Top 7 Best Freshwater Fish For Beginners

Best freshwater fish for beginners

What makes a freshwater fish “good for beginners” ?

Every successful aquarium is a fine balance of chemistry, aesthetics, and biology. Some fish will require very specific conditions which can be hard to achieve – or more often, hard to maintain.

The best fish for beginners usually come from environments which are easy to emulate at home, and will be able to thrive in a variety of conditions. Here are a few factors we’ve kept in mind while compiling our top 7 list:

Rare and hard-to-get-by fish are naturally more expensive. To top things off – the more demanding the fish, the more money is spent on filters, heaters, and other equipment. When compiling our list of the best beginner fish, we made sure to include species that are easy to find – and cheap to maintain.

Hardy fish are extremely popular – especially for beginners. But what makes a fish “hardy”?

The hardiness of a fish lies in its ability to adapt to various water conditions, which surely won’t be ideal in the beginning stages of setting up your tank. Temperature, pH balance, space, etc. are common variables that some fish can be very picky about. Your goal should be to opt for a fish that can withstand non-ideal parameters and still thrive.

Picky eaters are frustrating to care for, because what they eat can be either expensive – or just hard to find. We recommend selecting omnivorous fish, because it’s simple to find plant and meat sources of food for them – in turn creating a balanced diet.

Different fish have different natures – some being peaceful or passive and others being active or aggressive. Do your research before selecting your fish – they might not get along with each other or other species. If your goal is to create a community tank, make sure all of your species are compatible with each other.

That’s not to say that single species tanks are simple. Some species won’t even tolerate other fish of their own kind.

In this article, we’ve tried to look out for fish that are generally peaceful and get along well with other similar species.

Before picking your fish, make sure you do your research regarding its size, because looks can be deceiving. The fish you get at your nearby store may look tiny, but might eventually surprise you when it matures. Understanding the growth scale of your fish is also important because of the tank’s size. Make sure not to select a fish that will outgrow its tank.

With all of this in mind, we compiled a list of what we consider to be the best 7 freshwater fish for beginners:

1. Goldfish

Best freshwater fish for beginners

One of the most commonly kept freshwater species is the Goldfish. People love them because of their vibrant colors and due to the fact that they’re great for beginners – but there are a few popular misconceptions about this fish.

Although they’re usually bought small and are kept in fishbowls, some types of Goldfish can even grow up to 14 inches! A single Goldfish needs approximately 20 gallons of water in order to thrive in a tank. Frequent water changes are also a must because they eat a lot – and create a lot of waste.

On the other hand, keeping a Goldfish isn’t demanding because they like cold water, so you won’t have to spend money on an aquarium heater.

2. Betta fish

betta fish

One of the most popular beginner fish in the world – you’ll find these tiny guys in almost any pet store! Also known as the Siamese fighting fish, the Betta fish is a beautiful and hardy species which has been kept for hundreds of years. There are dozens of varieties of Betta fish. Something almost all males have in common is their aggressiveness – don’t house a male Betta with other species or keep two males at the same time.

On the upside, a Betta is easy to care for, and doesn’t require much space to thrive – making it an ideal choice for beginners if you own a fish bowl or a smaller tank.

When it comes to food, Bettas aren’t very picky. They’ll eat fish pellets, flakes, and living sources of food such as brine shrimp and blood worms. Unlike Goldfish, they like warmer water so you’ll need to invest in a heater.

3. Neon Tetras

Freshwater fish for beginners
Photo by H. Krisp, courtesy of Wikimedia

Perhaps one of the smallest freshwater species suitable for beginners, Neon Tetras are one of the easiest fish to keep. They’re very hardy, peaceful, and can usually grow up to 2 inches in size.

Neon Tetras come in lots of different, bright colors and look even better when swimming in a group. Since they’re schooling fish, no aquarium should have less than 6 Neon Tetras.

When it comes to feeding, they aren’t picky eaters and will eat anything from standard fish flakes and pellets to brine shrimp and blood worms.

Please note that some fish (like the Betta) have long fins which Neon Tetras can mistake for food and try to nibble on.

4. Zebra Danios

Best freshwater fish
Photo by Azul, courtesy of Wikimedia

Although this species can grow up to 2,5 inches, it’s still considered a great beginner fish. You can find them in almost any pet store – and they’re very hardy, resilient and undemanding. They’ll eat frozen or live food, as well as flakes and pellets, so feeding is easy.

Zebra Danios like to be active and are schooling fish, so it’s recommended to group them to keep them happy. Keep in mind that Zebra Danios love to jump – your fish tank has to have a cover at all times.

5. Guppies

Colorful, undemanding, and playful, Guppies have been a popular freshwater aquarium fish choice for years. Despite their beauty, they’re extremely tough – a guppy can sometimes survive a whole week without food (but be sure to feed yours regularly).

Guppies can also adapt to different water conditions, requiring a minimum of approximately 3 gallons to thrive. This species is very easy to breed, so if you’re keeping a male and a female simultaneously, don’t be surprised by their numbers growing at a fast rate.

6. Freshwater Angelfish


Members of the Cichlid family, Angelfish are an extremely popular species. Due to their temperamental nature and sensitivity to temperature changes, they usually aren’t kept by complete beginners – but if you’re devoted, you can easily care for 2-4 angelfish without having any issues.

Due to their triangular bodies and pointed fins, an adult Angelfish can reach a whopping 8 inches in length. Because of this, a single Angelfish requires at least 20 gallons of water. If you decide to get one, make sure that your tank is taller, as opposed to being wider. Owing to their tall fins, they need more space in order to be able to swim.

Feeding them isn’t a problem because they’re omnivores and have multiple plant and meat preferences.

7. Platies

Freshwater beginner fish
Photo by Monika Korzeniec, courtesy of Wikimedia

Platies are relatives of Swordtails and are considered ideal beginner fish due to their adaptable and peaceful nature. This species comes in lots of different color variations, so no matter which one you choose, you’ll have a beautiful pet.

Platies are schooling fish, but also thrive well in community tanks. Regarding their spacial requirements, make sure to keep a few plants and rocks in their tank because they’re fairly shy – Platies love to hide.

Both males and females can grow to 2 inches and are easy to breed. 20 gallons of water is the ideal amount of space for a few Platies. They aren’t picky about their food either – their diet consists of flakes and live food.