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The Best and Worst Beginner Fish for Your Aquarium

Elliott enjoys keeping fish and advising those who are new to the hobby.

You may be surprised by these recommendations for the best—and worst!—fish for novice fish-keepers.

You may be surprised by these recommendations for the best—and worst!—fish for novice fish-keepers.

Best (And Worst) Fish for Beginners

For this article, I am assuming you know enough about basic fish care to be considering which fish you would like to put into your new tank. This is a crucial decision. Do not trust some store employee to tell you which fish you should choose. They most likely know very little. It's up to you to make a wise decision.

I am going to list five fish commonly purchased for a first aquarium that are horrible choices. However, store employees constantly sell these fish to unsuspecting customers who will most likely be back in a few weeks to replace their new pets that have gone on to that big fish tank in the sky. I will also list some much better alternatives that will allow you to get started in what can be a very fascinating and rewarding hobby.

In determining the best beginner fish, I first wanted to make sure that they were hardy enough to allow for beginner mistakes that are bound to happen. Secondly, I chose fish that could live happily in the common community aquarium that most beginners like to set up. These fish don't require huge tanks or need special care to survive. Hopefully, this article will guide you in choosing fish that are both appealing and appropriate for your aquarium.

5 Best Fish for Beginners

  • Kribensis
  • Neon Rainbowfish
  • GloFish
  • Corydoras Catfish
  • Platy

5 Worst Fish for Beginners

  • Oscar
  • Neon Tetra
  • Dyed or Deformed Fish
  • Pleco
  • Goldfish

5. (Worst) Oscar

The oscar is a common choice for people looking for a large predatory fish. It is a member of the cichlid family known for its big personality and aggressive nature. Many people enjoy watching their oscar make a meal of the poor feeder fish that swim too close. It's hard to resist the big eyes of a baby oscar begging you to take him home, but they make a poor beginner fish for several reasons.

First of all, they require a larger aquarium than most are willing to start with. Oscars can grow to be up to eighteen inches in length, and they have a large body mass. The minimum would be a 55 gallon for a single adult oscar, but even that is pushing it. You would have to be meticulous in doing large weekly water changes and have no other fish in the aquarium. Because of it's size and messiness, the oscar really should be kept in 75 gallon tanks or higher.

Also, they are very susceptible to hole-in-the-head disease which can be very difficult to treat. Large sores develop on the head and along the lateral line of the fish which can eventually lead to its death. It is believed to be caused by poor water quality which is common with oscars. They produce a lot of waste, and if the water is not changed regularly, the built-up nitrates can become toxic for the fish.

In addition, the feeder fish many people give to their oscars can bring in many diseases to the tank. I really don't ever recommend using feeder fish unless it is absolutely necessary. If you do, you should quarantine the feeder fish in a separate tank to check for diseases before giving them to your oscar or other fish in your main tank.

Lastly, it is very difficult to find compatible fish to keep with oscars. They will eat any fish that they can get into their surprisingly large mouths, so you must keep them with similarly-sized fish. However, oscars can be very territorial and prefer to be left alone. They will beat up on other fish they view as competition, but they also can get picked on by the bigger and more aggressive members of the cichlid family. This means that you need a huge tank to house oscars with any other fish. Most beginners like to have more than one fish in their tank, but it is very difficult to do that with oscars.

Ideally, oscars should be kept in extremely large tanks (hundreds of gallons) with other members of its family. That way, you can experience the complex social structure and varying personalities of each fish. Cichlids are fascinating fish with big personalities, but oscars and the other larger members of its family should be left for experts who can afford to house them properly and provide them with excellent care.

Photo Credit: Tino Strauss

Photo Credit: Tino Strauss

5. (Best) Kribensis

The Kribensis (krib for short) is a dwarf species of cichlid that naturally inhabits the rivers of Africa. Fortunately for those with aquariums, the krib is readily available in most fish stores in the United States. There are very little negative comments I can make about this fish. It has all of the personality of its larger cousins without the extreme aggression or difficult housing requirements that most of the larger members of the genus require.

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They may seem dull in the fish store, but if you give them the proper care at home, they can become quite colorful (especially the females). I suggest getting one male and one female so you can observe their unique parenting habits. It is easy to distinguish males from females. The males are duller and longer while the females are more compact with a red or pink belly.

If you put an overturned flowerpot or other cave in the aquarium, I am sure your kribs will soon lay eggs. You can then experience their awesome mating coloration of intense reds and purples and even more awesome parenting instincts. The male and the female will guard the eggs vigorously. Once the fry (baby fish) hatch, both the male and the female will take care of their young. Once the fry start to swim, you can see the parents herd their offspring around the tank. It is truly an amazing sight to behold!

I do suggest keeping them with faster-moving species that are able to outrun their aggressive behavior during breeding. Species such as angelfish and bettas would be pick on quite frequently. Also, they are best kept in larger community aquariums of 30 gallons or larger if you plan on keeping them with other fish. Otherwise, they can get territorial like any other cichlid.

There are many other different dwarf cichlid species, but most are unsuitable for the beginner due to their specific water chemistry requirements and fragile health. However, bolivian rams and keyhole cichlids also make great community fish if you can manage to find some healthy specimens at your local fish store.

Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra

4. (Worst) Neon Tetra

With their bright neon blue coloration, neon tetras have been a favorite among fishkeepers for ages. With colors that rival marine fish, they are indeed one of the most beautiful freshwater species to keep. Only reaching one inch in length, they certainly are able to fit comfortably into most beginner's tanks. Why then are they not a good beginner fish?

First of all, they do not adapt very well to changes in their environment. This leads to many difficulties when you bring the fish home. It is not enough to just float the bag in the water for ten minutes and then set them free. They need to adjust much more gradually by adding small amounts of aquarium water in the bag over a long period of time and then releasing them into the aquarium. Even then, they can still be very nervous and go into shock easily.

