The 20 Best Freshwater Aquarium Fish (Number 3 and 11 are The Coolest)

Fish are adorable pets to keep. These aquatic creatures tend to come with tons of important benefits to our life. Many people who dive in freshwater aquariums find it interesting because fish are colorful, and many have exciting personalities.

I started this exciting hobby in my late teenage, and since then, it has been an incredible recreation for me.  

They are not only relaxing to watch but also add tons of health benefits. Some of the significant health benefits associated with fishkeeping are stress reduction, lowering heartbeat, and keeping blood pressure low.

So, are you interested in setting up an aquarium? Well, the process tends to be both exhilarating and challenging. It would help if you were mindful of a few things for a smooth aquarium journey.

If you are dipping your toes in a fishkeeping hobby, you may find it intimidating to select which fish to keep. There are thousands of different fish species in the world.

Most species will bring beauty and color to your home. Therefore, choosing the best species for your fishkeeping hobby can be a daunting experience.

If you are a beginner aquarium owner, you need more forgiving critters, which are budget-friendly, colorful, tolerate ambient temperature, and non-fussy. Typically, a freshwater aquarium is more comfortable to keep than saltwater tanks; therefore, it won’t be a great hassle.

I have done thorough research about the 20 best freshwater aquarium fish to help you make an informed decision from my own experience. Not all of this list is perfectly suitable for beginners, yet you’ll find an initial guideline. 

How To Choose Fish For Your Tank?

My List Of Top 20 Freshwater Aquarium Fish

Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra - Freshwater Fish

Neon Tetra species are small, thin, and easy-to-care. Several reasons make them a great deal for new aquarium owners.

The fish species is the most popular among aquarists due to its energetic behavior and dazzling colors. Everyone loves the playful pets in the aquarium! 

They are cute little creatures. The species are about 1.5 inches in length. Hence, making them a great choice for keeping a small community aquarium.

The most wonderful thing is that neon tetra has a peaceful temperament. It is the reason behind the enjoyment and safety of living in a colony.

The fish species are highly conspicuous even in dark water due to their iridescent blue stripe across their bodies and bright red colors.

The neon tetra is omnivorous. Finding food for these aquatic creatures is quite easy. They can feed on plants, insects, brine, shrimps, and worms. In aquariums, they are fond of prepared flakes and pellets. 

For the best comfort of Neon Tetra, you need to ensure the aquarium’s water is soft water with a pH ranging from 7.0 to 7.8 with tropical temperatures.

The biggest downside of keeping Neon Tetra is that they are highly susceptible to pleistophora disease. The neon tetra disease (NTD) is quite fatal to the fish since it does not cure it. But it can be prevented by the immediate removal of infected fishes.

Lastly, the species is compatible with other aquarium fish, which are non-aggressive and small-size types.


Guppies are the most popular and widely distributed species in tropical aquarium fish. Thanks to the ability to persevere in various water conditions.

Guppies are active, extremely easy to care for, and breed faster when different genders are kept together. These species are a good bet for owning a large fishkeeping hobby.

The most wonderful thing is that these species exist in different colors. Male species are more flashy and vibrant than female species.

Guppies have elongated bodies, with males measuring up to 1.4 inches and females extend up to 2.4 inches.

These species are versatile for tank conditions, and they have an average lifespan of 2 to 3 years.

However, I will advise you to keep the tank water temperatures consistent to about 50-84 degrees Fahrenheit. It creates an ideal temperature for their breeding and survival. You can control the rate of breeding by keeping male species separate from female species.

Guppies are omnivorous, and they feed on mixtures of plants and animals. They take prepared foods happily. On the other hand, they can even feed on their juveniles.

The most prevalent diseases affecting guppies are white spots, which can be cured by raising the water temperature. Antibiotics can treat the bacterial infection causing rotting fins and tails.

These fish species are highly compatible with other aquarium fish. Hence, there is no need to worry about predation and hostility.


Betta - Freshwater Aquarium Fish

Betta is a widespread species of aquarium fish and excellent for beginners. It is marked with vibrant colors, small size, and easy-to-care.

The species grows up to around 3 inches, and this feature makes them ideal for keeping in small fish tanks. The breeding of Betta fish in the aquarium is quite feasible.

Bettas tend to be aggressive, especially the male species. Hence, not compatible with other aquarium fish.

