Best Freshwater Fish for Newbies

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

A newbie can learn the fundamentals of aquarium maintenance by experimenting with various beginner fish varieties. Numerous fish species are suitable for beginners, including heavenly peal danios, golden dwarf barbs, neon tetras, pygmy Corydoras, guppies, betta fish, and dwarf gourami.

Small fish tanks are an excellent way to begin started in the hobby of raising freshwater fish. When cared properly, small freshwater aquariums can be gratifying and entertaining for hours.

Top Freshwater Fish Species

Golden Dwarf Barbs

Small golden fish with faded black banding are known as golden dwarf barbs. As adults, the fish grow to be around 1.5 inches long and can live for 2-3 years. Golden dwarf barbs are gentle and can coexist with a variety of fish species, making them ideal for small tanks.

Males are often slimmer than females. Because this species teaches, it is best to keep a group of them together.

Celestial Peal Danios

Celestial peal danios are little blue fish with white, yellow, or brown spots on their bodies. Because their look is sometimes connected with a galaxy, they are referred to as heavenly.

Males and females can be distinguished by size and color. Males are thinner and brighter, with a red stripe running across the centre of the fish. Males have a crimson belly as well. Females are less vibrantly colored, with orange to transparent fins.

These fish prefer to live in small groups of 10 or more, where they can hide under rocks and vegetation.  Because males might become aggressive, it is critical to keep more females than males.

Neon Tetras

Neon tetras are little South American fish with blue, red, and white colors all over their body. They are classified as neon due to their vivid coloration and a red stripe that runs through only half of their body.

Neon tetras reach a maximum size of 1-1.5 inches and are a schooling fish, thus maintaining many fish is advised. When housed in proper conditions, they can live anywhere from 5 to 10 years.

Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf gourami are a lovely tiny red fish with blue vertical striping that would look great in a small tank. There are numerous color schemes to choose from. They are the largest of the fish mentioned, ranging in size from 3.5 to 4.5 inches.

Dwarf gourami are peaceful fish that prefer to live in the top part of the water column. Because they are not aggressive, this species may coexist with other fish species.

They require more area because they are larger fish. You can safely house three dwarf gourami in a 10-gallon aquarium. When combining species, one or two will complement other non-aggressive species effectively.

Pygmy Corydoras

Pygmy Corydoras are small silver and black catfish that are perfect for aquariums with limited space. They are one of the smallest fish for tiny aquariums and are perfect for them. These fish are friendly and can coexist with other species. Males of this species are smaller than females, and both sexes reach a maximum length of 1 inch.

This species forages hunts food on the habitat's bottom, frequently sifting through the dirt with its barbells. This species can be housed in a 10 gallon tank with up to 8 other individuals. Pygmy Corydoras should also be housed with smaller fish species to avoid being eaten by tankmates.


Guppies are excellent starter fish. Guppies are little fish that grow to no more than 2 inches in length. They can have beautifully sculpted tails, making them excellent display fish.

Guppies are viviparous (live-bearing) in captivity and breed easily. If you want to breed these fish, you should have 1 male for every 2-3 females.

Guppies can be kept as a single species in a gorgeous tank, or they can be kept in a tank with neon tetras or Pygmy Corydoras. Guppies should not be kept with any aggressive fish.

Betta Fish

Betta fish could be ideal beginning pets in a small aquarium, such as a 10-gallon aquarium. This fish is quite aggressive. Males of this species should live alone, although females can live in sororities.

Tips for Small Fish Tanks

Cleaning a fish tank is essential. The smaller the fish tank, the more frequently it must be cleaned. Toxic nutrients accumulate in the water over time and must be eliminated from the system. Biological, mechanical, and chemical filtering are all required, but are frequently insufficient.

It is recommended to start a routine cleaning and maintenance schedule. This should involve weekly water changes (10-20% of the water) and gravel vacuuming of the substrate. These are two simple methods for removing waste from fish and leftover food.

A reasonable rule of thumb for determining how many fish can be safely housed in a fish tank is one fish per gallon. However, this is dependent on the size of the fish, how frequently the fish eat, the filtration, and the tank's water chemistry. Water chemistry in smaller tanks can be more volatile and easily changed than in bigger tanks.

Depending on the size of the fish, a tiny 10-gallon tank should contain 6-8 fish. Many filters are available that may be used in small tanks and provide enough mechanical filtration to keep your fish healthy. For an all-in-one filtering system, small canister filters can be employed. In these little aquariums, under gravel filters can also be employed. Hang on filtration systems are also popular in small tanks. Depending on the size of your tank and the number of fish in it, it may be a good idea to install a filter that is larger than the total amount of water. Overfeeding tiny tanks is a common occurrence.Overfeeding your small tank can easily affect the water chemistry, causing the water to become hazardous to the fish.

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