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Bigger fish to force schooling


19 Jan 2015
I have a 112L (80x40x35 cm) tank with white cloud mountain minnows (18) that wander around on their own but do not school. I had read that they are good schoolers, but they seem to be really happy in my tank and do not care about each other. They only group and school when the lights go off at night or someone passes close to the tank.


So, if fear is what makes them school, I am planning to add a dwarf gourami. They will not attack the minnows, but their presence will make them group. I know that this will stress them a little but according to my conclusion, everyone that has a schooling fish that schools in his/her tank is not doing everything he/she can do to eliminate the stress those fishes have. Otherwise, we would all have non-schooling fish in our tanks even if that species tend to school.

So, the question is, do you think of another bigger fish like dwarf gourami that could force minnows to school?. Obviously, not agressive or predatory. How about ramirezi?
Hmmm. It'd make more sense to go for a tighter shoal such as rummy-nose, rather than intentionally stress a fish...

With the white clouds, I suspect you may find that stressing them induces hiding behaviours; rather than shoaling, from my own experience with them.

You could always try the rams or dwarf gourami though, see how you get on
Well, as you can see there are not a lot of places to hide as I wanted open space just for that.. to increase schooling or shoaling chances. But if, as you say, they will tend to hide, then that is not a viable solution for me.

The rams usually stay close to the bottom which, in theory will push the minnows to go up. Actually, on the left, where the stones are forming a V, there is a place that resembles a cave where the ram could make the nest or establish its territory (or not, who knows what they would think). The dwaf gourami stays at the top, so this could certainly encourage the minnows to hide at the bottom.

So maybe it would be a better idea to use rams. That may also help control my red cherry population which is going mad these days... with 30 breeding adults and maybe 20-25 juveniles. What it is impossible, at least at this moment, is to change the minnows for rummys or harlequins.

Thank Aqua
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Hi all,
I have a 112L (80x40x35 cm) tank with white cloud mountain minnows (18) that wander around on their own but do not school.
Otherwise, we would all have non-schooling fish in our tanks even if that species tend to school.
Basically they are just happy and don't feel threatened. Very few fish will school tightly unless there is a threat (real or perceived).

The only fish that I've kept that usually swam in any sort of formation were Marbled Hatchets, and they all waited in the flow from the spray-bar, a bit like very misshapen Trout.
So maybe it would be a better idea to use rams.
<"Rams"> like much warmer water than <"White Cloud Mountain Minnows">, and much softer, warmer water than Red Cherry Shrimps.

If you want a small cichlid to go with your minnows, then a pair of <"Apistogramma borellii"> would be your best bet.

cheers Darrel
I think it is irresponsible to stress your fish out intentionally.
I feel aquascaping sometimes gets in the way if animal welfare.

Well, yes you are wright, but intentionally or unintentionally the final effect is that they are stressed. Actually the fact of having them in a cube stresses them. My point is that if we all have schooling fish, we should search for the cause that made them school and when finding it, correct it to avoid it. But most people search or look for fish that school. And so did I. Maybe if a fish in their natural environment schools due to fear and we do not reproduce that effect in our aquarium, they stop schooling and they may develop physical or behavioural effects not desired.

So maybe having a fish that normally schools in nature not schooling in an aquarium is not such a good thing...
Hi all,
Maybe if a fish in their natural environment schools due to fear and we do not reproduce that effect in our aquarium, they stop schooling and they may develop physical or behavioural effects not desired.
So maybe having a fish that normally schools in nature not schooling in an aquarium is not such a good thing.
I'm pretty sure that the fish that are exploring the tank are happy fish.

For most small fish being in the open with no overhead cover is very stressful, if you give them a more complex environment they begin to feel more secure and then hunt for food etc. This is why you add dithers to small cichlids, they become more active when other small fish are out and foraging.

Have a look at <"What is wrong with my ....">.

Some fish will naturally travel together in a loose shoal (like Corydoras hastatus), but a lot of fish (like Neon Tetra and Pencil fish) will mainly forage singly or in two and threes.

cheers Darrel
Have a look on YouTube at wild tetra. You will notice a large number of them are shoaling at all.
Schooling is a response to threat, no two ways about it. I'd much rather have different behaviour from a haply fish than forced shoaling through fear.
None of my tetra shoal to any degree. My keyholes seem to enjoy each others company but I think that is beyond most tetras.

Just my very strong opinion.
I have boraras brigittae in with dwarf gourami, betta simplex and betta channoides. None of the large fish bother with the tiny rasbora and the rasbora are pretty chilled out therefore swim all over the place without tight shoaling. Actively trying to stress your fish for a desired look is wrong. You are not recreating nature as it is unlikely any of the serious shoalers would be found in the small numbers we keep in our tanks.

