21 Best Freshwater Fish – Complete Guide

It's been proven that keeping fish is a great way to relax and reduce stress. If I've had a stressful day at work, I like nothing more than to chill out and watch my fish.
6 Of The Best Freshwater Fish - Betta Fish (top left) Guppy (top right) Goldfish (center left) Neon Tetra (center right) Tiger Barb (bottom left) Cory Catfish (bottom right)
6 Of The Best Freshwater Fish – Betta Fish (top left) Guppy (top right) Goldfish (center left) Neon Tetra (center right) Tiger Barb (bottom left) Cory Catfish (bottom right)

Having kept so many fish over the years, it was a bit tricky to narrow it down to a small list of what I consider to be the 21 best freshwater fish. But, I’ve given it a go and picked out some of my favorites.

Most fish on this list are suitable for beginners, but there are a few fish included that are more suited to fish keepers with a bit more experience, so there’s something on here for everyone.

1. Angelfish

Angelfish - Best Freshwater Fish
Angelfish
  • Name / Scientific Name: Angelfish / Pterophyllum scalare
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Maximum Size: 6 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 78°-84° F
  • dKH: 5-13
  • pH: 6.5-7.5

One of the most popular fish available due to their unique appearance. They are hardy and easy to care for.

Although they are a member of the cichlid family, they are not as aggressive as most other cichlids except at breeding time, when they can become territorial. If you see your angelfish locking lips, they are not having a romantic kiss, it’s a sign of aggression!

Freshwater angelfish are available in a wide range of stunning colors and patterns and look amazing as they elegantly glide around your tank.

They can be kept alone or as a shoal (55+ gallon tank required) and they get along with most other fish, so are suitable for a community tank. Having said that, avoid putting them in with ‘fin nippers’ as they will nip at the angels’ long flowing fins. Angelfish will also eat small fish and fry so choose tankmates wisely.

They prefer a tall tank, rather than a wide shallow tank because of their body shape and long fins.

Feed a varied diet of quality flakes, blanched veggies, and live or frozen brine shrimp and bloodworms.

2. Betta Fish

Betta Fish
Betta Fish
  • Name / Scientific Name: Betta Fish / Betta splendens
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Maximum Size: 3 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 5 gallons
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Water Temperature: 78°-82° F
  • dKH: 5-20
  • pH: 6.5-7.5

Also known by the name Siamese fighting fish, betta fish are eye-catching fish with their long flowing colorful fins. They are available in a wide array of colors and patterns, so you’re sure to find one you like.

Males are very aggressive with each other and will fight to the death, so they must be kept on their own. Females can be kept in sororities (30+ gallon tank), but this is only recommended if you are a more advanced fishkeeper as they may fight.

Although there are a lot of photos online of betta fish being kept in vases, jars, or small bowls, it’s practically impossible to keep the water clean and toxins at safe levels in such small containers.

If your betta appears lethargic, it can be a sign that the tank water is too cold. Ideally, your heater needs to be set around 78° F. Make sure the filter is on a gentle setting as they don’t like a high water flow.

Bettas are suitable for beginners and can be kept in a community tank, but don’t keep them with ‘fin nippers’ as they will harass your betta. Some suitable tankmates are cardinal tetras, neon tetras, harlequin rasboras, corydoras, bristlenose pleco, otocinclus catfish, kuhli loach, platies, mollies and rummy nose tetras.

Bettas like having places to hide but make sure any decorations you add to the tank don’t have any sharp edges that your betta can rip their fins on. They also like silk or live plants with large leaves, you’ll often find your betta resting on the plant leaves. Avoid plastic plants as they can tear their fins up.

Betta fish are not picky eaters and will most things, being carnivores you should feed them plenty of protein, such as frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, as well as some quality betta flakes or pellets. 

Check out my in-depth betta care guide for more information.

3. Boeseman’s Rainbowfish

Boeseman's Rainbowfish
Boeseman’s Rainbowfish
  • Name / Scientific Name: Boeseman’s Rainbowfish / Melanotaenia boesemani
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 4.5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 72°-86° F
  • dKH: 10-20
  • pH: 6.5-8.0

Also known as the boesemani rainbow fish, the distinct half and half coloring of silvery blue and reddish-orange make these fish really stand out. Males are slightly bigger than females and have more intense coloring.

