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Best fish to pet in aquarium: 18 easiest fish to keep alive for beginners

Best fish to pet in aquarium are some of the easiest fish to take keep alive. These are highly recommended for buddying beginner aquarists. With just a little asking around and researching, you easily stock your aquarium.

Besides being the beautiful décor to your room, reducing stress and lowering blood pressure are some of the health benefits of keeping an aquarium. For that, there are quite a number of low maintenance freshwater fish.

Unlike saltwater aquariums, freshwater aquariums are much easier to maintain and as such, most ideal for starting off learners.  Additionally, they have a wide species variety of freshwater fish that you can keep. Most of the best fish for beginners are not only some of the easiest fish to keep alive but also low maintenance fish.

Easiest fish to keep alive; The best fish to pet in freshwater aquarium

Here is a list of 18 low maintenance freshwater fish that a beginner can keep. You’ll un-challengingly learn on towards being that experienced aquarium hobbyist;

#01. Guppies:

On this list of the easiest fish to keep alive, the guppies tops. Infact, they are widely considered the best first fish 🐠 that’s easy to keep and maintain. In fact, they are hardy aquarium fish and ranks tops among best fish pets for beginners. As a beginner, you’ll enjoy keeping them purely because of their color variety display. Uniquely, the males exhibit a lot more flamboyance than their female counterparts.

Easiest fish to take care of

Advisedly, you are better off keeping them in sets of 3. The rule to remember though is “a gallon of water per guppy”.  

Their ease of adapting to various water conditions and their liveliness increases their popularity. However, if the sexes aren’t separated, it results in uncontrolled breeding in the tank. Well, if all you want is their beauty effect, keep males only.

Animal based feeds and a mixture of plant forms the main diet for the guppies.

#02. Goldfish:

Another fantastic from the list of best starter fish. They will vary in breed, shape, color, size among other distinguishing attributes.

Hoping not to scare you off, for starters, note that 20 gallons per goldfish is the ideal minimum tank size. Why you ask? Well, don’t be duped by their small size before maturity; they’ll grow bigger that they’ll need a tank upgrade soon.

Easiest fish to take care of

That said however, as a beginner, you’re better starting off with long-body goldfishes. After that, you can transition to fancy goldfish having learnt and gained tank management experience. Their resilience and hardiness make them a bit forgiving even in the face of mistakes by the keeper.

The anticipated challenge with goldfish in general is that of poor feed conversion. Subsequently, there is more waste as a result in their tank compared to other fish species. As a result, frequent water changes and filtration is a critical care aspect. Shubunkin, Sarasa and Comet varieties are some of the best low maintenance fish for beginners.

In a stable aquarium with no water quality challenges as well as proper feeding, a goldfish in captivity can live way past 25 years. Therefore, it sure is one of the easiest fish to keep alive that can be family for decades. It’s such a super hardy fish among the easiest fish to keep alive.

#03. Mollies:

Another beautiful pet fish from my list of best freshwater fish for beginners. These are easily adaptive to various water conditions. Comfortably lives in a fresh warm water tank. Moreover, they are hardy, very easy to please and care for.

Notably, this omnivorous fish is a livebearer ( in other words, it gives birth instead of laying eggs) and multiplies rapidly. Because fertilization is internal, its outer appearance may not explicitly indicate if pregnant.

Easiest fish to take care of
female molly

As a result, half the chance is, you might carry home an expecting molly. Don’t be shocked then if in a few days, your tank is littered with younglings. Therefore, if you don’t want that, then keep one gender only.

Luckily, they have sexual dimorphism (meaning you can easily identify different sexes). Subsequently, it will be easy even for a beginner to pick out the sex they want to keep. Additionally, should you want to keep both sexes and at the same time check for population explosion, then, separate tanking is most ideal.

However, they could still be in the same tank which has an aquarium divider. Unfortunately, this has no guarantees.

#04. Swordtail:

This is a very passive, shy but social easy pet fish with a relatively long lifespan. It gets its name from the long sword-like fin along its ventral/bottom side.