They also require very clean water to do well in the home aquaria. Frequent water changes are a must to keep from having your neons start dying for no apparent reason. Their sensitivity does not make them very forgiving of mistakes that are bound to be made when a person first starts out.

Furthermore, they are not as hardy as they used to be. Excessive breeding has allowed the neon tetra to become very affordable, but it also has weakened the quality of the livestock that most fish stores carry. Many fish come to American dealer's tanks with all sorts of deformities and other health issues. They often are beat up and on the verge of death before you ever get them home.

Neons are very susceptible to neon tetra disease. It is very contagious and very deadly. One infected fish can wipe out the entire school in a matter of weeks. The fish stops schooling and eating and eventually dies. It is not a pleasant experience to watch a helpless creature suffer. A large school of neon tetras can be a vibrant centerpiece for any aquarium, but it is not an easy goal to achieve.

Neon Rainbowfish

Neon Rainbowfish

4. (Best) Neon Rainbowfish

Neon rainbowfish (also called dwarf or praecox rainbowfish) are one of my personal favorite species. They have everything people love about neon tetras without a lot of the problems that people may have with neons. Dwarf rainbowfish grow to about two inches in length. They are peaceful shoaling fish, so they should be kept in groups of at least five or six. While this may seem like a lot, it is much more rewarding to observe the natural behavior and beauty of a group of these rainbowfish rather than just seeing one nervously dart around the tank.

As far as color goes, fully mature specimens rival the beauty of neons in every way. While they may look dull in stores, with proper care they develop a stunning iridescent blue body with red or yellow fins depending on the sex of the fish. Males have red fins, and females have yellow. In the tank, males will fight and show off to impress the females. I personally find the dwarf rainbowfish's behavior more interesting than neons, and their mature coloration is just as stunning.

In addition, they are much hardier than neons. While they prefer more alkaline water, they will do well as long as the water isn't extremely acidic. They also are much more tolerant of changes in water quality or chemistry. As long as you keep a regular schedule of water changes, they should be fine. They are a little harder to find, but they are worth the effort. I have seen them in chain pet stores on a pretty regular basis. I strongly recommend neon rainbowfish as a good alternative to the neon tetra for beginners.

There are a number of other tetras that would qualify as good beginner fish. Black skirt tetras, bloodfin tetras, glowlight tetras, serpae tetras, and x-ray tetras are just a few examples of some much hardier cousins to the neons. Do some research to see if any of these species appeal to you. They are all hardy and readily available in most fish stores. They all like to shoal so you should house at least five or six if you decide any of them is right for your tank.

Dyed fish

Dyed fish

3. (Worst) Dyed or Deformed Fish

There is absolutely no sight that I despise more than to see a tank stocked with fish that have been dyed to "enhance" their appearance. Widely distributed examples of such fish are "painted glassfish," "jellybean parrots," or "fruit tetras." All of these fish have gone through a despicable process to gain their unnatural appearance that has caused harm to the fish.

Some fish such as painted glassfish are injected with a dye by a needle. Since the injection only covers a small area, the fish are subjected to a number of punctures, many of which can become infected. It is very painful and stressful for the fish as well as causing problems with their immune systems down the road. Another even worse method involves dipping the fish in a solution to strip them of their protective slime coats. After that, they are dipped or injected with dye and then placed in a solution that irritates the fish to regrow the slime coat.

Needless to say, this is very detrimental to the fish's health longterm. As much as eighty percent of the fish die during the process while the rest have a much shorter lifespan than their natural counterparts. For as much discomfort as it causes, the dye is only temporary in most cases and will fade within months after either method is employed. The only reason these fish exist is because they are popular. Please do not support such gross mistreatment of helpless creatures. They should not be in a beginner's tank or anyone's tank at all.

Another recent trend is breeding fish for abnormalities. It is one thing to breed for longer fins or different color variations, but it has gotten a little out of hand in recent times. There are many exotic goldfish varieties readliy available in most fish stores. Things such as lionheads and bubble eyes exemplify some rather extreme mutations of the ordinary goldfish that we are accustomed to.

Some of the deformities are so extreme that it interferes with the fish's ability to function normally. They tend to have many more health issues and live a lot less longer than their original forms. Other examples include balloon mollies purple heart cichlids (blood parrots who do not have their caudal fin). Again, these fish are in general much more susceptible to developing health problems, and they should be avoided by beginners.



3. (Best) GloFish

Now wait a minute! Didn't I just say that dyed fish are unsuitable for beginners and just plain bad in general? I did, but GloFish are not dyed fish. They are in fact a trademarked brand, and they are the result of complex scientific research and experimentation. In reality, GloFish are really just plain old zebra danios - a fish that has been a staple in the hobby for a long time.

The original GloFish was created by inserting a gene from a jellyfish into the embryo of a zebra danio causing it to glow. It originally was a step in research to create a fish that could detect pollution in the water by glowing. However, they have since crossed genes from coral to create different colors and marketed the fish to the public. They are still surrounded by controversy as another manmade creation that is replacing the natural beauty of their less flashy kin.

While I personally do not like the unnatural look of the GloFish, the fish have not been harmed at all. In fact, most of the GloFish sold in stores are the offspring of the originals. There is no more insertion of genes into embryos involved. They are born "naturally" with no negative side effects resulting from their creation. If you want a futuristic feel to your fish tank, GloFish are my pick for you.

They are just as easy to care for as the original zebra danio. Only growing to a little over an inch, they can be kept in aquariums as small as ten gallons, but they would prefer a twenty-gallon for the added swimming room. They are fast and extremely hardy. They readily accept any food or water chemistry. They also are forgiving of poor water quality, but that does not mean one should neglect the all-important chore of changing the tank water. GloFish (and zebra danios) really are a hard fish to kill. They make an excellent choice for beginner fish.



