10 best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. March 26, 2020
10 best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners

There are many types of fish to choose from when deciding to get your first home aquarium. However, this wide range of choices can be overwhelming. Especially given that each fish has their own needs and personality. When deciding to pair fish together, one must be certain they will get along in the same tank.

In this AnimalWised article we will go through the best fish for beginners. These freshwater fish are easy to take care of and perfect for beginner fish keepers.

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Zebra Danios

Zebra Danios are a perfect beginner choice. These small fish are around 2 inches in size and are very attractive to the eye. Zebra Danios are hardy fish that thrive in freshwater around 64 - 77 ºF in temperature. It's also important to keep in mind that these fish have a lifespan of 5 years. The minimum tank size for these fish is 10 gallons, especially given that they do best in a school of six or more. As other schooling fish, if numbers are reduced they can feel stressed. They might experience aggravation towards other tank mates or loss of appetite.

Zebra Danios are peaceful fish that like to stay on the upper levels of their aquarium. When it comes to their diet, Zebra Danios are omnivores and will accept most fish food offered to them as they are far from being fussy eaters. Nevertheless, they mostly enjoy frozen invertebrates and fresh vegetable matter.

10 best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners - Zebra Danios

Black Skirt Tetra

Next on our list is the Black Skirt Tetra. They are known to be very hardy and attractive fish with their unique appearance. These fish also need a tank size of 15 gallons at a temperature of 70-85 ºF. Once adults, they reach a total length of 2 inches and live for 3 - 5 years. For Black Skirt Tetra fish, you can use darker river gravel as substrate with dried leaves on top to best stimulate their natural habitat.

In their natural habitat, these fish feed on worms, small invertebrates and insects. They also eat small amount of algae and plants. However, these tetras aren't demanding fish. They will eat almost anything you offer them within their diet.

10 best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners - Black Skirt Tetra

Boeseman's Rainbow

Boeseman's Rainbow are small tropical fish, known for their saturated coloration. They are active and peaceful fish, that should be kept in a tank of a minimum of 29 gallons. They thrive in a temperature of 80 - 86 ºF. These fish tend to be very shy when kept by themselves, but they thrive in a school of at least 6 other rainbow fish. In fact, we can often see the improvement through the color of their scales. Male's coloration tend to be brighter and more saturated when in a school of rainbow fish. Once adults, these fish are a size of around 4 inches.

To imitate their habitat and help with their over-all health, their tank should be heavily loaded with plants of different colors. They should also have plenty of space to swim. In the wild, Boeseman's fish are known to eat algae, small crustaceans and aquatic insects. We can try to recreate this in a home aquarium to the best of our abilities with high

10 best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners - Boeseman's Rainbow


Betta are popular among beginner fish keepers. This is probably due to how easy they are to care for and how entertaining they can be to observe. Betta fish thrive in a tank of at least 10 gallons, at a temperature of 76 -81 ºF. When it comes to tank mate, Betta fish can be quite tricky to figure out. For example, two male fish cannot co-habit together, as they are very aggressive and protective over their territory. On the other hand, female bettas can live in sororities of 5 or more. To learn more, visit our article 50+ compatible tank mates for betta fish.

Betta fish have an average lifespan of 2-4 years. However, with proper care they're known to live for up to 10 years. To provide them with the best care, environmental enrichment is key. Betta fish thrive in tanks with live plants and hiding spots. As for their diet, betta fish are carnivores and tend to be picky eaters. Betta food comes in different varieties including pellets, flakes, live, and frozen food.

10 best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners - Betta


Platies are popular tropical freshwater fish, perfect for any new aquarist. The average adult size is around 1.5 - 2.5 inches. Although Platies are small, they are very active fish that need a tank of a minimum of 10 gallons. The best temperature being 70-77 ºF. As many other fish, Platies thrive in a school of 5. To reduce female stress, keep a ratio of around 3 females per 1 male. These fish are very peaceful and docile, so they get along well with other small fish. This is especially true for guppies, mollies, and some types of tetras.

When feeding them, we must keep in mind that Platies are omnivores. An ideal diet for them will include algae and other vegetation, as well as protein. High quality flakes and live food are great sources of protein for Platies. Their average lifespan is between 3-5 years. For their tank setup, remember to add live plants to their environment so as to stimulate them. We want to try to recreate their natural habitat so they can live a happy and healthy life.

