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. They are popular with novice fish keepers and require less attention than more difficult species. After years of helping customers in our local fish store, these are our top 10 beginner fish we find ourselves recommending over and over again.
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 grow to about 1.5 inches (4 cm) in length and get slightly bigger than regular neon tetras (Paracheirodon innesi). These fish are great for schooling and can be found in groups of 6-12 species. They cost $2-3 per each, which is a good thing as they are very affordable. Black neon tetras are very forgiving when it comes to beginner mistakes and can withstand a wide variety of temperatures and water parameters. Your confidence will grow as you begin your hobby. 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 4-inch (10 cm long) bottom dweller loves to forage for food on the ground and hide behind aquarium decorations and driftwood. You can encourage them to get out into the open by getting at least 3 – 6 kuhli loaches. Drop their food near the fish tank’s front. They love frozen bloodworms, freeze dried tubifex worms, small sinking pellets, and freeze-dried tubifex. Check out our care guide on kuhli loaches for more info.
3. Bristlenose Plecostomus (Ancistrus sp.)
Many beginners end up with a plecostomus or “suckerfish” plecostomus catfish because they are cute and hang on to the glass or bottom of their 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. Their common name comes from the fact that males get little bristles on their face, but females usually do not. This is why they are one of our favorite algae eaters. For more details on how to care for plecostomus, read our full article.
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. You can read our blog on rasboras.
5. Albino Cory Catfish (Corydoras. aeneus).
Corydoras catfish are a fish tank favorite because of their happy-go-lucky personalities and ability to keep the floor clean of crumbs. 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. You can also choose the bronze cory, which has the same species but is darker greenish-brown. The schooling bottom dweller can reach a height of 2.8 inches (7cm) and enjoys eating frozen bloodworms, Repashy gel foods, and small sinking pellets. One of their adorable behaviors is their habit of “blinking” or flicking their eyes downward, so see if you can catch them in the act. Read our cory catfish care guide to find out more.
6. Cherry Barb (Puntius tarteya
Cherry barbs may be considered aggressive. However, they aren’t more aggressive than a rasbora or tetra. Males have a deep red coloration, whereas the females are 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. You can breed them easily by feeding them high quality food like freeze-dried food, krill flake, and frozen foods. The adults do predate on their offspring though, so plant a forest of dense aquarium plants like water sprite and wisteria for the baby fry to hide amongst.
7. Red Eye Tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae)
You can pair a semi-aggressive, larger fish, such as a rainbow shark or bala shark, with a larger, fuller-bodied 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. Their silvery body, red eye, and black tail contrast well with a background of green plants or a community of other colorful fish. You can get six or more fish to swim together in your aquarium. They will be fed a variety of fish food, including Vibra Bites, freeze-dried bloodworms, and flakes.
8. White Cloud Mountain Minnow (Tanichthys Albonubes).
There are many varieties of white cloudminnows. Some are sold as feeder fish, but we recommend that you get regular white cloud mountains minnows. They are bulletproof and very durable. They are extremely affordable, grow to 1.5 inches (4cm), and do not require an aquarium heater. Many people keep them outdoors in mini ponds or tubs all year, but they can be kept outside during summer. They can get sick if the water temperature is too high at 80°F (27°C). 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. Although technically they are schooling fish, their nature can make them semi-aggressive. We find that they thrive when there is only one SAE or three to keep them in check. The Chinese algeater (CAE), on the other hand, is more friendly than the SAE. Although some people believe that SAEs do better eating algae when they’re younger, we think that this is due to the fact that adult SAEs can eat more of the mealtime food. To get older SAEs interested in eating algae again, try cutting back on the food to whet their appetites.
10. Endler’s Livebearer (Poecilia wingei)
Despite the popularity of livebearers (or fish that bear live young) like guppies and mollies, we don’t always advise them for beginners because they have specific water parameters that need to be met. Their beautiful colors can sometimes be the result of excessive inbreeding which can cause health problems. 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). You can add Wonder Shell or Seachem Equilibrium to your tap water to give it some minerals. 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.