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Managing Aggressive Aquarium Fish

Updated on December 19, 2021

Choose compatible fish!

It is lovely and relaxing to have a peaceful, well-balanced aquarium. When your fish are well-matched and get along, it is a delight to sit and watch them peacefully interact. However, if you have one or more aggressive fish, you may end up witnessing more mayhem than peace. Aggressive fish can be very mean and destructive and can really ruin your enjoyment of your tank, not to mention making life miserable (or non-existent) for the other fish in the tank.

The first rule to follow to avoid aggression in your tank is to do your homework. Take a trip to your local fish store and look at the various types of fish, but don‘t buy any yet. Take a notebook with you, and write down the names of the types you like. Talk with the staff about which fish go well together and how they behave, but take their advice with a grain of salt! Many times, the young folks who work in pet shops don‘t actually know what they are talking about. They are well-intentioned, but they may very well send you home with a terrible, incompatible mix of fish that will end up killing each other in fairly short order.

If you must buy something at the pet store, buy a good book on different types of fish and fish care. Or take your list of fish that you like to the library or do your research online. Check into eating and sleeping habits, level of aggression, and speed and extent of growth. A few guppies may be alright with a baby Pacu, for example, temporarily, but it won’t be long until that Pacu is the size of a dinner plate, and your guppies will be no more. Additionally, you will probably be looking for a newer and bigger aquarium or someone who is willing to take on a very big, aggressive fish.

When selecting fish to avoid aggression, it is helpful to group by type. For example, you could have an all cold-water tank with goldfish and corydoras (small cold-water catfish). Even then, you will want to have similar types of goldfish. Comets can wreak havoc with moors, fancy bubble-eyed and lion head types because they like to pick on their bizarre physical features. So if you are going to have plain comet goldfish, stick to that. If you are going to have fancy goldfish, stick to that. Don’t mix tropicals with cold water fish. Tropicals tend to be more aggressive and will probably end up picking on your goldfish, no matter what kind they are. Additionally, you will run into problems with temperature, salt levels, and so on.

Live-bearing platys combine well with other live-bearers and many bottom feeders.

Title: Fish ~License: sxu license ~Photographer: hagit:
Title: Fish ~License: sxu license ~Photographer: hagit:

With tropicals, selecting fish of a type will help prevent aggression.

Select all live-bearers: guppies, platys and mollies. Be careful not to select mollies or platys that are going to get huge, if you want to have guppies. All tetras is also a good choice. They are similar in needs but vary in color and appearance to make a nice, interesting tank. Keep your fish all of a size. Almost any kind of small bottom feeder will do well with live bearers or tetras, but understand that loaches will gobble up your babies pretty quickly.

Select all barbs if you want to have a tank of semi-aggressive fish. They come in a variety of colors and types, but they all get along with each other pretty well (but with other fish, not at all!) They are schooling fish, like to be in big groups, and are all pretty fast . If you have all barbs and a Chinese algae eater or a loach as your bottom feeder, you should have a fairly well balanced tank.

Don’t get too many bottom feeders. They tend to be territorial. Don’t mix loaches. They will kill each other. One loach to a tank is plenty!

Goldfish, live-bearers, and barbs are good choices for beginning aquarists who want a community tank. Not all fish are schooling fish. Some fish, like Gouramis, Betas, fresh water puffers, and some of the larger, challenging fish like Oscars are simply better off alone. A single Gourami, Beta, or Puffer in a small (at least three gallon) desktop tank makes a nice pet for a beginner. I don’t recommend mixing them with any other fish, or you are likely to have problems. Save the challenging fish for when you have gotten a lot of experience under your belt. Once you have learned what is really involved in aquarium care, you may decide against very challenging fish altogether.

Copyright: SuzanneBennett: June 5, 2009


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