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I'm setting up and cycling a 20 gallon tank and this will be my first community tank. I wanted to keep some guppies and ghost shrimp. I've been researching other tank mates for them and I was originally going to use tetras in the 1.5-2 inch range but then I feel like that might be overcrowding the tank. Does anyone have a recommendation of a fish that can be single or a pair and still work in a community tank?
 

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If you get only male Guppies you will not have a population explosion which should make stocking much easier. I have a friend who raises Dwarf Panda Guppies and those might be an option if you like them. They are only about 1" long total and quite stunning when the males shoal together. They may well be my favorite Nano fish as a Betta tank mate, too.

But, back to the 20. Is it a long or tall tank? It makes a difference in stocking because of the footprint of a 20 long is more conducive to a community tank.

If you have plenty filtration (and the more the better) and not just the minimum GPH you could have five or six Fancy Guppies and a two or so shoals of *Nano* fish of 8-12. Hold off on the Ghosties until the tank has been cycled and stable for a month or two. Shrimp are exceptionally sensitive to parameter shifts and even .25ppm can kill or severely compromise them. Also, they need heavy planting and good places to hide and molt. Molting is when they are their most vulnerable and easy prey. I only advise shrimp with Nano fish. However, with just a few Fancy Guppies they have a better chance of survival than in a tank of larger fish.

Here is a good stocking guide but keep in mind it tends to be conservative. And do keep us advised on what you are thinking.

AqAdvisor - Intelligent Freshwater Tropical Fish Aquarium Stocking Calculator and Aquarium Tank/Filter Advisor
 

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Corydoras ( Cory Catfish) work well single and in groups. Balloon Mollies work well single, in pairs and groups. Otocinclus catfish works well alone. Panda loach does well in a pair or group. As others this loach requires very clean water and low competitors for its kind of food as a bottom dweller. I was also looking at this fish for myself as its so beautiful and brings a wild life feel to any tank, it reminds me of a Zebra lol. This one is just my personal opinion but maybe event and Female betta as a baby would do just fine growing up around fish and shrimp.
 

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Corydoras ( Cory Catfish) work well single and in groups. Balloon Mollies work well single, in pairs and groups. Otocinclus catfish works well alone. Panda loach does well in a pair or group. As others this loach requires very clean water and low competitors for its kind of food as a bottom dweller. I was also looking at this fish for myself as its so beautiful and brings a wild life feel to any tank, it reminds me of a Zebra lol. This one is just my personal opinion but maybe event and Female betta as a baby would do just fine growing up around fish and shrimp.
Please research. If you had you would have found that, contrary to your advice, Cory, Oto and Loaches are shoaling fish and do not do well and should not be kept alone. They require groups of at least six; anything less is contrary to nature and patently unfair, even cruel, to shoaling species.

Livebearers are fine alone or in trios (one male/two females) but not pairs unless both fish are either male or female. Elsewise there is potential for the male to hassle the single female beyond stress.
 

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Please research. If you had you would have found that, contrary to your advice, Cory, Oto and Loaches are shoaling fish and do not do well and should not be kept alone. They require groups of at least six; anything less is contrary to nature and patently unfair, even cruel, to shoaling species.

Livebearers are fine alone or in trios (one male/two females) but not pairs unless both fish are either male or female. Elsewise there is potential for the male to hassle the single female beyond stress.


Like i said, Loaches do well in pairs or groups. Im speaking in context based on what was written in the question. I did do my research. I have referenced and referred Octolinus and Cory because they have been proven to do well, not only in pairs like ive said and everybody knows but alone as well. I have one cory cat alone with guppies and mollies and have had him for about 9 months now. Cats do not Require 6 of them to be healthy. Im sorry but every species of fish in the world schools together and colonizes with its own species its natural. If you want a cory you deff get any few less than six and they would do just beautifully and thrive if all other params are quality for the species.
 

