15 Best Tropical Fish For Beginners : Tropical Fish Species

By Alberto Roy

Updated on:

You’ve just bought a fish tank, or are thinking of buying one. Now you want to know the 15 best tropical fish for beginners. We have a wide selection of tropical fish for you to choose from.

Each of the listed fish have been carefully chosen for their hardiness, price, size, and feeding habits.

Your aquarium may crash if it is not established and has enough beneficial bacteria.

This can cause water quality to change rapidly and can lead to chemicals in the water. Excess food or fish waste can also build up and can poison your fish. Your tank will get more natural bacteria over time, so you can deal with any problem.

Best Tropical Fish For Beginners

You will be a novice and not know how to solve this problem quickly. Therefore, fish that can withstand low water temperatures for a short time and still survive are essential.

Poor water conditions are not something you should have, but fish-keeping beginners will make mistakes just like everyone else.

Best Tropical Fish For Beginners
Best Tropical Fish For Beginners

You’ll find some common errors in our 30 most frequent mistakes beginners make article. This article might help you to avoid some of these mistakes.

Let’s take a look at the 15 Top Tropical Fish for Beginners. You’ve probably heard of #14, which is the most popular tropical fish worldwide.

The 15 Best tropical fish for beginners are:

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  • Guppy
  • Molly
  • Zebra danios
  • Dwarf Gouramis
  • Bettas
  • Catfish
  • Swordtails
  • Firemouth Cichlid
  • Plecostomus
  • Oscar fish
  • Redtail sharks
  • Harlequin Rasbora
  • Loaches
  • Neon Tetre
  • Angelfish

#1 Guppy

Guppy Fish - Neon blue tux guppy
Guppy Fish – Neon blue tux guppy
Common NameGuppy
Care LevelEasy
Water Conditions64-82° F, KH 10-30, pH 5.5-8.0
Size2” Max
Tank size20 Gallons


The Guppy Fish (Poeciliareticulata), also known as the million-fish, rainbow fish or rainbow fish, is well-known worldwide. Although it is native to Northeast and South America, the Guppy Fish is bred in captivity.

It is now a household tropical fish that almost all aquarists keep at one time or another. It is also relatively inexpensive ($1-6) and easy to keep.

They are also available in many vibrant colors. The lively fish is easy to care for as it requires very little maintenance. It also has a calm temperament that suits most beginners.

These widely-distributed tropical fish are great for beginners aquarists. They can adapt to any water condition, making them a perfect choice. These omnivores don’t have a preference for food.

They can eat most foods and have no health concerns. They can eat regular fish flakes, frozen brine shrimps, Daphnia, and bloodworms. They can survive for up to a week without food, which is quite common.

This is a strong testament to the resilience of these tiny creatures. Because of their small stomachs, they don’t require large or frequent feedings. They can be fed once or twice daily in small amounts.

It is best to keep them in an aquarium that has a minimum of ten to twenty-gallon tanks. They will need plenty of refuge.

They can mix well with peaceful fishes and are very harmonious. They breed quickly so it is important to keep the male and female population under control.

#2 Molly

Molly Fish - Freshwater mollies platies
Molly Fish – Freshwater mollies platies
Family NamePoeciliid
Care LevelEasy
Max Size6-7″
Water Conditions75-82° F, KH 10-25, pH 7.5-8.5
Tank Size20-30 Gallons Minimum


Common Molly is another name for the Molly fish (Poecilia.sphenops). They are originally from Malaysia. They are known for their calm temperament and quick adaptability.

They are plentiful, available at a low price ($3-6), and come in a wide range of colors. They are energetic, playful and great starter fish.

Because they are only 3 to 5 inches tall, you will only need 20 gallons of hard, warm water. The animal adapts slowly but it eventually becomes comfortable and easy to care for.

This versatile fish is an excellent choice for beginners because it is hardy and less aggressive. It is a good idea to include any tropical, calm community tank species with them, due to their natural nature. In a well-lit tank, keep plenty of algae and water plants.

These fish are a favorite of ours and are often overlooked by experienced aquarists, which is a shame. They can also be used to clean your tank.

#3 Zebra Danios

Zebra Danios Fish
Zebra Danios Fish
Common NamesZebra Danios
Scientific NameDanio rerio
Care LevelEasy
Ideal foodsFlake Foods, Brine Shrimps, Bloodworms, Mysis Shrmips
Max Size3″
Tank Size10 Gallons Plus
Good Schooling fish?Perfect fish for Aquascaping tanks and large Schools
Water Conditions64-75° F, KH 8-12, pH 6.5-7.5
OriginSouth Asia
Jumper?Yes, When first introduced to the aquarium
Ideal First FishYes, hardy and easy to feed and inexpensive


The ZebraFish, also known as Danio rerio, are native to the Ganges region and the Himalayan area. Their distinctive zebra pattern is easily identifiable. They are ideal for novice tank keepers who don’t know how to set up a tank because of their toughness.

