I hope you love the products I recommend! Just so you know, I may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Oh, and FYI — as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

This is a list of the top freshwater aquarium fish for beginners that are perfect for your fist aquarium.

We’ll break it down into a super easy list of fish that even a beginner will be able to succeed with.

If you’re sick of reading the old complicated beginner guides then check out our guide: Best Freshwater Aquarium Setup. Check it out!

What Makes a Good Beginner Fish for a New Aquarium?

If you’re a beginner to the hobby you may feel a little intimidated with all the fish to pick from and all their different requirements.

When thinking about which fish you want to keep you’ll want to stick to a few fish species that are easy to care for, low maintenance, and are budget-friendly.

Here are a few things you should look for with your first fish;

  • Minimal Tank Requirements
  • Hardy
  • Peaceful
  • Low Cost
  • Colorful
  • Full Of Energy

Below are some of the easiest fish to keep alive with minimal maintenance.

List of the Best Starting Fish for New Fish Keepers

If you are new to fishkeeping take a look over our list of great freshwater fish for beginners, make your pick, and get started.

White Cloud Minnow

White cloud minnow is a small red and white-colored fish, very similar to the tetras.

They are known as the ‘working man’s neon’ because they have a similar neon-colored stripe to the tetras but are not as expensive. They originate from the White Cloud Mountain of China and in some parts of Vietnam.

They are top and middle dwelling fish, so they shouldn’t bother any other fish that stick to the bottom of the tank. They are very colorful fish making for a visually pleasing and easy to care for addition to your new aquarium.

  • Temperament: Sociable, calm and peaceful
  • Max Length: 1.5 Inches
  • Temperature Range: 15 C (60 F)
  • pH Range: 6.0 to 8.0

 Zebra Danio

Zebra Danios are beautiful black and white striped fish that originate from some parts of India and Bangladesh. The fish are a particular favorite among aquarium owners being one of the easiest tank fish to keep.

They can survive in a wide range of temperatures and varying tank conditions.

  • Temperament: Social, peaceful, Ideal for a large scale community tank.
  • Max Length: 2 Inches
  • Temperature Range: 18 C to 24 C (64 F to 74 F)
  • pH Range: 6.5 to 7.0

Betta Fish

Betta fish is a tropical fish that prefers warmer temperatures. It can die if exposed to temperature below 18.3 C (65 F) for long.

Bettas are a carnivorous fish that needs a meaty foods and protein diet. If forced to, it can eat plants, but it is not the ideal diet for the fish, so you will have to get some bloodworms or shrimp food.

  • Temperament: Peaceful with most fish but has aggressive tendencies towards fish with large fins.
  • Max Length: 3 Inches
  • Temperature Range: 26 C to 28 C (78 F to 82 F)
  • pH Range: 6.5 to 7.5

Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon innesi)

Neon Tetras originate from South America, but there are active captive breeding grounds of the fish species in Thailand, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

This Tetras bright neon blue stripe down the middle of the fish’s body makes for a beautiful addition to one tank.

Though they require minimal attention, they are a shoaling species, so keep them with at least half a dozen other Neon’s.

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Max Length: 1.5 Inches
  • Temperature Range: 20 C to 26 C (68 F to 79 F)
  • pH Range: 7

Black-skirt Tetra

Unlike the Neon tetra, The Black skirt tetra is a little darker in color. It has grey colored vertical stripes down its body. However, there are many colorful varieties of fish available through captive breeding.

They are also very popular, easy, and a hardy fish to keep in a tank. You will have to keep them in the tank with six to seven other Black-Skirts to keep them happy.

  • Temperament: Community Fish, Social
  • Max Length: 2 inches
  • Temperature Range: 20 to 26 C (68 to 79 F)
  • pH Range: 5.8 to 8.5

Fancy Guppies

Guppies are a colorful fish breed. They have many color variations, and fancy guppies have a rainbow of colored tails that can be twice as long as their body.

They are fast reproducers, so you will have to separate the males from the females in the tank if you don’t want things to get out of control.

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Max Length: Males 1.5 inches, females 2.5 inches
  • Temperature: 24 C to 27.7 C (75 F to 82 f)
  • pH Range: 5.5 to 8.5

Swordtail

Much like guppies, swordtails also reproduce very quickly, but they also show signs of aggression if there are more males in the tank than are females.

