Amazing Freshwater Aquarium Fish for Beginners (Easy Fish to Keep Alive) With Images

Amazing Freshwater Aquarium Fish for Beginners (Easy Fish to Keep Alive)

If you are setting up your first freshwater aquarium, it can be a challenge to know what tropical fish to buy. There are many types of ornamental and exotic freshwater fish that are perfect for beginners. Some of the easiest-to-care-for freshwater aquarium fish are tetras, swordtails, cool-looking betas, mollies and goldfish. Even among these species of freshwater fish, it’s important to make sure the fish are compatible.

For most people, the best type of freshwater aquarium to choose is a heated tank. This allows for the greatest variety of colorful fish. But, if you are just starting out, it’s important to remember that you can’t just choose the most beautiful fish you like and put them all together.

Just like with people, different species of fish have their own temperament. Some are peaceful and keep themselves to themselves. Other types of ornamental fish are hardy and can withstand a range of conditions. There are some fish species that are great all-around community fish.

In this article, you will find out about the best aquarium fish for a freshwater tank if you are a beginner. While this list doesn’t cover every single species, you will find out about the coolest freshwater aquarium fish to get started with.

Best Freshwater Aquarium Fish for Beginners (Easy Fish to Keep Alive) With Images

Having cool, tropical fish swimming around a fish tank is something beautiful to watch. If you plan your aquarium well, you can have exotic fish of different colors and sizes swimming around in harmony in a heated fish tank.

Let’s look at some of the best freshwater fish for beginners.



Guppies are popular freshwater aquarium fish and are easy to care for

Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) are one of the most popular aquarium fish to keep because they are beautiful, small and easy to care for. All species of guppies have a peaceful nature and generally don’t bother other fish. If you are thinking about starting off your fish tank with guppies, you should buy at least 3 as they like to swim in shoals.

Guppies have vibrant colors that range from deep red, to pink, yellow, and iridescent metallic colors. These small fish can be single color or be multicolored with various striking patterns.

When choosing your first fish, also pay attention to the various tail and fin shapes that grace these delightful fish. Some guppies have colorful showy fan-like tails and others have pointed tails that look like a sword.

Guppies are hardy, easy-going fish that feed on fish flakes, shrimp, or blood worms.

These tropical beginner fish grow up to 2” (5 cm) long. For a 30-gallon (136 l) freshwater aquarium, you should be able to have about 15 to 17 guppies or other community fish in it.

Related article: Amazing Types of Guppies (Including Fancy Varieties) Plus Guppy Care Guide

Neon Tetra

neon tetra

The small ornamental neon tetras are one of the best pet fish for beginners

Tetras are extremely easy to look after and are one of the best types of aquarium fish for beginners. One of the most striking of the tetra genus is the neon tetra. This brightly-colored low maintenance fish gets its name from the iridescent blue or green neon stripe along its sides. These small beautiful glowing fish live just as well in cold-water fish tanks as they do in heated aquariums.

Most tetras, including neon tetras, are timid, peaceful fish. Similar to guppies, they swim in shoals and quite peaceful. Because of their small size, you can add many to the fish tank. Tetras are best paired up with other community fish such as guppies, barbs, danios, and other species of tetras.

Due to their timid nature, they are best kept away from aggressive aquarium fish.

If you decide on tetras for your starter fish tank, also remember to have plenty of freshwater aquarium plants. This helps provide some shelter and mimic their natural environment.

Tetras feed on flaked fish food and small brine shrimp. These cheap fish pets grow to around 1.3” (3.5 cm) from head to tail.

Danios (Zebrafish)


Zebrafish are cheap and low maintenance hence are common in many aquariums

Zebrafish (zebra danio) are often the fish of choice when people buy their first aquarium. These tropical social fish are extremely hardy and a very easy fish for a novice aquarist to look after and to keep alive. If you are just starting out with your first fish tank, you will also find that these are some of the cheapest freshwater small fish to buy.

As their name suggests, zebrafish have striped markings along their sides. These colorful stripes give the pet fish a striking appearance as they swim around the tank. Many experienced aquarists also choose zebrafish for their playful antics in a community tank.

Similar to other social fish such as guppies and tetras, zebrafish do well when there are a few of them in a fish tank. Zebrafish typically grow to between 1.6” and 2” (4 to 5 cm) in length.



Mollies are a type of tropical fish that include many varieties with different colors

Mollies are a species of fish in the genus Poecilia and they are an excellent choice if you’ve never looked after fish before. These hardy fish are not aggressive and interact well with other community fish. When it comes to choosing a type of molly for your tropical tank, there are many to choose from.

