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11 best fish for beginners

11 Best Pet Fish For Beginners | With Images

Thinking of getting a pet fish? Fantastic! This article looks at the best pet fish for beginners who are new to home aquariums, including some for small aquariums as well as for freshwater and saltwater communities.

Whether it’s for you or someone you love, a pet fish can offer so much in terms of rewarding fun. They also provide a beautiful and serene piece of home décor which helps to promote a calmness whilst bringing joy.

If your pet fish is for a child, this is a great idea and a worthwhile investment. Looking after a fish will teach children responsibility, respect and how to care for something.

And like all pets, a fish gives back the love it receives. Happy and healthy fish will interact with their owners and show a lively personality all of their own.

A pet fish is often thought of as an easy first pet because they are simple to care for and don’t take up much space in the home. You don’t need to walk them or stop them from scratching furniture or shedding all over the carpet.

They are generally considered to be low maintenance and temporary – so if you don’t love fishkeeping as a hobby you can quickly move onto the next thing. While the fish on this list are low maintenance, they aren’t necessarily temporary, and some of these fish will be with you for quite a long time.

Fish are fantastic because they offer a controlled or contained level of maintenance, so won’t affect your whole house.

If you are buying for a child, they do require enough care to teach your child quite a bit in terms of organization and responsibility, and when looked after well can live for many years – so are a very good first pet.

Considerations With Fish For Beginners

Many fish are great for beginners. But you will need to figure out first what size of tank you want to have and if you are going to keep a freshwater or saltwater/tropical aquarium.

You may think that one fish will be easier to start, but most fishkeepers will want to add more to their fish community once they get started. It is easier to start with the size and type of aquarium that you would like to end up with than to just get a little one and then upgrade later.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you get started with your first pet fish:

  1. Do you have enough room for the aquarium you’d like?
  2. How much time can you commit to looking after them?
  3. Do you know how many fish would you like to have?
  4. How much money do you have to spend?

Let’s Have A Look At What Makes A Great Fish For Beginners

The best fish for beginners will generally be:

  • Happy in a more fluctuating environment, so they don’t mind if the water temperature or pH levels adjust slightly
  • Happy with basic food
  • Content on their own or friendly in a little fish community
  • Not delicate and have stronger immune systems against disease and infection

These fish are cheaper to purchase and easier to find. The tanks, food and materials you need to look after them are also easier to source.

Looking beyond the Goldfish

The goldfish is probably the most famous first pet fish you can get, and for good reason. They are cheap, easy to find, small, hardy and fun. They also grow to be quite large, come in many different looks and live for years.

But we won’t cover the goldfish in this article, because everyone already knows that it’s a great fish for starters.

This article is about how you have other options apart from good old Goldie when you are starting out.

Quick List:

The 11 Best Pet fish for beginners | Freshwater & Saltwater:
  1. Guppy
  2. Danios
  3. Betta
  4. Neons
  5. Dwarf Gourami
  6. White Cloud Minnow
  7. Black Molly
  8. Green Chromis
  9. Blennies
  10. Goby
  11. Clownfish

Best Pet Fish for Beginners – Small Tanks and Tiny Spaces

Guppies

guppy
Guppy Fish
Common NamesGuppy
Scientific NamePoecilia reticulata
FamilyPoeciliidae
Care LevelEasy
TemperamentPeaceful
OriginsAsia and Central America
Size2.5” Max
Tank LevelAll Levels
Tank Size10 Gallons Plus
Water Conditions64-82° F, KH 10-30, pH 5.5-8.0
DietOmnivore
Ideal FoodFlake foods, live foods, Guppy mini pellets
JumpersOnly when first introduced into the aquarium
ColorsAll available
Availability Good
Cost$2+

Guppies are tropical freshwater fish which are native to South America and come in almost 300 different varieties.

Guppies are a community fish, but they stay quite tiny, so you could buy between three and five of these hardy little fellows and keep them quite happily in a small tank. They eat dried food or pellets and are freshwater fish, easy to keep in a small tank.

They come in all colors of the rainbow and are gorgeous to look at, and they have a lovely peaceful nature. They are also playful and like to dance and play with each other.

Celestial Pearl Danios

Pearl Danio Freshwater Fish
Pearl Danio Freshwater Fish
Family Cyprinidae
DietOmnivores
Lifespan3-5 Years
Tank size5-10 Gallons Minimum
Care levelEasy-Medium
TemperamentPeaceful
Size1" Max
Temperature 74-79°F
Cost$3 Apx

These are stunning little fish that have only become popular for in-home aquariums in the last 12 years or so. They are very peaceful and easy to care for, so are great for beginners.

They are a freshwater community fish and enjoy each other’s company, but because they stay so small you can keep a happy little school of them in a small tank. You should ideally have between 6 to 10 in your tiny community for maximum happiness.

These beautiful little fellows are native to shallow, highly vegetated ponds in South East Asia, so they love a tank with lots of living plants and places to hide.

