Top 20 Best Aquarium Fish For A New Tank (2020 GUIDE)
Here are twenty ideas for stocking your new aquarium tank
1. Betta Splendens
A single male Betta is a great choice for a small tank. Give him some decorations to hide in and swim through, and make sure the current isn’t too strong.
He will not need the filtration if you keep the water crystal clear, but if it isn’t bothering him you may as well leave it on.
If you choose a male Betta for your tank he should be in there alone as there is a strong chance he could be aggressive in such confined quarters. Though, in a larger tank, he may get along fine with community fish. This is one of the Best Aquarium Fish For A New Tank
A word of caution: If you plan on a Betta fish please take the time to learn how to care for him correctly. You can start here:
2. Fancy Guppy
Guppies are small, curious fish and will do well in a 5-gallon tank, provided the water is warm enough and the environment is kept clean.
They come in all kinds of different colors, so in combination with your aquascaping they can make your tank quite an eye-catcher. Stick to a conservative school or 6 or fewer with these little guys. Even though they get along, you don’t want to overcrowd.
If possible, do some research (or ask the staff at your pet store) on how to tell male and female guppies apart. It is a good idea to stock two females for every one male in order to cut down on stress.
3. Dwarf Gourami
A dwarf gourami is a bad choice for anything less than five gallons, but if that’s the tank size you’ve chosen it may be an option. Gouramis are anabantids, meaning they can breathe the air above the water.
Bettas are also in the anabantid family, which is why they can do well in water with lower oxygen levels. But that’s no reason to let the tank get dirty. A dwarf gourami requires clean, warm water and should be kept alone in a 5-gallon tank.
Remember that dwarf gouramis are considered semi-aggressive fish. I will reiterate that it is not a good idea to have tankmates with a single gourami in a small tank.
Also, realize that there is a big difference between a dwarf gourami and other gourami species, so choose your fish carefully!
4. Ghost Shrimp
These little shrimp are often thought of as food for other fish, but they are interesting critters in their own right.
You can have a little group of half a dozen shrimp in a 5-gallon tank, provide a lot of interesting things for them to climb on and feed them algae wafers and sinking pellets. It would make for an intriguing if unconventional tank setup.
Oscars are thought to be one of the most intelligent aquarium fish available, and are one of the few species that can be trained to do tricks.
Oscars however are not a community fish, they should be kept in a species only tank, and they can grow very large, very quickly.
They require a lot more maintenance than other fish, due to their carnivorous nature and the amount of waste they create. This is one of the Best Aquarium Fish For A New Tank
On the positive side, they are one of the few species you can hand feed; they will often eat food from between your fingers. Oscars thrive when kept in pairs, or group of 5+, and should be housed together from a young age.
This small, peaceful species grow to around 3-4 inches, and adapt well to a variety of water conditions.
The ideal tank conditions are: a minimum tank size of 20 gallons, and warm water with a pH between 7.0-7.8.
Mollies are omnivorous, and will require a diet of both plant and animal food.
Interestingly, they are livebearers, meaning they give birth to their young live, rather than lay eggs. Mollies are very easy to care for, but they also breed very easily, so if you’re a beginner you might want to keep just a single sex.
7. Zebra Danios
The Zebra Danios make the perfect beginner fish, they are very easy to care for and can grow up to 5-7cm.
They should be kept in at least a 10 gallon tank, in groups of at least 5. Danios are a schooling fish and will become stressed if their numbers are too lows.
They are not fussy eaters and will eat most foods; the healthiest option for them would be lots of worms, insets and crustaceans to mimic their natural diet, however a good quality flake will also work with a supplement of frozen or live food.
Danios are also known to jump so you may want to keep your tank covered!
Platies come in almost every color imaginable and they are very easy to care for – just two of the reasons why they are so popular.
They are a great community fish, they’re very peaceful and get along well with guppies and mollies.
Although small, platies are very active and love being in groups. A 10 gallon tank is large enough for 5 fish.
Whilst they are omnivorous, they do require much more herbivorous food, than meats. Ideally, they need a good mix of plant based food and proteins.