They are inexpensive at $1-2 and can be bought in groups of five or more because they are schooling fish. They become highly stressed and agitated if they are not part of a group.

They are able to school in large numbers, and they look amazing in an aquascaped aquarium. This fish is highly respected as a great schooling fish.

They can grow to 3 inches in length and only require a 10-gallon tank.

Because it is prone to jumping, you will need to ensure that your aquarium has a tight seal. These omnivores are not picky about their food choices and will eat anything.

You can feed it a variety of foods, including fish flakes, worms and frozen food. These fish are rated highly in our most favorite tropical community fish.

#4  Dwarf Gouramis

Dwarf Gouramis Fish
Dwarf Gouramis Fish
Scientific NameColisa lalia
Size2” Max
Care LevelModerate
OriginCaptivity Breed
Tank Size10-15 Gallons +
Price$3-$8 Depending on size


The Dwarf Gourami (Trichogaster Lalius) is a smaller gourami species that originated from South Asia as a shy, peace-loving fish.

They are Labyrinth Fish, meaning they breathe directly from the air. Therefore, they require access to the surface.

Due to its radiant, multicolored pallor, this breed is highly sought after. It comes in rainbow, flame, and powder blue colors.

They are very healthy and have a low mortality rate. They can live up to four years without much assistance. These omnivores are able to live on both a meaty or an algae-based diet.

Because of their calm demeanor and ability to quickly adapt, they are a great community fish.

They can grow to 2.5 inches in length and require an aquarium of 10-20 gallons. They would do well in a dark tank with plenty of floating and rooted plants.

You should clean their water regularly as they could be at risk of tropical fish diseases. They can tolerate both hard water and soft water and are very resilient.

#5 Betta

Betta Fish
Betta Fish
Scientific NameBetta splendens
Care LevelEasy
TemperamentPeaceful-Don’t keep 2 males together.
Water Conditions75-86° F, KH 0-25, pH 6.0-8.0


The Siamese Fighting Fish (Betta splendens) from Thailand is one of the most famous fish in the freshwater aquarium trade.

The valid reason for this is their aesthetically appealing look and appearance. They are an mostly hardy Labyrinth Fish when kept in ideal waters although too often they are kept in very small tanks which is far from perfect.


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Their strong will to live is seen as they can sustain themselves in stagnant, oxygen-deficient water systems. Although seemingly high maintenance, these beauties are very simple to care for and affordable at $4 however, some specially bred show fish can fetch large sums. As omnivores fish, they require both animal and plant food in the form of fish flakes or worms.

A suitable aquarium for growing up to 3 inches would be one that has 10 Gallons of acidic water and a temperature constant of 24 to 28 degrees Celsius.

They can tolerate poor water quality, and even small spaces. However, we do not recommend this. They are not easy to kill so they will be less likely disappoint a beginner aquarium keeper.

You should be careful not to nip their fins. They are also known as fighting fish. If two males are kept together, they will fight until the end.

They shouldn’t be kept in groups as they aren’t schooling fish. They can be paired with other peaceful species such as neons, barbs and rasboras.

#6 Catfish

Cory Catfish Catfish Fish
Cory Catfish Catfish Fish
Scientific NameCallichthyidae
Number of speciesOver 177
Average size2″
Max SizeSome species can reach 9″
Care LevelEasy
Life Span5-10 Years


Catfish (Siluriformes), also known as Cory Cats, can be traced back to Brazil, South America and Upper Rio Guapore.

There are 140 varieties to choose from, and they come at a price of $6 or less. They make an excellent addition to any aquarium. They can live up to 20 years, even though they are bottom-feeding catfish.

They are very social and can thrive in community tanks that contain mixed species. They require a soft-bottom aquarium with 30 gallons of water because of their bubbly personality. However, most species only grow up to 3 inches.

They are exemplary and highly motivated when it comes cleaning out tanks. They will always pick up any food left in the gravel.

Their omnivorous appetites need to be satisfied with a balanced diet of frozen, dried and flaked foods.

As responsible fish keepers, you must ensure that they receive the best catfish food. We’ve reviewed the best so it is easier to give your children a healthy diet.

