Freshwater Fish for Aquarium

There are many millions of homes that have freshwater fish around the world. For example, they account for the largest number of pets in the United States, and it’s no wonder they’re the top choice for pets.

Most of the freshwater species that we are going to see here today are easy to care for, and add beauty and color to the home.

Additionally, keeping freshwater fish has many health benefits, such as reducing stress and lowering blood pressure and heart rate.

With all this said, most beginners getting into the aquarium hobby are quickly hooked because freshwater fish are so beautiful to look at and have characteristics and personalities of their own.

If you are new to the world of aquarium hobby and do not know where to start, you can consult our guide on the aquarium for beginners. We answer most of the questions you probably have swimming around in your head, giving you the tools and knowledge to get started with your aquarium.

If you already have the basic knowledge to set up your own aquarium at home, and have not decided which freshwater fish you want to have, this article can be a good starting point. Let’s take a look at the most popular species in freshwater aquariums today.

Before we get started, let’s take a look at what makes a good freshwater fish for beginners.

What makes a freshwater fish recommended for beginners?

Not all freshwater fish have the same levels of tolerance to changes in aquarium parameters. And a freshwater fish indicated for beginners will be more «resistant» than others to changes in tank parameters.

As a beginner, you are likely to make mistakes. Hardy freshwater fish are more likely to survive the wrong conditions and wrong water parameters.

This doesn’t mean you can’t keep a more delicate fish. What happens is that it is more difficult, and you are more likely to fail because the levels of care are much higher.

However, there are plenty of highly hardy freshwater fish for you to choose from. When looking for freshwater fish for beginners, it is best to choose a species that has any of the following characteristics:

  • They are hardy and can withstand various conditions. We know that you will treat your fish to the best of your ability. But when setting up your first aquarium, it’s best to choose coldwater fish that are resistant to less than optimal conditions and aren’t as threatened by changes in water parameters. This gives you a bit of leeway and more room to make mistakes.
  • They are easy to care for. You are still learning the basics of aquarism, so you better not choose fish that are too delicate.
  • They are peaceful and get along well with other fish. Different fish have different levels of aggressiveness, and while some can live peacefully with other fish, others cannot. So it’s important to choose fish that live together as a community, and don’t spend their time attacking each other.
  • They are suitable for your aquarium. Knowing how big a certain species of fish will reach is crucial when stocking your tank. You can’t have fish that grow 12 inches long if your tank is only 12 inches wide.

You can use these hardier freshwater fish to help solidify your aquarium hobby skills and knowledge. Then, when you feel more confident, you can move on to more delicate fish.

The most popular freshwater aquarium fish

1. Goldfish

Few people know that they can grow up to 35 cm in the wild.

The minimum tank size for a goldfish is 20 gallons, you will also need a filter and weekly 10-15% water changes.

There are many different varieties of goldfish, and it is okay to mix them as long as they are not breeds that compete with each other for food.

If you want to know more about the care of the Goldfish or Goldfish, click on the previous link to access our guide on these beautiful freshwater fish.

2. Guppies

Guppies come in a wide range of colors, although behavior and characteristics tend to be the same from fish to fish.

Guppies are very good at reproducing, so keep in mind that if you pair up guppies, you can be sure that you will end up with a lot of guppies.

If you want to avoid it, just get all males, or all females, unless of course you want to breed them. This is why it is important that you know the difference between a male and a female. The males are much more colorful and striking than the females.

The ideal water temperature for guppies is 75-82°F (23-27°C), but the most important factor is that the temperature remains constant.

Guppies should be fed a mix of plant and animal foods, you can even consider preparing their food yourself. In fact, guppies can go more than a week without eating, showing how hardy they are.

If you want to learn more about the care of guppy fish, visit our guide dedicated to these beautiful freshwater fish at the previous link.

3. Molly Freshwater Fish

They are ideal for beginners because they are extremely hardy and are not as aggressive as other tropical fish.

This quiet little species grows to around 7-10 cm, and is well adapted to a wide variety of water conditions.

There are many to choose from, and the term “molly” is somewhat vague as there are so many variations in size, color, and optimum aquarium conditions.

Due to the vast difference between each type of molly, choosing the right water conditions can be difficult.

However, all mollies prefer hot water, so a temperature between 25 and 28 degrees would be optimal. On the other hand, the ideal tank conditions are a minimum size of 75 liters and a pH between 7.0-7.8.

Mollies are omnivores, and will require a diet of plant and animal foods. In the wild, mollies prefer to eat a plant-based diet, more specifically algae.

Evolution has gradually moved mollies away from a carnivorous diet, and more towards a plant-based diet, so their digestive systems are designed to digest algae better than most other tropical freshwater fish.