2. (Worst) Pleco

Countless times, people have asked a store employee which fish they recommend to eat the algae that is taking over their tank. The usual response is to show a tank full of small one to two inch common plecos. While indeed these fish will nibble on the algae, they will grow to become enormous waste producing machines. The common pleco can grow to eighteen inches long and should be housed in nothing less than a ninety gallon tank as an adult.

They really are one of the most unsuitable fish for the common aquarium. It is much easier for the beginner to clean whatever algae is on the glass manually than deal with these truly monstrous and not so attractive fish later on.

Not only are they huge but they are one of the top waste producing fish as well. They are pooping machines and can quickly destroy water quality if you fall behind on your cleaning schedule. The algae you have in your tank will only last so long. They are eating machines, and once the tank is algae free, they need to be fed algae wafers, cucumbers, or other green vegetables. However, one must be careful to remove the uneaten vegetable from the tank quickly as it can rot and mess up the water even more.

Furthermore, they require some driftwood to nibble on in their tank to stay healthy. With the massive tank requirements and special dietary considerations, they are clearly the wrong choice for someone just starting to learn about the hobby, but they remain one of the most popular fish to put in the beginner aquarium.

Cory Cats

Cory Cats

2. (Best) Corydoras Catfish

If you are looking for a first fish to help clean your tank, I an think of no better alternative than the the bronze, emerald, or albino cory. They will help to sift through the substrate and stir up debris that has fallen to the bottom of the tank making it much easier for your filter to suck it up. They also will consume any uneaten food that has fallen to the bottom of the tank. In addition to their usefulness in the aquarium, they have amazingly fun personalities.

Like neons or rainbowfish, they like to be in each other's company. I strongly recommend purchasing at least five or six to truly see their unique interactions with each other. If you look closely, you can even see the cories blink occasionally. Their antics will provide onlookers with hours of entertainment.

They also are extremely hardy as long as two easy requirements are met. They absolutely hate salt in their water, so please don't put any in their tank (not common for beginner's to do anyway). Also, they prefer a sandy substrate to avoid their delicate barbels from getting damaged. While sand is best, as long as the substrate does not have large or jagged pebbles, they will do fine.

Make sure they are getting fed properly as well. They shouldn't be depending on scraps to make it to the bottom of the tank. Sink wafers that will satisfy their dietary requirements are readily available. Lastly, there are many different species of cories, but many of the newer or more exotic ones are much more picky about their environment. Please do your research before deciding which cory is right for you.

If you really want a fish to eat algae growing in your tank, there are a few better alternatives than the common pleco. Although, if you have that much algae growing in your tank, there is probably something wrong with your water chemistry anyway. The bristlenose pleco is a unique much smaller cousin to the monsters more commonly available. They only grow to six inches max, and they do a good job of consuming brown algae.

The rubber nose or bulldog pleco are other smaller versions of the common pleco that can fit in much smaller tanks. Once again, you need to make sure there is driftwood available for them to much on. Also, the true Siamese algae eater is excellent at consuming more difficult to eliminate types of algae. It is tricky to find the right fish though, and many of the imposters labeled as Siamese algae eaters in stores are aggressive toward other fish and will not eat algae at all.

1. (Worst) Goldfish

Without a doubt, the goldfish has been the most abused fish in the hobby. Being one of the first fish housed in captivity, the goldfish is the result of genetic mutation. No one is exactly certain of the origins of the goldfish, but they are a part of the carp family along with koi. Most goldfish if released into the wild will lose their golden color within a few generations.

Long prized for its beauty, goldfish have been a part of the hobby since the beginning. However, they have been very mistreated for almost as long. Housed in tiny bowls, given as prizes, swallowed alive, used as live food, deformed beyond recognition - these are just a few of the tortures that they have experienced. If I were a goldfish, I really would sue. Many really don't think of them as living animals worthy of respect. It is shameful because goldfish can make excellent pets when properly cared for.

They have great personalities and can be incredibly tough, but they are not really a beginner fish for many reasons. First of all, standard adults can grow to well over a foot in length. While many decide to house their first goldfish in a bowl, unlike the betta (probably the runner-up in the most abused category) they are incredibly unsuited for such an environment. They need a much larger amount of oxygen in their water than most other fish. Without any water movement, the goldfish will slowly perish.

Most people are surprised to learn that goldfish can live as long as twenty years. Most die within the first few months because people don't understand how to meet their basic needs. Fish do not grow to the size of their environment. Placing a goldfish in a small tank or bowl will cause it to die a slow painful death. Common goldfish should be kept in large outdoor ponds or extremely large indoor tanks if they are to do well longterm.

So what are the requirements to successfully keep goldfish? I am going to discuss only the fancy varieties because they are the ones most suited for life in an aquarium. Again, keep the larger common goldfish in ponds. First of all, the fancy varieties of goldfish are much more fragile than the unaltered forms, but they can be housed in much smaller quarters. A 55 gallon aquarium can keep three fancy goldfish comfortably for their entire lifespans (which are cut to about ten years due to health problems). There are quite a few varieties to choose from, but I would stay away from the more severely deformed specimens.

You must provide good filtration and aerate the water adequately. Goldfish are extremely messy, and they like to have clean water. That is not a good combination. A powerful filter and frequent water changes are a must. At least change 25% of the water weekly to keep your goldfish in top shape. Cleaning the tank is also a must as they tend to be messy eaters leaving the leftovers to rot in the tank.

In addition, goldfish are a coldwater fish. They CANNOT be housed with tropical fish. They do NOT need heaters in their tank. The higher temperatures reduce the oxygen levels in the water causing stress for the goldfish. Goldfish really should be housed with only other goldfish. If you really want to have tankmates, I can suggest white cloud mountain minnows, butterfly loaches, and apple snails as a few species that may do well with goldfish.

Goldfish also happily consume live plants. Only java fern, moss, and anubias species will go untouched. Their diets need to be varied. A good quality pellet food made specifically for goldfish mixed with some green vegetable occasionally is a good start. Once again, goldfish can make excellent pets if their basic requirements are met, but they really require some effort on their owner's part. Give them a try once you have the basics of fishkeeping figured out.