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Like i said, Loaches do well in pairs or groups. Im speaking in context based on what was written in the question. I did do my research. I have referenced and referred Octolinus and Cory because they have been proven to do well, not only in pairs like ive said and everybody knows but alone as well. I have one cory cat alone with guppies and mollies and have had him for about 9 months now. Cats do not Require 6 of them to be healthy. Im sorry but every species of fish in the world schools together and colonizes with its own species its natural. If you want a cory you deff get any few less than six and they would do just beautifully and thrive if all other params are quality for the species.
None of the articles that I've read on cory cats suggest keeping them alone, they are state that they do best in groups of 6. Can they be kept singly? Yes, they can. The real question is should they be, and the answer to that is no. They are a shoaling fish, and as such they need others of their kind to feel safe and secure. Surviving is not the same as thriving, they simply survive alone, but hardly thrive. It's like the question can a betta live in one of the 1/2 gal tanks. Yes, they can. I'm not going to suggest it though because it is not good for the betta.
 

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People can keep fish as they wish; however, a conscientious aquarist strives for habitat that is best for the security and comfort all of the species. And anyone who understands the reason for shoaling would never, ever keep one or two:

Many fish shoal or form schools in nature, and the reasons why they do this have effects that can be seen in the aquarium. The difference between a school and a shoal is subtle; A school of fish is a tightly regimented formation where fish swim an equal distance apart and the group turns as a whole. A shoal is a less formal arrangement where fish swim close together and follow the same general direction but each fish may do as it pleases.

Virtually all grouping freshwater fish found in the hobby are shoaling fish rather than schooling and should be referred to as such. Natural shoals can range from groups of tens to hundreds (Such as Corydoras), hundreds to thousands (such as Neon's & Piranha's) and in the case of some open water marine fish, in millions. Knowing why your fish shoal will help you to understand their behaviour in the aquarium and in some cases, help to eliminate potential bullies and compatibility problems.

Avoiding predators
The primary advantage of forming a tightly knit shoal is to minimise the chances of being picked off by predators. A single small fish would have to face a one on one battle for survival if a predator should arrive but as a group, not only is the chance of you being eaten heavily reduced (hopefully it will be someone else), but the chances of the predator catching anything at all is much reduced.

In a shoal, fish can use the intelligent solution of a co-ordinated defence to avoid and confuse predators.

The first step is to try and not look like a small fish and this can be done by staying as close to your fellow fish as possible. If everyone in the group does the same thing, a tightly knit ball of fish is formed which from a distance, appears as one large object, hopefully far to large too be eaten. The predator, seeing such a large moving object, is more likely to not only ignore it as it appears too large to eat, but may even actually avoid it thinking that the strange object could be a threat.

If this approach doesn't work and the predator attempts an attack, then the art of confusion can be employed.

As a predator charges into a shoal, the fish split into two directions around the predator and re-form around the back, leaving an empty space around the predator as it swims through the group. From the predator's point of view, it is impossible to pick out one individual fish amongst the group as they scatter. Without a fixed target, the predator is simply hoping that a fish will happen to swim into its gulping reach, and has a much-reduced chance of catching anything. Whilst this game is played, the shoal will head for a hiding spot and if they all make it there in time the predator is left with nothing and will eventually swim away looking for an easier target. *From Thinkfish

Knowing the above, it is more than apparent that, as Rainbo noted, shoalers stay alive if kept alone but it is less than acceptable and unnatural and leaves them more prone to stress and disease. Maybe I am odd, but I like to measure longevity in years and not months. One of my 10-member Habrosus Cory shoals puttered around on the bottom of their tank for 5+ years. And they shoaled even though they were in a tank with just other Nanos and no predators...as did the Neons, Embers, Chili Rasbora, etc. So to imply they do not need a shoal in a predator-less aquarium is terribly inaccurate.

So, to the OP and others who may wonder: Do what those who have studied fish for years suggest and keep proper shoals so you can enjoy your fishy friends for a long time.
 

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For fish to thrive you have to meet all their needs and that includes the number of them you have. Look, I did zebra fish incredibly wrong, I followed the wrong advice, got 6 of them and put them in a 5 gal tank with a betta, only to have to move them when they stressed out my betta. They need a 20 gal tank, but the largest tank I have is 10 gal so I ended up moving them into it with a betta and 5 cory's, all but one of the zebras died. That poor zebra ended up trying to shoal with the cory's, and lived a very unnatural, stressed, short, life. That's what you end up with when you keep fish improperly, stressed fish that act unnaturally and die early. It's bad enough to make a mistake like I did do to poor research, quite another to advice other people to make the same mistake. As for me I was going by advice I read for danio, and did not research what the individual species of danio needed, as a result my zebra danio fish paid the price.... I learned from my mistake, and I learn from what more knowledgeable fish keepers tell me.
 
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