The Best Freshwater Tropical Fish for Beginners

So you’ve got your new freshwater tropical fish aquarium all set up and running. Now you just need to add fish. But what are the best freshwater tropical fish to start out with?

You should look for fish that:

  • can survive and thrive in varying water conditions
  • can eat a variety of foods
  • won’t outgrow your aquarium
  • get along with other kinds of fish and are not aggressive

It’s best to get small, schooling fish and gradually build one school at a time, a few fish at a time.



zebra danio

Zebra Danios

Zebra Danios are very fast, active fish that can survive in different water conditions. They eat high quality flake food, freeze-dried bloodworms and brine shrimp.


neon tetras

Neon Tetras

Neon Tetras are small fish native to South America. Their brilliant red and blue stripes make them look like jewels in your aquarium. They like low light and lots of plants. Neon tetras love big groups, but don’t add a whole school at once. Just introduce a few at a time over a period of 4-6 weeks. They are omnivorous, eating high quality flake food, freeze-dried bloodworms and brine shrimp. You do need to be careful with them as neon tetras are a bit more sensitive to water changes.


red wag platy

Red Wag Platies

Red Wag Platies sporting bright red bodies with black fins and tails, make a colorful addition to your fish tank. They are peaceful and low maintenance. Red wag platies are omnivorous; they will eat flake food with algae, brine shrimp and freeze-dried bloodworms.


delta tail guppies

Delta Tail Guppies

Delta Tail Guppies are extremely adaptable freshwater tropical fish and can survive in many environments. They are live bearers and they breed a lot, so if you don’t want a population explosion, you may want to keep only one sex in your aquarium. The males have beautiful, long triangle shaped tails, while the females’ tails are much smaller and less striking. Guppies thrive best in groups. They eat flake food with algae, brine shrimp and mosquito larvae.


corydoras catfish

Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras Catfish are a wonderful addition to your freshwater tropical fish aquarium. Like catfish in the wild, they are scavengers and live mostly at the bottom of the tank. They will keep your aquarium clean with their suction-like mouths by eating algae and any food that falls into the gravel. Corydoras catfish are peaceful and easy to care for. You should have at least 3 as they are very social and do best in groups. Their food should include pellets, fish flakes and bottom feeder tablets.


blak molly

Black Mollies

Black Mollies can live up to 5 years in your aquarium if well cared for. They are prolific breeders and produce live young. Mollies should be kept in larger groups with a ratio of 3 females per male. It’s a good idea to have lots of plants where the babies can hide as mollies will eat their young. The black mollie’s diet includes high quality flake food, bloodworms and brine shrimp.


betta siamese fighting fish

Bettas (Siamese Fighting Fish)

Although bettas are listed as good for a beginner aquarium, some precautions must be taken with these beautiful, brilliantly colored fish. Male bettas will try to kill each other, so you should only keep one in your fish tank. Females get along a little better, but they may still fight and hurt each other. Bettas can be aggressive towards other species of fish as well. Adding a betta to a tank with fish that like to nip is an especially bad idea. This can result in the betta’s long, flowing fins being wounded and may not end well for the nipping fish. Unlike most species of fish, bettas are independent and don’t mind being alone. Therefore, a heated, 5 gallon aquarium with lots of plants and hiding places is a great environment for a single betta. Bettas are carnivorous so their food should be high in shrimp or other fish.


This list is by no means complete and there are many species of freshwater tropical fish that will work well in your new aquarium. No matter what species you decide to add, it’s important to keep your fish tank clean and the water conditions optimal for your finned friends.

2020-01-27T14:14:41-06:00September 29th, 2018|

The Fish Tank 411

fish aquariumA fish tank or aquarium gives us a great opportunity to view the underwater world and learn about the behavior of aquatic animals. Both salt water and fresh water aquariums can be educating, entertaining and a source of relaxation.

However, a healthy fish tank requires some care and attention. Water in natural lakes, rivers and oceans is naturally cleaned and filtered. This is not so with a fish tank. It will need human help.

Your aquatic wonderland should include the following items:

The Fish Tank – Clean the inside of your new aquarium with a damp cloth. do not use soap or any other cleaner. Place the empty aquarium on a structure that will support it when full. Find a location away from direct sunlight to control temperature and algae growth. Do not place a fish tank near a heat or air conditioning vent.

The Filter – Removes debris, ammonia, nitrates and it replenishes oxygen in the water. You can have a fish tank without a filter, but it’s a lot of trouble. Every week you would have to take the fish out and completely empty the tank to clean it. Then add fresh water, condition it and put the fish back. This is very stressful for the fish and a major hassle for you. Just get a filter.

The Heater – Fish depend on the water temperature to control their body temperature. Tropical fish generally require water temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If your room temperature is below this, your fish tank will need a heater. A submersible heater with a thermostat is a good choice. It should be attached inside the back wall of the aquarium with a clip or suction cups near the bottom. But it should not touch the gravel as the heat transfer can cause the heater glass to crack. Make sure to position your heater so that no fish can get trapped between it and anything else in the fish tank.

The Lighting – Proper lighting enhances the beautiful colors of your fish and provides energy for live plants. The are a variety of light bulbs that will work. Get more detailed information here.

The Gravel – Aquarium gravel can be found in most any store that sells pet supplies or online. Be sure to thoroughly rinse the gravel before the first use. A gravel siphon vacuum is a good investment for ongoing cleaning. Use it when doing your water changes.

The Water Conditioner – Removes chlorine, neutralizes chloramines and detoxifies heavy metals in your fish tank water. Do not put fish in untreated tap water. It can be very harmful or fatal to the fish.

The Plants – Live or fake? Live plants do add oxygen and nutrients to the water in your aquarium. But beware! They can enhance the water quality or they can kill it. Healthy plants put out a variety of nutrients, naturally clean the water and control algae growth. The health of your fish depends on the health of your plants. So, you will have to take special care of your live aquatic plants.

Artificial plants look real and cost less. They don’t require any special lighting or fertilizer. You can put them anywhere in your fish tank without having to worry a material from which to grow them.

After Setting Up your Fish Tank

First find out which type of fish would be best to start with and which fish get along with each other. It’s best to buy only a few fish in the beginning and add more gradually over the next month or so. Let your new aquarium system run for at least 24 hours before introducing any fish.

The temperature in the fish tank should be the same as the container used to transfer your fish from the shop. Immerse the fish in the container in the fish tank for 15 minutes. Then open the container and add a small amount of fish tank water. Do this every 5 minutes or so for the next 15 minutes. Finally, gently net the fish and gently lower the net into the aquarium. Let the fish swim out of the net into it’s new home. Throw the water in the water in the container used to transfer the fish away. Do not add it to the aquarium.

Cleaning Your Fish Tank

Replace the filter cartridge and change ¼ of the water in your fish tank at least once every month. This is good time to use your gravel siphon vacuum, too.

2020-02-10T14:47:42-06:00August 17th, 2018|
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