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10 Best Freshwater Fish For Complete Beginners (Care Guide Included)

A dwarf rainbowfish.

Pairing your personality with fish that won’t die from being looked at too hard can be nerve-wracking. That’s why it’s tempting to throw a county fair goldfish into the mix, but that’s so 19th century and not the best option for many.

There are a ton of fish that people with absolutely no experience can keep and enjoy, and these are some of the best:

  1. Platy Fish
  2. Guppy
  3. Siamese Algae-eater
  4. Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish
  5. Zebra Danio
  6. Zebra Loach
  7. Corydoras Catfish
  8. Molly Fish
  9. Kribensis Cichlid
  10. Dwarf Gourami

As you can see, goldfish is not on this list. All of these options are kind to people that have zero prior fish-keeping experience, but none of them are boring. You’ll want to peruse this post to learn how to care for these underwater beauties and to see if their personalities resonate with you.

#1: Platy Fish

These handsome specimens have been alluring to beginner aquarists for a long time. Their many color variations and beautiful rituals are a delicacy of a sight.

FUN FACT: Platies are famous for giving birth to live babies instead of laying eggs, which is a spectacle for the uninitiated.

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Platies are a no-brainer fish for newcomers as they are incredibly resilient and can adapt to most reasonable conditions. They prefer alkaline waters but can adapt and thrive in anything that is not on the extreme side. 

They also enjoy hard water over soft water and sometimes do better with additional minerals added to their tank if you have soft water from your tap. Platies are a lively bunch; if you plan to keep more than a single one, consider separating the males from the females because they procreate easily and quickly.

If you don’t mind many fry swimming, consider having more females than males. This tactic helps the females constantly receive unsolicited advances for breeding from the males. 

To cover all your bases on this route, you’ll want to add crevices and caves in your tank’s landscape so that the young can hide from the adult males to avoid being cannibalized by them.

NOTE: Check out my article “How to Care for Baby Fish at Home” to learn how to keep your baby fish safe!

The feeding regiment also differs depending on the maturity of the platy. Adults only require feeding once a day, while juveniles require three meals a day to help them grow to be big and strong.

Platy fish are omnivores and will devour just about anything that floats into their tank but vary their meals. You can enjoy spying on them throughout the day as they play and search for leftover food on the floor of the tank.

2 orange and black platy fish swimming at the water surface.
Platy fish are resilient and live 3-4 years

For the complete experience of raising a platyfish, you’ll need a tank that’s 20 gallons at the minimum but not much else. Platies are a hardy breed and should be able to harmoniously live with other fish as long as those other fish don’t fancy the platies as meals.

If all goes well, your platy should be with you for 3 to 4 years and grow to a lovely 2 to 3 inches

#2. Guppy

The guppy fish for the fun-loving, or the “Poecilia reticulata” for the scientific-orientated, is one of the most popular fish among new and tenured aquarists. This incredibly resilient fish is straightforward to care for, and its omnivorous diet makes it a breeze to feed.

The guppy can eat just about everything, including:

  • typical fish flakes
  • frozen brine shrimp and
  • bloodworms

They have small stomachs, so portion sizes must reflect that when you feed them twice a day. Beginner fish parents might sometimes forget to feed their fish which is why the guppy is perfect during those growing pains, as this fish has been known to survive up to a week without food. Please feed your guppy, though, or you’ll make other fish parents grumpy!

This fish interacts well in a community of other fish whenever you choose to expand its domain during its 2 to 3-year life. However, males and females are known to be too friendly and create many baby guppies, possibly because they are also known as the million fish. Keep a balanced ratio of females to males to control the number of fish babies you end up with.

Even though the guppy fish is pretty hardy and has a small body, it thrives in a 10 to 20-gallon hard-water tank.

#3: Siamese Algae-eater

This bottom-dwelling fish might not be the best-looking fry around the block, but it is possibly the longest-living and most helpful. For beginners, few fish take the spot of the Siamese algae eaters as they can help keep your tank clean by eating the algae that’ll inadvertently grow inside your tank.

