What Type of Aquarium Fish Should a Beginner Get?

Being a first-time owner of an aquarium fish can be an exciting and slightly overwhelming experience. We say  “slightly” because you may get worried about how to start this fascinating hobby, but fortunately, there are many helpful resources available for you. One of the most common challenges a beginner can encounter is the type of fish to choose. Don’t worry, everyone’s been there, we are here to help you out. Read on to know some of the most recommended fishes that you can take care of when starting an aquarium.

Common Goldfish

It’s never wrong to pick this fish as your first aquarium denizen. After all, the goldfish is considered as the most popular aquarium fish. It’s always a safe pick to go if you don’t have a particular type of fish in mind for the moment or if you can’t make a choice from the available options. Goldfish are easy to care of and are hardy aquarium fish. This means that they can thrive with minimum supervision and care.


A goldfish’s diet is also flexible and can consist of spirulina algae, floater fish food, vegetable bits, specialized goldfish and koi fish food and other types of fish food with low protein and high carbohydrate contents. Veteran fish keepers offer a word of advice for keeping goldfish – they can grow large and need a large aquarium with lots of space to move in. Typically, a 55 gallon aquarium can house 3 common goldfish where they can grow to their full adult size, which is typically over 12 inches. This is the reason why they need a spacious aquarium and why other fish keepers transfer them to fish ponds once they reach adult size. Nevertheless, giving these fish a good living environment can help them live to their full life span and you get to enjoy watching them grow.


Another contender in the most popular category is the Betta splendens fish as they are a great species to keep in aquariums. They are also called Siamese fighting fish and most commonly known as betta fish. This is another popular pick by beginner and veteran fish keepers alike because of their vibrant colors, flowing fins and their relatively easy care and maintenance. Compared to a goldfish, bettas do not necessarily need a large aquarium unless they will be kept along with other types of fish. A 5 gallon aquarium will suffice, but you can make it a 10 gallon or larger once you let other fish join in. They do need their living environment clean to stay healthy so you need to have a basic filtration system set inside your aquarium. If you want to give your bettas a companion, tetras, corydoras, rasboras and other small and peaceful fish types can make good tankmates for your bettas.


Avoid having two male bettas in the same tank as this could spell trouble for the fish (remember that they are called Siamese fighting fish). The same precaution should also be taken even for female bettas even though they are less aggressive than males. Bettas are also a hardy fish so there’s no need for you to watch over them round the clock. Their diets should be high in protein as they are natural meat eaters. You can feed them high-protein floating fish food, frozen bloodworms, betta pellets and other specialized high-protein fish food.

Corydoras Catfish

The cory catfish or simply cory is a good fish to keep in your tank for a lot of reasons. They are fun to look at, they help clean your tank and with the right tank conditions, they are also hardy, low-maintenance fish. Corys are schooling types of fish so you need to have at least 6 of them in your tank to observe their unique interactions and fun personalities. These bubbly little fish are fun to watch and will keep you entertained with their playful antics. They are great helpers when it comes to cleaning your tank because they can help ease the work of your filtration system by sifting through your aquarium substrate and stirring up debris that can’t be reached by the filters. They will also consume uneaten foods that fall to the bottom of the tank, which lowers the pollution of the tank and maintains the clarity of the water. This means lesser frequency of replacing the tank water and your filtration systems works longer.

Corys can also be a hardy aquarium fish as long as there is no salt in the water and there is a sandy or tiny round pebbles substrate. Avoid jagged or large pebbles to keep them safe. Their preferred type of food are sinkers or fish food that sink to the bottom such as sink wafers. For beginners, it is also a good thing to do some research on which type of cory is right for you.


Most types of rasbora fish are great for aquariums because of their attractive colors and they are mostly schooling fish, which means their beauty can be appreciated if they have more of their kind in the same tank. They are categorized as nano fish because they grow to only 2 inches long. This means you can keep a group of 6 to 10 individuals in a medium-sized tank (15 to 20 gallons) or build a community of them inside a large tank (30 to 50 gallons), with 2 to 3 groups of different types of rasboras.


The most common types are harlequin rasbora, lambchop rasbora, neon green rasbora and scissortail rasbora. There are other exotic types you can find in pet stores, but you’ll need to do some research on them if you want to keep them in your tank. Their mild nature makes them a great community fish, which means they can peacefully coexist with other fish in a tank. The lambchop and harlequin variety can be easily identified through their bright orange and a nearly triangular black patch that tapers at their tails. They are great to watch when they swim as a school and move in great synchronicity, where their striking and vibrant colors are showcased. Rasboras are also easy to care for and you can feed them tropical fish flakes or high-protein fish food that is small enough to fit in their mouths. You can also supplement their diets with freeze dried worms, shrimps and tiny insects for a balanced nutrition.