Betta

betta fish
Betta fish come in lots of different colors
Scientific NameBetta splendens
Family NameBelontiidae
TemperamentPeaceful-Unless 2 males are being kept together
Care LevelEasy
Color Assorted
OriginCaptive-Bred
Size3"
Water Conditions75-86° F, KH 0-25, pH 6.0-8.0
DietCarnivore
BreedingEasy
Tank LevelSwims at all levels but mid-top mostly
Ideal FoodsBetta colour enhancing Flake foods, mini betta pellets, Live foods
JumpersNo
Ideal First Fish?Yes, hardy, inexpensive and easy to feed
CostFrom$5 -$60

The Betta fish is a freshwater fish which are great for small spaces. You should still have at least 30-40 liter tank for them, but they like it best on their own, so are happy floating around by themselves. They are still relatively cheap, but are a little fussier in their diet – they are carnivores so you will need to source frozen shrimp or live worms to feed them.

They require a little more care and attention than guppies for example, but because you have just one, beginners should be able to master this kind of care easily.

They need stable water conditions and a balanced diet. They are happiest in quieter places and away from direct sunlight, so like being in a bedroom or an office.

TheBetta are tropical freshwater fish from South East Asia, so will need a heated tank.

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11 Best Pet Fish For Beginners | With Images 1
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Best Pet Fish For Beginners – Freshwater Fun

If you want a larger tank and a thriving fish community, but are still looking at keeping a freshwater aquarium, the fish below are great for beginners. They are great to look at and will enjoy being part of a family, but are still hardy against disease and fluctuating water conditions.

Neon Tetras

neon tetra
Neon Tetras are one of the worlds best-selling pet fish
Scientific name Paracheirodon innesi
FamilyCharacidae
OriginSouth America
Care LevelEasy
TemperamentPeaceful
DietOmnivore
Max size1.5"
Tank size 10 Gallons plus
Schooling size 20+ fish
Tank LevelAll levels
Ideal First Fish?Yes, hardy, inexpensive and easy to feed
Jumpers?Yes, buy only when first introduced to the aquarium
Easy to breed?No, not often bred in the home aquarium. Easier to breed in a separate breeding tank
Aquarium DecorWell planted, Bogwood, Rocks and Ornaments.
Cost$2

Native to South America, Neon Tetras are vibrant little fish which love being a part of a community. They get along with everyone and will eat anything, so are very easy to care for, and are great for beginners. Coming in a range of different colors, they have an ability to dazzle, hence their neon name. They have a sweet and energetic temperament.

Neon Tetras also live for quite a long time.

If you want to start out with a slightly larger tank and a number of different fish in your aquarium, tetras are some of the best to begin your journey. They also go well in a peaceful happy tank with fish such as guppies, danios and mollies.

Tetras do like their water conditions stable, especially their pH levels. Make sure that you set up your tank and cycle the water for a few weeks before introducing tetras. They will also do better if you have established live plants ready for them.

Dwarf Gourami

dwarf gourami
Dwarf Gouramis
Scientific NameColisa lalia
DietOmnivore
Size2” Max
Care LevelModerate
OriginCaptivity Breed
Tank Size10-15 Gallons +
FamilyBelontiidae
TemperamentPeaceful
Price$3-$8 Depending on size

These are beautiful little fish that have been described as like drops of paint in your fish tank. They are slightly lesser-known fish but becoming more and more popular in home aquariums due to their gorgeous look and low maintenance nature. They are multicolored and can come in a range of different hues including blue, black, red, green and honey.

The Dwarf Gourami is native to the shallow rivers and ponds of Southern Asia, so tolerate fluctuations in water conditions quite well. They do like things well-vegetated, so give them lots of live plants to play in between. They are happiest in warm and well-lit tanks.

White Cloud

White cloud minnow
( Image Credits @Wikimedia commons )
Scientific NameTanichthys albonubes
FamilyCyprinidae
TemperamentPeaceful
Care LevelEasy
Max Size 1.5-2"
Water Conditions64-72° F, KH 10-15, pH 6.5-7.5
Tank size10 Gallons +
DietOmnivore
Cost $4

These sweet little fish are actually called white cloud mountain minnows. They are friendly school fish which are easy to look after and tolerate cool temperatures. They are fine in an unheated tank.

The white cloud name comes from White Cloud Mountain in China where they are from, not because they look like fluffy white clouds. They are actually a multicolored fish in parts green, red, silver and gold.

They are active fish which like to jump, so it is best to have a lidded aquarium. The White Cloud loves lots of vegetation and decoration in the tank.

Black Mollies

black molly
Black Molly Freshwater Fish
Common NamesBlack molly
FamilyPoeciliidae
DietOmnivores
TemperamentPeaceful
Size4-5"
Tank Size10 Gallons
Lifespan4-6 Years
Cost$3

The Black Molly, or short-finned molly, is native to Mexico. They are not just black as they come in a variety of colors and patterns, with varieties including dalmation, harlequin, platinum and gold dust.

Another lovely peaceful fish, mollies are happiest in a community and will get along with everybody in your tank. Keep them with fish that are a similar size and temperament and they will thrive.

