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12 Best Beginner Fish For Freshwater Aquariums

By Eddie Chevrel


Updated on

Keeping an aquarium in your home is not only beautiful but has also proven to lower blood pressure or even stress. However, some species of fish can be a little bit tricky, especially if you have little or no experience.

In this article, we are going to take a look at the 12 best fish for freshwater aquariums, in addition to talking about some of the different things that you will want to consider as a new fish owner.

12 Best Beginner Fish for Freshwater Aquariums – A Complete Guide

NameScientific NameSizeLifespanPrice per fish
1- Neon TetraParacheirodon innesi1.2″2 – 3 years$1-2 USD
2- Standard GoldfishCarassius auratus1″-5″10 – 15 years$15 USD
3- Zebra Danio Danio rerio2″3 – 5 years$2-3 USD
4- Dwarf Gourami Trichogaster lalius3.5″4 – 6 years$5 USD
5- Betta Fish Betta splendens2.8″2 – 5 years$4-20 USD
6- Guppy Poecilia reticulata1″-2″2 years$1-25 USD
7- Mollies and Platys Poecilia sphenops1.5″-2.5″5 years$2-4 USD
8- RasboraTrigonostigma heteromorpha2″5 – 8 years$2-4 USD
9- Catfish Corydoras sterbai1″-4″5 – 7 years$2.50-5 USD
10- Firemouth Cichlid Thorichthys meeki4″-6″8 – 10 years$6-14 USD
11- Angelfish Pterophyllum eimekei2″10 years$5 – $20 USD
12- Green Swordtail Xiphophorus hellerii5.5″3 – 5 years$4-10 USD

1- Neon Tetras

Neon tetras are small, colorful freshwater fish that are very popular with all fish owners, including beginners. One reason that beginners like these fish so much is that they are extremely easy to take care of. They are very peaceful fish with very simple dietary needs. Because neon tetras are so small, you can own a number of them even if you only get a ten-gallon tank, another reason why people like these fish so much.

  • Average Length: 1.2 inches
  • Lifespan: an average of 2 to 3 years
  • Price: $1 – $2 per fish

2- Standard Goldfish

There are some people that warn beginner fish owners away from the standard goldfish because they can get rather large. However, as long as you get a big enough tank (about 30 gallons for one goldfish), standard goldfish are great beginner fish. Goldfish are very resilient fish which makes them really easy to care for and hard to hurt because they can survive in a range of different pH and water hardness levels.

  • Average Length: 12 – 14 inches
  • Lifespan: an average of 10 – 15 years
  • Price: $15 per fish

3- Zebra Danio

Zebra danios are extremely hardy and sociable fish. They are not aggressive, so they get along with each other and other species, and they are relatively simple to care for. They can live perfectly healthy lives off of good quality flake fish food, though they also love the occasional live treat such as bloodworms and Daphnia. Keep in mind that since they are schooling fish, if you buy one, you need at least five, so they do not become stressed or get aggressive with other fish.

  • Average Length: 2 inches
  • Lifespan: an average of 3.5 – 5.5 years
  • Price: $2 -$3 per fish

4- Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf Gourami fish is an easy fish to take care of and do not take large tanks, which makes them great fish for beginners. They are extremely hardy fish and can survive in less than stellar water quality. Because they are a peaceful species, they will get along with other peaceful fish that you might decide to purchase.

  • Average Length: 3.5 inches
  • Lifespan: an average of 4 – 6 years
  • Price: $5 per fish

5- Betta Fish

Betta fish are beautiful, colorful fish with spirited personalities, which is what makes them such a favorite for fish owners, new and old. Now, betta fish are more aggressive than some of the other species on this list, so you should really only have one male betta fish per tank, and you do not want to put them with other fish species. But they are hardy fish that can survive with lower oxygen levels and less space than other species.

  • Average Length: 2.8 inches
  • Lifespan: an average of 2 – 5 years
  • Price: $4 – $20 per fish

6- Guppy

You have probably heard of guppy fish as they are one of the most well-known aquarium fish and are loved by both beginner and veteran fish owners. They are beautiful to look at as they come in a variety of colors and tail shapes. They are also extremely peaceful fish and will get along great with any other community fish you decide to buy. They can live happily in waters between 75 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit and a range of different pH levels.

