopulating a tank is tough on the fish, especially for neons, cardinal tetras, bleeding hearts, rummynose tetras, lemon tetras, Von Rio tetras, and black phantom tetras — who can be a little harder on their environment.  A general rule of thumb is 1" of fish for every 1.5 - 2 gallons of water.
  • Water compatibility. Be sure that the fish you choose can handle the same general water conditions. For example livebearers, like swordtails, do well in slightly hard water (pH in the 7.0 to 8.0 range) while the tetra group are more suited to softer water (a pH between 6.5 and 7.0).

Most fish are pretty flexible. As long as you make the transition gradual, they can live out of their initial comfort zone surprisingly well. Take note of their preferred conditions and gradually bridge levels to reach some middle ground.