10 Best Freshwater Fish For Beginners


If you’re a beginner to freshwater fish, you might need a little help in choosing fish for your first fish tank. You should only choose fish that can co-exist with one another, as you probably will want to set up a community tank. You should also take into consideration which type of fish tank you are going to want to have (cold water or warm water aquarium fish tank).


Below is a list of the best freshwater aquarium fish fish for beginners.

Freshwater Fish for Beginners

When starting out your tank, you should choose the type of aquarium you would like to set up first (cold water or warm water). As you keep reading, you will see that some cold water fish can be mixed with some warm water fish, but do not apply this rule to all the fish on this list. Mixing two different types of fish that need different water temperatures can cause your fish to be under a lot of stress. Below, you will see our hand-picked 10 freshwater fish for beginners.

Fancy Goldfish, photo by Ting Chen

1. Gold Fish

The goldfish is probably the number one bought cold water fish today. Goldfish come in all different sizes and colors. The most common are the bubbly faced or the fantail (fancy) goldfish.


The best thing about them is that they’re not picky eaters. They will usually eat anything and everything. Having this in mind, they produce a lot of waste, so you should do a weekly 10% water change.


Most cold water fish are large fish containing multiple species of goldfish and koi. Other cold water fish may include some warm water fish such as:

  1. Pearl Danio
  2. Weather Loach
  3. Guppies
  4. Bloodfin Tetras
  5. Gold Barb, Green Barb, Rosy Barb
  6. White Cloud Mountain Minnow

If you’ve decided on keeping a warm water fish tank (tropical fish tank), here are some ideas.

Guppy, photo by Inka Crabs

2. Guppy

Guppies are fairly cheap and can add quite a bit of color to your tank. Guppies are very friendly and peaceful, which makes them a great addition to any community tank.


Guppies do well in groups. But be careful, if kept in a good female to male ratio, you may have a lot of baby guppies later on. It might be best to pick a single gendered group.




Molly Fish
Molly Fish, photo by h080

3. Molly

Mollies do great in community tanks. They are very peaceful and friendly fish. The reason why most people like mollies is because of the way they can adapt to different types of waters (fresh, brackish, and salt). One downfall that mollies may have may be the way some live. For maximum health, mollies prefer at least 1 tablespoon of aquarium salt per gallon of water. Some mollies have adapted to pure freshwater, but if yours hasn’t, it may be best to house in a separate tank. The salt levels may not be suitable for other fish.

Swordtails, photo by Genista

4. Swordtails

If you have enough room in your tank, swordtails may be worth looking into. Color and uniqueness is what these fish bring to the table. The long bottom fin (sword tail) is what makes them so unique. They love a lot of room, as they are very active fish and love to swim. They do best in groups and can be in a community tank if given enough space.


They prefer brackish tanks, so it may be best to house these fish with other brackish fish like mollies.

Neon Tetras
Neon Tetras, photo by Brandy Dopkins

5. Neon Tetras

Neon tetras make any tank look good. They do best in groups (minimum of 6). The more tetras you buy, they more safe and relaxed they will feel. They are quite amazing to watch swimming in an aquarium as a group.


They might not be that big, but they sure will take up all the room you give them. They are quite active and love swimming around.


Corydoras Catfish
Corydoras Catfish, photo by Genista

6. Corydoras Catfish

What’s a freshwater tank without a cory catfish? Cory catfish are a lot of fish-keepers favorites because of their hardyness. They don’t die easily and are very calm with other fish. They do great in groups of at least 4.


Cory catfish will normally spend their days at the bottom of the tank searching for food. They will eat any left over food and other special sinking foods (sinking pellets and frozen blood worms).


Leopard Danio
Leopard Danio, photo by CarolineCCB

7. Danios

Danios are great fish for beginners. They are very hardy and are easy to take care of. Some danio species that are really easy to take care of are Zebra, Leopard, and Pearl. Pearl Danios are the larger species of danios but are probably the most hardy of them all. It will tolerate temperatures into the mid 60’s without difficulty, and is easy to find.


Danios are omnivorous, accepting almost any foods. They particularly enjoy small live or frozen invertebrates, and fresh vegetable matter.

Brian Gratwicke
Cherry Barb, photo by Brian Gratwicke

8. Barbs

Barbs can add great color to any fish tank. Some great starters are the Cherry, Gold, Rosy, Ruby, Purple, and Tico Barbs. Stay away from Tinfoil barbs, as this specie tends to nip at other fish.



Platy Fish
Platy Fish, photo by vxixiv

9. Platy

Platy’s are very hardy fish, and are good beginner fish, but are in no way limited to those who have just started keeping fish.They have great personalities and love exploring the entire tank. Platies range in many different colors including red, orange, yellow, white, blue, and black.


The best part about them is that they are pretty darn cheap


Betta Fish
Betta Fish, photo by Dvortygirl

10. Betta

Bettas are absolutely beautiful. The picture to the left speaks for itself. They do well with peaceful, friendly, and dull-colored fish. In my opinion, bettas are one of the best freshwater fish for beginners. Although bettas get along with other fish, you should stay away from mixing two bettas in a single fish tank.


Because of their long fins, make sure to not put them in a tank with any fish who may try to nip at the fins.


Bettas will usually eat the normal fish flake food diet which makes feeding them easy.

Advice for Beginners

When looking for fish, try aiming for fish that are hardy, easy to take care of, and are small. Usually, small fish are much easier to care for then larger fish. You also have a better chance of getting small fish to cooperate with one another, especially if you are trying to start up a community tank with numerous amounts of fish.


