Adding fish to an aquarium might seem like a simple task, but it’s important to make sure everyone in the community gets along. Watching your fish fight can be stressful for them — and you. Consider which of these fish will be the best pets for you and make sure every fish feels right at home.
Tetra: Great for Schooling Newbies
Tetras are freshwater fish that are not only vibrant and captivating with their schooling antics but also delightfully low-maintenance. They’re perfect for both newbie and experienced aquarium enthusiasts. Tetras are quite adaptable with varied water conditions, too. This makes upkeep super simple. And, their relaxed personality ensures they’ll get along well with other tank mates. Just make sure you have room for a school — these social fish do best in groups of at least six tetras per tank.
Guppy: Swim 'Fin' Style
Guppies are another freshwater fish species that beginners love. Like tetras, their vibrant colors and variations light up the aquarium. They're also lower-maintenance, which makes them a favorite among both newbies and aquarium enthusiasts. Like tetras, they get along with other fish species, but guppies can be prolific breeders. Do your research on optimal female/male and fish-to-tank ratios before adding guppies to your ecosystem.
Betta: Top Fish
Bettas are great pets, but they're especially aggressive and territorial. If you're considering adding a betta to your tank, do your research and get a fish companion they're likely to get along with.
Contrary to popular belief, never put your betta in a bowl or some sort of mini tank. They are hardy, but thrive in a ten gallon aquarium or larger. Show your betta the same love and space you'd show any other fish.
Standard Goldfish: Save a Life
When you think of fish in a tank, I'd be shocked if goldfish didn't come to your mind first. These captivating swimmers, with their mesmerizing movements and dazzling looks, hold a special place in the hearts of fish enthusiasts and beginners alike.
Goldfish thrive in nearly every freshwater condition, which means you don't have to be extra careful constantly checking the pH, water temperature, or salt levels. They have a calm, friendly temperament, allowing them to get along with most other fish species they encounter.
I brought some feeder goldfish home for my kids last year and they're super entertaining to watch and, to top it off, we saved fishy lives!
Zebrafish: A Swiminar for the Eyes
Zebrafish, or zebra danios, are a freshwater favorite among fish hobbyists. They’re easy to care for and breed because of their ability to thrive in nearly every condition. They have black and white zebra-like bodies, making them pretty easy to spot in any aquarium. Like tetras, zebrafish like to school, so you’ll want to get at least four to 10 for your tank.
Gourami: Mischievous and Adaptable
The gourami's vibrant colors and unique patterns are a visual treat for anyone's aquarium. They're generally peaceful and get along with most tank mates — and their curious and playful nature is sure to keep you entertained.
For all you newbie fish lovers — this fish is more resilient than most — so you'll have time to learn about water pH and other needs as you get to know your fish.
Molly: Watch Them Multiply!
These vibrant little swimmers are not only a treat for the eyes with their range of colors and patterns, but they're also super beginner-friendly — perfect for aquarium lovers new to keeping freshwater fish. That means, even if you're just dipping your toes into fish-keeping, mollies are pretty forgiving.
Mollies have a sociable nature that's fun to watch. They'll playfully dart around, making any tank lively and entertaining. If you're looking for a fuss-free, colorful addition to your aquatic family, mollies are a solid choice. Just be aware that, like guppies, they can be prolific breeders, so be prepared!
Swordtail: School-astic Fun for Beginners
The freshwater swordtail is a beautiful fish, and it’s super easy to tell the difference between males and females. The males legit have a sword coming off their tail! They’re easy to care for and are super active. You won’t be bored watching these guys swim around.
Since they are so active, it’s important not to add in too many decorations to give them enough space to swim freely. Don’t take out all the décor — males sometimes want to defend their territory — so you should still make sure there are plenty of hiding spots.
Swordtail fish are schoolers and do best in groups of at least 4-5.
Angelfish: Go With the Flow
Have you ever seen a freshwater angelfish in action? They're like the royalty of the fish world, all elegance with their triangle shapes and flowy fins. But they're not just pretty; these guys have personalities that'll totally charm you.
They're curious and love interacting with everything — including us humans! Sure, they need a bit of special care, like roomy tanks and the right water vibes. But trust me, seeing them thrive is totally worth it. If you want a fish with flair and spunk, angelfish are where it's at.
Kuhli Loach: Unsung Heroes
Kuhli loaches are tiny little eel-like freshwater fishies that wiggle around and hide among the nooks and crannies of your tank, but they won't eat other fish. They're the adventurers of the tank, always burrowing and checking out every corner.
Plus, they're like the unsung heroes of the tank — helping keep things clean by munching on any leftover food. They're pretty chill and low-maintenance, which is a win for both newbie and seasoned fish keepers.
Common Clownfish: The House Guest
What's more fun than adding some Finding Nemo magic to your tank? On top of being super cool, they're one of the easiest saltwater fish species to care for. These bright orange beauties, with their distinctive white stripes, are not just a treat for the eyes, but they're also pretty hardy fish, making them ideal for those new to maintaining saltwater aquariums.
They've got spunk, showing off their personalities by darting around anemones and being clowns in the water. Plus, they form fascinating symbiotic relationships with their host anemones.
Yellow Damselfish: Rough and Ready
The yellow damselfish is a burst of sunshine in any tank, not just for its bright hue, but also its spirited nature. They're resilient to various water conditions, making them a top pick for those new to marine pet-keeping.
Their active behavior and easy care make them a lively and colorful addition to any aquarium. Unlike some damselfish, it rarely bothers corals or invertebrates in the tank and adapts easily to a new saltwater aquarium.
Add cleaner shrimp as a neat tank mate to not only help keep the tank clean but also the fish.
Royal Gramma: One of a Kind
Believe it or not, there's a legit saltwater fish out there called the royal gramma. And yep, it's every bit as regal as it sounds! With a personality that's super friendly and a standout appearance, they're a treat to have in any tank. Their vibrant purple and yellow colors make them absolute show-stoppers.
Just a heads-up, though — while they're pretty friendly with their tankmates, they're not the biggest fans of their own kind. Keep one solo fish of this species and give just one royal gramma the crown to rule the tank.
Whether you're taking a dive into the saltwater scene or sticking with the freshwater fishies, getting to know the kind you're thinking about is super important. Figure out their likes, dislikes, and who they get along with. If you’re eyeing a fish that’s not on this list, do a quick check to make sure they’re compatible with the other species in the tank. Trust me, the last thing you want is a new fish that becomes fish dinner.