So you will have to find that balance ensuring they don’t overpopulate the tank.

  • Temperament: Very peaceful
  • Max Length: 4 inches
  • Temperature: 18 C to 27.7 C (65 F to 82 f)
  • pH Range: 7.0 to 8.4

Mollies

Mollies are found mostly in the Southern Areas of the United States and Central Americas.

They are available in various colors and various fin shapes. They are livebearer omnivores that can add an exotic touch to your aquarium as they are very visually pleasing.

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Max Length: 4 Inches
  • Temperature: 25.5 C (78 F)
  • pH Range: 7.5 to 8.5

Platies (Platy)

There are various types of platyfish, including the wagtail and Mickey Mouse platy. Many of these variations do not live in their natural environment but come about as a result of cross-breeding.

The Mickey Mouse platy is one of the easiest freshwater fish to care for.

  • Temperament: Community fish, peaceful
  • Max Length: 1 inch to 2 inches
  • Temperature: 18 C to 25 C (64 F to 77 F)
  • pH Range:

Cherry Barbs

The Cherry Barb is a bright slender body fish with bright red marks. Males turn cherry red during breeding, which gives the fish the name Cherry Barb.

Adding this to your tank makes for a quick splash of color.

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Max Length: 2 inches
  • Temperature: 23 C to 27 C (73 F to 81 F)
  • pH Range: 6.0 to 8.0

Harlequin Rasbora

The Harlequin Rasbora comes from Thailand, the Malay Peninsula, and Sumatra. It is a very colorful little fish raised on tropical fish farms.

It is an absolute delight to look at, low maintenance, and easier fish for tank.

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Max Length: 2 inches
  • Temperature: 22 C to 26 C (72 F to 79 F)
  • pH Range: 5.0 to 7.0

Tiger Pleco

The Tiger Pleco is a very exotic looking fish. It has asymmetrical black and brown stripes all over the body. It is a little bigger than other fish on the list, but it is very low maintenance.

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Max Length: 4.7 inches
  • Temperature: 28 C ( 82 F)
  • pH Range: 5.8 to 7.0

Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose Placo is another good fish. If you don’t like intense-looking fish, then this is the one for you to include in your tank. It comes in brown, green, gray with yellow or white spots.

  • Temperament: Community fish, social and peaceful
  • Max Length: 5 inches
  • Temperature: 23 C to 27 C (73 F to 81 F)
  • pH Range: 5.8 to 7.8

Cory Catfish (Corydoras)

Cory Catfish is another popular fish you can choose. It is also known as armored fish because of the bone-like material across the length of its body.

It is one of the most low maintenance fish you can find.

  • Temperament: Peaceful, Community fish
  • Max Length: 2.5 inches
  • Temperature: 22 C to 25.5 C (72 F to 78 F)
  • pH Range: 7.0 to 7.8

Otocinclus

Keeping Otocinclus Catfish in an aquarium can be a little tricky. They are delicate freshwater fish, so you will need to pay extra attention to the aquarium conditions.

They are also very docile, so don’t house any aggressive fish species with them in the tank.

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Max Length: 2 inches
  • Temperature: 22 C to 26 C (72 F to 79 F)
  • pH Range: 6.8 to 7.5

Ghost Shrimp 

Ghost shrimp are ideal as practice fish for beginner aquarists. They are easy to keep, can survive in not-so-ideal tank conditions, and have shorter lifespans.

Do not overpopulate your aquarium, though, these shrimp produce a lot of waste which would release a substantial amount of ammonia.

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Max Length: 1.5 inches
  • Temperature: 18 C to 27.7 C (65 F to 82 F)
  • pH Range: 7.0 to 8.0

Kuhli Loach

Kuhli Loach originates from South East Asia and is also known as coolie loach. It has an elongated brown body with bright yellow vertical stripes and a white underbelly area.

Make sure to add in the sand on your aquarium if you want to keep Kuhli Loach.

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Max Length: 4 inches (adult)
  • Temperature: 24 C to 30 C (75 F to 86 F)
  • pH Range: 6.0 to 6.5

Pearl Gourami

The Pearl Gourami is a treat to look at. It has a near translucent body with white spots and a black dotted horizontal line extending from the head to just above the fin.

