17 Of The Most Popular Aquarium Fish You Can Keep

Estimated read time 15 min read

In this article, we’re going to discuss some of the most popular aquarium fish for the beginner and some benefits of each to guide you towards the one that is most suited to your community tank.

Freshwater Fish are a popular choice for parents looking for a new pet for their children primarily because of the fact they appear to be relatively easy to care for, their breathtaking patterns, and a wide selection of species, while the former choose them for their resilience and adaptability when compared to their saltwater counterparts.

Because there are so many Fish to choose from, if you are a beginner, you may have a hard time finding the Fish that is right for your tanks.

That’s where we come in!

Let’s begin.

Here Are Some Of The Best Fish For Your Community Tank

To start, here are a few articles you should check out if you’re looking for some popular pet fish ideas. Each article shares Fish examples and combinations you can use for each tank size or need.

Most Common Pet Fish Based On Tank Size

Unique Pet Fish Ideas

Most Popular Freshwater Fish For Centerpiece Fish

17 Most Popular Aquarium Fish You Can Keep

Next, we have our list of the 17 most popular freshwater fish.

1. Goldfish

Freshwater Fish: Goldfish

Photo Credit: Annie Roi

Likey one of the most popular types of fish for an aquarium and the go-to pet of parents hoping to teach their children some responsibility before introducing a larger pet to the picture, the goldfish is often chosen for being a very hardy fish.

If housed in a tank at least 20-gallon in size – you can expect your goldfish to grow up to 14 inches in length and live for upwards of a decade (the oldest recorded goldfish made it to a staggering 43 years).

With so many different types and colors for only a couple of dollars from most pet stores, goldfish should be high on your list if you’re hoping to stock your tank on a budget. That said, to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend this Fish for the beginner.

2. Guppy

Freshwater Fish: Guppy

Photo Credit: William Warby

Because of how easy they are to care for, guppies are almost as popular among beginners. Their popularity is also because they are among the most colorful fish with vibrant colors and hypnotic tail types, most commonly seen in males.

It is important to remember that guppies, unlike goldfish, are sociable creatures and should be kept in groups, which may be a problem if you would like to avoid the stress of caring for multiple Fish. On the other hand, their small size makes them ideal for beginners.

If you are interested in keeping guppies, it is recommended to keep guppies in sets of threes, with one gallon of water per Fish.

3. Corydoras Catfish

Freshwater Fish: Cory Catfish

Photo Credit: Noel J. Goodwin

If you’re hoping to keep community tanks instead of simply keeping a single species in your tank, you should consider purchasing a Cory or two.

Though quite a friendly bunch, Corydoras are hardy, calm, and non-confrontational, making them the ideal community fish.

Cory catfish are primarily bottom feeders and should be fed using sinking pellets. Go with traditional flakes instead, and your Cory will likely grow weak, losing each meal to faster and more active Fish. Also, the Cory won’t get much bigger than 1.5″.

4. Killifish

Freshwater Fish: Killifish

Photo Credit: Julieanh

With little goal beyond enjoying its existence, the killifish is unlikely to start any battles with other Fish in your aquarium, so you can be sure of a peaceful tank as long as you keep just one male killifish (they can get quite aggressive when mating season rolls around).

Speaking of mating, the killifish is one of the easiest freshwater aquarium fish to breed and requires far less specific conditions than some other fish species.

Aside from its resilience, this unique Fish is easy to breed and has a great allure because of its colorfulness. With patterns and colors galore across its 700 species, even the most pedantic of aquarists won’t have trouble finding a killifish to match the color scheme of their tank.

5. Betta Fish (Siamese Fighting Fish)

Freshwater Fish: Betta Fish

Photo Credit: Brownpau

We know what you’re thinking, but don’t let the name fool you. While male Siamese fighting fish are indeed aggressive towards each other, it is quite an agreeable fish when just one male is housed in a tank. It’s also one of the most common freshwater aquarium fish species you’ll find in stores.

Beginners hoping to maintain a peaceful tank can add a Siamese fighting fish to their aquarium, knowing that it can live with other peaceful fish, but be careful not to mix certain types of Fish with long fins and bright colors, which may bring out the aggressive nature of the Betta.

Perhaps because of its name’s negative connotations, the Siamese fighting fish is more commonly known as the “betta” in fishkeeping circles.

Many bettas boast flared opercula, which gives them a unique appearance regardless of their pattern and makes them impossible to miss in an aquarium. While bettas enjoy plant food, they are omnivorous and require animal protein.

6. Angelfish

Frehswater Fish: Angelfish

If you’re up for a challenge, you should consider adding an angelfish or two to your aquarium. Although the angelfish can be challenging to raise and keep, many aquarists argue that its unique body and color variations make the experience more than worth it.