1. (Best) Platy

Extremely hardy and colorful and easy to breed - what is not love about the platy. Native to Central America, platies are in the the livebearer family along with guppies, swordtails, and mollies. This means that they actually give birth to live young.

To breed them, it is very simple. Just add a male and a female, and you will soon see small fry swimming in the tank. Males have a pointed anal fin called a gonopodium, and females have a dark gravid spot on their bellies. More females should be kept in the tank than males to prevent the females from being harassed by the males constant attempts to breed. If you don't want the offspring to be eaten, you will have to separate them or provide a lot of hiding places in the tank as the adults will cannibalize their young. It is truly exciting for a person to experience the live birth for the first time.

Platies are also extremely easy to keep. They like more alkaline water, but they can tolerate anything as long as it is not in the extremes. They are very forgiving of poor water quality, but frequent water changes should be performed to keep your fish happy and healthy. They are a very peaceful fish as well. They are happy swimming casually around the tank looking for bits of food or other goodies to munch on. As long as they cannot be eaten by their tankmates, platies will get along just fine with about any fish.

Lastly, platies come in a wide variety of colors and variations. You can easily find platies in red, yellow, or blue. They also have a mickey mouse variety with a marking that looks like mickey himself at the base of their tail. Sailfin varieties are also making their way into stores. Swordtails are very close to the platies, but they are a little more feisty. Males will put on brilliant displays and mock duels in fighting for a female's attention. Their tails are very unique, and they come in many shapes and colors as well. As a precaution, platies and swordtails should not be kept in the same tank. They will breed with each other and pollute the bloodlines, so please keep them separate.

Platies are a great introduction to the hobby, especially for children who will enjoy the bright colors, activity, and offspring that the platy will deliver. They really are the ultimate beginner fish.

What Do You Think?

Let me know what you think. Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Is there anything you would like me to add? Any feedback is appreciated.

A Personal Recommendation

Understanding everything there is to know about fishkeeping is a difficult task. I cannot stress enough the importance of reading magazines, books, and good websites to gain more knowledge about the ever-changing fishkeeping hobby.

Tropical Fish Hobbyist is a great magazine to help you grow as a fish-keeper. I have been reading it for over four years, and the information I have gained has been extremely helpful. Every month, a new issue comes in the mail, and they provide great articles, answer questions, and highlight new species. Give Tropical Fish Hobbyist a try. You won't be disappointed!

Questions & Answers

Question: My blue gourami has suddenly turned very bright with zebra-like prominent stripes. And chasing around the other one that is pale and with very metallic shine. It's chasing, guarding with the body, not letting go anywhere. Not even letting the honey gouramis come nearby. Problem is as per description both blue gouramis seem to be male. I have no idea about gay gouramis. What should I do?

Answer: Most likely, your gouramis are fighting for dominance. Gouramis come from the same family as betta fish. Males will fight each other in a small tank. Assuming your blue gourami is the three-spot variety and not the dwarf gourami, you will need a very large tank to avoid issues with males, and even then, it may not work if your male is overly aggressive. The highly colored male is the dominant fish, and he will most likely chase and harass the non-dominant male to death. Your other male is likely losing color because of stress and not wanting to draw attention to himself. My recommendation would be to take one of the males back to the fish store to return or exchange for some other semi-aggressive community fish.

Question: What are problems with betta fish? I noticed they are not on the list. Is it because they are aggressive and need a certain amount of pellets?

Answer: Betta fish are perfectly fine beginner fish in the right environment. Males are only extremely aggressive towards other males (or fish that closely resemble other males). Otherwise, they are shy and prefer a small, quiet tank. Betta fish survive in very small, difficult spaces in the wild. They are tough fish, but many people abuse their ability to survive in less-than-ideal conditions. Vases and other novelty containers should never be their permanent homes. A small, two to ten-gallon filtered tank with shrimp, snails, or other peaceful community fish makes a perfect setup for bettas. The list I have provided is by no means exhaustive. There are plenty of other great beginner fish. Just do your research to see if they will work in the aquarium you have.

Question: What is the minimum amount of water that two platys can live in happily? Because I have been given a very small tank.

Answer: I wouldn’t recommend platys for anything less than a ten gallon. And even then, I would only recommend keeping only a male or two. With females, you would be populating your tank with lots of baby fish pretty quickly. If you can find them, Endler's livebearers would be a much better choice for small biocides. They are much smaller and extremely colorful. Again though, they will breed, so you need to have a plan of what to do with the offspring if you are keeping females. You may opt for a males only tank anyway because the males are much more colorful. Endler’s are slightly harder to find in my area. Chain stores like Petco or Walmart may not carry them, but any good local fish store will probably have them available. They would most likely be healthier from there anyway.

Question: What do you think the best carnivorous fish for beginners is? Also, how should I start out? Should I get some platies and then later add some cockatoo cichlids?

Answer: The term “carnivorous fish” can be applied to a large number of fish since most species will eat fish that are small enough to fit in their mouths. For example, the platies that you mentioned will eat young fry that will most likely appear in the tank if you keep both males and females. Even the cockatoo cichlids that you mentioned are omnivores, but they are peaceful enough to reside in most community aquariums. I am assuming by "carnivore"; you are referring to more aggressive fish that would cause havoc in a typical community aquarium. Again, this can be difficult without knowing more specifics. For South American cichlids, you cannot go wrong with convict cichlids. They are an extremely hardy and very boisterous species that can do well in a 55-gallon tank (or smaller if they are the only fish you plan to keep). The only issue is that if you keep a male and female, you will almost certainly end up with more fish than you can house very quickly. They are prolific breeders and very good at keeping their offspring alive. For African cichlids, I would recommend the electric yellow lab from Lake Malawi. It’s too aggressive for a community tank, but it’s much more docile than some of their cousins who can rip apart a tank in short order. They are also less picky about water quality, but they still require a good maintenance program with frequent water changes to stay healthy.

