Aquatics: Choosing (Un)Popular Beginner Fish

Typical how I got a fish massacre story...

The kids have begged and begged and you've finally relented. You say a dog is too much work, why not start small with a fish tank? You pack everyone into the car and drive to the nearest Petco or Petsmart.

Wandering down the massive wall of fish at your local retailer, you might be overwhelmed. Your eyes follow the cute, little, begging yellow cichlids and you think they would look really nice in your new ten gallon with your two neon tetras. What you do not know, and what the tag and employee may or may not tell you, is that those cute little balls of sunshine are African cichlids (pronounced sick-lids, not chicklets, which are pieces of gum), not good community fish, and your tetras are going to be expensive fish sticks.

Just like every hobby, there is a learning curve involved in fish keeping. Most beginning fish keepers want a bright, colorful, peaceful tank. This kind of tank is usually called a "community" tank where all the residents cruise around and play nice. Unfortunately, beginners tend to buy "bread and butter" fish that are popular and bred excessively to the point of health problems, such as neon tetra, mollies, and dwarf gouramis. But, luckily, there are tons of other colorful, peaceful fish that look just as nice!

These fish are colorful, hardy, and very easy to care for. They accept all prepared foods and are very forgiving of beginner mistakes (just remember your dechlorinator!). They are also fairly inexpensive running anywhere from $1USD-$5USD a piece depending on the species. All of these fish, with the exception of the cichlids, will be successful in as little as a ten gallon tank. Some of these will even breed for the new fish keeper, adding more fun to your tank as you try to spot the babies.

Please remember, fish in the store are very stressed, very crowded, and young. You don’t look fantastic after taking a 24 hour flight across the world, being dumped in a car for another 10-24 hours, and then being plopped in some strange motel with a bunch of other people either. With time and security, all of this fish will show beautiful colors (just not right away). Patience is key for successful fish keeping.

Harlequin Rasbora

Harlequin Rasboras
Harlequin Rasboras

Top Dwellers


· Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha) are beautiful little fish that have a copper base with striking black triangles on their flanks (which gives them the other common name of Porkchop Rasboras). "Harlies" stay 1.5" and school in the upper parts of the tank. They are relatively inexpensive but remember they are schooling fish, so they need buddies to be comfortable (and the more fish you get the cooler they look swimming in-sync!).

Brilliant Rasboras (Rasbora borapetensis) are a little less common than Harlequins but are quite pretty with a thick black stripe highlighted with reflective yellow on top and bright red tails on maturity. Brilliant Rasboras reach approximately 2" and school in the center of the tank. Like the "harlies," Brilliant rasboras like to hang out in groups and are fairly inexpensive.

· Paradise fish or Paradise Gouramis (Macropodus opercularis) have been in the hobby a long, long time and are as hardy as they come. Paradise fish are related to Siamese Fight Fish or Bettas (Betta splendens) and have similar habits. Males are powder blue with dark orange stripes and tails. Females are silver with faded stripes and shorter fins. If you want to keep multiple Paradise fish, it is advisable to have lots of hiding places and several females to one male. Warning: there have been reports of aggressive Paradise fish. I, personally, have never had this problem and I have bred them for several years, but like betta fish, Paradise fish have individual personalities and some (males especially) may cause problems in a community tank.

· White Cloud Minnows (Tanichthys albonubes) often look drab in stores when they are stressed and crowded, but once happy, they light up into a rainbow of yellow, purple, and red. These guys actually do better without a heater and tend to swim around the top of the aquarium. Like Zebra Danios (Danio rerio), White clouds aren't shy and are probably the cheapest fish on this list, but unlike danios they won't wear you out watching their incessant antics or chase your other fish.

Rainbow Cichlid

Rainbow Cichlid
Rainbow Cichlid

Middle Dwellers

Cichlids are "known" for their "aggression." There are actually several types of cichlids that do great in community tanks. I've chosen two that are peaceful AND hardy.

· Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher ) or "kribs" are dwarf cichlids from African rivers that reach about 2-3". Unlike lake cichlids, kribs are fairly peaceful and content to mind their own business on the bottom of the tank searching for food. Like all cichlids, kribs have fun personalities and "beg" for food by wiggling madly to get your attention. Sexing kribs is very easy: females have purple bellies, which get brighter the more "in the mood" they are. Males may have a little pink but they tend to be more elongated and have long, pointy fins. Breeding kribs is very, very easy provided you have a male and female and it's really fun to watch them care for their eggs/young. What is not fun is watching them chase and stress your other fish out while trying to protect their babies. Make sure if you breed them there is enough space for everyone to get away and hide.

