Best Aquarium Fish For Beginners

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If you’re getting into freshwater aquariums for the first time, it can be intimidating to know the Best Aquarium Fish For Beginners, which fish to pick.

Ideally, you want something hardy, budget-friendly, and colorful with an interesting personality.

Check out our list of top 20 beginner fish that are easy to care for and would make a great addition to your aquarium!

Once you’ve decided to start your own freshwater aquarium, picking your starting fish can feel equally exciting as it is daunting – there are so many different types!

In this article, you’ll discover some beautiful, entertaining buddies you can use to ease you into the hobby.

These easy-going fish won’t make a fuss if you make some mistakes.

Not all fish have the same tolerance levels, in the aquarium community we call this ‘hardiness’. And a beginner friendly fish is going to be a ‘hardier’ than others.

As a beginner, you’re likely to make mistakes. Hardy fish has a higher chance of surviving abuse, improper conditions and incorrect water parameters.

That’s not to say you can’t go for a more delicate fish… it’s just… you’re more likely to fail because the care levels are much higher.

However, there are a lot of great hardy fish out there for you to choose from. They’re forgiving and are more likely to survive any mistakes you make. This will allow you to get your hands wet with the hobby.

You’ll be able to take off your training wheels.

You can use these fish to help build your fundamental fish keeping skills and knowledge. Then, when you’re comfortable, you can move onto moderate caring fish and delicate fish.

It’s Not All About Being Hardy

Just because a fish is hardy, doesn’t mean it’s suitable for a beginner. There are more hardy fish out there, however, they don’t meet all the standards to make it beginner friendly.

Here’s what makes a hardy fish freshwater beginner friendly

  • The size it grows to: it should be able to live it’s whole life in a 10-30 gallon tank (3-4 inches)
  • A community fish: your fish should be able to get on with just about anything so you don’t have to worry about it fighting
  • Clean: you don’t want it to cause an excess amount of waste for its size
  • Easy on the eye

          Top 20 Best Aquarium Fish For Beginners

The following freshwater fish are in no particular order, they’re all suitable for you.

1. White Cloud Minnow

Quick Stats

  • Min. Tank Size: 10 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperament: Friendly
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Approx. Size: 1.5″
  • pH: 6.0-8.0
  • Temperature: 64-72 °F
  • Hardness: 5-20 dGH

It is a small colorful fish, it’s very hardy and often recommended to beginners as they can be forgiving when it comes to water temperature and quality.

But, you don’t want to go too warm on them, they love cold water. It is considered to be one of the Best Aquarium Fish For Beginners.

White Cloud Minnows are shoaling fish, and feel comfortable in a group of at least 6. Keeping one alone could cause it to become timid and lose its bright color.

And you’ll be able to keep these with most other fish, as long these other fish aren’t likely to eat them.

Not picky eaters, they’ll eat all types of food, including live, frozen, and flake food.

2. Zebra Danios

Best freshwater fish for beginners Zebra Danios with distinctive horizontal zebra stripes swimming against soft green plants background. Soft focus

Quick Stats

  • Min. Tank Size: 10 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Approx. Size: 2″
  • pH: 6.5-7.0
  • Temperature: 64-74 °F
  • Hardness: 5-12 dGH

It’s a popular fish for beginners, Zebra Dinos are an attractive hardy fish. Easily recognizable with their striped zebra pattern, they’ve got a ton of energy and personality.

And they’re most comfortable in a school of six or more.

It’s a fish that will help branch your knowledge off into areas of fish keeping you may not have thought of. Zebra Danios like to stay on the upper levels of an aquarium, so it will teach you about the different zones in your aquarium.

These fish are omnivorous and will accept most foods. However, they do enjoy small live or frozen inverts and fresh vegetable matter.

3. Black Skirt Tetra

Best freshwater fish for beginners Black Skirt Tetra swimming against glass background

Image Source

Quick Stats

  • Min. Tank Size: 10 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Approx. Size: 2″
  • pH: 6.0-8.0
  • Temperature: 68-79 °F
  • Hardness: 15 dGH

This is a popular fish for beginners, Zebra Dinos are an attractive hardy fish. Easily recognizable with their striped zebra pattern, they’ve got a ton of energy and personality.

And they’re most comfortable in a school of six or more. It is considered to be one of the Best Aquarium Fish For Beginners.

It’s a fish that will help branch your knowledge off into areas of fish keeping you may not have thought of. Zebra Danios like to stay on the upper levels of an aquarium, so it will teach you about the different zones in your aquarium.

These fish are omnivorous and will accept most foods. However, they do enjoy small live or frozen inverts and fresh vegetable matter.

4. Platies

Best freshwater fish for beginners Platy swimming against a glass background and gravel bedding. Soft focus

Image Source

Quick Stats

  • Min. Tank Size: 10 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years
  • Approx. Size: 2″
  • pH: 6.8-8.0
  • Temperature: 65-78 °F
  • Hardness: 10-28 dGH

This is surely an awesome choice, Platies have been selectively bred to create new color combinations, so you can pick and choose from many varieties.

