Five Best Freshwater Aquarium Fish for Beginners


Aquarium fish can be a great source of stress-relief and daily entertainment if you make all the right choices that align with your desires and preferences. We will focus today on the best beginner fish for freshwater tanks since these aquariums are generally easier to handle and offer more leeway in terms of common mistakes people tend to make.

Even though marine fish generally appear to be more colorful, you won’t be disappointed by the selection of colors freshwater fish have to offer and to top it off, they come with different personalities, quirks, and even a few surprising abilities you wouldn’t perhaps expect from this type of pet!

There is a multitude of freshwater fish that are considered to be beginner-friendly, so we’ve narrowed down that list to the top five that are both easy to take care of and have great perks:

  1. Neon Tetras
  2. Platies
  3. Bettas
  4. Zebra Danios
  5. Corydoras Catfish

What makes each of these fish stand out and which ones to ultimately go for? Read on as we take a closer look at all of them one by one and highlight their best traits as well as possible concerns to take into consideration.

1. Neon Tetras

Superstars of the tetra family, neon tetras are one of the most popular fish among beginner as well as expert aquarium owners. They might catch your attention with their bright colors, but there are a few other reasons why an average of 1.8 million of them are sold per month in the United States alone.

They are valued for their calm and peaceful temperament, making them compatible with most of the other community fish. This works perfectly with their schooling behavior, as you would normally see them in schools of hundreds in the wild. It is highly recommended that you secure your neon tetras a group of at least five or more friends to swim with if you want to see them thrive.

Known as hardy and very simple to care for, neon tetras are omnivores who will delight in a variety of foods. They can grow up to 3cm long and are typically expected to live 2-3 years, though they can live up to 10 years. Lastly, due to their popularity, neon tetras are incredibly cheap at around $2 each, and easy to come by.

The one major downside of neon tetras is their vulnerability to the lethal “neon tetra disease”. The massive overbreeding has been causing them many issues over the years, so the quality of your neon tetras may vary depending on the fish farm they come from.


2. Platies

Ask for little and give a lot is what Platies are all about!  They come in just about every color you could think of and their tails differ in shape and size, making Platies an extremely popular choice if you’re looking for a fish unique to your aquarium.

They are very peaceful and get along well with other community fish. As omnivores, they enjoy a mixed diet, though you should provide them with plenty of vegetables. Platies are fairly forgiving of the water alkalinity and quality, and as such are among the more resilient aquarium fish.

One of the most exciting aspects about platies is that they are livebearers, meaning they give birth to their live young. Witnessing live birth in the animal kingdom is a rare treat and can be a great experience for the whole family, especially if you have kids.

3. Bettas

Highlighted by their majestic fins and a broad range of colors, Bettas are one of the most gratifying fish for beginners and experts alike. Provided you handle a few challenges they come along with, they will surprise you with their intelligence and quirky personalities.

Nicknamed the Siamese fighting fish, Betta males will engage in fierce fights, which is why it’s best to keep your Betta either alone or with community fish species they peacefully coexist with. The other challenge Bettas come with is their small stomachs– so you will want to avoid overfeeding them. Lastly, they are labyrinth fish, which means they can breathe air and can be quite jumpy, so you’ll want to put a lid on top of your aquarium.

Aside from the aforementioned dangers, Bettas are an easy fish to care for and well worth your while due to their intelligence. They are inquisitive and aware of their surroundings, so they will quickly come to recognize you and even greet you whenever you approach the tank. Furthermore, with a little food motivation, you can teach Bettas many cool tricks!

4. Zebra Danios

One of the best fish for a beginner is the zebra danios. Distinguishable by their zebra pattern, they are peaceful and very hardy fish that leave room for mistakes as you learn how to set up your first aquarium. In addition, they aren’t picky eaters, so you can remove that from your list of worries as well and give them almost any food.

They are schooling fish and as such require a group of at least five to truly thrive. Fortunately, they are cheap to come by at around $2 each and grow up to only 2.5 inches, meaning you can fit a larger number of them even in smaller tanks.

All in all, they make an excellent choice if you are looking for a fish that will teach you a lot about handling an aquarium and do so while swimming in impressive-looking shoals glistening in their beautiful colors.

5. Corydoras Catfish

We complete our list with arguably the best beginner fish to help clean your tank, the Corydoras Catfish. They are meticulous bottom feeders who spend most of their time diligently looking for any leftover food. You can choose from a variety of cory species that come in different colors and sizes, though they are mostly on the smaller side and will fit nicely in a 10-gallon tank.

Cories tend to have fun personalities and enjoy interacting among themselves as well as with other fish species, so you’ll want to provide them with a nice and peaceful community. They are extremely hardy and have a typical lifespan of 5 years, though they can live up to 20 years.

To ensure they live a long and happy life, you will want to avoid two things, putting salt in their water, and you will want to secure at least two inches of smooth sand or gravel at the bottom of your tank. Adding live plants and decorations will also help relieve any stress and provide places for them to explore and hide in.

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