Eric is an aquarium enthusiast with over two decades of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish.
Tropical Fish for Beginners
As a beginner, you want to choose the tropical fish that give you the best chance of success with your home aquarium. There is a lot to learn for the fish keeper who is just starting out, and picking fish that are fun and easy to care for is important.
You’re going to be worried about a whole array of new concerns like maintaining the right water parameters, choosing the best fish food, deciding which decorations are appropriate and whether or not live plants are a good idea. Adding in fish that involve complicated care and stocking requirements just makes things that much tougher.
In this article you’ll read about ten of the best topical fish for beginners. They’re great options when just starting out, but many advanced fish keepers enjoy them as well.
If you are new to aquarium care are going to want to read up on how to care for a fish tank before you get started. Learning the basics is important from the beginning, and it will make you new hobby much more enjoyable.
Top 10 Tropical Fish for Beginners
Here is my list of the best tropical fish for beginners:
- Neon Tetra
- Fancy Guppy
- Cory Catfish
- Black-skirt Tetra
- Zebra Danio
- Cherry Barb
- Harlequin Rasbora
Read more about each fish below, and make sure to do as much research as possible on any fish you intend to stock.
Neons are among the most popular of freshwater tropical fish due to their tiny size and vibrant colors. They only grow about an inch or so long, and are a great fish for 10-gallon tank or bigger.
These little guys are schooling fish, which means you want to have at least six of them, preferably more. When their school is too small, or when the water is poor, they can get nippy at each other.
Otherwise, they are an extremely docile and easy-to-care-for fish species, well suited to beginner and advanced fishkeepers alike. Beware not to stock them with larger fish, because they make a tempting snack. One rule to remember when choosing fish: Big fish eat little fish!
Swords are another pretty species that will grow to about two inches in length. They’re peaceful community fish, though fairly active. You can tell the males apart from the females by the elongated “swords” on their tails, hence their name.
While these guys aren’t aggressive, you may notice the male relentlessly harassing the female. It’s just his way of showing swordtail love, but it can be fairly stressful for her. One solution is to have at least two female swordtails for every male.
The male will still be pesky and bothersome, but at least the same female won’t be getting the brunt of his attention all the time.
Guppies have tiny little bodies, and long, flowing fins. They come in many different vibrant colors, and a tank with several types of guppies in it really pops. They’re super active though, so if a calm, tranquil tank is what you’re going for these fish may not be for you.
But if you like a lot of action and pretty colors in your aquarium you might even consider stocking it only with guppies.
Be aware that they’re very small and, like neons, not a good choice if you have larger fish in your tank. They’re also livebearers, so if you do have a bunch of them be on the lookout for baby guppies in your tank one day!
Cory Catfish (Corydoras)
Cories, or cory catfish, are small, ancient-looking armored catfish. There are a few different popular species, such as pepper cories and albino cories.
The emerald catfish is a closely related species often labeled as a cory, though it's not technically in the same sub-family.
They all do the same job, which is to scavenge the bottom of the tank for leftover food, plant matter, and other debris. They might even help keep your pest snail population under control. Many fish keepers choose to feed sinking pellets to make sure their cories get enough to eat.
Most cories grow to only two or three inches in length, but with age, some can get a bit larger, particularly the emerald cory. They are schooling fish and need at least six in their shoal, though like all schooling fish more is generally better.
These little round fish need to be in schools of at least six, and due to their slightly larger size you’ll probably want to have them in a tank greater than 10 gallons. But they’re very pretty fish, with their silver and black striped bodies and black flowing fins, especially when they swim together in a group.
They’re super-easy to care for and do fine with regular flake food and maybe a few treats here and there. They’re docile fish that grow to about three inches across and need plenty of room for swimming in the top two-thirds of the water column.
These are also a good option for tanks with larger fish such as Angelfish and Gouramis, as they grow too large for all but the biggest of the typical home aquarium inhabitants.
The zebra danio is a great tropical fish for beginners, and very popular. They’re hardy, active and cute, and you’ll probably want a small group of them in your tank. These little guys have black and white stripes down the length of their bodies, which is how they got their name, but other danio strains may have spots.
The standard zebra is short-finned, and only a couple of inches long, but there are also long-finned and lyretail varieties. You should be able to choose from a bunch of different kinds at most live-fish stores.
Note also that the popular (but expensive) GloFish is actually a specialized zebra danio, bred to bring out bright red, yellow and green pigments.
Cherry barbs may be labeled as semi-aggressive in some pet stores, but rest assured they will not terrorize your tank. However, they may harass slow-moving fish with long fins, so if you have such critters in your tank you may want to skip these guys. If you have active species like those listed above you should be okay.
These are schooling fish, so stick with the “six or more” rule, but you’ll notice they don’t school as tightly as some other shoaling fish. But when perceived danger comes around, such as a water change or bigger fish, they’ll group together. The males are brighter red, and the females have duller coloration.