While it looks tough as nails, it’s actually one of the easiest pet fish to keep alive and happy. Its hardiness and low-maintenance demands have certainly earned it the name “beginner only” fish.

Moreover, it has a wide range of beautiful colors variations. 

Though it is very peaceable, males may however be aggressive with a temper flair-up on tank-mates. Mostly, it’s an effort to stamp dominance. This though is extremely rare.

In addition, it enjoys groups of at-least 5 though you will hardly catch them swimming in groups. Swimming is maybe in loosely grouped schools.

Has a high tolerance to wide water temperatures range. This is as a result of it being a highly sturdy tropical fish.

Being omnivorous, it therefore can eat almost anything making it very easy to care for. Live and frozen foods as well as flake foods are the main feeds.

It’s advised to have a male for every 2 females to avoid male exhaustion. In-case you want to breed, keep the parents from the fry, else, they’ll be eaten.

#05. Betta Splendens:

This sturdy tropical fish is another of the unchallenging fish to keep alive that is low maintenance. That, and its coloration vibrancy (green, red, blue) make it very popular.

Being omnivorous, their feeding is rather easy; plants and animal feeds. For instance, betta specific pellets are a great source of wholesome nutrition. However, NO over feeding; feed only its eye’s sized food portions.

Fierce territorial aggression is prevalently in males to those of similar species. Therefore, this necessitates that only one male is kept in an aquarium. This aggression has earned them the name Siamese fighting fish”. Actually, they are certainly born fighters.

Easiest fish to take care of

That attitude consequently forces its solitary tanking. By this, you’ll eliminate chances of attacks/confrontations with other species particularly attracted by betta’s spectacular, long, lavish and luxurious fins.

However, with all this, they are not only some of the best first fish but also some of easiest fish to keep alive and jolly.

However, bettas can still be tanked with other fish but must most importantly be peaceable and compatible fish species.

Just to clarify; while they look small and assumed to only be fit for small ornamental tanks, bettas ideally need bigger aquariums. In addition, the tank should have a reliable heater, filter and a thermometer (beginner friendly aquarium kit).

However, to improve water temperature consistency, have higher water volume.

Caution however; use the right sized filter and ensure to divert or push the flow deeply downward. Why you ask? Well, because the betta’s long and highly delicate fins make it possible for strong water flows to easily push it around. This risks tearing off of the fins particularly if they’re forced to brush against any sharp surface protrusions.

In addition, to eliminate fins tear fears, ensure tank décor is specific to bettas for safety (easily available. No reason to worry). Such décor is available for all its size stages.

Above all, complete its tank set-up with good aquarium lighting, driftwood and less “attention needing” live aquatic plants.  As a result, all these will accord it great hideaways and exploratory swimming areas. Nonetheless, it’s still one of the easiest fish to keep alive.

Further, uniquely and unlike many fish species, their labyrinth lungs enable it to breathe air out of the water. This happens when it swims at the water surface especially if kept in an aquarium with low oxygen concentration.

#06. Zebra Danios:

This is another of popular low maintenance and easy fish to keep. Its hardiness makes it ideal for many beginner aquarists. Their burst of energy, great personality and horizontally stripped (gill to tail), zebra-like pattern make it easily recognizable. Some are long-finned, veil-tailed, albinos or even golden.

Their fin lengths and color variations for instance add feathers on their beauty cap. Spectacularly, the fluorescent jellyfish protein in its genes gives it a varying special day-glow. In addition, LED lighting makes the glow even more pronounced. You want to bring out the best in them? Keep them in a school of at-least six.

Room temperatures are the ideal tank temperature requirements for Zebra Danios. As such, just like fancy goldfish will need a heater during winter (see article: do goldfish need a heater?), similarly, they too will need a heater during winter.

Easiest fish to take care of

While they are generally omnivorous, they have a liking of small live or frozen foods besides fresh plant foods. However, the normal standard commercial micro pellets and/or flakes are equally good feeds.

Another of their attributes is that they offer good parenting. Unlike many, they don’t eat their eggs and/or fry.

When starting off, ensure to stock your tank with only healthy Zebra Danios. How do you tell? Well, apart from the gills on both sides being covered by a full operculum, the spine should be straight.