A Siamese algae eater is omnivorous and will live peacefully with any other fish in your aquarium; this probably contributes to their fame among veteran aquarists. This fish has an active demeanor and can live up to 10 years

Don’t be afraid, though; they have strong sucker mouths that they use to stick to the side of the aquarium to withstand strong currents in tanks with extensive water filters as you expand your underwater world. These fish prefer a 30-gallon tank, with a 25-gallon minimum widely preferred.

A Siamese algae eater with a black horizontal stripe.
Siamese algae eaters will help keep your tank clean

#4: Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish

Dwarf neon rainbowfish, may not be as popular as their neon tetra relatives, but they are much sturdier and far less fussy. Dwarfs often appear lackluster behind the pet store glass, but they grow to have a reasonably exciting garb. They grow to have a shimmering blue body with a red fin for males and yellow for females.

This fish does better in groups of 3 to 6 as they are shoaling fish. It may sound like a lot of work, but it isn’t much different from keeping a single one. Your dwarves will be much happier with this arrangement and won’t bother other fish as they love to keep the peace as you grow your fish family.

A tank that’s 40 gallons at the minimum and water that’s not acidic, preferably more alkaline. This fish does grow to an average of 2 to 3 inches and can be your companion for 3 to 5 years.

FUN FACT: Males like to create a spectacle to impress females, so there are exciting character traits to see!

Feed them two to three times every day with just enough food that they can finish eating in 5 minutes. If you’re forgetful, set a reminder for yourself to feed your dwarf neon rainbowfish 3 times a day.

#5: Zebra Danio

Zebrafish are like wild underwater zebras because of their white horizontal stripes and their liking for schooling and swimming together, darting around your tank as one group. This fish has an easy-going temperament when kept in a community of at least three or five others

Although zebra danios are ordinarily peaceful, they can grow agitated and aggressive if kept isolated or put into an overcrowded tank. These fish are incredibly affordable and hardy enough to live under an inexperienced hand, as long as you know that they prefer to loosely school.

Unlike tropical fish, zebrafish don’t need warm water in their tank and do just fine in temperatures of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Zebra danio is highly adaptable and can live in temperatures as low as 64 and as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Around the 80-degree mark appears to be their optimal environment.

As you can see, this fish won’t be fussy throughout the year and might only need slight heating in winter if you live in colder regions. Regardless of how tough a fish is, you will need to do some basic tank upkeep, and zebrafish will appreciate your compliance in helping to keep their home clean.

This omnivorous fish is also not too picky in its diet and can survive off regular fish flakes if needed, but try to vary its diet. If you play your cards right, you should be able to enjoy your fish babies for 3 to 5 years and see them grow to an average of 1.5 to 2.5 inches

Finally, remember to get them at least a 10-gallon tank and feed your zebrafish twice daily so you can enjoy watching them energetically swimming from corner to corner in their iridescent colors.

#6: Zebra Loach

Zebra loaches are fantastic companions as their small stature does not match their playful nature. These fish are highly sociable and like to swim through life in a school of at least three others. As someone that’s new to fish keeping, these fish are fun and easy to look after.

A black and white striped zebra loach at the bottom of a fish tank with white rocks.
Zebra loaches are social and playful

FUN FACT: These fish also enjoy looking for scraps and leftover meals and will help keep your tank clean. However, they will eat anything, including pest snails and snails that you’re also fostering.

For beginners, you’ll need a tank larger than usual, at around 40 gallons. The zebra loach also lives a long, long life of around ten years. Fortunately, these fish are friendly towards other fish, and their 4-inch size isn’t too intimidating.

#7: Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras catfish, or “cory” for short, is an extraordinarily resilient and helpful breed. Although their ability to help keep your tank clean isn’t advised to be the sole reason to buy them, they are still notably handy for utter newbies.

There aren’t many requirements that you have to meet before keeping cories, except knowing their few preferences. Cories are schooling fish and are most happy in the company of three to five other cory fish. They also aren’t fans of salt, so don’t be tempted to emulate veteran aquarists as they salt their tanks with other breeds.