They have the ability to change their coloring at will, which is cool to watch. Wait until they’re showing their breeding colors off!! A properly cared for boesemani can live for up to 12 years.

They are peaceful schooling fish that are suitable for a community tank and beginners, they do need to be kept with non-skittish fish as they’re quite big and move quickly, which can spook smaller timid fish. Corydoras catfish make great tankmates.

You can start with a school of 6 in a 30-gallon tank, but these guys will need at least a 55 gallon 4 foot wide tank (the bigger the better) once they’re fully grown, as they like plenty of space to swim.

A planted tank with a dark sand or gravel substrate will really make their coloring stand out. Don’t go too heavy on plants and decor though as they need a lot of room to swim.

Feeding your boesemani is simple, they’ll eat anything and everything you offer them. Besides dried flakes and pellets you can feed them blanched veggies like zucchini, cucumber, and spinach. Frozen live foods like mosquito larvae and daphnia are also a good choice.

4. Bristlenose Plecostomus

Bristlenose Plecostomus
Bristlenose Plecostomus
  • Name / Scientific Name: Bristlenose Plecostomus / Ancistrus sp.
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 6 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 72°-82° F
  • dKH: 6-10
  • pH: 6.5-7.5

Also known as the bushy nose pleco, the bristlenose is a hardy fish that can withstand a wide range of water parameters, making it a great choice for beginners.

Very distinct looking, full of personality, and available in a variety of colors, they are one of the smallest types of catfish available. Make sure you don’t buy the common pleco by mistake as they grow up to 3 feet!

Great for a community aquarium as they are very peaceful and won’t bother your other fish. Males can be territorial with each other, so make sure there’s enough space so each of them can claim their own spot.

Brislenose plecos really appreciate having driftwood in their tank, as they eat it and it aids digestion. You can buy supplements that contain wood if you don’t have any driftwood in your tank.

These guys are bottom dwellers and spend most of their time eating the surface algae off the substrate, decorations, and plants. They will often stick themselves to the side of the tank to eat the surface algae off of the glass, which is fun to watch.

Being nocturnal they are most active at night. They like plenty of hiding spaces amongst driftwood and plants to relax during the day. They prefer a faster water flow through the aquarium as this simulates their natural wild habitat and also keeps the water properly oxygenated for them.

The bristlenose pleco does produce quite a lot of poop as they are very greedy, what goes in has to come out! Although they eat a lot of algae, this alone won’t sustain them. You will need to feed them other food like frozen bloodworms, sinking pellets, flake food, repashy gel food, and blanched vegetables like zucchini and green beans. 

As with all bottom dwellers, make sure their food is reaching the bottom of the tank and not getting eaten by the other fish first. A well-fed pleco will be brightly colored and its stomach shouldn’t be sunken, so it’s easy to tell if they’re not eating enough.

5. Cherry Barb

Cherry Barb
Cherry Barb
  • Name / Scientific Name: Cherry Barb / Puntius titteya
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 2 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 74°-80° F
  • dKH: 4-10
  • pH: 6.5-7.5

Cherry barbs add an awesome splash of color to your tank, with their fiery red and orange body with a dark horizontal stripe. Males have a more intense coloration and look particularly good against a dark substrate.

They are easy to care for, so are suitable for beginners and they are great for a community tank. They prefer to be kept in groups, I’d go for a minimum of 6 and it’s best to keep a ratio of 3-4 females per 1 male.

They prefer a planted tank with places to hide as they can be a little skittish, so it’s best to provide hiding places amongst plants or decorations.

They are not picky eaters and will eat most things.

6. Cory Catfish

Julii Corydoras Catfish
Julii Corydoras Catfish
  • Name / Scientific Name: Cory (Corydoras) Catfish / Corydoras sp.
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 2.5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 72°-80° F
  • dKH: 3-12
  • pH: 6.8-7.8

There are many types of corydoras to pick from, so this is a general guide. You are best to pick the species that suits your water parameters the best. My favorites are the julii cory and the panda cory.

Corydoras are suitable for beginners, easy to care for peaceful fish with great personalities.

They are a good choice for a community tank, so long as their tank mates aren’t too large or aggressive as they may eat your cory’s.

They like to be kept in groups of the same species, I recommend a minimum of 6 for them to thrive, but they can be kept in larger groups if you have a big enough tank.

