7 Best Fish Pets for Beginners: With photos

Starting your first aquarium can be exciting, but it can also be daunting. While you have to consider factors such as tank size, aquarium location, filter, lighting, and water pH, one of the most important decisions you have to make is choosing the fish that best suits your aquarium. For a beginner, some fish are easier to care for than others.

The best fish pet for beginners is the Neon Tetra. It is small in size, peaceful, and easy to maintain. It is also a very hardy fish and can thrive in a wide range of water parameters and tank conditions. Neon Tetras have simple dietary needs and will feed on flaky, frozen, and pelleted foods.

This article will show you the seven best fish pets you can keep as a beginner aquarist. We’ll also cover everything you need to know about choosing a beginner-friendly fish.

How To Choose a Pet Fish as a Beginner

There are so many species to choose from when starting an aquarium. However, each fish is different and has its unique personalities. Some fish have low tolerance levels and are more difficult to maintain. These fish species are more delicate and can’t withstand care abuse, poor tank conditions, or improper water parameters.

Because you’re just getting into the aquarium hobby, there is still so much for you to learn, and you’re bound to make mistakes. Unfortunately, these mistakes can be costly if you’re keeping a maintenance-intensive fish. For this reason, you should only go for a fish that is easy to maintain and can survive incorrect water parameters.

In aquarium lingo, this property is known as fish hardiness. Hardy fish can thrive in a range of aquarium conditions and are more forgiving. They require less maintenance and are perfect for beginners to get their hands wet and better understand the aquarium hobby.

Once you’ve learned the ins and outs of aquariums and you’re comfortable, you can start keeping more delicate and high-maintenance fish.

Besides hardiness, there are a few other characteristics that make a fish beginner-friendly. When choosing the best fish pet for beginners, you should also consider:

  • Personality: Different fish species have varying personalities – some are aggressive while others are peaceful and easy-going. As a beginner, you want a fish that gets along with everyone, including their tank mates. This factor is more significant if you’ll be combining different fish species in the tank. The species should be compatible with each other and not chase themselves around.
  • Tank Care: The best fish pets for beginners should be easy to clean and maintain. A fish that doesn’t produce excessive amounts of waste will naturally require less cleaning.
  • Fish Size: If you’re just starting your aquarium, your tank size will probably be around 10 to 30 gallons (38 to 114 liters). We recommend opting for a fish between 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) to fit comfortably in a tank of this. You also consider the size of the fish when it’s fully grown. Your fish should not outgrow your aquarium when it reaches adult size.

Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra

The Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) is a small fish with bright blue neon and red stripes on its body. These stripes make it a beautiful addition to any aquarium. Because of its size and temperament, the Neon tetra is an excellent fish for a beginner aquarist.

Neon Tetras are one of the easiest aquarium fish to care for, and they are very peaceful and calm. Another thing that makes them beginner-friendly is their full-grown size. Neon Tetra starts at about 2/5 inches (1 cm) and grows to a maximum of 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in length. They love being in groups, so starting with a school of 3 to 5 would be ideal.

The minimum tank size for Neon Tetra is 10 gallons (38 liters) of water as it allows for stability in water quality. However, the bigger the tank size, the better. For your filter, we recommend the Aquaclear Power Filter. This filter has excellent filtration properties and is known for its superb durability. It is easy to install and is suitable for aquariums up to 50 gallons (127 liters).

In terms of feeding, Neon Tetras don’t demand much. You can feed them a wide variety of foods, including fish flakes, small granules, live foods, insect larvae, and algae. You can incorporate frozen and freeze-dried foods into their diet, including blood worms, tubifex larvae, and bone shrimp. Also, you only need to feed them once or twice a day.

Pelleted foods are also great for adult Neon Tetras as they allow for more consistent feeding by staying afloat so that the fish can easily find them. If you want to feed your Neon Tetras pellet diets, We strongly recommend Hikari Micro Pellets. This fish food contains high-quality ingredients, and the pellets are not too small or too large.

The average lifespan of Neon Tetra is five years, but it can live up to 10 years if well maintained.

Fish Specifications

  • Maximum Size: 3.8 cm (1.5 inches)
  • Water Parameters: Stable
  • Care Requirements: Easy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons (38 liters)
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 68 – 78 ℉ (20 – 25 ℃)
  • Water Conditions: Soft water; pH 5.5 – 7.5

Common Goldfish


Goldfish (Carassius auratus) is one the hardiest freshwater fish for beginners. Goldfish come in various shapes and sizes, but the most suitable for beginners are the common goldfish, comet, and shubunkin. Fancy goldfish are better reserved for intermediate aquarists as they require constant attention and are more delicate.

In terms of size, comet goldfish can grow as large as 15 inches (38 cm), while shubunkin can grow up to a maximum of 10 inches (25.4 cm). Common goldfish may grow as large as 18 inches (46 cm). Because of their size when fully grown, we recommend having a tank size of at least 20 gallons (76 liters) for common goldfish. You’ll need to upgrade to a larger aquarium as they grow bigger.

