Ideal fish for beginner aquarists

January 24, 2024

Entering into the world of aquariums can be a marvelous and exciting journey. As beginner aquarists, you’re about to embark on an adventure that combines science, nature, and art, starting with your choice of fish. Selecting the right species is crucial for a thriving tank, and it’s important to choose fish that are easy to care for, well-suited to your tank size, and can live peacefully with others. This comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge to make the right decisions and provide the best care for your new aquatic friends.

Choosing the Right Size and Type of Tank

Before you start deciding on the species of fish, it’s important to consider the size and type of tank you’ll need. The size of your tank determines the number and species of fish you can keep. Larger tanks are generally easier to maintain as they provide more room for the fish to swim and for water conditions to remain stable.

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The type of tank, freshwater or saltwater, will also determine which fish species you can keep. As beginners, it’s advisable to start with a freshwater tank. They’re less complex and easier to maintain compared to saltwater tanks, which require more specific water conditions and care.

In general, a 20 to 55-gallon tank is a good starting point. This size allows for enough water volume to buffer against sudden changes and provides a great environment for a variety of suitable beginner fish.

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Selecting Fish Species for Beginners

When selecting fish species, aim for those that are hardy, adaptable to various water parameters, and peaceful. They should also be easy to feed, with most readily accepting a variety of commercial foods.

Tetras are a popular choice for beginner aquarists. They’re small, colorful, and peaceful, making them perfect for community tanks. Tetras come in various types, like the Neon Tetra and the Cardinal Tetra, both known for their vibrant colors and hardy nature.

Another great choice is the Guppy. Guppies are small, lively, and available in many unique color patterns. They’re livebearers, meaning they give birth to live young, which can be quite exciting to watch.

The Betta fish is another excellent beginner species, known for its stunning colors and flowing fins. However, male bettas should be kept alone as they tend to be aggressive towards other male bettas.

Water Parameters and Aquarium Maintenance

Once you’ve set up your tank and chosen your fish, it’s important to maintain the correct water parameters for the health of your fish. Most beginner-friendly species are adaptable to a range of water conditions, but they do well in specific parameters.

For instance, the pH of the water should typically be around 6.5 to 7.5. The temperature should be kept at around 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit for most tropical fish.

Regular water changes are also crucial in keeping your aquarium healthy. A common rule is to change 10 to 20 percent of the water every week. This helps remove toxins and replenish essential minerals.

Feeding Your Fish

Feeding your fish the right foods is essential for their health and vitality. Commercially available fish foods, like flakes and pellets, are a good staple diet for most beginner fish. These foods are nutritionally balanced and easy to store.

However, for a well-rounded diet, it’s also beneficial to offer live or frozen foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms. These foods provide a source of protein that is particularly beneficial for carnivorous species.

Feeding should be done once or twice a day, and only give an amount of food that your fish can consume within a couple of minutes. Overfeeding can cause water quality issues and health problems for the fish.

Handling Common Fish Health Issues

Even with proper care, your fish may sometimes fall ill. A common health issue among fish is Ich, a parasitic disease that appears as white spots on the fish’s body.

If you notice any signs of illness, such as changes in behavior, loss of appetite, or visible spots or wounds, it’s crucial to act quickly. Most pet stores carry a range of over-the-counter medications that can treat many common fish diseases.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure. By choosing hardy species, maintaining good water quality, and providing a balanced diet, you can keep most health issues at bay.

Embarking on the journey of fishkeeping can be incredibly rewarding. As you grow in confidence and experience, you may find yourself wanting to explore more complex species and setups. But for now, starting with these ideal beginner fish will help you learn the ropes while enjoying the beauty and tranquility of your own underwater world.

Enhance your Aquarium with Decorations and Plants

To make your aquarium more visually appealing and provide an enriching environment for your fish, consider incorporating decorations and plants. Not only do they add aesthetic value, but they also provide hiding places for your fish and aid in maintaining water quality.

Artificial decorations are widely available and come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. They’re easy to clean and can be arranged according to your desired aesthetic.

Live plants, on the other hand, offer additional benefits. They absorb harmful nitrates and carbon dioxide while releasing oxygen, helping to maintain healthy water conditions. Some beginner-friendly plant species include the Java Fern, Anubias, and the Amazon Sword, all of which can thrive under low to moderate lighting conditions.

When choosing decorations, consider the natural habitats of your fish species. For instance, neon tetras, a popular choice for beginner fish, originate from densely vegetated South American waters, so they might appreciate a densely planted tank. Similarly, betta fish, another beginner-friendly species, come from slow-moving or stagnant waters and might enjoy leafy decorations where they can rest.

Creating a Compatible Community of Fish

Having a harmonious fish community is essential for a thriving aquarium. When selecting your fish species, it’s vital to consider their temperament, size, and dietary requirements to ensure compatibility.

Schooling fish, like neon tetras and zebra danios, enjoy the company of their own kind and should be kept in groups of at least six. These species are generally peaceful and easy to care for, making them ideal choices for beginner aquarists.

Conversely, some species, like the betta fish, are known for their aggressive behavior towards their kind and are better kept alone.

In addition to temperament, consider the size of your fish. Larger fish may prey on smaller ones, so it’s best to choose species of similar sizes. For instance, guppies and white cloud minnows are small, peaceful, and hardy fish that can live harmoniously together.


Starting your journey as an aquarist is a thrilling adventure. From choosing the right size and type of tank to selecting hardy and low maintenance fish species, every decision you make shapes your unique underwater ecosystem.

Balance is key in this venture, from maintaining optimal water conditions, feeding a balanced diet, and managing fish health. With the right knowledge and tools, you can create a beautiful and thriving aquarium that provides endless hours of enjoyment.

Remember, the most important part is to enjoy the process. Take your time to learn about the different aspects of fishkeeping and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. With time and patience, your aquarium will become a testament to nature’s beauty and resilience.

So, whether you’re captivated by the vibrant colors of neon tetras, the unique patterns of guppies, or the dramatic fins of betta fish, there’s a beginner fish out there that’s perfect for you. Here’s to the start of your fishkeeping journey!