If you are planning a tank with platies and cockatoo dwarf cichlids, add the platies first to let the tank cycle. Once your tests show nitrates and nitrites at zero, you can add the cockatoo dwarf cichlids. In an established, large aquarium, you can add both species at the same time.

Question: I got 3 shortfin Glofish Tetra a little more than a week ago, and I wanted to ask what do shortfin Glofish Tetra tend to behave like? And also, what other fish should I buy?

Answer: Glofish tetras are actually modified white skirt tetras. Glofish are “created” using an entirely different process than dyed fish, and there are no negative side effects or pain for the animal. Glofish tetras behave the same way as regular black skirt or white skirt tetras. They are generally peaceful and prefer at least 4 or 5 others of the same species of fish to socialize with. Depending on the size of your tank, you could add another two color variations of your Glofish tetras or add other types of glofish such as Glofish danios or even one Glofish shark (Glofish sharks are actually modified albino rainbow sharks which will fight with other rainbow sharks for territory. The only Glofish you may want to avoid because of aggressive behavior would be the barbs because they are actually modified albino tiger barbs which are known to be nippy and harass their tank mates. You can also look at any many other peaceful community tank fish such as glowlight tetras, cherry barbs, or livebearers such as guppies or platys.

Question: I have 5 small pearlscale goldfish in a 15-gallon tank. Can I add zebra danios for tankmates with pearlscale goldfish? If yes, how many zebra danios I can add to a 15-gallon tank?

Answer: While zebra danios and the goldfish both have similar water requirements, pearlscale goldfish reach an adult size of 4+ inches. They are also very stocky fish that produce a lot of waste. I wouldn’t personally keep one of these fish in anything smaller than a 30-gallon aquarium. For five adults, I would recommend no lower than a 55-gallon tank. If you can’t get a bigger aquarium, try exchanging the goldfish for the zebra danios. Zebra danios are small, active fish that will thrive in a 15-gallon tank. You can add at least three or more of these fish and still have room for other coldwater fish species.

Question: I have a Pearl Scale goldfish, is it ok to add an Angelfish for a tankmate?

Answer: Angelfish are a tropical fish species that prefer water to be around 80 degrees. Goldfish prefer colder water that is around 60 degrees. Fancy goldfish (such as your pearls cake) can tolerate slightly warmer water, but not quite enough to make them compatible with angelfish. Also, both species get fairly large, so you would need quite a large tank to house them in.

© 2011 Elliott-Scates

New Guestbook Comments

Elliott-Scates (author) on July 07, 2021:

Goldfish are not too difficult to keep if you understand their very specific requirements. They need cooler, well-oxygenated water and a large aquarium (at least 55 gallons for fancier varieties and at least 180 gallons for common varieties) to thrive over the course of their very long lives. Common goldfish can live for twenty years or more. The fancier varieties can live for ten years or more. I am glad you have found success. Goldfish make great pets, but because of their size and specific requirements, I do not feel like they are great for beginners. Good luck and happy fishkeeping!

Gramybear on September 02, 2020:

I was just given a fish tank by a friend and have never owned one before. I'm trying to learn what is good and not good for the tank, what products I need for my new fish and also what fish are best for a beginner.

Sujit Kumar Modak on June 28, 2020:

Hi Elliott,

You mentioned goldfish is the worst beginner fish. But from the very beginning, I am keeping goldfish in my aquarium. I am also making a blog to help people in their aquarium endeavors. Certainly, I would add goldfish in the beginner's friendly list, I learned through experience that they are not difficult to keep.

Waiting for your reply.



Sujit Kumar Modak on June 28, 2020:

Hi Elliott,

You mentioned goldfish is the worst beginner fish. But from the very beginning, I am keeping goldfish in my aquarium. I am also making a blog to help people in their aquarium endeavors. Certainly, I would add goldfish in the beginner's friendly list, I learned through experience that they are not difficult to keep.

Waiting for your reply.



Hi on June 06, 2020:

Hello I was wondering about what kind of fish I should get. Right now I have a blue and purple betta fish and I feel he might be lonely or something, and also I don’t feel like a female fish because my fish is a male. So please help me on that one. Thank you for this website it’s kinda helped me understand more on a few fish


splashed on November 04, 2019:

i am planning on buying a fish. can you recommend a good starter fish? preferably a colourful one.

P.S. please add the approximate cost per one. THANKS!!!

Dr. Fish on October 21, 2019:

Goldfish can be a great fish if you keep them correctly and do your research. The smallest kinds of goldfish need at least a 20 gallon tank. The larger ones need ponds. Also, I think that GloFish still are not right, because they are made by injecting one animal's genes into another's. That's wrong, in my opinion.

Deb Martinez on February 02, 2019:

Received a 30 gallon tank fresh water only want one fish need ldea's

Flavia on December 21, 2018:

Neon tetras and glofish have been a non issue; however, the so called “hardy fish”, the MOLLIES, are absolutely delicate and the most difficult fish to keep alive (let alone thrive). You won’t even know why they die, most of the time. When treated for common diseases like parasites, they are the ones that either won’t recover after treatment, or will seem like they did for a very short while, only to turn out dead shortly after.

Jim on August 10, 2018:

Just soak the driftwood in a bucket for as long as you can changing the water every 12-24hrs untill you cant see the tint in the water but it can take months for it to finaly stop bleeding colour

joy on August 09, 2018:

how can I add driftwood without turning water yellow .....I have read why it happens , don't understand why fish stores can't sell driftwood already "seasoned" .....thanks

p.s. have some soaking now's been a few days

goku on July 22, 2018:

hey there only one good fish?

