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. Even experienced fish keepers turn to them as they are easy to care for and enjoy the attention. These are the 10 best beginner fish that we have recommended over and over to our customers over the years.
1. Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)
This striking starter fish is famous for its distinctive black stripes and red “eyebrow” above the pupil. We find the black streak works well with other fish due to its neutral colors. They grow to approximately 1.5 inches (4 cm) in height and slightly larger 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 each, which is a good thing as they are very affordable. Black neon tetras are tolerant of beginner mistakes and can withstand many water temperatures. 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 such as driftwood and aquarium plants. Get at least three to six kuhli loafers and encourage them out in the open. They enjoy frozen bloodworms and freeze-dried tubifex, as well as small sinking pellets. Our care guide on Kuhli loaches contains more details.
3. Bristlenose Plecostomus (Ancistrus sp.)
Many beginners end with a plecostomus catfish (or “suckerfish”) because they look cool, and like to hang onto the tank’s glass. While some plecos grow large, others can be quite peaceful and small. Because males have little bristles on the face, while females do not usually get them, their common name is “bristlenose pleco”. 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. Our full article provides more information on caring for plecostomus.
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). There is nothing better than a school of beautiful orange rasboras measuring 2-inches (5 cm) in length with a solid black triangle pattern on their bodies. To feel at their best, schooling fish need to live with six or more of the exact 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 catsfish are a popular fish tank choice due to their cheerful personalities and ability keep the floor clean. There are over 100 Corydoras species, but we prefer albino Corys for beginners. They are tough, affordable, and have shiny pink scales that make an aquarium stand out. The bronze cory is also available in a dark greenish brown color. This bottom-dweller schooling can grow to approximately 2.8 inches (7cm) in height and loves eating frozen bloodworms, Repashy gelfood, and small sinking particles. You can capture them doing this by “blinking”, which is a way of flinching their eyes down. Learn more about cory catfish care.
6. Cherry Barb (Puntius. titteya).
It is common to hear that barbs can be aggressive. But cherry barbs don’t seem any more aggressive then your average tetra and rasbora. While the males are darker in color, the females have more tannish-red. Although it may be tempting to just get males for an aquarium, you should try to get at least 1 female for every male. This will ensure that the boys shine when there are girls to admire. You can breed them easily by feeding them high quality food like freeze-dried foods and krillflakes. They also lay eggs constantly if they are fed high quality food such as frozen foods and freeze-dried meals. 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, also known as monk tetras, can grow up to 7.75 inches (7 cm) and are very adaptable to a variety of water conditions. Their silvery body, red eyes and black tail contrast well against a background of plants or other colorful fish. For six or more, get them to swim in a group and then feed them fish food such as Vibra Bites, freeze dried bloodworms, and flake flakes.
8. White Cloud Mountain Minnow, Tanichthys albonubes
There are many types of white cloud minnows, including those that can be used as feeder fish. However, we recommend regular white cloud mountain minnows because they are the most bulletproof. They are quite affordable and can grow to 1.5 inches (4cm). In fact, many people keep them outside in outdoor mini ponds or tubs during the summer season (or year-round, depending on your climate). Just make sure the water temperature doesn’t get above 80degF (27degC) or else they can become prone to disease. You’ll love this fish, which is often overlooked.
9. Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus oblongus)
Siamese algae eater (or SaE) is another great cleaner fish. With a downturned face, it’s perfect for eating algae and leftover fish foods in the tank. It is a larger fish, growing to 6 inches (15cm) in length. It looks almost like a shark. Although they are technically schooling fish they can also be semi-aggressive. They do well when you have just one SAE, or three, to keep them in check. We prefer the SAE to Chinese algae eaters (CAE) as the latter becomes more aggressive and larger. People believe that SAEs do better eating algae when younger. However, our research shows that adults SAEs are large enough to take the bulk of mealtimes. For older SAEs who are interested in eating algae again you can reduce the amount of food served.
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. Additionally, beautiful colors can be caused by excessive inbreeding. This can pose a health risk. Endler’s livebearers, however, are a good choice as their natural coloration is already stunning so less linebreeding needed to create spectacular patterns. They’re quite adaptable to pHs of 6.5 and higher, and temperatures between 65-82degF (20-28degC). 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.