If you’re getting into freshwater aquariums for the first time, it can be intimidating to know which fish to pick. Ideally, you want something hardy, budget-friendly, and colorful with an interesting personality. We’ve spoken to the experts at Aquatee Fishland, and come up with a Top 10 list beginner fish that will make a great addition to your aquarium!
Known for their bright orange color and distinctive black triangular patch, these peaceful nano fish only grow to about two inches long and are readily available in most pet stores. Get a school or six or more of the same rasbora species, and they’ll make a striking display in your community tank.
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 grow to about 12 to 14 inches, so they require 30 gallons of water per fish (or two goldfish in a 55-gallon aquarium). Many people even put their goldfish in outdoor ponds once they reach their adult size. They love eating 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. A single-species aquarium is preferred, since they will try to eat any animals (and plants) that fit in their mouths.
Like rasboras, tetras are another very popular, small schooling fish that come in tons of varieties. 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). As with most schooling fish, keep them in groups of six or more because they enjoy safety in numbers. Tetras go very well with rasboras and other community fish on this list.
Cory catfish are peaceful schooling fish, much like rasboras and tetras, but they dwell at 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.
Keep them in a group of at least three to six of the same species to best enjoy their silly antics.
These 3-inch livebearers (meaning fish that bear live young) are especially robust, even more so than guppies. They can handle a wide range of pH from 7.0 and higher and tend to prefer harder waters. Plus, platies are voracious eaters and will eat nearly any omnivore community food you throw at them.
6. Betta Fish
Betta fish are the king of beginner fish because of their vivid coloration, small size, and simple care requirements. They can be kept by themselves in a 5-gallon aquarium with a gentle filter or with a community of other fish in a 10-gallon tank or larger. (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.
Barbs make a lively, action-packed addition to your community tank. 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 is an excellent beginner cichlid from South America that’s very similar to their colorful but less hardy cousins, the German ram. Running at three inches long, they make a great centerpiece fish for a medium-sized community aquarium because of their unique cichlid behavior, yellow and black coloration, and ease of breeding. Bolivian rams appreciate pH of 7.0 to 8.0 and temperatures around 72 to 79°F, and they can be kept with nearly any community fish that matches these same requirements.
9. Kuhli Loaches
Kuhli loaches 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.
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 large showpiece cichlid does well with rasboras, tetras, and other community fish, but it’s best to just keep one to avoid territorial fighting among their own species.
All of these beginner fish are hardy, easy to care for, and readily available at your local fish store, so have fun researching your next fish and deciding which one is best for you!