21 Absolute Best Freshwater Fish For Beginners

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Over the course of weeks, I’ve researched hundreds of different species of freshwater fish. Then, I selected the best into a list for you.

Most websites fail to mention critical details about many of the fish on this list. I set out to fix that.

Keep reading to find out what is the best freshwater fish for your aquarium.

#1 – Angelfish

  • Life Expectancy: 10 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature:(78-84°F)

Starting off our list, the Angelfish is a stunningly beautiful freshwater fish for beginners. Considered one of the most popular fish, they’re extremely gentle and subtle in their movement.

They are also perfect community fish too, as they’re one of the friendliest freshwater fish on this list.

When watching one in your aquarium, you’re likely to have a harmonious sensation sweep over you. This is in no small part due to their gentle nature, but also for their unique movement of their fins as they swim.

#2 – Betta Fish

  • Life Expectancy: 2-4 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 5 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature: (75-80°F)

If you’ve ever visited a fish store, you’ve likely seen a Betta Fish there. Between their vibrant colors and intensive energy, Betta Fish have become one of the most popular freshwater fish. 

Caring for a betta fish is fun and easy because many products such as foods and tanks have been designed for them.

It’s important to note that male bettas are known to be aggressive to other males, so make sure to keep them in separate tanks from other males. Other than feuds between each other, these beautiful fish can make a great addition to your tank.

#3 – Guppies

  • Life Expectancy: 2 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 5 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature: (72-78°F)

Although guppies can be aggressive towards other males, almost everything is fun rather than actual fighting. You can keep guppies with many other fish(including males with males) to add some colorful sparks to your aquarium.

Many fish keepers consider the guppy to be the best freshwater fish because of their simple nature and wide range of beautiful colors. On top of that, they eat the most common fish food: Flakes.

Guppies are hardy fish, even being able to go without food for a week, although we definitely don’t recommend it.

They’re also crazy breeders, so if you bring a male and female home, you’ll have a cute baby guppy soon.

#4 – Neon Tetra

  • Life Expectancy: 10 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 Gallons
  • Care level: Moderate
  • Temperature: (68-82°F)

Among fishkeeping hobbyists, the Neon Tetra is considered the jewel of fishkeeping. With their blue coloring, glittering brilliant red tails, and sleek shape, these beautiful fish are an amazing schooling fish with 6 or more of them.

To keep a Neon, make sure your tank has plenty of hiding places. Some of the more common hiding spots for them are plants, caves, and driftwood. They also tend to hang out in the midwater area of the aquarium creating a breathtaking display of colors as they shoal together. Neon Tetras are also peaceful fish that can be kept with other non-aggressive fish.

Neon Tetra’s are omnivores, meaning they thrive on tropical flake food and micro pellets. When fed a good quality diet and kept in good conditions, these fish will put on a show for you.

#5 – Goldfish

  • Life Expectancy: 10-15 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature: (68-74°F)

Probably the most popular beginner fish is the classic goldfish. 

These sparky little fish can grow pretty fast, reaching up to 14 inches in optimal conditions.

Many people like to keep them in smaller tanks, but be sure to have a tank no smaller than 20 gallons.

There are many varieties of goldfish, ranging from white, yellow, orange, and even black!

They’re extremely easy to care for, but can be aggressive towards other goldfish species, so make sure to house them properly. 

Goldfish also love feasting on flakes and pellets, so feeding them won’t be a problem, as it’s likely you can find food at your local pet store, or even supermarket. 

#6 – Danios

  • Life Expectancy: 4 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature: (70-78°F)

For someone wanting a colorful and fun species of fish that comes in a variety of options, the Danios is a good option.

The Zebra Danios, for example, is an extremely popular variant because of their brilliant colors, friendly personalities, and high energy.

Danios do best as schooling fish, so if you have a large enough tank, keeping 6 or more will be best. They also like to hang around the upper levels of the aquarium.

#7 – Cherry Barb

  • Life Expectancy: 4 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 25 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature: (73-81°F)

Because of their eye catching colors and hardy nature, the Cherry Barb is a favorite for home aquariums.

These fish are very active, and once they become accustomed to their new home, they’ll be a joy to watch.

To optimally keep one, make sure to provide them with plenty of live plants and hiding places, allowing them to hide whenever they choose to do so. 

Cherry barbs are schooling fish, so make sure to keep at least 6 of them to keep them the happiest.

They are also omnivores, meaning they’ll thrive off of tropical flakes. 

