10 Best Beginner Fishes for Your Aquarium

Best Beginner Fish

Setting up a freshwater aquarium is a task that can be both challenging and time-consuming, especially for beginners who have little to no experience in fishkeeping.

Fortunately, there are tons of online resources where beginner aquarists can learn about the basics of starting a freshwater tank, and find about the types of fish that are best suited for those who have little to no experience owning one. 

In this article, we’ll share with you a list of the best freshwater fish for beginners.

But before we proceed with the first item, let’s first discuss the characteristics of beginner-friendly fish.

Characteristics of Beginner-friendly Fish

1. Hardy

Hardy fish can withstand anything from incorrect water parameters to unideal tank conditions, making them perfect for beginners who are very likely to make mistakes.

2. Peaceful temperament

Peaceful fish are an excellent addition to any community tank because they get along well with other fish.

3. Easy to care for

Fish with low care and maintenance requirements are great for inexperienced aquarists who are still learning how to take care of fish.

4. Appropriate size

Starter aquariums are small (around 10-30 gallons) as they are easier to keep stable. You need to find the types of fish (max size of 2-4 inches) that can live comfortably in those tank sizes.

The 10 Best Beginner-friendly Freshwater Fishes

1. Betta Fish

Betta Fish
  • Experience level: Easy to intermediate
  • Max size: 3 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful (under certain conditions)
  • Water temperature: 75-86°F
  • Water pH: 6.8-7.4
  • Aquarium hardiness: Hardy
  • Min tank size: 2 gallons   

The betta fish, or the Siamese fighting fish, is a popular tropical fish breed that is well known for its vibrant colors, long flowing fins, and torpedo-shaped bodies. This beautiful fish is also hardy and very easy to care for, which makes it one of the best fish for beginners.

Though the betta fish has aggressive tendencies, especially towards its own kind (male bettas hate each other), it’s generally a peaceful breed that may be kept in a community tank with other peaceful fish species.

However, you should avoid mixing the betta with fin-nipping fish (like tiger barbs) and tropical fish with larger fins (like guppies). Fin nippers will attack and kill bettas, and bettas will attack any long-finned fish species.

Their diet may consist of live, frozen or freeze-dried daphnia, brine shrimp, and bloodworms. They will enjoy eating plankton, tubifex, and beef heart, among others. Flake foods are also a good alternative, but should be supplemented with live or frozen and freeze-dried foods.

2. Swordtails

Swordtails
  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Max size: 6 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Water temperature: 72-82°F
  • Water pH: 7.0-8.0
  • Aquarium hardiness: Very hardy
  • Min tank size: 20 gallons

The swordtail is a small freshwater fish known for its outstanding aquarium hardiness and minimal care requirements, both of which are reasons why it’s such a great starter fish for beginners. This interesting fish also comes in a wide range of beautiful colors, making them a gorgeous addition to a thriving aquarium.

Swordtails are peaceful creatures that get along with plenty of other fish. Like bettas, however, male swordtails tend to show aggression towards other males. Therefore, it’s recommended to keep only one male in a single tank, or at least one male for every 3-4 female swordtails if you’re planning to populate your tank with swordtails.

Since swordtails are omnivores, they enjoy eating both plants and animals that could be served to them either frozen or fresh. Their diet consists of insects, worms, crustaceans, plant matter, and flake foods. They must be fed in small amounts several times each day, with an emphasis on foods rich in carbohydrates and proteins.

3. Zebra Danios

Zebra Danios
  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Max size: 2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Water temperature: 64-74°F
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.0
  • Aquarium hardiness: Very hardy
  • Min tank size: 10 gallons

The zebra danio, also known as the zebra fish, is a popular aquarium fish that originated in the streams of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and the neighboring countries.

There are many reasons why zebra danios are popular amongst aquarists of varying experience levels. For starters, they have a lovely appearance that is always delightful to look at. This can be attributed to the stunning coloring and distinctive horizontal stripes found on their bodies.

They are also one of the hardiest freshwater fish that don’t require special care, so beginners will have no trouble raising a happy and healthy zebra danio.

