Preferred Tank Levels for Community Fish Species

Where Aquarium Fish Prefer to Swim

Community Aquarium - 80 Gallon
Community Aquarium. Travis Lee

When setting up a community aquarium--one intended to keep several different species--many considerations play a part in the selection. It's important to make sure you select good neighbors. For example, it can be problematic to introduce species with widely divergent adult sizes or species that prefer widely different temperature or water chemistry. And predatory species should normally be avoided in a community aquarium, especially if some of the species are small ones.

Sometimes overlooked among the considerations is at what water level the fish prefer to swim and school. Along with all the other considerations, you want species that prefer different water levels rather than ones that will all congregate at, for example, the top of the tank.

Here is a list, split by preferred level, of more than one hundred popular aquarium fish. Keep in mind that water conditions (pH, temp, hardness), size, and compatibility must also be considered when choosing fish for your community tank.


Prefer Any Level

Prefer Top Level

  • Common Hatchetfish
  • Halfbeak

Prefer Top and Mid Level

  • African Glass Catfish
  • Axelrod's Rainbowfish
  • Banded Rainbow
  • Black Neon Tetra--should be kept in schools
  • Bloodfin Tetra
  • Blue Gourami--Keep with fish of similar size
  • Boesmans Rainbow
  • Celebes Rainbowfish
  • Congo Tetra
  • Dwarf Gourami--Do not keep with large or aggressive fish
  • Guppy
  • Harlequin Rasoboras
  • Honey Gourami
  • Kissing Gourami - Keep with medium to large sized fish
  • Lake Kutubu Rainbowfish
  • Lake Wanam Rainbowfish
  • Lemon Tetra

Prefer Mid-Level

Prefer Mid- and Bottom Level

  • Agassiz' Dwarf Cichlid
  • Algae Eater
  • Bolivian Ram
  • Butterfly Ram
  • Cardinal Tetra
  • Cherry Barb
  • Chocolate Gourami--Do not keep with other Gouramis
  • Clown Loach
  • Discus
  • Dwarf Loach
  • Farlowella
  • Festivum
  • Flying Fox
  • Gold Barb
  • Green Barb
  • Headstander
  • Neon Tetra
  • Otocinclus--Best suited for live planted tank
  • Paradise Fish
  • Red Tailed Shark
  • Snakeskin Gourami
  • Spanner Barb
  • Tinfoil Barb

Prefer Bottom Level