They’re a good hardy fish that will take some fluctuation in water conditions. A great community fish, they’ll live peacefully with any other non-aggressive fish.

Platies aren’t fussy when it comes to eating. Flake or freeze-dried food, they don’t mind, they’ll also eat any algae which could develop in your tank. It is considered to be one of the Best Aquarium Fish For Beginners.

5. Swordtails

Best freshwater fish for beginners bright orange Swordtails swimming against aquarium background with green plants. Soft focus

Image Source

Quick Stats

  • Min. Tank Size: 20 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperament: Males may be aggressive to other males
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Approx. Size: 5″ (including the tail)
  • pH: 7.0-8.0
  • Temperature: 72-82 °F
  • Hardness: 10-20 dGH

This tough guy is often regarded as a ‘beginner only’ fish due to its low demands for water conditions.

Brightly colored, they get their name from their long bottom fin that looks like a sword. It is considered to be one of the Best Aquarium Fish For Beginners.

They’re a community fish so they’ll thrive in groups of at least five. You may see males become aggressive and display for dominance over each other with posturing, erected fins, circling and mouth-to-mouth wrestling.

Swordtails are omnivores, so you should feed them flake food supplemented with blanched vegetables and live or frozen food.

6. Bristlenose Pleco

Best freshwater fish for beginners Pleco swimming against the bottom of an aquarium

Image Source

Quick Stats

  • Min. Tank Size: 29 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 3-4 years
  • Approx. Size: 6″
  • pH: 6.0-8.0
  • Temperature: 68-77 °F
  • Hardness: 2-20 dGH

Also known as the Bushynose Pleco, they come in a few different varieties for you to choose from: longfin, albino, and longfin albino.

It’s a hardy fish, which will stand up to a wide range of water conditions.

They’ll also provide you with a cleaning service, they’ll sweep the bottom of your tank eating up any leftover food which could decay at the bottom of your aquarium.

As well as any unwanted algae from the bottom and sides of your tank.

Bristlenose Pleco’s enjoy hiding in caves and under driftwood, so providing some hiding places in your aquarium is a must.

7. Kribensis Cichlid

Best freshwater fish for beginners brightly colored Kribensis Cichild, colors include yellow, red, purple, orange, black, and silver

Quick Stats

  • Min. Tank Size: 29 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperament: Territorial
  • Lifespan: 5-8 years
  • Approx. Size: 4″
  • pH: 6.0-8.0
  • Temperature: 75-79 °F
  • Hardness: 5-20 dGH

Kribensis is one of the dwarf Cichlid species and are very flamboyant with great coloration. It’s a great option for you as it can tolerate a range of water conditions.

You may read that they can be kept in community tanks, however, I would advise against this. You’d have to be very cautious about who you house them with, and they can become very territorial.

Kribensis Cichlids are omnivorous, so they’ll eat most of what you put in your tank. You can provide them with a varied diet, including cichlid pellets, flake food, and live food.

8. Betta Splendens

Quick Stats

  • Min. Tank Size: 5 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy – intermediate
  • Temperament: Peaceful (in the right conditions)
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years
  • Approx. Size: 3″
  • pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Temperature: 75-80 °F
  • Hardness: 5-20 dGH

Not often recommended as a beginner fish due to their aggressive nature. However, if you house them alone you shouldn’t have any problems.

Bettas have spectacular fins and come in a wide variety of bright colors.

They’ll even greet you when you approach the tank! Of course, there’s a lot of misleading content available, you should never keep a Betta in a tank smaller than 5 gallons and it should be heated.

Bettas are carnivores, but will eat flake food along with freeze dried and live foods. You’re able to buy commercial Betta foods.

If you provide what this fish needs, it’s one of the best beginner fish you can go for.

They’re well worth the extra effort.

11. Rasboras

harlequin rasboras in planted tank

There are many types of rasboras, but our favorite ones are the harlequin rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha) and lambchop rasbora (Trigonostigma espei).

Known for their bright orange color and distinctive black triangular patch, these peaceful nano fish only grow to about two inches long and are readily available in most pet stores.

Other rasboras include the miniscule neon green rasbora (Microdevario kubotai) and larger scissortail rasbora (Rasbora trilineata). Get a school or six or more of the same rasbora species, and they’ll make a striking display in your community tank.

 

12. Common Goldfish

orange 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) grow to about 12 to 14 inches, so they require 30 gallons of water per fish (or two goldfish in a 55-gallon aquarium). It is considered to be one of the Best Aquarium Fish For Beginners.

Many people even put their goldfish in outdoor ponds once they reach their adult size. They love eating spirulina algae, vegetables, Repashy Super Gold, and other foods higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein content.

Goldfish are very forgiving with water parameters such as pH and water hardness, but they do require lots of water changes to keep their tank clean. A single-species aquarium is preferred, since they will try to eat any animals (and plants) that fit in their mouths.

 

13. Tetras

cardinal tetras

Like rasboras, tetras are another very popular, small schooling fish that come in tons of varieties – like neon tetras (Paracheirodon innesi), cardinal tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi), black neon tetras (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi), and Congo tetras (Phenacogrammus interruptus).

