Starting a freshwater aquarium can be a delightful and rewarding experience for beginners. The underwater world of aquariums offers a captivating display of colors, shapes, and behaviors. However, choosing the right fish for your aquarium is crucial to ensure a successful and enjoyable journey into the world of fishkeeping.
We will explore the best aquarium fish for beginners, considering various factors such as the fish tank size, water conditions, compatibility, feeding requirements, and maintenance levels.
Considerations for Choosing Aquarium Fish
Before diving into the list of recommended fish species, it’s a good idea to understand the key considerations when selecting fish for your aquarium. Considering these factors, you can create a harmonious and thriving aquatic environment.
Size of the tank
The size of your aquarium plays a significant role in determining the type and number of fish you can keep. Smaller tanks are generally more suitable for small fish species, while larger tanks offer greater flexibility and accommodate a wider range of fish.
Different fish species have specific water requirements. Some fish thrive in freshwater, while others prefer brackish or saltwater. Understanding the water conditions necessary for your chosen fish will help create a suitable habitat.
Compatibility with other fish
Not all fish get along well with each other. It’s crucial to research the compatibility of different fish species to avoid aggression or territorial issues. Some fish are more peaceful and can be kept with various tank mates, while others are better suited for species-only tanks.
Each fish species has its own dietary needs. Some fish are omnivorous, while others are herbivores or carnivores. Knowing the feeding requirements of your chosen fish will help ensure their nutritional needs are met. Understand that there is a difference between live foods and flake food.
Different fish have different care requirements. Some fish are hardy and can tolerate fluctuations in water parameters, while others are more delicate and require more precise conditions. Consider your availability and commitment to regular tank maintenance when choosing fish.
Best Aquarium Fish for Beginners – The Ultimate List
Now that we have explored the essential considerations let’s dive into the top five best aquarium fish for beginners:
1. Betta Fish
Betta fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish, is popular for beginners due to their bright colors and low maintenance requirements. Male bettas tend to look more colorful. They are labyrinth fish, meaning they can breathe atmospheric air and absorb oxygen from the water.
Betta fish are known for their solitary nature and can be aggressive, so keeping them alone or in tanks with minimal fish and no aggressive tank mates is important. We recommend having them in a small aquarium where they tend to thrive in small tanks, and it’s the easiest fish to take care of in a bowl. Visit this page for more information and FAQs about Bettas. their behavior with creating bubbles, and whether Bettas could live with shrimps.
Guppies are small of the most popular and beginner-friendly fish species. They come in various colors and patterns, making them a visually appealing addition to any aquarium. Guppies are known for their playful nature and active swimming habits, adding liveliness to the tank. They are relatively hardy and can adapt to a wide range of water conditions, making them one of the best aquarium fish for beginners.
We also share more details in our Ultimate Guide To Guppies Care here.
3. Neon Tetras
Neon tetras are vibrant and small-sized fish that can add a stunning touch to your aquarium and are quite possibly the best aquarium fish for beginners. Their shimmering blue and red colors make them a visual delight. Neon tetras are peaceful and easy to care for, making them an excellent choice for beginners. They are schooling fish, so keeping them in groups of at least six to eight individuals is recommended. Providing ample hiding places with plants and decorations will make them feel secure.
Check out our Ultimate Guide for Neon Tetra for more information about the Neon Tetras.
Platies are another popular choice for beginner aquarium enthusiasts. They are available in various colors, including vibrant oranges, reds, and blues. Platies are peaceful, active, and social fish that can thrive in a community tank. They are relatively hardy and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions. Keep them in groups to promote their natural behavior and provide plenty of plants and open swimming spaces.
5. Cory Catfish
Corydoras catfish, often referred to as “cory cats,” are a great addition to beginner aquariums, particularly if you’re interested in having bottom-dwelling fish. They have a unique appearance with their armored bodies and barbels near their mouths. Corydoras catfish are peaceful and social, and as bottom dwellers, they will scavenge the bottom of the tank, helping to keep it clean. They are generally hardy fish that can tolerate a range of water conditions.
6. Cherry Barbs
Cherry barbs are colorful and active fish that are well-suited for beginner aquariums. They have a vibrant red color that adds a pop of color to the tank. Cherry barbs are peaceful and relatively easy to care for, making them a great choice for beginners. They are small and can be kept in community tanks with other peaceful fish species. Cherry barbs prefer well-planted tanks with open swimming spaces. They appreciate a balanced diet of high-quality flakes, pellets, and occasional live or frozen foods.
