Being involved in the retail tropical fish business, I am in touch with a good number of hobbyists on a daily basis. Over and over, they request odd and unusual fishes, having grown tired of "boring" fish. While collecting unusual fish can be exciting, many tend to overlook some very wondrous ways to keep some wonderful fish.
Most tropical fish commonly seen in local fish stores are not kept in the optimum conditions. Tetras, for example, do best in schools. We tend to make that school 4 or 6 fish. Have you seen a school of say 18 to 24 Serpae tetras in a well planted tank, passing quickly past a similarly sized school of Lemon Tetras? It is a BREATHTAKING sight. The subtle yellows with black highlights of the lemons are set off by the plants, while the Rosy reds with black accents of the serpaes stand out dramatically. Then you eyes focus on an equally sized school of Pristella maxillaris casually emerging from behind that wonderful centerpiece swordplant. Captivating is not a suitable word. Makes you want to throw out the TV and settle in for a night of real entertainment. As the Neons come by, your heart nearly stops. But...these are boring fish. Yeah...right!
Or what about a tank set in a creekside setting, some driftwood roots, a few reedlike plants, and a school of Corydoras catfish is hopping along. Above you notice almost inpercievably the graceful flow of several Angels, the fish you figured to be a centerpiece, but seemingly now only a natural part of this little world. In one sector, a pair of Rams tends to a brood of fry, seemingly unaware of any possible danger, yet poised and ready for any interloper, to drive them off and ensure that their progeny will grow to inherit their world. Crouched in a nook in the nearby driftwood, a lone Farlowella acus is seemingly lifelwss, resting until the dim of night allows it to again seek out some green pasture hidden away in the depths. A small shoal of Black Tetras is flittering in the grasses on the other side, adding a bit of activity in a world of casual relaxation. But you say these are boring fish...
The point of these illustrations is that while these fish seem common and everyday, they are some of the most fascinating and enjoyable of fishes, but we seldom give them an opportunity to really be themselves, and when we keep a pair of this or half a dozen of that, the opportunity never arises. Rather than trying to keep as many different kinds of fish as possible in a tank, consider keeping a true community. You may be surprised at the uniqueness of what you will see.