The species is also known as Siamese fighting fish. The name describes their nature! I recommend keeping one male species in an aquarium to prevent more fighting. Females are comparatively calmer, and some aquarists try to make Betta sorority, a group of female Bettas housed together.  

The good news is that you can keep bettas together with calm species. However, those species that nip their fins are not advisable.

The species have an average lifespan of 2 to 3 years in captivity. Bettas are very hardy fish, and they do not need any unique treatments.

They are omnivorous, so they eat both plants and animals. The most popular food for the fish species is frozen bloodworms, brine, daphnia, shrimp, and betta pellets.

Lastly, the species are more susceptible to velvet, fin rot, ich, and tail rot. The use can treat most bacterial infections of antibiotics.

Related read: How To Care For A Betta Fish For Beginners


Pencilfish - Freshwater Aquarium Fish

Pencilfish is a peaceful, schooling community fish, that should be kept in schools of six or more. The name pencil fish is given for slender pencil-like shape and originally grows 1 to 2 inches long.

They generally show gold and iridescent coloration on the body, often with one or more horizontal black bands. Most have some red, orange, or brown coloration in their feet, with splashes of color on the side of the body as well.

Always keep more females than males to prevent male rivalries and make a community with small fishes. Large and fast-moving tank mates are contraindicated since they cannot win fighting over food.

Pencilfish is easy to keep in the home aquarium because its tank requirements are easy to achieve. This fish prefers soft, slightly acidic water, a pH range between 5.5 and 7.30, and a temperature range of 72 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

The tank should be adorned with live plants, as well as reef and rock walls, to arrange for a hiding place. The species are sensitive to high nitrate levels. So frequent water changes are necessary.

Pencilfish will accept a wide variety of foods, give them high-quality commercial food as well as fresh and frozen food. These fish enjoy brine shrimp, small live foods, algae wafers, and some fresh vegetation.

Pencilfish make a thriving community with other peaceful mates. But they are small, calm creatures, so you shouldn’t keep them with large, aggressive predator fish.

Zebra Danio

Zebra Danio is an excellent choice for beginners. The species are extremely easy-to-care, and they grow to around 2.5 inches.

The most amazing thing is that the species are community fish. They are a kind of schooling fish that prefer living groups to prevent getting stressed. 

Zebra Danios have a peaceful temperament, hence, ideal for keeping with other like-minded fish. A combination of their colors and other species make your aquarium conspicuous.

One of my favorite features is the omnivorous mode of feeding. Danios can feed on anything, and so easily take ready prepared foods. The healthiest foods for them are worms, crustaceans, and insects.

Also, you can feed them with high-quality flakes and spice them up with frozen foods. This variety of foods is the reason behind the high rate of breeding.

The male species are in torpedo shapes, while the female species have a massive belly. Zebra Danios are known for jumping, so keep the aquarium covered.

The fish species tend to be hardy and rarely affected by diseases. However, ich is the prevalent disease affecting the species. It is advisable to keep the water clean and of good quality. 


This is one of the most popular species in terms of exotic colors and eases to take care of. These vibrant and beautiful colors will make your aquarium stand out from others.

The most wonderful thing is that platies have a peaceful temperament, and they live in a community with other aquarium fish.

Platies grow up to 1.5 to 2.5 inches. The female species are slightly larger than the male species.

The expected lifespan of platies is about 3 to 4 years. They are ideal for keeping in large groups.

They are omnivorous and can feed on both plant-based and animal-based foods. You can make them habituated with your aquarium’s regular food habit easily. 

These species are highly prone to parasitic and bacterial infection. The best method of preventing diseases is improving the quality of water and administering antibiotics.

Keep newcomer Platies in a quarantine tank for a few weeks and feed the species with medicated food during the quarantine period. This will help to combat other possible diseases affecting the aquarium fish.

Discus fish

Discus Fish - Freshwater Aquarium Fish

Discus fish is a widespread species due to its unique colors. They are capable of adding more color to your aquarium. 

The most exciting thing to know is that discus fish is a cultivated species. It grows into considerably large size of about 8 to 10 inches.

Due to their large size, it is advisable to keep the species in large tanks that can hold a minimum of about 50 gallons of water.

Discus fish are intelligent and interact with humans. It is the only opportunity where they can display their moods and personalities.

They have an expected lifespan of about ten years in captivity. But this depends on the contemporary situation in their habitat.

