20 Expert Aquarists Reveal

3 Beginner-Friendly
Aquarium Fish

Choosing your first fish to pet is never an easy job. There are over 3,014 freshwater and 1,144 saltwater fish for you to consider even before purchasing one.

Today, we are going to show you some of the handpicked fish that are beginner friendly.

The good part?

20 experts have gathered around and give their 3 best aquarium fish that are perfect for beginners. And we have compiled those suggestions into this one big expert round-up post.

The question we asked to these expert aquarists and aquascapers is:
What are the 3 aquarium fish you would suggest to a beginner?

aquarium fish guide

Aquarium Fish Experts Round-up Post

From choosing the most beginner-friendly fish, and the reasons why they are perfect for you. This post has you covered.

Quickly navigate to experts’ insights by clicking the links below:

Jake Steventon

Senior Aquarist from Tennessee Aquarium.

When I think beginner fish I think something that is cheap, tough, and fun to watch.

The three fish I would suggest for a beginner are:

1. Common goldfish: I started with two feeder goldfish that I had for 12 years. They were super forgiving as I made lots of mistakes and they quickly learned that opening the lid probably meant they were getting fed, which I was able to capitalize on to show my friends that my fish loved me so much they would come up to kiss my finger.

2. Live bearers: Mollies, guppies, platies, etc. These fish can tolerate a wide range of water parameters, they’re pretty and they’re really easy to breed. Nothing makes you feel like a successful fish keeper more than finding babies in your tank.

3. Danios: Again, they are tolerant of less than ideal water quality, they are pretty to look at, active swimmers, good in a community tank, all around good fish. I’m particular to the giant danio myself.

One thing I would mention is that when choosing a fish it is important to do a little homework on it first. In addition to learning about its water quality and cover needs, Pet stores should be able to tell you where the fish came from. To be environmentally responsible it is best to choose fish that are either captive bred and raised or are sustainably harvested from the wild like the fish of Project Piaba. This is a fishery on the Rio Negro that is saving a huge chunk of the Amazon Rainforest by giving the locals environmentally friendly jobs. The fish they collect reproduce very quickly so they are not diminishing wild populations. Their motto is “ buy a fish save a tree” http://projectpiaba.org/


Daniela Iurascu

A representative from Aquarium Architecture

The two main types of systems available are freshwater aquariums and saltwater aquariums. We always recommend freshwater systems to a beginner in fish keeping as it requires less maintenance and the fish are hardier and less sensitive to water conditions.

However, some freshwater fish tend to be a bit more difficult to maintain than others. For example Discus fish, which are one of the most beautiful freshwater fish, are very sensitive and shy and require expert knowledge. Cichlids are hardy fish but very messy, requiring a lot of maintenance.

For a novice we recommend smaller fish, that are good tank mates and will forgive you if you skip a maintenance. One of these fish is the guppy. This is one the most popular freshwater fish species. They come in different colours are very active in the aquarium and most important are adaptable to a wide variety of conditions.

Tetras are also a great beginner fish. It is best to keep them in schools of six or more as they are a community fish. They are very peaceful and come in beautiful colours.

We would also recommend keeping platies. They are really easy to take care of and are very active in the aquarium.

They make an excellent fish for a community tank given their peaceful nature.


Dr. Juan Puchades

A contestant of the yearly AGA Aquascaping Contest

Firstly, I consider that the lemon tetra (Hyphessobricon Pulchripinnis) a perfect fish for an amateur that starts in planted aquariums. Because of its vivacity, intense yellow / green color and its ease of maintenance and water parameters, it is a wonderful fish with which it is easy to enjoy in a planted aquarium.

A successful second choice could be green neon (Paracheirodon Simulans). A fish of small size, elegant and mid-swim, ideal in open aquaria where a group of 15 to 20 specimens will do the wonders of their owners.

And finally one of my favorite fish, Iriatherina Werneri. Fish that requires an aquarium of minimum 60 cms and slightly acidic waters. The males with their coloration and fins will delight their viewers. It is important to have a minimum of 10 specimens to be comfortable, as well as a highly planted aquarium.


