6 Most Popular Freshwater Fish for Beginner Aquarium Owners

In the world of hobbies, few endeavors are as enchanting as creating an underwater oasis in the form of an aquarium. Aquarium keeping has surged in popularity, attracting beginners and seasoned enthusiasts alike. For those taking their first steps into this aquatic realm, choosing the right fish is a crucial decision. Novice aquarium owners often seek species that are hardy, adaptable, and easy to care for. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to the 6 most popular freshwater fish that are perfect for beginners, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable entry into the world of aquarium keeping.

1. Guppy

Guppies, with their dazzling array of colors and lively personalities, are an excellent choice for those venturing into aquarium ownership. These small, resilient fish are known for their adaptability, making them suitable for various tank environments. One of the standout traits of guppies is their peaceful nature, which makes them compatible with other non-aggressive fish in a community setup.

Guppies thrive in a well-maintained tank with suitable water conditions. Maintain a water temperature between 72°F to 82°F (22°C to 28°C) and maintain a neutral to slightly alkaline pH level (around 7.0 to 7.2). A balanced diet of high-quality flake food and occasional live or frozen treats will keep your guppies healthy and vibrant. Due to their prolific breeding habits, be prepared to manage population growth if you decide to keep both males and females together.

2. Betta Fish

Betta fish, often referred to as Siamese fighting fish, are renowned for their stunning, flowing fins and striking colors. They are also one of the best freshwater fish species, and you can read more online about why they have that distinction. While their name suggests aggression, bettas can be housed in community tanks when given proper consideration. They possess unique personalities, and each betta has its own distinct traits and behaviors.

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A common misconception is that bettas can thrive in small, unfiltered bowls. However, providing a betta with a spacious tank (at least 5 gallons) with a gentle filter is crucial for their well-being. Maintain the water temperature between 78°F to 80°F (25°C to 27°C) and avoid overcrowding the tank to prevent aggression. While bettas can live alone, they can coexist with peaceful tank mates like snails and certain small fish species.

3. Neon Tetra

The neon tetra is a staple in the aquarium hobby, known for its iridescent blue and red stripes that glow under the aquarium lights. These small fish are social creatures that thrive when kept in groups, creating a mesmerizing display of colors as they swim together.

To ensure the well-being of neon tetras, maintain a stable water temperature between 70°F to 81°F (21°C to 27°C) and slightly acidic to neutral pH levels (around 6.0 to 7.5). A school of neon tetras requires a tank of at least 10 gallons to provide ample space for their movement. Adding live plants and hiding spots recreates their natural habitat and enhances their comfort.

4. Platies

Platies are popular for beginners due to their vibrant colors, sociable demeanor, and adaptability to various water conditions. These small, active fish are ideal for community tanks and can coexist peacefully with a variety of other species.

Platies thrive in temperatures ranging from 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C) and prefer slightly alkaline to neutral pH levels (around 7.0 to 7.8). A tank size of around 10 gallons is suitable for a small group of platies. They have an omnivorous diet and can be fed high-quality flake food along with occasional live or frozen treats. Keep in mind that platies are prolific breeders, so ensure proper management if you don’t intend to breed them.

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5. Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras catfish, often affectionately referred to as “cories,” are bottom-dwelling fish known for their playful antics and unique appearance. They have a peaceful disposition and are excellent tank cleaners, helping to keep the substrate clean.

Cories thrive in a tank with a sandy substrate to protect their delicate barbels. Maintain a water temperature between 72°F to 78°F (22°C to 26°C) and neutral to slightly acidic pH levels (around 6.5 to 7.5). Because they are social creatures, keep them in groups of at least 4 to 6 individuals. Cories are a delightful addition to any community tank and can coexist with other non-aggressive species.

6. Swordtail Fish

Swordtails are known for their distinctive sword-like extension on their lower tail fin, adding elegance to any aquarium. With a wide range of colors and patterns, they are popular for adding visual appeal to beginner tanks.

Swordtails thrive in a temperature range of 70°F to 82°F (21°C to 28°C) and slightly alkaline to neutral pH levels (around 7.0 to 7.5). They are active swimmers, so provide them with ample space in a tank of at least 20 gallons. Swordtails are generally peaceful, but be cautious when keeping multiple males together to avoid aggression.

Embarking on the journey of aquarium ownership is a rewarding experience, and selecting the right fish is a vital step. The six fish species outlined above – guppies, betta fish, neon tetras, platies, corydoras catfish, and swordtail fish – offer beginner aquarists a delightful introduction to this fascinating hobby. Remember that each species has its own unique needs and preferences, so take the time to research and provide the best possible care for your chosen aquatic companions. With a well-maintained tank, proper nutrition, and a commitment to responsible fishkeeping, your aquarium will flourish with vibrant life and become a captivating centerpiece in your living space.