One of the factors
often overlooked when choosing fish for a community aquarium is the level the
fish prefer. Choosing fish that prefer swimming at different levels will result
in a far more attractive aquarium, while at the same time assuring that your fish
will not have to compete for space. It will also reduce the stress that occurs
when fish have to battle for territories.
Popular fish that swim at any level include:
Upside Down Catfish
Top Level Fish
Top dwelling fish add movement and color at the top level
of the aquarium, which often has very little decoration. Many fish that prefer
the top level are surface feeders in nature and have upturned mouths
designed for top feeding. They hang at the surface waiting for the next meal to
Keep in mind that some of these top-level species are strong jumpers. Hatchet
fish are known for being able to leap several feet out of the water. Even fish
that don't normally jump may jump when startled by loud noises or sudden
movements. Take care to keep the tank well-covered, and close the lid
promptly after feeding or performing maintenance.
Popular top-dwelling fish include:
Common Hatchet fish
Popular top to mid-dwelling fish include:
The middle level is the focal point of the
aquarium and should be populated with plenty of active fish. Schooling
fish, including most of the Tetra species, as well as some of the Barbs, are
excellent for the middle level of a community tank. Mid-dwelling fish are often
selected as dither fish for cichlid tanks, particularly schools of active fish.
Larger fish such as Gouramis, Rainbows, or Angels also
make interesting mid-level fish. However, it is important to remember that
slower moving fish with long flowing fins may be picked upon by smaller,
faster-moving fish. Barbs are particularly well known for nipping fins. Avoid
combining them with Angelfish or Bettas. Also, remember that many Gouramis aren't
tolerant of their own kind, so do your homework before adding them to the mix.
Popular mid-dwelling fish include:
Black Widow Tetra
Head and Tail Light Tetra
Rummy Nose Tetra
Bottom-dwelling fish lend interest to the lower levels of
the tank and often help turn over the substrate. You will note that most of
them have mouths that point downward, making it easy for them to scour the tank
bottom for morsels of food. However, do not fall into the commonly held myth
that bottom dwellers do not have to be fed. All too often bottom-dwelling fish
are under-fed. They cannot subsist only on leftovers from the other fish.
Remember that the top and mid-dwelling fish will get to
the food faster. Including sinking foods when feeding will ensure
that those living in the lower portion of the tank receive enough food. Some
bottom-dwellers are nocturnal and should be fed after turning the lights
off for the night.
Popular mid and bottom-dwelling fish include:
Popular bottom-dwelling fish include:
Always research the fish you are interested in for your
community aquarium. Although swimming levels are a factor; water parameters
such as pH, temperature, and water hardness, are quite important when
combining fish in a community aquarium.
For a quick reference, here is a level chart that
lists 100 community fish separated by the level they prefer. Don't forget that
your fish must also be compatible with preferred water conditions, size, and
By Shirlie Sharpe