When it comes to their temperament, zebra danios are peaceful creatures with a playful spirit, making them a great addition to most types of community tanks. However, they have the tendency to nip on long flowing fins, so avoid mixing them with bettas, guppies, and other long-finned fishes.

The zebra danio are schooling fish and must be kept in groups of at least five. Their diet consists of algae, worms, insects, and small crustaceans.

4. White Cloud Minnow

White Cloud Minnow
  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Max size: 1 ½ inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful and sociable
  • Water temperature: 64-79° F
  • Water pH: 6.0-8.0
  • Aquarium hardiness: Very hardy
  • Min tank size: 10 gallons

The white cloud mountain minnow is one of the most beginner-friendly fish species out there. Their hardy disposition means they can withstand a wide range of temperatures and water conditions, giving beginner aquarists room for error.

Apart from being extremely hardy, one of the best qualities of the white cloud minnow is their aesthetically-pleasing appearance that is characterized by amazing colors and distinctive markings and accents. In other words, your aquarium will look a lot prettier with white cloud minnows.

White cloud mountain minnows are peaceful fish that won’t cause any trouble when housed in a community tank with other small, peaceful fish species. But they must be kept in schools of at least five to keep them from being stressed.

Minnows aren’t picky eaters and will eat anything from flakes to live, frozen and freeze dried foods. To be specific, they enjoy eating blood worms, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, shelled peas, and blanched zucchini medallions, among others. When feeding them vegetables, be sure to remove uneaten ones after 24 hours to prevent water fouling.

5. Platies

Platies
  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Max size: 3 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Water temperature: 68-79° F
  • Water pH: 7.0-8.5
  • Aquarium hardiness: Hardy
  • Min tank size: 10 gallons

The platy fish is a peaceful and non-aggressive fish that grows no more than 3 inches long and has undemanding care requirements. Their peaceful temperament makes them a fantastic addition to a community tank. They are also quite active and enjoy swimming around in groups.

There are many different platy varieties on the market, with their names usually based on the color patterns. Their colors, sizes and fin shapes vary depending on their type. Some of the most popular varieties of platies are the salt and pepper, the blue mirror, the coral, and the red wagtail platy.

Platies are at their best when kept in small groups. But a ratio of 2-3 females pre one male is recommended to prevent problems from occurring in the tank.  

As omnivorous species, platies will enjoy eating everything from small crustaceans, insects and worms, to boiled vegetables, vegetable supplements, and commercial flakes. If you want to produce bring out the best coloration, give your platies a diet rich in vitamins.

6. Black Skirt Tetra

Black Skirt Tetra
  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Max size: 2.5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful with semi-aggressive tendencies
  • Water temperature: 68-79° F
  • Water pH: 6.0-8.0
  • Aquarium hardiness: Very hardy
  • Min tank size: 20 gallons

The black skirt tetra, also known as the black widow tetra, is an excellent fish for beginner aquarists due to it being very hardy and easy to care for. And despite its giveaway name, black skirt tetras also come in varieties with colored skirts, some of which are achieved through artificial means.

Though most black skirt tetras don’t grow beyond 2 inches, some female tetras can reach sizes of up to 2.5 inches in length. They are also schooling fish which prefer to be in a tank with at least three or more of their own species.

Black skirt tetras are peaceful by nature, but they are also notorious for being semi-aggressive fin nippers. For this reason, you should avoid mixing them with slow-moving fish species that have long flowing fins, such as the angelfish.

When it comes to their diet, black skirt tetras are omnivores that will eat just about anything you give them. Their diet primarily consists of small crustaceans, insects, and worms. But you can also feed them vegetable supplements and high-quality flake foods.

7. Guppies

Guppies
  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Max size: 2.5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Water temperature: 66-84°F
  • Water pH: 7.0-8.0
  • Aquarium hardiness: Very hardy
  • Min tank size: 10 gallons

One of the most popular tropical fish species in the aquarium trade, the guppy is an interesting fish that’s both very hardy and easy to care for. These two attributes alone make them a great fish for even the most inexperienced aquarist.

