If this is your first ever home aquarium, and you have never kept fish before, this article is going to be the best possible starting point. We have conjured up a list of 13 tropical freshwater fish, that are perfect for both beginners, and advanced fishkeepers alike. Why 13? Your guess is good as ours.

Before that, let’s take a  quick look at what constitutes a good freshwater fish for beginners.

What Makes A Fish Beginner Friendly?

The first thing you will learn about tropical fishkeeping is that every fish is different, and you can’t simply throw a bunch of them into a tank, and leave them be. There is a LOT more to it than that. When looking for beginner freshwater fish, you need a species that will tick a few boxes;

  • They are hardy, and can endure more tragic conditions. We know you will treat your fish as well as you can, but when filling your first aquarium, it’s a good idea to choose fish which can survive in less than optimal conditions and won’t be as threatened by changes in the water parameters. This gives you a little leeway, and more room for mistakes.
  • They are easy to care for. You are still learning, so don’t choose something that needs constant care and attention.
  • They are peaceful and get on with other fish. Different fish have different levels of aggression, and while some may live peacefully with other fish, some won’t, so it’s important to choose fish which will live together as a community, and don’t spend their time attacking and eating each other.
  • They will fit in your tank. Knowing the size in which a certain species of fish will grow is crucial when populating your tank. There is no point owning fish which can grow to be 2 feet long if your tank is only 2 feet wide itself. Most of the fish in this list will stay around 2 to 3 inches, making them perfect for the starter aquarium.

Whilst this list is just a small example of the types of fish you can keep at home in a beginner aquarium, we believe that these 13 are perfect for those with little experience, and each tick all the boxes we mentioned before when looking for tropical freshwater fish.

Neon Tetra

neon tetra freshwater fish

Although small in size, these beautifully coloured, cool freshwater fish will surely take advantage of every bit of space in your tank and are one of the easiest fish to care for. They love being in groups, so the bigger the group, the happier they will be, so don’t be afraid of keeping as many as you want.

Their diet is simple, and they can be fed basic fish flakes, although they do enjoy the odd blood worm or brine shrimp every now and then. Check out the Neon Tetra Care Guide for more information.


danio fish

One of the more hardy freshwater aquarium fish available for beginners are Danios. Due to their hardiness, they are the perfect fish for people who don’t have much experience with setting up a tank. They can survive in a variety of different water conditions.

Danios are generally very active and fun to watch. In terms of their diet, they will be more than happy with fish flakes.

Our favourite Danios to keep are the Zebra Danio, and the Giant Danio.



A perfect fish for the community tank. Platies are a very peaceful fish which will live peacefully with any other non-aggressive fish. There are lots of varieties to choose from, and they come with a variety of different colours, as a result of selective breeding.

Platies are not picky when it comes to diet. They will eat any type of flake foods, as well as most frozen live foods.


freshwater fish

A colorful freshwater aquarium fish that are perfect for beginners are Guppies. Although the behaviour and characteristics tend to be the same from fish to fish, Guppies come in a wide range of colours. They are a hardy fish, and they can eat regular fish flakes. However, like many fish on this list, they can also eat frozen (or live) brine shrimp, blood worms, and Daphnia. The fact that Guppies can go over a week without food, shows how hardy they are.

If you are interested in keeping Guppies, it’s important to know the difference between a male and a female. Guppies breed like crazy, so if you were to tank the two sexes together, you can expect a lot of Guppy babies. To stop this from happening, simply keep all males, or all females, unless of course, you are in this game to breed them.

Check out our comprehensive guppies care guide for more information.

Kuhli Loach

bottom feeders for beginners

Originating from the tropical region of Southeast Asia, the Kuhli loach is an eel-like fish which, because of its size, ability to adapt to water changes, and the fact that it is peaceful, has made its way into our list of best freshwater fish.

Being a bottom feeder, the Kuhli Loach will eat just about any spare food that has dropped to the bottom of the tank, including live foods such as worms and shrimp. The bulk of their diet should be general fish pellets.

They are a peaceful fish who will live happily with most other non-aggressive fish, but make sure you don’t house them with anything too big which may mistake them for food. To keep them happy, you should keep at least 3 at a time.

Cherry Barb

home aquarium fish

Although they may take a while to settle into their new tank, Cherry Barbs are the perfect freshwater fish for a home aquarium for all of the reasons listed above. They can tolerate big changes in water parameters, they are friendly (unlike their long-lost cousins Tiger Barbs), they only grow to around 2 inches long and in general, they are an easy fish to take care of.

As one of the most endangered species of fish in the wild, the Cherry Barb is still a favourite within the fishkeeping community, thanks to it’s bright, eye-catching colours, and it’s entertainment value. They are a very active fish, and once they become accustomed to their new surroundings, they will be very active and fun to watch.

In order to make your Cherry Barb feel as settled and as secure as possible, we recommend that you keep some live plants, allowing them to hide whenever they feel the need. Barbs can take a while to come out of their shell. They are best kept in schools, so anything above 6 is preferred.

In terms of dietary needs, they will eat just about any type of fish food, although they may not take to it at first if it’s a new tank. Give them a couple of weeks and they will be eating comfortably.

Fire Mouth Cichilid

firemouth cichilid

Given its name because of the red colouration of its scales during breeding, the Fire Mouth Cichilid is a perfect fish for new fishkeepers. Although they CAN become pretty territorial during breeding season, they are relatively friendly. To be on the safe side, we recommend you keep these on their own, but if you want to mix them with other species, then make sure you provide rocks or an upturned plant pot where they can hide away in peace, to lay their eggs.

Adult Cichlids can grow to be around 6 inches long, and their diet can consist of regular flake food. Thanks to their popularity, you can find them at most pet stores, and they are generally very cheap, which is another advantage when looking to fill your own aquarium.

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