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. You can check out our top 10 beginner fish, in no particular order. They are very easy to care for and will make great additions to your aquarium.
There are many types and varieties of rasboras. Our favorites are the Trigonostigma heteromorpha harlequin or lambchop rasbora and Trigonostigma espei lambchop. These peaceful nanofish are well-known for their bright orange coloration, distinctive black triangular patches, and they can be purchased in most pet shops. Other rasboras include the miniscule neon green rasbora (Microdevario kubotai) and larger scissortail rasbora (Rasbora trilineata). A school of six or more of the same species of rasbora will make an impressive display in your community tank. For more information on caring for your rasboras, view our full care guide here.
2. Common Goldfish
Veteran fish keepers warn novices to avoid goldfish due to their size. However, they are a great choice for beginners as they are resilient and easy to take care of. 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 they reach adult size, many people put their goldfish into outdoor ponds. They love eating spirulina algae, vegetables, Repashy Super Gold, and other foods higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein content.
While goldfish are very tolerant of water parameters such water pH and water hardness (although they require many water changes to keep their tank clean), they can be quite picky about water parameters. An aquarium with only one species is preferable, as they will eat any animal or plant that fits in their mouths.
Tetras, like rasboras and other small schooling fish, are also very popular. They come in tons of different varieties, including neon tetras (“Paracheirodon Innesi”), cardinal tetras (“Paracheirodon “axelrodi”), black neon tetras (“Hyphessobrycon shebertaxelrodi”), and Congo tetras (“Phenacogrammus intermitus”) They are very easy to care for. They prefer neutral pH waters between 7.0 and 7.8 (which is usually higher for African tetras than for wild-caught South American ones). 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.
There are over 160 species of corydoras, the most common being the bronze and albino (Corydoras alpino), panda (Corydoras panada) and emerald-green corydoras (Corydoras splendens). For the best entertainment, keep them together with at least three- to six other species. Find out more by reading our cory catfish care guide.
These 3 inch livebearers, which means fish that bear young, are more robust than guppies. They are able to tolerate pH levels from 7.0 to higher, but prefer hard water. Plus, platies are voracious eaters and will eat nearly any omnivore community food you throw at 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. They should not be kept with other betta fish, as their nickname is “Siamese Fighting Fish”. 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. Our guide will show you how to create a beautiful betta tank.
Barbs can be a vibrant, energetic 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. The rasboras are corydoras as well as tetras and corydoras. But avoid long-finned fish such angelfishes and bettas.
8. Bolivian Cichlids
The Bolivian Ram (Mikrogeophagus Altispinosus), a beginner cichlid, is very similar to its colorful but less durable cousins the German ram. They are three inches in length and make great fish for a medium-sized aquarium. Their unique cichlid behavior and yellow and black coloration make them a great focal point fish. 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. 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. 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. Learn more about them in the kuhli locach care guide.
The striking angelfish is a stunning specimen due to their unique shape, distinct fins and beautiful striped pattern. 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. 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!