10 best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners - Platies


Another great option are Guppies. These small fish, averaging at a length of 2 inches, are peaceful fish that are easy to take care of. Although not schooling-fish, these South-American fish enjoy being kept in groups. Due to their docile nature, they get along well with many other small freshwater fish. To learn more, visit our article compatible tank mates for guppies.As for feeding, Guppies are omnivores. They are not fussy eaters and will accept nearly all fish food provided. Nevertheless, a balanced diet will aid them in being happy and healthy. This includes vegetation and protein sources, such as live food or fish flake food.

As we've previously mentioned, Guppies originated in South America. Therefore, we want to recreate this environment in their tank for their entertainment and over-all wellbeing. Keep them in a tank of a minimum of 10 gallons. The temperature should be around 75-82 ºF. As with the majority of fish, you will also need a filter. Lastly, provide plenty of live plants, rocks and substrate.

10 best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners - Guppies

Sword Tails

Sword Tails are named after their famous tails. However, they also come in a number of colors and with unique fins. These fish originated in Central America, where they were discovered in 1848. Nowadays, they make the perfect freshwater fish for beginner fish keepers.

The average size of Sword Tail fish is 6.5 inches, however, males are smaller than females. Although they live in groups, they're not particularly schooling fish. A 29 gallon tank is a good size for a small community. Try to have more females than males, as females may be stressed when surrounded by many males. As for any other fish, environmental enrichment is very important for their well-being. Make sure to add live plants, hiding spots, substrate and rocks so as to recreate their natural habitat.

Sword Tail fish are omnivores. They need to be fed a variety of vegetation and protein. This can be done through high quality fish flakes, live food and vegetation. Nevertheless, Sword Tail fish are known for adapting and eating what is offered.

10 best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners - Sword Tails

Cory Catfish

Cory Catfish are a staple in a community tank. Their friendly nature make them great tank mates. In fact, they do best in a group of 5. Cory Catfish get along with its different variations. As for their tank, a 30-gallon tank is ideal with a temperature between 74-80 ºF. Don't forget to provide them with hiding areas where they can take refuge in and vegetation. Substrate should be sand or fine gravel with rounded edges.

These fish are omnivores and typically feed on the bottom of the tank. However, don't be surprised if they dart up to the surface to grab a bite to eat or get a gulp of air. These fish can be active during the day, but they are also often found resting peacefully and motionless in the same spot. When it comes to feeding them, the typical Cory Catfish food is fish flakes, pellets and bottom feeder tablets. Don't forget to provide vegetation for them to munch on as well. With environmental enrichment and a good diet, Cory Catfish can live up to 5 years.

10 best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners - Cory Catfish

Tiger Pleco

Next on our list is the Tiger Pleco. This fish originated in the freshwaters of Brazil. Once an adult, they measure up to 2-3 inches. Tiger Plecos love peace and quiet as they linger at the bottom of the tank. For this fish, it's best to add them to a tank community with other species of fish. They don't tend to be as peaceful when with another Tiger Pleco. This is due to their innate territorial nature.

To set up the perfect tank for Tiger Plecos, first choose a tank of 55 gallons or more. Make sure the water temperature is around 82 ºF. For this fish, dense vegetation is not necessary. You can put some driftwood and rock caves in the aquarium. Keep in mind to never crowd their tank with numerous plants. As for their diet, to reach their nutritional requirements, ffer them a steady diet of algae wafers and bloodworms

10 best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners - Tiger Pleco

Cherry Barb

Cherry Barbs are attractive freshwater fish that are also easy to take care of. Their bright colors and schooling nature are appreciated by many aquarists. They have a lifespan of 5-6 years and once an adult, they measure up to 1-2 inches. Thanks to their peaceful nature, they get along very well with other small docile fish. However, because they are schooling fish, you must keep them in a school of at least 5 other Cherry Barbs. The male to female ratio should be 1 male for every 2 females.

Cherry Barbs will need a tank of a minimum of 25 gallons. The water temperature should be around 73-81 ºF. Keep the lighting low and use plenty of live plants to enrich their aquarium. In the wild, Cherry Barbs eat anything they can find. Their omnivorous diet makes it easier for fish keepers to provide them with food. Keep their diet balanced by offering them vegetation and high-quality protein from fish flakes, frozen food or live food.

10 best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners - Cherry Barb

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