Mark Valderrama

An aquarium hobbyist with over 15 years experience in the industry. He runs AquariumStoreDepot.com, an e-store that specializes in aquatics supplies.

It is really based on the type of tank the person is looking for so I can break it down a little. Reef tanks are my specialty though:

Reef Tanks

  1. Ocellaris Clownfish
  2. Banggai Cardinalfish
  3. Orchid Dottyback

The reasons why – all 3 fish are available as tank bred, they are all pretty hardy, they eat pretty much anything you feed them, they have mild tempers, and are small.

Freshwater Community Tank

  1. Cardinal Tetra
  2. Swordtails
  3. Danios

The reasons why – All very hardy fish, very peaceful, like being in groups, and are very active in the tank.


Cory Hopkins

The owner of Aquascaping by Cory Hopkins, administrator of The Planted Tank Center and The Aquascapers Collective communities.

My suggestions for 3 aquarium fish great for beginners would be

  1. Betta splendins. An easy and forgiving fish, also can be very beautiful and have great personalities
  2. Guppies/Swordtails/Platys/Mollies. Also a very hardy fish and can be some of the most beautiful freshwater fish in the world! Some have long flowing fins with brilliant colors
  3. Goldfish. Although not my favorite they are very hardy and can be colorful. They can have funny shapes as well as flowing fins.

Trisha Ries

A representative from That Pet Place. Follow them on Twitter.

Well, the main question would be for what type of aquarium. If it’s freshwater we would recommend Platies, Mollies, and Tetras. They come in so many varieties, and the 3 can live simultaneously within a community tank. Platies and Mollies are livebearers, so if you are able to sex the fish (and don’t want a lot of fry in your tank), get two of the same sex ????

Saltwater we would recommend Blennies, Clownfish, and Damsels. These 3 species specifically are compatible with one another while keeping them paired with the same type; ie a pair of of lawnmower blennies would fair well vs a lawnmower blenny and a canary blenny as a pair as blennies tend to be aggressive toward other types of blennies.



A representative from Aquariadise. Follow them on Facebook.

For a beginner I would recommend easy fish that display fun behavior and ideally have bright colors, as those are all features that likely attract people to fishkeeping in the first place. My personal favorites would be:

  1. Corydoras catfish (Panda Corydoras, for example) – Fun to watch, funky look and easy to keep as long as they’re provided with the correct substrate (sand) and kept in large enough groups (6+). No large tank needed either, which is also a plus.
  2. Harlequin Rasbora (Rasbora heteromorpha) – Great for beginners looking for a schooling fish for the middle water layer. They adapt well to a pretty wide range of water values, should school well and their orange color makes them a nice eyecatcher.
  3. Not a fish, but one of my absolute favorite aquarium species is the dwarf crayfish (Cambarellus genus). These are a great introduction to invertebrate keeping and have a little more personality than dwarf shrimp, which makes them more interesting to observe. They are suitable for smaller setups (which are often favored by beginners even though many are too small to keep actual fish in) and they are available in bright orange.

Dena Edwards

A representative of Everything Aquatic. Follow them on Twitter.

The 3 fish I’d recommend to a beginner is: Guppy, Platy and Beta, depending on the tank size. So often beginners overload a tank not understanding how the bioload affects the fish or comprehend how much water each fish needs to help disperse their waste until the next water change.


Robyn Rhudy

An aquarist and ponder from fishpondinfo.com. Also follow Robyn on Twitter.

All aquarium fish have unique needs (temperature, hardness, pH, space, etc.) and personality attributes (docile, boisterous, violent) so picking the best first fish for each person is truly impossible without knowing their water chemistry and preferences. For those people with hard water, I would suggest ubiquitous guppies to start. Not only do they come in a variety of colors and fin types but they have feisty personalities and will breed easily.

For those with soft water, I suggest zebra danios and their close relatives. They are easy to care for and very active, and there are at least half a dozen variants and both short and long finned danios.

My favorite first fish would probably be the quiet little white cloud mountain minnow. This underrated fish is truly beautiful and now also has color and fin variants.

