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. However, even experienced fish keepers often turn to them because they are such crowd pleasers and don’t take as much attention as more high-maintenance species. These are the top 10 beginner fish we recommend after many years of helping customers at our local fish store.
1. Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)
This striking starter fish is famous for its distinctive black stripes and red “eyebrow” above the pupil. The black streak is compatible with many fish colors due to its mostly neutral colors. They reach about 1.5 inches (4cm) long and grow slightly larger than the regular neon tetras (Paracheirodon neosi). 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. They are great at overcoming beginner mistakes. 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 bottom dweller is approximately 4 inches (10 cm) long and likes to dig for food in the ground, hide behind aquarium decorations, driftwood, or aquarium plants. To encourage them to come out in the open, get a posse of at least 3-6 kuhli loaches and drop their meals near the front of the fish tank. They love to eat frozen bloodworms, freeze-dried tubifex worms, and small sinking pellets. For more information, see our care guide for kuhli loaches.
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. Some plecos can get very large so it is worth choosing a bristlenose pleco. They are peaceful and small, but some can grow to be quite large. Because males get tiny bristles on the face, females do not usually have them, their common name is “bristlenose pleco”. Because they clean up aquariums so well, we recommend them as one of the best algae eaters. However, make sure to feed them quality protein, Repashy gel food and vegetables such as blanched zucchini slices or canned green beans. You can read the full article to learn more about how to care for plecostomus.
4. Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)
Everyone always has harlequin rasboras on their list of beginner fish because of their stunning appearance, hardiness, and low cost (usually under $4). Nothing beats a beautiful school of 2-inch-long (5 cm) orange rasboras with a solid black triangle patch on their bodies. For them to be happy in their environment, they need to have at least six of the same species. Schooling fish require social interaction with other species to be able to show their best colors, behave properly, and provide the greatest enjoyment and longevity from your purchase. Read our blog post about rasboras.
5. Albino Cory Catfish (Corydoras aeneus)
Corydoras catsfish are a popular fish tank choice due to their cheerful personalities and ability keep the floor clean. There are more than 100 species of Corydoras catfish in the genus. We prefer albino Corys for beginners, due to their toughness, low price and bright pink scales. If you don’t prefer pink, you can also go with the bronze cory, which is the same species in a dark greenish-brown color. This bottom-dweller schooling can grow to approximately 2.8 inches (7cm) in height and enjoys eating Repashy gel food and small sinking particles. Their “blinking”, or flicking their heads downwards, is one of their most adorable traits. Find out more about caring for cory catfish.
6. Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya)
Although you may have heard barbs can be aggressive, cherry barbs are not more aggressive than your average Tetra or Rasbora. The males have deep red colors, while the females have 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. If you feed them high quality foods like krill flakes, freeze-dried foods, and frozen foods, they are very easy to breed and constantly lay eggs. 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)
Pair a larger, heavier, semi-aggressive fish such as a rainbow shark shark or bala shark with a larger, better-built schooling fish. Red eye tetras or monk Tetras can grow to about 2.75 inches (7cm) in length and are capable of adapting to many water parameters. They look great with green plants and other colorful fish, as their silvery bodies, red eyes, and black tails contrast nicely. 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 extremely affordable, grow to 1.5 inches (4cm), and do not require an aquarium heater. Many people keep them outdoors in small ponds and tubs throughout the year. Keep the water temperature below 80 degrees F (27 degrees C) to avoid disease. 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)
The Siamese algae eater (or SAE) is another great cleaner fish with a downturned mouth that’s ideal for consuming algae and leftover fish food in the tank. This fish is larger than the average and can grow to approximately 6 inches (15 cm) long. It almost looks like a small 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. The Chinese algae eater (CAE), which is larger and more hostile, we prefer the SAE to the CAE. 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. You can encourage older SAEs to eat algae again by reducing the amount of food they eat.
10. Endler’s Livebearer (Poecilia wingei)
We don’t recommend livebearers for beginners, despite their popularity (or fish which bear young), like guppies or mollies. They require specific water parameters and are not recommended for beginners. Plus, their beautiful colors are sometimes the result of heavy inbreeding, which can lead to health issues. However, Endler’s livebearers are a good choice because their natural coloration already looks amazing and therefore not as much linebreeding has been needed to get spectacular 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. Endler’s livebearers are a great choice if you’re looking for an affordable fish that looks amazing and produces more babies for you.
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.