Aquarium Stocking Ideas – Advice and Suggestions for Beginners

Estimated read time 11 min read

This is a super detailed aquarium stocking guide that is perfect for beginners and anyone looking for a fun and peaceful tank.

We’ll also let you know what to avoid and a few more tips.

Here’s what you’ll learn in our tank stocking guide;

  • A Big list of aquarium fish ideas and suggestions
  • How to stock a community tank
  • The best top dweller, mid-level, and bottom-dwelling fish
  • The most peaceful community fish

And a few more great tips

Let’s begin.


Books To Help Stock Your Tank

Aquarium Stocking Guide

Next, you’ll find links to articles where we outline stocking ideas and combinations you can use in your own aquariums at home.

Just look for the tank size or reason and you’ll find all you need. or start here with 17 Of The Most popular aquarium fish

Stocking Ideas Based On Tank Size

Unique Stocking Ideas

Stocking Ideas For Centerpiece Fish

If you are looking to come up with your own stocking ideas then use the next section to help understand what you should look for and what to avoid.

How To Stock A Fish Tank?

Stocking community tanks is challenging. It’s like trying to decide which cellmates to put together. A wrong decision on your part can result in some serious bloodshed and cause a lot of damage. So once you are done setting up your tank and ensuring it is ready for the fish, you need to decide on which ones you want to add in.

Some community tank stocking ideas and factors to keep in mind when stocking fish are:

  • Fish placement – If you only include fish that like to swim in mid-water, you ask for trouble. The fish will fight for space, and it will get chaotic.
  • Quantity of each species – You can’t just include one fish of each species and consider the job well done. You will have to understand their requirements. Some social schooling fish require at least 5 to 6 partners to thrive happily.
  • Habitat for each species –Make sure you add in enough plants and hiding spots. It helps break up space in the aquarium and also allows the fish to draw boundaries and get much-needed time out from each other. Plus, ample hiding space is a must-have requirement for many fishes.

To break the space and ensure you don’t end up overcrowding one particular part of your aquarium, we suggest you divide your aquarium into three layers and choose a combination of fish accordingly.

Further Reading: Check Out Our Big Article With 23 Of The Best Aquarium Fish For Beginners

Choose Well Known Top Dwelling Fish

As the name suggests, the top dweller stays near the surface of the water. They add movement and color to the tank that can be visually appealing and calming at the same time. The reason why they dwell near the surface of the aquarium is that they have upturned mouths. They stay near the surface, waiting for the next meal.

However, make sure you don’t choose the jumpers as they can get overly excited when they sense the next meal is near. Here are some suggestions for the fish you can include in your community aquarium.

Creating an engaging and dynamic aquarium environment starts with selecting the right mix of fish. Top-dwelling schooling fish are known for their active and eye-catching swimming patterns. Check out our list of top-dwelling schooling fish to add movement and visual interest to the upper levels of your aquarium.

Zebra Danios

They are hardy freshwater fish that are also very social. They are the ones you will not have to worry about if you choose to include them in your tank. As per their name, they are black and white but are, in their own way, vibrant addition to the tank.


Guppies are also known as rainbow fish or million fish and are among the most popular tropical fish. They are also one of the most common aquarium fishes. They are not only vibrant and pleasing to look at, but are also incredibly social and peaceful. A major plus for all beginner aquarists is that guppies are also very easy to take care of.


Betta fish is known as the Siamese fighting fish and is generally aggressive and territorial, as evidenced by the name. They are carnivores, so you will have to be extra careful when choosing tank mates for this top dweller.

They are, however, very colorful and vibrant, making them a popular addition to aquariums worldwide. Ensure you only include one betta fish in the tank and pair them with other compatible, non-aggressive fish if you don’t want chaos.

Easy Mid Level Community Fish Species

Give your aquarium a well-balanced and harmonious look by incorporating mid-level schooling fish. These fish add movement and color to the middle of your tank, creating a visually pleasing and dynamic environment. Explore our list of the best mid-level schooling fish and find the perfect addition to your aquatic community.

Mid-level dwellers are the ones you must focus on the most as they make up the focal point of the aquarium. You may not only want to consider compatibility but also take into account the visual beauty.

Neon Tetras

The neon tetra is a beautiful, peaceful addition to the tank. It stands out for its bright colors and is also very active, adding movement to the tank, which is a major plus visually. They thrive best when kept in a school.

Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf Gouramis feature neon-bright orange spots along the length of the body, making them a vivid addition to the tank. They are very easy to maintain and social. Make sure you do keep them in pairs or as a small school as they are very social.


The Rasboras are another brightly colored schooling fish that make for a delightful addition to the aquarium. They grow up to be around 4 inches long and are pros at minding their own business as long as they have enough mates.