Goldfish are often someone’s first fish (including my own) but as they can grow over a foot in size and create a lot of waste, they are actually a poor beginner’s fish. Beginning goldfish keepers seem to be forever trying to just keep the tank clean. You need to know the secrets to do that!



A representative from LiveAquaria

The 3 freshwater fish we would suggest for a beginner are the Peppered Cory Cat, the Neon Tetra and Bosesmani Rainbow. All the 3 specimen are hardy, peaceful and would make a great addition to any community tank.

We will also include a link to all freshwater and saltwater fish we recommend for beginners here and here.



A pet supply store that won many awards like Better Business Bureau A+ Business Rating, Stella Service Award for Excellent Customer Service, and Google Trusted Store Rating A+ Business Rating. Follow PetMountain on Twitter

The 3 aquarium fish we recommend because they are easy to care for and beautiful to look at are Goldfish, Angelfish and African Cichlids.


Mark Barnett

A representative from AquaBid.com an online portal where you can buy and sell aquarium equipment and aquarium fish. Follow Mark on Twitter.

I would go with Swordtail, Mollies and Platies. A lot of color variety. Easy fish to keep.


Arunas Svetikas

A contestant of the yearly AGA Aquascaping Contest

If we speak about heavy planted aquarium I would choose:

  1. Hemigrammus rhodostomus
  2. Trigonostigma heteromorpha
  3. Corydoras panda

For sure you will ask why – because these species are friendly with shrimps and snails. These species will not touch your plants and will easily tolerate high level of CO2.



A destination for sustainable coral reef farming and the aquarium hobby

Captive bred clownfish, melanurus wrasse, scooter blenny.



A digital brand that provides resources for the entire pet owner experience.

Tiger Barb, Corydoras Catfish, Zebra Danios, Guppy, Platies. 


Jeff from Blue Fish Aquarium

A representative from Blue Fish Aquarium

We always suggest White Cloud Mountain Minnows, Guppies/Platies and Danios for a beginner’s first freshwater fish.

All three of the above mentioned fish are small, super hardy and get along with a variety of tank mates. Additionally, the White Clouds and the Danios can thrive in non-heated aquariums providing the temperatures don’t fall below the low 60s. So these are perfect for many of the small kits that do not have heaters included.

White Cloud Mountain Minnows are small, very peaceful and do well in planted aquariums. And because of all these attributes will do very well with freshwater shrimps once the aquarium is fully cycled and it is safe to add shrimp.

Guppies are beautiful and hardy and do well in smaller heated aquariums. They breed very easily so we recommend only males in any aquarium under 5 gallons.

Platies have similar attributes to guppies but are recommended for an aquarium of at least 10 gallons.

Danios are super hardy and can be quite colorful with our favorites being Pearl Danios and Choprae Danios. These fish should be kept with larger tetras and other danios as they sometimes can be a little overzealous with slow moving or timid tankmates.


Jan Hvizdak

The founder or aqua-fish.net

Blue Gourami, Bristlenose catfish and Paradise fish

Most people ignore Blue Gouramis, however these are absolutely stunning fish with personalities. The only general requirements for these fish is sufficient space, slow flow of water and plants in the tank. Blue Gouramis are predators and therefore shouldn’t be kept with species that cannot take care of themselves when facing a threat.

Bristlenose catfish are demanding roughly the same as Gouramis and Paradise fish and they’re suitable for all beginners as long as fishkeepers do the stuff properly. Most specimens are hardy, but it’s important to understand this species will not eat waste left by tankmates (which is a big misinterpretation of their true role in tanks). Don’t forget to offer them a lot of caves and hiding spots.

The third recommended species for beginners is the Paradise fish. These are very similar to Gouramis and are also predators which makes them an ideal candidate to a tank with no weak specimen. Their demands equal to demands of Blue Gouramis and thus they can be kept in a single tank as long as it’s big enough.

