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. Ideally, you want something hardy, budget-friendly, and colorful with an interesting personality. This list contains the top 10 best beginner fish.
There are many types and varieties of rasboras. Our favorites are the Trigonostigma heteromorpha harlequin or lambchop rasboras (Trigonostigma expei). These tranquil nano fish, which grow to approximately two inches in length and have a distinctive black triangular shape, are well-known. Other rasboras include the miniscule neon green rasbora (Microdevario kubotai) and larger scissortail rasbora (Rasbora trilineata). A school of six or more species of the same rasbora species will make an impressive display in your community tank. For more information on caring for your rasboras, view our full care guide here.
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). Many people also put their goldfish outdoors once they reach adult sizes. They enjoy eating Repashy Super Gold, spirulina algae and vegetables.
Although they are good at adjusting water parameters like pH and hardness, goldfish require frequent water changes in order to keep their tanks clean. One-species aquariums are preferred as they will eat anything (and all) that is in their reach.
Tetras are another popular schooling fish, and they come in a variety of sizes, including neon tetras or Paracheirodon innesi, cardinal tetras or black neon tetras. 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. Information can be found in the neon tetra, cardinal tetra guide.
Cory catfish, a peaceful, schooling fish that looks a lot like tetras and rasboras, live at the bottom of your aquarium. They can grow up to one to three inches tall and love looking for crumbs. But, to make sure they are getting enough nutrition, you should feed them a variety sinking foods.
There have been over 160 species identified. However, the most well-known species are the bronze cory and albino Cory (Corydoras aneus), panda Cory (Corydoras pada) as well as the corydoras splendens. You will enjoy their silly antics best when they are in a group of three to six of the same species. Our cory catfish guide will help you learn more.
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. Platies are also voracious eaters who will eat almost any omnivore food you give them. The variatus platey (Xiphophorus variatus), is our favorite. Make sure to visit 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. You should not keep them with any other betta fish. Their nickname is “Siamese fighting Fish” because of their tendency to fight. Suitable tank mates include tetras, corydoras, and other peaceful creatures, but avoid any fish that may nip their beautiful fins. They are meat eaters and enjoy small floating foods like betta balls, frozen bloodworms, tetras, and corydoras. This guide will help you set up a beautiful tank for betta fish.
Barbs add a lot of energy and excitement to your community aquarium. 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 semi-aggressive so we recommend that you buy six or more to decrease fin nipping. Rasboras tetras and corydoras are great tank mates. However you should avoid long-finned fish like angelfish or betta.
8. Bolivian Cichlids
The Bolivian ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) is an excellent beginner cichlid from South America that’s very similar to their colorful but less hardy cousins, the German ram. The three-inch long cichlids make a wonderful centerpiece fish in a medium-sized community aquarium. They can be kept at three inches because of their unusual cichlid behavior, yellow/black coloration and easy breeding. Bolivian rams can be kept with almost any fish in a community aquarium that meets their requirements. They are tolerant to pH levels between 7.0 and 8.0, as well as temperatures between 72 and 79 degrees F.
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. 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. Our kuhli loach care manual has more information.
The angelfish’s striking appearance is due to their distinctive shape, beautiful fins, and lovely stripes. 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). The large, showy cichlid is a good choice for rasboras and tetras. However, it’s better to keep one than to prevent territorial fighting between their species. 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.