Ram Cichlids

The Ram Cichlids look like constantly glowing disco balls. They are both aggressive and non-aggressive. We suggest you stick to the Blue Ram Cichlids for a community aquarium as they are the most peaceful out of all. They pair well with other non-aggressive cichlids such as dwarf cichlids and other non-aggressive fish.

Do not even consider stocking them with the aggressive ones at all costs, or it will be war in the aquarium 24/7.

Common Bottom Dwellers

Looking to add some excitement to the bottom of your aquarium? Bottom-dwelling schooling fish are perfect for creating a lively and diverse aquatic environment. Our comprehensive guide will introduce you to some of the most interesting bottom-dwelling schooling fish and help you choose the perfect species for your tank.

The bottom-dwelling fish are the ones you will be playing hide and seek. It will be exciting when you see them moving around and about in the aquarium, but such moments will be rare as they like to hide.

Corydoras Catfish

The Cory Catfish is one of the most popular bottom-dwelling aquarium fish. They come in many different patterns, but their color palette mostly consists of earthy shades allowing them to merge with their surrounding on the ground.

You will have to house schools of cory catfish as they like to be around their kind, they may show signs of anxiety and stress. They also thrive well with other non-aggressive fishes.

Kuhli Loach

The Kuhli Loach is a peaceful, eel-like fish. They are bottom dwellers but the features bright yellow/orange stripes down their dark brown body, making them easy to spot. They, too, like to be around their own kind, so stock around three to six in a fish tank 20-gallon at a time.

Do keep in mind that the exact number of fish you should stock will vary by the size of your tank and the water quantity. Here are some fish tank stocking ideas and tips to help you populate your community tank safely and effortlessly.

Choose Popular Peaceful Fish Species

One of the stocking ideas to keep in mind is that as a beginner aquarist, we suggest you don’t try your luck with some of the aggressive fish species. Make sure you stick to the peaceful species. Even if the fish you want for visual appeal is an aggressive fish, like the Betta, make sure you consult the pet store and choose the tank mates carefully. You will also have to make sure you keep the fish well-fed, so it doesn’t attack other aquarium fish.

Do Not Stock All At Once

This is an important tip to remember. Adding all your fish at once can be hazardous for the fish as it will drastically increase the ammonia content of the aquarium water and that too very quickly.

Try adding in one species at a time and watch how they react to new additions. Give the different fish types time to settle in with their new aquarium fish before you add in others. It not only helps establish peace in the aquarium but also helps maintain optimal water conditions at all times.

Pay Attention to Fish Compatibility When Thinking About Stocking Ideas

We cannot stress upon this enough. You won’t have the time to monitor or chaperon your fish’s behavior all-day. There may be days when you may get a little late when feeding them. Incompatible fish will create havoc in the aquarium in such a situation.

It’s better to do your research when looking for stocking ideas and deciding on the different fish to include. We suggest you stick to the peaceful species, especially if you are a beginner. If not, then try to find compatible combinations. Not all aggressive fish species are the same kind of aggressive. Some want to be left alone. Here you can make sure that if they are top-dwellers, then you don’t include any other fish known to reside on that layer.

Some aggressive fish are territorial and will not stand any intervention. Stocking them with another semi-aggressive or territorial fish is like singing the death warrant of all other tank mates. You will have to pair them with passive fish that will not bother them or invade their space.

It would be best if you also learned to distinguish between aggressive and predatory fish. You don’t want to include aggressive carnivorous species with any kind of fish, aggressive or peaceful. They are not meant for community tanks and should only be kept in an isolated aquarium as they can even attack their own kind when hungry.

Include Plants on Your List of Stocking Ideas

Including plants and other decorations is an absolute must and should be at the top of your list of stocking ideas and tips. Plants help break the space and provide the tank residents ample hiding spots. They also help maintain water quality by regulating oxygen levels in the aquarium water, and they also serve as snacks for your omnivores and herbivores aquarium fish species.

All in all, they help create the ideal habitat for your fish, which can be crucial for their survival, especially if you do intend to keep an aggressive fish or two.


How Many Fish In A 10 Gallon Fish Tank

You can keep around 4-6 aquarium fish in a 10-gallon tank, provided they are no bigger than one inch in size. Or, you could keep two fish that are no bigger than two inches in length each. An important tip to note in your stocking ideas is that generally, fish larger than 2 inches in size shouldn’t be kept in a tank this size.

How Many Fish For A 20 Gallons Fish Tank

A 20-gallon fish tank can keep 8-15 fish depending on how big each fish is. Generally, fish larger than 3 inches shouldn’t be kept in fish tanks 20-gallon. The size of the aquarium will guide the number and size of the aquarium fish you can stock in the water.

How Many Aquarium Fish In A 30 Gallon Fish Aquarium

A 30-gallon tank can keep 8-25 aquarium fish depending on how big each fish is. Generally, fish larger than 3″ shouldn’t be kept in a tank this size.

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