Choose a softer substrate like sand or fine gravel as they spend most of their time on the bottom of the tank, so don’t use anything too sharp that will scratch them. They also appreciate having some plants, rocks, or wood to hide in and explore.

Because these little guys are bottom dwellers, you need to make sure plenty of food gets down to the bottom of the tank for them, they are pretty greedy in my experience! Frozen bloodworms are a particular favorite and they’ll also nibble on blanched green beans that I feed to my bristlenose pleco.

7. Discus Fish

Discus Fish
Discus Fish
  • Name / Scientific Name: Discus Fish / Symphysodon sp.
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 8 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallon
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Water Temperature: 82°-86° F
  • dKH: 1-8
  • pH: 6.0-7.5

Discus fish have got to be one of the prettiest freshwater fish you can own, they are mesmerizing to watch as they glide elegantly around the tank. They are available in an array of vibrant colors and a discus display tank is hard to beat looks-wise.

I do not recommend them for beginners, for starters they are pretty expensive to buy and they are also sensitive to changes in your water parameters. They require very consistent parameters, e.g. no big fluctuations in temperature, pH levels, and nitrates, so need to be added to a well established stable tank.

If you want to keep discus fish you are going to need a decent-sized tank as these guys get big. They may be all cute and small when you first buy them, but before long you will have several plate-sized fish swimming around your tank! I recommend 1 discus per 10 gallons of water.

They are generally peaceful, but the males will squabble with each other. They are suitable for large community aquariums, just make sure the fish you keep them with aren’t aggressive and won’t outcompete them for food.

Discus fish eat slowly, so if they’re in with aggressive feeders they won’t get a look in. Tankmates also need to be able to cope with the higher temperatures that discus fish need to thrive in, the next fish on my list, the German blue ram is a suitable tankmate.

They can be finicky eaters, so it’s best to feed them a variety of food that isn’t too big. Although they are large fish they have a small mouth, so specialist discus granules, quality flake foods, and brine shrimp are a good choice.

8. German Blue Ram

German Blue Ram
German Blue Ram
  • Name / Scientific Name: German Blue Ram / Mikrogeophagus ramirezi
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 2.5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 80°-86° F
  • dKH: 5-12
  • pH: 5.0-7.5

These dwarf cichlids are lovely looking fish that will really stand out in your aquarium. They have red eyes with a black vertical band and yellow fins with bright blue polka dots on them. Females will be slightly smaller and get a pinkish belly once they mature.

Although a member of the cichlid family, they are not as aggressive as most other cichlids except at breeding time when they can become territorial. They have great personalities and are a good choice of fish for peaceful community aquariums.

I don’t recommend them for beginners, as like the discus fish above, they are sensitive to water parameter changes and need good quality water to thrive, so need adding to an already well established tank.

They prefer sand or fine substrate as they like to sift through it.

Being omnivores they enjoy a varied diet of plant and protein based foods, although they can get bloated if they are fed too much protein.

9. Goldfish

Goldfish
Goldfish
  • Name / Sciencific Name: Goldfish / Carassius auratus
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 12 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 52°-70° F
  • dKH: 8-12
  • pH: 7.0-8.0

Goldfish come in a variety of colors from the classic bright orange to black. You can also get ‘fancy goldfish’ which have a variety of unique looks from big googly eyes, bulging heads, and long flowing fins. These fancy varieties are ‘man-made’ and not found naturally in the wild.

They are beginner friendly, but not as easy to care for as chuck them in a bowl and they’ll be fine as many people believe.

Goldfish are hardy, peaceful, and have good personalities, some are really goofy which I like! They are suitable for community tanks, but there’s not a huge array of fish that can tolerate the low water temperatures that goldfish require, so you need to choose tankmates carefully.

A few compatible tankmate suggestions for goldfish are the reticulated hillstream loach, dojo loach, bristlenose pleco, and rubberlip pleco.

Goldfish need a larger tank than most people realize, I recommend 30 gallons plus an additional 10 gallons per extra goldfish you add, a long tank is preferable to a tall tank. They are a good choice if you live in a hard water area.

They prefer sand or a fine substrate as they like to constantly sift through it.

One thing to bear in mind is that goldfish produce a lot of waste, so you really need to keep on top of cleaning your aquarium and have decent filtration.

Adding plants will help control toxins produced by the fish waste, but they need to be tough plants like moss balls, anubias barteri, or java fern and will need attaching to rocks or decorations so the goldfish can’t dig them up!

