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 well-known for its black and white horizontal stripes, with a red “eyebrow”, above its pupil. Because of its mostly neutral colors, we find that the black streak matches well with fish of many other colors. They can grow up to 1.5 inches (4cm) in length, and are slightly larger than regular neon tetras. 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. Your confidence will grow as you begin your hobby. For more details, see our full care guide.
2. Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)
This miniature “eel” is a popular oddball fish because of its noodle-like body and alternating yellow and black bands. The 4-inch (10 cm long) bottom dweller loves to forage for food on the ground and hide behind aquarium decorations and driftwood. Get at least three to six kuhli loafers and encourage them out in the open. They love to eat frozen bloodworms, freeze-dried tubifex worms, and small sinking pellets. 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. They are one of our most recommended algae eaters because they do such a great job of cleaning up the aquarium, but make sure you feed them a good quality protein food, Repashy gel food, and vegetables like blanched zucchini slices and canned green beans. For more details on how to care for plecostomus, read our full article.
4. Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)
Because of their beautiful appearance, hardiness and low price (often less than $4), harlequin roseboras are a must-have for beginners. A beautiful school of orange rasboras, each measuring 2 inches (5 cm), with a black triangle patch on their bodies is unbeatable. For them to be happy in their environment, they need to have at least six of the same species. For schooling fish to thrive, they need to spend time with their peers in order for them to display their best colors and behave well. This will ensure that you get the longest life span and maximum enjoyment 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. The bronze cory is also available in a dark greenish brown color. This schooling bottom dweller gets up to 2.8 inches (7 cm) and loves gobbling up frozen bloodworms, Repashy gel food, 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 Titeya).
Cherry barbs may be considered aggressive. However, they aren’t more aggressive than a rasbora or tetra. The males have deep red colors, while the females have more tannish-red. You may be tempted not to get any males, but it’s best to have at least one female for every male. Boys are more confident with girls around them. They will breed easily if you give them high-quality foods such as krill flakes and freeze-dried 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)
If you accidentally bought a bigger, semi-aggressive fish like a bala shark or rainbow shark, pair them with a larger, more full-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 several types of white cloud minnows (including those sold as feeder fish), but we recommend getting regular white cloud mountain minnows as the most bulletproof variety. They are very cheap, only grow to 1.5 inches (4 cm), and don’t need an aquarium heater because they live in cooler temperatures. In fact, many people keep them outside in outdoor mini ponds or tubs during the summer season (or year-round, depending on your climate). They can get sick if the water temperature is too high at 80°F (27°C). You’ll love this fish, which is often overlooked.
9. Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus oblongus)
Siamese algae eater, or SAE, is another cleaner fish. It has a downturned jaw that makes it easy to eat algae and any leftover fish food. 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. We prefer the SAE over the Chinese algae eater (CAE) because the latter gets even larger and more hostile. 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. Reduce the amount of food that is served to get older SAEs interested again in eating algae.
10. Endler’s Livebearer, Poecilia wingsei
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. Plus, their beautiful colors are sometimes the result of heavy inbreeding, which can lead to health issues. Endler’s livebearers make a great choice, as their natural colors are stunning and no linebreeding is required to create amazing patterns. They are able to tolerate temperatures between 68 and 82 degrees F (20-28 degC) and pH levels up to 6.5. They do prefer some minerals in their water, so if you find your tap water has low GH (general hardness), try adding some Wonder Shell or Seachem Equilibrium. If you’re searching for a budget-friendly fish that looks incredible and makes more babies for free, you can’t go wrong with Endler’s livebearers.
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.