#8 – Cichlids

  • Life Expectancy: 8 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 Gallons
  • Care level: Moderate
  • Temperature: (78-82°F)

For those with a larger tank, the Cichlid is a colorful and interesting fish to add.

The only downside for these fish is that they are considered Very Aggressive and shouldn’t be kept with any other fish besides other Cichlids.

Most Cichlids are very colorful and fun to watch, and they do well in groups of their own. 

The different varieties of Cichlids require different water chemistries. So if you’re going to be keeping different types, make sure that they all can handle the same water.

#9 – Glofish Danio

  • Life Expectancy: 4 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 5 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature: (72-82°F)

Glofish danios are about the brightest freshwater fish you can get. This makes them ideal for kids getting into fishkeeping, or eye-catching specialty aquariums.

These captive-bred danios come in many different colors ranging from super-bright green, red, orange, blue, and purple. Surprisingly, they get their color from their genetics rather than artificial dyes, so you won’t have to worry about the color fading over time.

Glofish danios are omnivores, meaning they can feed on tropical flakes and frozen or meaty foods. It’s also best to keep them with other Glofish or non-aggressive companions.

#10 – Bristlenose Plecostomus

  • Life Expectancy: 5 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature: (74-79°F)

For those with a large community tank, the Bristlenose Plecostomus is a peaceful, quirky freshwater catfish to consider adding. These fish come in a wide variety of colors and patterns ranging from black to albino.

To keep one properly, you need a well-oxygenated tank with efficient filtration and good water movement. Be sure to provide plenty of hiding spaces in your tank. You can do this by adding rocks, driftwood, and heavy planting to keep these guys happy. 

Breeding plecos is easy, and you can even do it in a home tank! Watching the males protect the eggs and fry is fascinating, especially for the kids.

These omnivores are not fussy eaters, and gather much of their nutritional needs from algae and salvaging scraps from the substrate. With that, you should also supplement their diet with flake foods and algae wafers.

#11 – Black Mollies

  • Life Expectancy: 3-4 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 Gallons
  • Care level: Moderate
  • Temperature: (68-82°F)

The Black Molly is an interesting all black variant of the Molly fish. Surprisingly, these freshwater fish can acclimate to a brackish or even saltwater tank. Black mollies are a peaceful community-loving fish that prefer a tank with good filtration and lots of robust planting. 

They’re also livebearers, and can be encouraged to spawn in captivity, although you’ll get the best results in a spawning tank. They are also omnivores, and do best on a varied diet of tropical flakes, freeze-dried bloodworms, frozen tubifex, and brine shrimp.

#12 – Roseline Torpedo Shark

  • Life Expectancy: 4-6 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature: (60-77°F)

Although the Roseline Torpedo Shark doesn’t look like a great white shark, they’re still a cool option to consider. Commonly known as the Dension Barb and Red Lined Torpedo Shark, these interesting little guys are peaceful characters that make a pretty addition to a large community tank.

They do best as schooling fish in tanks with tight fitting lids, as they do jump. You’ll also need a tank with a decent flow to replicate the fast moving streams in which Roseline Torpedo Sharks are found in nature. 

These freshwater omnivores love feasting on tropical flakes and meaty proteins, so finding food will be easy as well.

#13 – Honey Gourami

  • Life Expectancy: 4-8 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons
  • Care level: Difficult
  • Temperature: (72-82°F)

Honey Gouramis are peaceful fish that make good community residents, although they are known to be territorial at times when spawning.

The only downside to this fish is the challenge of keeping them healthy. Unlike other omnivores on this list, you won’t be able to get away with feeding them fish flakes. Some foods they like are vegetable and algae-based foods, as well as meaty proteins such as rubix, bloodworms, and brine shrimp.

If you decide on purchasing one, make sure your tank is heavily planted; that includes floating plants too.

#14 – Glass Catfish

  • Life Expectancy: Up to 8 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 Gallons
  • Care level: Moderate
  • Temperature: (75-80°F)

Glass Catfish are such cool fish, because their TRANSPARENT! Yes, you can actually see their organs and skeleton when looking at them.

These peaceful fish do best in community tanks with other fish with the same water temperament/temperature. With that being said, Glass Catfish are schooling fish, so you should have groups of at least five individuals for them to thrive. If you keep one of these extroverts alone, they will become stressed, stop eating, then die.