These little guys are among my favorites, especially in large, planted tanks with some natural driftwood and stone. The reds of the males really make them pop.
These pretty fish make great tankmates for any of those listed above. They are small, up to about two inches, and very docile. Their attractive black and metallic orange coloring give them a unique appearance.
They need to be in a school, and they need plenty of room for swimming at the top of the water column. They’re hardy little fish who will get by well on flake food, and they’re docile enough that they get along with pretty much anything that doesn’t try to eat them!
Some aquarium owners want a fish that will eat algae, and so they go out and get a plecostomus. The problem is most plecos grow up to two feet in length, and are not a good choice for the home aquarium.
But the Otto catfish will happily much on the algae on tank glass and decorations, and they only grow to about two inches long. They like to school so have six or more, and make sure to supplement their diet with algae wafers.
Unlike with a pleco, you don’t have to worry so much about your live plants with these little fish either. And they tend to blend into the background. Moving a piece of wood or a plant can dislodge half a dozen Ottos you didn't even know were there!
Platies are active, curious fish and something like the puppy dogs of the community fish tank. They come in a variety of colors and markings, including the cool “Mickey Mouse” platy, which actually has markings on its tail that resemble Mickey Mouse.
They are peaceful, community fish, but their active and inquisitive nature may get them in trouble with any large, semi-aggressive tank mates. For this reason they’d be best in a tank with other highly active fish they can’t annoy.
Like swordtails and guppies they are livebearers, so if you have a bunch of them be on the lookout for baby platies!
Ghost Shrimp (Honorable Mention)
Ghost shrimp don’t make the 10-best tropical fish for beginners list, but they do get an honorable mention for being an interesting addition to any aquarium. Sometimes called glass shrimp, these little scavengers are super-easy to care for, and you can basically drop them in your tank and forget about them.
They may even reproduce if conditions are right! Be aware that many large and even medium-sized fish will see them as prey, but as long as you have small fish in your tank they should get along just fine.
Betta Splendens (Honorable mention)
Betta fish are very easy to care for, but unfortunately, they are also just about the most misunderstood tropical fish out there.
A betta can live in a community tank, but the conditions required might be a little confusing for the beginning fish keeper. Until you know what you are doing, it’s better to avoid that situation altogether.
Keeping a betta as a solitary fish is a great idea for a beginner, but make sure his tank is at least five gallons (not a small vase or bowl) and that his water is kept clean and warm.
Bettas are not disposable pets. If you are going to own one, do it correctly. Consider reading up on more advice about keeping Betta fish.
Enjoy Your New Hobby!
Maintaining a home aquarium can be an enjoyable hobby that lasts for the rest of your life. Getting started on the right foot is very important, and choosing the best fish is smart.
As you progress as a fish owner you may wish to venture out into different types of tanks and setups. There are many semi-aggressive species out there that require more thought and planning, and there are aggressive fish like cichlids and are in a whole different world by themselves.
Good luck with your new aquarium! Hopefully, this is just the start of a great new hobby!
Questions & Answers
Question: I was told that the light in the fish tank should only be on 12 hours a day. Is this correct?
Answer: Keeping the tank light on for about 12 hours each day is the general rule I've always gone by, and the main reason is to reduce the chances of excess algae growth. Algae benefit from light just like plants, so longer periods of light mean the potential for more growth.
However, if you have live plants in your tank, you'll want to keep the light on for at least 12 hours per day. Obviously, this is because plants need light to grow and be healthy.
They also out-compete algae for food sources, and well-maintained planted tanks tend to have less algae.
Finally, both plants and fish benefit from a day/night cycle, such as twelve hours lights on / twelve lights out. Just be sure to keep a regular schedule.
Question: Are fish bothered if a family cat stares at them?
Answer: If the cat is a few feet away from the tank, it is unlikely the fish will even know it is there. If it is coming right up to the glass, pawing the glass or jumping on top of the tank, it could certainly disturb the fish.
You want to be vigilant when you have a cat and a fish tank in the same house. Most house cats are quite capable of reaching into a tank with their front paws and striking your fish. If you have a cat who tries to hunt your fish, you want to take measures to stop it. Make sure your tank is completely covered, so there is no way for the cat to access the water, and try to prevent the cat from having an easy path to the top of the tank.
I’ve had a cat in our house with several fish tanks running. He couldn’t have cared less about the fish and never bothered any of the tanks, so this isn’t always an issue. Just remember that cats are predators, and if it seems to think of your fish as prey, you may need to take action.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on March 31, 2020:
@Sue - This article may help:
Sue on March 30, 2020:
What can I do to have a clear tank? I've cleaned it with the vacuum and put fresh water back in it. It's cloudy.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on January 24, 2020:
@Ivan - Your tank is overstocked and inappropriate. Please research the needs of each of those animals and get them into the appropriate living situation ASAP.
