Top 10 Easy Fish That Beginners Always Love
Certain aquarium fish are classified as “beginner fish” because they are easy to care for, very colorful, and won’t break the bank. They are popular with novice fish keepers and require less attention than more difficult species. After years of helping customers in our local fish store, these are our top 10 beginner fish we find ourselves recommending over and over again.
1. Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)
This striking starter fish is famous for its distinctive black stripes and red “eyebrow” above the pupil. Because of its mostly neutral colors, we find that the black streak matches well with fish of many other colors. They grow to about 1.5 inches (4 cm) in length and get slightly bigger than regular neon tetras (Paracheirodon innesi). They are a great schooling fish and will do well in groups of 6-12 other species. However, they are quite affordable at $2-3 per piece. They are great at overcoming beginner mistakes. Your confidence will grow as you begin your hobby. For more details, see our full care guide.
2. Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)
Because of its small body, which is almost like a noodle and the alternating yellow-black bands, this “eel” is quite a common oddball fish. The 4-inch (10 cm) bottom dweller likes to scavenge for food on the ground and hide behind aquarium decorations, driftwood, and aquarium plants. You can encourage them to get out into the open by getting at least 3 – 6 kuhli loaches. Drop their food near the fish tank’s front. They enjoy frozen bloodworms and freeze-dried tubifex, as well as small sinking pellets. You can find more information in our care guide for Kuhli Loaches.
3. Bristlenose Plecostomus (Ancistrus sp.)
A plecostomus catfish, also known as a “suckerfish”, is a common choice for beginners. They are cool and love to hang on the bottom or glass of the tank. Although some plecos can grow very large, it’s worth looking for a bristlenose pleco to keep them small and peaceful. Because males get tiny bristles on the face, females do not usually have them, their common name is “bristlenose pleco”. Because they clean up aquariums so well, we recommend them as one of the best algae eaters. However, make sure to feed them quality protein, Repashy gel food and vegetables such as blanched zucchini slices or canned green beans. Learn more about caring for plecostomus in our article.
4. Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)
Because of their beautiful appearance, hardiness and low price (often less than $4), harlequin roseboras are a must-have for beginners. A beautiful school of orange rasboras, each measuring 2 inches (5 cm), with a black triangle patch on their bodies is unbeatable. For them to be happy in their environment, they need to have at least six of the same species. Schooling fish require social interaction with other species to be able to show their best colors, behave properly, and provide the greatest enjoyment and longevity from your purchase. Learn more by reading our blog post on rasboras.
5. Albino Cory Catfish (Corydoras. aeneus).
Corydoras catfish are a fish tank favorite because of their happy-go-lucky personalities and ability to keep the floor clean of crumbs. The Corydoras species genus includes over 100 species. However, we prefer albino corys to beginners due to their toughness and inexpensive price. Their shiny pink scales make them stand out in a planted aquarium. You can also choose the bronze cory, which has the same species but is darker greenish-brown. The schooling bottom dweller can reach a height of 2.8 inches (7cm) and enjoys eating frozen bloodworms, Repashy gel foods, and small sinking pellets. Their “blinking”, or flicking their heads downwards, is one of their most adorable traits. Learn more about cory catfish care.
6. Cherry Barb (Puntius tarteya
You may have heard that barbs are aggressive, but luckily cherry barbs aren’t any more aggressive than your average tetra or rasbora. Males have a deep red coloration, whereas the females are more tannish-red. While you may be tempted to get only males for your aquarium, try to buy at least 1-2 females for every male because the boys show off their best coloration when they have girls to impress. They will breed easily if you give them high-quality foods such as krill flakes and freeze-dried foods. They can be predated on by their offspring, so you should plant dense aquarium plants like water-sprite and wisteria to provide cover for the baby fry.
7. Red Eye Tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae)
If you accidentally bought a bigger, semi-aggressive fish like a bala shark or rainbow shark, pair them with a larger, more full-bodied schooling fish. Red eye tetras or monk Tetras can grow to about 2.75 inches (7cm) in length and are capable of adapting to many water parameters. The red eye tetras’ silvery bodies and black tails look great against a background of green plants, or other colorful fish. Get six or more in a group to swim in the middle of your aquarium, and feed them a varied selection of fish foods, like flakes, freeze-dried bloodworms, and Vibra Bites.
8. White Cloud Mountain Minnow (Tanichthys albonubes)
There are many varieties of white cloudminnows. Some are sold as feeder fish, but we recommend that you get regular white cloud mountains minnows. They are bulletproof and very durable. They are extremely affordable, grow to 1.5 inches (4cm), and do not require an aquarium heater. Many people keep them outdoors in mini ponds or tubs all year, but they can be kept outside during summer. Just make sure the water temperature doesn’t get above 80degF (27degC) or else they can become prone to disease. Get this underrated fish because you’re going to love watching the males spar with each other, flaring out their fins like little peacocks.
9. Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus oblongus)
Siamese algeater (or SAE) is another great cleaner fish. With a downturned mouth, it’s perfect for eating algae and leftover fish food. It’s a bigger fish that grows to about 6 inches (15 cm) in length and kind of looks like a little shark. Although technically they are schooling fish, their nature can make them semi-aggressive. We find that they thrive when there is only one SAE or three to keep them in check. We prefer the SAE over the Chinese algae eater (CAE) because the latter gets even larger and more hostile. Some people say that SAEs are better at eating algae when they are younger, but we find that is because the adult SAEs are big enough to get the lion’s share during mealtimes. Reduce the amount of food that is served to get older SAEs interested again in eating algae.
10. Endler’s Livebearer, Poecilia wingsei
We don’t recommend livebearers for beginners, despite their popularity (or fish which bear young), like guppies or mollies. They require specific water parameters and are not recommended for beginners. Their beautiful colors can sometimes be the result of excessive inbreeding which can cause health problems. Endler’s Livebearers are a good option because of their natural coloration and the fact that not as much linebreeding was required to achieve stunning patterns. They are able to tolerate temperatures between 68 and 82 degrees F (20-28 degC) and pH levels up to 6.5. You can add Wonder Shell or Seachem Equilibrium to your tap water to give it some minerals. Endler’s livebearers are a great choice if you’re looking for an affordable fish that looks amazing and produces more babies for you.
All of the fish on this list are mostly community fish that can live together in a big enough tank, so feel free to mix and match these species to build the perfect, low-maintenance aquarium to enjoy. Check out our suggested retailers to buy live fish online.