Are Tetras Schooling Fish? – Easy Schooling Fish

Are Tetra a Schooling Fish?

If you are a fish enthusiast, you should be aware of Tetra fish. However, if you are unknown to some of the features of the tetras, this article can help you get started. This article will help you answer the frequently asked question, “Are tetras schooling fish?” This is very important as it establishes a base for what your tetra aquarium should look like.

The tetra fish are the most popular home aquarium species preferred by many experts as well as beginners. The nature and characteristics of the tetra fish make them unique and adored by many. 

The first thing that you should know about the tetra fish is that they are indeed a schooling fish. Most people are aware of this fact. Yet, people do not understand the term “schooling.” Many people who are actively interested in keeping tetras also do not understand the true meaning of schooling fish.

Another term you can use for “schooling” is “shoaling.” Follow the article to gain complete information.

What Do You Mean By Schooling Fish?

This is the most common question asked by people who are willing to house aquarium fish. Many people misunderstand what exactly is schooling fish. Some might say that schooling fish means the fish that needs a group to survive. Many might understand schooling fish require several tank mates.

Hence, there lingers the question. Which interpretation of schooling fish is actually correct? 

In general, schooling fish refers to the term that represents fish that needs to live in a group of the same species. In a few cases, schooling can means having different tank mates or a pair of the same species. However, this is not the case of tetras. 

For tetra fish, you will need at least 5 to 6 of a group of same tetra species within a school.

Why Do Fish Form Schools?

Schooling is a form of defense mechanism, especially in the smaller, more vulnerable species. It will be safer for some species to swim with a group or school if they are smaller. A predator will get a good chance of eating a fish if it is single and defenseless. Being in a school will prevent other larger animals from attacking them.

Being in a school also helps the fish facing a potential rival species. Having a large group can be more intimidating to other species than being a single fish.

Few researchers and scientists have concluded from their research that swimming in large schools can help reduce energy expenditure. It will help the fish find foods quicker and easier as well, with more fish on the lookout. 

For fish that live in a school, it is more than just being in a large group. The fish within a school have a close bond with one another and acts as one single body. The leader of the particular school helps lead the movement of the whole school. The fish take cues from the other fish around them and responds to the stimuli around them. 

Therefore, fish such as tetras must be in a school to defend themselves from predators in the wild. In the aquarium, the tetras must be in school because these fish are so used to being a part of a large group. Besides, if you keep them in isolation, the tetras can stress out and stop functioning correctly. In some cases, it might also decrease the tetra life span. Therefore, this makes the tetras a perfect schooling fish.

Should Tetras Be In The Same School?

As I have mentioned earlier, people get confused thinking about species that can school in their tank. Does it have to be the same species? Alternatively, Can it be similar but different species?

In this article, we are talking about tetra fish. Hence, for tetra fish, it is highly recommended that you keep the same tetra species in the school. This is because tetras are likely to school only with the members of their own species.

In the case of tetras, they tend to be within their own community due to their mutual survival conditions. The tetras of the same group have the same instincts as well as characteristics, which will help them feel safe in case of any danger.

Thus, it is really a plus point for your tetras if you keep them with their own kind. Doing this will help your tetras feel secure and thrive in your tank. You will also not face any trouble adjusting the tank mates for tetras if you put the same species together. Hence, you will not have to worry if the tetras are getting along or not.

What Will Happen If You Keep Different Species In Your Tank?

During my time working in the fish store, a lot of people have come and asked me if they could mix up their tank. They want to know if it will be okay if you keep tetras with let’s say Cory Cats, Danios, etc.

Tetras are the schooling fish that need to be in the group of at least 6 of the same kind. However, you may still be able to mix different species of tetras in the same tank.

Nevertheless, the chances of different species schooling with tetra fish are scarce. The tetras may be peaceful with having other species as tank mates. Still, it will be difficult for them to school with different species.

The only way that this could happen will be if the tetras find the species that closely resemble them. Very similar-looking tetra having similar coloration, size, behavior, etc. may be able to swim together as a school in the tank. 

We can take the example of the cardinal tetras and the neon tetras. Both of these tetras are similar tetras with only a few characteristics that tell them apart. In many aquariums, it is common that you find these two tetras swimming as a part of the same school.

