Are Swordtails Schooling Fish?

Swordtails are known to be friendly and peaceful tank mates. They like to hang out with other fish, which has led many aquarists to wonder: are swordtails schooling fish?

No, swordtails aren’t a schooling fish. However, they do like to interact with their fellow tankmates, especially other swordtails.

Swordtails are freshwater fish known for their attractive colors and peaceful demeanor. Aquarists also like them because they’re easy to manage and care for.

These hardy tropical fish like to hang out in groups to look for food and explore their surroundings in peace. Yet, they’re not listed as a type of schooling fish.

If you’re interested in finding out more about swordtails and schooling fish, keep reading.

Are Swordtails Schooling Fish?

No, swordtails (Xiphophorous hellerii) aren’t the schooling type. However, they do like to interact with their tank buddies.

Even though swordtails are active swimmers, they’re considered pretty peaceful and laid back. Being so easy to get along makes them a great addition to any aquarium.

They also enjoy being around other swordtails, especially when foraging for food or during their breeding season.

In addition, they like being with various types of fish that share their traits and characteristics. These include easy-going species, such as platies and guppies.

Still, even though they like being in groups, you’ll never see them schooling, or moving in groups. You can say they just like being neighborly.

Group of Swordtails with Plants

What Is a Schooling Fish?

You’ve probably seen fish swimming together in synchronization. They move together with such precision and accuracy that they look like they’ve been rehearsing for months!

This group of fish is known as a ‘school.’ When they start swimming in the same direction and speed, this is what experts refer to as ‘schooling.’

Why Do Some Fish School?

Certain types of fish have this ability to behave and move as one because it’s their best option at evading predators. Furthermore, having coordinated body positions allows them to swim more efficiently.

Another benefit of schooling is that it improves their chances of finding food. Not to mention, swimming in a group makes it much easier to find a mate and reproduce successfully.

Can Swordtails Live by Themselves?

In general, swordtail fish can live on their own. Yet, experts don’t recommend it for several reasons.

The primary reason is that swordtails are social creatures. They become more active and lively when they’re surrounded by other fish.

While they may enjoy a quiet tank for a day or two, with no other fish taking over their space or hogging their food, however, they’ll get bored extremely fast.

Swordtails may not be schooling fish, but they have more fun with other fish to play and interact with.

How Many Fish Can Be in the Tank with Swordtails?

As we mentioned above, swordtails are easy-going, social fish. They thrive and become more lively when they’re part of a group in a community aquarium.

The number of fish in that group depends mainly on the size of your tank. Although, the average group size contains anywhere between four and six fish.

If you’re keeping more than one swordtail, the ratio should be one male to three, or even four, females. Avoid having more than one male in the tank, as they’ll likely turn on each other and attack.

Male swordtail fish tend to become aggressive toward other males around the time they reach sexual maturity. So, it’s recommended you keep only one male in your fish tank.

The same goes for the female. Having only one female will lead to it being harassed by the male.

Also, keep in mind that you have to provide them with ample space to move around. The ratio is typically 15 gallons per swordtail.

How Swordtails Benefit from Living in a Group

Many people automatically assume that because a fish species isn’t schooling, that means it’s okay to leave them alone in the tank.

Swordtails are a great example of how that’s not true. They enjoy being around other fish, but on two conditions.

The first is that there’s enough room in the tank for everyone to be comfy and happy. The second condition is that you put swordfish with other species of similar traits and temperament.

Other than that, you’re good to go. In fact, studies show that surrounding your swordtails with other fish has multiple benefits, such as:

  • Boosts Energy Levels
  • Promotes Breeding
  • Reduces Stress
  • Avoids Loneliness
  • Reduce the Risk of Health Problems

Good and Bad Companions for Swordtails

Just because swordtails are sociable doesn’t mean they do well with just any type of fish. Some make good tank buddies, while others will only make swordtails feel anxious and in danger.

Take a look at some of the good and bad companions for swordtails

The Good

You have to choose other freshwater fish with similar temperaments and characteristics as your swordtail. This means looking at different species’ sizes, characters, and behavior.

One example is their breeding. Swordtails are livebearers. This means they don’t lay eggs but, instead, give birth to live young that come out ready to swim.

Size is also important. Females can reach a maximum length of up to 6.5 inches.

Males, on the other hand, are slightly shorter, despite having sword-like elongated tails. They typically reach anywhere between 5 – 5.5 inches.

Here are a few examples of fish that would make perfect companions for swordtails. They’re all friendly and peaceful, just like the swordtail, making them ideal tank mates.

  • Platies
  • Mollies
  • Guppies
  • Dwarf Gouramis
  • Cory Catfish
  • Angelfish
  • Crayfish
  • Snails
  • Danios
  • Dwarf Otocinclus

The Bad

Also, it’s best to avoid placing swordtails with large-sized fish species. These big fish may harass or even prey on your swordfish. As a result, swordtails will feel vulnerable, stressed out, and on edge.

Here are some examples:


So, are swordtails schooling fish? No, they’re not.

Nevertheless, they do prefer living in groups. So much so that if they’re left on their own, swordtails can become lethargic, get sick, and even die.

The good news is that these are pretty hardy fish. They can adapt to living in a wide range of environments and living conditions.

They also make good tank mates to various fish species. Just remember to keep them with other friendly fish. This way, they’ll all get along and won’t encroach on one another’s space of food.