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9 Best Freshwater Fish For Beginners: Types & Care Guides

A red and white freshwater fish swimming in a tank with natural surroundings.

There are many enticing freshwater fish types to steal your eye whenever you tempt yourself at the pet store. But, not all these dazzling fish will cope well under an untrained hand. Fortunately for the determined, there are fish that will flourish regardless of finesse, and these are the fish!

There are as many fish as the ocean is deep, but these are some of the easiest to care for after adoption, and beginners will love them.

  1. Black Neon
  2. Betta Splendens
  3. Cherry Barb
  4. White Cloud Minnow
  5. Swordtail
  6. Angelfish
  7. Kuhli Loach
  8. Harlequin Rasbora
  9. Killifish

Neon tetras and goldfish are some fish that are carelessly thrown about, but they usually end up dying or causing unending heartache and frustration. If you take your time reading through this list, you should know by the end of today which fish is your fated underwater companion.

#1: Black Neon

Black neon tetras are beautiful fish with vibrantly colored bodies. This fish’s catching body does well to help contrast it against dark backgrounds as its body remains small even when fully matured. 

Black neons grow to only about an inch to an inch and a half as adults, so you’ll need to pair them with similarly sized fish or fish that don’t have mouths that the black neon can easily fit into.

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This peaceful fish is a schooling fish and is most happy in a group of at least six. Don’t worry; even if you give a home to numerous of these fish, they remain among the easiest fish to care for. They have a very nonchalant diet and accept food from flakes to tiny worms

The black neon isn’t only peaceful, but males are also laid back. They don’t try to exert dominance over territory in a larger group of other fish. New fish owners will enjoy the company of these fish as they entirely use their tank, which should be 10 gallons at a minimum

Black neons like to hang around the middle to the top of the tank, which almost gives a continuous spectacle. Again, these fish aren’t too fussy about anything. Although they thrive in soft acidic water, they adapt fast and will be fine in hard neutral waters. 

You’ll want some form of filtering to cultivate the best version of your black neon fish’s slime coat. Black neons can live up to 5 years, but if you want to be with them for that long, you’ll need to remember to feed them two to four times a day.

#2: Betta Splendens

Betta splendens, Siamese fighting fish, or simply betta, are technically tropical fish. Betta fish are fantastic for new fish parents because they are lively and interactive when you approach their tank. A betta is a fairly peace-loving fish, but males can get aggressive when kept with other males or similar-looking fish.

Their rare acting out shouldn’t be of concern to a beginner, as it is often recommended that a betta be kept alone in a tank between 5 to 10 gallons. If you are pressed for space, you can go as small as 3 gallons, but nothing smaller than that. To live a happy and flourishing life, these fish need:

  • space
  • substrate
  • underwater plants
A betta splenden fish that has its fins fully spread out, it is blue and purple in color.
Betta fish are known for their beautiful colors

Since they are naturally tropical, beginners will usually shy away because they need to have a filter and the tank heated to 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, it’s only this initial effort you must put in at the start. Don’t worry; bettas have those beautifully flowing fins and tails, so you’ll only need a small filter. 

Bettas also have an additional lung-like organ called a labyrinth organ, which supplements their poorly performing gills with air from the surface. This further distresses the level of power needed from your small filter as the bettas need access to the surface to take a deeper breath.

This breed is also carnivorous but will still indulge in fish flakes which should further tell you just how laid-back they are. Bettas live for around 2 to 3 years (sometimes even five years!) and can grow to an average size of 3 inches, which becomes a beautiful sight to take in every morning. Feed your betta twice a day for long and healthy swimming, and keep a female one if you plan a community expansion.

#3: Cherry Barb

Around breeding times, male cherry barbs develop a brilliant red color reminiscent of cherries and rightly earn their name. Despite donning more of a tan or brunette color, their nature remains sweet across the board.

The cherry barb is popular among beginner aquarists for many reasons, one being its beautiful color, but most importantly, its timid and peaceful nature. These fish are schooling fish and are most comfortable surrounded by a decent-sized group of the same species of around 5 or 6 others

Cherry barbs are also perfect for beginners because they are surprisingly hardy. They don’t really have any diseases they are predisposed to and usually remain healthy throughout their 4 to 6-year life span.

