10 Best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners 37

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So, you have decided to start a freshwater aquarium. You probably can’t wait to stock your aquarium.

Before you actually go out and purchase the most beautiful fish you can get your money on. You will first need to decide if you want:-

Each type of aquarium has it’s own benefits and species of fish unique to the water temperature of your tank. Generally, heated aquariums offer more varieties of fish to choose from.

Once you’ve decided, here’s a list of ten of the best freshwater aquarium fish for beginners.

Cold Water Freshwater Aquarium

A cold water aquarium keeps the water at room temperature. You should still include a filtration system. Additionally you should have a light for the tank. These help promote health in your fish.

If you’ve decided on keeping a cold water fish tank, here are some ideas for beginners.

1. Gold Fish

1GoldfishGold fish come in many varieties of sizes and colors. Many people love the fancier varieties with bubbly heads and fanned tails.

Gold fish are great for beginners who have an unheated aquarium. These fish prefer temperatures between 62-74 degrees Fahrenheit.

Gold fish tend to be messy eaters. So, be sure to change 10 percent of the water each week.

Treating the water with a dechlorinator is also a good idea.

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2. Bloodfin Tetras

Bloodfin TetraThese small fish are recognized by their silver bodies and striking red fins. These are extremely hardy fish. In some aquariums they live up to 10 years.

They are an active fish that is always on the move. These fish work well in temperatures that range from 64 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is a peaceful fish, but it prefers to live in a group.

You will enjoy seeing the group moves together through the aquarium. If you only have one, it tends to be shy.

Read full fish profile HERE.

3. White Cloud

White CloudA White Cloud Mountain Minnow is another small fish that tolerates cold temperatures.

In fact, some people keep these in outdoor ponds over the summer.

They can tolerate temperatures as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

They are a hardy fish that tends to live in the middle and top areas of the tank. They prefer to live in a group. Purchasing 6 or so will help promote good health and color in these fish.

They can live up to 5 years with proper care.

Heated Freshwater Aquarium Fish

Some aquarists prefer to use heated tanks simply because of the varieties that it offers. A heated tank allows you to keep a wider variety of tropical fish. The temperature typically ranges from 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here are seven easy care freshwater aquarium fish for those who decided on a heated tank.

1. Danios

DaniosThese small fish are a great first fish. When first starting up a tank, you need to test the water.

Because these fish are hardy and do well in a variety of conditions, they are a perfect first choice.

Danios are active and small. Typically, they prefer to be in a group near the surface of the water.

Most have bright horizontal stripes that grab your attention as they zoom around the top.

They are not picky eaters and do well with flake fish food.

2. Black Molly

Black Molly The black molly is a peaceful fish. It is a good choice if you want a community tank with several types of fish.

One of the advantages of choosing this fish is that it can adapt to fresh, brackish and even salt water. This allows you some leeway when setting up a new tank.

These fish prefer a temperature that ranges from 70 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

They are livebearers, so if you buy a male and a female pair, you could end up with babies. However, they do tend to eat the young if there is not adequate vegetation for the babies to hide in.

Read the Black Molly’s full profile here.

3. Black Skirt Tetra

Black Skirt TetraThe black skirt tetra is a peaceful fish that should be kept in a pair or in a larger group.

These are hardy fish that are great eaters. They will eat just about any prepared food.

They tend to swim in the middle of the tank and hate “confrontations”.

You should include rocks, plants and other hiding places for these fish.

 4. Kuhli Loach

Kuhli LoachThe Kuhli Loach is an eel-like fish are also hardy fish that make a great addition to your tank.

This bottom-dweller is unique in that it hides during the daytime. You might spot it tunneling under the gravel or hiding in a cave. It is recommended to offer hiding places for this fish.

They help keep the tank clean by eating the food that has fallen to the bottom. However, you should offer additional food that sinks to the bottom.

Read full fish profile HERE.

5. Platies


Paties are great for beginners because there are so many varieties to choose from. They do

very well in a community tank with other passive fish. As a livebearer they will produce young frequently. Most often the babies are eaten by other tank members.

Platies are selectively bred to create new combinations of colors. You will be sure to find several that suit your taste.

They will eat any flake or freeze-dried food. They are also a good choice because they eat any algae that might develop in the tank.

6. Swordtails

9SwordtailSwordtails are closely related to the platy.

The males, though, have a long bottom fin that looks like a sword. These are passive fish that will add bright color to your tank.

They are hardy and long lasting fish, which makes it perfect for beginners.

With a variety of colors to choose from, you will be sure to want one, or several in your tank.

 7. Betta

10BettaIf you are looking for additional flash and color, the betta fish is the one for you. The males have brilliantly bright long fins.

