Are Tetras Schooling or Shoaling Fish?

If you are new to owning tetras, you might be confused about whether they are schooling or shoaling fish. Well, the answer is a bit confusing too. 

Are Tetras Schooling or Shoaling Fish? Mainly, Tetras are schooling fish and like to swim as a group, even though Tetras can fall into both categories. 

Are Tetras Schooling or Shoaling Fish

But before we understand why, let’s break down what those terms mean.

Table of Contents

What is fish Schooling?

When tetras sense danger, they sometimes form a tight group and swim together as a team. This helps them feel safer and can also scare off predators because it looks like one giant organism instead of a bunch of smaller fish.

Some fish are always schooling, like surgeonfish and rabbitfish. But for tetras, it is more of a last-resort kind of thing when they feel threatened.

What is fish Shoaling?

So, shoaling means fish, just like hanging out in big groups without fancy swimming formations. Tetras are big fans of shoaling because they are social creatures and enjoy being around other tetras. 

They will swim around in these groups but only start schooling when they feel like there’s a threat nearby.

How Many Tetras To Keep In a School?

So, how many tetras should you keep in your tank? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. It depends on what you are trying to achieve, how big your tank is, and how many tetras you want. But here’s one thing I can tell you: don’t just get one tetra.

As I mentioned, tetras are little social creatures who like to hang out with their kind. Keeping one alone can stress them out and make them more susceptible to getting sick. 

So, at minimum, you should have 3-4 tetras in your tank. Ideally, that would be one male and 2-3 females. That’s the perfect Tetra crew right there!

Things get a bit more complicated if you’re going for an all-male tank. You’re going to need at least six males to spread out the aggression instead of having just one fish taking all the heat. That’s another topic I have already talked about in one of my other articles.

How Many Tetras Should You Keep Together?


Why Don’t Tetras School in My Tank?

Tetras are among the most popular aquarium fish, known for their vibrant colors and ease of care. One of the most interesting behaviors of tetras is schooling, where they swim together in synchronized patterns.

However, not all tetras exhibit this behavior in captivity. In this article, I will explore why tetras don’t school in some tanks and what you can do to encourage this behavior.

Why Don’t Tetras School in My Tank

Tank size and water parameters

The size of your tank and the water parameters can affect whether tetras will school. Tetras are social fish and feel more secure in groups but also need enough space to swim around. If your tank is too small, the tetras may not feel comfortable enough for school. 

Poor water quality or improper temperature can also stress out your fish, making them less likely to school. 

Here are some ideal water parameters for tetras:

  • pH: 7.0 – 8.0
  • Temperature: 72 – 82 °F
  • Ammonia and nitrite levels should be at 0 ppm, while nitrate levels should be below 40 ppm.

Lack of hiding spots

Tetras need plenty of hiding spots and enrichment in their environment to feel secure and less stressed. They would hide among plants and other natural debris in the wild to avoid predators. 

If your tank lacks plants or decorations, your tetras may not feel comfortable enough for school. Additionally, tetras are active fish and need plenty of space to explore and play. 

Adding decorations and toys like bubbles, caves, and floating plants can help keep your tetras entertained and encourage them to school.

Recommended Enrichment for Tetras

  • Plants

Anubias, Java Fern

  • Decorations

Caves, Castles, Rocks

  • Toys

Bubbles, Floating Toys

Fish aggression and personality

Finally, it’s essential to consider that tetras have unique personalities and may exhibit different behaviors based on their temperament. 

Some tetras may be more aggressive and territorial than others, which can prevent them from schooling. Additionally, if you have multiple male tetras in your tank, they may compete for dominance and not school together. 

In this case, it may be best to separate the aggressive fish or provide more hiding spots to reduce competition.

Will Tetras School With Other Fish?

Yes, tetras are known to school with other fish in their aquarium. They are social fish that enjoy being in the company of others, especially their species. 

Will Tetras School With Other Fish

However, they will also school with other peaceful fish species, such as zebra danios, guppies, platies, and mollies. It’s important to note that not all fish will school together, and some may even be aggressive towards each other.

How to create a schooling environment in your aquarium? Creating a schooling environment in your aquarium can be done in a few simple steps.

1. Provide enough space: Make sure your aquarium is large enough to accommodate a group of fish. Overcrowding can lead to stress, aggression, and disease.

2. Add hiding places: Fish feel more comfortable when they have places to hide. Provide plenty of plants, rocks, and other decorations to create hiding places for your fish.

3. Feed your fish a varied diet: A well-fed fish is a happy fish. Provide your fish with a varied diet, including high-quality fish and live or frozen foods.

4. Choose peaceful species: Make sure your chosen fish are peaceful and compatible. Avoid aggressive fish that may harm other fish in the tank.

  Fish breed you can keep with tetras are,

  1. Guppies
  2. Platy
  3. Mollies
  4. Betta
  5. Zebra Danios 

Do Tetras Need To Be In Groups?

When it comes to keeping tetras in groups, it’s essential to consider both the size of the group and the compatibility of the fish. Generally, 6-10 tetras are recommended, although larger groups may be appropriate for some species. 

It’s also essential to choose tetra species compatible with each other, as some may exhibit aggression towards others.

In addition to choosing compatible tetras, it’s also essential to consider the overall stocking levels of the aquarium. Overcrowding can lead to stress and disease, so ensuring the aquarium is appropriately sized for the number of fish being kept is essential.

How Many Tetras Should You Keep Together? [4 Tips To Keep Together]


Can Tetra Fish Get Lonely if Kept Alone?

Yes. Tetras live as a group, and sometimes they swim alone. But they always like to live as a group. So if you keep one tetra fish in your tank, the fish will become stressed, leading to death.

So at least try to keep three tetras in your fish tank to help to live your tetra fish healthy.

Keeping tetras in groups offers several benefits that can contribute to their overall health and well-being. 

1. Reduced Stress: 

When tetras are kept in groups, they feel more secure and comfortable in their environment. This can help to reduce stress levels and promote better overall health.

2. Improved Social Behavior: 

In a group setting, tetras are able to exhibit their natural social behavior, which includes swimming together, displaying to each other, and engaging in courtship behavior.

3. Enhanced Colors: 

Some tetra strains are known for their vibrant colors. These colors can become more pronounced and vibrant when kept in groups, making for a visually stunning aquarium.


Tetras are social creatures that love being around other tetras. Living alone can make them stressed out and unhappy. If you have a group of tetras in your aquarium, you will likely notice their shoaling behavior throughout the day.

To help your tetras live their best lives, check out my other articles, where I share plenty of tips and information on topics like dieting, breeding, tank maintenance, and finding suitable tank mates. 

With the proper knowledge and care, you can create a peaceful and comfortable environment for your tetras to thrive in.

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