Zebra Danios in a home aquarium.

Choosing Beginner Fish

It is very easy to go to a local fish store and see some colorful fish that you might think would be fun to keep, then buy them without knowing what it takes to keep them in a home aquarium. Throughout the hobby you can find thousands of species of aquarium fish, and each species will have its own specific needs for a home aquarium. It is always a wise time investment to do some research in books and online to learn about what the fish require for upkeep before making a purchase at a local pet store. When you do the research, remember that good beginner species are those which are easy to care for.

A second good idea before buying any fish is to plan a trip to your local fish store and just look at the selection of fish that they have for sale. Make it an informational trip, and ask about the different species without spending money. Make note of which they recommend as beginner fish that interest you. That will help you carefully plan what to keep in your aquarium.
Red Oscar and Tiger Oscar in a home aquarium.

Water Chemistry and Compatibility

Each fish has its own specific preferences when it comes to water chemistry and temperature. Each species also has different temperaments, some may be peaceful and other will be territorial and aggressive. Some species are better when kept as single specimens or in small groups of their own species. Another species may prefer to live in larger groups of their own kind, or others that are closely related. Different species like to live in different areas of the tank, and are bottom dwellers, while other may live in the middle and up areas of the tank. Good beginner fish are hardy and can live in a wide range of water conditions. When considering what fish to get as a first time aquarium owner it is a good idea to look for species that can tolerate a wide range of water conditions.

A very important consideration for what fish to buy is to find out how big they will get. Most local fish stores keep juveniles in their tanks, so you should look for information how big they will get. Take into consideration how big the fish will get when buying a tank and make sure the tank is going to be large enough to provide ample swimming space for the fish. A beginner aquarium owner should plan to have more space in their aquarium than the recommended minimum. This will make tank maintenance easier.

Lastly as a first time aquarium owner you should look at the compatibility of the species that you like. You two options with choosing compatible species is to either keep only peaceful community fish or keep a species tank that has one specific species of fish. Here are some good beginner species to consider for either a community tank or a species tank:

Community Fish

  • Zebra Danio - Easiest species of community fish to keep.
  • Leopard Danio - Closely related to the Zebra Danio.
  • Scissor Tail Rasbora - Excellent community fish.
  • Harlequin Rasbora - Great community fish that's easy to keep.
  • Lemon Tetra - Best choice of Tetra for a beginner.
  • Black Widow Tetra - Another good choice for beginners.
  • Blue, Opaline, or Gold Gourami - Best beginner Gourami.
  • Pearl Gourami - Another great beginner Gourami
  • Betta Fish - Great for beginners and are healthier if kept in an aquarium.
  • Bolivian Ram Cichlid - Great dwarf cichlid that's easy to keep.
  • Kribensis - Another great dwarf cichlid.

Non-Community Fish

  • Convict Cichlid- Tough little cichlids that are good for beginners.
  • Firemouth Cichlid - Good looking and great for beginners.
  • Green Terror - Aggressive but easy to care for and good for beginners.
  • Tiger Oscar Cichlid - These fish can get big, but are easy to keep.
  • Demasoni Cichlid - Popular and agreesive drawf cichlid.
  • Kenyi Cichlid - Good beginner African cichlid.
  • Electric Yellow Cichlid - Excellent and very popular African cichlid
  • Sunshine Peacock Cichlid - One of the most popular peacock cichlids.
  • Azureus Cichlid - The most blue cichlid in the hobby and good for beginners.