· Rainbow cichlids (Herotilapia multispinosa) are neat little cichlids from Central America. They aren't quite dwarfs at 3-4" but they are very mild and easily kept with larger tetras, barbs and livebearers. Males are bright orange with black stripes and blue fins. Females are gold with black stripes. Both sexes have bright gold eyes. Like kribs, they are easy to breed, and like kribs, they are very protective of their babies! Also, these guys are vegetarians in the wild and will eat aquarium plants. They appreciate de-shelled peas and slices of zucchini as a treat.

· Barbs have a bad rap because of Tiger Barbs (Puntius tetrazona) which are not good community fish and have a bad habit of fin-nipping. However, Gold Barbs (Puntius semifasciolatus) and Cherry Barbs (Puntius titteya) are very good beginner community fish. Gold Barbs are, as the name implies, bright yellow with flecks of iridescent green and black along their sides and red fins that reach about 3". Gold barbs are little piggies, so be careful putting them with live plants, as they like to nibble on leaves. However, de-shelled peas are a good treat for them! Cherry barbs stay smaller than Gold Barbs, reaching 2". The cool thing about cherry barbs is that the males are bright, Christmas red! Females are an attractive, striped brown but the males are the show-stoppers. A nice group of six barbs (4 females and 2 males) will make these guys secure in your tank and give you a fun show as the males flick their fins and try to impress the ladies.

· Neon tetras are the most common tetra because they are colorful and common. But there are lots of other tetras that are colorful and better suited to beginners because they are not as sensitive. Black neon (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi) is not actually a black version of the neon tetra but is very similar. Black neons get a little bigger at 2" and instead of being red, white, and blue they are black, gold, and silver. Black neons hang in the middle of the tank in groups. Another tetra that is similar to the neon is the glowlight tetra (Hemigrammus erythrozonus). As the name suggests, glowlight tetras are an amber color with a bright orange-red horizontal stripe down their bodies. They stay smaller than the black neons at 1.5" and also hang out in the middle. They look especially stunning with a black background and black gravel because the orange really pops.

Clown Pleco

Clown Pleco
Clown Pleco

Bottom Dwellers

· Dwarf plecos are perfect additions to a community tank. Rubberlip/Bulldog plecos (Chaetostoma cf. thomsoni), clown plecos (Panaque maccus), and bristlenose plecos (Ancistrus temminckii) only get 4" (in comparision to common plecos that can get two feet long!) and clean up excess food and algae. They tend to come out when the lights are off to scoot along and hang out, so you may not see them much during the day. Male bristlenoses get a funky "beard" of bristles on their faces, which some people find endearing. Unlike most plecos, bristlenoses are easy to breed in the aquarium. While plecos will clean up your tank, they need special food too. Supplement your plecos with algae wafers or fresh veggies a few times a week to keep them happy and well fed.

· Ghost/glass shrimp (Paleomonetes sp. ) are not fish but they are inexpensive and fun little critters to add to your tank without taking up too much space. Like little clowns, they clean while hanging from impossible positions or dance across the bottom. Another non-fishy critter you might consider are mystery snails (Pomacea Bridgessii). Mystery snails come in a lot of different colors (gold, white, blue and black to name a few) and add a point of interest. Unlike other "pest" snails, mystery snails are NOT hermaphroditic, meaning you have to have a boy and a girl to have babies.

Quick and Easy Reference

Fish
Schooling?
Needs a heater?
Easy babies?
Warnings?
Barbs
Yes
No
Yes
No
Paradise Fish
No
No
Yes
Males do not get along
Rasboras
Yes
Yes
No
No
White cloud minnows
Yes
No
Yes
No
Tetras
Yes
Yes
No
No
Plecos
No
No
Bristlenoses
No
Cichlids
No
Rainbows No/ Kribs Yes
Yes
Parents are protective

Helpful Products for a Beginner Tank

API Freshwater Master Test Kit
API Freshwater Master Test Kit

Essential for keep tabs on good water quality. Easy to use and fairly accurate.

 
Marineland Visi-Therm Aquarium Heater, 75-Watt
Marineland Visi-Therm Aquarium Heater, 75-Watt

Stealth heaters are reliable and shatterproof as well as submersible.