Beginners shouldn’t be worried about introducing other fish to be in the community with cherry barbs. The cherry barb’s harmonious nature allows them to cohabitate in the same aquarium with other similarly sized fish without exhibiting fin-nipping behavior.

The only time that cherry barbs have been known to show aggressive behavior is during spawning season. The feisty ones are the males and they steal the show around that time. Although cherry barbs have been overfished out in nature, they breed rapidly and effortlessly in captivity, which can be an excellent draw for newbies. 

Don’t be frightened that you need a tank that’s at least 25 gallons to house your cherry barbs happily. It’s a well-worth investment if you have the space to house such a tank, and you will likely get more fish because of the fun and awkward nature of the cherry barb.

NOTE: To further do justice to your cherry barb fish, you will need to slightly emulate their environment in their natural habits.

Your tank will need plenty of nooks and crannies to serve as hiding places for your cherry barbs, as they are sometimes shy. There should be plenty of plants around the tank’s landscape and some sandy substrate. Fortunately, cherry barbs don’t hide all the time, as they primarily inhabit the middle to the top of their tank

Feeding is also a cinch as these omnivores will be happy with just about anything from pellets to veggies. However, you will want to diversify their diet to help them average a 2-inch length. The cherry barb also indulges in algae, so they might be the cleaning underdogs new owners will quickly grow to appreciate. 

Finally, the cherry barb is incredibly adaptable and can acclimate to different water conditions if you stay in soft or hard water regions. And remember, keep their environment dim and with lots of hiding spots.

#4: White Cloud Minnow

White cloud minnow isn’t thriving in the wild, and their population now largely relies on being bred in captivity. These fish have brilliant colors that match the beauty of neon fish.

White cloud minnows are easy to care for and aren’t particularly shy, making them great companions for beginners. Although the fish spend most of their time darting around in the middle and top of the tank, they enjoy some landscaping.

In their tank, these fish will significantly enjoy having:

  • live plants
  • some driftwood
  • a good amount of open space
A white cloud minnow swimming in a tank with green plants.
White cloud minnows do well with a lot of live plants in the tank

They also don’t demand an intricate substrate as fine dark sand like this one on Amazon will do just fine. White cloud minnow is on the smaller side, with adults growing to be about 1.5 inches and living for 3 to 5 years. If you want the best for your white cloud minnow, it’ll help to keep them in a group of six or more as they will become timid and hide more.

The fish aren’t demanding in any area as they will eat just about anything from dry to frozen food. They eat insect larvae out in the wild. Vary their diet and ensure not to let them swim in water that’s too warm.

They prefer water at a temperature of 60 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, they don’t complain about cold water as long as it’s not too cold. Finally, keep them in a tank that’s at least 10 gallons and around other fish of a similar size, as they can fall prey to bigger fish

#5: Swordtail

Swordtails are a tried-and-true fish for beginners. They come in several colors, and their live-bearing trait makes them an exciting fish to own. They are generally peaceful fish, but their erratic behavior sometimes makes them aggressive.

You should create hiding spots if you mix them with other fish. Swordtails are incredibly energetic and love to zip around the tank. They won’t take kindly to obstructions in the middle to top section of their tank that should be at least 20 gallons.

New aquarists will enjoy seeing their lively mannerisms, especially when they are in a school of at least 4 or 5 others. Swordtails don’t have a picky diet and typically live well off flakes and some freeze-dried foods. They also like variety and prefer being fed two to three times daily.

These fish aren’t too fussy with their water or the tank environment as long as they have ample space to play. They aren’t big fish, but at 3 to 4 inches, they also aren’t small.

#6: Angelfish

Angelfish offer beginners a cordial introduction to the cichlid family. This fish usually is peaceful with other species but can become territorial during the breeding season.

FUN FACT: The angelfish make for popular companions as they react when you come near the tank by swimming to the top!

