Fish keeping is a popular hobby worldwide. Many people join the legion of aquarists every year and are considered beginners at this hobby. The wide variety of fish species available commercially can be intimidating to a new aquarist. Choosing your fish based only on their physical characteristics is a sure way to get into trouble. When starting out you should choose fish that are easy to keep. As you become more experienced in the art of fish keeping you can specialize and have aquariums full of exotic and hard to maintain specimens. This list concentrates on freshwater fish.
There are several characteristics that a fish must possess to be included in my list. It must be hardy and able to tolerate less than optimum tank conditions as the aquarists learns how to maintain their aquarium properly. They should be easy to care for and not require very specific diets. I believe the fish species should also be peaceful and not look to dominate or injure their tank mates. I would like to help you get started by showing you some of the best starter fish for your aquarium
1. Neon Tetras
The brightly colored neon terra is one of the smallest of the tetra family. It is a hardy, timid and peaceful fish that will accept both flake and frozen foods. Neons love to school so you can keep as many together as your tank will handle. They will thrive in a well planted aquarium and are good very good members of a community tank.
Danios are a good starter fish as they can tolerate a variety of water conditions. Maintaining good water condition is often challenge for the new aquarist, so the danio is a perfect choice for beginners. They are colorful and most species have a horizontal stripe running the length of their body. Best kept in small schools, these fish are very active and tend to stay in the middle to top portion of your tank. Danios will do fine on flake food. The Zebra danio pictured below is one of the more commonly available species.
Guppies are small, beautiful, live bearing fish that are perfect for the novice aquarist. They are extremely hardy and will accept all types of foods both dry and frozen. Guppies are extremely colorful and are available in many varieties. They are easily sexed as the males have ornate tails and fins while the females are much more subdued and plain looking. Guppies are one of the easiest fish to breed so if that aspect of fish keeping interests you they are an excellent choice. Keep males and females in the same aquarium and you will soon have baby fish! If this is not what you want you can segregate the sexes into different tanks.
Platies are another peaceful live bearer that do well in community tanks. They are easy to care for with no stringent dietary requirements. Platies are available in a wide assortment of colors to suit your taste. They are non aggressive and should be kept with other fish of similar temperament. All the fish in this list can co-exist in the same aquarium as long as it is properly sized.
5. Cherry Barb
The cherry barb is a small, colorful member of the barb family. Its tolerance for changing water conditions and its varied diet make it a great fish for beginners. These fish do better in a tank that is planted or has some hiding spaces as they are wary of their new surroundings.
Given some time they will become accustomed to your tank becoming very active and entertaining to observe.
6. Betta Fish
The beautiful betta is a good starter fish with the caveat that only one male be kept in a tank. The males very aggressive towards each other so must be kept singly. That said, their long flowing fins make them a delight to observe. They can co-exist with other species but you need to avoid fin nippers such as barbs. You should also not keep a betta with guppies as the betta may mistake the flowing tail of the guppy for another betta and get aggressive. A pair of bettas can be kept safely and can be fed carnivorous flake food.
7. Cory Catfish
Cory cats come in many varieties and are a perfect fish of the beginning aquarist. They are peaceful scavengers that will assist in keeping your tank clean by constantly searching for food scraps that reach the substrate. They are tolerant of varied water conditions and are very entertaining to watch. Sinking pellet food can e used to supplement their diet of scraps. These fish prefer to live in small schools and I would suggest that all new aquarists obtain a few of these fish for their new tank.
8. Black Skirt Tetra
Also known commonly as the Black tetra, this is another small member of the tetra family that makes a good choice as a starter fish. They are peaceful and should be kept in a group of 6 or more individuals. They eat any food available and tend to swim in the middle range of your tank. They will benefit from a planted tank as they tend to avoid confrontations and like places to hide.
The swordtail is another live bearing fish that makes a great starter fish. Named after the long tail of the male of the species, the fish are peaceful, hardy and will do well in a panted aquarium. Their diet is plant based so they will help with some algae control. A vegetable based flake food is recommended to supplement their diet.
Best Starter Fish
I hope this list helps you get off on the right foot with your new hobby. Starting with these fish will make the hobby more enjoyable and as you gain experience you can branch out in many ways. Please post any comments on this list and share it with your friends. Good luck with your new aquarium!