Common goldfish is one of the hardiest fish and can survive in improper water parameters for long periods. However, the fact that they can survive in poor conditions doesn’t mean you should keep them there. 

The recommended water temperature for keeping goldfish is between 60 and 70 ℉ (16 to 21 ℃). While pH isn’t as critical for a fish as hardy as Goldfish, they prefer it to be around 7.0 and 8.4. And although Goldfish are very forgiving, it is vital to maintain proper filtration and regular water changes.

For water changes, we recommend using Aqueon Aquarium Water Changer to make your work easier and prevent messy spills you would normally have with carrying heavy buckets of water around. If you use tap water, be sure to treat it with a well-formulated water conditioner like API TAP Water Conditioner (check the latest price here on Amazon) before adding it to your aquarium.

Goldfish are not picky eaters. You can feed them vegetables, spirulina algae, shelled peas, and zucchini medallions. You can also feed them flakes, pellets, and frozen foods like brine shrimps and blood worms. We recommend pre-soaking flaky food before feeding them to your goldfish.

To avoid overfeeding and excess waste production, feed them only the amount they can consume in 2 to 3 minutes, once or twice a day. Goldfish can live for more than 20 years if properly kept.

Fish Specifications

  • Maximum Size: 6 inches (15 cm)
  • Water Parameters: Stable
  • Care Requirements: Intermediate
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons (76 liters)
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 60 and 70 ℉ (16 to 21 ℃)
  • Water Conditions: pH 7.0 – 8.4

Betta Fish

Betta Fish

Betta Fish (Betta splendens), also called Siamese fighting fish or simply betta, is one of the most common aquarium fish partly due to its vibrant color and relative ease of maintenance. Although the Betta Fish only displays its color when agitated in the wild, those selectively bred for the aquarium always exhibit theirs.

Betta Fish grows to about 2.4 to 3.1 inches (6 to 8 cm) and rarely does well in a group. The male Betta gets aggressive when in the same tank with another male for territorial reasons, and the female can be aggressive as well.

Although Bettas can survive in small containers like cups and bowls, they do better in larger environments. For this reason, a tank not less than 5 gallons (19 liters) is ideal for keeping a Siamese fighting fish. You can avoid aggression in the male Betta Fish by increasing the tank’s size and observing the betta’s reaction to its new cohabitant.

Bettas are intelligent and require mental stimulation as they can get bored quickly. We recommend installing rocks, ornaments, plants, and caves in the aquarium to keep them busy. Ensure these additions have no jagged edges to avoid damage to their fins and change only 10% of their water at a time.

Siamese fighting fish is carnivorous. Although it can feed on vegetation from time to time, you need to provide it with zooplankton, aquatic insects, and larvae from mosquitoes and small crustaceans. They also eat a variety of pelleted feed and frozen foods like daphnia and brine shrimps.

Fish Specifications

  • Maximum Size: 3.1 inches (8 cm)
  • Water Parameters: Stable
  • Care Requirement: Easy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 5 gallons (19 liters)
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 75 – 82 ℉ (24 – 28 ℃)
  • Water Condition: pH 7.0



Swordtail (Xiphophorus helleri) is one of the best aquarium fishes for beginners. The male is characterized by a long yellow sword, edged in black beneath its caudal fins. However, this sword is absent in the female. They are available in a variety of colors when raised in an aquarium.

The swordtail male fish can grow up to about 5.5 inches (14 cm), and the female up to 6.3 inches (16 cm). Due to their size, they need a little more space than other smaller aquarium fish for beginners. A tank size of about 15 gallons (57 liters) will do, and in case there would be more than one swordtail, consider doubling the tank size.

Swordtails are great at jumping, so you must cover your tank to avoid the death of your fish. It prefers fast-moving waters but will also thrive in still waters. It also loves to have some vegetation in the tank as it sometimes feeds on them. They are social when cohabiting with other passive fishes. However, the males can be aggressive in the presence of other male swordfish.

They feed on various foods, including live foods such as fruit flies and bloodworms, and flake foods. They also feed on algae and vegetation in their habitat. Despite their varied appetite, ensure you provide them the ideal amount of protein.

To see your swordfish in good health, ensure you adhere to good water quality by setting your filtration system to keep your water at a normal pH or slightly alkaline. Swordfish typically lives for about five years.

Fish Specification

  • Maximum Size:  6.3 inches (16 cm)
  • Water Parameters: Fast Moving
  • Care Requirement: Easy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons (57 liters)
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 65 – 82 ℉ (18 – 28 ℃)
  • Water Condition: Very Hard, pH 7.0 – 8.5



Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) is another excellent beginner-friendly fish. They have ornamental qualities, with the male having spots, splashes, or stripes of different colors. The female is larger (grows to about 6 cm or 2.5 inches) than the male (maximum size is 3.5 cm or 1.5 inches).

