Starting an aquarium is easy. You need a fish tank, water, substrate, plants, and a few freshwater fish. But, which fish do you choose? Which freshwater fish are easy to care for? This article answers both of these questions. However, before we get into that, let’s look at some things that make certain freshwater fish best for beginners.
How Do You Know If A Fish Is Beginner Friendly?
Every fish is different. It would be best to consider each species’ behavior, diet, and habitat preference. And, any beginner freshwater fish you choose to get should be:
- hardy and can thrive in a wide range of conditions.
- Easy to care for.
- Peaceful and friendly toward other fish.
- Small (especially if you do not have a large tank).
Other Things To Consider When Choosing Hardy Freshwater Fish
Before buying fish, make sure you know what type of tank you plan to keep. Some freshwater fish do better in one tank as opposed to another. For example, you should not put shrimp in a cichlid tank or goldfish in a tropical community tank. Also, don’t forget to cycle your aquarium.
If you want to get fish for your aquarium, you need to think about:
- The size of your tank and the dimensions.
- The volume and surface area of the water in the tank.
How much space there is for them all depends on your size tank. It is crucial to keep the number of fish in your tank low. If they are too many, then the water quality and the health of your tank will suffer.
Think about how freshwater aquarium fish interact with one another. Is there enough room to avoid confrontations? Some fish are territorial. They will protect their place in the tank. There will be fighting when too many fish are in the tank, and some fish might get hurt.
Choosing the right fish is only one part of the battle. You need to make sure that they are compatible living in your tank. Some fish are quiet, while others can be aggressive. Some fish are more aggressive than other types of fish. Some fish act more aggressively when there is another type of fish in the tank. Before you put different species together, ask someone at the store if they are good tankmates before you buy them.
It is crucial to provide your fish with enough food. Different species of fish need different kinds of food. You should not feed them too much or too little. If they don’t have enough to eat, they might fight. If they have too much to eat, it can lead to health issues.
Too much food can also cause the organic materials in the tank to build up. When they are high, it can cause ammonia spikes and nitrate buildup. The organic buildup makes water quality worse over time. It affects all aquatic life and not in a good way.
15 Easy To Care For Freshwater Fish For Beginners
Without further delay, here are the best tropical freshwater fish for beginners that are easy to care for:
Guppy fish come from the Amazon River. They are among the top 5 most popular pet fish. Guppies are livebearers. The fry develops in their mother’s tummy and is alive at birth. They do not lay eggs. These fish are calm and get along well with other peaceful fish. They do best in a tropical aquarium setup.
Mollies can survive in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. Molly fish are hardy and more peaceful than other tropical fish. This makes them perfect for a community aquarium. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors too!
For food, mollies like algae and vegetarian flakes. You can also feed molly fish with bloodworms and brine shrimp once or twice a week.
Kuhli Loaches are eel-shaped fish that can survive in varying water conditions. It is also peaceful and easy to care for. These qualities make it a perfect fit for any list of best freshwater fish.
Kuhli Loaches are bottom feeders and eat flakes, pellets, and other bits of food that sink to the bottom of your tank. If you decide to keep a Kuhli Loach, try to keep at least three and have fish pellets ready to feed them.
The Pearl Gourami is a hardy fish of stunning colors. The fish is easy to care for. Like Betta Fish, these fish need space at the top of the tank to breathe air. So, if you do get a few, keep this in mind.
Their diet is versatile so they can eat both plant-based and meat foods. Algae flake food and live food like brine shrimp and bloodworms are excellent starter food for Pearl Gouramis.
The Cory Catfish is another popular freshwater aquarium fish to add to a beginner’s tank. A Cory Catfish is an excellent fish if you have a low-tech tank. They are calm and don’t attack other fish. These fish can live in both planted and non-planted fish tanks. Cory Catfish seem to like living in a tank with lots of plants.
Check out our Cory Catfish Care Guide for more information and stunning photos to learn more about this fish.
White Cloud Minnow
White Cloud Minnows are great fish for beginners. They are hardy freshwater fish that can live in different water temperatures and quality. They are schooling fish and thrive in groups of 6 or more minnows. If they are alone, they will become stressed and lose their bright colors.
Zebra danios are a popular fish for beginners. They are attractive and hardy fish that are also easy to care for. They have a striped zebra pattern hence the name. Zebra danios grow best in schools of 6 or more. They usually swim around the upper areas of the fish tank.
Check out our Neon Tetra Care Guide for more information and beautiful photos to learn more about this fish.
Rasboras are bright, orange-colored fish. They have a patch of black coloring on the lower back end of their bodies. They are nano fish which means they grow to about 2-inches in length, perfect for size for nano aquariums.
Swordtails are super hardy fish, so they thrive in almost any fish tank. They have a bright orange color and have a long bottom fin that resembles a sword. Though males can become aggressive toward each other, swordtails do well in groups of 5 or more. Be aware that the males will fight with each other and put on a display.
Not the usual beginner fish, but bettas make good fish keep once kept by themselves. They have beautiful flowing fins that can be of several striking colors. The only thing you need to keep a betta happy is a 5-gallon tank (20-gallon recommended if you have more than one) and a heater. These freshwater aquarium fish are carnivores, so freeze-dried and live foods feed them. If you don’t mind any of those things, bettas are a great freshwater fish for beginners.
If you plan on raising betta fish, please read our article that outlines how to care for a betta fish for beginners.
Platies are great hardy fish that get along with other non-aggressive fish in a community tank. They also eat most types of food, including freeze-dried and flake feed. And, if your tank suffers from algae, platies will often eat the algae off plants and the tank glass. Platy fish come in a variety of colors.
The Bristlenose Pleco or Bushynose Pleco is another hardy freshwater fish. Like Corydoras, they scavenge the bottom of the tank in search of leftover food and algae. All you need is a large tank and hiding spots in the tank to make them happy. They prefer caves, driftwood, and logs. They grow to about 6 inches in length.
Tetras are also popular starter fish. Neon tetras and cardinal tetras are the most common tetras kept in aquariums. They are easy to care for, thrive in groups of 5 or more, and get along with other peaceful fish.
An Otocinclus Catfish is a popular freshwater aquarium fish that helps control algae. It can eat soft algae, but it is not the answer to an algae problem. Do not keep Otocinclus Catfish should in tanks to make the algae go away. These are small and need a safe place to live. They like tanks with plants and a stable environment. Otocinclus Catfish need stable tank conditions with little to no changes in water parameters and temperature.
Feel free to read our Oto Catfish Care guide to see more photos and learn more about this beginner-friendly freshwater fish.
Jack Dempsey Cichlid
The name for this fish is from the boxer, Jack Dempsey. These fish are aggressive and excitable. Jack Dempsey Cichlids eat worms, crustaceans, insects, and fish. The Jack Dempsey fish is native to a tropical environment. It prefers water with a pH of 6-7, a water hardness of 9-20 dGH, and a temperature range of 22–30 °C (72–86 °F). Males can reach up to 10 inches in length. To learn more about these fish, check out our Jack Dempsey Care Guide For Beginners.
The Bottom Line
These 15 freshwater fish are a few of the many fish you can keep in an aquarium! As you grow more accustomed to caring for different fish species, you can increase your collection. You may even start caring for tropical fish for advanced aquarists.