Although they are omnivores you are best to feed goldfish plant based flakes and pellets, with protein as an occasional treat.

Fancy goldfish are prone to buoyancy issues and may float at the top of the tank after eating, this usually corrects itself within a couple of hours, but if it doesn’t you may need to treat your goldfish for swim bladder disease.

10. Guppy Fish

Guppy
Guppy
  • Name / Scientific Name: Guppy Fish / Poecilia reticulata
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 2 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 72°-80° F
  • dKH: 8-12
  • pH: 7.0-8.2

Guppies are available in a huge choice of eye-catching colors and patterns, males are more colorful than females.

Guppies are beginner friendly fish, fairly hardy, and readily available in most fish stores as they are one of the most popular freshwater fish.

They are a great choice for a peaceful community aquarium as they get along with most other fish, just make sure their tankmates are peaceful and won’t hassle them or nip at their fins.

Fish store guppies are not as hardy as they used to be and are prone to diseases, so take a close look in the store that they look healthy and are eating ok. If you want a hardier fish, buy them from a local breeder or a good alternative fish is an Endler’s livebearer.

One important thing to note is that guppies are livebearers (they give birth to live fish) and breed like crazy! If you don’t want them to breed, keep either all males or all females or choose some tankmates that will eat the guppy fry as a tasty snack.

If you do choose to breed them keep a ratio of 3 females to 1 male, as the males will constantly be hassling your females to breed, so this gives the females some rest.

Guppies are great for a planted tank and if you want to breed them, it gives somewhere for the baby guppies to hide to avoid getting eaten. They are a good choice if you live in a hard water area.

Guppies are not picky eaters and will eat most flake, pellet foods, frozen foods, and enjoy baby brine shrimp as a tasty treat.

They will also nibble on green algae, they are not the best algae eaters, but will eat small amounts.

Check out my in-depth guppy care guide for more information.

11. Harlequin Rasbora

Harlequin Rasbora
Harlequin Rasbora
  • Name / Scientific Name: Harlequin Rasbora / Rasbora heteromorpha
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 2 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 72°-79° F
  • dKH: 4-10
  • pH: 5.5-7.0

Harlequin rasboras have a lovely metallic coppery orange coloration, with a black pork chop shape on their body.

They are one of the hardiest fish I have kept, so have got to be up there as one of the best freshwater fish for beginners.

They have a great temperament and like to be kept in groups. I’d go for a minimum of 6-8, but you can keep more if you have a larger tank.

They do great in a peaceful community aquarium and like to hang out in the top half of your tank, so provide a good splash of color and activity at the top.

They thrive in a planted tank with driftwood, as this helps to mimic their natural environment. I’ve found their colors really pop when you have a darker substrate.

They prefer softer acidic water, so if you live in a soft water area they are a great choice.

They will eat most foods, so feed them a good quality varied diet of fish flakes, pellets, daphnia, bloodworms, and baby brine shrimp.

12. Mbuna African Cichlid

Mbuna African Cichlid
Mbuna African Cichlid
  • Name / Scientific Name: Mbuna Cichlids / Pseudotropheus sp.
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Maximum Size: 6 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
  • Diet: Herbivore or Omnivore (depending on species)
  • Water Temperature: 76°-82°F
  • dKH: 10-15
  • pH: 7.8-8.6

There are many species of mbuna cichlids, so the info above/below is a general guide, but size, aggression, diet and coloration, etc will vary from one species to another, so do more in-depth research once you have picked your favorite.

I don’t recommend cichlids if you are a complete newbie to fishkeeping.

Highly active and hardy fish that have a ton of personality and are available in a wide range of colors, making them one of the most popular choices for freshwater aquariums.

They need to be kept in groups of at least 8 as they can be aggressive, and the smaller the group the more aggressive they will be. When you first add them to your tank they will chase each other around, but this will soon settle as they establish the tank’s hierarchy, this will also happen if you add any new fish.

These fish are not the best choice if you are easily spooked by your fish squabbling!

When it comes to tank size, the bigger the better because they are very active. I recommend a minimum of 55 gallons, I see some people say 40 gallons is ok, which it may be if you only keep around 8 smaller species mbunas.

Mbuna’s prefer harder water, so if you live in a hard water area, they are a good choice.