Guppies are active and easy-going fish species that prefer to live in peace and get along well with most fish species. However, remember to avoid mixing them with fin nippers, larger species, or aggressive tank mates to keep your guppies safe from being bullied or eaten.

They are also livebearers that have the propensity for breeding, so be sure to have a plan in store for their fry.

Guppies eat a wide range of foods, including flakes, live foods, and freeze dried foods. But for optimal health and better colors, you should give guppies a varied diet with an emphasis on high-quality flake foods.

8. Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose Pleco
  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Max size: 5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Water temperature: 73-81°F
  • Water pH: 5.8-7.8
  • Aquarium hardiness: Very hardy
  • Min tank size: 40 gallons

The bristlenose pleco is one of the most popular species of pleco fish in the aquarium trade. It has a distinctive appearance characterized by its long whiskers, large bristles, and tentacle-like branches protruding from its head.

With its hardy disposition, the bristlenose pleco is great for beginners who have yet to familiarize themselves with creating the right water conditions in an aquarium. They are also among the easiest fish to take care of because of their pleasant nature.

Bristlenose plecos are sociable, peaceful fish that will do well in a community tank. Just make sure to keep them away from aggressive tank mates. They are also known for their habit of eating algae that grow in the tank, which helps keep the aquarium clean.

Being herbivores, bristlenose plecos have a diet that primarily consists of algae, vegetables, and plant-based pellets and wafers. The vegetables they love to eat include, but are not limited to, cucumber, broccoli, cabbage leaves, and romaine lettuce. When the bristlenose plecos’ nutritional needs are met, they will have better coloration.

9. Kribensis Cichlid

Kribensis Cichlid
  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Max size: 3-4 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Water temperature: 75-77°F
  • Water pH: 6.5
  • Aquarium hardiness: Hardy
  • Min tank size: 20 gallons

The kribensis cichlid is a small freshwater fish that originated in the waters of West Africa. It is an attractive fish that comes in a wide range of color morphs, including red, blue and yellow. 

Other than their stunning colors, what makes the kribensis cichlid such an awesome pet is the fact that they are hardy and easy to care for. This means that the kribensis is a great starter fish for beginners who are still learning about how to control an aquarium’s temperature.

While kribensis cichlids are pleasant and peaceful fish, they have the tendency to nip on the long fins of certain fish species, such as angelfish and some pleco breeds. They are also bottom dwellers that tend to be aggressive during breeding, so you should either avoid mixing them with other bottom dwellers or give partners their own aquarium.

Kribensis cichlids are omnivores that must be given different types of food per week for optimal health. They will enjoy eating flakes, pellet foods, mosquito larvae, frozen brine shrimp, and bloodworms, among others.

10. Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras Catfish
  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Max size: 1.5-2.5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Water temperature: 70-80°F
  • Water pH: 6.0-8.0
  • Aquarium hardiness: Hardy
  • Min tank size: 10 gallons

The corydoras catfish, or the cory catfish, is a good beginner fish because of its natural ability to survive in many different types of environments. They are a hardy fish species, after all. Cory catfish are also quite easy to care for, making them even more of an attractive option for beginners.

Cory catfish are friendly and peaceful fish species that would thrive in a community tank. And since they’re schooling fish, keeping them in groups of at least four or six is recommended to keep them happy.

Even though corydoras are armored, aggressive fish species could still do a number on their defenses and either injure or kill them. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep cory catfish away from aggressive tank mates, such as cichlids or oscars.

When it comes to their diet, corydoras are bottom-feeding omnivores that wouldn’t mind swimming around the tank looking for leftovers. However, you should still give them a balanced diet for optimal health. They will gladly eat bottom feeder tablets, fish flakes, pellets, bloodworms, and more.

Conclusion 

If you’re a beginner aquarist, the rule of thumb is to look for fish species that is hardy, easy to care for, and has a peaceful temperament. That way, your lack of experience in fishkeeping won’t pose a risk to the lives of the fish you’re trying to get to know and take care of.

This article alone includes 10 of the best beginner fish, so feel free to use it as a guide when populating your aquarium. It’s also a good idea to do your own homework and fish for more information on the Internet.