The species behavior and habitat condition maintenance make the fish species ideal for a beginner. There are no complicated hustles for keeping the species.

Discus fish are obligate carnivores, but they can also feed on other diets. The healthiest diet for the species is the beef heart, pellets, blood worms, and black worms supplemented with flake food to offer minerals and vitamins.

The species tend to suffer from frayed dorsal fin rot, tail rot, eye cloudiness, and excessive body mucus. It is advisable to bring the vet on board for diagnosis and treatment.


Swordtail - Freshwater Aquarium Fish

The Swordtail species is hardy with vivid colors. The body adaptation and striking appearance make the species a great choice for the freshwater beginner aquarist.

The most exciting thing is that swordtails are comparatively large and grow up to 6.5 inches. Hence, you are required to own a large aquarium tank.

In spite of their larger size, these aquatic creatures are peaceful. This makes them ideal for living in a community with other like-minded fish species. Swordtails are lively and prefer swimming in loosely grouped tanks. 

Swordtails are omnivorous, and they feed on a mixture of artificial, frozen, and live foods with more vegetables. Swordtails are okay in a wide range of water hardness

These species also tend to breed faster, and it is advisable to keep the young ones away from their parents to prevent predation.

The most common diseases affecting these species are swim bladder disease, fin rot, tail rot, and mouth fungus. Improving the quality of water and treating bacterial infections with antibiotics is the best solution.

Cherry Barb

Cherry Barb is a well-liked freshwater aquarium fish that prefers to live in shadows. These characteristics make it a perfect choice for either beginner or expert.

The male species happen to be the reason behind the name due to the amazing colors. The species tend to change color, especially when spawning.

Besides that, the species are comparatively small, and they grow up to 2 inches long. They prefer living in a community tank with plenty of plants to provide hideouts.

Like most other tropical fish, these species prefer water conditions with warm temperatures of about 23 to 27 degrees Celsius. The pH should range from 6 to 8.

Though Cherry Barbs are small in size, they are highly active fish. So I’ll advise considering ensuring the tank has about 25 gallons of water capacity. This creates a conducive environment for the species.

The average lifespan of the Cherry Barb is about 4-5 years. The male species tend to exist in a combination of brown-green, brown-red, and reddish colors. On the other hand, the female counterparts exist in brown-red and yellow-gray. This is a perfect combination to make your aquarium beautiful.

The male species are slightly aggressive. Besides that, they happen to be prey to predator fish. So keep them separate from other antagonistic aquarium fish.

The species is commonly affected by a bacterial infection, which causes fin and tail rot. Maintaining pristine water quality is crucial for their good health. In case of their illness, consult with experts and provide antibiotic treatment.


Goldfish is a unique freshwater aquarium fish ideal for both beginners and experienced aquarists. Some people suggest that Goldfish is not an ideal pick for noobs. But my experience tells otherwise. 

Only a few people know that it can grow up to 14 inches in the wild and need significantly large tanks, more than 20 gallons.

The ideal temperature for keeping the species is about 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, as warmer temperature helps eliminate possible fish-related diseases.

They are sensitive and need constant maintenance, like 10-15% weekly water changes.

There are many varieties but to have conventional shiny silver or blue combination on their bodies. You can keep the mixtures together, provided no breeds will compete for food because Goldfish are aggressive and might injure each other during breeding.

However, they quickly get along with guppies, tetras, female rainbow fish, and discus. 

This beautiful fish variety feeds on aquatic plants, larvae, insects, crustaceans, and other small fish. They can also feed on carrots, potatoes, biscuits, crumbs, crackers, zucchini, bread, peas, oranges, and rice. One of the nicest things is that Goldfish do not compete for food.

Goldfish’s most common diseases are itch, fin rot, swim bladder disease, fungal infections, etc. Maintaining a good tank condition is the best prevention of Goldfish diseases. Salt is a good remedy for most of their diseases. However, you can provide antibiotics and antifungal medication prescribed by an expert. 

Pearl Gourami

Pearl Gourami - Freshwater Aquarium Fish

The Pearl Gourami is a relatively large freshwater aquarium fish with delicate fins and white spots across its body, which give them a distinct appearance.

They grow up to 4 to 5 inches long and are easy to keep. They do well in densely planted tanks with a minimum size of 30 gallons, and with suitable conditions, they live up to 5 years.