One of the most popular types of molly for a freshwater aquarium is the black molly. This has satin black fins, body, and tail and it is just as easy to keep as guppies. The dalmatian molly has black and white speckling similar to the dog species.

Other species of molly can be pure red, orange, or yellow in color and some are multi-colored varieties.

If you are just getting started with your first aquarium, then mollies are some of the easiest fish to keep alive. This means that they can adjust to variations in water as you build up the perfect freshwater aquarium environment.

These easy-to-care-for aquarium fish will grow to about 3” (7 cm) in length and females may be slightly larger.



Goldfish are one of the most popular and commonly kept freshwater aquarium fish

Growing goldfish in your aquarium is great for beginners who don’t have a heated aquarium. Goldfish are cold water aquarium fish that prefer water temperature of 62-74 F (17-23 C), although some species can live in cooler or warmer temperatures.

There are many goldfish varieties that range in color, size and shape. Goldfish can be orange, red, yellow, white, black and a combination of these colors. Some fancy varieties have beautiful long tails and other unique features that will give stunning look to your aquarium.

While many people grow goldfish in a small aquarium, this is not a good idea. Goldfish produce a lot of waste which can affect the water quality. This is why it’s best to grow goldfish in a large aquarium and change 10% of the water every week.


platy fish

Platy species come in a variety of colors and are one of the best fish for beginners

Species of platies (platyfish) are great fish to build up your community aquarium with friendly tropical fish. As with most types of exotic freshwater fish, there is a wide range of varieties to choose from. The reasons why these are popular beginner aquarium fish are that platies come in almost any color and they live peacefully with other fish.

Some platyfish bred for aquariums have bright colors with dark dorsal and tail fins. Other species have metallic blues and greens that seem to glow. There are also variegated platyfish that have striking two-toned contrasting colors. Red platies and red mollies are similar, however platies usually have shorter and rounder body whereas molly has a longer body.

These non-aggressive pet fish live well with guppies, tetras, and other community fish. Platies will reach about 2” (5 cm) at maturity.



Swordtails are freshwater tropical fish with long tail

Swordtails from the tropical fish genus Xiphophorus and are among some of the easiest fish to take care of. Swordtails are related to platies and have been bred to have a long sword-like tail fin. These freshwater tropical fish adapt well to different water environments.

Swordtails are very social fish and can live peacefully in a community tank. They usually prefer to be in groups of 5 or more and tend not to be aggressive. The only time they become aggressive is if there is more than one male swordfish in the tank. So, when starting out with your aquarium, keep this in mind.

Because swordtails are generally plant feeders, they are a good choice if you have a lot of plants in your heated aquarium. However, you can also feed them live foods occasionally.

Due to their long bottom fin, male swordtails can be up to 5” (12 cm) in length.

Cherry Barb

cherry barb

Cherry barb female (above) and male (below)

Cherry barbs are not the easiest fish in the world to care for but they are still good tropical fish for beginner aquarists. Cherry barbs are the friendliest of the Barbinae subfamily.

The females are a light tan color with a dark stripe running down their sides. It is the unique coloring of the male species that gives this fish its name. These have a red color that becomes deep cherry red when they are spawning.

When setting up your new fish tank, be sure to have plenty of live plants for cherry barbs to hide in. Although these are active fish, they tend to enjoy spending time away from the other fish in the aquarium. If you have the right environment, you will find that cherry barbs feel at home with other community fish.

These delightful fish grow to about 2” (5 cm) in length and the males look slightly leaner than the females.

Pearl Gourami

pearl gourami

The beautiful pearl gourami fish lives peacefully with other community fish

One of the most exotic and easiest fish for beginners to look after is the pearl gourami. These graceful and cool fish peacefully swim around fish tanks not bothering other fish. They are a unique species of tropical aquarium fish with long trailing ventral fins that look like feelers.

The pearl gourami is a large tropical fish which is identified by its rounded body and graceful appearance. It gets its name from the pearl-like patterns covering its body and fins. Because of its timid nature and slow movements, gourami fish don’t do well with aggressive fish. However, in a community tank with guppies, tetras, and swordtails, they will feel at home.

Make sure that your new fish tank has plenty of plants and other decorations for the gourami to hide in when necessary. Due to their large size, you will need at least a 30-gallon (136 l) tank.

Some species of gourami can grow up to around 4” or 5” (10 to 12 cm) in size.

Neon Rainbowfish

neon rainbowfish

Neon rainbowfish are large freshwater tropical fish that like to swim in groups

Neon rainbowfish and dwarf rainbowfish are excellent fish for starting your first fish tank. These large cool fish are peaceful and love to swim in groups. As they grow, their coloring becomes more vibrant and pronounced.