IvanSarone on January 24, 2020:
Hi Guys, i have a 3 feet tank with 6 oscars and 6 cichlids and two red eared turtles. is this how it is suppose to be?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on August 08, 2019:
@Mark - Seems okay. I would include a few more cories, and if I was going to stock zebras I'd choose something else beside the GlofFsh. They are the same fish but unaltered Zebras look more natural. That's just my opinion. Good luck with your tank!
Mark on August 07, 2019:
Starting a freshwater tank. 33 gallon bow front high
How does this fish pick list look?
(3) Cory Agssizi Cats.
Max 2.5 inches School of 4
(6 ) Glowfish Danios
(3)Platties '3 female 1 male
(5) Bloodfin Tetras
(6) Zebra Danios
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on April 28, 2019:
Hi Mia. Here is an article that might help:
Mia on April 27, 2019:
I am setting up a tank and would like some help on fish that are show offs, in a tank with neon tetras and plants.The fish tank I have bought is a beginner and not that tall, but it is wide. Any fish that would be suitable for my tank (I would rather like them to be tropical community fish but not to big)?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on February 05, 2019:
@Matthia - Guppies are best kept in trios, with one male and two females. They are active but docile fish and can be kept with other community fish. They are small, so of course you don't want to keep them with any fish big enough to eat them.
Matthia on February 04, 2019:
Do guppie fish need friends or can it be alone? If so. How many friends?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on October 28, 2018:
@Harmonie - There is no way for me to guess. Can you provide more information on your tank setup and water parameters?
Harmonie on October 27, 2018:
My neon tetra aren't swimming properly and two are only just about breathing. What did I do wrong, and what can I do?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on September 21, 2018:
@M F -I'm afraid I can't give you a good answer on that. I've never kept them before, and a little quick research tells me they require some special considerations. My advice is to read up on them as much as you can before making a purchase. Just from what I've read I think I'd probably keep them in a single-species tank. Good luck!
M F on September 20, 2018:
Are archer fish able to live in a tropical tank?
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on August 14, 2018:
@Kevin - Have you tested your water parameters? It's the best way to know what might be going on in your tank. Did you add anything else besides the dechlorinator, such as plant food or a biological booster?
Here's a an article that discusses different reasons your tank might be cloudy:
Kevin M on August 13, 2018:
Trying to figure why my water isn't real clear after 3 days with water filter on, good substrate down, live plants, have dechlorinated the water and have yet to add fish.....thoughts anyone? Is it time to add a couple fish to get started?
Louise Anley on August 08, 2018:
I am glad I came across your webpage. I have, in the past, kept tropical fish .. but not for a good few years now. I have had cold water fish for a few years now but I am buying a bigger tank so can now set up the new tank with tropical fish .. so excited! So I shall be asking for some help/advice on here.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on March 11, 2018:
@Charles - I'd rather not see any fish in a 2-gallon tank.
Charles bush on March 09, 2018:
What are the best fish for a 2 gallon tank
Hally on February 06, 2018:
I'm sorry my message was kind of confusing before. I know that turtles can't be kept with fish.
I was asking if ramps are fish safe? The kind of ramps that are sold for turtles. I was just trying to find some cheap decor for my aquarium
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on February 06, 2018:
@Hally - I don't know much about turtle ramps, but I do know if you try to keep turtles and fish together you'll have problems. Turtles eat fish. Not sure if that's what you're intending to do but if so I'd advise against it, unless you are buying feeder fish for that purpose.
Hally on February 05, 2018:
Hi I didn't know where to ask this question so I picked here.
Do you know if ramps for water turtles are safe to put in an aquarium? Thanks in advance!
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on January 12, 2018:
Hi ##### (hope I spelled that correctly!) I can't really offer any advice without knowing what you have going on there to begin with. What size tank? Which kinds of fish and how many? What are they doing that makes you think they don't get along?
###### on January 11, 2018:
My fish aren't getting along i don't know what to do I have a other very small tank tho (for your info) so what should I do
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on January 26, 2017:
@Anne: Glass surfing usually means stress. Schooling fish like tetras should be kept in groups of six or more. This may be the cause of their stress.
anne on January 24, 2017:
Can anyone please help me with a behaviour issue? I have a 38 L tank with 9 neons and 3 juvenile lemon tetras in it. The lemons constantly swim up and down the tank wall in a group (in one corner usually) or back and forth across the from of the tank. Does this mean they are not happy? is the tank too small for them? the tank has lots of cover with two large real plants and several fake plants. Thanks
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on December 07, 2016:
Yes, there is a good chance the parents or other fish in the tank will eat the fry when they are born. To avoid this you can use a special breeder tank, or try to be on the spot and get them out of there soon after they are born. Otherwise, they are on their own.