Tetras are another popular type of nano fish among fish keepers. They are also schooling fish, which means they thrive more as a group. They also come in many varieties, with neon tetras, black tetras, black neon tetras, rosy tetras, lemon tetras and cardinal tetras among the most popular picks by fish keepers. For beginners, these miniature fish are a good recommendation due to their minimal space requirement, neutral water pH preference and they are easy to care for. They are peaceful schooling fish, which make them great community fish that can make your tank livelier and more colorful. Because of their small sizes, their specialized foods should be small enough to fit their mouths. You can ground a nutritionally balanced conventional fish food into small pellets or you can choose tropical flakes. For an optimal diet, you can supplement their food with dried brine shrimp, micro worms and fruit flies.


Platies are great aquarium fish for beginners because they are hardy and easy to care for. They have a more open preference to water pH levels, where they can thrive well in pH levels of 7.0 or higher. They are small in size, growing up to 3 inches in size, and they are also categorized as livebearers – they give birth to live young. Because of their hardy nature like other livebearers such as guppies and mollies, they are preferred by most beginner fish keepers or aquarists who are still learning the art of maintaining complex water environments.


Platies are also mild and peaceful fish and come in several colorful varieties. They are also good community fish to add to your growing collection of fish types. Platies are omnivores, which means they need a balanced diet of protein and carbohydrates. They can be fed with any type of omnivore community food such as flakes, pellets and small granules. Again, we emphasize on proper nutrition and diet supplementation to bring out the best qualities in the fish, keeping them in good health and allowing them to live their full lifespan. Supplement their diets with algae, plants, dried insects and worms to have a balanced nutrition.


Barbs are a good choice for beginner fish keepers who want to see great fish community dynamics. They are hardy, colorful and lively fish that go well with other peaceful community fish. They are also schooling fish so keep a group of 6 or more fish to see their group dynamics. Popular barb varieties include the gold barb, rosy barb and tiger barb among many other varieties. The latter two varieties are known to nip the fins of slower fish or those that have long flowing fins so they are not recommended to be housed along with bettas and angelfish.


Nevertheless, they have a good water pH tolerance, which makes great as starter fish. When swimming in schools, they display brilliant coloration and attractive swimming movements. Barbs are also omnivorous, which means they can eat almost any type of food, ranging from floater, flakes, and granules. They also need live and dried supplements such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and freeze dried vegetables in order to have balanced nutrition and to keep their vibrant natural coloration.


More commonly known as kribs, they are dwarf species of cichlids that thrive in the rivers of Africa. For beginner aquarists who want to observe great mating and parenting behaviors, this type of fish is a great pick for starters. When you purchase this fish type, you can select a single breeding pair for easy observation.


Males can be identified as having duller and longer body orientation while females are stockier and have red or pink coloration on their bellies. Kribensis are hardy and easy to care for and have manageable water pH preference. Kribs are natural cave dwellers so you need to put an artificial cave in your aquarium. An upside down clay flower pot, clustered slabs of rocks, driftwood or a half-cut coconut shell can make good caves for the kribs and a place where they can lay their eggs. Kribs display awesome changes in their coloration when mating, with females displaying a more intense red with purple hue. Other krib types also have different color morphs that range from purple, blue, green and yellow. After the female krib lays its eggs, you can observe their fantastic parenting instincts where both the male and female krib will vigorously guard the eggs. Both parent fish also take care of the fry when they hatch and will also protect them when they start to swim. Kribs are known to get aggressive during breeding, so if you have a community of fish in your aquarium, be sure to choose the fastest swimmers in order for them to outrun the kribs.


Although they are not normally aggressive, they might pick on long finned fish like angelfish and betta during breeding. Kribs are omnivorous so feeding them won’t be much of a problem. Just ensure to alternate live and dried foods to keep them healthy and vibrantly colored. They are also bottom dwellers so sinking pellets are more preferred. Also feed them mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms and vegetable bits.



When it comes to flowing and beautiful fins, angelfish rivals the betta in this department. Another fish from the cichlidae family, they are easily distinguishable by their triangular shape, and their distinctive fin and stripe patterns. This fish is a great addition to the aquarium because of its graceful movements and striking colors, but care should be taken that it should not be housed together with other cichlid fish to avoid conflicts and territorial disputes.


Angelfish can grow quite large and prefer a spacious swimming environment, so you need to house it in a 55 gallon aquarium or bigger. They are omnivores and will eat at varying levels of the water, ranging from the surface to the bottom. You can feed them floater and sinker fish foods, flakes, granules and pellets and you can alternate live food for good spawning rate and healthy coloration.



Starting your first aquarium environment can be quite daunting, but there are a lot of resources you can turn to for reference and advice. When it comes to fish choice, the recommended types of fish for those beginning the fish keeping hobby are those that are hardy and easy to care for. Color and appearance make a great aquarium dynamic and the nature and temperament of the fish should be considered if you want to start a community. Overall, the fish keeping hobby is an enjoyable and rewarding endeavor that you can pursue.