Lauren Ashley on May 19, 2018:

I had a rainbow tetras (3) eat the fin of my female Betta, those are different from rainbow fish, I guess but I've read most places if the Betta don't mind the other smaller fish then all should be well in a community tank but it took 5 days for them 3 rainbow tetras to get aggressive during feeding time and eat my Betta tail, I'm so devastated I'm thinking of giving up this hobby all together. Bettas are my #1 favorite fish I breed for a hobby. That was the last thing I wanted to happen!

AlfieGamingVlogz on April 12, 2018:

This is completely wrong I highly recommend goldfish as they are very placid,neon tetras I also think are a good beginner fish apart from a lot of bigger fish can eat them and I have introduced loads of them to my aquarium without adding water to the bag and they are all fine

Emily on February 14, 2018:

This was so helpful. I am so excited to start my first tank the correct way. Thanks so much!

Angie on February 12, 2018:

Very helpful article.

Made my decision easier

Kkeb on January 02, 2018:

This is a helpful article and makes me rethink some things. My daughter (age 16) got a 5 gallon, vertical desk top tank as she wants to start small and learn. I'm concerned about what fish to get for a small tank. She wants more than one fish. Also, I've read ghost shrimp may be useful. Thanks.

Yukiko on December 27, 2017:

I loved the artical! And you’re right, I think betta fish and goldfish are very mistreated. I myself have a 150gal but still enjoy gettin the small colorful school fish that those would think might be not as fun but are always so playful with each other. I would agree that guppies are very easy to care for but they breed like bunnies lol. I defiantly learned some new stuff from your artical, thanks!

Debbie on November 14, 2017:

Excellent article, I agree with all of your choices. I would add endler guppies as a very easy fish to keep. Most are hybrids of fancy guppies and pure endler strains. I find them to be very hardy and if you enjoy watching fry grow up, you will be very pleased. Also, they are really small, ranging from 3/4 inch for males to 1 and 1/4 inches for females.

Bryan on November 09, 2017:

Black Moore will this fish thrive with such fish as loaches silver dollars etc.., is temp a concern?

Coldwater on April 01, 2017:

Great article, thanks!

Joseph on March 18, 2017:

Helps a lot I already have platies and I love them. I have been doing fish for a while now but I still keep platies because they are simple and fun to take care of.

Zoe W on March 03, 2017:

I have a 6 gallon tank, currently used as a nersery for mollies, when they are big enough they will be put back in the main tank, leaving maybe 3 behind, what bottom feeders can i put in, l have the larger gravel with an imitation branch sitting on top and 3 plants in the corner and 3 moss stones, heated , a strong pump which airates the water.

Emily on January 22, 2017:

I would disagree with the glofish being as hardy as the zebra danio. I had a school of 6+ danio glofish, and an unmodified zebra and the only one to survive was the zebra danio. I've got a couple different tanks (which both have either cardinal or neon tetras), and danio glofish are the only fish I've had issues with keeping alive ( and determining the cause of their deaths). The explanation my pet local petstore gave me was poor genetics. Glofish tetras, on the other hand are hardy and easy to maintain.

Kenzie on January 19, 2017:

What about a dragon goby, would they be a good fish that will get along with other fish?

alireza on January 01, 2017:

thank u very was very helpful..but i have one question..what about moolly? is it easy to care? thx

Mort triggs on December 31, 2016:

Totally agree with your selections and comments. This is a hobby that never really goes away. I started out in the early 70's. Being in the military, your home was never permenant, so i started and gave away many! I now retired and back in the hobby again, 36 gal. Bow, a 65 gal. Community tank, a 90 gal. Housing 2 oscars, 2 silver dollars and a big pleco! Considering a 180 forthe latter crew. I hope im not stetching it, but have not found the filtration to keep me happy. I do not understand the under tank, sumps, skimmers, u v inhibitors??? Im of floss& carbon box filter generation! Ha! Enjoyed your articles!

Elaine Mcelwee on December 17, 2016:

I have a bristle nosed cat fish 8 danios and 6 neon tetras woke up and 3 danios have vanished from the tank would the catfish have ate them

Elby on October 02, 2016:

Starting a ten gallon tank... How many of your top 5 can live with each other? And should I only pick one kind, due to the small tank? Or Cory Catfish and one other? What will little shrimpies work with? Do they really help clean/filter your tank? Thank you for sharing your knowledge!! Most helpful!! Great article; great site.

Yellow on June 27, 2016:

What equipment should I use in a 10 gallon tank with 6 Corys ?

Educated Pet Store Employee on June 02, 2016:

I really wish more pet stores, such as the one I work in, required actual education to work in fish. It's a hit or miss, honestly, though it gets annoying when people think I work commission and don't care about the fish after they leave the store. In places like Walmart, Petsmart, and Petco, they don't have requirements. If you're going to a local fish/pet store, put more trust in us employees, please!

J on December 31, 2015:

Endlers guppies in a 5 gal?

Elliott-Scates (author) on July 31, 2015:


All fish poo in their tanks. Platies aren't particularly heavy on the bioload in an aquarium. Make sure you are changing at least 25% of the water every two weeks to keep your fish healthy. What size tank do you have and what fish are you keeping in it?

iveta on June 26, 2015:

I have a platty for a week already. And I want some more. But it seems to be a poo-machine hence I am afraid to buy them. All the time I see it is pooing and no one other fish. Are platies so messy?

