17 Must Have Freshwater Aquarium Fish

Fishkeeping is one of the most popular hobbies around the globe, and most of them are freshwater fish aquariums. Lots of aquarists love keeping freshwater fish because they bring beauty, color and relaxing atmosphere into the room.

Did you know that fishkeeping reduces stress and lowers blood pressure & heart rate? 

Many people are looking to get into this attractive hobby, but sometimes they get overwhelmed with all the details. If you’re one of them… fear not. In this article, we’re going to introduce you to some of the greatest freshwater fishes. You will find that many of them have their own unique features and all of them differ in some way. Don’t let this scare you – if anything, it’s a positive thing rather than a negative one. All of these fish are awesome to have and keeping them will bring a lot of joy to your life. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the best freshwater fishes for your aquarium:

1) Guppy

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The guppy is a renowned aquarium fish. It’s an all-time favorite of both beginners and experts, even people who never had aquariums have heard of this fish. One thing to note before we begin: you should always have more than one of these because they’re always found in larger groups naturally. The reason Guppies are so popular is because of their unique colorization – each guppy happens to have a different color based on their unique DNA fingerprint. The other reason they’re so popular is that they’re very easy to handle, making them the perfect choice for every beginner, and once you start with guppies, you never stop! Their behavior is so great, a wonderful combination of activity and peacefulness, they’re neither aggressive nor too shy. To conclude, guppy is one of those fish that every freshwater aquarium should have.

Pros: Easy to take care off, awesome colors and variety, satisfying to spectate

Tank Requirements: Keep it standard – moderate lighting, pH 6.5-8, temperature 70 to 82° F

Feeding: Omnivores, they eat almost anything, giving them flakes is a good idea

2) Platy

 

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Platy, much like Guppy that we talked about up above, is one of the most common freshwater fish in the aquariums around the world. They also share many other attributes – they’re incredibly colorful and easy to handle & maintain. Platy is very much a peaceful fish that will not create any troubles although platy males are known to fight for territory between themselves. All of this makes it an ideal fish for beginners but also an excellent addition for many expert aquarists’ communities. They are known to be live-bearing species (like guppies and molly)  – which means that they bear eggs inside of them until the fry are fully formed and ready to pop out on their own.

 

Pros: Beginner friendly, peaceful, wonderful colors and fun to have

Cons: Males will fight for territorial dominance and it may cause some issues

Tank Requirements: Standard – Moderate lighting, Temperature 72 to 80° F, pH 7 to 8.5

Feeding: Omnivores, they eat algae / small insects

3) Neon Tetra

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Neon Tetra is a tropical freshwater fish originating from blackwater & clearwater rivers of South America. They’re also very popular in many aquariums around the world, usually in groups of few. They exhibit attractive and striking colors which makes them beautiful to spectate. They’re also very peaceful species and won’t be too much of a hassle to keep. Handling them is relatively easy, for best results try to emulate tropical conditions. Breeding them might be a little harder as they require some specific requirements to breed successfully.

Pros: Peaceful, unique colors and awesome looking

Cons: Breeding them could be a little bit harder

Tank Requirements: Standard, keep temperatures between 70 to 80° F

Feeding: Omnivores, Flies / Bloodworms

4) Zebra Danios

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Zebra Danios is the most common species of Danios fish family that originate from areas of central Asia. They’re pretty popular among aquarists because they’re peaceful and easy to take care of. They will stand out with their striped, black & white zebra-like patterned body. Zebra Danios is a hardy fish that will adapt to almost any circumstances, including temperatures down to 62° F. Fun fact about them: They’re known to be extremely loyal to their mates and will stay with them for life.

