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. These are the top 10 beginner fish we recommend after many years of helping customers at our local fish store.
1. Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)
This striking starter fish is known for its solid white and black horizontal stripes with a red “eyebrow” above its pupil. The black streak is compatible with many fish colors due to its mostly neutral 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 long) bottom dweller loves to forage for food on the ground and hide behind aquarium decorations and driftwood. 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 love frozen bloodworms, freeze dried tubifex worms, small sinking pellets, and freeze-dried tubifex. You can find more information in our care guide for Kuhli Loaches.
3. Bristlenose Plecostomus (Ancistrus sp.)
Many beginners end up with a plecostomus catfish or “suckerfish” because they look cool and like to hang onto the glass or bottom of the tank. Although some plecos can grow very large, it’s worth looking for a bristlenose pleco to keep them small and peaceful. The common name of the bristlenose pleco is due to the fact that males have very little bristles while females don’t. They are one of our most recommended algae eaters because they do such a great job of cleaning up the aquarium, but make sure you feed them a good quality protein food, Repashy gel food, and vegetables like blanched zucchini slices and canned green beans. You can read the full article to learn more about how to care for plecostomus.
4. Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)
Everyone always has harlequin rasboras on their list of beginner fish because of their stunning appearance, hardiness, and low cost (usually under $4). There is nothing better than a school of beautiful orange rasboras measuring 2-inches (5 cm) in length with a solid black triangle pattern on their bodies. To feel at their best, schooling fish need at least six other species. For schooling fish to thrive, they need to spend time with their peers in order for them to display their best colors and behave well. This will ensure that you get the longest life span and maximum enjoyment from your purchase. Read our blog post about rasboras.
5. Albino Cory Catfish (Corydoras. aeneus).
Corydoras catfish make a great fish tank addition due to their happy-go lucky personalities and ability not to leave crumbs on the floor. There are over 100 species in the Corydoras genus, but we like albino corys for beginners because of their toughness, inexpensive price, and shiny pink scales that stand out in a planted aquarium. You can also choose the bronze cory, which has the same species but is darker greenish-brown. This bottom-dweller schooling can grow to approximately 2.8 inches (7cm) in height and enjoys eating Repashy gel food and small sinking particles. Their “blinking”, or flicking their heads downwards, is one of their most adorable traits. Read our cory catfish care guide to find out more.
6. Cherry Barb (Puntius tarteya
Cherry barbs may be considered aggressive. However, they aren’t more aggressive than a rasbora or tetra. While the males are darker in color, the females are deeper. You may be tempted not to get any males, but it’s best to have at least one female for every male. Boys are more confident with girls around them. If you feed them high quality foods like krill flakes, freeze-dried foods, and frozen foods, they are very easy to breed and constantly lay eggs. The adults do predate on their offspring though, so plant a forest of dense aquarium plants like water sprite and wisteria for the baby fry to hide amongst.
7. Red Eye Tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae)
You can pair a semi-aggressive, larger fish, such as a rainbow shark or bala shark, with a larger, fuller-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. Their silvery body, red eye, and black tail contrast well with a background of green plants or a community of other colorful fish. Place six to eight fish in a group in the middle or back of your aquarium and give them Vibra Bites, frozen bloodworms, and flakes.
8. White Cloud Mountain Minnow (Tanichthys albonubes)
There are several types of white cloud minnows (including those sold as feeder fish), but we recommend getting regular white cloud mountain minnows as the most bulletproof variety. They are very cheap, only grow to 1.5 inches (4 cm), and don’t need an aquarium heater because they live in cooler temperatures. Many people keep them outdoors in mini ponds or tubs all year, but they can be kept outside during summer. Keep the water temperature below 80 degrees F (27 degrees C) to avoid 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)
The Siamese algae eater (or SAE) is another great cleaner fish with a downturned mouth that’s ideal for consuming algae and leftover fish food in the tank. This fish is larger than the average and can grow to approximately 6 inches (15 cm) long. It almost looks like a small shark. Technically, they are a schooling fish, but because they can be semi-aggressive in nature, we find that they do best when you have only one SAE by itself or three or more to keep each other in check. The Chinese algeater (CAE), on the other hand, is more friendly than the SAE. While some believe that SAEs are more adept at eating algae when younger, our research shows that adults SAEs have the ability to eat the majority of the food during mealtimes. To get older SAEs interested in eating algae again, try cutting back on the food to whet their appetites.
10. Endler’s Livebearer – Poecilia Wingei
Despite the popularity of livebearers (or fish that bear live young) like guppies and mollies, we don’t always advise them for beginners because they have specific water parameters that need to be met. Additionally, beautiful colors can be caused by excessive inbreeding. This can pose a health risk. 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 can be adjusted to pH levels of 6.5 or higher, and temperature ranges between 68-82degF (20 to 28 degC). You can add Wonder Shell or Seachem Equilibrium to your tap water to give it some minerals. If you’re searching for a budget-friendly fish that looks incredible and makes more babies for free, you can’t go wrong with Endler’s livebearers.
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.