Marko Miholic from Croatia on February 10, 2015:

I agree with the article, the most easy fish are platies, guppy and similar livebearers, when i was a boy and new to fish tanks i did some crazy things with my tanks and this fish survived it all :)

heather on November 30, 2014:

I loved this. Betas and goldfish are probably the 2 most commonly abused fish. While people don't realize their "happy" goldfish are existing in pain, stunted growth etc. Rule of thumb 1 gallon per inch of fish. With gold fish, being very messy, you need 20 gallons for initial and 10 gallons per additional and that's the bare minimum. I have 5 danio glofish in a 30. And may add 3 more, even tho the pet store said i could house 10+ i want my little guys to have room to swim. They are also a schooling fish and need to be in a group of at least 5 preferably 6, ( im looking for the starfire red now to complete color set) everyone is getting along great. The numbers thing is important bc of stress, they tend to die, jump out etc if not properly schooled, i find those tiny kits as cruel as a goldfish in a bowl or a beta in a vase, living and existing are 2 entirely diff things. A person can "live" in a closet. Owning fish is a hobby and responsibility not adding a piece of furniture or plant to your home.

dudexyx on January 13, 2014:

There are so many Goldfish varieties. Some are tough cookies and some are not. So not all Goldfish types are beginner friendly but there are several which do.

anonymous on July 12, 2013:

Oh, and if you're looking for the carnivorous hunting action, goldfish are adept carnivores, especially koi. That koi was pig in disguise. He ate anything I put in there. I put minnows, ghost shrimp, guppies, all these little things because I wanted to start an ecosystem, but my tank wasn't large enough. The koi and the goldfish ate them up, but the koi ate them way more than the goldfish did. You could put like 8 minnows in the water, and within 3 days, they'd all but one or 2 be gone, even with a regular feeding schedule. I usually fed them once every 2 or 3 days at that time, but that was because my tank was only 20 gallons, and goldfish really need 100+ gallons so that they can grow properly. Also, they're poop-machines like the plecos mentioned above. They'll dirt up a tank pretty quick, and need at least 1/4 water changes every week or two, depending on the size of the tank and the fish of course. 20 gallons needed once a week, but I was lazy and did once every 3 weeks to a month. So, I ended up doing 50% water changes all the time, and they did very well right up until I fed them too much on the last trip, and the koi ate too much, and Melafix killed my other fish. He had developed some kind of fuzz over his eyes, and I was trying to treat it with Melafix, and it ended up killing him. I followed the directions, but I think I left the stuff in the tank too long because I think i left it in more than 7 days. I should have just gotten regular old-fashioned medicine, and anti-fungal, and then if that didn't work, and anti-bacterial. Oh well, now I've learned.

anonymous on July 12, 2013:

I have to disagree, a goldfish is an excellent beginner fish if you're willing to mess with a 100 gallon tank. They're extremely hardy fish that can last as long as any normal pet to upwards of 15 to 20 years so long as you take care of them and don't let their water get too overcome with ammonia.

Also, they can literally survive long road trips so long as you don't make their container air-tight, or find some way of pumping air into the container. Personally, I used a regular air pump with an air stone and one of those large cylindrical common use buckets, the ones with a lid that seals over the bucket for ice, paint, water, or whatever liquid you need to carry. I drilled a hole in the center of the lid, and put the tube into the water through that hole. Then I plugged the pump into my car. It worked beautifully, and my fish survived several long road trips that way.

Note to anyone who's going to take their goldfish on a road trip, they don't fair well when they're still small. If you want them to survive without too much stress, they need to be something like at least 1.5" to 2". I was forced to take them on road trips while they were still small, and it didn't work out too well, and one of them died after about the third trip. The second one died several trips later. Although, on the other hand, the 2 that died were in fact feeder goldfish that had already endured a lot of stress from being part of a fish bowl decoration at a social gathering. The other two bigger ones that didn't die were actually sold as pet goldfish.

They're also very inexpensive for the beginner because you can buy a couple feeder goldfish for cents, and they can last you 15 to 20 years if you take good care of them. They take it fairly well when you forget to give them a water change, or even when you do 50% water changes every time.

They don't need to fed but several pellets once every 2 to 4 days. They don't seem to like décor too much in their tanks, they tore apart every live plant I tried to put in there, but that's okay especially for beginners because they're perfectly happy with absolutely nothing but water in their tank. And if you do put rocks, as we all should put some kind of floor covering to separate the poop from the fish, they keep them clean for the most part because they eat the scum that forms on the rocks. Gotta love those carp, they're adept bottom feeders.

Elliott-Scates (author) on June 22, 2013:

@anonymous: No problem...glad you enjoyed reading it. Research is the number one key. I do highly recommend Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine if you are serious about the hobby. They always have great issues filled with tons of helpful information.

Elliott-Scates (author) on June 22, 2013:

@violateprivacy: Thanks for your input. I have a really hard time finding any good quality neon tetras. I naturally have water that should suit them perfectly, but I have experienced more random deaths with them than any other fish. Maybe your area has better stock than mine.

As for cories, they are some of my favorite fish. I think that corydoras aeneus is a great fish for the beginner's tank as long as there is smaller sized substrate. I do agree some of the more exotic species can be much more difficult to keep, but I have always found the common ones in most local pet stores to be pretty forgiving and a great indicator fish for when I need to do a water change.

I did change the wording for the glofish to encourage a larger tank. You are right. They would be happier in a slightly larger tank.

Elliott-Scates (author) on June 22, 2013:

@anonymous: As far as breeding goes, they can get aggressive. If you have a large enough tank, they will be fine. Fifty-five gallons is more than enough room for other fish to flee. I have only found them to be aggressive to other cichlids. They will chase other fish away that get too close to the eggs/fry, but I have never found it to stress or hurt other fish in any way.

Elliott-Scates (author) on June 22, 2013:

@anonymous: I have found neons to be very tricky to keep as well. I just feel that it is extremely difficult to find quality stock. I am glad you have found some great alternatives. Tiger barbs are one of my favorites as well. Their colors can be amazing if given the proper environment. Good luck!

anonymous on May 08, 2013:

Neon tetras are notorious for living briefly in a well cycled and clean tank. I used to keep those. Now I have tiger barbs and albino catfish.They seem really happy in their environment.

anonymous on April 09, 2013:

Hey! Where are the guppies!

anonymous on March 17, 2013:

I bought 2 kribensis recently and was warned by the pet store clerk that they will get very aggressive if they breed - he told me my fish would be on the other side of the tank constantly! Having previously read that it is possible to breed kribensis in a community setup if its large enough (my tank is 55 gallons) I bought them anyway but I was impressed he actually bothered to warn me, most fish shops just let you buy whatever you ask for without any warnings whatsoever.

violateprivacy on March 12, 2013:

I feel that neon tetras can be a good beginner fish for the informed beginner. Goldfish are fairly easy to keep with a little research and the funds. However, I find corys as a beginner fish a little odd, given your reasons for the tetras -- all the anecdotal evidence I've heard of say that corys are pretty hard to introduce to a tank, especially a less-than-established one a beginner is likely to have.