7. Harlequin Rasboras
Harlequin rasboras are another excellent choice for beginner aquarium enthusiasts. They are small, peaceful fish with striking colors and patterns. Harlequin rasboras thrive in schools, so keeping them in groups of at least six to eight individuals is recommended. They are relatively hardy, can adapt to a wide range of water conditions, and are one of the best aquarium fish for beginners. Harlequin rasboras prefer well-maintained aquariums with plenty of plants and swimming space.
8. Zebra Danios
Zebra Danios are lively and resilient fish that make an excellent choice for beginner aquariums. With their iconic horizontal stripes, they add a captivating touch to any tank. These small, active fish thrive in groups, exhibiting playful behavior and zipping around the aquarium with energy. Zebra Danios are known for their adaptability and can tolerate various water conditions.
They are peaceful and get along well with other community fish, and it’s one of the best freshwater fish for beginners. Zebra Danios are a delightful addition to any aquarium, offering visual appeal and a lively atmosphere.
9. Pearl Gourami
Pearl Gouramis are South American gems that bring beauty and tranquillity to aquariums. Their iridescent colors shimmer and change when light hits their scales, creating a mesmerizing effect. These peaceful fish have a graceful swimming style, adding an elegant touch to any tank. Pearl Gouramis are social creatures and should be kept in groups to thrive.
They appreciate a well-planted aquarium with plenty of hiding spots. With their stunning appearance and calm nature, Pearl Gouramis will surely become the focal point of any aquarist’s collection and possibly the best aquarium fish for beginners.
10. Tiger Barbs
Tiger Barbs are energetic and vibrant fish that can inject liveliness into your aquarium. Their bold, contrasting stripes and active behavior make them a captivating addition. However, it is important to keep them in groups to minimize aggression. Tiger Barbs tend to establish a pecking order among themselves, but this behavior is spread out and less intense when kept in larger numbers.
These fish thrive in well-maintained tanks with ample swimming space. With their playful nature and eye-catching appearance, Tiger Barbs are popular for aquarists seeking an animated and colorful aquarium.
11. Cardinal Tetras
Similar to their neon tetra counterparts, Cardinal Tetras are known for their vibrant colors and preference for schooling. These small, peaceful fish display striking red and blue hues that add beauty to any aquarium. Cardinal Tetras thrive when kept in groups, as seeing a school of these fish swimming together is truly captivating.
Along with many other fishes, they are one of the best aquarium fish combinations. They prefer soft, slightly acidic water conditions and a well-planted tank. With their delicate yet eye-catching appearance, Cardinal Tetras are a delightful choice for aquarists who appreciate the beauty of a cohesive school of fish.
12. White Cloud Minnow
White Cloud Minnows, also known as White Cloud Mountain Minnows, are small and peaceful fish perfect for smaller aquariums or community tanks. Their silver and gold coloration adds a touch of elegance to any setup. Hardy and adaptable, these minnows can tolerate a range of water conditions, making them one of the best aquarium fish for beginners.
White Cloud Minnows are active swimmers and appreciate a well-planted aquarium with open swimming areas. With their peaceful demeanor and graceful movements, White Cloud Minnows bring tranquillity and charm to aquariums of all sizes.
13. Bristlenose Pleco
Bristlenose Plecos are unique and fascinating catfish that serve a dual purpose in the aquarium. With their specialized mouthparts, they are excellent algae eaters, helping to keep the tank clean and free from excessive algae growth. Additionally, their appearance is captivating, with males exhibiting prominent bristle-like tentacles on their faces.
These catfish are peaceful and get along well with other community fish. They appreciate hiding spots in the form of driftwood or caves. Bristlenose Plecos are a practical and visually appealing addition to any aquarium, offering functional and aesthetic benefits.
14. Kuhli Loaches
Kuhli Loaches are bottom-dwelling fish with a slender and elongated bodies, making them a unique addition to the aquarium. These fascinating creatures are best kept in groups, as they display playful and social behavior when surrounded by their kind. Kuhli Loaches bring mystery and intrigue to the tank with their distinctive striped patterns and nocturnal nature.