The name ‘rainbow’ fish comes from their iridescent blue colors on their body. They are also hardy fish that are tolerant of smaller fish such as tetras or guppies. But they can also hold their own if more aggressive fish bother them. Because rainbow fish scatter their eggs, they are also quite easy to breed.

Rainbowfish can grow to about 6” (15 cm) and like to swim in shoals, so you will need to have a large fish tank for them to thrive.



Killifish include many species. From top to bottom: Spotfin killifish, Guatemalan killifish, and striped killifish

Another group of peaceful freshwater fish is the killifish species. These are small, long, colorful fish with intricate spotted patterns on their bodies and fins. With over 1,270 species of killifish to choose from, there are bound to be some that suit your new aquarium.

Killifish live together in a community tank with other fish such as tetras, guppies, and mollies. Their bright colors of silver, red, orange, and neon-blue will brighten up any fish tank. Some exotic species have stunning vertical striped patterns and large showy fins. Other species are long and thin with black and white zebra-like markings.

There is a wide variety of killifish suitable for any novice “fishkeeper.” They generally grow to between 1” and 2” (2.5 to 5 cm) in length.


betta fish

The colorful betta is one of the most stunning freshwater aquarium fish

Bettas are one of the most exotic tropical freshwater fish you can add to a new aquarium. Betta fish are not generally recommended for absolute beginners, but if you only have one in the tank, it should not be aggressive. Usually, these colorful freshwater fish don’t bother other peaceful varieties of tropical fish.

The outstanding feature of bettas is their large wavy fins that the males develop. Species of these ornamental fish come in all sorts of colors from deep blue, dark red, bright yellow, and iridescent blues and greens. Some species have just a single dominant color whereas others are multicolored.

Freshwater aquarium bettas can also have stunning colorful patterns making them some of the coolest fish in your tank. Some examples are marbling effects, Nemo-like patterns, bi-colors, and contrasting fin colors on their bodies. As with most species of popular freshwater tropical fish, there is a wide range in fin and tail variations.

One word of advice for novice aquarists: don’t have small fish that tend to nip fins because your betta fish will become a prime target. As bettas are also called Siamese fighting fish, the battle won’t end well for the smaller ones.

These amazing decorative fish grow to about 2” (5 cm) in length.



Angelfish can sometimes be aggressive so it’s best to keep them in a large aquarium with plenty of space

If you are starting out with your first aquarium and are looking for an exotic fish, then an angelfish is a great choice. To care for them properly, you need to ensure that you keep the ideal environment for them in the fish tank.

Angelfish are usually placid tropical fish and they cope well if there is only one in the tank. However they can be aggressive toward one another, especially when pairing off.

The best advice for beginners who want to keep angelfish is to buy them young and keep them in a large tank. When they mature, they can become aggressive and more difficult to handle. However, if they have plenty of room, they can add grace, elegance, and beauty to any fish tank.

Freshwater Aquarium Catfish (Corydoras)


Corydoras live at the bottom of the aquarium and are easy to care for

When planning your first aquarium, you should consider adding a species of tropical freshwater catfish. Fish from the Corydoras genus are recommended for beginners as they are not aggressive and live alongside other peaceful fish.

These low-maintenance fish live on the bottom of aquariums sucking up algae and other bits of fallen food. If you don’t have any experience of looking after fish, make sure and use sinking pellets for food. Otherwise, faster fish swimming in the middle and top of the tank will eat all the flakes.

Kuhli Loach

Kuhli loach

Kuhli Loach will give a cool unique look to the bottom of your aquarium

The kuhli loach is another peaceful tropical fish that is easy to care for which lives at the bottom of your tank. These cool fish look like eels and have bands of yellow markings wrapping around their long bodies. They will feel at home feeding on food that has sunk to the base of your aquarium.

One of the challenges for beginners looking after the kuhli loach is that they can burr under gravel and stay there for long periods of time. However, in any kind of tropical aquarium environment, kuhli loaches can add some interest to the bottom of your tank.

These snake-like fish can grow up to 3” (7.6 cm) long in a large aquarium.

Tiger Pleco

Tiger Pleco

Tiger Pleco is a type of bottom feeder in freshwater aquarium

Another easy tropical fish for beginners to look after is the tiger pleco. This is another type of exotic catfish that spends its time feeding at the bottom of the aquarium. These bottom-feeders are good for keeping gravel in your tank free from algae and other bits of food debris.

Plecos are generally placid and easy to care for, so they are not challenging for beginners. However, they need the right habitat to thrive.

If you are thinking about getting a tiger pleco for your new aquarium, make sure you have plenty of ornaments or places for them to hide. It is also best just having one of the species as they can become territorial and aggressive towards other plecos.

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