Pearls Gouramis are labyrinth fish, which means they have breathing organs and able to breathe air. Like all other labyrinth fish, they can vocalize and growl while fighting or breeding. 

They thrive in water temperatures from 77 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, low lighting, and dark substrate.

You can keep them in community tanks with other fish of similar size and temperament but not with aggressive species.

Pearl Gourami are omnivorous and will feed on algae, larvae, small insects, eggs, and other meat-based foods. They also eat hydra, making them priority customers having hydra problems.

They are susceptible to fin rot disease, which results in decay and discoloration. Healthy tank water is the best prevention of Gourami diseases. 


Killifish - Freshwater Aquarium Fish

This is another hardy with vivid-colored freshwater aquarium fish. The beautiful body patterns make the species suitable for beginners and experienced aquarium enthusiasts.

The most exciting thing is that it is the only species that can tolerate all tank conditions. The peaceful temperament makes them ideal for a community tank.

However, the male can be aggressive towards their male counterparts, and it will be good to have one male per tank.

These species tend to grow up to 3 inches. Thus, they require a minimum of 20 gallons tank size.

They will thrive in water with 120 to 160 ppm hardness and temperatures from 72 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Moreover, Killifish have a lifespan of about three months to 5 years, depending on the species and living conditions. These species are great swimmers and breed quickly.

Killifish are carnivorous; they will enjoy feeding on a diet full of worms, insects’ larvae, and crustaceans.


Rainbowfish - Freshwater Aquarium Fish

This is a peaceful species that can grow up to 6 inches long and like to live in grouped schools. It is not common because its colors start to show up in adulthood.

The males have vibrant colors and typically vie for females during breeding; however, breeding rainbowfish is a great hassle.

They do well in aquarium tanks with temperatures ranging from 47 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a minimum of 30 gallons size.

You ought to feed rainbowfish with whatever they can eat in 2 minutes. The healthiest foods include spirulina flakes, aqueon tropical flakes, and color flakes.

They are peaceful and can, along with large tetras, catfish danios, bards, and non-aggressive cichlids.


Angelfish - Freshwater Aquarium Fish

Angelfish is a common freshwater aquarium fish. It tends to grow up to 6 inches long and 8 inches tall. But this depends on how they are taken care of.

The most wonderful thing is that they are colorful and come in varieties. It is advisable to keep them in large-sized aquarium tanks with proper filtration.

These species thrive in water with a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit when spawning and a pH range from 6.5 to 6.9.

Moreover, the perfect water condition tends to make angelfish species healthy and happy. Besides that, both female and male species are identical, making it ideal for beginner aquarists.

They are omnivorous, and any diet with meat and plant mixture like flakes, shrimps, pellets, and daphnia would do the best.

As they age, they tend to be aggressive, especially when overcrowded. It is, therefore, an excellent idea to keep them in small numbers. If you are keeping angelfish in community tanks, make sure to avoid small fish and species that would nip their fins.

Black Molly

This is one of the blackest fish in the freshwater aquarium. The dark color makes the fish stand out from other species in the community.

The most exciting thing is that the aquatic creature has a peaceful temperament. It is a perfect choice for beginners planning to have a community tank full of different fish types.

Besides that, the species is the most loved by many aquarists. This is due to the ability to adapt to freshwater with ease.

The species can easily be transferred from one tank to another. They can find comfort without any effort.

One of the nicest features is that the species is an excellent breeder. They normally take care of their juvenile after birth.

Black molly fish are highly susceptible to ich, buoyancy issues, fin, and tail rot, among many others. Maintaining the quality of water will help to prevent such diseases.

These species are omnivorous. Hence, they are known for eating everything. The healthiest food for the fish is algae-based flake food, bloodworms, tubifex, and brine shrimp. 

However, the omnivorous mode of nutrition puts their young ones in danger. I recommend keeping the offspring in a separate tank.

Harlequin Rasbora

Harlequin Rasbora is popular for home aquariums. The species rarely grow beyond 2 inches. The small size makes them perfectly fit one tank without experiencing stress.

One of the best things about the species is that they are peaceful. Hence, they can easily live in a community with other freshwater aquarium fish species. 

Harlequin Rasboras require a tank with about 10 gallons of water. They are quite active and tend to swim around with impressive movements.

The most wonderful thing is that the species feed on a variety of food. Hence, making them easy-to-care and maintain. They prefer fairly warmer and neutral pH water conditions.