Much like Siamese fighting fish, angelfish are omnivorous and require a balanced diet of plants and animal food, which can be a challenge to get right if you have no prior experience keeping Fish.

Furthermore, angelfish require a large tank and should have no less than 20 gallons of water to move around in. As it matures, your angelfish may reach up to 6 inches in length, which will be a problem if you have smaller fish in your aquarium as it will be eager to assert its dominance.

7. Neon Tetra

Freshwater Fish: Neon Tetra

Photo Credit: Moto Miwa

Named for the incandescent blue stripe that runs across its body and renders it visible even in darkness, the neon tetra is a staple of aquariums. In addition, it has long been a popular freshwater tropical fish choice among beginners.

Close to 1.5 million neon tetras are imported to the US every month, which is good news for American aquarists as this is an enjoyable fish. However, it is suggested that you keep at least five neon Tetras in your tank at a time, as smaller groups may feel threatened despite their peaceful nature.

You won’t have to worry about a group of neon tetras taking up all the space in your aquarium, as even when fully grown, they rarely exceed 2 centimeters.

Check out this roundup of some fish that can live with Neon Tetras to give this pretty little Fish some company in your tank.

8. Cherry Barbs

Freshwater Fish: Cherry Barb

Photo Credit: Max Wei

Cherry barbs are a relatively hardy and easy fish to care for as long as you have an appropriate tank. However, when grown, this species will reach 2 inches in size and require at least 25 gallons of water.

You should also add some plants to your aquarium if you’re considering going with this Fish, as it is one of many Fish that like to hide themselves away even when not in danger.

If you google a picture of cherry barbs, you’ll find several dozen images of a bright redfish, which, of course, gives the creature its name. However, it is essential to remember that this Fish is primarily silver in color, with males turning bright red only when spawning.

9. Oscar

Freshwater Fish: Oscar Fish

Photo Credit: Harum.koh

Although remarkably unfriendly when it comes to its interactions with other fish species, the oscar can build up quite a positive relationship with humans, with its capacity for what appears to be love being traced back to its superior intelligence compared to other tropical Fish.

Because of its hostility, it is not suitable for housing in a community fish tank and should be kept only with large, aggressive Fish with enough space. This aggressiveness, combined with its enhanced waste production and frustratingly specific diet, turns many fishkeepers off.

Of course, the oscar is not without its charm. Because of its intelligence, it is taught to respond to its name and may even learn a few tricks throughout its two-decade estimated lifespan.

10. Bristlenose Pleco

Freshwater Fish: Bristlenose Pleco

Photo Credit: M.Shattock

If you’re considering breeding your Fish, you should cross the Bristlenose off your list because it is not what you are looking for.

A species of catfish, the Bristlenose pleco, is notoriously challenging to breed, with even the most experienced and dedicated fish keepers failing in their attempts to do so.

Read our care guide for the: Bristlenose Pleco

This Fish requires little traditional fish food and prefers to feast on the algae that typically develops in a tank, so it can be relied upon to clean the aquarium in which it is housed.

Despite being a bottom feeder, the Bristlenose can be pretty amusing to observe, owing to its tendency to launch itself through the water (incidentally, do not house a Bristlenose in an open tank).

11. Zebra Danios

Freshwater Fish: Zebra Danio

Photo Credit: Ruaraidh Gillies

Much like the Bristlenose pleco, the danio is known to jump and should not be kept in an open tank. Thankfully, that’s where the specific requirements end with this fish species.

Care for danios is very easy as it’s a very hardy fish and one of the best Fish for beginners and can flourish in several water conditions. Rarely exceeding 7 centimeters in size, a zebra danio requires only 10 gallons of water and can be sustained on generic flakes.

However, it should be pointed out that danios like to travel in groups and can become stressed to the point of ill-health if kept alone.

12. Platy

Feshwater Fish: Platy

Photo Credit: Allie Caulfield

Much like the zebra danio, the platy is a community fish and prefers to travel in groups of five, although it feels safer in larger groups. But despite the fact it calls for a large group, the platy can live a happy life in just 10 gallons of water.

Furthering its similarities to the zebra danio, care for this Fish is very easy. The platy is visually pleasing, with some arguing it is more interesting to look at than its predecessor and, indeed, the vast majority of aquarium fish.

This is because platies are not limited to a single color or pattern. Platies are a peaceful bunch and get on particularly well with other small Fish. They can be fed both plants and animal foods, although they generally prefer the former.

13. Molly

Freshwater Fish: Molly

Photo Credit: KnOizKi

Mollies are an easy community fish and get on quite well with platies. However, mollies can grow quite large and often end up pushing 5 inches in adulthood, so you should house yours in a tank of over 20 gallons (although 20 gallons alone should be enough if you’re keeping only a small group).