Best Tropical Fish for Beginners (Just for You)

#7 Swordtails

Swordtails Fish
Swordtails Fish
Scientific NameXiphophorus helleri
Care LevelEasy
Max Size4-5″
Water Conditions63-81° F, KH 12-30, pH 7.0-8.2
Tank Size20 Gallons +


The origins of the Swordtail (Xiphophorus Hellerii) can be traced back as far as North and Central America. They are the most popular species and have been labeled as “beginners only” fish, which we disagree with.

These fishes can be more than just a beginner fish, even though they are perfectly suited to that role. This highly-sought-after freshwater fish is only $5 and a crowd pleaser due to their easy care routine.

They are friendly and fit well in a group habitat, but they can be territorial towards males from the same species.

Because of their unique sword-like tails and willingness to live, they are often a popular choice for hobbyists. Another factor that makes them so attractive is the variety of options available.

Including Marigold, Red Velvet, Black Nubian, Pineapple etc. They can grow up to 4 inches so you need to keep them in 20 gallons water at 25-28 degrees Celsius.

They have very low expectations regarding water conditions. Their omnivorous needs will be satisfied by commercially prepared foods.

You can use them to make vegetable-based flakes, tubifex worms, brine shrimp, or other plant-based diets that include algae. This is something to keep in mind next time you go to your local aquarium shop or pet store.

#8 Firemouth Cichlids

Firemouth Cichlids Fish
Firemouth Cichlids Fish
Common NameFiremouth Cichlid
Scientific NameThorichthys meeki
Care leveleasy-moderate
Ideal FoodsCichlid pellets, Flakes and live foods
Water Conditions72-81° F, KH 4-10, pH 6.0-7.5
Tank size50 Gallons+
Max Size7-8″
Aquarium DecorWell planted, rocks,caves and driftwood
Jumpers?Only when first introduced to the aquarium or if being bullied by larger fish
BreedingEasy, mouthbrooders


The Fire Mouth Cichlid is a native of Central America. Their pearlescent turquoise-blue bodies are a beautiful example of beauty, which is further highlighted by their red scales.

These fish are great for aquariums that need colorful and interesting fish. They are also very affordable at $6 per piece.

They can be classified as semi-aggressive but only when they are spawning during the breeding season. They are generally friendly and can be kept with bigger, more active fish in a freshwater aquarium.

To minimize risks, you should buy multiple fire mouth cichlids. They can grow up to 6 inches.

It is recommended to keep them in at minimum 30 gallons of water (21-24° Celsius). This should include a gravel bottom to forage in, and lots of rockwork to hide.

They love to move and dig in the gravel so make sure the decor is securely glued to the ground to prevent it from falling on them.

They are omnivorous, and don’t have any preferences when it comes to what they eat. They can be fed regular, commonly available foods such as flake food, ocean plankton, and Cichlid pellets.

The best cichlids for 2018 was reviewed by us. You can find the review and conclusions here.

#9 Plecostomus

Plecostomus Fish
Plecostomus Fish
Scientific NameVarious (Species dependent)
Common NameArmoured catfish, Pleco, Plec, Janitor catfish
OriginCentral to South America
Lifespan10 – 15 years
Growth & SizeUp to 30 inches (species dependent)
Suitable foodsSinking veggie pellets, algae sticks, Flake, Live foods
Minimum Tank Size30 gallons plus (species dependent)
Tank LevelBottom Dwellers
Care LevelMedium
Water Parameters3-10°dH, 6-8pH, 74-80℉ or 23-27℃
Good first fish?Yes
Tank MatesMost freshwater fish and community fish
Can you keep two together?Yes
Jumpers?No, they won’t jump out of your aquarium
Recommend SpeciesBristlenose Plecos
CostFrom $10 depending on size


The Suckermouth Catfish (Hypostomus pilostomus), also known as the common pleco is a tropical fish most people have seen.

This fish is found in the Amazon region of Tropical Northeastern South America. It is also identified by its heavy armored plates.

They are in high demand throughout the aqua trade. Their long life expectancy of up 20 years, their economic cost of $4, and their tranquil temperament are the reasons.

They can co-exist with many species. They don’t live as cute little fish for very long. They can grow to be huge and almost always outgrow aquariums in less than 5 years.

These fish are thought to live off algae from your aquarium and any leftover food that sinks to the bottom. However, this is not the case.

Our catfish pellets are what we like to feed them. They require the right nutrition that all fish require. You should ensure they have a varied and steady diet.