Teenage Girl on December 06, 2016:
Will the parent fish eat their baby fish if put in the same tank (mine is a small tank )
I plan to buy guppies
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on September 17, 2016:
Good to hear, Sparky, and I hope you find a home for the guppies. Best of luck going forward!
Sparky-ty-24 on September 16, 2016:
Hello Mr. Dockett,
Sorry I haven't kept in touch, however, I did promise to update you on my fish tank endeavors. I did not buy any fish over the summer due to prolonged vacationing away from home. However, last month, I obtained 4 female guppies from a local pet shop. They've made it this far so I must be doing something right. I also added some smooth glass pebbles and some fake plants to the floor of the tank. I did buy a bubbler, however, it causes pools of water to collect on the lid of my tank, so I don't use it very often. And as it turns out, some of my guppies were pregnant when I bought them. So I now have 12 baby guppies in the tank as well. Not the best luck, but I am currently trying to sell the babies to a new loving home via Facebook. School has made it a bit rough trying to do a partial water change every other week, but since I've added it to my calendar, I'll hopefully be able to do so as regularly as possible. Wish me luck, I could use all the help I can get. Thanks again for all the help you've given me,
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on July 30, 2016:
Hi Tracey! You'll need a fairly large tank to house the fish you are describing. 55 gallons would be the bare minimum, but 75 or larger ideally. If you do have a very big tank those fish should get a long okay, but you never know until they are together. Good luck!
Tracey daley on July 29, 2016:
I have 2 large angels and 4 clown loaches, 1 of the clowns is 6 inches long the others are 3 inches. I would like 2 put 2 discus in tank. Tank is 3 foot plastic plants and pebbles good filter and heater. Please let me know if the discus would be happy as they are not cheap. Thanks
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on May 21, 2016:
Sparky: If you go with a bubbler do so because you like the effect. Your filter should aerate your water more than enough. I don't know why the shrimp would need a bubbler.
Plants and rock are a good idea. In my experience the shrimp do not "burrow" so much as they hide under things and in crevices. Rocks, driftwood and plants are good for (almost) any tank.
Feel free to ask any questions you want. :-)
Sparky-ty-24 on May 20, 2016:
Thank you for yet again being so helpful! I'm cycling the tank right now. I'll tell you how the tank turns out in the end. Can't wait to put the guppies and shrimp in! I may go with fewer guppies, perhaps five. I know they aren't really schooling fish so it shouldn't be to much of a problem. (Please correct me if I'm wrong) And I may go ahead and get a bubbler too. I've heard on wiki how that the shrimp need one. And even if they didn't, it'd be better to have more oxygen in the tank anyways. I'll probably end up putting in some fake plants and stone pebbles on the floor of the tank too. And if I can I may put a few more rock caves in as well. I hear the shrimp like to burrow so I'm hoping the rock caves would be an OK substitute. And for future reference I'll try and keep the questions to a minimum. Thanks again for all your help.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on May 20, 2016:
Hi Sparky: For the guppies you'd want to go all female rather than all male if you are concerned about breeding. Guppies are not typically aggressive but a bunch of males in a tank may get nippy with each other. I think ghost shrimp plus guppies are fine but maybe stick to six of each.
Oxygen isn't really the concern. It's waste. Too many fish in too small of a body of water create too much pollution for the tank to handle.
You can try a Betta with the ghost shrimp but the Betta may try to eat them, or he may leave them alone. Do not mix a Betta with guppies.
Good luck and keep on learning!
Sparky-ty-24 on May 19, 2016:
Thank you so much for answering my questions! I have read quite a few of your articles and they are certainly very helpful! Keep up the good work! I think I'll go with a school of fancy Guppies. Perhaps 7 at most. I don't want them to breed however. That being the case, is it safe to have an all male tank? Or is an all female tank the only option if I don't want them to breed? Also, I didn't realize that ghost shrimp were bottom feeders! Does the six or more rule apply to them or is it a bit different because they aren't really fish? I assume that the Guppies won't eat them but can I have 14 animals (7 Guppies and possibly 7 ghost shrimp) in a tank safely? I now understand (thanks to one of your articles) that the one inch of fish per gallon of tank rule is nonsense, but with that many animals, would there be enough oxygen in the water for all of them? Would a bubbler be of any help with this issue? I read your article on tank mates for bettas and it mentions that you could have 5 or so ghost shrimp with a single betta in a 10 gallon tank. Is this because more shrimp would take up too much oxygen or because more shrimp would aggravate the beta? I'm sorry I'm hurling a thousand more questions at you but you seem to really care about fish and it's a bit difficult finding trustworthy sites for this kind of stuff. There seem to be so many misconceptions about fish it's a wonder they last as long as they do in home aquariums! In fact the reason my Rainbow Shark died is because of shock. I was foolish enough to believe a website that said I only needed to acclimate him for 30 minutes and not longer. In other words I'm trying to not make the same mistakes again. You seem to know what you are doing and you are kind enough to take the time to write articles to help others. Please help.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on May 19, 2016:
Hi Sparky. You have a lot of questions! I really suggest doing a lot of your own research so you become better educated on fish care. One of the reasons I don't suggest specific fish or combinations of fish is because I want people to go and learn about the fish instead of depending on someone else to give them all the answers. Learn about how big they grow, how much space they need, what there temperaments are and what they eat. There are so many variables to keeping fish correctly there really is no substitute for personal knowledge.
