10 Best Freshwater Fish for Beginner Aquariums

A freshwater aquarium can be a wonderful addition to your home, creating a visually attractive statement depending of course on how large your tank is! As a beginner to the world of fish, you may feel quite confused and overwhelmed with the vast amount of possibilities available to you. Whilst, keeping fish can be relatively straightforward, there are some pointers and things to consider which will help you avoid potential problems that others have learnt the hard way! So let’s first cover some basics.

Tropical or Cold Water Tank

The only real difference is the need for you to heat the water in the tank if you wish to keep tropical fish. In general, a heated tank will give you more choice in the way of the variety of fish species you can purchase. If you opt for cold water fish, you will likely have fewer options available to you. In this article we are specifically referring to tropical fish as there are so many to choose from and some are less suited to beginner aquariums.

Tank Shape and Size

There are a huge number of aquariums to choose from. Select one that you feel best fits your available space and is manageable for the time you have available to clean it – an extra-large tank is great for the fish and can look incredible, but do you have the time for the upkeep?! As a beginner, it is probably best to start relatively small as you can always upgrade later down the line. In terms of shape, this really depends on your space. However, a rectangular tank is usually the most popular choice for a small fish tank.

Qualities to Look for in Beginner Fish

As a rule, for a beginner’s aquarium, it is best to look for the following when selecting your fish:

  • Hardy fish that aren’t too sensitive to environmental changes such as water temperature and ph levels.
  • Community fish – they get along with other fish!
  • Size 3-4 inches so they don’t outgrow your tank
  • Clean – they don’t produce an excess of waste
  • Simple dietary requirements such as standard fish flakes

Here are the 10 best little aquarium fish best suited to beginners.


These hardy fish and with a wide variety of colours to choose from, they will add a lovely splash of colour to your tank. As fish species go, they are extremely placid in nature and are community fish so will do well in small groups, so be sure to get a few for your tank.

Kuhli Loach

These unique eel-like fish are really easy to keep and are very hardy. As bottom-dwellers and feeders, they will also help keep your tank clean as they hoover up food that has fallen to the bottom. They are quite elusive, so be sure to provide plenty of hiding places and only expect to see them active at night.


Both small and attractive, these little fish make a great first choice as they are just so easy to keep. They are hardy and can tolerate environmental changes, plus they aren’t fussy eaters. You will thoroughly enjoy watching these little ones zoom around your tank!


Another extremely popular first timer’s fish, platies are easy going and come in a huge range of colours. The biggest bonus is they will happily eat any algae in the tank in addition to the fish flakes provided, helping keep your tank clean and saving you some time in the process!


Although they fight with their own kind (they are also known as Siamese fighting fish), a single Betta will get along fine with others in your tank as long as they are relatively placid too. The males are incredibly attractive and available in many striking colours.

Cherry Barb

Very easy to care for, cherry barbs are a great fish to choose. They tolerate big changes in water parameters and have friendly and peaceful personalities. As a schooling fish, you will need to keep at least six of them to allow their natural behaviours to add value to your tank.


Coming in a range of varieties, these cute fish are perfect for a beginner’s tank. They aren’t aggressive and are extremely hardy, easily adapting to variations in water conditioners.

Black Skirt Tetra

These pretty and peaceful fish have distinctive black fins and can be very enjoyable to watch when you keep them in schools of at least five. These are another hardy fish that will easily adapt to tank variations without much trouble at all.


Cory Catfish are a wonderful addition to a beginner tank as they are small and much like the loaches, will clean up the bottom of the tank! They get along well with other fish but you will need to have at least six of them to ensure they can exhibit their natural schooling behaviours.


One of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish around, guppies are easy to care for, hardy and come in many bright colour varieties. Due to their small size, they are fine in smaller tanks and will be happy to eat standard fish flakes.