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Beginner Level Freshwater Fish

Updated on January 23, 2015

Having a fish tank can be very rewarding. They add a unique touch to your home ad can be very relaxing. However, fishkeeping is something that requires research, time, and effort. Otherwise, you can end up with dead fish and a lot of wasted money! If you are a beginner to fish, make sure you check out the proper way to set up and cycle a new aquarium so it will be ready for your new scaly friends. Once that’s done, choose some hardy beginner fish for your first tank! Here are some good choices for beginner freshwater aquariums.


Danios are active, zippy little fish that come in a variety of colors and patterns. Zebra danios are some of the most common, coming in colors like gold, blue, and silver. There are also GloFish danios, which come in colors like pink, purple, green, blue, and orange (they are not dyed). Danios are tropical fish, so they will need a heater in their tank. Danios are peaceful fish who like to live in a school of six or more. Since they are so active, a tank of 10-20 gallons is the minimum. They like lots of décor and plants to explore!


Goldfish can be a good choice for a beginner fishkeeper as long as they have a big enough tank. Contrary to popular belief, goldfish cannot thrive in a small bowl or tank. Goldfish can get over 8” long, so they need a minimum of 30 gallons. However, they are very hardy fish and they live in coldwater. They will need excellent filtration in their tank because they are messy eaters. Goldfish come in all kinds of different colorations, such as orange, black, and calico.


There are a wide variety of freshwater tetras available for the home aquarium. Tetras are peaceful fish that like to live in schools of 6 or more, like danios. There are small tetras, such as cardinals or neons, and larger fish like skirt and bleeding heart tetras. Tetras are tropical fish who like warmer waters. Tetras can be a bit shy and skittish, so provide them with plenty of hiding spots. You can keep different types of tetra in one tank as long as they have enough space!


Bettas are beautiful, long finned fish that come in many colors and styles. There are male and female bettas. Betta fish can only be kept by themselves by beginners, as they do not get along with many other fish! This is especially true of male bettas – never keep more than one male betta in the same tank, or you will come home to a bloodbath; they are called “Siamese fighting fish” for a reason. When kept properly, betta fish are beautiful to watch. It is recommended to keep them in a tank of 1 gallon or bigger. They need filtration and a heater like other tropical fish – bettas will not thrive if you keep them in a cold, dirty jar or bowl. They are very hardy fish and can live for several years with the right care.


Guppies are beautiful, hardy fish that do great in a community tank. They are peaceful and come in all kinds of colors. Guppies should have a tank of at least 5 to 10 gallons, because they like to live in a group of at least 3 guppies. Guppies tend to breed in aquariums, so if you don’t want to see fry, keep all males or all females. Males are more colorful with fancier tails, but females can more docile. Guppies like warmer temperatures and will need a filter to keep the aquarium clean.


Barbs are hardy fish that can be suitable for beginners. They come in many different colors, such as gold, red, orange, and striped. Some barbs are aggressive to other fish, so they may be best in a Barb-only tank. Barbs are tropical fish that like warmer waters and they do best in a tank that is at least 20 gallons, since they like to have a school of at least 6 fish. The color of barbs will be best in a tank with excellent water parameters and care.

Cory Cats

Cory cats are catfish, or sometimes called “sucker fish”. These fish come in different patterns like stripes or spots. They scavenge at the bottom of tanks, eating leftover fish food. They are hardy and can be fed with sinking pellet or wafers as well. They require a tank of at least 10 gallons, as they like to live with at least one or two other cory cats. Cory cats like warmer waters. They are peaceful fish and are perfect for a community tank!

Which is your favorite beginning freshwater fish?

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