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. Even experienced fish keepers turn to them as they are easy to care for and enjoy the attention. 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. We find the black streak works well with other fish due to its neutral colors. They can grow up to 1.5 inches (4cm) in length, and are slightly larger than regular neon tetras. 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. Black neon tetras are very forgiving when it comes to beginner mistakes and can withstand a wide variety of temperatures and water parameters. Your confidence will grow as you begin your hobby. For more details, see our full care guide.
2. Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)
The noodle-like body of this miniature “eel”, with its yellow and black alternating bands, makes it a popular oddball. The bottom dweller is approximately 4 inches (10 cm) long and likes to dig for food in the ground, hide behind aquarium decorations, driftwood, or aquarium plants. Get at least three to six kuhli loafers and encourage them out in the open. They love to eat frozen bloodworms, freeze-dried tubifex worms, and small sinking pellets. For more information, see 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. Because males get tiny bristles on the face, females do not usually have them, their common name is “bristlenose pleco”. 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. 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. 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. You can read our blog on 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 more than 100 species of Corydoras catfish in the genus. We prefer albino Corys for beginners, due to their toughness, low price and bright pink scales. If you don’t prefer pink, you can also go with the bronze cory, which is the same species in a dark greenish-brown color. 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. You can capture them doing this by “blinking,” or flicking their eyes down. Read our cory catfish care guide to find out more.
6. Cherry Barb (Puntius Titeya).
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. 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. 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. However, the adults can predate on their offspring so make sure to plant dense aquarium plants such as water sprite or wisteria for your baby fry to hide in.
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) grow to approximately 2.75 inches (7 cm) in size and are tolerant of a wide range of 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. You can get six or more fish to swim together in your aquarium. They will be fed a variety of fish food, including Vibra Bites, freeze-dried bloodworms, and flakes.
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 small ponds and tubs throughout the year. Just make sure the water temperature doesn’t get above 80degF (27degC) or else they can become prone to disease. This fish is underrated, but you will love it! The males will fight each other and flaunt their fins like 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. The Chinese algeater (CAE), on the other hand, is more friendly than the SAE. Although some people believe that SAEs do better eating algae when they’re younger, we think that this is due to the fact that adult SAEs can eat more of the mealtime food. You can encourage older SAEs to eat algae again by reducing the amount of food they eat.
10. Endler’s Livebearer – Poecilia Wingei
Although livebearers are very popular (or fish that live long), we do not recommend them to beginners. They have water requirements that must be met. Their beautiful colors can sometimes be the result of excessive inbreeding which can cause health problems. However, Endler’s livebearers are a good choice because their natural coloration already looks amazing and therefore not as much linebreeding has been needed to get spectacular patterns. We’ve found them to be quite adaptable to pH of 6.5 and higher and temperatures between 68-82degF (20-28degC). 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.