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. The ideal fish is sturdy, economical, colorful, and interesting. 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. You can find more information about caring for your rasboras in our care guide.
2. 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). After reaching adult size, many people place their goldfish in outdoor water ponds. They enjoy eating Repashy Super Gold, spirulina algae and vegetables.
Although they are very patient with water parameters like pH and hardness, goldfish require frequent water changes to maintain their tanks clean. A single-species aquarium is preferred, since they will try to eat any animals (and plants) that fit 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’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). Keep them in groups of six or greater to ensure safety. Tetras go very well with rasboras and other community fish on this list. You can find more information in our cardinal tetra and neon tetra guides.
Cory catfish, a peaceful, schooling fish that looks a lot like tetras and rasboras, live at the bottom of your aquarium. They grow up to 1 to 3 inches in length and enjoy looking for crumbs on the tank floor. You must feed them sinking food to ensure they get enough nutrients.
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). 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 three-inch livebearers are stronger than guppies, and can withstand high pH levels. 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. We love the variatus platy (Xiphophorus variatus), so be sure to check them!
6. Betta Fish
Because of their bright colors, small size and easy care requirements, betta fish are the best beginner fish. You can keep them by themselves in a 5-gallon aquarium with a gentle filter. Or, you can keep them with other fish in larger tanks (10-gallon). (Don’t keep them with other betta fish because their nickname is “Siamese fighting fish” for a reason.) Corydoras, tetras and peaceful creatures make good tank mates. But avoid any fish that might nip the fins. They love betta pellets and frozen bloodworms. This guide will help you set up a beautiful tank for betta fish.
Barbs can be a vibrant, energetic addition to your community tank. The most common barbs grow to 3-4 inches in length and are Odessa barbs, tiger barbs (Puntigrus Tetrazona), and cherry barbs. 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.
8. Bolivian Cichlids
The Bolivian ram (Mikrogeophagus alpinusus) is a great beginner cichlid. It’s very similar in appearance to their more colorful, but less tough 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 appreciate pH of 7.0 to 8.0 and temperatures around 72 to 79degF, and they can be kept with nearly any community fish that matches these same requirements.
9. Kuhli Loaches
Kuhli loaches, or Pangio kuhlii, will amaze or scare you. They look like tiny 4-inch eels and snakes. They are nocturnal fish and tend to hide behind decor. Keep them in groups of three to six to make it easier for them to explore the outdoors. 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. You can read more about them at our Kuhli Loach Care Guide.
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 showpiece cichlid can be kept with rasboras, Tetras, and other community fish. But it is best to just keep one because they will not fight for territorial rights. There are many varieties, including marble, zebra and veil angelfish.
These beginner fish are all hardy and easy to care for. They can be found at your local fish shop. Have fun looking for your next fish and choosing the best one for you.