They like plenty of rocks to hide amongst to mimic their natural habitat in Lake Malawi, where mbuna means rockfish in the local language.

They do create a lot of waste so you will need good filtration to keep the water clean, they are not the best choice for fishkeepers who want low mess fish.

Just like your dog gets excited when you come home, these guys recognize you when you go up to the tank and will become more active….vying for your attention to get fed!!

They eat a generally herbivore diet, but some species are omnivores so they can be supplemented with occasional protein.

They do have a tendency to suffer from a condition called Malawi bloat if fed too much protein, which can be fatal, so less is more when it comes to protein based food. 

13. Molly Fish

Dalmation Molly
Dalmation Molly
  • Name / Scientific Name: Molly Fish / Poecilia latipinna
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 4 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 72°-82° F
  • dKH: 10-25
  • pH: 7.2-8.5

Mollies are not the most spectacular fish color and looks-wise, you can get them in black, yellow, silver, Dalmatian patterned, but for me, they don’t have a striking appearance compared to some other fish available. However, they make up for that with bundles of personality and they are readily available in most fish stores.

Mollies are generally peaceful, but they can be boisterous and fin nip. They are very active and full of personality and can be put in a community tank if you choose the right tankmates.

Be aware it’s very difficult to stop them from breeding, so keep only females to avoid this. If you do want to breed them, keep a ratio of 3 females to 1 male to stop your females from getting too stressed.

It’s very easy to tell male and female mollies apart.

Male vs female mollies
Difference between male and female mollies

They like a large aquarium with a slow current and plants so they’ve lots of places to hide, but still have plenty of room to swim.

Mollies are hardy and able to adapt to a wide range of water parameters. They prefer harder water, so if you live in a hard water area they are a good choice.

Feed them a variety of flakes, pellets, frozen brine shrimp, and blood worms. They will also nibble at green hair algae.

14. Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra
Neon Tetra
  • Name / Scientific Name: Neon Tetra / Paracheirodon innesi
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 1.5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallon
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 72°-80° F
  • dKH: 1-5
  • pH: 6.0-7.5

Neon tetras look like shiny blue and red jewels in your tank, when you get a large group of them together they look amazing. They have got to be one of the most popular freshwater fish in the hobby as they are readily available in most fish stores and super cheap too, what’s not to like?

They are very laid back peaceful fish and need to be kept in groups to thrive. I recommend 8 tetras in a 10 gallon tank, if you have a larger tank a bigger group will look great.

They are one of the best fish for a community aquarium, just make sure they won’t fit in any tankmates’ mouths as they will become a tasty snack.

Neon tetras are suitable for beginners, but make sure your tank is fully cycled and the water parameters are stable before adding them as they are sensitive to changes.

They are suitable for planted tanks and don’t like too much bright lighting.

Their colors really pop against a dark substrate.

Feed them a varied diet, good quality flakes, micro pellets, and frozen baby brine shrimp.

15. Oscar Fish

Tiger Oscar
Tiger Oscar
  • Name / Scientific Name: Oscar Fish / Astronotus ocellatus
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Maximum Size: 14 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Water Temperature: 74°-81° F
  • dKH: 5-20
  • pH: 6.0-8.0

Oscar fish, also known as velvet cichlid or marbled cichlid are available in a wide range of colors and patterns, one of the most popular being the tiger oscar.

Oscars are known for their boisterous dog-like personalities and like to be the center of attention and will beg for food, making them one of the coolest freshwater aquarium fish you can own.

They are very intelligent and mischievous and will recognize individual people. If you want a fish with bundles of personality, this is the fish for you. 

They are suitable for beginners if you are prepared to do your research and have a large enough tank.

Oscars are suitable for a community aquarium, but you need to have a large tank as they grow up to 14 inches. That cute little 2 inch fish you bought in the store will be 1 foot long within a year.

Tankmates need to be chosen wisely as Oscars are large and will eat anything that will fit in their mouth.

Oscars are very messy fish and will re-arrange the tank how they want it! Provide a deep sand substrate, well soaked heavy driftwood, and/or large heavy rocks. If the rocks are small they will throw them around the tank or spit them at the tank walls, potentially causing damage.

They will also rip up any planting, so if you do want plants you are best to choose floating plants.

Excellent filtration is required as they produce a lot of waste and create a lot of mess. You need to be prepared to keep on top of cleaning your tank and keep the nitrates under control by performing water changes at least once per week.

