What Are Good Freshwater Fish For Beginners
What makes a fish a good candidate for beginners?
With compatibility, look at how well the fish will do in a community setting. Is it a peaceful fish, aggressive towards others, or not particularly "aggressive" but a little too willing to eat others? For freshwater tropical fish, schooling fish are a safe bet.
Some freshwater fish adapt better than other fish to variances in their environment.
When just starting out, go with fish who are not finicky about their food source. You have enough to worry about without having to spend time every day preparing special food (for example, if the fish requires live food).
Over all, freshwater fish are more affordable than marine livestock. However, just looking at the wide range of freshwater fish available, you'll see that some freshwater fish are more reasonably priced than others. Using prices from LiveAquaria.com (Doctors Smith and Foster's livestock site), we compare the following freshwater fish for their prices (for evaluation purposes, we limited the survey to fish reaching a maximum adult size of 2-3" in the tank):
Considering that many freshwater fish prefer to be in schools of at least six fish, the price of adding fish to your tank can really add up. We kept this list to fish that would reach an adult size of 2-3 inches. Many larger freshwater fish can be found in the $50 dollar range depending on availability and demand!
Adult Size and Size Requirements
All fish start out small but will grow, grow and grow. Not everybody will be happy with fish that stay at 2-3 inches. However, our list of beginner fish does limit fish to about under a foot at adult size so that your beginner fish will not outgrow your starter tank.
Some people want fish that breed well in tanks because they want to enjoy that aspect of fish keeping or they think they might save money with fish that self-perpetuate. Livebearers (guppies, platies, and swordtails) are notoriously effective tank breeders. Keep in mind that breeding does include its own challenges such as keeping the fry (baby fish) from getting eaten and successfully feeding the fry.
Good Freshwater Fish for Beginners
Here is our list of freshwater fish that would be great for the beginner to start with. For pricing purposes, we used the LiveAquaria.com site.
- Anabantids (Bettas and Gouramis) Bettas are also known as Siamese Fighting Fish (as in the fish that will attack its own mirror image). Bettas and Gouramis are beautiful labyrinth fishes meaning that they get air at the surface of the water through a labyrinth organ. The downside with male Bettas is that you can only keep one Betta male in a tank (you can have other fish but no other male Bettas). Gouramis are usually peaceful additions to the community tank. Price range for Bettas is $2.49 to $6.49. Price range for Gouramis is $2.49 to $12.99.
- Cichlids. There are so many different Cichlid species, that you will have no problem picking one that suits your aquarium. Cichlids can get large and are territorial during breeding season. They can be prolific in captivity? Price range for African Cichlids is $5.99 to $39.99. Price range for New World Cichlids is $3.99 to $59.99.
- Cyprinids (White Cloud Mountain Minnow, Zebra Danios, Rasboras, and Cherry Barbs) These little guys are hardy. You will find tons of color and pattern variations. You will also enjoy watching their schooling behavior. If you had to pick one fish to start with, you could not go wrong with a White Cloud Mountain Minnow. Price range is $1.29 to $7.99.
- Livebearers (Guppies, Platies, and Swordtails) These beautiful fish will stay small (under 3 inches for the most part) but that is not the only thing about these guys that makes them a great pick. Brilliantly colored and happy in the community tank, these peaceful fish are extremely easy to keep. Out of all the starter fish, they are the easiest to breed in captivity. Guppies look like they should cost way more than their going price; you'll easily get excited about these fish. Price range is $1.99 to $5.99 to $34.99.
- Tetras are so cheap it is practically criminal! Tetras are great additions to the community tank and their vivid colors will attract your attention every time they dart around in their little schools. Price range is $1.49 to $7.99 with most of them in the under $3 range.
- Loaches are bottom dwellers that differentiate themselves from most of the fish in this list. They are more secretive; they tend to hang out alone, with many being nocturnal. Loaches require currents in the water as they are stream dwellers in the wild. They will also take care of your snail population if you have a problem with it. Price range is $2.99 to $13.99.
- Discus. For the most part, too expensive for the beginner. Go for an Angelfish if you like the silhouette.
- Birchirs. These guys are interesting in that they can survive for short periods out of the water due to their lung like swim bladder. The problem with birchirs is that they will eat any other fish that they can get into their mouths. Reaching adult sizes of one to two feet, they can fit quite a lot in their mouths! They are also notorious jumpers.
- Dwarf Plecos. These fish are expensive! They are good starter fish if budget is not an issue.
- Bala Shark. This fish is not a shark at all but receives its name from its triangular dorsal fin. The bala shark is a peaceful, hardy fish but it will grow too large for the beginner's first tank (up to 10 inches when reaching adult size).
- Goldfish. Goldfish are coldwater fish; you cannot keep them with other tropical freshwater fish. They are also extremely messy (read - tons of filtration and maintenance). Beautiful and with many not that expensive, they are still a favorite of many hobbyists.
- Mollies. Mollies like brackish water. So while they do well in freshwater, they do even better in brackish water. This is okay as long as you want to keep a brackish tank.
- Pencil Fish. Interesting-looking but more sensitive to nitrate levels than other fist. Who wants to keep a "canary" like that?
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