The 12 Best Tank Mates to Pair With Parrot Fish

Written by Rebecca Mathews
Updated: November 6, 2023
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Vividly colored cichlid parrot fish make a big splash in a tropical aquarium, but with their popularity riding high, what can you safely place them with? Let’s discover the 12 best tank mates to pair with parrot fish to create a harmonious and attractive underwater kingdom.

12 Best Tank Mates to Pair with Parrot Fish
These colorful fish make great tank mates for parrot fish.

Parrot Fish: Species Overview

Cichlid parrot fish are popular tropical freshwater fish hybrids. Their chunky bodies, friendly expressions, and vivid colors brighten an aquarium. With the right care, they can live 10 to 15 years and reach 10 inches long. Don’t confuse them with coral reef-eating wild parrotfish, which are a completely different species.

These cheerful cichlid fish don’t exist in the wild, and no one is sure exactly what their parentage is! Some experts suggest they’re a cross between Central and South American cichlids. In terms of history, we know they appeared from Far East fish farms around 35 years ago. Today, cichlid parrot fish often replace traditional goldfish in tropical tanks.

Orange parrot fish in the aquarium. (Red Parrot Cichlid)

Cichlid parrot fish don’t occur in the wild. They’re a hybrid species bred in captivity.


Best Tank Mates for Cichlid Parrot Fish

Parrot cichlids are generally placid, community-minded fish, but they eat small fish like neon tetras and will show aggression when faced with aggressive fish. They’ll also eat fish eggs, so if you’re after fry, remove eggs to a nursery tank ASAP.

The best tank mates for parrot fish are chunky, calm fish that won’t provoke a fight and won’t be mistaken for food! Here’s 12 of the best. 

1. Angel Fish

portrait of a zebra Angelfish in tank fish with blurred background (Pterophyllum scalare)

Placid angel fish team well with parrot fish cichlids.

©Joan Carles Juarez/

Who doesn’t love the calm and graceful angel fish?

Angelfish can reach six inches long, which is more than big enough to survive with parrot fish. Many species mix well in a calm community tank, such as marble, koi, and gold angel fish.

Slim angel fish evolved their slim-line figures and stripes to quietly glide between weeds and avoid predators. Their stripes stand out against parrotfish’s bright, solid colors, creating interesting contrast in a tank environment.

Originally from South American waters, angel fish are readily available in pet shops.

2. Tiger Barb

Green tiger barb or Green Sumatra barb (Puntigrus tetrazona)


barbs are one of the easiest, low-maintenance fish for a community tank.

©Pavaphon Supanantananont/

Freshwater tiger barb fish sound aggressive, but in reality, they don’t fight or injure tank mates. They are active, though! Much more active than parrot fish, so they liven up an aquarium with darting, freestyle action.

Brightly colored tiger barbs originate from Borneo, Sumatra, and Indonesia. Usually rich, golden yellow with pink tints, most individuals have striking tiger-like black stripes and red-tipped fins. Tiger barbs max out at three inches long, more than enough to keep hungry parrot fish at bay.

Easy to find and care for, tiger bards are a freshwater tropical tank staple and one of the best tank mates to pair with parrot fish. Beginners start with tiger barbs, and experienced fish keepers love them for their personalities and amazing coloration.

3. Black Skirt Tetras

Black Skirt Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) in a fish tank

Black skirt tetra reaches two inches long, which is enough to keep them safe from parrot fish.

©Joan Carles Juarez/

Reliable, tried and tested black skirt tetra fish suit a community tank and pair well with parrot fish.

Their two-inch size keeps them safe from attack, and they don’t provoke confrontation, either. Some folks think black skirt tetras look dull, but this is not the case. Their attractive silver and black stripes stand out in an array of gold, red, and orange parrot fish, and their sedate nature means you can take a really good look at the shoal as it glides by in no rush.

South American tetras are the standard, but glo-tetras have stormed the aquarium hobby market. These tetras glow under UV light due to coral and florescent jellyfish proteins.

4. Gourami

Moving moment of siamese fighting fish, Betta splendens (Plakat Thai) is a popular species of freshwater aquarium fish isolated on black background.

Despite the name, Siamese fighting fish live peacefully in community tanks of larger fish.


Peaceful South Asian gourami are excellent parrot fish tank mates; they vary from a few inches to eight inches long with semi-aggressive temperament. In general, they don’t start fights unless provoked or starved.

Despite its name, the Siamese fight fish is a gourami species that lives peacefully with parrot fish, but more than two male fighting fish may compete with each other for females. Another gourami type that suits parrot fish tanks is the popular betta and the paradise fish, too.

Did you know gourami fish are partial air breathers? In the wild, they live in slow-moving, warm water, and they top up oxygen levels from the air above.

5. Silver Dollars

Silver dollar fish in aquarium

Silver dollar fish resemble round silver dollars.

©Marcelo Saavedra/

Popular silver dollar fish is one of the most suitable tank mates for parrot fish-heavy aquariums. These widely available round, shiny, silver fish resemble dollars, hence the name, and they are pretty low maintenance, too.

South American silver dollar fish is a common tropical tank mate for placid fish communities because they shoal at the top of the aquarium. This leaves room for mid (like parrot fish) and bottom dwellers to thrive.

However, because they start small in pet stores, often sold at just half an inch, they often outgrow a medium-sized tank when they reach their full six inches. Besides that, they shoal in groups, so silver dollars can quickly take over the available space.

Just something to keep in mind.

6. Emperor Tetras

Super Blue Emperor Tetra - Purple Tetra

Emperor tetra fish like to hide in aquarium weeds.

©chonlasub woravichan/

On the less common side, we have emperor tetras. At two inches maximum size, emperors are larger than neons and, therefore, not preyed on by parrot fish.