 
AquaClear 20 Power Filter - 110 V, UL Listed (Includes AquaClear 20 Carbon, AquaClear 20 Foam & AquaClear 20 BioMax)
AquaClear 20 Power Filter - 110 V, UL Listed (Includes AquaClear 20 Carbon, AquaClear 20 Foam & AquaClear 20 BioMax)

Aquaclears are hang over the back power filters that have large media baskets and keep the water clean.

 

More by this Author


Comments 12 comments

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California

I used to have a good sized tank when I first got married and we LOVED it. But we did mess up and get fish that beat up on other fish, and it sort of became a game to see who could go to the fish store and find something that wouldn't get its As$ kicked. My wife won by pulling some small bluegill out of a man made lake. That was the end of my fish tank. I do intend to get a new one one day, not salt water (too much work).

Great first hub, really well done. Welcome to HP.


eveliens profile image

eveliens 6 years ago from SK Author

Oh yes, blue gill will definitely win. They are nasty little buggers, but a good sized red devil might be their match. Unfortunately, a lot of new hobbyists get put off by all the choices and untrained sales staff don't correct them, so they end up with an Ultimate Death Match.

Hopefully your next tank will be success. A well-set up tank is joy to have in the house.

Thank you for the comment and compliment!


pisean282311 profile image

pisean282311 6 years ago

doesnot seem to be your first hub..i am impressed...good job...well done...


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

Cool hub! Really great job with the story line, the photos, etc. Nice flow. Welcome to hubpages :) Watch yourself, this is an 'addictive' habit LOL It happened to be mothers day w/e when I joined, so my first hub was about Mom's Day (Mothers Day Maddness). I've been hooked since that first hub. I'd fancy to say you will be a hubnugget candidate.

It won't take long to pick up some tips. For instance, I've noticed that you have not 'linked' to other people's hubs. This is a helpful tool and you can always go back and do this. By linking it will highlight certain key words to other hubs-your choice through the options they present.

I spend time tooling around the tips and suggestions, trying new things and challenging myself for new experiences.

Have fun! BTW-set up a profile page to tell a little about yourself. :)


wilderness profile image

wilderness 6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

Well written and informative. A good hub.

I had a salt water tank for a few years before children and job took the time to take care of it. Fish tanks are great for a home, make a good "decoration" and can be fascinating to just watch as the fish and wildlife interact. I even had a brittle starfish that would accept hand feeding.


eveliens profile image

eveliens 6 years ago from SK Author

pisean282311: Thank you for the compliment! I did look at a few other hubs first, in the hopes that it wouldn't seem completely novice.

Denise Handlon: Thank you for the feedback. I feel confident that I have the nuts and bolts down, I just need to work on the frills! Your suggestions are really good. I planned to write a little mini-series on aquarium start up and link the hubs together, but I didn't know you could link to other hubs. And I think I'm already addicted-- I keep trying to write a profile and keep getting distracted. That is my next task :)

wilderness: Thank you. I was trying to make it a little silly but still give accurate and helpful information. I'd love to do salt at some point, finances allowing, but I agree that they can be time consuming.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

Good morning. Glad to see that you accomplished your goal, :) (the profile bit). Congrats on your job teaching overseas, and good luck. You'll have many new things to hub about!


eveliens profile image

eveliens 6 years ago from SK Author

I sure hope it gives me some hub ideas. I could probably go on forever about fish, but variety is the spice of life :D Thank you again for your comments.


smilemegrj profile image

smilemegrj 4 years ago from North Dallas

Terrific Hub! Nice shout out to the White Cloud guys too, I have a 2.5 gallon tank with one ghost shrimp and three minnows. Super simple and super hardy little guys. Very shy at the moment but slowly coming out of their shells and flushing out in color.


eveliens 4 years ago

Apologies for not signing in:

White clouds are wonderful. They are quite beautiful when full grown and so inexpensive! Your set up sounds wonderful!


Bonnie 3 years ago

Setting up with a 14 gal 20 x 10 & 16 tall. Had small 5 gal tank as a child and about 10 to 15 years ago we had a 55gal with fancy goldfish. Gave that to neighbors when we moved. Got the fish bug again and have cycled my tank and now have 3 albino cory's and 6 Neon tetras, they seem to be doing well. Would like about 5 Har. Rasboras and if I get a problem with algae maybe a couple Otto's. Will that be too many fish?


eveliens 3 years ago

I think 2 schools of fish is too much for that size tank. However, a few ottos should be perfectly fine :)

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