They are also known as Siamese Fighting Fish. They fight with other bettas, so you will only want one in your tank.

These fish are hardy and will eat flake food or pellets. Because of the male betta fish’s long fins, be sure not to pair them with others who might pick at the fins.

Creating a beautiful freshwater aquarium can be a rewarding experience. First be sure to consider the type of tank you want to create—cold water tank or a heated tank. Then read up on the on all the best freshwater aquarium fish suggested above.

Advice For Beginners

For beginners, I recommend to look for fish that are hardy, that are easy to care for and that get along with others in the tank.

For you more advanced aquarists, share your thoughts on what you think is the best freshwater aquarium fish for beginners to start with in the comment section below. I’m sure a lot of the beginners would appreciate it.

About Dennis Hanson

Dennis is an experienced aquarist with many years of knowledge and experience in keeping successful tanks. He also has no relations to the pop group Hanson.

37 thoughts on “10 Best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners

  1. Reply Jay Deez Oct 29,2013 3:07 pm

    Dear Dennis,
    White Cloud Mountain Minnows
    I have kept these fish outdoors(I live in Berkeley, CA.). So it rarely goes below 32 F. However, one year, I had a school in an Oak barrel and the temperature drop into the teens for three days around Christmas. The surface froze to a thickness of 2-3″ of ice. At the same time, a client of mine had the exact conditions but her water feature was even smaller than my barrel, which also iced over. I kissed those fish goodbye! I only saw a few fish after the thaw but I was amazed! Then some time in March, I saw numerous fish and a huge number of fry. The “tropical fish” store where I purchased these fish will just not believe my observations. They keep telling me 65F is the minimum. White Clouds are much more hardy than that and should be used in more outdoor situations. “EASY”
    Jay Deez

  2. Reply Rit Chlask Nov 25,2013 4:18 am


    I would have to say guppies!
    When I just a boy, old enough to have my first tank, my dad started me on guppies; inexpensive, quite hardy, easy breeders… before I knew it I had three tanks going and was working on breeding my own fancy combos.
    don’t think you could go wrong with guppies :)
    I have raising and breeding a variety of fresh water fish ever since. It’s a great hobby!

  3. Reply mr cat Dec 3,2013 2:55 pm

    Hye dennis,
    Just this morning, I have bought a kind of molly (species unknown)and mixed it with the gold fish. Unfortunately, it got bitten severely by the bigger goldfish… is this normal I mean goldfish should be a peaceful fish right?

  4. Reply mr cat Dec 3,2013 2:59 pm

    Owh yes, I more question, can fish grow their fin and tail back? Just curious… ;)

    • Reply Dennis H. Dec 7,2013 8:33 pm

      Theoretically Molly and Goldfishes are not compatible with each other. There living conditions are different. Goldfish are coldwater fish while Mollies (being a tropical fish) needs a heated tank. Mollies are brackish, meaning a mix of freshwater and saltwater. Goldfish may not survive well in brackish water. Still many keep them together, which bring us to your question. So only advice I can give you is, please do not keep them together.

      Molly got beaten as of now, but once the goldfish is full grown they will be eating most of the tropical fish small enough to fit into the goldfish’s mouth

      Most fish can grow their fins back, however you need to provide optimal conditions to encourage re growth.

  5. Reply Tom Dec 27,2013 11:13 pm

    10 Best Freshwater Fish and the list ends at 7…..

  6. Reply Mathieu Jan 3,2014 7:50 pm

    I would say guppies are best because they are inexpensive and hardy

  7. Reply plecostomuch Jan 8,2014 6:25 pm

    I really liked the article. I’m actually shocked not to see corys not make the list. Most supposed experts sware by them as great beginner fish.

  8. Reply Chris Jan 23,2014 7:12 pm

    Dennis –
    Just like to throw out a suggestion – be very careful mixing goldfish with most other fish. They produce a large amount of ammonia thru their waste, and many other fish will not be able to tolerate those levels. I have great goldfish in an outside small pond and keep a 70 gal. heated aquarium for others. Just a warning before it’s too late – speaking from experience here.

  9. Reply Ivan Feb 20,2014 1:26 pm

    What about neon tetras?

    • Reply Kathy Feb 27,2014 3:34 pm

      Ivan, I have been keeping Neon tetras since I started fishkeeping 5 years ago (these were my first fish) and I find them very easy to care for. (Some might disagree.) My 40 tank is mostly tetra varieties – Diamond Tetras, Black Skirt Tetras, Neon Tetras, Glowlight Tetras. I also keep Celestial Pearl Danios and a couple of Otocinculus for algae control. I’ve made sure to plant plenty of hideaway places for the Black Skirts and Danios. So far, everyone seems to get along and I often see some of the Danios schooling with the Neons. Of course, maintaining good water conditions is also very key. Good luck!

