If you’re interested in setting up a beginner freshwater fish tank but don’t know where to start, you’re in luck. Today we’re going to cover our Top 5 freshwater fish for a beginner or first time Aquarist. You can start with a tank as small as 10 gallons, we suggest no less than that as it is hard to keep the parameters or temperature stable. Once you’re more experienced you can try out the smaller nano and pico sized tanks but as a beginner I believe a 10 gallon tank is a great start. This list has no particular order, it is just our Top 5 fish we believe make great starter fish. Make sure to read the comments about each specific species as well.
Top 5 Freshwater Aquarium Fish
- Corydoras Catfish (Corydoras sp.) – These peaceful catfish make great additions to any community tank. They can be kept in tanks as small as 10 gallons as well, making them good starter fish. They are semi-active, non-aggressive, and should be kept in groups of at least 3-4. They will often breed in captivity as well, making them very interesting to keep. Many species are commonly available at most fish stores, with the more rare ones being available from specialty fish shops.
Corydoras catfish sifting the gravel for food.
- Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) - Guppies are probably the best starter fish. They are very hardy fish and will breed like rabbits in almost any aquarium. A 10 gallon tank will provide a life home for a small group. They can be found in endless color patterns as well, making them attractive to nearly any new fish keeper. They’ll feed on most flake foods and are very peaceful fish.
Shown here is a pair of Fancy Guppies
- Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon innesi) and Cardinal Tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi) - Tetras are similar to guppies but are slightly different. They are super colorful, with bright reds and blues. They are peaceful and very easy to take care of as well. A 10 gallon tank will make a life home for a group of up to 8. They’ll eat most quality flake foods and can even be bred in captivity with the proper setup. They are very active as well, making them a pleasure to watch.
Group of Neon Tetras in an Aquarium.
- Betta Fish (Betta Splendens) – The Betta fish, also know as Siamese Fighting Fish are one of the most commonly seen fish in the Aquarium Hobby. Sadly they are also one of the most mistreated, confined to small bowls with no filter or heater is a very common sight. As with all other fish on this list, a 10 gallon tank is a perfect home. It gives them much more room and space to actually swim around. The Betta makes a great wet pet but please don’t keep them in a bowl. The females have shorter fins and are usually less colorful, the males are the ones you see with the flowing fins and super bright colors. They come in a huge variety of styles and colors as well. You cannot keep two males in the same tank though so keep that in mind.
Shown here is a Female Betta
- Zebra Danio (Danio Rerio) – The Zebra Danio is a peaceful schooling fish with silver/gold stripes. They should be kept in at least a 10 gallon tank and because they are a schooling fish should be kept in groups of 6 or more. They eat most quality flakes foods and will not bother any tank mates. The Zebra Danio is also very active, making them a good choice for a tank where you want to see movement all the time.
A school of Zebra Danios in an Aquarium, you’ll notice they are blurry because they never stop swimming as mentioned above.