The 10 Best Aquascaping Fish

The 10 Best Aquascaping Fish For Your Aquarium

Finding the best fish to compliment a planted aquascape can be challenging. Listed below are 10 of the best choices used time and time again by professionals in the industry. This article breaks down which species are the best and why. Common questions often overheard from hobbyists include: Which size fish is best suited for an aquascape? Are all species of fish compatible with planted aquariums? Are all fish compatible with CO2 setups?. Generally smaller fish such as the Ember Tetra listed below tend to give the illusion of a deeper and larger aquarium and are an excellent choice for the modern day hobbyist. Larger, herbivorous fish, such as silver dollars, Pacu, Silver Sharks & Oscars should be avoided in planted aquaqscapes along with fish that are sensitive to pH swings that can result from CO2 injection.


1. Ember Tetra

Ember Tetra

Ember tetra have become one of the most popular aquascaping fish additions. This is due to their distinct bright orange color and their extremely small size. This combination works in two ways. The aquarium will appear much larger with small fish such as the Ember Tetra occupying the empty space. This is especially advantageous in aquascaping competitions such as the Aquatic Gardeners Association when an image is the only visual source of the aquarium. Their unique name ‘Ember’ is realised in their bright blood-orange coloration. Ember Tetras will often swim in schools resulting in a bright trail of color through the aquascape. They are suited to a lower pH often found in planted aquascapes and overall are an excellent choice for the planted aquarium.


2. Cardinal Tetras

Cardinal Tetra

Cardinal Tetras have always been a favorite within the aquarium hobby. They are extremely popular in aquascaping due to their bright stunning coloration. The bright neon bar that runs the entirety of their body is situated directly above a deep red stripe. If color is the primary concern, Cardinal Tetras are your pick. They are brighter than Ember Tetras but they are often more expensive and can grow quite large. Cardinal Tetras have an extremely long lifespan when compared to other Tetra species. A larger 55+ Gallon aquarium is recommended with a minimum of 10-15 Cardinals as they enjoy to school. Cardinals can grow up to 1.5″


3. Neon Tetras or Black Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra

The Neon Tetra is very similar to the Cardinal Tetra. How do you tell the difference between a Neon Tetra and a Cardinal Tetra? The difference lies in the coloration. Cardinal Tetras hold their coloration from the tip of the mouth to the end of the tail. Neon Tetras have a small break in the red lining that runs down their side. Their belly is often a white-silver coloration. Neon Tetras will not grow as large, often maximum size is less than 1″. Neon Tetras are extremely cheap and can be bought at almost any pet store or LFS. For this reason they are the best budget solution when a school of fish is required. Purchasing 50-100 in a very large aquarium will make for a stunning display.


4. Harlequin Tetras (Harlquin Rasbora)

Harlequin Tetra

Harlequin Rasbora are another popular aquascaping fish. This is due to their small size and bright reflective coloration. Harlquin Tetras seldom grow over 1″ in length and have a life span of up to 10 years. They have an unusual rose sheen that compliments a dark L shaped line running down their back. Halequin Rasbora are an excellent community fish and are fully compatible with planted aquascapes.


5. Rainbows


Rainbows are becoming more and more popular in the aquascaping aquarium hobby. This is due to their natural bright colorations that reflect light in the aquarium. The scales of rainbowfish are mirrored and add radiance and movement to an otherwise static aquascape. They enjoy lower pH that is usually associated with planted aquariums from the CO2 injection and the substrate used. Smaller rainbows are more popular in aquascapes due to their ability to add depth and school in the aquarium. These include the Spotted Blue eye, the Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish & the Threadfin rainbowfish. They are a hardy species, come at a good price point but can be challenging to locate in large numbers.


6. Angel Fish


Angel Fish are a classic favorite in the aquarium hobby and have recently been used in aquascaping setups. Angel fish are more sensitive than other species to changes in water quality. For this reason a CO2 heavy setup should utilise a solenoid valve that cuts CO2 during night hours. This can help to minimise CO2 input while the plants are respiring and preventing a drop in the aquariums pH. Angel Fish have notably been used by Takashi Amano in the giant aquarium situated in his home. These are Altum Angelfish, an extremely challenging species that require careful monitoring and regular feeding. Standard angelfish can grow quite large and this leaves them reserved for larger aquascapes. At number 6 they are a beautiful fish, they are plant safe and a majestic addition to any aquascape.

7. Discus


Discus are possibly the most unique and colorful species available in the hobby.  Discus originated in the Amazon and it is believed this bright coloration is needed in murky shadowed waters to find and attract a mate. Discus also prefer a lower pH almost identical to that found in CO2 aquascapes. Unfortunately Discus can grow to be quite large, they should be reserved for very large aquascapes of at least 100 gallons. As mentioned earlier, the larger size of Discus can be a trade off between the illusion of depth in the aquarium and coloration. They can be combined with Tetras  and are an all round good community fish. They are an excellent addition for a planted aquascape provided the aquarium is big enough to house their adult form.


8. Guppys

Male Guppy

Guppys have been the spotlights of aquariums from the beginning. Tropical heaters in the aquarium made it possible to keep a variety of species and guppys were among the brightest and hardiest of them all. The males carry a bright, large tail that signals status and attracts females. Guppys have intense coloration that exists in almost every possible shade. This makes them an excellent choice for an aquarist that is looking for a particular color to compliment an aquascape. Guppys do not like high flow and prefer slower moving environments. They are also susceptible to other species nipping their fins and should be kept with their own species. Guppies will also not school in the aquarium. This is mainly due to lack of predators in nature, where they thrive in warm ponds and pools.


9. Chili Rasbora / Mosquito Rasbora

chili rosobora

The Chili Rasbora is another brilliant choice for the planted aquarium setup. Their very small size and striking red coloration makes them a top contender. Their main advantage is their natural talent for schooling. Large aquariums with at least 15 Chili Rasbora will find them staying tightly together around the aquarium. This can have a beautiful trailing effect as they move from one side to the other of the aquascape. They are a harder species to obtain and hence they can often command a premium to other Rasboras that are easy to source. They need some free space to swim and 55gal is recommended, although they can be witnessed in much smaller aquariums. Chili Rasbora should be kept in a species only Aquarium due to its small size and timid nature.

10. Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf Gourami are a classic aquarium addition that have an excellent personality and bright reflective colorations.  Dwarf Gouramis can grow up to 3″ but are more commonly seen at around 2″ in length. For this reason, they should be limited to larger aquascapes, realising that larger fish may reduce the percieved depth and size of the aquascape. Aquascapes are perfect landscapes for these fish, they do well in communities and add bright red’s and blue’s to an other wise green aquascape.


These are just 10 of the many aquarium fish that are suitable in a planted Aquascape. They are popular, proven and are guaranteed aquascaping fish that will add color and movement to the aquascape.