Feeding Oscar fish isn’t difficult as they are very greedy. Specialist cichlid pellets, cichlid sticks, frozen shrimp, and bloodworms are some of their favorites.

16. Pea Puffer Fish

Pea Puffer Fish - Photo by Linxie on Foter
Pea Puffer Fish – Photo by Linxie on Foter
  • Name / Scientific Name: Pea Puffer / Carinotetradon travancoricus
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Maximum Size: 1.25 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 5 gallons
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Water Temperature: 74°-82° F
  • dKH: 5-15
  • pH: 6.5-8.0

Pea puffers, also known as dwarf puffers or pygmy puffers, are super cute small freshwater pufferfish with googly eyes that work independently.

They have a golden yellow body with black splodges. Females are plumper and paler than males, and males have a dark line on their belly once they mature.

You can keep 1 dwarf puffer on its own in a 5 gallon nano tank or a group in larger tanks, but keep only 1 male per 3 females.

They can be kept in a community aquarium with caution, but it’s generally recommended to keep them as the only species, especially if you are a beginner. Although they are small and cute they can be feisty and will chase and nip other fish.

They prefer a heavily planted tank with plenty of hiding places, a sandy substrate, and a low water flow.

Pea puffers don’t tend to eat prepared flakes or pellets, they prefer live or frozen baby brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms. They will also eat baby ramshorn snails.

17. Pearl Gourami

Pearl Gourami
Pearl Gourami
  • Name / Scientific Name: Pearl Gourami / Trichopodus leerii
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 77°-82° F
  • dKH: 5-18
  • pH: 6.0-8.0

A very popular choice in the aquarium hobby. With their white pearl like spots that appear to sparkle as they swim and long flowing ventral fins, it’s easy to see why they are so popular. Other distinct markings are the black line along their side and the red belly that the males develop.

Hardy and peaceful so great for beginners and community aquariums. Males can become aggressive with each other so I recommend a group of 6, with 5 of them being female.

They do better with tankmates of similar size and temperament or smaller schooling fish and peaceful bottom dwellers. Avoid larger, aggressive, hyperactive, and fin nipping tankmates.

Pearl gouramis prefer a planted tank with dim lighting. The minimum size should be 30 gallons and a dark substrate will make their coloring stand out.

Plants to include are java fern and hornwort. You can include some floating plants, but not too many as you don’t want to block their access to the water’s surface.

I always recommend a tight-fitting lid, but don’t fill the tank water right to the top as the pearl gourami is a labyrinth fish which means they come up to the surface to breathe air.

Being omnivores you won’t struggle when it comes to feeding time. Offer a wide and varied diet of high quality flakes, pellets, and live or frozen foods you can buy from your fish store.

Blanched veggies like lettuce, spinach, shelled peas, and spinach will be woofed down!

18. Platy Fish

Platy Fish
Platy Fish
  • Name / Scientific Name: Platy Fish / Xiphophorus maculatus
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 3 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 70°-82° F
  • dKH: 10-25
  • pH: 6.8-8.0

Platy fish come in a whole variety of colors and patterns. Some of the variations include the red platy, calico platy, pineapple platy, and rainbow platy.

Being very hardy, peaceful, and good for community aquariums, they’re an ideal fish for beginners.

A small group of 3-6 will do just fine. A word of caution, they’re super easy to breed so make sure you get all the same sex if you don’t want to be overrun.

If you do want to breed them, keep 3 females per 1 male to stop him harassing the girls so much!! Platties can also breed with their cousin the swordtail.

Platties need at least a 10 gallon tank with lots of live plants such as java fern, java moss, and duckweed.

A tight fitting lid is a must to prevent any escape attempts.

Feeding them is a breeze, they’ll eat practically anything as they’re omnivores.

High quality flakes, pellets, blanched veggies like zucchini & spinach. Frozen daphnia, bloodworms, and brine shrimp are great once a week treats.

19. Swordtail

Swordtail
Swordtail
  • Name / Scientific Name: Swordtail / Xiphophorus helleri
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 6.5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 72°-82° F
  • dKH: 10-15
  • pH: 7.0-8.5

If you’ve got a male swordtail, he’s really going to stand out in your aquarium with his elongated tail that looks like a sword. Females don’t have this and look more like their cousin, the platy.