To sum up, all you need to do is to maintain water quality and they’ll live long and happily.  You may have to keep your tank covered. Don’t be surprised when they jump out.

#07. Red Wagtail Platy:

These are relatively hardy tropical fish that may bear with your excuses for a non-optimal tank conditions. They come in an array of exotic colors variety and combinations. This is as a result of specific selective breeding.

Their passiveness, peace/social ability and lack of aggression make them good community tank fish. Well, as you’d expect, just a little fussy when it’s eating time.

Low maintenance freshwater fish for beginners

And because they are live-bearing fish, they therefore multiply very fast. Some species are however fry-predators.  As a result, you should do a quick separation. Therefore, if you don’t want this rapid breed, just keep same sex specimen.

Because they are omnivorous, animal/meet and plant based foods form the core of their diet. These include flakes, dried and freeze dried feeds for proteins besides the algae growing on the substrate.

Caution: While they maybe hardy, first ensure the tank has completed nitrogen cycling process. Like most fish, it will not adjust fast enough. Therefore, you risk killing it if tanked before the cycle is over to establish beneficial bacteria.

#08. Tetras:

For beginner aquarium hobbyists, this is another among the freshwater’s easiest fish to keep alive. They come in various varieties, with Neon Tetra being the most popular. The bright red stripe running along their blue bodies (from mid-body to caudal fin) make them easily recognizable.

Other common tetra varieties include Black Neon, Congo and Cardinal Tetras. 

Low maintenance freshwater fish for beginners

They thrive in groups of at-least 6 in a densely planted tank with rocks and driftwoods for hideouts. However, overly lit and exposed aquarium sups away their confidence making them very timid and shy.

In addition, but for only when they feel threatened or stressed, they are never aggressive. Rather, they are lively and very peaceable.

Their diminutive size barely has impact on the water quality. This, for instance makes caring for them even easier. You just keep then in an established, stable and biologically mature tank. Most importantly though, ensure consistency of water temperatures.

They easily and quickly breed. This therefore poses the risk of inbreeding. How do you tell its happening? Well, check out for misshapen fins, gill cover (operculum) missing or even asymmetrical mouths as basic signs.

They are omnivorous. As a result, minute fish, micro pelleted feeds and flakes to match their size form their diet.

#09. Corydoras Catfish:

This is another of low maintenance fish for beginners. Cory fish is a lively yet peaceful freshwater fish that prefers the bottom end of the tank. The most common cory species include but not limited to panda cory, emerald green cory, pepper/blue leopard cory as well as bronze and albino cory.

In groups of above 3 makes for a great tank but you can still keep it alone. Critically, they should only be in a community tank with other calm and non-aggressive tank-mates.

Low maintenance freshwater fish for beginners

Their bottom dwelling nature consequently make them perfect tank cleaners. They swirl on the substrate and gravel gleaning and scavenging for feeds and scraps. Consequently, it’s best fed with sinking foods.  

Caution however; the substrate/gravel MUST be free of piercing and sharp materials. Such materials certainly will bruise their under bellies or even decapitate the whiskers. Both of which are very sensitive. 

For adaptation, captivity stunts its growth. Subsequently, an overly large tank is not necessarily needed.

Just like bettas, they too have labyrinth lungs. Coupled with their intestinal lining ability to breathe oxygen outside of the tank, living in a low oxygen tanks is easy.

#10. Barbs:

In your list of the best fish to pet in aquarium, barbs shouldn’t miss out. They’ll fill your community tank with liveliness. There are several varieties but the most popular ones are Odessa, Cherry, Tiger and Golden Dwarf Barbs.

Cherry barbs in particular are very peaceful. They have a golden lateral line on their silver/black body. However, during spawning, the males’ color turns cherry-like. It’s from there, that they derive their name.

Easiest fish to take care of

For Golden Dwarf Barbs, recognition is mainly by the body’s black markings and yellow-like golden color.

Barbs will comfortably thrive in a well planted tank. Additionally, they do well in groups of at least 6. Well, this will reduce the problem of fin nipping as some of the barb species exhibit a little aggression.