Pros: Beginner friendly, very hardy, peaceful, cool stripped pattern

Tank Requirements: Standard, they can easily live in unheated aquariums

Feeding: Omnivores, will eat almost anything

5) Black Molly

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Molly fish are seriously some of the coolest tropical freshwater species there is. Let’s have a look at one specific & unique subspecies: The Black Molly. Can you guess why? Well, it’s quite evident from the name – the greatest feature of this fish is their unique black color. Their bodies are entirely dark, but can sometimes be filled with golden & silver stripes running down their body to the tail. They’re pretty small in size and relatively peaceful, so it won’t be too much of a hassle to take care of them. One thing to note is that you don’t want to have too many males in the same tank as they love to fight for dominance.

Pros: Unique black color, peaceful, easy to take care of

Tank Requirements: Standard but will prefer tropical temperatures, they love dense plant environments

Feeding: They eat almost anything since they’re omnivores

6) Swordtail

 

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Swordtail is a small freshwater fish originating from Central & North America. Swordtails are one of the most popular fish because they’re peaceful and relatively easy to take care of. They display various colors but will mostly be olive green with shades of orange and red, some popular exceptions are fully red swordtails. The reason for their name is a male-specific tail fin that protrudes along their lower body, often growing as long as their bodies. Swordtails are unique, hardy, peaceful and will be an excellent addition for your aquarium community.

 

Pros: Beginner friendly, hardy, peaceful and unique looking with their sword-like tails

Cons: Males will fight for dominance and some larger fish may prey on Swordtails, so keep them away from them

Tank Requirements: Nothing special, they prefer a bit harder waters (pH 7-8)

Feeding: Omnivores so they will likely eat everything

7) Plecostomus

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… Also known as Plecos belong to the largest family of Catfish, originating from Central & South America. They are one of the most unique looking fish out there, and they’re very favorable among aquarists all over the world. Plecos are known to be “hungry scavengers” and serve as a garbage disposal for your aquarium. They like to eat algae and leftover foods but have to be fed regularly nonetheless. They’re also known to be very nocturnal fish – they like to hide a lot and will usually only come out at night so you might not be seeing them as much. There are different kinds of plecos out there so make sure you pick the one you like the most.

Pros: Peaceful, very unique looking, will serve as a garbage disposal service

Cons: You may not see them as much, a bit difficult to breed

Tank Requirements: Standard. One thing to note is that they need a lot of hiding places (caves, caverns or other type of covers made of driftwood, rocks or plants)

Feeding: Easy, they’re omnivores but make sure you give them some bloodworms

8) Pearl Gourami

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Pearl Gourami is the most attractive gourami fish out there and not only that – they’re also very peaceful and easy to keep & maintain. This is arguably one of the most attractive freshwater fish of all and here’s why: Besides their vivid colors (ranging from grey all the way to bold red), they have a unique mosaic-like pattern with white pearl-like dots. Just observing this fish is a magnificent experience on its own.

If that doesn’t make it unique enough… here’s some more reasons.

“A fish that talks”

Pearl Gourami is a “labyrinth” fish. Labyrinth is a name given to a very special organ that allows certain fish to breathe atmospheric air on top of the aquarium surface. This special organ makes some fish have “voices” of their own. These fish can talk to you by making croaking noises so you might want to pay particular attention when it’s speaking to you.

This unique fish would be an excellent addition to any aquarium. Don’t wait any longer, go & get one for yourself!

Pros: Beginner friendly, gorgeous looking, peaceful, tons of unique features

Cons: Like many other species, males fight over dominance and it can cause some problems so it’s best to keep 1 male and multiple females in a single tank, avoid having other aggressive fish in the tank as well

Tank Requirements: Standard, they’re hardy and don’t require special conditions

Feeding: They can eat just about anything, Pearl Gouramis are known to eat hydra fish

9) Kuhli Loach

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Kuhli Loach is a small, eel-like fish originating from tropical areas of South Asia (Thailand, Indonesia, Java, etc.). They’re known to be very peaceful, nocturnal fish that like to hide during the day and move actively over the night. They’re known to be shy, so make sure you keep a few of them to make them as comfortable as possible. Kuhli Loach prefers to hang around at the bottom of the aquarium, always looking for leftover foods and thus helping to keep up the cleanliness of their environment. It’s a unique fish in appearance, behavior and required conditions but it will most certainly be a great addition to your aquarium.