If you’re considering breeding, mollies are worth looking at as they are arguably the best Fish for doing so in freshwater. That being said, mollies may be a little too eager to breed, so if you aren’t ready to commit to raising several, you should only choose one for your tank.

14. Discus

Freshwater Fish: Discus

The discus is a breathtaking fish but has specific needs that the beginner aquarist can rarely meet. Therefore, you should only consider adding one to your tank if you have at least a year of experience under your belt.

The discus requires a premium-grade tank of at least 25 gallons and can grow up to 20 centimeters when adequately housed and fed an adequate diet.

That adequate diet is primarily composed of beef heart and blood worms (yum), but you should also throw some flakes in there for additional nutrients.

15. Pearl Gourami

Freshwater Fish: Pearl Gourami

Photo Credit: Stefan Maurer

Hydra is a polyp entering aquariums with a little goal beyond killing fry and smaller fish. To combat hydra, many fish keepers stock their tanks with pearl gourami.

Pearl gourami feast on hydra and are unaffected by its venom, which allows them to protect the Fish with which they share their tank. When not battling the pest, pearl gourami is relatively peaceful and safely housed in community aquariums.

However, it is essential to note that this Fish can get pretty big and requires a tank of at least 30 gallons, along with low lighting and plenty of space for hiding.

16. Rainbowfish

Freshwater Fish: Rainbowfish

Photo Credit: Greyloch

Despite its vibrant colors and relative hardiness, the rainbowfish rarely pops up in aquariums and should only be expected to be seen in the tank of mainly dedicated hobbyists.

Despite its lack of popularity, the rainbowfish is a very cool fish that is a very friendly creature and gets on well with other peaceful fish to be safely housed in a community aquarium.

Should you decide to purchase a rainbow fish, you should be mindful of the fact that they only begin to show their colors as they enter adulthood, so you have more to gain in the long run from going with a pale rainbowfish than you do from choosing the most beautiful one you can find.

17. Green Swordtail

Despite their name, green swordtails are peaceful Fish and avoid confrontation whenever possible. They seem to participate in friendships with other Fish, so they can be expected to adapt to and thrive in your community aquarium.

Green swordtails get on particularly well with platies, and the two species are so closely related that they can crossbreed.

The green swordtail is a good choice if you are new to fishkeeping as it can survive in various conditions and can easily withstand the most common mistakes made by inexperienced hobbyists.

Video: Most Popular Fish For An Aquarium

What are the prettiest fish to keep in a freshwater aquarium?

In my opinion, one of the prettiest tropical fishes that we didn’t mention above that you can keep in a small fish tank is the cherry barb. It’s tiny, energetic, is suitable in various tank conditions, and will only get a few inches long.

Another fish that many people might not consider very pretty, but I like the Kuhli loach. It’s very active at night, but if you can catch it during the day, it’s brown with lovely gold/yellow bands that run across its body. Although this is very simple, I think it’s a beautiful fish.

What is the best starter fish for a freshwater aquarium?

Many peaceful species of fish are great for a new aquarium owner, such as guppies, tetras, and danios. But my favorite is the white cloud minnow. It’s very active, has nice red fins, very hardy, and can withstand various tank conditions.

What is the most popular pet Fish?

Overall when it comes down to selecting the best freshwater fish of all time, I’d have to go with the Betta Fish. The Betta looks beautiful in almost any tropical fish tank and is available in so many different colors and fin types you can find one for any tank set up.

That said, Bettas are typically sold to beginners as an easy to care for Fish, which they are not. Bettas are hardy but can be impacted by tank size, water temperature, water conditions. You are also limited to the types of tank mates you can place in the same aquarium.

Most beginners will place a Betta in a tank that is far too small, especially if they don’t keep up with regular water changes, and ultimately, the Betta will face some illness.

The trick with Betta fish is to make sure you have a tank size no smaller than 5 gallons, do regular water changes and feed them a good diet of protein-rich food like brine shrimp or blood worms.

If you want to learn more? Check out our Betta Fish Beginners Guide.

What is the most low-maintenance fish?

There are many low-maintenance fish out there, but I like the White Cloud Minnow, as I mentioned above. It’s very active, has nice red fins, very hardy, and can withstand various tank conditions. If you can keep the water temperature consistent and feed them good food, they are straightforward to care for fish compatible with a large variety of tank mates.

Final Thoughts 

It is impossible to name any of the above Fish as the absolute best, as each comes with its own unique set of pros and cons. So instead, your concern should be establishing which species is best suited to your community tank. 

It would be best to choose a fish that matches your experience level. For example, although a novice fishkeeper may wish to stock their tank with a discus, doing so would be irresponsible.

If you’re a beginner fishkeeper, our advice is to start with a less demanding fish – perhaps a neon tetra or a guppy – and work your way up to the more challenging breeds.

Looking to set up your first aquarium? Check out our step by step aqaurium guide.

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