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. They are popular with novice fish keepers and require less attention than more difficult species. These are the top 10 beginner fish that we recommend to customers after years of working in a local fish shop.
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 about 1.5 inches (4 cm) in length and get slightly bigger than regular neon tetras (Paracheirodon innesi). As a nice schooling fish, they do best in a group of 6-12 of their own species, but luckily they are relatively inexpensive at $2-3 each. Black neon tetras are very forgiving when it comes to beginner mistakes and can withstand a wide variety of temperatures and water parameters. Their robustness and even-keeled nature can help you gain more confidence in the early stages of your fish keeping 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 bottom dweller is approximately 4 inches (10 cm) long and likes to dig for food in the ground, hide behind aquarium decorations, driftwood, or aquarium plants. You can encourage them to get out into the open by getting at least 3 – 6 kuhli loaches. Drop their food near the fish tank’s front. They love frozen bloodworms, freeze dried tubifex worms, small sinking pellets, and freeze-dried tubifex. For more information, see our care guide for kuhli loaches.
3. Bristlenose Plecostomus (Ancistrus sp.)
Many beginners end up with a plecostomus or “suckerfish” plecostomus catfish because they are cute and hang on to the glass or bottom of their tank. Some plecos can get very large so it is worth choosing a bristlenose pleco. They are peaceful and small, but some can grow to be quite large. Their common name comes from the fact that males get little bristles on their face, but females usually do not. This is why they are one of our favorite algae eaters. For more details on how to care for plecostomus, read our full article.
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). A beautiful school of orange rasboras, each measuring 2 inches (5 cm), with a black triangle patch on their bodies is unbeatable. To feel at their best, schooling fish need at least six other species. In general, schooling fish need social time with their own kind to put on their best coloration, behave correctly, and give you the most longevity and enjoyment out of your purchase. Read our blog post about rasboras.
5. Albino Cory Catfish (Corydoras. aeneus).
Corydoras catfish make a great fish tank addition due to their happy-go lucky personalities and ability not to leave crumbs on the floor. The Corydoras species genus includes over 100 species. However, we prefer albino corys to beginners due to their toughness and inexpensive price. Their shiny pink scales make them stand out in a planted aquarium. The bronze cory is also available in a dark greenish brown color. This schooling bottom dweller gets up to 2.8 inches (7 cm) and loves gobbling up frozen bloodworms, Repashy gel food, and small sinking pellets. Their “blinking”, or flicking their heads downwards, is one of their most adorable traits. Find out more about caring for cory catfish.
6. Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya)
Cherry barbs may be considered aggressive. However, they aren’t more aggressive than a rasbora or tetra. While the males are darker in color, the females are deeper. While you may be tempted to get only males for your aquarium, try to buy at least 1-2 females for every male because the boys show off their best coloration when they have girls to impress. If you feed them high quality foods like krill flakes, freeze-dried foods, and frozen foods, they are very easy to breed and constantly lay eggs. However, the adults can predate on their offspring so make sure to plant dense aquarium plants such as water sprite or wisteria for your baby fry to hide in.
7. Red Eye Tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae)
Pair a larger, heavier, semi-aggressive fish such as a rainbow shark shark or bala shark with a larger, better-built schooling fish. Red eye tetras or monk Tetras can grow to about 2.75 inches (7cm) in length and are capable of adapting to many water parameters. The red eye tetras’ silvery bodies and black tails look great against a background of green plants, or other colorful fish. Place six to eight fish in a group in the middle or back of your aquarium and give them Vibra Bites, frozen bloodworms, and flakes.
8. White Cloud Mountain Minnow, Tanichthys albonubes
There are many varieties of white cloudminnows. Some are sold as feeder fish, but we recommend that you get regular white cloud mountains minnows. They are bulletproof and very durable. They are extremely affordable, grow to 1.5 inches (4cm), and do not require an aquarium heater. Many people keep them outdoors in mini ponds or tubs all year, but they can be kept outside during summer. Keep the water temperature below 80 degrees F (27 degrees C) to avoid disease. This fish is underrated, but you will love it! The males will fight each other and flaunt their fins like peacocks.
9. Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus oblongus)
Siamese algae eater, or SAE, is another cleaner fish. It has a downturned jaw that makes it easy to eat algae and any leftover fish food. It is a larger fish, growing to 6 inches (15cm) in length. It looks almost like a shark. Technically, they are a schooling fish, but because they can be semi-aggressive in nature, we find that they do best when you have only one SAE by itself or three or more to keep each other in check. The Chinese algae eater (CAE), which is larger and more hostile, we prefer the SAE to the CAE. Some people say that SAEs are better at eating algae when they are younger, but we find that is because the adult SAEs are big enough to get the lion’s share during mealtimes. Reduce the amount of food that is served to get older SAEs interested again in eating algae.
10. Endler’s Livebearer, Poecilia wingsei
Although livebearers are very popular (or fish that live long), we do not recommend them to beginners. They have water requirements that must be met. Additionally, beautiful colors can be caused by excessive inbreeding. This can pose a health risk. Endler’s Livebearers are a good option because of their natural coloration and the fact that not as much linebreeding was required to achieve stunning patterns. We’ve found them to be quite adaptable to pH of 6.5 and higher and temperatures between 68-82degF (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. Endler’s Livebearers is a cost-effective option for fish that look amazing and produce more babies without any extra costs.
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.