Pros: Peaceful, hardy, easy to feed, they enjoy “cleaning” the aquarium, unique looking and just different

Cons: Not very beginner friendly due to being prone to illness, also require clean water at all times

Tank Requirements: Pretty standard, they can adapt to most aquariums, they do require very clean water

Feeding: They’re bottom-feeding omnivores so it won’t be much of an issue

10) Cherry Barb

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Cherry Barb is one of the most popular of barb family, native to freshwater ponds of Sri Lanka. They’re pretty small, peaceful and also a schooling species so you would ideally want to have 5-6 of them at once. They’re omnivores and pretty undemanding, so this makes them very much beginner friendly. Cherry Barb got its name because of it’s unique, an intense cherry-like red color that makes it stand out from other fish. It won’t fully develop this bright red color if kept single (males will glow much more intensely during spawning times), so it’s just another reason to have multiple barbs at once. Cherry Barb will definitely make a fun and exciting addition to almost any aquarium.

Pros: Beginner friendly, peaceful, hardy, unique bright red colorization

Cons: You will likely need to have multiple to utilize them fully, may be bullied by larger fish

Tank Requirements: Standard, don’t require any special treatment really

Feeding: Can be fed almost anything, omnivores

11) Betta

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Bettas, originating from Thailand, are known to be one of the most impressive looking fish within aquariums – the reason being their vivid, bright colors in combination with large, spectacular fins. They’re known to be quite easy to take care of and thus beginner friendly – making them very popular all around the globe. Much like Pearl Gouramis, Bettas are also known to breathe from the water surface because of their labyrinth organ. They are also known as “Siamese fighting fish” because of their extreme territorial battles within groups of Betta males. This fish is a must have for many aquarium fans all around the world, and rightfully so.

Pros: Beginner friendly, hardy, very attractive, awesome looking fish

Cons: Males exhibit extreme aggressiveness towards other Betta males

Tank Requirements: Standard, no special care required

Feeding: Bettas are carnivores by nature, so give them a lot of meaty foods and Betta-specific pellet

12) White Cloud Mountain Minnows

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White Cloud Mountain Minnows are small and hardy freshwater & coldwater fish that are relatively popular among aquarists. Originating from an area of Guangzhou, they were first found at Baiyun Mountain which is also known as White Cloud Mountain thus giving them this unique, specific name. They’re schooling fish that move in groups, so it is preferable to have multiple minnows in your tank. On top of that, they’re quite peaceful and usually won’t bother other fish in your community. One thing to note is that they prefer colder, cooler waters instead of warm ones, so keep that in mind if you want to develop your White Cloud Mountain Minnows fully.

Pros: Very hardy thus beginner friendly, peaceful, unique looking

Cons: They’re quite small so keep them away from bigger fish

Tank Requirements: They do just fine in standard conditions but they do prefer slightly colder, harder waters

Feeding: They’re known to be micropredators, so giving them a lot of meat is a good idea, frozen foods are fine and occasionally you should throw in some live foods if possible

13) Goldfish

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Goldfish is a small freshwater member of the carp family, and over the years it has been prevalent among aquariums. Even hundreds of years ago, Goldfish was considered a luck bearer and has been prevalent in many households in China & Japan. One of the most common misconceptions throughout history was that Goldfish need only be put in a bowl to survive, this is of course – very much wrong. If you’re going to get a Goldfish, make sure you give it proper treatment, and in return, it’ll radiate your home with vibrant colors. They are an entertaining & beautiful pet to have so getting one is always a good idea.