Beginners and basically all fishkeepers need to understand all mentioned species may be considered a little big when adults, so raising them in a 40 litre tank should be avoided. But their hardiness and a possibility of raising all of them in a single tank especially when they’re together as juveniles, makes them ideal and uncommon choice. Most beginners keep Guppies or various Tetras – Why copy others?


John from Aquascapingworld

A representative from Aquascapingworld.

When it comes to aquascaping, designing a harmonious aquatic landscape with live plants and inhabitants that reflects a slice of nature is the ultimate goal. In order to do this, most aquascapers focus on establishing a healthy aquatic environment with vibrant and established aquarium plants before introducing aquarium fish. Once established, the best fish to coincide with the natural aquatic-scape created are ones that school and complement the aquarium plants and the design one created. Some favoriate and easy to keep aquarium fish includ

1. Cardinal Tetras – The relatively tiny size, about one inch long, make them very suitable for an aquascape. The flashy blue and red strips on their tiny bodies do not distract from an aquascape and only provide lively movement to the landscape. They school very well, and their darting movements as a unified school add a tremendous amount of harmonious energy to any layout. On top of that, they tend to be hardy fish to keep for any new beginner

2. Endler’s Guppies (Poecilia wingei) – Endler liverbears are certainly not a schooling fish, but their small size make them an ideal inhabitant to smaller type of aquascapes, especially one with shrimp. Similar to other livebearing guppies, endlers to procreate rather quickly and easiliy giving a beginner a taste of the full cycle of aquarium life. Their smaller stature, flashy (but not overly flashy) colors are an exciting addition that will be enjoyable to watch and raise

3. Harlequin Rasboras – Harlequin Rasboras achieve about 2 inches in length, and are a very dynamic and authoritative looking school species in larger aquariums and layouts. They are orange and black with a natural triangular coloration of those two colors, which provide a very structured look to a massive set of schooling Rasboras. They are a very hard, and easy fish species to keep and enjoy wide open areas of aquarium space. When paired into a well planted aquatic landscape of lower growing plants, they can be a show piece of fish towering over an aquatic plain.


Darpan Dhawan

A contestant of 2015 AGA Aquascaping Contest

Three Aquariums Fish in Freshwater I would suggest to Beginners is:

  1. Zebra Danio/Danio rerio
    Fast moving fish, very beautiful shape, very hardy and we always recommend to beginner.
  2. Tiger Barb/Puntius tetrazona
    Another very Hardy and color fish which can be added in small as well as Large Aquariums, we always love there shoaling / schooling behavior.
  3. Betta Fish: very attractive colouration “Male”, with dancing swimming style, most beautiful and easy to keep.

Even, after recommending these all, I want to say that, when choosing a fish it is important to do a little research on it so that you can provide good water quality, right computability and scape what that fish wants.


Michaël Leroy

the Co-fondateur d’AquArtistic Design

Cold freshwater:

The goldfish is the best selling fish but I don’t suggest it because it begrims a lot the water and you need a big tank to keep this species in good conditions.

So I recommend Zebra Danios and Tanichthys albonubes. Small and beautiful fishes, they do not need big aquariums, they are very resistant, they do not pollute much (so they do not need regular water change) and are tolerant for water quality.

Temperate freshwater:

Poecilia reticulata is a classic. Easy to reproduce, tolerates many water hardness and temperatures.

Big and beautiful freshwater fishes:

African cichlids from Malawi lake. Beautiful colors, very interesting temperaments, easy to reproduce and incredibly resistant!

The hard water they need is an advantage for aquarists in many countries.


There you have it.

The perfect-for-beginner aquarium fish suggestions from 20 expert aquarist and aquascapers.

Don’t forget to share if you like it. And if you have any other fish ideas or suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below, we will add them into the round-up post above.

2 comments on “20 Expert Aquarists Reveal 3 Beginner-Friendly Aquarium Fish”

  1. NEVER put a tiger barb in a tank with long-finned fish. I don't think all of these contributors even know what they are talking about.

    1. Hi Beth.

      Thanks for the comment.
      To clarify, the suggestions we've gathered are the top 3 fish suggestions for beginners not fish combinations/compatibility.

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