You should also choose fish that require the same diet, water requirements, and tank setup. Choosing a mixture of fish that require different needs may be a huge problem.

Beginner Freshwater Fish Prices

Common Goldfish – $2.89

Koi – $3.49

Guppy – $4.99 – $7.49

Molly – $2.29 – $6.99

Swordtail – $2.79

Neon Tetra – $1.89

Corydoras Catfish – $9.99

Danio – $1.89

Barb – $1.99

Platty – $1.29

Betta – $3.99


This is only a small list of the many fish available in the pet trade. Do not let this list limit you on what you can and can not get. This is just a simple list showing some of the best freshwater fish for beginners.

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  1. you could put a betta with other fishes (like fancy goldfishes and other non-aggressive fishes) with them? but only AVOID joining another betta into one tank, is that all true?

    • Hey Chris,
      Yes. It is true. Just make sure you have plenty of room for all this fish to be comfortable though. I wouldn’t try to mix fish in a small tank. So depending on the size of your tank, you may or may not be able to mix fish with your betta.

    • Not exactly true. You need to be careful about putting Bettas with other colorful fish, or fish with long fins, as they may mistake the other fish for a male Betta and try to fight with it.

    • Because Betta are warm water fish and gold fish are cold water fish.. no, you can’t put them together. If you want to fill a large tank, get a handful of female betta (5 or more) and they will sort themselves out with the rest of the tank inhabitants. One male betta and a dozen plan colored tetras or danios works fine, but having an aggressive male scares schooling fish, so if you’re going to have them together, make sure there is enough room for everyone. No Mollies, Platies, Guppies.. none of the live-barers or aggressive fish like that, there can only be one king.

    • Hey Pasha,

      Yes they are also known as fighting fish. This I why you are not normally supposed to house two bettas in the same tank

  2. You absolutely cannot mix Goldfish and Bettas! Their requirements are very different! Goldfish need cool water while Bettas require warm. Goldfish are also very messy and will pollute the tank quickly. Those are just a few reasons, do research and you’ll find out more why that specific combination is a terrible idea.

    • Hello Francine,
      Thanks for your thought. I definitely agree that these two should not be together in the same tank due to different water temperatures needed.

    • Hello cookielm,
      I am going to have to disagree with you on that. If you stick a 10 inch fish in a 10 gallon tank, you’ll know why. They will barely be able to swim back and forth. They will also have a very hard time (if they even can) turning around.

      It also depends on species of fish. But I will admit that some species of fish that do not swim most of the day may be able to live in smaller tanks than recommended by the “rule”, but that’s only a handful of fish, not all of them.

  3. I’m a beginner and I’m starting out with a 25 gallon tank with freshwater fish
    Here’s what I’m thinking about putting in at first
    5 glofish
    4 rainbow fish
    4 white cloud
    4 fancy guppies
    3 black skirt tetra
    4 neon tetra
    2 platies

    Is that too much?

    • Hey Julie,
      For a 25 gallon tank, I would stick to max 6-7 fish. With 26 fish, you will have a very heavy bio-load and a very crammed fish tank. Most of your fish will be stressed.

  4. Ok, so I have a 10 gallon fish aquarium. I really want to put in small fish, like Danios and Tetras. So if I get very small fish that are related to that, how many could fill it without them being stressed?

    • Hey Alexa,
      Danios are fish that like to be kept in groups of 5-6, but I wouldn’t put that many in a 10 gallon tank. They like long tanks like a 20 gallon long to swim back and forth. If you are set on the 10 gallon, I would not go with anymore than 5 fish total, with 1-2 danios max.

  5. I have a two gallon tank and I was wondering what the best freshwater fish are to get. Are the above fish all an option or is only a certain kind able to survive?

    • Hey Katelyn,
      To be honest, it might be a little hard for anything to survive and thrive in such a small aquarium. But if you are determined to get a fish, I would go with e betta, but try to get something a little bigger in the near future.

  6. I had a tank of 6 guppies and 6 danio zebras and the danios were nipping at my guppies I only have 1 female guppy left and no danio zebras so I will have to disagree danio zebras and Guppy’s is a big no-no

    • Hi i have glow fish fanios and guppies and Betha fish and all good and guppies and glow fish having babies in my community tank. Glow fish babies i needed to pull out otherwise they will be eaten but they all do good – no fin nibbles, no fights

    • Hello Melanie,
      Thank you for your suggestion. Can you please explain why you feel this way so that you can help educate those looking for a first fish. In my experience, and working at a pet store, the goldfish have been more of the easier and hardy freshwater fish to keep. The only problem most people have when keeping goldfish is keeping them in small tanks. They definitely require larger tanks.

  7. Hey Billy,
    Just a quick note to let you know I’ve found this tutorial really helpful. So many times beginners take everything for granted, and then end up paying for their mistakes! Keep up the good work, Bob.

  8. I bought a 25cent feeder fish to be CatTV for a kitten I got two years ago. He quickly outgrew his 1 gallon bowl so I bought him a 5 gallon aquarium Lordy he got even bigger! So now I got a 20 gallon acrylic tank set up waiting for him. But I want to give him a friend in the 20 gallon tank. I want to put them in all together at The same time so there’s no fighting over Who was there first. What kind of fish can I get my 4 inch feeder fish Live with peacefully thank you

    • Hello Windydown,
      I would only put fish that are the same size. ALgae eaters, angelfish, other feeder fish of same size.

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