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10 Popular freshwater fish – profile, personality and breeds

As a beginner, freshwater fish has the best chance of success in a home aquarium. There is a lot to learn for the fish keeper who is just starting out, and picking fish that are fun and easy to care for is important.

Most people who start off in the fishkeeping hobby, get hooked very quickly mainly because fish are so beautiful to watch and many have characteristics and personalities all of their own.

Here is a list of the most popular freshwater fish species as beginner fish keepers.

  • 1- neon tetra

Neon Tetras are a small hardy species suitable for beginner fish keepers.

They reach around 2.2cm in length, and best kept in groups. They are a great choice for small community aquariums due to their peaceful temperament.

Neon Tetras come in bright colors, and have an iridescent blue horizontal strip across their body so they are visible in dark waters.

They require soft, acidic water with tropical temperatures, and will accept most foods. They are omnivores, so will feed on brine, shrimp, worms, insects and plants.

  • 2- goldfish

While keeping a goldfish in a bowl is not the correct way to house it, they make popular fish pets.

Goldfish can actually grow up to 14 inches in the wild. The minimum tank size for a goldfish is 20 gallons, and a filter is essential to perform 10-15% weekly water changes.

There are many different varieties of goldfish. While it is fine to mix them as long as they are not breeds that would compete with each other for food. For example, keep single tailed varieties together and normal eyed goldfish together.

  • 3- angelfish

Angelfish are a member of the Cichlid family, which also includes Discus, Oscars and Parrot fish.

These freshwater fish can grow up to 6 inches in length, 8 inches tall, and come in a variety of colors and patterns.

They are omnivorous, requiring a balanced diet of meat and plant food.

Their tank should be at least 20 gallons, and the water slightly soft and acidic.

Angelfish becomes aggressive as they mature. They are generally a good community fish. Do be mindful to not keep them with very small fish or fin-nipping species.

  • 4- fancy guppy

Colorful, lively and hardy, guppies are easily adaptable to a variety of water conditions, making this fish a popular choice.  Ideally, keep guppies in sets of threes, and 1 gallon of water per guppy.

Males are much more colorful and vibrant than females. The ideal water temperature for guppies is 50OF – 84 OF (10-29OC), but the most important factor is that the temperature is kept consistent.

Guppies should be fed a mixture of plant and animal based foods.

  • 5- mollies

This small, peaceful species grow to up to 4 inches in length, and adapt well to a variety of water conditions. They require a minimum tank size of 20 gallons, and warm water with a pH between 7.0-7.8.

Mollies are omnivorous, and will require a diet of both plant and animal food.

Interestingly, they mollies give birth to their young live, rather than lay eggs. Mollies are very easy to care for, and they also breed very easily.

  • 6- zebra danio

The zebra danio is a popular tropical fish for beginners, and very popular. They are hardy, active and pretty, and best kept in groups. The black and white stripes down the length of their bodies, much like a Zebra is how they got their name. Note also that the popular (but expensive) GloFish is actually a specialized Zebra Danio, bred to bring out bright red, yellow and green pigments.

They grow up to 3 inches and require 10 gallons of water in a tank.

Zebra Danio are omnivores and should be fed a mixture of plant and animal based foods.

  • 7- platy

Platies come in many colours but they are popular in the orange variety. They are very easy to care for and perfect for beginners.

They are a great community fish, peaceful and get along well with guppies and mollies. Although small, platies are very active and love being in groups. A 10 gallon tank is large enough for 5 fish.

Whilst they are omnivorous, they do require much more herbivorous food, than meats. Ideally, they need a good mix of plant based food and proteins.

  • 8- oscar

Considered as one of the most intelligent aquarium fish available, Oscars are one of the few species that can be trained to do tricks.

Oscars are not a community fish, they should be kept in a species only tank. They also can grow very large, very quickly.

They require a lot more maintenance than other fish, due to their carnivorous nature and the amount of waste they create.

You can hand feed Oscars and they will often eat food from between your fingers. Oscars thrive when kept in pairs, or groups of 5 and above, and should be housed together from a young age.

  • 9- discus

Beautiful and graceful, Discus fish can grow to up to 6 inches, and therefore require a larger tank, a minimum size of 25 gallons.

Discus are difficult to maintain and not recommended for beginners. They are a good community fish and will take a variety of foods but are carnivorous in nature. The best diet for them consists blood worms supplemented with flakes to provide vitamins and minerals.

  • 10- betta

Betta fish are vibrantly coloured and hardy, making them popular freshwater fish. They grow to a maximum size of 3 inches.

While a betta can live in a community tank, their needs may be challenging for a beginner fish keeper.

Keeping a betta as a solitary fish is best for a beginner, making sure that there is at least 5 gallons of clean water.

Male Bettas are notoriously aggressive towards other males. Therefore only one male Betta should be kept in each aquarium.

Bettas require an omnivorous diet, of both plant and animal foods. Bettas are often seen in small ornamental tanks, but really they should be housed in larger tanks.

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