#10 Oscars

Oscars Fish
Oscars Fish
Scientific NameAstronotus Ocellatus
Common NamesVelvet Cichlid, Marble Cichlid, Tiger Cichlid
OriginTropical South America
SociabilityMildly Aggressive
GrowthUp to approximately 16 inch (Usually 12 inch)
Best Foods For OscarsLarger Pellets, Live foods, meaty foods.
Minimum Tank Size55 gallon Minimum
Tank LevelMid – Top
Care LevelEasy – Moderate
Water Parameters74 – 81℉ (23 – 27℃), pH 6 – 8, 5 – 20 dH
BreedingBiparental Substrate Spawner. Easy in the right aquarium
Ideal Beginners FishYes, With caution on tanks size
JumpersNo, they rarely jump out of the aquarium
AvailabilityGood. Most stores sell them
CostFrom $8 for a small 3”- $50 for an adult.


The Oscar (Astronotus Ocellatus), also known as the marble cichlid, or velvet cichlid, hails from South America. This fish requires a lot of tagging.

It should be on the tropical fish beginner‘ list because of its intelligence and playful nature. They can be trained to obey commands and perform tricks.

They are classed as semi-aggressive and are better, therefore, be kept in a tank of their own (non-community-oriented species), but they do flourish in pairs.

They will need to be kept together with fish of the same size and aggressive nature if they are to be kept with others. These 1-2 inch baby fish can grow to massive sizes of 12-14 inches in very little time.

They require a tank between 70 and 100 gallons with deep gravel bottoms, large heavy rocks, and lots of them. They can be used in basic aqua systems due to their high water hardness.

A good water maintenance system and filtration system is essential, as they produce a lot. To remove excess waste and leftover foods, you will need to change your water every week at a rate of 25%.

You can feed them with sea plankton, small fish and earthworms. These fish are great fun to keep, but you’ll need to place them in an aquarium with good filtration.

Best Tropical Fish For Beginners (Just  Like Me)

#11 Redtail Sharks

Redtail Sharks Fish
Redtail Sharks Fish
Scientific NameEpalzeorhynchos bicolor
Common NameRedtail shark
Size7” Max
Care LevelMedium
Water Conditions72-80° F, KH 10-15, pH 6.4-7.6


Thailand is home to the Red Tail Shark costing (Epalzeorhynhos Bicolor). This magnificent fish boasts a striking body with a jet-black tail and a vibrant red tail. It would be a great addition to any aquarium.

They have an average growth rate of 6-7 inches, but they are known to occasionally reach 8”. Additionally, they have a lifetime expectation of 5-6years.

To prevent water from escaping, you’ll need a 55-gallon tropical freshwater tank. It can be decorated with plants, caves, dense vegetation, or a fast-paced water flow.

Due to their territorial tendencies, they can be semi-aggressive. You can keep them together with Angelfish and Danios.

If you’re a beginner, don’t place any other red tail sharks. It is unrealistic to believe that it will be easy. So it would be better to just place them.

These sharks are often mistaken for rainbow sharks, which appear similar. Our rainbow shark complete care guide will help you to distinguish the differences.

This non-fussy omnivore is likely to eat plants, insects, flakes and pellets as well as cucumbers and fruits.

This lively swimmer can be watched for hours as they adjust quickly. Due to their similar appearance, they are often confused with Rainbow sharks.

#12 Harlequin Rasbora

Harlequin Rasbora Fish
Harlequin Rasbora Fish
Scientific NameRasbora heteromorpha
Care levelEasy
Tank Size10 Gallon +
Best group size30+
Size2” Max
Cost$2 Each


Trignostigma heteromorpha is the native Trignostigma Harlequin Rasbora, a Harlequin Rasbora. This beautiful reddish-copper metallic color is a favourite of fish keepers.

It is also available at a low price of $2, making it an ideal freshwater fish to start with. They are great for adding color and activity to your aquarium.

It can live up to 2 inches in a 10 gallon aquarium with established plants. The water temperature is around 22-23 Celsius.

It is a schooling fish and a community fish. It should therefore be bought in groups of 8-10 people that match its peaceful temperament such as betas, cory cats, neon tetras, etc.

To find the right tank mates for this beautiful rasbora, read our article Top Nine Freshwater Fish for a New Aquarium.

They are also easy to feed flake food, tubifex and freeze-dried bloodworms due to their natural eating habits.

We think these fish are underrated and they look amazing in large aquariums with a lot of fish. Simply breathtaking!

#13 Loaches

Loaches Fish - Clown Loach Schooling
Loaches Fish – Clown Loach Schooling
Popular NameClown Loach
Scientific NameChromobotia macracanthus
Size12-20 cm
Care levelModerate
Temperature75-81 degrees Fahrenheit
pH Level6.0-6.5
Tank size55 gallons +
OriginBorneo, Malaysia, Sumatra, Kalimantan
PriceStarting at $4.99


True Loaches (Cobitidae), are usually from Morocco and Eurasia. A Kuhli Loach is a small clown loach, but they are quite affordable. Their friendly personalities make them an excellent choice for fish keepers. It’s very entertaining to see the interaction between fish during feeding.