It may be this keen energy that also makes them such ferocious eaters. New fish parents will be happy to know that this fish isn’t fussy with its food and will gladly devour anything good for fish.

A white angelfish.
Angelfish can live for 8 to 10 years

Their hardy nature makes them ideal for the “heavy-handed,” but keep an eye out for the smaller fish they share the tank with. These fish can grow to a whopping 6 inches and might unintentionally prey on their smaller neighbors. 

As long as the water in the tank isn’t too cold or warm, these babies will survive. On top of their many characteristics, angelfish can live between 8 to 10 years. You’ll want to keep angelfish in a tank that’s tall and at least 20 gallons.

#7: Kuhli Loach

Kuhli loaches or coolies make for fantastic bottom-dwelling pet friends. Coolies are peaceful and enjoy the company of at least five other kuhli loaches. These fish are famous for their habitual burrowing, and a sandy substrate is best for them, as anything with edges might harm them.

NOTE: Beginners should be careful not to house coolies with bigger fish, even though they grow to about 5 inches.

Despite their furtive nature, coolies don’t hide all the time unless they are housed by themselves. New hobbyists will be happy to know they can’t easily kill a coolie even if the unfortunate happens and forget to feed it for a day or so.

You don’t want to do that, and you should do everything possible to save them from that fate. One of the steps to take is to put mesh or a sponge around the filter opening to avoid losing your coolie in there, even though they have been known to succumb to this tragedy.

Coolies are closer to night owls in their natural preference and should be fed at night when they come out of hiding. When you feed them, give them some live food as that is their favorite treat, but they are happy with any fish food

Lastly, your tank should be 15 gallons at a minimum and be enclosed. Coolies have been known to jump out of the water when frightened. You should be able to enjoy the long 10-year lifespan of coolies as long as your aquarium has an abundance of:

  • plants
  • driftwood
  • hiding places

#8: Harlequin Rasbora

The reddish-copper fish is more commonly known as the red rasbora, and its lively movements match its colorful body. Red rasbora is both a shoaling and schooling fish and shows the best traits when part of a social group of eight to ten others.

These fish are incredibly friendly and peaceful towards other species and don’t exhibit any aggressive traits. Like with most small fish, you’ll want to house it with similarly sized fish, any that are bigger than 1.75 inches can be tempted to lunch on them.

Red rasbora is fantastic for beginners because they are purebred freshwater fish and thrive in soft acidic water that matches their natural pools. This fish is also omnivorous and prefers insects out in nature and live food in captivity, but it will be OK with frozen food or flakes.

However, you’ll want to give it a varied diet for a healthier, disease-free life. You’ll need a tank of at least 10 gallons filled with:

  • live plants to swim through
  • a dark floor bed
  • dim lighting
A fish that is pink on top and with a blue belly with black in the middle.
Red rasbora fish do best in groups of 8 to 10

Although this fish requires a bit more care than the other fish on the list, it’s well worth it when you see it take flight in open space in a group. 

#9: Killifish

In pet shops, you might find killifish listed under their scientific name, Fundulus heteroclitus. But, these are the same easy-going killies that hobbyists have appreciated worldwide. There are many species of killies, and ease of care is dependent on that. Still, there is a comfortable number that newcomers can effortlessly breed

Killies aren’t the longest-lived fish, as they can last for as little as three months. Their short lifespan isn’t a reflection of the care given by their owners, and you should enjoy the dazzle they show at their peak as they soon lose that luster and swim no more. 

These fish are some of the least picky, as they need a tank that’s about 10 gallons for one without embellishments. The environment is reminiscent of the old goldfish in a sparse fishbowl.

Give them fly larvae to feast on when you can, but they will be OK with other fish food. Make sure not to cover their tank, as they need access to the surface for a deep breath since they are part of the labyrinth fish family


Hopefully, you’ve considered all the options and found a couple of fish that stole your heart. All that’s left to tick off is to measure available space and see if it’s enough for the size tank you’ll need and the few tools to elevate the environment for your soon-to-be fish friend!

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