Some of the popular feeds for the Harlequin Rasbora are bloodworms, daphnia, and insect larvae. Also, they prefer feeding on live foods, and they eat twice a day.

However, the species are highly prone to infections such as ich and dropsy. The good news is that the infections are treatable and preventable.

White Cloud Mountain Minnow

White Cloud Mountain Minnow- Freshwater Aquarium Fish

White Cloud Mountain Minnows are another common freshwater aquarium fish ideal for keeping at home. The small fish tend to fit perfectly in any tank.

The best part is that these species can be kept in a community due to their peaceful temperament.

Besides that, the aquatic creatures are simple and easy to maintain. Hence, the best option for beginners looking to venture into the freshwater aquarium.

Also, they have bright colors, making it easier to monitor their movement in the tank. The species tend to breed faster than other freshwater aquarium fish species, and the good thing is that they do not feed on their young ones.

These species can survive in both warm and cold water conditions. The fish tend to swim in school and the middle of the water level. I recommend keeping them in a few numbers so that they can swim freely without stress.

The most exciting thing is that fish tend to eat various foods such as live, frozen, and flake food.

To sum up, the species tend to experience some health problems like other freshwater aquariums. Some of the prevalent diseases are ich, tail & fin rot, etc.

Cory Catfish

Cory Catfish are popular freshwater aquarium fish due to their peaceful behavior. It is the best option for those aquarists who love keeping a large community of fish species in a single tank.

The species grow up to 2.5 inches long, and they are excellent for cleaning the tank. Cory Catfish is undoubtedly one of the best bottom feeder fish

Cory fish commonly feed on algae and vegetative matter. Hence, they are pretty easy to take care of. Also, they feed on larvae and insects.

The good news is that these species are non-aggressive. The non-aggressive nature makes the species ideal for keeping a vast number of species in the same tank.

Keep in mind that Cory tends to thrive in a group. Also, they love swimming in groups, and they are a great breeder.

Cory Catfish can survive in different water conditions due to the ease of adoption. They have an average lifespan of 5 years.

Like other species, Cory catfish tend to experience common aquarium infections such as ich, tail, and fin rot. Some of these diseases are fatal, and it is a good idea to bring onboard a vet.

Fire Mouth Cichlid

Fire Mouth Cichlids are the most common species for new fish keepers. The red coloration around the mouth during breeding is the reason behind the name.

Cichlids are infamous for their aggression, but the incredible thing is that this particular kind is relatively friendly. Hence, it is an excellent bet to keeping in a community of freshwater aquarium fish.

However, they are relatively territorial, especially when breeding. The general peaceful temperament makes the species a real gem.

I recommend providing rocks in the tank full of water if you are looking to mix fire mouth cichlid with other species.

The rocks provide a hideout for laying eggs and even breeding. Hence, there will be no form of any aggression. Fire mouth cichlids can grow up to 7 inches long.

The species purely feed on regular flakes of food. Their feeds are relatively affordable and readily available in many pet stores. They are making the species easy to maintain and care for.

Lastly, it is advisable to maintain high-quality clean water in the tank. This will help to prevent the occurrence of common freshwater aquarium diseases.


Kribensis- Freshwater Aquarium Fish

I would not have ended the list of the best freshwater aquarium fish guides without including Kribensis species.

The aquatic creature is peaceful. Hence, an ideal species for keeping a community in a single tank.

The main food source for Kribenesis is mosquito larvae, brine shrimps, flakes, and slow-sinking pellets. Keep in mind that the species eat almost everything.

Male species tend to be larger than female species. Male species have an elongated dorsal and anal fin. On the other hand, female species come with red or purple stomach regions.

Another important feature is that the species can adapt to various water conditions without any stress. They have no special requirements as far as lighting is concerned.

Final Words

I advise beginners to start with few species before adding more. This will enable them to gain experience in the fishkeeping industry.

The best species to start with are those that are peaceful and easy to care for. Besides that, choose species that are striking and colorful.

Most of the species reviewed in the guide are pretty suitable for beginners but well-liked by both noobs and experienced aquarists. Take the time to read through and pick the species that meet your needs and preferences.

Lastly, I want your suggestion of any new fish that I can include in this list. You can also inform me if you have any disagreement with the article, and any comment is happily welcome.

Sujit Modak

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