Aquarium setups are so visually striking and peaceful, but the idea of keeping a bunch of fish alive can be daunting. But by learning more about the resilient, hard-to-kill fish that are great for beginners, you can become a confident aquarium owner in no time. So how do you make sure they stay happy and healthy, without a premature trip to the great fish tank in the sky?
Before diving in, it's best to remember that maintaining an aquarium does require a bit of time and care. "We want to be sure that fish keeping is a responsibility and that fish are not regarded or treated as disposable pets," Eric Radi, Aquatics Content Producer and aquarium expert at LiveAquaria, tells Romper via email. "Research your fish before purchasing to ensure compatibility with other fish, potential size, diet, and nutrition." With a little prep work, you can learn how to create a great home for your new fish.
With that in mind, there are a few species of fish that are probably best left to more veteran fishkeepers. "Cardinal Tetras, Rummynose Tetras, Pencilfish, [and] Celestial Danios" aren't necessarily the best fish for beginners, as Radi explains. Their needs can be a little more demanding. But to learn more about the best fish for newbies, just keep reading.
1. Bushy Nose Plecostomus (AKA Pleco)
If you'd like some help cleaning the aquarium, these fish are on the job. "Bushy Nose Plecos perform the janitorial service of eating the algae that grows in the aquarium," says Radi. Although they require food in addition to algae as well, Bushy Nose Plecos are handy at cleaning aquarium glass and decorations.
2. Candy Cane Tetras
Consider adding some hardy, candy-colored fish to your tank. "These quarter-sized schooling fish will be an overall pink color with highlights of red and white, resembling the colors of a candy cane," says Radi. As far as fish go, they tend to be affordable choices that accept a whole variety of food types, as Radi further explains on his YouTube vid about the Candy Cane Tetra.
3. Corydoras Catfish
You've probably spotted some of these distinctive fish in home aquariums or pet stores. An aquarium staple, the Corydoras Catfish do a great job cleaning the aquarium substrate (the gravel or sand at the bottom of a tank), says Radi. Keep three or more at a time, because they are a schooling fish.
4. Dwarf Gourami
Available in a range of different varieties and colors, the Dwarf Gourami are another solid choice for beginners. Note that two males will fight one another, says Radi. To keep the peace, house a single male (or a male & female pair) in your tank.
5. Harlequin Rasboras
With their striking colors and easygoing demeanor, the Harlequin Rasboras make a great starter fish. "This captivating small fish has very few specific care needs and they aren’t very demanding," wrote Robert Woods, a third-generation fishkeeper with over 25 years of experience, in Fishkeeping World. "They’re easy to care for, and as long as they’re fed a simple diet, and their tank is kept clean, they’ll thrive." Radi also recommends these fish, describing them as "peaceful."
This is another super popular type of fish for beginners. "This fish rarely disturbs plants or tankmates too large to swallow, and it does well in many community setups," according to Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, which also describes the krib as "hardy and peaceful." In other words, it's a solid choice for newcomers to the hobby.
7. Kuhli Loach
This fish looks like something that slithered straight out of a Tim Burton movie. In fact, Radi notes that Kuhli Loaches are a "favorite among children for their eel-like appearance and Halloween colors of orange and brown." Despite their spooky vibes, these fish are kind of shy. In fact, the reclusive and nocturnal Kuhli Loaches will require a safe hiding place somewhere in the tank, as Radi further explains.
8. Lemon Tetras
If candy-colored fish are your jam, then these are another solid choice. Lemon tetras are "similar in shape and size to the Candy Cane Tetra, but displaying a yellow color over a slightly transparent body," says Radi. They're a beautiful addition to your aquarium.
This is something of a go-to fish for fishkeeping newbies. "Platies are a beginner aquarium fish staple," says Radi. "These hardy livebearing fish have been in the hobby for decades and come in a wide variety of colors." As opposed to egg layers, these give birth to live, baby fish.
10. Siamese Fighting Fish (AKA Bettas)
Delicate and dramatic-looking, Siamese Fighting Fish can make good pets for first-time fish owners. "These colorful, hardy fish do best by themselves and do not require a large aquarium," says Radi. "However, they do require a heated aquarium since they are considered 'Tropical,' originating from Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia." When housed in their own tank that's kept at the right temperature, these fish can do quite well.
12. Zebra Danios
If you'd like an aquarium filled with bright and lively fish, then these are a great option. Zebra Danios are "colorful... active smaller fish that loosely school together," says Radi. With a bit of research and planning, it's definitely possible to start your first aquarium and keep it stocked with happy, healthy, and beginner-friendly fish.