Glass Catfish prefer to be kept in low light environments, and mostly live at dusk and dawn. Providing them with plenty of caves, coves, and hiding places, and abundant planting is ideal.

These omnivores prefer a simple diet of tropical flakes and frozen foods, as well as freeze dried treats of tubifex and bloodworms.

#15 – Rainbowfish

  • Life Expectancy: 5-8 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature: (76-82°F)

For those wanting a peaceful schooling fish, these Australian and Southeast Asian fish are a good option to consider.

Rainbowfish start showing their beautiful colors in early adulthood giving an evolving feeling watching them grow.

They also get well with many other fish, making them ideal for peaceful community tanks.

#16 – Fire Mouth Cichilid

  • Life Expectancy: 10 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature: (75-86°F)

Given its name because of the red coloration of their scales during breeding, the Fire Mouth Cichilid is a great option to consider for new fishkeepers.

They are pretty chill fish, although they CAN become pretty territorial during breeding season.

To be on the safe side, we recommend that you keep them on their own, but if you do decide to mix them with other fish, make sure to provide them with plenty of hiding spots, such as rocks and upturned plant pots to hide their eggs.

These omnivores can grow up to 6 inches long and eat regular flake food.

Due to their popularity, you can generally find a Fire Mouth Cichilid at your local pet store, and they’re cheap too!

#17 – Platies

  • Life Expectancy: 3-4 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature: (70-82°F)

Platies are a great choice for community tanks. Their peaceful nature allows them to live with many other non-aggressive fish. There are lots of varieties to choose from, and they come in a load of different colors too.

Platies are not picky when it comes to eating. They generally enjoy any type of flake foods, as well as most frozen live foods. 

#18 – Oscar Fish

  • Life Expectancy: 10 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 Gallons
  • Care level: Moderate
  • Temperature: (74-81°F)

Among one of the most favorite tropical aquarium fish from the cichlid family, the Oscar Fish is a good pick for home aquariums. These guys can get pretty big, so it’s recommended you have at least a 30 gallon tank to keep them. Adult Oscarfish can get up to 35 cm in length and prefer temperatures between 74-81 degrees fahrenheit.

These native South American fish are generally peaceful and can be put with other tank mates of similar size. They prefer a tank with plenty of rock ledges and it’s recommended you don’t keep live plants because they tend to dig them up. They’re also omnivores and love eating live food and flakes.

#19 – Swordtails

  • Life Expectancy: 5 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature: (72-79°F)

For fishkeepers wanting a guppy but with a little uniqueness, the Swordtail is an option to consider. These fish have the body of a guppy with a sword-shaped extension of the fin making for a beautiful design.

Swordtails come in a variety of colors ranging from orange to blue.These guys can get pretty big though, reaching up to 4-5 inches in adult life, and live to around 3-4 years old.

To keep them optimally, make sure to school them, as they naturally do best as schooling fish. Swordtails have their own temperaments, which can be either timid and shy or aggressive and blusterous. 

They prefer a diversified diet consisting of artificial and live foods, vegetable foods, and tropical flakes.

#20 – Bolivian Ram

  • Life Expectancy: 6 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature: (73-82°F)

The Bolivian Ram is an excellent choice for those with planted community tanks. These peaceful, calm, and good tempered cichlid species are quite hardy and thrive in standard fish tanks with plenty of plants. 

You can keep one single fish or school them with 6-8 different ones and get the same joy out of them. Adult sizes for Bolivian Rams range from 2 to 5.4 inches and have a lifespan of 6 years. Their diets are pretty simple, as they live to eat flakes, and live or frozen foods.

#21 – White Cloud Mountain Minnow

  • Life Expectancy: 3 Years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperature: (64-72°F)

Probably the easiest fish to keep on our list is the White Cloud Mountain Minnow. These fish are very small, with adult sizes reaching only 2.5-3 cm in size, and aren’t demanding.

These brightly colored fish aren’t aggressive and breed easily. In fact, they don’t even attack their juveniles. With good care, you can expect to keep one up to 3 years.

White Cloud Mountain Minnows are schooling fish, and should be kept with at least 6-8 piers. Feeding them will be easy, as they love feeding on fish flakes.

What to do next?

Before purchasing any fish on our list, make sure you have enough space to keep them. Check out our guide on how many fish you should keep in your tank.

Photo of author
Hey there, my name is Gunnar Kennedy. I'm a fishkeeping enthusiast who's been in the hobby for over a decade now! I love sharing new ideas and helping others care for their aquatic friends!

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