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As a proficient acclimatizer, this 4-inch fish on average can live in an average aquarium with 50 gallons of water (26-30 degrees Celsius) that is very clean, well oxygenated, with moderate flow, fine gravel, hollow logs and caves, driftwood and plant roots. But don’t be fooled some loaches can grow to 15″ and need a much larger aquarium.

Characteristically affable, they can inhabit community tanks with no signs of imminent danger to other species placed with them and preferably should be bought in a group of 5-6. They are carnivores that will require cyanobacteria, tubifex, live foods, occasionally flake foods and freeze-dried bloodworms.

Loaches spend their entire lives digging through the gravel in search of food. This allows for a higher viewing angle within your aquarium. The perfect combination is to have bottom feeders such as catfish and loach, along with mid-level fish such neons and mollies, and some surface swimmers such as dwarf gouramis.

#14 Neon Tetras

Neon Tetras Fish
Neon Tetras Fish
Scientific nameParacheirodon innesi
OriginSouth America
Care LevelEasy
Max size1.5″
Tank size10 Gallons plus
Schooling size20+ fish
Tank LevelAll levels
Ideal First Fish?Yes, hardy, inexpensive and easy to feed
Jumpers?Yes, buy only when first introduced to the aquarium
Easy to breed?No, not often bred in the home aquarium. Easier to breed in a separate breeding tank
Aquarium DecorWell planted, Bogwood, Rocks and Ornaments.


The Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon Innesi) is a native of the Orinoco, and the Amazon Basin in South America. They are rightly the most beloved tropical fish.

These are selling at around two million each month in America. It’s not because their stunning bodies look amazing, but their unmatched temperament that is the main selling point.

Ten gallons is the minimum amount of water that they need to thrive. Ideal conditions for them include low lighting, dense plantsation, low watt fluorescent lighting, soft water and regular sponge filtering in an established, mature tank.

They are able to live in sheltered areas, but they also have a strong community orientation and are happy to share tanks with other tank-mates. They can also live with other species such as cory catfish, barbs and guppies.

As they are easier to adjust and settle into their new homes, it is best to purchase them in groups of about 10-15. You can also buy them as natural schooling fish. For more information, see our article.

They are easy to feed, both in the wild as in the aquarium. Include larvae from algae, brine shrimps, brine shrimps, nano vertebrates and tubifex in their diets.

They are able to eat a very simple diet, only needing to be fed once or twice daily. This allows them to not have any burdensome responsibilities.

They can even live up 8 years with little effort. They are also affordable at $20 per piece, making them a great tropical fish for beginners. Our Complete Guide to Neon Tetras will provide more information.

#15 Angelfish

Scientific NamePterophyllum sp
Size6-8” Max
Care LevelEasy
Tank Size30 Gallons minimum
Water Conditions75-82° F, KH 1-5, pH 5.8-7.0


The Amazon Basin, Tropical South America and Orinoco Basin are home to the Angel Fish (Pterophyllum). They are a standard, tropical fish that every aquarist should own.

These graceful fish can grow to as much as 8 inches in length and come in many different colors and patterns. Although they are very resilient and easy-going, they can sometimes be aggressive.

As a minimum, they will require 55 gallons of water, moderate current flows, floating, driftwood and broadleaf plant food. They prefer slow-moving water, with dim lighting and downed trees, just like in the wild.

You can place them alongside larger tetras and rainbowfish or catfish. They can be kept alone or in large schools to reduce their aggression due to their semi-aggressive nature.

They require the same nutrition as an omnivore (2-4 times per day), including small crustaceans and shrimp pellets, marine alga, frozen live foods, and worm.

They have incredible fins, so you would think that they are able to appreciate the fins of other fishes. However, they can nip and cause damage to their fins, which is somewhat ironic.

Final Thoughts : Best Tropical Fish for Beginners

We hope you found some fish that will inspire you to start your own aquarium.

While most of these fish can be kept in one aquarium, they may not all be suitable for beginners to fishkeeping. For example, Oscar fish should not be kept with Neons.

They are each amazing fish in their own right and can help you have a successful aquarium.

For your reference, we have prepared a complete guide that will assist you in making the right decisions regarding setting up and stocking an aquarium. We wish you all the best and we wish you much success with your new aquarium.

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