  • Average Length: 1 – 2 inches
  • Lifespan: an average of 2 years
  • Price: $1 – $25 depending on the species

7- Molly and Platy

Mollies and platys belong to the same family of fish, and both are very common, especially for beginners. They are hardy species and easy to care for. Because they are so peaceful, they are great community fish and can live long, healthy lives as long as you maintain good water conditions and feed them healthy diets.

  • Average Length: 1.5 – 2.5 inches
  • Lifespan: an average of 5 years
  • Price: $2 – $4 per fish

8- Harlequin Rasbora

Rasboras are schooling fish that tend to be very active, so they do need a tank that is a bit bigger. However, they are friendly fish and very hardy, which is what makes them good for beginners. They can live off of a diet of flakes but also benefit from dried worms and brine shrimp occasionally. While high-quality water will help them thrive, they can survive in harder water than some other species.

  • Average Length: 2 inches
  • Lifespan: an average of 5-8 years
  • Price: $2 – $4 per fish

9- Catfish

Catfish, or more specifically Cory Catfish, are easy species for beginners. They are hardy fish and stay relatively small. You do want to stay away from some other breeds of catfish that can get significantly larger and can be extremely sensitive to water quality. One of the benefits of adding a Cory Catfish to your tank is that they are bottom feeders, so they will help you keep the tank clean.

  • Average Length: 1-4 inches
  • Lifespan: an average of 5-7 years
  • Price: $2.50 – $5 per fish

10- Firemouth Cichlid

There are a variety of different kinds of cichlids, some of which are rather tricky fish to own. However, if you are interested in these species, Firemouth Cichlids are a great place to start. They are hardy, live off of an easy diet, and tolerate a number of different water conditions. They are also great adapters, but they do need a larger tank (at least 30 gallons.)

  • Average Length: 4-6 inches
  • Lifespan: 8-10 years
  • Price: $6 – $14 per fish

11- Angelfish

Angelfish are not as common as some of the other fish on this list, but they are really cool to look at and actually really easy to take care of. Once you have the aquarium set up with fresh water and plenty of plants, Angelfish require very little maintenance other than plenty of food. And if you ever do decide to go down the breeding route, angelfish are a great option.

  • Average Length: 2 inches
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Price: $5 – $20 per fish

12- Green Swordtail

While you might expect a fish named Swordtail to be a little bit difficult to take care of, they are actually quite easy. They are extremely adaptable, so it is pretty easy to keep them healthy, and since they can survive and a multitude of environments, they can survive many of the most common beginner mistakes. Because they do better in communities, you probably want to get a 20 to 30-gallon tank.

  • Average Length: 5.5 inches
  • Lifespan: 3 – 5 years
  • Price: $4 – $10 per fish

What first-time owners should know before buying a freshwater fish

  • Tank Setup: Before you buy your fish and put them in their new home, you are going to have to set up the fish tank. You will need to add gravel and water, treat the water, allow it to settle, install a filter and heater, and decorate. You should set up the tank at least a few days before you buy your fish.
  • One-Off Expenses: There are some continual costs of owning fish, such as food and water treatment, but the most expensive costs are one-offs. These expenses include the tank, decor, equipment, and the fish themselves. The bigger the tank you get, the more expensive all of these different one-off expenses you get. If you are a beginner fish owner, you may only want to get a 10 to 20-gallon tank.
  • Number of Fish: The number of fish you can own depends on the size of the tank that you get. The general rule of thumb is that you need a gallon for every one inch of fish. If you decide to start with a ten-gallon tank, that means you can get five fish that will grow up to two inches in length. However, with big-bodied fish, it is better to have two gallons of water per inch of fish.
  • Difficulty Level: There are some fish that are more difficult to care for than others. FIsh with more aggressive temperaments or those that have really specific needs can be really difficult for beginner fish owners. On the other hand, fish with calmer temperaments that are hardier tend to be better fish for beginner fish owners.
  • Risk of Breeding: When you are a beginner fish owner, the last thing that you want is for the fish to start breeding. Raising baby fish can be a rather difficult and stressful experience, even if you can find a local aquarium to take care of the new babies. To completely minimize the risk of breeding, you should only buy fish of one gender.

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About Eddie Chevrel

Eddie Chevrel is an animal journalist and the founder of ThePetSavvy. He's very passionate about exotic pets and spends most of his free time doing research, meeting, and interviewing people working with animals. Learn more about The Pet Savvy's Editorial Process.