In the wild these guys tend to be olive green, however, in the aquarium world there’s a whole variety of colors and patterns to choose from.

Size-wise males grow to a maximum of around 5 inches, females can reach 6.5 inches.

A hardy peaceful fish that’s a good choice for beginners and suitable for a community tank with other non-aggressive fish. Male swordtails can become aggressive towards each other, so if you’re keeping more than 1 male make sure you have a big enough tank so they can each claim their own territory.

They are easy to breed so avoid keeping males and females together if you don’t want to be overrun. Swordtails start breeding at the age of just 3 months and can produce up to 50 babies per spawning.

Don’t keep a male swordtail with female platties as they can breed together too.

Live plants such as java fern are great for providing places to rest. A tight fitting lid is essential as swordtails are known escape artists.

Like all other omnivores, feed your swordtail and wide and varied diet. High quality flakes, pellets, blanched spinach, and other veggies. Spirulina flakes, frozen daphnia, bloodworms, and brine shrimp are some other favorites.

20. Tiger Barb

Tiger Barb
Tiger Barb
  • Name / Scientific Name: Tiger Barb / Barbus tetrazona
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Maximum Size: 3 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 72°-82° F
  • dKH: 4-10
  • pH: 6.0-7.5

Tiger barbs have a yellowy golden body with typically 4 vertical black stripes, red/orange dorsal and anal fins make these guys really stand out in any aquarium. Who doesn’t want a fish that looks like a tiger? Females are slightly larger than males.

A hardy highly active schooling fish suitable for advanced beginners that can be kept in a community aquarium with other barbs, or fast-moving fish that will stand their ground if need be.

Tiger barbs are considered semi-aggressive, but this can be overcome by having a larger school. If you have too few of them they will terrorize the other fish in the tank. I

recommend you get at least 7 as a larger group will ensure any squabbling is kept amongst themselves. Avoid slow-moving long-finned tank mates at all costs as these guys will fin nip.

The minimum tank size is 30 gallons for 7 tiger barbs if you want a single-species tank. For larger groups or if you want to add any tank mates down the line, you’ll need an extra 3 gallons of water per fish. The bigger the tank the better as they are highly active and like plenty of open space to swim in.

Use a fine gravel or sand substrate with plants such as java fern planted in the corners. Rocks and driftwood make good decor, but keep the center of the tank open for swimming. A tight-fitting lid is another must have item as they are known to try and escape.

A wide and varied diet will your tiger barbs in tip-top shape. Quality flake or pellet food is a must.

Veggies like zucchini, cucumber, and lettuce will be happily eaten.

Frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp are great treats for them.

21. Zebra Danio

Zebra Danio
Zebra Danio
  • Name / Scientific Name: Zebra Danio / Danio rerio
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 2 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 65°-80° F
  • dKH: 8-12
  • pH: 6.5-7.5

Zebra danios are a stunning looking fish with blue-purple horizontal stripes. Males are more of a golden color, while females are more silver. There are a couple of color variations such as the Leopard danio which has spots instead of stripes. It was once thought the leopard danio was a separate species, but genetic research has proven it’s not.

Very hardy and able to tolerate a wide range of water parameters making them a good fish for beginners. I recommend getting at least 5 as they’re schooling fish and will become stressed if there are too few of them.

They are peaceful with other non-aggressive tank mates, so great for a community aquarium. They may nip at slower swimming long-finned fish due to their playful nature.

Being highly active they need plenty of space to swim around in, so a minimum of 10 gallon tank is needed for these guys.

A dark colored soft sand substrate will replicate their natural habitat and make their coloration stand out more.

Java fern and Amazon swordtail plants are ideal additions. Other decor items like logs and pebbles work well, but try and keep them towards the edges of the tank and keep the middle open so they have space to swim.

These guys are not picky eaters, a high-quality flake or pellet food is a must.

Veggies they will eat include zucchini, cucumber, shelled peas, and spinach.

Frozen daphnia, bloodworms, and brine shrimp are great once per week treats.

Final Thoughts On The Best Freshwater Fish…

So there you have it, my top picks for the 21 best freshwater fish for beginners and more advanced fish keepers. I hope this list has helped you decide which fish to keep first or add to your already established tank…1 fish tank is never enough!

Check out my Freshwater section for more fish guides and the Aquarium Health section for guides on how to keep your tank in tip-top shape.