Whether you’re an experienced aquarium keeper or a total novice, one of your first questions about any freshwater setup will have to do with the types of aquarium fish you select.
Thankfully, this list will help narrow down your choices. All of the pet fish on this list are hardy, attractive, fairly modest in size, and easy to care for regardless of your experience level. Most of the following species also play very well with others, so you can easily cohabitate many of them! Read on to learn more about some of the best types of aquarium fish below.
1. Pearl Gourami (Trichopodus Leerii)
Starting this list off, the pearl gourami is handsome thanks to its unique color and pattern. They are simple to care for regardless of your experience level and only grow to around 4 to 5 inches. What’s more, they can live for around 5 years in a well-maintained freshwater setup.
Social, curious, and peaceful to many of the other species on this list, pearl gouramis prefer fairly warm and acidic water. However, thanks to how hardy and adaptable they are, these spotted, peach-toned little fishes can forgive a beginner’s mistake here and there.
Keep in mind, though, that while the males are more colorful and vibrant than the females, they can be somewhat territorial to other male gouramis. It’s best to keep only one male gourami per aquarium, regardless of the tank’s size.
2. Silver Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare)
The silver angelfish is one of the more visually stunning fish on this list. It’s sure to be a centerpiece of your aquarium if you choose to give one a loving home.
With its attractive silver body color, thin black striping, and long, thin, tendril-like fins, this fish is an excellent choice for beginner aquarium keepers and experts alike. It grows to a fairly modest 6 inches in length. Silver angelfish can live for an impressive 10 years in captivity, provided you meet their care requirements.
Like many of the other species on this list, you can safely house the silver angelfish with various similar-sized tankmates. Compatible species include corydoras, plecos, mollies, gouramis, and more. They prefer fairly warm water with a pH level of roughly 6.8 to 7.8.
3. Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)
While there are many species of tetra that would be ideal for this list, the neon tetra is one of the most unique-looking. It’s also a fairly inexpensive and accessible species commonly sold by breeders and at pet shops all over the world.
The neon tetra is a small type of aquarium fish that only grows to around 1.5 to 2 inches long. Despite its diminutive size, its bright blue, orange, and silver coloring makes it easy to spot even from a distance.
Native to parts of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil, these bright little fish prefer fairly warm water. Their pH level should be roughly 4 to 7.5. They should be kept in small groups of at least 7 to 12 individuals and be provided with plenty of plants to seek shelter from time to time. Neon tetras can be housed with guppies, gouramis, mollies, and other tetras, among many other species.
4. Zebrafish/Zebra Danio (Danio rerio)
The zebrafish, also known as the zebra danio or striped danio, is a small yet visually appealing type of aquarium fish thanks to its shimmering silver body color and thin, uniform black stripes. They only grow to around 2 inches long, but they will easily stand out amongst the other fish in your freshwater aquarium.
They enjoy living amongst other zebrafish and other small, peaceful species like tetras, gouramis, corydoras, and more. They’re very inexpensive at only around $2 to $4 per fish, and their care needs are also easy to maintain long-term. Zebra danios live for around 5 to 6 years in an optimal setup. They should be kept in a tank with room temperature water and a pH level of 7.0 to 7.8.
Zebrafish are especially great for beginner aquarium keepers, as they are extremely hardy and durable. They are mild-mannered fish that can easily thrive in tanks as small as 10 gallons.
5. Common Goldfish (Carassius auratus)
The common goldfish may seem like an odd choice for this list at first, but they can actually live for up to 20 years if you put some effort into meeting their needs. Fortunately, their care requirements are very simple. These fish prefer slightly warm water with a pH level of anywhere from 7.0 to 8.4. Goldfish start off small at around 2 to 4 inches, but they can reach sizes of 10 inches or more.
These surprisingly handsome fish look great in just about any freshwater aquarium thanks to their vibrant golden-orange color and long, wispy fins. Goldfish enjoy living alongside various other peaceful species of freshwater fish. Compatible species include the aforementioned zebra danio (as well as other danio species), platys, plecos, and more.
Perhaps the best thing about the common goldfish is, well, how common and thus inexpensive it is. Whether you’re a total beginner or a seasoned aquarium keeper, goldfish are always a great choice to fill up space. Plus, they are social, mild-mannered, and curious, so you’ll enjoy observing them in captivity.
6. Goldeneye Cichlid (Nannacara anomala)
There are perhaps dozens of great, easy to care for cichlid species ideal for all types of freshwater aquariums, but the goldeneye cichlid is definitely one of the more visually appealing. Its silvery and yellow color and golden-yellow eyes make it stand out despite its small size of 2 to 3 inches.
These peaceful little fish enjoy living in groups, both amongst their own species and alongside other small, non-territorial species. They prefer warm water of around 72 to 75F with a pH level of around 6 to 7.5.
Keep in mind that goldeneye cichlids are fairly prolific breeders. This means you’ll need to provide them with a fair amount of plant cover and spawning areas.
7. Black Skirt Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi)
Though I’ve already mentioned the neon tetra on this list, there are so many excellent tetra species that I had to include another. The black skirt tetra goes by many names. You’ll sometimes hear them referred to as black widow tetras, petticoat tetras, or simply black tetras.
These small fish aren’t the most vibrant in color. However, their wide eyes, handsome black stripes, and black skirt-like fins make them a lovely addition to any freshwater tank. They fare especially well in medium-sized community tanks made up of other small and peaceful fish. Compatible species include gouramis, danios, and various other tetras (including the neon tetra mentioned earlier). Black skirt tetras also generally prefer existing around at least 5 to 10 other members of their species, as they are schooling fish.
Inexpensive and easy to feed and care for, this particular type of aquarium fish thrives in tanks with fairly warm water with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.5.
8. Rainbow Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)
If you want a colorful fish that’s easy to care for and can coexist easily with plenty of other freshwater species, look no further than the stunning rainbow platy! They prefer living alongside at least 3 to 6 other members of their own species. They also do well with other fairly small fish like tetras, plecos, mollies, guppies, gouramis, and many more.
The rainbow platy is small in size at only 2 to 3 inches, but its beautiful orange, red, blue, silver, and green coloration makes it stand out with ease. If its minimal care requirements are met, it can easily thrive in captivity for up to 4 years.
In general, these colorful fish prefer living in aquariums at least 10 to 20 gallons in size. They fare best in warm water with a pH level of around 6.8 to 8.5.
9. Albino Corydoras (Corydoras aeneus)
Many corydoras species are great for both beginner and expert aquarium keepers alike, but the albino corydoras is perhaps one of the most interesting to look at. These tiny catfish are peaceful bottom feeders who coexist well with various small freshwater fish. Compatible species include tetras, danios, and other corydoras. They grow to around 2 to 3 inches long and can live for around 5 to 8 years in captivity.
Like most other species on this list, the albino corydoras is hardy and easy to care for. They can easily thrive in tanks as small as 10 to 15 gallons and especially enjoy living alongside other members of their species.
Ideally, these silver and pink fish should be kept in warm water with a pH level of 6.0 to 8.0.
10. Common Molly (Poecilia sphenops)
Finally, we have the common molly, also sometimes known as the short-finned molly. These peaceful little fish are available in a wide variety of different colors and patterns, from black to orange and gold and even albino.
Common mollies can easily be cared for in tanks as small as 10 gallons in size, and they play well with other small freshwater species, including corydoras (like the albino variety mentioned above), danios, gouramis, and tetras. They prefer warm water with a pH level of around 7.5 to 8.5. If their needs are consistently met, common mollies can live for up to 5 years in captivity and grow to around 4 to 5 inches long.
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