9. Cherry Barb
The Cherry Barb gets its name from the color the male turns when it is spawning. Usually, they are silver/black with a golden lateral line.
They are a peaceful fish which will grow to around 2 inches in length, and they require a minimum tank size of 25 gallons. Cherry Barbs are omnivorous and will eat most types of food including live, fresh, frozen and flake foods.
They are easy to care for and can be kept in community tanks with open space to swim, but also planted areas where they can hide.
10. Pearl Gourami
The Pearl Gourami is a relatively large, but peaceful fish and one of the most easy to keep Gouramis.
The minimum tank size for this species is a 30 gallon tank with plenty of hiding places, dark substrate and low lighting.
They can be housed with other fish of a similar size and temperament; however you should not house them with aggressive fish.
Pearl Gourami’s are omnivorous and should be fed algae-based foods and meaty foods.
They are well known for eating Hydra, a tiny pest that has tentacles with venom, so make a great solution if you have a hydra problem.
The swordtail is similar in shape to platy and guppy fish, with a slightly bulkier body, and a sword shaped extension of its fin.
There are many different color variations available and they are quite hardy which makes them a perfect species for the beginner aquarist.
Swordtails are usually peaceful, yet lively. They thrive in community tanks, and like to swim in loosely grouped schools.
They breed easily, and if you do decide to breed them, you should keep them away from their parents; Swordtail parents will often eat their fry.
These beautiful and graceful fish can grow to be quite large, and therefore require a larger tank, a minimum size of 25 gallons.
Discus are not recommended for beginners, and instead should only be kept by experienced aquarists.
They can be housed with other fish that require the same water conditions, as long as they are not aggressive. This is one of the Best Aquarium Fish For A New Tank
Discus will take a variety of foods but are carnivorous in nature. The best diet for them consists of beef heart and blood worms supplemented with flakes to provide vitamins and minerals.
Killifish come in a wide variety of bright colors. They are extremely hardy fish, and there are over 700 species – a breed to suit almost every tank condition.
They are generally peaceful fish and do well in community tanks with other small, non-aggressive fish. It’s best to keep just one male to each tank though, because they can be aggressive towards each other.
Killifish are very easy to breed, and are either annual or non-annual breeders. In the wild, annual killifish lay their eggs in temporary bodies of water which dry up for months at a time. When they refill, the fry hatch.
Most Killifish are carnivores and therefore enjoy a diet of insect larvae, worms and crustaceans.
Another extremely popular freshwater fish is the Betta. It’s not surprising why; Bettas are vibrantly colored, and easy to care for.
Male Bettas are notoriously aggressive towards other males. Therefore only one male Betta should be kept in each aquarium. They can be housed with other peaceful fish.
Bettas require an omnivorous diet, of both plant and animal foods. It is one of the Best Fish For Small Aquarium.
They grow to a maximum size of 3 inches. Although you often see Bettas in small ornamental tanks, they should be housed in larger tanks.
Did you know: Bettas are able to breathe air outside of the water due to their labyrinth.
Plecs are a breed of catfish, they have heavy armored plates on their bodies, and sucker-shaped mouths to feed on the algae in your tank.
Whilst some species are happy eating algae, wafers and flakes, others will need meaty food such as frozen brine shrimp.
Breeding Plecs is extremely difficult and only a small number of aquarists have managed to breed them. This is one of the Best Aquarium Fish For A New Tank
Plecos can live for 20 years, sometimes longer if cared for correctly. It’s also worth knowing that they can jump too – so keep a lid on your tank.
They can be housed with many different species, but avoid keeping them with fat/flat bodied fish such as goldfish as they may suck on them.
Rainbowfish originate from Australia and Southeast Asia. They are a peaceful schooling fish that can grow up to 6 inches long.
This is perhaps one of the least common fish that we are featuring here, perhaps because its colors only begin to show as they enter adulthood…
However, if given the right care, in just a couple of years they can display stunning and vibrant colors.
Rainbowfish get along well with other upper level schooling fish such as danios, bards and larger tetras.