They’re pretty easy to care for and prefer neutral pH waters from 7.0 to 7.8 (usually on the higher side for African tetras and lower for wild-caught South American tetras).

As with most schooling fish, keep them in groups of six or more because they enjoy safety in numbers. Tetras go very well with rasboras and other community fish on this list. .

 

14. Corydoras

Pepper Cory catfish, Corydoras paleatus

Cory catfish are peaceful schooling fish, much like rasboras and tetras, but they dwell at 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.

Over 160 species have been identified so far, but the most popular species include the bronze and albino cory (Corydoras aeneus), panda cory (Corydoras panda), and emerald green cory (Corydoras splendens).

Keep them in a group of at least three to six of the same species to best enjoy their silly antics.

 

15. Platies

Sunburst tuxedo platy male Xiphophorus variatus

These 3-inch livebearers (meaning fish that bear live young) are especially robust, even more so than guppies. They can handle a wide range of pH from 7.0 and higher and tend to prefer harder waters.

Plus, platies are voracious eaters and will eat nearly any omnivore community food you throw at them. Our favorite type is the variatus platy (Xiphophorus variatus), so make sure to check them out!

 

16. Betta Fish

Red betta fish

Betta fish are the king of beginner fish because of their vivid coloration, small size, and simple care requirements. 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.)

Suitable tank mates include tetras, corydoras, and other peaceful creatures, but avoid any fish that may nip their beautiful fins. As meat eaters, they like betta pellets, frozen bloodworms, and other small floating foods.

It is considered to be one of the Best Aquarium Fish For Beginners.

17. Barbs

Cherry barbs

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).

Some species are considered semi-aggressive, so we recommend buying six or more to reduce fin nipping. Good tank mates include rasboras, tetras, and corydoras, but stay away from long-finned fish like angelfish and betta fish.

 

18. Bolivian Cichlid

Bolivian ram

The Bolivian ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) is an excellent beginner cichlid from South America that’s very similar to their colorful but less hardy 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 appreciate pH of 7.0 to 8.0 and temperatures around 72 to 79°F, and they can be kept with nearly any community fish that matches these same requirements.

 

19. Kuhli Loaches

Kuhli loach in planted aquarium

Kuhli loaches (Pangio kuhlii) will either fascinate or freak you out because they look like little 4-inch eels or snakes. As nocturnal fish, they tend to be a little shy and hide behind decor, so keep them groups of at least three to six so that they feel safe enough to come out and explore.

Like corydoras, these bottom dwellers scavenge for leftovers on the ground and between rocks, but you must specifically feed them to make sure they don’t go hungry.

20. Angelfish

Image result for Angelfish

With their beautiful shape, distinctive fins, and lovely striped pattern, the striking angelfish certainly lives up to its name. Since they can grow to the size of a small saucer, keep them in 55 or more gallons of water (especially in vertically tall tanks).

This large showpiece cichlid does well with rasboras, tetras, and other community fish, but it’s best to just keep one to avoid territorial fighting among their own species. Common varieties include marble, zebra, koi, and veil angelfish.

                 FAQS ABOUT THE BEST AQUARIUM FISH FOR BEGINNERS

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How long should you wait before putting fish in a new tank?

In the beginning, only add a couple of small hardy fishWait until both the ammonia and nitrite levels have risen and then fallen to zero before adding more fish. It usually take about 3-6 weeks for a new aquarium to go through the initial Nitrogen cycle, so fish should be added only a few per week during this time

What is the most low maintenance fish?

Listed below are some of the most low maintenance fish that are sure to be solid choices for your beginner aquarium.
  • Bettas.
  • Platies.
  • Black Molly.
  • Swordtail.
  • Goldfish.

Which fish is lucky for aquarium?

The most famous feng shui wealth fish is the arowana, or dragon fish, and the purest arowanas are known to command quite high fees. However, the koi, or goldfish, are just as effective, as well as a pleasure to look at. Go for 8 or 9 fish, one of them being black

Can you put fish in a new tank right away?

Adding new fish to your tank can be tricky, a lot of people place the fish in it’s bag in the new tank, leave it for a few hours and then add it to the water, this isn’t a good way to acclimatize your fish. When you bring your new fish home, turn down the lights in the tank to avoid damage or shock to the fish’s eyes

How do you keep baby fish alive?

Maintain a stable water temperature in your tank using a submersible aquarium heater. Research the preferred tank temperature for the species of baby fish you have and set the heat control on the heater to that temperature. Perform small water changes in your rearing tank several times a week.

What is the new tank syndrome?

New Tank Syndrome occurs mostly in newly set up aquariums, but you could cause something similar in a mature aquarium and filter stripped down and cleaned too thoroughly. Cause. The cause of the syndrome is a lack of suitable bacteria to break down the waste the fish are producing.

CONCLUSION

Pick any of the above, they’re all excellent choices for a beginner hobbyist.

What I will stress, is you should always read up on their needs so you can provide them with exactly what they need.

And I’m sure you want to enjoy them for years to come.

Remember, before you go adding any fish to your tank, make sure you’ve cycled your aquarium so it’s a safe environment for you fish.

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