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:
- Do you have enough room for the aquarium you’d like?
- How much time can you commit to looking after them?
- Do you know how many fish would you like to have?
- 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.
The 11 Best Pet fish for beginners | Freshwater & Saltwater:
- Dwarf Gourami
- White Cloud Minnow
- Black Molly
- Green Chromis
Best Pet Fish for Beginners – Small Tanks and Tiny Spaces
|Scientific Name||Poecilia reticulata|
|Origins||Asia and Central America|
|Tank Level||All Levels|
|Tank Size||10 Gallons Plus|
|Water Conditions||64-82° F, KH 10-30, pH 5.5-8.0|
|Ideal Food||Flake foods, live foods, Guppy mini pellets|
|Jumpers||Only when first introduced into the aquarium|
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
|Tank size||5-10 Gallons Minimum|
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.
|Scientific Name||Betta splendens|
|Temperament||Peaceful-Unless 2 males are being kept together|
|Water Conditions||75-86° F, KH 0-25, pH 6.0-8.0|
|Tank Level||Swims at all levels but mid-top mostly|
|Ideal Foods||Betta colour enhancing Flake foods, mini betta pellets, Live foods|
|Ideal First Fish?||Yes, hardy, inexpensive and easy to feed|
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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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.
|Scientific name||Paracheirodon innesi|
|Tank size||10 Gallons plus|
|Schooling size||20+ fish|
|Tank Level||All 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 Decor||Well planted, Bogwood, Rocks and Ornaments.|
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.
|Scientific Name||Colisa lalia|
|Tank Size||10-15 Gallons +|
|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.
|Scientific Name||Tanichthys albonubes|
|Water Conditions||64-72° F, KH 10-15, pH 6.5-7.5|
|Tank size||10 Gallons +|
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.
|Common Names||Black molly|
|Tank Size||10 Gallons|
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.
If you’re looking for suitable fish food. Here are some of our favorites:
Best Pet Fish for Beginners – Starting with Saltwater
|Green Chromis||Chromis atripectoralis|
|Origin||Indo-Pacific & South Pacific|
|Care Level||Very Easy|
|Tank Size||30 Gallons plus|
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.
|Scientific Name||Ecsenius stigmatura|
|Feeding Habits||Algae strips, Algae flakes, Frozen foods, freeze dried foods.|
|Tank Size||10 Gallons Minimum|
|Suitable tank mates||Shrimps,Clownfish, Dwarf Angelfish, Wrasse, Damsels, Filefish|
|Recommended first fish?||Yes|
|Jumper?||Yes, they often jump out so cover the aquarium|
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 that like to hide amongst live rock, as well as eat the algae from it.
|Scientific Name||Cryptocentrus cinctus|
|Tank Size||10+ Gallons|
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.
|Scientific Name||Amphiprion ocellaris|
|Origin||Most are now Captive Bred|
|Tank Size||20+ Gallons|
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.
- 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.