I'll try to address what I can here:
You don't need a bottom feeder if you don't want one. If the only reason you want one is because you think it will clean the tank for you, that's not realistic. They aren't going to save you much time when it comes to cleaning. But they do help mop up some uneaten food, so in that way they reduce waste a bit (but of course they create some too). If space is a concern consider a small school of ghost shrimp.
I have a separate article suggesting fish for a 10-gallon tank which you can find on this website.
Live plants are helpful but not necessary. Without live plants you can keep the lights on as you please. Normal waking hours are fine, but you may reduce it if you see a lot of algae growth. In a planted tank aim for about 12 hours of light.
Perform a partial water change of 20-30% a least every other week and a deeper tank cleaning monthly. Learn about the nitrogen cycle and how to manage the microbes that live in your tank. They help to keep it healthy.
You only need to dose your tank with conditioner when you do a water change. Follow the directions on the bottle.
Do not add any fish unless your tank is fully cycled. Again, you have to do some research to understand the nitrogen cycle and how it impacts your fish. A good water testing kit measures ammonia nitrates and nitrites, and pH. I'm not sure what Walmart has, but a basic kit is pretty inexpensive.
I agree about the cherry barbs and guppies. In a 10-gallon, I'd go with guppies. They are small and colorful, as are neons and other similar tetras. You can make a very pretty tank with 8-10 small, colorful fish.
Nobody wants fish to die (I hope) and its a bummer when it happens. The fact that you care so much about this is a good thing. When you lose a fish you learn from it, and try to do better next time. It's all you can do.
I'm happy to answer any other questions, but once again I suggest taking some time to research the fish you are interested in as well as some of the other aspects of aquarium care. Articles like this are meant to address a very specific point, and not solve every problem. There really is no substitute for personal knowledge, and the more you know the better you get at this.
Good luck and I hope this helped!
Sparky-ty-24 on May 18, 2016:
Hello. My Rainbow Shark just died. I'm looking to fill up my 10 gallon tank with some vibrant and active fish. I'd prefer to have at least one bottom feeder to help keep the tank clean. What fish would you recommend? I have no live plants or sand/stone pebbles at the bottom (please inform me if either is necessary for new fish. I assumed they were unnecessary and would make it easier to clean without them.) My tank is located in my basement and doesn't receive much sunlight. Please tell me how often I should keep the tank light on as well how often I should clean the tank and how I should clean it because that would be most helpful. I have a water heater in the top left corner of the tank, a nice filter, three rock structures, and a temperature reader in the bottom right corner of the tank. I may as well be new to the fish tank experience because most of your tips came as a bit of a slap to the face. For your website I would recommend being more specific about the length of the fish listed during their adult stages of life. For example an average length of an adult Zebra Danio is not really specified in the above article. I would also recommend adding more fish to your list of fish best for a 10 gallon tank. I like the look of Cherry Barbs and Guppies but feel like my tank couldn't hold a school of one or the other and a bottom feeder without harming them. Speaking of, do I really need a bottom feeder? Would owning one reduce how often I need to clean the tank? I put 10ml of Aquasafe cleaner in my tank once a month. Does this affect how long the tank needs to cycle? Also, what inexpensive water testing kit would you recommend me buying preferably from Walmart? I really don't want more fish to die by anything but old age. I know I'm asking for a lot here, but I really need the help and you seem to know quite a bit about taking care of fish. Please help me.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on September 24, 2014:
I've always liked Mollies too, but I've always had them in bigger tanks. Sounds like you had a pretty funky tank with those Glo-Fish!
Joshua Personius from Wilmington DE on September 24, 2014:
I think Mollies are a good beginner fish as well; I have had some success with them in the past. I have owned some Glo-Fish in the past, but I think they took fish breeding a little to far for my taste. I used to have a tank with a black light, blue and black substrate, and neon fake plants to boot. But when I learned more about them, I moved on to colorful guppies and have not purchased anymore Glo-Fish. I have seen recently they are also making Glo-Tetras now as well.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on June 29, 2014:
Thanks mgeorge1050! I like the guppies too. Thinking about adding a few to my 29 gal right now.
Alan from West Georgia on June 28, 2014:
Cool article about tropical fish. I am a guppy man myself, I have kept them for years. I also enjoyed the video on the glo fish.
Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on July 26, 2013:
Thanks for your answer. I think we'll give the Betta a misss.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on July 26, 2013:
That sounds like a rough situation for a Betta, Gypsy Willow. The Angels are semi-agressive and may pick on him, and he may or may not have issues with the guppies. You can try it and keep an eye on him, but have a backup plan in case it doesn't work.
Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on July 26, 2013:
I love my tank it has Guppies, two Angels, two tiny African frogs, snails and a small Plecostamus. Do you think I could add a Beta? It is 20 gals and heated with gentle filtration. We do a partial change once a week. I am about to upgrade to a bowfronted tank.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on April 06, 2013:
That tank sounds great, Tony! Those plecos and clown loaches get pretty big though. I agree that that fish tanks can be distracting. I have a 55g in my living room and I end up watching it even when the TV is on. Thanks for commenting!
Tony Mead from Yorkshire on April 06, 2013:
I get a lot of pleasure from my 3' fish tank. It was gathering dust in the garage for the last 30 years until I finally decided it was time to enjoy it again.
I bought a 'Nutrafin Test Kit' first to make sure the water was alrightalso a coupls of tubs of useful bacteria to bring the nitrite content down. I stocked with swordfish, mollies, gouramis, clown loach and a plecostamus. I find I'm watching the tank instead of getting on with my writing.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on March 17, 2013:
Thanks Richard! I appreciate the heads up, and I made some edits and found a new pic that may clarify things a little better.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on March 17, 2013:
Thanks Hit-the-Road-Jack. The Harlequin Raspboras are great little fish!
Richard Brown from Spokane, Washington on March 16, 2013:
great article, but there is an issue with one of the pictures. the picture of a "Cory" is of an Emerald Cory. This is not a member of the family Corydora, meaning it's not a Cory. this is easy to tell from the dorsal rays. Emerald Cory's are a closely related but scientifically named Brochis splendens. Brochis splendens is larger than most Corys and has a slightly different tank mate compatibility. A better picture choice would be Corydora panda. Great article just one in inaccuracy.
Hit-the-Road Jack from USA on March 16, 2013:
Wow! You really know your stuff. Makes me want to have a tank again and get Harlequin Rasbora. They sound like they'd be soothing fish to keep.
Eric Dockett (author) from USA on March 15, 2013:
Thanks Geekdom. It's very important to make sure a new tank is cycled, because you're right that neons, guppies and other fish can struggle if water parameters aren't correct. I've always loved mollies, but I thought they were a little too rambunctious for my list! :-)
Geekdom on March 15, 2013:
Some great fish in this list. I have 30 gallon aquarium at home and we love the neon tetras and fancy guppies because of their beautiful colors. Sadly they are very sensitive and you will probably loose a lot of them for the first few months of your tanks life, until the water is able to create its own mini environment. We found barbs and mollies to be good fish for when the tank is first being set up, because they are so hardy.
Pet Smart's and PetCo's fish department was getting to know us too well, thanks to their two week exchange policy for fish.
Best low maintenance fish for heated freshwater aquarium
You can keep any variety of tropical fish in heated water. The warm water aquarium is preferred because you can keep a wide variety of fish in it.
You have to maintain the temperature from 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. For this, you have to install a heater that maintains the temperature.
Below are some low maintenance, warm freshwater fish that you can keep in an aquarium.
The neon tetra is very easy to keep. These are very small fish, growing up to 2.2 cm. They are brilliantly colored. The horizontal strip is always neon-blue colored, thus the name. The neon tetra is visible in dark water as well.
They are omnivorous so they can eat whatever you feed them. Just make sure you feed healthy fish food to them.
Neon tetras prefer to live in a group. They can be easily introduced in a community aquarium due to their friendly nature.
Guppies are very colorful and easy-going. They are tropical fish that prefer warm water. The temperature of the water should be kept constant.
Male guppies are more colorful than the female ones. They prefer to live in a group. You can consider buying a set of three guppies.
Guppies are omnivores. So, they should be fed a mixture of plants and animals. They don’t need much care and you just have to change the water biweekly.
Mollies are very friendly and peaceful. They are easy to take care of. Mollies grow 3 to 4 inches tall.
The interesting part is that mollies give birth to their young ones. They mate easily and their population grows rapidly. So, if you’re new to fish-keeping, then consider having only one sex.
Mollies can survive in a variety of water conditions. The temperature of the water should be warm, and the pH should be between 7 to 7.8.
Mollies are omnivorous, so they can be fed any good-quality fish food.
Danios are one of the most low maintenance fishes. They grow 5 to 7 inches tall and like to live in a group.
So, if you want to have Danios, then buy them in the form of a set. They get stressed if alone.
Danios are famous for jumping. So, don’t forget to have the aquarium lid on.
Danios eat whatever you feed them. Just make sure you feed healthy food to them.