They are also livebearers, meaning that if you have a happy male and female pair you could encourage babies. Give them lots of vegetation to hide the babies in and protect them while young.

Hardy, mollies will adapt to many different water changes and environments so are great for beginners to fishkeeping.

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Best Pet Fish for Beginners – Starting with Saltwater

Green Chromis

green chromis
Green ChromisChromis atripectoralis
FamilyPomacentridae
OriginIndo-Pacific & South Pacific
Care LevelVery Easy
TemperamentPeaceful
Size4-5"
Reef SafeYes
Tank Size 30 Gallons plus
Price$40

The Green Chromis is a species of damselfish, which are all very good first-time pets for beginner saltwater tanks. Green Chromis are very popular, easy to care for and have a sweet-natured temperament.

Native to the Indian and Pacific oceans, they come in all shades of green and can grow to be quite large, so need lots of space. They like a larger tank of at least 100 liters and are social school fish, so you should keep at least 2 and even up to 6 of this species.

As marine fish, they like a good habitat of living coral. As you should with any saltwater tank, try to establish the live coral well in your tank for at least a month before introducing any fish to the aquarium.

Blennies

tailspot blenny
Tailspot Blenny
Scientific NameEcsenius stigmatura
FamilyBlenniidae
TemperamentPeaceful
Care LevelEasy
DietHerbivore
Feeding HabitsAlgae strips, Algae flakes, Frozen foods, freeze dried foods.
Size2.5"
Reef SafeYes
Tank Size10 Gallons Minimum
OriginCebu
Breeding Difficult
Suitable tank matesShrimps,Clownfish, Dwarf Angelfish, Wrasse, Damsels, Filefish
Recommended first fish?Yes
Jumper?Yes, they often jump out so cover the aquarium
Lifespan3-5 Years
Cost$25-$30

There are many varieties of Blennies, some of the easiest to care for are the bicolor blennies, making them some of the most popular fish for first-time enthusiasts. The lawnmower blenny is another great fish for beginners.

Native to Fiji and Indonesia, they have a lovely personality and usually get along with their tankmates. They are curious fish with fun personalities which like to hide amongst live rock, as well as eat the algae from it.

Watchman Goby

yellow watchman goby
Yellow Watchman Goby
Scientific NameCryptocentrus cinctus
FamilyGobiidae
TemperamentPeaceful
Care LevelEasy
Reef SafeYes
DietCarnivore
Size4"
Tank Size10+ Gallons
Price$20

Also known as the yellow prawn watchman goby, these fish are simply stunning, with bright golden bodies and tiny blue spots. They are small but love to swim and jump, so need lots of space. They get along well with other species but need to come in pairs.

Native to the Indo-Pacific region, they are communal but are best with similar-sized companions. They are strong and hardy, not prone to most disease and are easy to look after. They aren’t picky in their diets and will eat almost anything.

Give them lots of live rock to hide in between and they will be happy.

Clownfish

clownfish
Finding Neno Made These Fish Very Popular
Scientific NameAmphiprion ocellaris
FamilyPomacentridae
DietOmnivore
TemperamentPeaceful
Care LevelEasy
OriginMost are now Captive Bred
Size3"
Tank Size20+ Gallons
Price$20

Since Finding Nemo was released, clownfish have become one of the most popular saltwater fish for beginners. Clownfish have a very pretty, distinctive look and are hardy and easy to care for, so are great for first-time fishkeepers.

Native to the Pacific and Indian oceans, they are a tropical saltwater fish which come in around 30 varieties, although the most common is the orange clownfish. They aren’t fantastic swimmers and they prefer to hide and hang around the bottom of the tank. They love making homes in anenomes.

Clownfish oddly don’t get along with other species of clownfish, so make sure that they are the only clownfish species in your tank.

They like to be kept in pairs or small groups and will change gender to breed if needed. If they have the right conditions you can get them to breed in your tank.

F.A.Q

  • Which fish can live together? This question is difficult to answer as there are hundreds of different species of fish. Just ask the shop keeper if the fish are suitable for a community aquarium and you should be safe.
  • What fish are suitable for a fishbowl? None, we don’t recommend keeping any fish in such a small fishbowl. Many fish are capable of living in such small spaces like Bettas but we wouldn’t recommend keeping them is anything smaller than 5 Gallons.
  • Are Guppies suitable for beginners? Guppies are colorful freshwater aquarium fish that are perfect for beginners are Guppies
  • Which fish are the easiest to keep alive? Coldwater fish like Goldfish are very easy to keep but still require clean and suitable water conditions.

Conclusion: Best Pet Fish For Beginners

Choosing the right fish for your aquarium is very important. It can make or break a beginners passion for keeping tropical fish.

Choosing the wrong fish can lead to all sorts of problems, overcrowding, fighting and possibly loss of life. None of these will make you want to buy more fish or bigger aquariums and usually ends up making you want to leave the hobby. Which would be a real shame.

Starting with the right fish will help you enjoy the hobby more and make you love your aquarium as much as I love mine.

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