Emperor tetras have peaceful natures, shoaling and darting through weeds and hiding in crevices. Playing hide and seek with emperor neons is great fun for kids, and bold parrot fish don’t tend to do it.

These pretty South American natives have silver iridescent bodies shot through with rainbow shimmers. They prefer living in groups of five or six, so be sure your aquarium has enough space for a healthy shoal.

7. Kribensis

Cichlid - Kribensis Pelvicachromis pulcher pair guarding young fry

Kribensis are a type of cichlid that lives peacefully with parrot fish.

©Toxotes Hun-Gabor Horvath/

Kribensis cichlids are in the same family as parrot cichlids, and they get on well in a community tank. Reaching around four inches long, kribensis fish look thinner than their parrot fish cousins and have vivid blue, green, and red colors, depending on the species. In spawning season, females develop bright red bellies that contrast with their silver bodies.

However, be careful if you want to introduce kribs to aquariums with peaceful angel fish. Although they pair well with parrot fish, kribs like to nibble on slow-moving species.

8. Swordtails

fish aquarium swordtail,guardiamarina fish.

Male swordtails display beautiful trailing fins that are used to attract females.

©Sergey Clocikov/

Mexican swordtails sound ready for a dual, but they’re actually calm fish that make great tank mates for pushy parrot fish.

Swordfish are very beautiful, three-to-four-inch long, brightly colored fish with long, swirling lower fins. They inhabit the mid and top aquarium areas, and in spawning season, males show off their gorgeous fins to the less vivid females in a graceful dance.  

9. Corydoras

Small catfish. Cory catfish. Corydoras catfish. Peppered cory catfish. Corydoras paleatus frontal closeup with blurred natural background.

Corydora is a small type of


that inhabits lower aquarium space.

©Kristiana Berzina/

Parrot fish inhabit the mid-section, so a good tank mate for the bottom section are corydoras.

These schooling mini catfish only reach around two inches long, but they have spikes and protective flanks that parrotfish can’t chew on. Corydoras are easy to care for, and they eat most things, but it’s important to use sinking pellets so greedy parrot fish don’t eat everything first.

Corydoras inhabit the aquarium’s bottom layer but occasionally race to the surface for a gulp of air. This confuses parrot fish and causes hilarity as they try to figure out what’s happening.

10. Rosy Barb

Rosy Barb (Red Barb) - Puntius conchonius

Active rosy barbs shoal and dart around an aquarium.


Pretty and gentle rosy barbs suit the majority of tropical freshwater aquariums, and they’re one of the best tank mates for parrot fish.

With green and red tones, they contrast with orange and red parrot fish colors. They’ll reach four to six inches long, which is plenty big enough to fend off a hungry parrot fish. South Asian natives, these omnivores live in the mid-to-top section, darting around in small rainbow shoals.

A rosy barb’s active nature is busier than a parrot fish, so they provide plenty of action.

11. Clown Loach

Large clown loach in fish tank (Chromobotia macracanthus)

Bottom-dwelling clown loaches reach nine inches long, so they require a large tank.

©Joan Carles Juarez/

Another interesting bottom dweller that makes a great tank mate for parrot fish is the clown loach.

It’s a large, active fish with bright colors. They prefer to live in a shoaling group and reach seven to nine inches long in captivity, so a large tank is required. You’ll need at least 125 gallons to keep clown loach responsibly.

Clown loaches dig through bottom sand, searching out worms and larvae in the wild. They love to munch on aquarium snails, too. Just a warning in case you’ve developed a relationship with an interesting aquarium snail!

12. Silver Shark

The bala shark, Balantiocheilos melanopterus, silver shark, is not a true shark, but is commonly so called because of its torpedo-shaped body

Silver sharks are often called bala sharks. They reach over a foot long, so they require space.

©Arunee Rodloy/

Silver sharks, surely you can’t keep a shark in any aquarium? Well, these aren’t sharks, but shark-like South Asian fish that do well in a peaceful aquarium with cichlid parrot fish.

With a triangular dorsal fin, black eyes, and shiny, silver, bullet-like bodies, silver sharks are fascinating to watch, but like clown loaches, they need room. This beauty can reach 13 inches long. It’s only suitable for large, tropical freshwater tanks. It’s important to remember this because pet shops often sell them at three to four inches long, and they quickly outgrow a medium-sized tank.

Summary of the 12 Best Tank Mates to Pair With Parrot Fish

Parrot fish will attack aggressive fish and eat smaller fish. These twelve fish can be excellent tank mates because of their calm demeanor, large size or speed and level of activity. Take care not to pair these fish with species that they will eat – even if they are too big to tempt a parrot fish.

#FishWhy They are Compatible
1Angel FishCalm, too big to eat
2Tiger BarbToo fast to catch
3Black Skirt TetrasCalm, too big to eat
4GouramiCalm, too big to eat
5Silver DollarsShoal at the top of the tank, must be purchased after they have grown too big to eat
6Emperor TetrasCalm, too big to eat
7KribensisCalm, too big to eat but will nibble on slow-moving Angel Fish
8SwordtailsCalm, too big to eat
9CorydorasCalm, dwell on the bottom of the tank, are small but have spikes and protective flanks
10Rosy BarbCalm, too big to eat
11Clown LoachCalm, too big to eat, grow large enough to require larger tank, will munch on snails
12Silver SharkCalm, too big to eat, grow large enough to require larger tank

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Bk87/

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About the Author

Rebecca is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on plants and geography. Rebecca has been writing and researching the environment for over 10 years and holds a Master’s Degree from Reading University in Archaeology, which she earned in 2005. A resident of England’s south coast, Rebecca enjoys rehabilitating injured wildlife and visiting Greek islands to support the stray cat population.

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