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. Here’s a list of the top 10 beginner fish that you can keep in your aquarium.
There are many types of rasboras, but our favorite ones are the harlequin rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha) and lambchop rasbora (Trigonostigma espei). These peaceful nanofish are well-known for their bright orange coloration, distinctive black triangular patches, and they can be purchased in most pet shops. The microdevario kubotai, a tiny neon-green rasbora, and the larger Risbora trilineata are two other rasboras. You can make your community tank stand out by having six or more schools of the same rasbora species. Our full care guide contains more information on how to care for your rasboras.
2. Common Goldfish
Goldfish can grow to be quite large and are often discouraged by veterans. But they make great beginners pets because they are very resilient and easy care for. Common goldfish (Carassius auroratus) can grow to 12-14 inches. They require 30 gallons of water for each fish, or two goldfish in an aquarium 55-gallon. After reaching adult size, many people place their goldfish in outdoor water ponds. 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. It is best to keep your aquarium one-species as they will eat all animals and plants that are in it.
The tetras, which are small schooling fish like rasboras also come in a variety of colors, such as neon tetras or Paracheirodon innesi, cardinal and black tetras or Hyphessobrycon thebertaxelrodi, and Congo-tetras. They are easy to take care of and they prefer neutral pH water from 7.0 to 7.8 (usually higher for African tetras, and lower for wild-caught South American Tetras). Keep them in groups of six or greater to ensure safety. Tetras are great with rasboras, and other community fish. You can find more information in our cardinal tetra and neon tetra guides.
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.
More than 160 species have been identified to date. The most popular species are the bronze and albino corys (Corydoras albino), panda corys (Corydoras Panda), and the emerald corys (Corydoras splendidens). To enjoy their playful antics, keep them in a group with at least three to six species. Learn more about cory catfish care.
These 3 inch livebearers, which means fish that bear young, are more robust than guppies. They are capable of handling pH levels as high as 7.0, and prefer harder water. They are also very picky eaters, and will eat just about any omnivore food you offer them. We love the variatus platy (Xiphophorus variatus), so be sure to check them!
6. Betta Fish
Betta fish are the king of beginner fish because of their vivid coloration, small size, and simple care requirements. You can keep them alone in a 5-gallon aquarium using a gentle filter, or in a group of fish in a 10-gallon or larger tanks. (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. This guide will help you set up a beautiful tank for betta fish.
Barbs can be a vibrant, energetic addition to your community tank. They can grow up to three to four inches and larger. The most popular barbs are Odessa barbs or Puntigrus tetrazona, Tiger barbs (Puntigrus padamya), and Cherry barbs. To reduce fin nipping, some species can be considered semi-aggressive. We recommend purchasing six or more of these species. 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 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 are happy with temperatures of 72-79 degrees F and pH 7.0-8.2. They can also be kept with any other community fish that has the same requirements.
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. 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. Read more about them in our kuhli loach care guide.
With their beautiful shape, distinctive fins, and lovely striped pattern, the striking angelfish certainly lives up to its name. Keep them in 55 gallons of water or more, especially in tall vertical tanks. They can grow up to the size a small saucer. 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.