10 Beginner Fish You Need in Your Tank ASAP

These 10 freshwater fish are easy to care for, peaceful, and won’t set you back a fortune.

Published June 26, 2023
Community tropical freshwater aquarium.

Walking through the aquarium section of your pet store can be overwhelming. All the fish are vibrant, entertaining, and listed as "great for beginners!" But ... are they? If you're just embarking on your fish-keeping journey, you don't want a fish that's picky or fragile. Instead, you want one that'll thrive with you as you learn about the hobby. We found 10 of the easiest fish to take care of that are perfect for beginners.

1. Zebra Danio

Zebra danio close up, in a planted aquarium.

Zebra danios, sometimes called zebrafish, are fantastic starter fish because they're really hardy. They're naturally adapted to survive in cooler and warmer temperatures (in order to adapt to the various seasons), so you don't have to worry too much about them reacting negatively to slight fluctuations. Plus, they're really peaceful and equally entertaining. Just note, because zebra danios are schooling fish, you'll need to get at least five of them to keep them happy.

2. Swordtail

Adult swordtail fish in community aquarium.

One of the coolest freshwater fish that also happens to be low maintenance is the swordtail. Male swordtails are easy to spot because their back fin has an elongated portion, which looks like they're constantly dragging a sword behind them. Aren't they cute?

Quick Tip

Swordtail males can become territorial, especially if there's not enough space in the tank, so make sure they have plenty of room and keep at least a few females for every male.

3. Guppy

Fancy guppy with leopard tail.

Guppies are gorgeous little fish that make a great choice when first dipping your toes into the aquatic world. We love guppies because they don't cost very much, they adapt well, and they're fairly easy to breed. Even though they're tiny, you should give each guppy at least 1 gallon of space; that means for a 10-gallon tank, don't get more than 10 guppies, and so on.

4. Neon Tetra

Neon tetra in a planted tank.

The colorful neon tetra doesn't get enough credit, but they're downright stunning. They have vibrant coloring, which adds a splash of red and blue to your tank. Tetras don't require as much attention as many other small species because they're hardy little fish and not picky eaters. You'll find neon tetras are peaceful and a great addition to any community tank.

5. Albino Cory

Albino corydoras catfish highlighted in dark aquarium.

If you're looking for a resilient and unique bottom-feeder fish, look no further than the albino cory. The cory is a catfish that spends most of their time feeding on food scraps and algae at the bottom of the tank. Even though you often see them alone, cories are social fish, so you can get a few for your tank.

6. Kuhli Loach

Kuhli loach swimming through aquarium plants.

It might surprise you by looking at them, but the eel-like kuhli loach is one of the easiest fish to take care of. They're considered "cleaner fish" because they eat fallen food pieces at the bottom of the tank, but they don't create much waste. Kuhli loaches are shy and need plenty of decorations like live plants and rocks to hide under or around.

7. Platy

Platy swimming in aquarium.

Platys have been well-loved by hobbyists because they're great starter fish. These cuties get along great in most community tanks due to their peaceful personalities, not to mention they're also attractive and entertaining. But arguably, the most exciting thing about platies is the fact that they're livebearers. If you have male and female platies in your tank, you might end up a grandparent!

Fast Fact

Platies aren't the only low-maintenance fish who give birth to live babies; guppies, swordtails, and mollies do too.

8. Molly

Two sailfin Mollys swimming together.

Mollies are often confused with platies because they have a similar appearance, and we love them equally. The fancy molly isn't a picky eater, which makes them great for beginner fish-keepers. Plus, you can find them in tons of different colors and variations. Mollies are inexpensive fish, so you can get several as a nice addition to a community tank.

9. Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose pleco in aquarium.

A fish that's easy to take care of and beneficial for your tank?! Yes, please. The bristlenose pleco is a bottom feeder that feeds on algae and will help keep your tank free of the fuzzy green stuff. These cute fish reach about 5 inches long, so they're a lot smaller than most other plecos. Oh, did we mention they have super cute whiskers?

Fast Fact

Bristlenose plecos can live for more than 10 years, which makes this starter fish a big commitment.

10. Betta

Betta in community aquarium.

Coming in at number 10 is the renowned betta fish. Bettas have a reputation for being easy fish to care for, so they're a great place to start when beginning your fish-keeping journey. You can certainly keep one by themselves (although you'll need an appropriate-sized tank, not the tiny bowl you're used to seeing), or you can place a betta in a community tank along with peaceful fish.

Fast Fact

Bettas aren't called Siamese fighting fish for nothing. Never put two male bettas together because there's a good chance they'll fight to the death.

Best Fish for Beginners

The easiest fish to take care of are hardy, peaceful, easy to feed, and live in freshwater. There are certainly fish outside this list that may be great choices, but these 10 are your best bet when searching for your first fish. Make sure you have an appropriate aquarium setup, then introduce your new finned friends.

10 Beginner Fish You Need in Your Tank ASAP