10 Best Aquarium Fish For Beginners

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. Here’s a list of the top 10 beginner fish that you can keep in your aquarium.


1. Rasboras

There are many types of rasboras, but our favorite ones are the harlequin rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha) and lambchop rasbora (Trigonostigma espei). 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. The microdevario kubotai, a tiny neon-green rasbora, and the larger Risbora trilineata are two other rasboras. You can make your community tank stand out by having six or more schools of the same rasbora species. You can find more information about caring for your rasboras in our care guide.

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 auroratus) can grow to 12-14 inches. They require 30 gallons of water for each fish, or two goldfish in an aquarium 55-gallon. After reaching adult size, many people place their goldfish in outdoor water ponds. They love Repashy Super Gold, spirulina, vegetables, and other high-carbohydrate and low-protein foods.

While goldfish are very tolerant of water parameters such water pH and water hardness (although they require many water changes to keep their tank clean), they can be quite picky about water parameters. It is best to keep your aquarium one-species as they will eat all animals and plants that are in it.

3. Tetras

Like rasboras, tetras are another very popular, small schooling fish that come in tons of varieties – like neon tetras (Paracheirodon innesi), cardinal tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi), black neon tetras (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi), and Congo tetras (Phenacogrammus interruptus). 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). Keep them in groups of six or greater to ensure safety. Tetras are great with rasboras, and other community fish. More information can be found in our neon tetra and cardinal tetra guide.

4. Corydoras

Cory catfish, a peaceful, schooling fish that looks a lot like tetras and rasboras, live at the bottom of your aquarium. They can grow to just one to three inches long and love to scour the aquarium floor for food crumbs. However, you need to feed them specific sinking foods so they receive enough nutrition.

There are over 160 species of corydoras, the most common being the bronze and albino (Corydoras alpino), panda (Corydoras panada) and emerald-green corydoras (Corydoras splendens). For the best entertainment, keep them together with at least three- to six other species. Find out more by reading our cory catfish care guide.

5. Platies

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. Platies are also voracious eaters who will eat almost any omnivore food you give them. We love the variatus platy (Xiphophorus variatus), so be sure to check 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. They should not be kept with other betta fish, as their nickname is “Siamese Fighting Fish”. Tetras, corydoras and other peaceful creatures are good tank mates. However, avoid any fish that could nip their fins. They are meat-eaters and will eat betta pellets, frozen worms, and small floating foods. Our guide will show you how to create a beautiful betta tank.

7. Barbs

Barbs are a fun, active addition to any community tank. 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 considered semi-aggressive, so we recommend buying six or more to reduce fin nipping. The rasboras are corydoras as well as tetras and corydoras. But avoid long-finned fish such angelfishes and bettas.

8. Bolivian Cichlids

The Bolivian Ram (Mikrogeophagus Altispinosus), a beginner cichlid, is very similar to its colorful but less durable 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 79degF.

9. Kuhli Loaches

Kuhli loaches (Pangio kuhlii) will either fascinate or freak you out because they look like little 4-inch eels or snakes. Because they are nocturnal fish, they can be shy and hide behind decorations. Therefore, keep them in small groups of 3 to 6 so they feel comfortable enough to venture out on their own. Corydoras are bottom dwellers that scavenge leftovers from the ground between rocks. However, you need to feed them specifically so they don’t become hungry. You can read more about them at our Kuhli Loach Care Guide.

10. Angelfish

The striking angelfish is a stunning specimen due to their unique shape, distinct fins and beautiful striped pattern. Keep them in 55 gallons of water or more, especially in tall vertical tanks. They can grow up to the size a small saucer. This showpiece cichlid can be kept with rasboras, Tetras, and other community fish. But it is best to just keep one because they will not fight for territorial rights. Common varieties include marble, zebra, koi, 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.