Besides being a beauty, the Pearl gourami can also vocalize why growling and croaking noises and makes for a noisy addition to your tank/

  • Temperament: Males are territorial, but peaceful overall
  • Max Length: 4.5 inches
  • Temperature: 25 C to 28 C (77 F to 82 F)
  • pH Range: 5.5 to 7.5

Common Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

The common goldfish is the most common pets. They are straightforward to care for and are incredibly social. They are also very active, which adds movement to the aquarium that many people prefer.

  • Temperament: Peaceful and social as long as it has enough space in the aquarium
  • Max Length: 4 inches
  • Temperature: 18 C to 22 C (65 F to 72 F)
  • pH Range: 6.0 to 8.0

Bolivian Cichlids

They are colorful, peaceful, easy-going, and low maintenance. What more can you want as a beginner?

It is the ideal fish to include in your first ever fish tank.

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Max Length: 3.5 inches
  • Temperature: 23.3 C to 25.5 C(74 F to 78 F)
  • pH Range: 6.0 to 7.4

Angelfish

Angelfish are graceful swimmers and add a touch of elegance to the Aquarium. They are available in various species and colors and make a stunning addition to the aquarium.

Do take care when purchasing the Angelfish as some of the smaller species are a little aggressive and can disrupt the peace of the tank.

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Max Length: 6 inches – Altum Angelfish can grow up to 9 inches
  • Temperature: 25.5 C to 28.8 C (78 F to 84 F)
  • pH Range: 6.8 to 7.8

Kribensis Cichlid

The Kribensis Cichlid is Latin for the beautiful belly, and it suits the fish perfectly. During breeding, the females sport a bright cherry red underbelly region, which gives the fish its name and fuels its popularity as a pet fish.

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Max Length: 4 inches
  • Temperature: 24 C to 25 C (75 F to 77 F)
  • pH Range: 6.5

Which Is The Most Hardy Tropical Fish?

The Zebra Danios and White Cloud Minnow are the hardiest tropical fish and make for excellent choices.

  • The Zebra Danios is ideal because recreating optimal living conditions for them in the aquarium is extremely simple. They can survive in a wide range of water parameters, making them ideal for beginner fish keepers.
  • The White Cloud Minnow is also a very hardy fish that can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and water quality changes.

Avoid Choosing the Wrong Fish (Aggressive Fish)

When choosing which fish to include, steer clear of the following aggressive fish.

  • Most Cichlid Species
  • Most Barb Species
  • Some Shark Species

They are territorial and do not get along well with other species or too many fish in tanks. They thrive best alone and should not be added to a community aquarium.

Taking care of them and protecting others from them will be challenging for beginners.

How Many Fish In The Tank Is Recommend For Each Tank Size

The most basic rule of stocking fish is the one inch of fish per gallon, but it is just a guideline and there are other things that can impact how many fish you can keep in your tank.

For example;

  • Filtration
  • Live Plants
  • Beneficial Bacteria
  • Aquatic Bio-load

You should also make sure to take into account the maximum length of each fish, as they are not fully grown when you bring them home.

That said, here is a chart to give you some stocking capacities for a few standard tank sizes. You’ll notice as the tank gets larger you can be a little more forgiving with how many fish you can keep, while the smaller tanks are very minimal

Tank Stocking Calculator & Table

Tank Size1″ Fish2″ Fish3″ Fish
10 Gallon Tank4-6 Fish2 FishN/A
15 Gallon Tank12-14 Fish4 Fish2 Fish
20 Gallon Tank15-20 Fish8-10 Fish5 Fish
30 Gallon Tank25-30 Fish12-14 Fish8-10 Fish

Get Started With One Fish Species?

You should always start small, and we recommend you start with just one fish species at a time.

Please get to know them, their requirements, and figure out a fish care routine that suits your work schedule and temperament.

Our recommended fish is the White Cloud Minnow, as it is the easiest to care for. It is a beautifully colored fish that can brighten up your freshwater aquarium. It is also smaller in size so that you can purchase more of them when your new tank is healthy and cycled.

Thanks for reading!

This article is part of a large series of articles to help you understand the benefits, myths, cost, and steps you need to take to set up a successful aquarium.

Below are links to the next and previous chapters in this series.

Now let’s get started on setting up your new aquarium.