Is It Possible To Mix Different Tetra Species In A School?

One of the ways that you can mix different species together is when the species look incredibly similar to each other. There is one another way that you definitely trick different tetra fish to school together.

You can achieve this by the process called “selective breeding.” The method of selective breeding helps different varieties to come together in the same school. 

There are instances in which neon tetras have been selectively bred with diamond neon tetras and golden neon tetras. When this happens, all the tetras are considered neon tetras, and they usually school together even though these tetras have different colorations and markings. 

Still, the tetra fish can’t swim with entirely different kinds of species. 

Do You Think A Pair Of Tetra Can Be A School?

When it comes to tetras, it is usually preferred that these fish should be in a big school. If not very big schools, you must keep tetras in at least a group of 6. The number of tetras you can school also depends on the size of your tank.

Some species, such as Danios, Cherry Barbs, etc. are able to live in a smaller tank. Subsequently, these species will be able to survive even if they are only in a pair. It might not be the same case for tetras.

Tetras will need to be in a large group. This means that you will need a bigger tank if you want to keep tetra fish. If the tank is more prominent, you can also increase the number of tetras you can keep in a school. 

It is impossible to keep the tetras in just a pair. You can also say that it is a cruel act to isolate the tetras. Therefore, you cannot consider only a couple of tetra as a school.

Due to the fact that the tetra’s natural characteristic is to live in a large group, you will deny the tetras with their natural form if you keep them in isolation.

Reasons To Avoid Keeping Any Fish In A Pair

Additionally, the fish experts do not want you to take only two of their fish. There is a requirement that you keep more than a pair of certain species in an aquarium. 

You need to avoid keeping only two of the species is because one of the two will always be the dominant one. The other one has to compete with the powerful one for food, space, hiding territory, etc. 

To make matters worse, if you get two male species, then there might be constant bickering among them. On the other hand, if you get one male and the other female, the female might get harassed all the time by the male. The female’s immune system can turn poor, and the stress level might increase, causing them to get tired all the time.

Thus, you must never purchase fish in a pair. Even if you do not want a large school of tetra fish or any other fish, it is vital that you are buying at least three species.

How can you tell if one of the pair is not happy?

If you get a pair of tetras and you feel that something is wrong, there is a 100% chance that your tetras are not happy. 

Especially with aggressive tetras, you can never keep only two. You can notice the tetras swimming behavior that can inform you whether or not they are flourishing if you see your tetra in only one part of the aquarium, which is not the normal behavior. Hence, you can sense that the tetra is not happy.

It will always be better if you can keep a large group in the case of schooling fish. You will have better chances of spawning and free swimming in your tank. This ensures that your fish are happy.

Is There any Difference Between Schooling and Shoaling?

In most circumstances, the words “schooling” and “shoaling” have a similar meaning. There is only a slight difference between the two words.

Schooling usually refers to a group of fish that move in a well-coordinated manner in a specific direction. Schooling fish typically forms a very tight pack. The fish within a school will not be able to exist outside the school.

Whereas, shoaling refers to when a group of fish gathers for a particular purpose. This may or may not include only one particular species. Shoaling fish can survive even outside the shoal. When the shoals become more organized, it becomes a school.

Schooling fish moves in a much tighter group than the shoaling fish. This means that when there is a predator, schooling fish are able to move as one big fish coordinating with one another. However, in the shoaling group of fish, there might be loose space among the group. The coordination among the shoaling fish is not as precise as the schooling fish.

Closing Remarks

Moreover, tetras are the species that definitely fits in the category of a schooling fish. In addition to that, tetras are also excellent community fish. This means these fish are friendly, sociable, and do exceptionally well in an aquarium with various other similar, non-predatory species.

Even if the tetras do get along with most of the other species, it is essential that you keep them in the group of their own. Make sure you provide them with proper care and the species that match the nature and energy of the tetras.


I hope that this article has brought some insights and cleared your confusion regarding the schooling of tetra fish. I hope that now when you purchase the tetra fish, you will know the number of tetra fish you will need to get. Definitely, tetras are a schooling fish.

Make sure to check out our other articles regarding different tetra species, tetra diet, tank set-up, breeding, and many more. 

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