  10. Reply Martin Mar 14,2014 6:07 pm

    Hi there. I have a 60lt tank which is cold water. In there I have 2 common goldfish about 2 inch big, 2 small plecs ( cant remember what type they are but the shop info says it grows to 5 cm) and 4 shrimp. Can I have other coldwater fish in there? The shop I got the shrimp and plecs from said I cant because the goldfish will eat smaller fish but if im correct the other coldwater fish I can have grow to about the same size as the plecs. So why can I have the plecs but nothing else?? Any info thanks.

  11. Reply Ina Apr 5,2014 8:04 am

    Hi there!Bought beginners for my grandson,cold with differant goldfish.Having problems keeping them alive for longer than 2wks.Help what are we doing wrong?!!!!!!!!

    • Reply Nathan Dec 31,2014 4:22 pm

      Hey! With my (limited) experiences with goldfish, they’ve been hardy, but a good thing to do is rinse the tank or bowl first and use a drop or two of dechlorinator first. Other than that replace the water weekly and don’t overfeed them. Good luck!

  12. Reply anne stuart May 3,2014 4:56 pm

    My 5 year old wants a “school” of “tiny” fish that don’t grow. We currently have one goldfish that we love in another tank so I’m in the process of setting up a new tank in her room for her new friends. Given that I’m the one taking care of them I want them to be EASY. Already I’m in over my head cycling a tank (which I had to look up on the internet). Can you recommend anything that would be a good choice? I have the fluval 2.5 gallon and a heater so it can be a heated situation, but it’s small.

  13. Reply Brian May 14,2014 7:56 pm

    Probably too much ammonia. Gold Fish produce a lot of waste, so filter or change a % of the water weekly.

  14. Reply Erin May 28,2014 5:18 pm

    I’m relatively new to aquariums. I currently have 4 platies and 1 pleco in a 20 gallon tank. The platies seem to have reached a point where no more breeding is occurring (no babies that survived to adults in the past 8 months). I’d like to know if it would be ok for me to get 1 betta and a few swordtails (all males or all females; I’ve had enough with babies for a while).
    Thank you!

  15. Reply Kimmii Walsh Aug 18,2014 6:16 am


    with the Molly/goldfish situation, I’ve been told there great together so I got myself 3 mollies, now that I’ve got them home and in their new home, I have one mollie whom try’s or achieves killing my goldfish by bullying them into tight spaces until they drown, he’s already killed to of my gold fish in less then 24 hours….. I thought they were meant to be nice natured….. What should I do. I tried putting him with my fighter but that wasn’t much better.

  16. Reply Dennis H is not smart Aug 24,2014 12:19 pm

    Mollies are one of few fish that can go fresh, brackish, and completely salt.

  17. Reply james Sep 11,2014 9:05 pm

    I have 2 paradise fish and I’m not sure what cold water fish I can put in with them as I no the are a territorial but not sure what of the recommended fish on most Web sites are cold water as the paradise fish are able to live in cold and warm water please help

  18. Reply BayBay7J Oct 7,2014 6:17 pm

    Hi! I have a fantail goldfish, a spotty goldfish, a sucking loach and a small fish (species unknown). My 2 fan tails go to the top of the tank all night to blow bubbles, I would like to know if this is normal, also the goldfish are always together (nudging each other ) could they possibly be having fry? If so I have a anemone kind of plant, could they breed in it? Thanks Great Page!

  19. Reply Nicholas Oct 11,2014 3:52 am

    I had 5 Kuhli Loach, that survived for a number of years till a black out for a couple of days, They survived though so much, my tank cracked an most died but because they lived under the gravel, I then got a massive oscar and it would eat everything except them, they just hid to well. They also become larger then I thought (3 foot tank) and they dont each much. This was when I first started till 2 years ago, Ive always wanted more.

  20. Reply martin Nov 10,2014 9:52 am

    Hi anyone
    We are planning on getting a fresh water fish tank for our Son, the tank we are looking at is 1.0m which is quite large, he has set his heart on predator species, trying to explain the does and do nots are falling on deaf ears, (try explaining to a 10 year old that a killer whale is not going to fit into a 1.0m tank is not easy)
    We have got to the point where we, I understand the difference between fresh water American and African fish species and that some are not best put together.
    his heart is set on larger species, can someone give advise

  21. Reply June Dec 14,2014 4:04 am

    Got a 30 gallon tank for our daughter..she had a beta and we added some angel fish. In the past few days all the fish have died. Looking to start again but fish that are easy to care for , compatible with each other and swim around so she can see them. I have a heater and filter.

