It’s the Danio, Barb and Tetra!


Surfing the internet and visiting pet shops are two ways I relax. Over the years, I have observed the evolution of how fish are presented in pet shops. So many mutations and hybrids of fish have been developed. They even cut the tails, and inject or feed synthetic color enhancers. All these observations led me to remember the kinds of community fish available, which were available years ago and which are still popular today. I have personally experienced taking care of some of them. Others are still on my wish list.

These are three groups of fish that are great for the community and planted setups: the Danio, barb, and tetra. These are the traits I have observed that they share:

  • They are community fish;
  • They make good fish for beginner hobbyists;
  • They thrive best in a schooling group of 6 or more;
  • They accept a wide range of water parameters;
  • They are generally peaceful;
  • They are active swimmers;
  • They are dither fish for calming shy fish;
  • They accept a wide variety of live and commercial food;
  • They are egg layers;
  • They come in a good variety of colors;
  • They are great for planted tanks;
  • While they can be fin nippers as individuals, schooling them in a group of 6-8 prevents this aggression; and
  • They tend to lose their color if they are stressed or sick.


1.Zebra Danio: This is a fast swimming fish and the most popular of all Danio. Long fin varieties are also available. The Leopard Danio is similar to the zebra, except that instead of a stripe, it has spots

  • Color – gold or blue stripe pattern.
  • Size – around 2.5 inches (in)

2.Giant Danio: It is the largest of its kind, and its appearance is similar to that of a zebra

  • Color – Yellow and blue stripes
  • Size – around 6 in


1.Black Tetra: This is a beautiful, peaceful fish. Its round shape and simple color make a nice addition to any community tank.

  • Color – grayish going black towards the tail.
  • Size – around 2 in

2.Neon Tetra: One of the most popular fish because of its striking colors and peaceful nature. They prefer soft water.

  • Color – Transparent fin and tail, blue upper half, red lower half, but only halfway down the body
  • Size – around 1.6 in (4 cm)

3.Rummy Nose Tetra: It gets its unusual name from its red nose and face. The Rummy Nose Tetra will do well in a well-maintained aquarium—and their noses will glow.

  • Color – bright red nose and black and white striped tail fin
  • Size – around 1.75 in

4.Cardinal Tetra: This is similar to the neon tetra but bigger in size.

  • Color – Transparent fin and tail, blue upper half, red lower half
  • Size – around 2 in

5.Red Eye Tetra: This fish gets its name from its red top eye socket. It is a classic tetra, hardy and beautiful.

  • Color: black and silver with red markings on the top half of its eye socket
  • Size: around 3 in

6.Penguin Tetra: Thus called due to its color pattern and swimming position—upright instead of the usual horizontal position, making it look similar to a penguin.

  • Color: Pale to golden in color with a thick black horizontal band that extends down the lower half of the tail
  • Size: 1.2 in (3 cm)

7.Black Neon Tetra: Its appearance is similar to that of the Neon Tetra but instead of blue and red, it has a greenish neon stripe contrasted with a black stripe below it.

  • Color – Greenish neon stripe contrasted with a black stripe below it; red top half of the eye socket
  • Size – around 1.5 in

8.Congo Tetra: This is a larger size tetra, but it is a timid fish. They are also fin nippers when it comes to smaller fish.

  • Color: Silver with an orange glow
  • Size: around 3 in

9.Lemon Tetra: They are friendly and moderately hardy, which makes them a great choice for beginners.

  • Color: Lemon yellow
  • Size: around 2 in

10.Glowlight Tetra: This is an attractive and peaceful fish that glows when lighting conditions are right.

  • Color: Silver with a bright orange or red stripe from the nose to the base of its tail
  • Size: around 2 in

11.Serpae Tetra: This is a unique fish because when one first looks at it, its color looks dull, but when you closely watch them, their color is quite pretty.

  • Color – brown body, almost amber-colored, with a black dorsal fin
  • Size – around 2 inches


1.Rosy Barbs: These fish are all-time favorites. They are fast-moving, colorful fish. Males have long fins.

  • Color: red and gold
  • Size: around 6 in

2. Golden Barb: A good fish for beginners because they are hardy and play nicely with tankmates.

  • Color: Gold with small dark patches
  • Size: 3 in (8 cm)

3.Tiger Barb: This fish gets its name from its stripes, which are visually similar to those of tigers. They are semi-aggressive fish, and fin nippers. The Gold Tiger Barb has a similar appearance to the Tiger Barb, with the only difference being that the Gold Tiger Barb doesn’t have black vertical stripes

  • Color: Silver or gold with black stripes and orange to red fins
  • Size: Around 3 in

4.Aurelius Barb – a large, fast-moving barb; because of its size, smaller tetras like the Neon might be bullied.

  • Color: dark brownish, silver with green, and 3 large black spots
  • Size: Around 4.7 in

5.Cherry Barb – beautiful, hardy yet peaceful fish, once shy it tends to hide in plants. Another schooling fish.

  • Color: Deep red like cherry
  • Size: Around 2 in



Other fish groups that thrive well in community tanks are gouramis, livebearers, and corydoras, which I will be writing about in the future.

My wish lists include taking care of the glow light, lemon, penguin, and black neon tetra. I’d also like to set up again with my favorite Sumatra, Rosy, and Golden barb. Schools of black eyed and black skirt tetras with zebra danios are an exciting thought for me.

Groups of danios, tetras, and barbs are easy to care for; they are simply beautiful and give tons of enjoyment to anyone who sees them swim. Take care of them and you will not regret it.


All of my articles are based on my research and personal experiences. For questions, please email (Romans 15:13) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This appeared in Animal Scene’s October 2016 issue.