17. Corydoras Catfish
Also known as Cory Cats, these fish are a staple in most freshwater tanks. They’re easy to care for, calm and peaceful yet active bottom dwellers.
They are very social, and whilst you can keep them individually, they thrive if kept in a group of two or more.
They get on well with most community tank fish as long as they are not aggressive. This is one of the Best Aquarium Fish For A New Tank
Corydoras grow up to 2.5 inches in length, and are excellent tank cleaners. They’ll pick up left over foods from the gravel but also require other foods such as flakes and bottom feeder tablets.
When most people think of Goldfish, they think of small fish bowls with a fish that was won at the fair. This is not the correct way to house goldfish.
Few people know that they can actually grow up to 14 inches in the wild.
The minimum tank size for a goldfish is 20 gallons, you’ll also need a filter and to perform 10-15% weekly water changes.
There are many different varieties of goldfish, and its fine to mix them as long as they aren’t breeds that would compete with each other for food. For example, keep single tailed varieties together and normal eyed goldfish together.
Angelfish are a member of the Cichlid family, which also includes Discus, Oscars and Parrot fish, all common fish amongst aquarium keepers.
They can grow up to 6 inches in length, 8 inches tall, and come in a variety of colors and patterns.
They are omnivorous, so will need a balanced diet of meat and plant food. It is one of the Best Fish For Small Aquarium.
Their tank should be at least 20 gallons, and the water should be slightly soft and acidic. This is one of the Best Aquarium Fish For A New Tank
As they mature, they can become aggressive, especially if your tank in overcrowded. In general though, they are a good community fish, just don’t keep them with very small fish or fin-nipping species.
Tips That Every Beginner Fish keeper Should Know
Ok, now you know what species of fish are ideal for beginner fish keepers, we thought it would be wise to leave you with a few tips that every aquarium owner should know.
The first is controversial, but it’s worth knowing…
Don’t Always Trust Your Local Fish Store Staff
Of course, there are thousands of knowledgable and trustworthy fish store staff around the world who’s knowledge you can genuinely trust, but for every knowledgable member of staff, you will find 3 who don’t really know what they are talking about (that’s a made-up number, but you get my point)
I know this because I have shopped in local fish stores my entire life. I have also received thousands of emails, messages and comments from people who have received dodgy advice too.
It’s not that the staff don’t have the best intentions in mind, they simply don’t have the knowledge.
If you are interested in a fish from this list, or if a fish at your local fish store catches your attention, note down the name and do your own research online. Knowing that specific fish’s ideal water parameters, suitable tank mates, required tank size and any other tidbits of useful information can be found in a few minutes at the tip of your fingers.
Save yourself the stress of making silly mistakes and do your research.
Never Forget To Cycle a New Aquarium
The nitrogen cycle refers to the process in which dangerous substances such as ammonia and nitrates are broken down into safer substances such as nitrites in a new aquarium.
For a sucessful cycle, the presence of good bacteria is required, and unfortunately, the only way for this bacteria to establish is to wait, then wait a bit longer.
This is a huge subject and one that every fishkeeper must be aware of. Just keep in mind that the nitrogen cycle is a crucial part of the hobby and must be done before you add any fish into your new tank.
Smaller Tanks are Not Easier To Keep Healthy
It’s a common myth among beginners and one that I wish would die out. It seems to make sense, that a smaller tank is perfect for a beginner because there is less water to maintain and less fish to care for, but that’s not true whatsoever.
Smaller tanks will require more frequent water changes and are much harder to maintain equilibrium and balance with the water paramaters. Fish create waste, so having less water in your tank will cause the waste to destabilize the quality considerably faster.
So What’s Next?
The 13 freshwater fish that we just introduced to you are just a drop in the ocean when compared to the amount of fish that can be found in aquariums around the world.
If you are ready to start your first successful aquarium but don’t know where to start, you can check out our starter guides section. We answer all of the questions that you probably have swimming around in your head, giving you the tools and knowledge to have some fun with your aquarium.
Now that you’ve made it this far, we would love to hear from you. Let us know in the comment box below what fish you are interested in keeping in your aquarium. Also, feel free to ask any questions you might have.