The optimal diet for aquarium mollies would be algae, veggie flakes, and the occasional bloodworm or brine shrimp as a treat, but it’s best to limit these to once or twice a week, maximum.

They are viviparous fish, which means that they give birth to their young live, instead of laying eggs.

These freshwater fish are very easy to care for, but they also breed very easily, so if you’re a beginner, single-sex mollies are recommended.

4. Neon Tetra

Neon tetra fish are a small and easy to care for species. This popular species is one of the most widely used freshwater fish by beginning aquarists.

They reach a size of just over 2 cm long and love to be in groups, so the larger the group, the happier they will be. They are a great choice for small community aquariums due to their peaceful temperament.

Neon tetras have beautiful bright colors. It also highlights an iridescent blue horizontal line throughout the body that makes them visible even in dark waters.

They require soft, acidic water in warm temperatures. Their diet is simple, they are omnivores and will accept most foods such as shrimp, worms, insects or plants.

5. Tetra Diamond

Diamond tetras have slightly raised, pure silver and highly iridescent scales, giving them their «diamond» name. They have a slight red coloration around the tops of their eyes, but other than this, their bodies resemble gemstones.

This fish thrives in softer waters, although it can tolerate moderately hard water. As long as the water parameters fall somewhere in that range, then congratulations, you can easily keep these fish!

These tetras are non-aggressive schooling fish and can peacefully interact with most other freshwater fish. They are not difficult to feed, nor do they hoard food and prevent other fish from eating. Apart from the hardness of the water, they do not require any specialized care and are quite resistant.

6. Platys

There are many varieties of Platys to choose from, and they come in a wide variety of different colors, as a result of selective breeding.

They are a perfect fish for community aquariums, they are very peaceful and will live in peace with any other non-aggressive fish. It is very common to see them with guppies and mollies.

Although small, platy fish are very active and love to be in groups. A 35 liter tank is big enough for 5 fish.

Although they are omnivores, they require much more herbivorous food than meat. Ideally, they need a good mix of plant-based foods and protein.

7. Zebra Danios

Due to their robustness, they are the perfect fish for people who do not have much experience keeping an aquarium. They can survive in different water conditions.

They can grow up to 5-7cm, they should be kept in a tank of at least 35 liters, and in groups of at least 5 individuals. Danios are a schooling fish and will become stressed if their numbers are too low.

They are not picky eaters and eat most foods. the healthiest option for them would be plenty of worms, insects, and crustaceans to mimic their natural diet. However, a good quality flake feed will also work with a live or frozen food supplement.

Danios are generally very active and fun to watch, but they are also known for their fondness for jumping, so we recommend that you keep your tank covered.

8. Oscar Freshwater Fish

Oscars, however, are not freshwater fish for a community aquarium. Also, this species of freshwater fish can get very large quickly.

They require much more maintenance than other fish, due to their carnivorous nature and the amount of waste they generate.

On the plus side, they are one of the few species that can be hand fed. You can feed it with your own hand.

Oscars thrive when kept in pairs or groups of more than five individuals, and should be housed together from a young age.

9. Gourami Pearl

The minimum tank size for this species is 110 liters with lots of hiding places, dark substrate and low light. Like many other types of Gourami, they require space at the top of the tank so they can breathe air.

The Pearl Gourami may be housed with other fish of similar size and temperament. However, it does not like to live with aggressive fish, so keep this in mind when filling your aquarium.

They also like a place to hide, so a small cover of floating ferns can give them a good place to hide and get comfortable.

When it comes to feeding time, the Pearl gourami is omnivorous and can eat a wide variety of different foods, both plant-based and meat-based.

For better overall nutrition, we recommend using an algae-based flake food, as well as live foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms.

They are well known for eating Hydra, a small pest that has poisonous tentacles. So they are the perfect solution when you have a Hydra problem.

10. Cherry catfish

They can tolerate large changes in water parameters, are peaceful freshwater fish, only grow to about 5 cm long, and are generally an easy fish to care for.

The Cherry Barbel gets its name from the color the male takes on when spawning. They are usually silvery-black with a gold lateral line.

As one of the most endangered species of fish in the wild, the Cherry Barb remains a favorite within the aquarist community, thanks to its bright and striking colors. It is a very active fish, and once it gets used to its new environment, it will be very active and fun to watch.

In terms of dietary needs, Cherry Barbels are omnivorous and will eat most foods, including live, fresh, frozen and flake foods.

At first if it’s a new tank they may not want to eat. Give them a couple of weeks and they’ll be eating no problem.

They are easy to care for and can be kept in community tanks with open swimming space.