They are peaceful fish that get along well with other non-aggressive species. Kuhli Loaches appreciate a well-furnished aquarium with plenty of hiding spots like caves, plants, and driftwood. Watching these loaches wiggle and burrow in the substrate is a delightful sight for any fish enthusiast.
Celestial Pearl Danios, also known as Galaxy Rasboras, are small and peaceful fish with stunning colors and patterns. Their vibrant blue, orange, and red hues, combined with unique celestial-like patterns, make them a captivating sight in smaller aquariums. Despite their small size, they are lively and active, constantly exploring their environment.
Celestial Pearl Danios are well-suited for planted tanks and prefer calm water conditions. Their peaceful temperament makes them compatible with other non-aggressive fish species. Adding a school of these celestial beauties to your aquarium will create a visual masterpiece that will impress you.
16. Discus Fish
Discus Fish are revered for their exceptional beauty and graceful swimming style. These colorful and majestic fish require more advanced care, but they can be suitable for dedicated beginners willing to meet their specific needs. With a wide range of color variations, from vibrant reds and blues to intricate patterns, Discus Fish are often referred to as the “kings” of the aquarium, and they are one of the best aquarium fish for beginners.
They thrive in larger tanks with stable water conditions and prefer soft and slightly acidic water. Discus Fish are intelligent and social creatures that benefit from companionship, so keeping them in small groups is recommended. Their regal presence and stunning aesthetics make them a highly sought-after species among aquarists.
17. Tinfoil Barbs
Tinfoil Barbs are active and vibrant fish that add a touch of metallic shimmer to larger aquariums. With their reflective scales and elongated bodies, they create a captivating spectacle when swimming. These robust fish require spacious tanks with plenty of swimming space and hiding places. Tinfoil Barbs are social and should be kept in groups to minimize stress.
They have a voracious appetite, so a varied diet consisting of pellets and live/frozen foods is essential to their well-being. Although generally peaceful, caution should be exercised when choosing tankmates, as their active nature may intimidate smaller or slower fish. A school of Tinfoil Barbs brings energy and vitality to any aquarium setup.
18. German Blue Rams
German Blue Rams, or Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, are beautiful dwarf cichlids from South America. These fish are prized for their vibrant colors and intriguing behaviors. The males exhibit stunning electric blue hues on their bodies, while the females showcase a vibrant gold coloration. German Blue Rams thrive in heavily planted tanks with plenty of hiding spots and gentle water movement.
They are generally peaceful but can become territorial during breeding. Providing them with a well-balanced diet of high-quality pellets, live or frozen foods, and occasional vegetable matter is crucial for their health and vibrant coloration. German Blue Rams are the captivating centerpiece for aquarists seeking elegance and natural behavior in their aquariums.
19. Paradise Fish
Paradise Fish (Macropodus opercularis) is a recommended beginner’s aquarium fish. With vibrant colors and hardiness, it’s a popular choice. These Southeast Asian fish adapt well to various water conditions. They thrive in slightly acidic to neutral water and temperatures between 72°F and 82°F. Paradise Fish are easy to care for and can be fed high-quality flakes or pellets. They exhibit interesting behavior, but males can be territorial. With proper attention, they bring beauty to any beginner’s tank.
Care Tips for Beginners
While the recommended fish species mentioned above are beginner-friendly, providing them with proper care is important to ensure their well-being. Here are some essential care tips for beginners:
Create a suitable environment for your fish by setting up a well-equipped aquarium. Ensure proper filtration, lighting, and heating systems based on the requirements of your chosen fish species. Provide hiding places, plants, and decorations to mimic their natural habitat and create a sense of security.
Monitor and maintain the water parameters of your aquarium. Regularly test the temperature, pH level, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels to ensure they are within the appropriate range for your fish species. Perform water changes as necessary to maintain good water quality. Products like the 9 in 1 Aquarium Test Strips and Freshwater Aquarium Test Strips will be useful for your aquarium.
Feed your fish a balanced diet suitable for their species. Most beginner-friendly fish are omnivorous, so a combination of high-quality commercial fish flakes or pellets and occasional live or frozen foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms will suffice. Feed them in small portions and avoid overfeeding to prevent water quality issues.
Regular tank maintenance is crucial for the health of your fish. Perform regular water changes, clean the aquarium equipment, and remove any debris or uneaten food from the tank. Watch for signs of illness or stress in your fish and take appropriate action if needed. Otherwise, even the best aquarium fish for beginners wouldn’t live long.