Their last preference is having a sandy bed instead of pebbles with aggressive edges, as these pebbles could damage the delicate fins of the cory fish.

Honestly, any beginner should be thrilled to bring home a small school of cory as they should know that the cories will play nice with other fish should you choose to expand your underwater kingdom in the future.

Cories aren’t picky eaters, and they require feeding once or twice a day which should be reasonably easy to remember for the forgetful lot. With a healthy diet and happy environment, cory fish should grow about 1 to 4 inches and live between 3 to 5 years

You’ll need a tank that’s about 10 gallons but your cory fish will help your filter keep it clean by agitating the water in their never-ending search for leftover scraps at the bottom of the tank.

#8: Molly Fish

Poecilia sphenops, more commonly known as the molly, is a highly adaptable breed that thrives most in water between 75 to 85 Fahrenheit with a pH of 7.5 to 8.5, which is about the pH of regular tap water in the United States with healthy municipal water.

NOTE: The molly fish takes time to acclimate to its warm, alkaline hard-water environment fully, but it will become easy to maintain with a little time.

You must ensure that the tank is well-lit so you can enjoy each other’s company.

The Molly fish is easy to take care of not because of its ability to adapt but also because of its peaceful nature. Molly fish not only have a peace-loving temperament, but it is also lively. Because this fish is so popular amongst beginners, it is widely available at very attractive prices.   

Yellow and black molly fish in a tank with green plants and light colored pebbles.
Molly fish are very easy to care for

The fish live to be about three to five years and can grow to a size of six to seven inches. They also come in a spectrum of colors to match your personality. The tank size you’ll need as a complete beginner must be between 20 and 30 gallons.

Being omnivores, molly fish do enjoy indulging in algae and live-water plants. They can also help keep the tank clean by excavating the substrate and loosening up dirt to help your water filter keep things clean.

#9: Kribensis Cichlid

Despite the seemingly dull and elongated look of the male kribensis cichlid, the “krib” is anything but. Unlike their more prominent family members, this specific species does well in a reasonably large, 30-gallon community. The only time that the krib shows aggressive behavior is during breeding.

NOTE: If you get a male and female pair, the fish will mate, and you’ll get to witness a beautiful spectacle as both parents remain involved in the lives of their offspring.

The females are vibrant and complement the males beautifully. The kribensis chichlid usually lives for around five years and can grow to a size of three to four inches

As a beginner, these hardy fish should make perfect companions as they don’t require any special tank or water requirements. It is suggested that kribs be kept in a tank that’s 20 to 30 gallons, with a feeding schedule of three times daily

#10: Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf gourami comes in several mesmerizing patterns and colors, which makes them very beautiful fish. From their Trichogaster lalius scientific species name, you wouldn’t know that these are traveled fish as they are South Asian natives. These beauties can grow to a size of 3.5 to 4.5 inches and require a tank of at least 5 gallons.

Among the many exciting things about the dwarf gourami is that they are considered labyrinth fish, which means that they have poorly developed breathing gills and supplement with a labyrinth organ similar to the lungs. This means they require air access instead of being housed in an enclosed tank or aquarium.

NOTE: Dwarf gourami is typically shy and peace-loving, but sometimes you get an unruly aggressive one. This atypical behavior becomes more prominent when a male is paired with another male dwarf gourami.

A dwarf gourami fish that is light blue and red striped.
Dwarf gourami need access to open air

However, you don’t have to stress about their temperament if you plan on keeping a single fish as a complete newbie. If you want to pair a male dwarf gourami fish with another fish, they play well with a female companion of their species.

This fish does live relatively long, anywhere from four to six years, so be aware that you will be feeding it once to twice a day for that long. The omnivorous species adds to their tough nature as they can live off algae and meat-based diets.


You should now have an idea of which fish best suits your needs and your capabilities. The fish listed here are indeed some of the best for new aquarists, and plenty of options exist. Take time to think about your fish tank home arrangements before rushing to your nearest pet store!

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