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The subject of schooling and shoaling is not straight forward many tank bred fish I think certain Barbs and Tetras in particular have lost this inclination anyway to some extent.. Go in a aquatic shop and assume those example Penguin Tetras look splendid shoaling you buy seven or eight only to find at home three at one side of the tank one in the middle three or two scattering.In the shop they had nowhere to go probably bareish tank full of them moving every time a customer looked at them heading to one side thinking feeding time and are not shoaling? In the wild there may be thousands different species togetther for reasons given security predators etc but even then they may split up into small groups of fifty something for parts of the tropical day(Amazon studies)coming back to greater numbers for feeding.Best to create a tank with plenty of cover plants etc with a front open area possibly subdued lighting or/and floating plants and personally a lot of one or two species in the largest tank possible to have a chance of shoaling but at the end of the day happy fish are healthy whether shoaling or not
Forcing fish to stick together because you've trapped them in a small tank with a fish that could potentially eat them is unkind. I'm sure you know that to be the truth. Perhaps you can find someone who will adopt them and you can get a different species?
Mountain minnows are such an unrated fish. Pay closer attention to how they interact with each other. I find shoal interaction more pleasing than the desire to have them ball up like sardines.
I have 30 of them and apart from the initial intro to the aquarium they never shoal together.
if fear is what makes them school

It's not fear, but cautiousness what triggers them to school when something strange is passing the tank. This is a very natural behaivor for almost all fish which are lower at the food chain. Hence that's what makes them schoaling fish.. Fish not schooling are in general solitary and predatory, opportunistically laying around to attack something swimming by like a pike would do. Tho schoaling fish can also be predatory, small ones low at the food chain are in general micro predatory.

Introducing a ditter fish to trigger schooling can work to a certain extend, but if not a real treath it eventualy will result in both mixing and showing same behaivor again. If a real treath it can only result in one eating the other. :banghead: Ditter fish ussualy work quite possitive to make very shy species less shy and feel safer and copy this behaivor.

Read this about "Habitat" and look at your setup and ask yourself the question what could be changed to make it more natural for you.. 🙂 If i look at your tank i see the majority of them still hang around in the middle of the tank rather close together compared to the over all demension of your setup. What is that plant you are growing right and left in the back ground? Pogestemon erectus? Anway grow it bigger and create a V shape plant setup where the sides are heavily planted and there is free swimming space in the middle. They like free swimming space when feeling safe.. Now this free space is all over the tank in your case. :thumbup:

That what they would do in nature as well, use the free swimming space in densly planted areas, then if in danger can flee into the vegitation.. 😉
I dont think fish have fear or emotions in that sense as zozo says. In the Amazon( say a tetra) anything living over 12months old would be the exception predation the biggest reason.Its a instinct to shoal or school done as a necessatity for survival,safety in numbers rather than "fear" of being alone.Newly born ducklings know to hide when a few hours old from a mothers call thats instinct survival of the species it would be too young for "fear".When my dog looks at me is he thinking thats my lovely master or I will stick with this bloke he throws the ball and oh those treats.I Know what I like to think but would I be wrong ?
I would say shoaling is just a numbers game. If you are in a crowd of say 200 people it would increase your chance of not being noticed.
On the opposite, if there was just me and you then we both have a 50% chance of being chosen.
Fish shoal purely to maximise their chance to survive.
Its a bit the chicken or the egg question.. 🙂 One we only can try to answer with educated guesses and theories in what we believe is true. That would be something like creationism vs evolution.. Now i'm far from a professional sceintist and rather not make to many bold claims since i'm rather not always spot on up to date when it comes to science evolution. There are many thing believed to be true for a very long time till somebody proofed us all wrong. And there are still many mysterious things going on in nature where we even not even began with scratching the icebergs tip.. So actualy when it comes to this i realy do not know what to believe and just keep the churge somewhere in the middle and just try to suck it all in with a rather agnostic viewpoint. I don't know and can't know from where i stand..

What is highly intresting is why do all lifeforms behave or just look the way they do? And this even without anybody, teaching them. How do they know what they know? Wisdom is spread geneticaly that's a prooven fact.. I once took a book from the library about the subject and when i was done reading the plot only got thicker?

And when it comes to emotions humans tend to humanize animal behavior, i guess this is only human to use human ratio to explain things.. And even what do we know about emotions ourself? Only thing we have is the knowledge of basic emotions we all posses like fear and joy etc. But what it realy does inside somebody is still very personal and something impossible to share. I have my fear and you have yours and how often you tell me about yours i can only percieve your fear in the way i know how i feel it. Empathy goes a long way, i even do not know if it realy excists the way we try to manage it?
I think that there is just so much that we don't understand about fish, and I think we greatly underestimate their cognitive abilities. You've most probably all seen this story already, but here's a link for those who haven't.


Whatever the truth of the matter is, ultimately we are responsible for their welfare, so should treat them with respect, and provide for their needs - clean, suitable water. A stress free environment (according to their potential size and needs), and food according to their dietary requirements.

I'll get off my soapbox now... :shy:
I also keep some goldfish, in warmer times outside and in colder times they go inside.. And i experienced they realy have a social family bond, one year i took 1 fish earlier inside and he became noticably depressed. He didn't eat and only lay silently in the corner close to the bottom for days. When i took his mates inside he got realy excited and there was some kind of greeting play going on for hours.. Anyway it was heart warming to see how they reacted to eachother and only where apart for a few days. And i'll never do that again, to me they clearly have something like emotions..
Fish have evolved like any other animal, they have all adapted to an environment.
Fish belong to a hostile environment weather predator or prey. Both have developed ways to survive. Safety in numbers is a survival technic.

If you were to find yourself lost in a dark forrest your senses would be doing over time. Thats because its not viewed as a safe place to be alone.
Humans have adapted over thousands of years, our biology and make up has been the same for thousands of years.