Monitoring fish health
Observe your fish regularly for any signs of disease, stress, or abnormal behavior. Look for changes in appetite, color, swimming patterns, or visible symptoms like spots, lesions, or fin damage. If you notice any issues, consult a knowledgeable aquarium specialist or veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Selecting the right fish for your aquarium ensures a successful and enjoyable fishkeeping experience. The top five recommended fish for beginners, including Betta Fish, Guppies, Neon Tetras, Platies, and Corydoras Catfish, are excellent choices that offer a combination of vibrant colors, ease of care, and compatibility with beginner-level aquarium setups. Remember to consider the size of your tank, water conditions, compatibility, feeding requirements, and maintenance level when selecting fish for your aquarium.
By providing a suitable environment, monitoring water parameters, offering proper nutrition, and practicing regular tank maintenance, you can create a thriving and captivating aquatic habitat for your beginner-friendly fish. Remember to research the specific needs of each fish species you choose and consult reliable sources or aquarium experts for additional guidance.
In conclusion, starting an aquarium and selecting the best fish for beginners can be exciting. The recommended fish species mentioned in this article, such as Betta Fish, Guppies, Neon Tetras, Platies, and Corydoras Catfish, offer a range of beautiful colors, fascinating behaviors, and relative ease of care. With proper attention to their needs and your commitment to their well-being, you can enjoy the beauty and serenity of your underwater oasis.
1. How often should I feed my aquarium fish?
The feeding frequency depends on the specific fish species. Generally, feeding once or twice daily is sufficient for most aquarium fish. However, monitoring and adjusting their feeding habits is important to avoid overfeeding or underfeeding.
2. Can I keep different species of fish together?
Yes, you can keep different fish species together, but it’s crucial to research their compatibility. Some fish may be territorial, aggressive, or have specific social requirements. Choose fish with similar temperaments and consider the size of your tank to provide ample space for each species.
3. Do I need a heater for my aquarium?
The need for a heater depends on your chosen fish species and the temperature requirements. Tropical fish generally require a heater to maintain the appropriate water temperature. Research the specific needs of your chosen fish and provide a heater if necessary.
4. Do I need a filter for my aquarium?
Yes, this is very important. While it is possible to have a no-filter tank, filters are needed to help clean the waste produced by your aquarium fish. Many models are in the market, and we recommend you check out this page on the best fish tank filter.
5. Do I need an aquarium light for my aquarium?
Aquarium lights are important for fish tanks, especially when you have a planted aquarium. There are many models in the market, and do check out some of the best aquarium lights listed.
6. How long can aquarium fish live?
The lifespan of aquarium fish varies depending on the species. Some fish may live for a few years, while others live for a decade or more. Research the average lifespan of the fish species you are interested in to understand their longevity better.
7. What should I do if my fish become sick?
If you notice signs of illness in your fish, taking action promptly is important. Isolate the affected fish to prevent the spread of disease, research the symptoms, and consult a knowledgeable aquarium specialist or veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment options.
8. What is the best aquarium fish for beginners?
The Zebra Danios are considered one of the best aquarium fish for beginners due to their hardy nature and active behavior.
9. What is the easiest fish to keep in an aquarium?
The White Cloud Minnows are among the easiest fish to keep in an aquarium, as they are adaptable to various water conditions and have peaceful temperaments.
10. What fish cleans the tank?
The Bristlenose Pleco, an algae-eating catfish, is known for helping clean the tank by consuming algae and controlling it. You can also consider these aquarium algae eaters too.
11. What should be my first fish for a freshwater tank?
The peaceful and vibrant Tiger Barbs are a suitable first fish for a freshwater tank, as they are relatively easy to care for and add a lively touch to the aquarium. Afterward, go for Harlequin rasboras, which are also very hardy and friendly fish. You can also consider this article on the 10 best fish combinations for beginners.
12. What is the difference between Neon Tetra and Cardinal Tetra?
The Neon Tetra is smaller than the Cardinal Tetra, and their coloration differs. Unlike the Cardinal Tetra, the blue and red stripes on the Neon Tetra do not extend along their entire body length. Instead, Neon Tetras commonly display a blue head and a red tail. While their colors are not as vibrant as those of the Cardinal Tetra, they are still quite striking in appearance. It is worth noting that most Neon Tetras available in the aquarium trade are bred in captivity rather than collected from the wild.