10 Best Aquarium Fish for Beginners
If you’re getting into freshwater aquariums for the first time, it can be intimidating to know which fish to pick. You want something sturdy, affordable, colorful, and with an interesting personality. Check out our list of top 10 beginner fish (in no particular order) that are easy to care for and would make a great addition to your aquarium!
There are many types, but we love the Trigonostigma heteromorpha harlequin and lambchop. These peaceful nano fish are known for their bright orange coloration and distinctive black triangular pattern. They can be found in pet shops and grow up to two inches in length. The microdevario kubotai, a tiny neon-green rasbora, and the larger Risbora trilineata are two other rasboras. A school of six or more of the same species of rasbora will make an impressive display in your community tank. You can find more information about caring for your rasboras in our care guide.
2. Common Goldfish
Veterans often warn new fish keepers to stay away from goldfish because they get so large, but they’re still a great beginner pet because they’re very resilient and easy to care for. Common goldfish (Carassius auratus), can grow up to 12 to 14 inches. This means that they need 30 gallons of fresh water (or two goldfish in 55-gallon aquariums). After reaching adult size, many people place their goldfish in outdoor water ponds. They enjoy eating Repashy Super Gold, spirulina algae and vegetables.
Although they are very patient with water parameters like pH and hardness, goldfish require frequent water changes to maintain their tanks clean. It is best to keep your aquarium one-species as they will eat all animals and plants that are in it.
The tetras, which are small schooling fish like rasboras also come in a variety of colors, such as neon tetras or Paracheirodon innesi, cardinal and black tetras or Hyphessobrycon thebertaxelrodi, and Congo-tetras. They are easy to take care of and they prefer neutral pH water from 7.0 to 7.8 (usually higher for African tetras, and lower for wild-caught South American Tetras). Keep them in groups of six or greater to ensure safety. Tetras go very well with rasboras and other community fish on this list. More information can be found in our neon tetra and cardinal tetra guide.
Cory catfish are calm schooling fish similar to tetras or rasboras. However, they live in the bottom of the aquarium. Growing to one to three inches in length, they love scavenging around the tank floor and looking for crumbs, but you must specifically feed them a variety of sinking foods to make sure they get enough nutrition.
More than 160 species have been identified to date. The most popular species are the bronze and albino corys (Corydoras albino), panda corys (Corydoras Panda), and the emerald corys (Corydoras splendidens). For the best entertainment, keep them together with at least three- to six other species. Read our cory catfish care manual to learn more.
These 3 inch livebearers, which means fish that bear young, are more robust than guppies. They can handle a wide range of pH from 7.0 and higher and tend to prefer harder waters. They are also very picky eaters, and will eat just about any omnivore food you offer them. Variantus platys (Xiphophorus variatus) are our favorite, so make sure you check them out!
6. Betta Fish
Because of their vibrant colors and small size, Betta fish is the ideal beginner fish. They can be kept by themselves in a 5-gallon aquarium with a gentle filter or with a community of other fish in a 10-gallon tank or larger. (Don’t keep them with other betta fish because their nickname is “Siamese fighting fish” for a reason.) Corydoras, tetras and peaceful creatures make good tank mates. But avoid any fish that might nip the fins. They love betta pellets and frozen bloodworms. This guide will help you set up a beautiful tank for betta fish.
Barbs make a lively, action-packed addition to your community tank. Growing to three to four inches (and larger), the most popular varieties include tiger barbs (Puntigrus tetrazona), Odessa barbs (Pethia padamya), and cherry barbs (Puntius titteya). To reduce fin nipping, some species can be considered semi-aggressive. We recommend purchasing six or more of these species. Good tank mates include rasboras, tetras, and corydoras, but stay away from long-finned fish like angelfish and betta fish.
8. Bolivian Cichlids
The Bolivian Ram (Mikrogeophagus Altispinosus), a beginner cichlid, is very similar to its colorful but less durable cousins the German ram. Running at three inches long, they make a great centerpiece fish for a medium-sized community aquarium because of their unique cichlid behavior, yellow and black coloration, and ease of breeding. Bolivian rams can be kept with almost any fish in a community aquarium that meets their requirements. They are tolerant to pH levels between 7.0 and 8.0, as well as temperatures between 72 and 79degF.
9. Kuhli Loaches
Kuhli loaches (Pangio kuhlii) will either fascinate or freak you out because they look like little 4-inch eels or snakes. Because they are nocturnal fish, they can be shy and hide behind decorations. Therefore, keep them in small groups of 3 to 6 so they feel comfortable enough to venture out on their own. These bottom dwellers, like corydoras and corydoras scavenge from the ground for leftovers between rocks but must be fed to ensure they are not hungry. You can read more about them at our Kuhli Loach Care Guide.
The angelfish’s striking appearance is due to its distinctive shape, beautiful fins, and lovely stripes. Keep them in 55 gallons of water or more, especially in tall vertical tanks. They can grow up to the size a small saucer. The large, showpiece cichlid is a good choice for rasboras and tetras. However, it’s better to keep one than to prevent territorial fighting between their species. There are many varieties, including marble, zebra and veil angelfish.
All of these beginner fish are hardy, easy to care for, and readily available at your local fish store, so have fun researching your next fish and deciding which one is best for you!