In order for your Cherry Barbel to feel as stable and secure as possible, we recommend that you keep some plants alive, allowing them to hide when they need to.

11. Discus Fish

Discus fish are not recommended for beginners, and should only be kept by experienced aquarists instead.

They can be housed with other fish that require the same water conditions, as long as they are not aggressive.

Discus fish take a variety of foods, but they are carnivorous by nature. The best diet for them consists of beef heart and bloodworms supplemented with flakes to provide vitamins and minerals.

12. swordtail fish

Swordtails have often been categorized as a “beginners only” fish, but recently they have started to gain a large and devoted following who seek out the rarer fish of the species.

Swordtails are generally found in small streams and prefer a plant-based diet, so a tank filled with natural algae will be perfect for them.

However, live foods are also good for them from time to time. A vegetable-based flake would be the perfect base food for them.

They grow up to 12cm long, and there are many different color variations available. They are in low demand with water conditions, which makes them fairly hardy freshwater fish, making them a perfect species for the beginning aquarist.

Swordtail fish are usually peaceful, yet lively. They do well in community tanks and like to swim in small schools.

They breed easily, and if you decide to breed them, you should keep them away from their parents. Swordtail parents often eat their fry.

13. Killifish

They are generally peaceful freshwater fish and do well in community tanks with other small, non-aggressive fish. However, it is best to keep only one male in each tank, as they can be aggressive towards each other.

Killis are very easy to breed. In the wild, killifish lay their eggs in rivers that dry up for months each season, and it is when the water reappears that the fry hatch.

Most killifish are carnivorous and therefore enjoy a diet of insect larvae, worms and crustaceans.

14. plecos

While some species are happy eating algae and flakes, others need meaty foods like frozen brine shrimp. Keeping your plecos sated will prevent them from eating the plants in your tank, which they have a tendency to do.

Plecos are extremely difficult to breed and only a small number of aquarists have managed to breed them.

Plecos can live 20 years, sometimes longer if cared for properly. You also have to know that they like to jump, so it will be better to keep the tank covered.

They can be housed with many different species, but avoid keeping them with flat-fat bodied fish such as goldfish, as they can suck on them.

15. Betta fish

It is not recommended as a beginner fish, due to its aggressive nature. Male Bettas are notoriously aggressive towards other males, and they aren’t called «Siamese fighter » for nothing.

Betta fish will generally be aggressive towards other Betta fish, so as long as only one is kept in each tank, they should be fine. Otherwise, they can be housed with other calm freshwater fish.

We have included the Betta Splendens fish in our list of the best freshwater fish for beginners because it is one of the most impressive freshwater tropical aquarium fish you can keep. The long, colorful fins will catch the eye of anyone taking a peek at your tank.

Furthermore, Betta fish are also very easy to care for. They require an omnivorous diet, and will eat most types of food, both plant-based and animal-based.

They grow to a maximum size of 7 cm. Although Bettas are often seen in small ornamental tanks, they should be housed in larger tanks.

When looking for tank mates, be careful not to add any fish that have a tendency to nibble. Due to the large fins, the Betta would be the main target to nibble on. And that with an aggressive fish like the Betta will never end well.

Did you know that Bettas are able to breathe air out of water due to an auxiliary organ called a labyrinth?

16. Rainbow Freshwater Fish

This is perhaps one of the less common freshwater fish we are featuring here, perhaps because its colors only begin to show as they enter adulthood.

However, if given proper care, in just a couple of years they can display stunning, vibrant colors.

Rainbow fish get along well with other freshwater fish such as danios or larger tetras.

17. Angelfish or scalar

Angelfish can grow up to 15 cm long, 17 cm tall, and there is a wide variety of colors and patterns.

They are omnivores, which makes them need a balanced diet of vegetables and meat.

The tank must have at least a 75 liter capacity. Aquarium water should be slightly soft and acidic.

As they mature, they can become a bit aggressive, especially if the tank is overcrowded. But in general they are good fish for the community aquarium, just do not keep it with very small fish or species that nibble at its fins.

18. Corydoras

They are very social, and although they can be kept individually, they do best if kept in a group of two or more.

They get along with most community aquarium fish as long as they are not aggressive.

Corydoras grow up to 6cm long, and are excellent tank cleaners. They will pick up leftover food from the gravel, but will also need other food such as flakes and pellets for the bottom.

19. Mouth of Fire

Although they can become quite territorial during the breeding season, they are relatively peaceful.

For added security, we recommend keeping them alone in the tank. But if you want to mix them with other species, be sure to provide rocks or an upside-down pot where they can hide to lay their eggs.

Adult cichlids can grow to be around 15 cm long, and their diet may consist of normal f

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