Bettas are very popular tropical fish that are kept as a pet. Bettas are famous for their vibrant colors and beautiful tails. Male bettas are more beautiful than females.
Keep it in mind that male betta is very aggressive towards other male bettas. So, keep just one male betta in one aquarium. You can always add other friendly fish with them to form a community.
Bettas grow 5 inches tall and they prefer to live in larger tanks. So, although bettas are often captivated in smaller tanks, they don’t stay happy and show aggressive behavior.
Bettas are omnivorous. So, you can feed any healthy fish food to them.
Swordtails are very hardy. So, it’s a good choice for beginners. They are brightly colored and they come in lots of variety.
Swordtails, as the name indicates, have a sword-like extension of their fin. They are very friendly and lively fish. Swordtails prefer to live in communities. They also prefer to swim in a loosely held school. So, it would be a good idea to keep your swordtails with other friendly fish.
Kuhli Loach is an eel-like fish. It’s too easy to keep it as it is a very peaceful fish.
Kuhli Loach is a bottom dweller. It will dig the substrate and hide in it. It also likes to make tunnels out of the substrate. They often hide in the day time.
Kuhli Loach also helps to keep the bottom of the fish tank clean as it will eat the food particles that sink in. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t need their own food. They like to eat pellets as pellets easily sink in the bottom.
Black Skirt Tetra
Black skirt tetra fish is great for beginners as it is very easy to keep. It almost eats everything you offer.
Black skirt tetra likes to swim in the middle, along with its group. So, you should buy a set of them as they hate to be lonely.
The Quick Guide to Tropical Aquarium Fish
Starting an aqua one fish tank can be pretty taxing, especially if you don’t know what fish to put in. Some fish are a lot harder to take care of than others, so this is an important choice.
The ideal fish is easy to feed and easy for other fish to get along with. It also adapts fairly well to a range of environments.
Some of the best fish that meet these conditions are bettas, kuhli loaches, danios, tetras, sword tails, guppies, platies, white cloud mountain minnows, various types of catfish and goldfish.
A lot of the details of your first tank come down to what you want out of it. Is beauty its primary purpose? Education? Entertainment?
Do you get joy out of watching your tropical aquarium fish just be fish? Don’t worry, it’s not weird. Plan according to your purpose.
If you want any more advice on tropical aquarium fish and aquariums in general, such as design ideas, or just advice on what plants to put in the tank, we’re happy to help. Perhaps you want to go a little more exotic and set up a saltwater aquarium. Whatever your aquarium needs, you can find it on our website.
10 Best Tropical Fish For Beginners
If you have just started fish keeping hobby, then one of the important decision is to pick the right fish. It is a very good idea to start with beginner fish that do not need high care. Every new aquarist looks for fish that are hardy & available at low price. Also everyone wants to buy a beautiful fish. If you are a new aquarist or looking for best tropical fish recommended for beginners, then have a look at 10 best tropical fish that will increase the attractiveness of your fish tank.
A number of rasboras are available but I think that one of the best is harlequin rasbora (scientific name is Trigonostigma heteromorpha), & lambchop rasbora (scientific name is Trigonostigma espei). They just grow about 2 inches in length & you can find them in almost every fish shop. Other choices are tiny neon green rasbora (scientific name is Microdevario kubotai), & big scissortail rasbora (scientific name is Rasbora trilineata). Buy at least 6 or more of the same species for your newly established tank. If you haven’t cycled your tank yet, then I would recommend cycling your tank first because it is very important for the fish to have balanced conditions.
Expert may tell you that gold fish are not for beginners because they grow very large & most new aquarists often start with small aquariums but I think that goldfish are one of the best beginners choice because they are hardy. They can reach a length of 12 to 14 inches, so they need thirty gallons of water for a single fish or you can keep two common goldfish in fifty-five-gallon tank. Also most of the aquarists keep common goldfish in their ponds when they grow large. Goldfish loves to eat a number of food.
Goldfish can tolerate harsh conditions including pH & water hardness, but they need high water changes & a clean aquarium. Goldfish eat smaller fish that can fit in their mouth. Also they can eat invertebrates too. They are messy & will uproot your plants. Be selective about substrate or leave your tank bare bottom because goldfish can swallow substrate too.
Very similar to rasboras, tetras are famous too, because they are little schooling fish that are available in large varieties such as neon tetras, cardinal tetras, black neon tetras & Congo tetras. They need low maintenance & like neutral pH between 7 to 7.8. Just like other schooling fish, keep tetras in collection of 6 or more because they are more secure when you keep many in one tank. Tetras are happy with rasboras & other community fish.
Cory catfish have good behavior & they live in schools just like rasboras & tetras, but they dwell at the bottom of the tank. Adult Corydoras can grow from 1 to 3 inches long, they like to search the aquarium floor for food & search for crumbs, but they like eating a number of sinking diets having high amount of nutrient.