Guppies are social, so you should not keep them as a single fish in an aquarium. Keep at most three guppies in a tank of 5 gallons (19 liters). However, considering their reproductive rate, a tank of 20 gallons (76 liters) will be more suitable.

Also, keep only one male to two females in a tank. Although guppies are more social when schooling with their type, they can dwell well with other gentle aquarium fishes.

Growing live plants in the aquarium is beneficial for the babies to hide in. Also, use a filter that will be gentle on the fry. We recommend hygger Aquarium Single Sponge Filter to protect the fries and prevent them from getting sucked into the system. It is also good to install an aquarium heater like the Aqueon Pro Adjustable Heater to maintain a stable temperature and healthier aquarium.

In terms of feeding, guppies can eat whatever they are offered, ranging from algae to flake foods, pelleted feed, bloodworms, and many more. They are susceptible to overfeeding and are therefore at the risk of being obese. To avoid overfeeding, feed the adult guppy twice a day and limit their feeding time to one minute. Feed the fries up to three to five smaller meals a day with the same time limit.

When well-fed and taken care of, a guppy can live for up to three and half years.

Fish Specification

  • Maximum Size:  6 cm (2.5 inches)
  • Water Parameters: Stable
  • Care Requirement: Easy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 5 gallons (19 liters)
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 72 – 82 ℉ (22 – 28℃)
  • Water Condition: Hard, pH 6.8 – 7.8

Dwarf Gouramis

Powder Blue and Red Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf Gouramis are relatively small, colorful, and peaceful aquarium fishes. They prefer quiet waters like lakes and streams and enjoy the privacy and food that live aquarium plants provide. They can grow to reach a size of 3.5 inches (9 cm).

The brightly colored male dwarf gouramis with their stripes offer quite a spectacle as an ornamental fish in the aquarium than the female. It can live peacefully with other species as long as they are not too aggressive or bigger than it is. Your tank size should be at least 10 gallons (38 liters) per fish.

Live plants in the aquarium are important for dwarf gouramis because they love to come to the surface to exchange gas. They also prefer a quiet environment as noise quickly gets them agitated.

Dwarf gourami feeds on vegetative plants such as algae and aquatic meat such as insects and small crustaceans. It also thrives on flake food and freeze-dried foods such as Hikari Freeze Dried Tubifex Worms. A combination of all these feeding options will provide dwarf gourami the best nutrition.

Fish Specification

  • Maximum Size:  3.5 inches (9 cm)
  • Water Parameters: Slow and stable
  • Care Requirement: Intermediate
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons (38 liters)
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 72 – 82 ℉ (22 – 28 ℃)
  • Water Condition: Very Hard, pH 6.0 – 7.5



Platies are exquisite to behold with their laterally flat bodies, short fins, and tails that resemble fans. They are easy aquarium fishes to handle for beginners and are quite peaceful. They generally live for about three years but can live up to five years if they are well maintained.

There are different species of the platy – southern platy, variable platy, and swordtail platy.

However, many platies are interbred, making it difficult to recognize one species from the other. A platy can grow to a length of about 2.8 inches (7 cm) and has a dark line that runs along its back for added aesthetics.

The platy is a peace-loving fish that gets along with most fishes of the same size. They thrive in tanks of at least 10 gallons (38 liters) and perform better in a bigger tank. Providing them with vegetation in the aquarium will do them a lot of good as it can also serve as a source of food for them. They perform well, whether in solitude or a community aquarium.

Platies feed on a variety of foods. They are omnivores, so they eat everything ranging from pellets to flakes, freeze-dried foods, aquatic insects, algae, and anything edible. Feeding them once a day is okay, but it’s best to divide the juveniles’ food into three meals a day. Be careful not to overfeed them, though.

Fish Specification

  • Maximum Size:  2.8 inches (7.0 cm)
  • Water Parameters: Stable
  • Care Requirement: Easy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons (38 liters)
  • Recommended Water Temperature: 70 – 82 ℉ (21 – 28 ℃)
  • Water Condition: Very Hard, pH 7.0 – 8.0

Final Thoughts

As seen in the article, the best fish pet for beginners should be hardy, easy to maintain, peaceful, and relatively small. While all the fish in my guide are suitable for beginners, the Neon Tetra is my top pick. Not only is the Neon Tetra dazzling and stunning, but it also fits all the characteristics of a beginner-friendly fish and is undemanding when it comes to feeding.

No matter the type of fish you choose, be sure to do your homework to maintain them properly. With time, you’ll understand more about fish-keeping and move to more advanced and delicate species.

Darren Black

I'm Darren Black, the owner, and author of AnimalKnowhow.com. I am from Scotland, United Kingdom and passionate about sharing useful information and tips about properly caring for an animal's wellbeing.

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