Top 10 Easy Fish That Beginners Always Love
Certain aquarium fish are classified as “beginner fish” because they are easy to care for, very colorful, and won’t break the bank. They are popular with novice fish keepers and require less attention than more difficult species. After years of helping customers in our local fish store, these are our top 10 beginner fish we find ourselves recommending over and over again.
1. Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)
This striking starter fish is well-known for its black and white horizontal stripes, with a red “eyebrow”, above its pupil. Because of its mostly neutral colors, we find that the black streak matches well with fish of many other colors. They grow to about 1.5 inches (4 cm) in length and get slightly bigger than regular neon tetras (Paracheirodon innesi). They are a great schooling fish and will do well in groups of 6-12 other species. However, they are quite affordable at $2-3 per piece. Black neon tetras are very forgiving when it comes to beginner mistakes and can withstand a wide variety of temperatures and water parameters. You will be able to gain confidence in your first stages of fish keeping with their robustness and even-keeled nature. For more details, see our full care guide.
2. Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)
The noodle-like body of this miniature “eel”, with its yellow and black alternating bands, makes it a popular oddball. The 4-inch (10 cm long) bottom dweller loves to forage for food on the ground and hide behind aquarium decorations and driftwood. You can encourage them to get out into the open by getting at least 3 – 6 kuhli loaches. Drop their food near the fish tank’s front. They love to eat frozen bloodworms, freeze-dried tubifex worms, and small sinking pellets. Check out our care guide on kuhli loaches for more info.
3. Bristlenose Plecostomus (Ancistrus sp.)
A plecostomus catfish, also known as a “suckerfish”, is a common choice for beginners. They are cool and love to hang on the bottom or glass of the tank. However, some plecos can grow extremely large, so consider choosing a bristlenose pleco that stays relatively small and peaceful. The common name of the bristlenose pleco is due to the fact that males have very little bristles while females don’t. This is why they are one of our favorite algae eaters. You can read the full article to learn more about how to care for plecostomus.
4. Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)
Everybody has harlequin-rasboras as a beginner fish. They are beautiful, tough, and very affordable (usually less than $4). There is nothing better than a school of beautiful orange rasboras measuring 2-inches (5 cm) in length with a solid black triangle pattern on their bodies. To feel at their best, schooling fish need at least six other species. In general, schooling fish need social time with their own kind to put on their best coloration, behave correctly, and give you the most longevity and enjoyment out of your purchase. Read our blog post about rasboras.
5. Albino Cory Catfish, Corydoras Aeneus
Corydoras catfish are a fish tank favorite because of their happy-go-lucky personalities and ability to keep the floor clean of crumbs. The Corydoras species genus includes over 100 species. However, we prefer albino corys to beginners due to their toughness and inexpensive price. Their shiny pink scales make them stand out in a planted aquarium. The bronze cory is also available in a dark greenish brown color. This schooling bottom dweller gets up to 2.8 inches (7 cm) and loves gobbling up frozen bloodworms, Repashy gel food, and small sinking pellets. You can capture them doing this by “blinking,” or flicking their eyes down. Read our cory catfish care guide to find out more.
6. Cherry Barb (Puntius tarteya
Cherry barbs may be considered aggressive. However, they aren’t more aggressive than a rasbora or tetra. Males have a deep red coloration, whereas the females are more tannish-red. Although you might be tempted to only get males for your aquarium, it is best to purchase at least one female for each male. The boys are most confident when they have females to show off their best colors. They will breed easily if you give them high-quality foods such as krill flakes and freeze-dried foods. However, the adults can predate on their offspring so make sure to plant dense aquarium plants such as water sprite or wisteria for your baby fry to hide in.
7. Red Eye Tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae)
If you accidentally bought a bigger, semi-aggressive fish like a bala shark or rainbow shark, pair them with a larger, more full-bodied schooling fish. Red eye tetras (or monk tetras) grow to approximately 2.75 inches (7 cm) in size and are tolerant of a wide range of water parameters. The red eye tetras’ silvery bodies and black tails look great against a background of green plants, or other colorful fish. Get six or more in a group to swim in the middle of your aquarium, and feed them a varied selection of fish foods, like flakes, freeze-dried bloodworms, and Vibra Bites.
8. White Cloud Mountain Minnow (Tanichthys Albonubes).
There are many types of white cloud minnows, including those that can be used as feeder fish. However, we recommend regular white cloud mountain minnows because they are the most bulletproof. They are very cheap, only grow to 1.5 inches (4 cm), and don’t need an aquarium heater because they live in cooler temperatures. In fact, many people keep them outside in outdoor mini ponds or tubs during the summer season (or year-round, depending on your climate). They can get sick if the water temperature is too high at 80°F (27°C). This fish is underrated, but you will love it! The males will fight each other and flaunt their fins like peacocks.
9. Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus oblongus)
Siamese algeater (or SAE) is another great cleaner fish. With a downturned mouth, it’s perfect for eating algae and leftover fish food. It’s a bigger fish that grows to about 6 inches (15 cm) in length and kind of looks like a little shark. Technically, they are a schooling fish, but because they can be semi-aggressive in nature, we find that they do best when you have only one SAE by itself or three or more to keep each other in check. We prefer the SAE over the Chinese algae eater (CAE) because the latter gets even larger and more hostile. Some people say that SAEs are better at eating algae when they are younger, but we find that is because the adult SAEs are big enough to get the lion’s share during mealtimes. To get older SAEs interested in eating algae again, try cutting back on the food to whet their appetites.
10. Endler’s Livebearer – Poecilia Wingei
Despite the popularity of livebearers (or fish that bear live young) like guppies and mollies, we don’t always advise them for beginners because they have specific water parameters that need to be met. Plus, their beautiful colors are sometimes the result of heavy inbreeding, which can lead to health issues. Endler’s livebearers make a great choice, as their natural colors are stunning and no linebreeding is required to create amazing patterns. We’ve found them to be quite adaptable to pH of 6.5 and higher and temperatures between 68-82degF (20-28degC). They prefer minerals in their water. If your tap water is low in GH (generally hardness), you can add Wonder Shell and Seachem Equilibrium. If you’re searching for a budget-friendly fish that looks incredible and makes more babies for free, you can’t go wrong with Endler’s livebearers.
All of the fish on this list are mostly community fish that can live together in a big enough tank, so feel free to mix and match these species to build the perfect, low-maintenance aquarium to enjoy. Check out our suggested retailers to buy live fish online.