More than 160 species of Cory catfish have been discovered. They like to live in a group of 3 to 6 to play well in the tank.
Platies are more robust than guppies. They are highly active & adult platy can grow up to 3 inches in length. They can tolerate a wide range of pH starting from 7 & more, & like to live in hard water. Platies are big eaters & will like to feed on any omnivore diet you offer these beautiful fish.
Minimum aquarium size for platies is 10 gallons. This fish needs easy care. They have good behavior & their maximum life span is between two to three years. Their ideal pH range is between 6 to 8. They need temperature between 65 to 78 degree Fahrenheit.
Platies are often bred selectively to make fresh color combinations, so they can be chosen from many different types.
They are hard fish & will be able to tolerate some imbalance in conditions of water. Platies are great community fish they live in peace with other fish but do not keep them with bully fish.
White Cloud Minnows:
White Cloud Minnows is a little colorful fish, which does not need high care & it is known as beginners fish. White Cloud Minnows can live in harsh conditions with high tolerance to temperature & quality of water.
Do not keep them in very warm water because they like to be in water kept at room temperature.
White Cloud Minnows is a schooling fish & they feel happy when kept in a group of at least six. Do not keep one of the fish because it can affect its bright color because the fish becomes timid when kept alone.
You can keep them with other peaceful species.
They can eat a wide range of food, such as live, frozen & flake diets.
Minimum aquarium size for White Cloud Minnows is 10 gallons. Their care level is easy. They are peaceful in nature. They live for about five years. Their size is approximately five inches. Ideal pH for these fish is between 6 to 8. The best temperature for White Cloud Minnows is between 64 to 72 Degree Fahrenheit.
Minimum aquarium size for Zebra Danios is ten gallons. They are hardy & do not need high care. They have good behavior & have a life span of five years. The approximate size of the fish is two inches. The pH range of the fish is between 6.5 to 7. The best temperature range is from 64 to 74 degree Fahrenheit.
Zebra Danios is a famous fish recommended for beginners. They look beautiful & you can easily identify them due to their striped zebra pattern. They have high energy & unique personality.
Zebra Danios are happy in a community of 6 or more fish. They like to be in the upper levels of fish tank, so this fish will help you learn about the different zones of your fish tank.
Zebra Danios are omnivorous & will feed on most of the diets. They love to eat little live or frozen inverts & vegetable matter. Give them fresh food.
Minimum aquarium size for swordtails is 20 gallons. They are beginners fish & require low care. Males of swordtails are aggressive towards other males. They live approximately between 3 to 5 years. They grow up to 5 inches in length. Their pH level is 7 to 8. Their temperature range is between 72 to 82 degree Fahrenheit.
Swordtails are brightly colored, & they are named swordtails because of their long bottom fin which seems like a sword.
Swordtails live in community so they are happy in communities of at least 5. Males of the fish are aggressive & show dominance over each other.
They love to eat omnivorous diet, so you can offer them flake diet along with balance vegetables & live or frozen diet.
Bristlenose Pleco requires a minimum aquarium size of 29 gallons. They are hardy & need low care level. They have good behavior. Their life span is between 3 to 4 years. The approximate size of the fish is 6 inches. They need a pH level of 6 to 8. The best temperature range is between 68 to 77 degree Fahrenheit.
Bristlenose Plecos has another name Bushynose Pleco, & they are available in different varieties.
Bristlenose Pleco is a beginners fish & can tolerate harsh water conditions.
They can help you in cleaning the tank, because they can sweep the bottom of aquarium & can eat uneaten food which could release harmful chemicals if left for long period of time. It also likes to eat algae from the bottom & sides of the aquarium.
They like to hide in caves & under driftwood, so offering some hiding spots is a good idea.
Betta Splendens needs a minimum aquarium size of 5 gallons. They need low care. They have a good behavior. Their life span is between 2 to 3 years. Their approximate size is about 3 inches. Their pH range is between 6 to 7.5. Their temperature range is between 75 to 80 degree Fahrenheit.
Betta Splendens are not peaceful. Keeping one fish in aquarium is the best way to take care of this fish. Their fins are beautiful & they are available in different bright colors.
They will welcome you when you watch them. Do not keep them in an aquarium lower than 5 gallons & use a tank heater.
They are carnivores, but like to eat flake diet as well as free dried & live diets. You can feed them commercial betta foods that are sold at pet stores.
Good Fish for Starting a Tropical Freshwater Aquarium
Nothing is more exciting than adding new fish to a newly set up aquarium. However, the fish you choose will have a big impact on your tank's success or failure. Unfortunately, many new fish owners make the wrong choices, lose some or all of their fish right away, and give up on keeping fish.
The two biggest errors made when stocking a new aquarium are adding too many fish at a time and choosing the wrong species. Tip the scales in your favor by following these basic, but important, steps.