And to note on the zebra danios (and in turn, glofish), they really should have a 15 gallon long tank. While a 10 gallon tank meets their needs as far as biological loads go, they are fast fish who love to swim in quick, short bursts. A 10 gallon doesn't give them the length they need to do this.

I think you should also note that there are two types of glofish now, the danios and the tetras, to avoid confusion for the newcomer.

Otherwise, this introduces some nice ideas -- I never thought of Kribensis. I always regarded Chichlids unsuitable for any beginner, but these may be suitable fish for a new owner as long as they're aware of the ramifications they may bring forth in a community tank.

anonymous on February 17, 2013:

Thank you so much for your information! My husband and I have been considering fish for a while but your list really helped me figure out that goldfish are NOT the way to go for us! We'll be going with Platys, per your recommendation. Thank you for helping me decide the right fish to choose for us and to give me a starting point for all the research I'll be doing!

delevine on January 23, 2013:

I was surprised not to see the white cloud minnow here as best beginner fish. They are so hardy, they will forgive a range of temperatures, tank sizes and water parameters, they school well but are full of individual personality and they will eat anything. When they are well cared-for, the males will display spectacular colours.

anonymous on November 13, 2012:

I bought a pair of kribs on Sunday, I have a 43L tank with 2 plants a cave and a rock formation, when I bought them they where white, when they got home they had colour in the bag the lady put them in, and when i put them in the tank they lost all coulour except for the grey along there back, they have now been in the tank for 3 nights and they haven't developed any colour still.... Why haven't they got colour?

anonymous on November 03, 2012:

@Elliott-Scates: If only I had done my research or read this article before I bought my first aquarium and fish. I told the pet store lady I had a 10 gallon tank setup for 24 hours, and asked what I should do to get it ready. She said nothing needs to be done, buy these goldfish and this pleco here, float them for 30 mins, then dump them in and you're all set.

I learned about cycling the tank when the goldfish started dying one by one. The (bristlenose) pleco survived, but of course she alone was WAY too much fish for a 10 gallon. That 10 gallon now has one very happy betta fish as it's sole inhabitant, and the pleco was rehomed.

anonymous on November 03, 2012:

@anonymous: All fish will stop physically/outwardly growing based on the size of the tank they're in, but internally their organs continue growing. A goldfish should not be kept in anything less than a 30 gallon tank (for ONE!) to avoid this "stunting" of it's growth. It's very painful for them and will cause them to die much much earlier than normal. You won't see anything wrong, but it will happen despite how often you change the water or how happy you think it looks.

anonymous on November 03, 2012:

@anonymous: How long did your goldfish live Tia? If you say less than 15-20 years that's probably because you didn't keep it "OKAAAAY". You kept it in conditions that killed it early, and possibly painfully. Goldfish are extremely demanding and should not be kept by beginners. The author here is correct.

anonymous on November 03, 2012:

goldfish in my opinion! We have one in a two gallon tank for about a year. We top up its water every few days, and a few days before we change the water we pour the water we are going to use in a bowl so it does not enter to much shock to Goldie. It Only costs us about three pound a month to feed, and we buy tank décor for pennies at the market.

anonymous on October 18, 2012:

I disagree with some of the information here, but I also learned some things. Some of the recommendations have caused me to rethink my plans. I suggest to readers that you take from this information what you will and council yourself on what works best for you.

anonymous on October 10, 2012:

This was extremely helpful! Thank you so much for posting this. It really helps to know the amount of care a fish really needs rather than just the notes on the tanks at the pet store.

Elliott-Scates (author) on October 06, 2012:

@anonymous: Thanks for your seems odd that your platy would show any aggressiveness. If it is a male, they sometimes can be competitive in attracting the attention of females. He may be viewing the glofish as competition due to their bright colors. I wouldn't be too concerned though as the glofish are extremely fast and energetic, and they shouldn't be bothered too much by the platy. Good luck with your tank!

anonymous on October 05, 2012:

Hi, this is a great post! I enjoyed reading it.

One question, though...I have one platy and 2 zebras and 2 glofish together (figure that's enough fish for a 10 gallon) and they all get along...until the last two days, I noticed the platy is absolutely terrorizing the glofish. Leaves the zebras alone, but chases the red and yellow glofish all over the place. Seems odd...

EMangl on October 09, 2011:

very informative! not that i like to have an aquarium again, but i enjoy visiting a friend and watch his plecos

Anthony Altorenna from Connecticut on October 01, 2011:

This is a very interesting and informative lens. Well done!

anonymous on October 01, 2011:

Yep, if I were a goldfish I would sue too! We manage to keep our goldfish for a very long time and are proud of the fact. This is a very good, helpful page about Goldfish :)

NightSquid LM on September 30, 2011:

Good information! I really like your insight on starting an aquarium.


Elliott-Scates (author) on September 28, 2011:

Thanks for the positive feedback. It really bothers me seeing people constantly being duped into wasting money on highly unsuitable fish either out of ignorance or greed on the part of the employees. Hopefully, people will be more informed when starting the hobby. It really can be a lot of fun if you know what you are doing!

Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on September 28, 2011:

Great information - I'll be off to buy some platies for my fish tank!

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on September 28, 2011:

Great approach to the topic. Well done!

imolaK on September 27, 2011:

I enjoyed reading your lens. Blessed!

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