Pros: They’re well-known beautiful species popular in many aquariums all around the globe, pretty hardy

Cons: Will need some extra care despite what most people think, putting too many aggressive fish in the same tank as Goldfish will be problematic

Tank Requirements: Goldfish are hardy and will adapt to most conditions however… they prefer colder waters, they require water cycling and will need some space to thrive

Feeding: Give them a mix of veggies / frozen foods although they can eat everything

14) Discus

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Discus is one of the most unique, graceful and vibrantly colored fish out there. The reason they’re not so popular is that they require some extra care to be grown to their fullest potential thus making them hard for beginners. They are a schooling species and in need of others to thrive, so it’s a good idea to keep 4-5 of them at once. They’re relatively peaceful and won’t create problems unless they are in the breeding phase where males might show aggressiveness towards each other. They require constant clean water so be prepared to invest some time to grow these beauties to their fullest.

Pros: Peaceful, Vibrantly colored and unique looking

Cons: Not beginner friendly, they require a lot of care to be properly grown

Tank Requirements: Larger tank is prefered, Discus prefer warmer waters so make sure you have tank heater to give them that, temperature should be kept around  82°F – 87°F, pH 6.5 to 7.5, clean water weekly

Feeding: Discus can eat a variety of foods but as they’re carnivorous in nature – make sure you give them lots of bloodworms, frozen foods, pellets & flakes for vitamins and minerals. Feed them small amounts daily (3-4 times) and be careful not to overfeed them as that will pollute the tank which bothers them quite a lot

15) Harlequin Rasbora

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Harlequin Rasboras are the most popular rasbora species in the aquariums all over the world – and for a good reason. They’re fantastic looking small freshwater fish, hardy and easy to take care of, making them beginner friendly. Harlequin Rasbora has a unique triangle-shaped mark on their body which serves as their trademark. They are a schooling species so make sure you keep multiple rasboras with them to make them comfortable and as active as possible. If you’re looking for fun addition for your aquarium – you can’t go wrong with Harlequin Rasbora.

Pros: Beginner friendly, hardy, peaceful, vibrantly colored and fun to observe

Cons: Schooling species so make sure you have plenty of them for best results

Tank Requirements: Standard, make sure the aquarium has been through nitrogen cycle before adding them

Feeding: Undemanding, you can give them almost anything (live, dry, frozen foods etc.)

16) Angelfish

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Angelfish is a freshwater family fish originating from areas of the Amazon river, South America. They’re one of the most recognizable fish in aquariums all around the world. What makes them so unique is their magnificent fin & graceful swimming behavior that makes them stand out from the crowd. On top of that, they display amazing, vivid colors that make them impressive to look at. Angelfish can grow to be quite large, so one of the requirements is to provide them with a spacey aquarium to thrive at. They’re also very peaceful species unless they have to compete for small areas due to tank size.

Pros: Awesome looking, great to observe during movement, peaceful

Cons: Require a slightly larger tank to thrive

Tank Requirements: Standard but as they’re tropical fish they will prefer slightly warmer temperatures

Feeding: They’re hefty eaters but aren’t too picky when it comes to food, just make sure you feed them often

17) Killifish

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Killifish is a small, freshwater family consisting of over 1000 different species. They’re usually about 1-2 inch long, although some species can grow up to 6 inches. They’re one of the most vibrantly colored fish with beautiful patterns all over the body. Since they’re small, they’re best observed in smaller aquariums where you can see their unique colors and behaviors. Although their name may sound dangerous, most of the killifish are peaceful, hardy species that don’t require too much care to grow.

Pros: Vivid attractive colors, hardy, peaceful, small and relatively easy to take care of for experienced aquarists

Cons: Not recommended for absolute beginners as they require some experience to be handled properly

Tank Requirements: Standard, but will require some adjustment for different species

Feeding: They’re mostly carnivores, make sure you give them a lot of live food to eat

Closing

All of these freshwater aquarium fish are fantastic additions for freshwater aquariums. Most of them are beginner friendly, easy to take care of and love peaceful communities, so you shouldn’t have too many problems handling them. Don’t wait any longer to pick up any of the fish on this list, and you will certainly not be disappointed!