top 5 best aquarium fish for beginners

Top 5 Freshwater Fish For Beginners - Easy Guide

How To Pick Your Freshwater Fish 

The first step in fishkeeping is to solidify a safe environment for your fish, BEFORE YOU BUY THEM. If you're still on this step, don't worry, we've got you covered! Here is a link to setting up your first aquarium that will help you out :) Once your aquarium is established and ready to go, this article will help you select some great beginner fish for your first tank.  

What Fish Should Beginners Avoid? 

Here is a short list of aquarium fish for the beginner to avoid. There are several reasons why you would not want to add these fish to your new tank. Betta fish are aggressive and do not do well in a community tank. Goldfish can get large and produce more waste that a typical fish its size. Oscars look nice and cute at the fish store, but eventually get very large and out grow most beginner tanks. Bala Sharks are cool looking and swim fast, but they too can get very large. Common plecos also get super big and most beginners end up having to find them a new home eventually.     

  • Betta Fish (unless kept by themselves) 
  • Goldfish
  • Oscar Fish
  • Bala Sharks
  • Common Pleco
  • Any fish that get large (Google it before buying)

5 Easy Beginner Fish For Your Aquarium  

Todays list will consist of actually 11 different fish that will all work together in the same community aquarium. I've categorized them into 5 groups but just know there are many more color varieties and species of each one. 

#1 Cory Catfish 

Cory Cats are a grouping of dwarf catfish that all stay under a few inches. They are peaceful bottom dwellers that won't mess with any of your other fish. They are super easy to keep happy, they eat a simple diet of sinking pellets when you remember to feed. They will spend most of their time foraging throughout the substrate and occasionally swim up and down quickly all the way to the top of your tank.     

The above image is Corydoras Julli. This is one of my favorite species of Cory as it has very pretty markings. Many species of Cory are available to hobbyists so do a little more digging on Google and see which ones you like best.   

Some of my favorite Cory's are represented in our sticker/magnets/cling selection, check them out below :)

Cory Catfish Sticker

Julii Cory

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Cory Catfish Sticker

Salt and Pepper Cory

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#2 Guppies

Guppies are another great beginner fish for just about everyone. They stay small, can go perfectly in a 10 gallon and they are easy to get breeding if that what your goal is! Guppy fish are referred to as livebearers because rather than lay eggs, they give live birth to their young. They are also closely related to Endlers, another livebearing fish and are often hybridized by breeders.  

Even more so than Cory catfish, Guppies and Endlers have hundreds of variants and combinations based on color and morphology. Some have large fan tails, others have double sword tails. This can we really fun when selecting which ones you want in your tank. 

While guppies can live in pretty much any set of water parameters but having slightly harder water can help promote breeding. A simple water test can help determine if your water is perfect for livebearer breeding. You want a pH of 7.0 or greater and your GH to be at least 8 dGH. 

Guppy Fish Sticker

Fancy Guppy

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Endler Fish Sticker

Tiger Endler

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#3 Rainbowfish 

There are a lot of really cool rainbowfish out there. My favorite has to be the Boesemani Rainbow just based on coloration alone. They ae also a mild tempered fish that will leave most other fish alone to do their thing.  Having a few rainbows in you tank can add a lot to your fishkeeping experience. 

rainbowfish for aquarium

Many different species of rainbowfish are available. Dwarf rainbowfish I like include: Praecox, Frucata, and Blue eyed rainbows. These smaller species are great for smaller tanks why you want some dedicated top and mid-level swimmers. If your tank is larger, 40 gallons or more, then I highly recommend the Boesemani, Turquoise and Red rainbowfish.   

Rainbowfish Sticker

Boesemani Rainbowfish

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#4 Platy and Swordtail

Platys and Swordtails are more livebearers that also fit the bill of being a great beginner freshwater aquarium fish. They come in all sorts of color varieties so you'll be sure to find something you like. I personally love the bright orange swordtails as depicted below. 

Breeding these fish is also pretty easy, very similar to keeping guppies. Even if your tank is small, say around 20 gallons, you can comfortably keep 12 of of these fish. Pair them with a small group of Cory cats and you have a pretty cool little environment! Platy's and Swordtails will eat pretty much any flake or small to medium pellet food, However I like to feed my small-medium sized fish freeze dried tubifex worms. They seem to really like it as a treat a few times a week. 

Platy Fish Sticker


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Swordtail Fish Sticker


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#5 Neon / Cardinal Tetra

Cardinal Tetras are one of my favorite fish. They have a stunning combination of colors that are super unique in the freshwater fish world. Neon Tetras are very similar, only big difference being the red coloration only making it's way half way up the body.    

Both of these fish can be in the same aquarium, but I tend to always select Cardinals due to them having a deeper, stronger coloration. Cardinal Tetras tend to be a little more expensive but I think it's well worth it. Both fish a descent shoaling activity but don't really school up tightly like their cousins the Rummynose Tetra. 

If your going to go the route of either the Neon or Cardinal Tetra, be careful of purchasing them from large chain pet stores... Especially with Neon's, their turnover rate is very high, meaning stores often have brand new fish when you happen to be there. This might sound like a good thing, but many times the fish are just not going to make it. I always advise purchasing fish from a local fish store with knowledgeable owners who won't sell you poor stock. 

Tetra Sticker

Cardinal Tetra

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Many More Fish In The Sea... 

Don't see anything your interested in? Don't worry, there are plenty more easy beginner fish for your freshwater aquarium. I'll do my best to follow up with another top 5 aquarium fish article so make sure you are following on YouTube or subscribed to our newsletter to stay in the loop!

Betta Fish Sticker Pack


LIMITED TIME - Get a FREE 3 inch holographic Cherry shrimp sticker when you purchase the 3 inch Betta Trio sticker pack! 

Betta fish sticker pack
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