Barbs are omnivorous; therefore will feed on both plant and animal based feeds. Flake foods, live, dried and frozen foods are a staple diet in captivity.

#11. Rainbowfish:

Originally from Southeast Asia and Australia, it’s another of the best low-maintenance freshwater fish for Beginners. It’s one among friendly aquarium fish that don’t die easily. The beauty marvel of its vibrant and stunning colors doesn’t show till maturity. Your wait will be well rewarded and your “what fish should I get?” question might just get answered with this easy pet fish . Actually, larger schools make the intensity of their coloration beauty more pronounced. 

It’s a shy, peaceable, sociable schooling fish yet relatively hardy. Groups of 6 are just perfect. However, their timidity causes them to isolate from aggressive tankmates. This is especially bad because they won’t jostle for food.

Easiest fish to take care of

One of the most common rainbowfish is the blue-eyed spotted rainbowfish. It thrives well in a densely planted aquarium. Besides providing hideouts, the tank plants replicate their natural habitation.

Well, just maintain a stable aquarium’s water quality and other parameters and you’ll have a lively tank. However though, compared to other freshwater fish their size, their waste is somewhat more. As a result, you’ll need a good filter.

They are omnivorous and therefore very easy to feed and care for.

#12. Angelfish:

From the best aquarium fish for beginners list, angelfish, from the cichlid family counts in. Amazingly, they can clock 8” in height.

Strikingly beautiful colors, elaborate fins and stripped pattern(s) variations underscore their beauty. Veil, marble, koi and zebra angelfish are just some of its common varieties.

Unfortunately, its aggression and territorial tendencies only near those of bettas. Moreover, it’s even worse in a crowded tank. Subsequently, you CAN NOT tank it together with fin-nipping and/or small fishes. Nonetheless, it’s still a good community tank fish with compatible tankmates.

Easiest fish to take care of

They are hardy and omnivorous. Therefore, feeding them is easy. Plants and live feeds line its diet.

#13. Rasboras:  

Harlequin rasbora is the commonest and a favorite for most beginners looking for the easiest fish to take care of. Why? Well, their small size qualifies them as nano tank fishes, besides their ease to breed and availability.

Best Aquarium Fish for Beginners
Another of the best fish to pet in aquarium

The eye catching dominant black triangular patch contrasting the body’s bright orange color enhance their beauty.

Groups of at-least 6 of the same species will give your tank a marvelous look as they shoal. Additionally, they are very peaceful and shy, easily coexisting with un-aggressive tankmates. (Read on how to care for rasboras)

They are omnivorous thus easy to care for. Just maintain the right tank parameters.

#14. White cloud minnow:

Best Aquarium Fish for Beginners

This is a truly hardy and an unchallenging fish to take care of in a low maintenance aquarium. Its hardiness boosts adaptability to punishing temperatures and conditions. Very forgiving they are. These attributes therefore make it survive in an unheated tank even in extreme cold waters.

They comfortably shoal in a group preferably of 6 and above. However, keep them in a community tank with fish that won’t prey on them.

Occasional tempers and frustrations make them jump out of the tank. Be safe and cover your tank.

Live, dried, freeze dried and flake foods are a great diet composition.

#15. Pearl Guorami:

This is another of the best fish to pet in aquarium. Though large sized, its peaceful nature makes it part of the easiest fish to take care of. Tank it with fish of matching stature, behavior and temperament. Above all, the tankmates MUST NOT be aggressive.

Best Aquarium Fish for Beginners

The ideal aquarium has low lighting, dark substrate and driftwood filled for hideouts.

Being omnivorous, it’s therefore relatively easy to feed and care for. In addition, it surprisingly is one of the few fish to which hydra, the tiny, tentacled venomous pest is edible.    

#16. Killifish:

Looking for a really hardy and a really low-maintenance fish for beginners? Then in killifish, you have one of the easiest fish to take care of. With hundreds of species, there is then specie for almost any tank condition there is.

It’s a brightly colored, peaceful, easily breeding fish which enjoys community tanking with equally small and non-aggressive fishes.