  22. Reply Leo weber Jan 10,2015 8:53 pm

    Well I am not advertising cuz i am ten but I have a seventy gallon aquarium with a weird mix of fish i have in the same tank: goldfish,plates,rainbow shark,neon tetras,snails,danios,a male betta (aka chief),a dwarf hair grass, Italian Val,rosy red minnow,mudminnow,up to 90 gallon filter avg temp of 72*F lots of Artificial plants and rocks,a brick that is hollow and gravel-shells for bottom. Dennis is my tank in good shape??

    -Leo weber
    Btw i frogot to add, almost no algae

  23. Reply abdul wadood Jan 20,2015 3:55 pm

    I live in Pakistan and in summer temperature rises to about 33°C; 91 F, during the afternoon, can you please suggest me any specie that can survive that temperature. Btw its a 80l tank

    • Reply Deborah Mitchell Feb 2,2015 9:04 am

      To Abdul: I can think of 2 species that should be able to survive. Although they demand high water quality (think cannister filter),and can be picky eaters, Discus fish are gorgeous and demand high tank temps, like 86 degrees.(someone else will post something different, I am just going by what I remember from when I had tank of these.) The 2nd to try is a Japanese weather loach. They can survive extreme water temps in both directions. (Many think they are best in cold tanks but I know for a fact they can take high temps too. Even my Oscars have unhappily survived Kansas summers in an apartment with no A/C) Weather Loach’s (also called Dojo Loach) were kept in Japan for centuries before modern aquaria culture. And as 2 bonus’s they really do forecast weather changes and are excellent bottom scavengers. Both species while rarely seen together should not fight.

      Two products I would hghly recommend to anyone, but esp on a new tank are Seachem’s Stability to speed and simulate natural cycling, and you can control many common water problems with Seachem’s Prime. Hope this helps.

  24. Reply Deborah Mitchell Feb 3,2015 2:26 am

    Note to June: Test, test, test! Ammonia is the most likely culprit why they all died in the absence of evidence of disease. I personally recommend buying test kits for ammonia, nitrates, Ph, and maybe one for nitrites too. Most pet stores will test your water for free; if you choose to let them do it then take water in a minimum of weekly, twice would be better. I test at home, daily when I find a problem like Ph. The store will tell you what to buy to solve the problem. Use Seachem’s Prime on a daily basis until your test levels reach normal readings. As for what species can get along just read this site or ask for help from your fish store.

  25. Reply Eric Johnson Feb 7,2015 12:41 am

    Just wanted to comment and warn people Dennis H made a mistake with Danios. This fish likes the 64–74°F (18–23°C) range. It’s technically a cold water fish as the ideal temperature is on the low end. Please don’t stick them in with Tropical fish that like the high 70’s and 80’s.

  26. Reply Coltin Brumfield Feb 10,2015 6:02 pm

    I have a small 5 gallon tank that I’m trying to set up for my agricultural class at school, not knowing a whole lot I’m trying to learn. Right now I just have the tank and water. I have a filtration system and I’m just running water to get it all set up, but I was wondering some good easy fish to start with. I currently do not have a heater so the temperature may change a few degrees and looking for a fish maybe that I can feed on Friday and be alright until Monday any suggestions?

  27. Reply Kathleen Feb 14,2015 6:02 am

    I just purchased a 3 gallon tank, no heater, but it does have filter. I would rather NOT have gold fish, had them all my life. i would like maybe, 4 or 5. What would be good? I also would like them to be beautiful and colorful. Thank you

    • Reply Baileysfishfiles.weebly.com Mar 1,2015 2:04 pm

      There isn’t really anything that would suit your requirements because of the small size of your tank, especially since you want 4-5 fish alswell as wanting them to be colourful. I recommend you get a larger tank, then you would be able to have fish such as killifish, paradise fish and some types of barbs.

  28. Reply Gregg Martin Mar 1,2015 8:20 pm


    I would recommend a small school of white cloud mountain minnows plus a small bottom feeder that can survive an unheated tank, as my white clouds do very well in. They are a durable colorful fish that simply require only basic care. Weekly 25% water changes, with a dechlorinator, and rinsing off decor in old H20 plus sucking the gravel of debris is fine. The gold variety are just as tough and very colorful. 6 ought ought be OK in your small tank.


  29. Reply Ranchu Mar 15,2015 6:32 am

    Hi there..not to discourage new fish keepers,but it should be better to class the goldfish depending on variety,commons,comets and shubunkins are great starters,but how about extremely fancy goldfish?

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