However, its wild breeding happens in seasonal water pools. The fry then hatches on refill of these pools, after prolonged dryness.

They are mainly carnivores.

#17. Discus:

This fish can grow to quite a large size, no wonder their name; King of the aquarium. It can however be in a community tank as long as the tankmates aren’t aggressive. Caution though, their water conditional requirements must match.

While it may however not be ideal for beginners, it’s nonetheless a low maintenance fish.  In short, It’s not very forgiving for rookie keepers’ mistakes.

It’s a carnivorous fish. As a result, it lives on live foods supplemented with flakes for vitamins and minerals.

#18. Kuhli Loaches:

These don’t have the conventional fish physique but rather, more of snake or eels. However, it still earns itself a place among the easiest fish to keep alive and happy ☺. Very shy, the aquarium décor offers it hiding areas. However, to boost their confidence and free swimming, keep them in groups of at-least 3.

Further, like all tank dwellers, they like to glean and scavenge for food remains on the substrate.  Consequently, ensure no sharp objects down there that could bruise their under bellies.


In conclusion, this table lists the best fish to pet in aquarium which are also the easiest fish to keep alive. Summarized also is their ideal parameters. A quick glance will give you a detailed hint on the maintenance demand of each fish. In other words, for a beginner aquarist, this article can’t be timelier than this.

Type of FishPossible sizeLifespan In CaptivityWater temperaturespH LevelsIdeal Tank SizeCompatible Tank-mates
Guppies1.5 – 2.5 Inches2 – 3 years70°F – 84°F7.2 – 8.220 gallonsMollies, Platies
Goldfish10 – 14 inches>20 years60°F – 74°F7.0 – 8.220 gallonsPlaties, Barbs, Zebra Danios
Mollies3 – 4 Inches4 – 5 years 70°F – 78°F7.0 – 7.820 gallonsGuppies, Platys
Swordtail4 – 5  Inches3 – 5 years69°F –80°F6.5 – 7.520 gallonsPlatys, Guppies,  Mollies, Angelfish
Betta3 Inches2 – 3 years76°F –84°F6.5 – 7.55 gallonsDanios, Neon Tetra, Cory catfish
Zebra Danio2 – 3 Inches4 – 5 years65°F –78°F6.5 – 7.510 gallons 
Platies2 – 3 Inches2 – 3 years69°F –78°F6.7 – 7.810 gallonsGuppies, Mollies
Tetras1.5-2 Inches2 – 3 years70°F –78°F7.0 – 7.810 gallonsRasboras, Barbs, Angelfish
Corydoras Catfish2 – 3 Inches2 – 3 years70°F –80°F6.0 – 7.510 gallonsBarbs, Tetras, rasboras
Barbs3 – 4 Inches2 – 3 years70°F –78°F6.2 – 7.525 gallonsRasboras, Tetras, Corydoras
Rainbowfish5 – 6 InchesAbout 5 Years74°F –82°F5.5 – 7.520 gallonsDanios, Barbs, Tetras
Angelfish6 Inches2 – 3 years75°F –82°F6.5 – 7.555 gallonsTetras, Rasboras
Rasboras1.5- 2 Inches6 years71°F –84°F5.5 – 8.010 gallonsTetras, Barbs, Corydoras
White cloud minnow1.5-2 Inches5 years60°F –72°F6.7 – 8.510 gallonsTetras, Barbs
Pearl Guorami4 – 5 Inches4 – 5 Years75°F –82°F5.7 – 7.530 gallonsGuppies, Tetras, Platies, Danios
Killifish1.5 – 2 Inches3 – 5 Years68°F –72°F5.7 – 7.510 gallonsPlaties, Guppies
Discus5 – 6 Inches10 – 15 years80°F –86°F6.2 – 7.025 gallonsNeon Tetras, Gouramis, Bolivian Ram
Khuli Loaches3 – 4 Inches10 – 14 years75°F –86°F5.5 – 6.720 gallonsDanios, Tetras, Rasboras

Finally, are fish easy to take care of for a beginner and are there friendly fish? The answer is a big YES. Just start off with hardy aquarium fish which are active fish and best starter fish to have.

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