Best Tropical Fish

Best Tropical Fish to Keep Together for Beginners

Embarking on the journey of fishkeeping can be an exciting and rewarding experience. It can be a bit daunting for beginners, but with the right knowledge and guidance, you can create a vibrant, healthy tropical aquarium. This comprehensive guide will introduce you to some of the best tropical fish species for beginners, like betta fish, neon tetras, guppies, and dwarf gouramis, among others. But remember, not all fish can coexist peacefully in the same aquarium. For instance, you wouldn't want to keep Oscar fish with Neon Tetras. So, let's delve into the basics of keeping an aquarium, understand various fish species, their requirements, and how to create a harmonious underwater community.

Setting up your first aquarium involves more than just choosing attractive fish. You need to consider several factors such as the size of the aquarium, the type of fish, their dietary needs, their compatibility with other species, and the kind of environment they thrive in. This guide will help you make informed decisions and set you on the path to successful fishkeeping.

Each fish species is unique and has its own charm. Whether you're drawn to the vivid colors of the Congo tetra or the unique shape of the Kuhli loach, every fish can add a unique element to your aquarium. But remember, while all these fish are fantastic in their own right, they have different needs and temperaments, which you need to consider for a thriving aquarium. So let's get started on understanding the basics of a freshwater aquarium.

Understanding Freshwater Aquarium Basics

The world of freshwater fish is diverse, with countless species suitable for a community aquarium. Understanding the basics is vital to create a successful freshwater community aquarium. It involves more than just filling a tank with water and adding fish. It is about creating a balanced ecosystem that replicates the natural habitats of the fish. The right mix of fish species, appropriate water conditions, and a well-equipped aquarium are key elements to consider. Therefore, let's start by understanding the importance of aquarium size.

Importance of Aquarium Size

Size is a crucial factor when setting up an aquarium. It determines the number and type of fish you can keep. Every fish requires a certain amount of space to be content. More space equals less agitation and anxiety among fish, leading to a peaceful coexistence. The rule of thumb when stocking your aquarium is to allow one inch of adult size fish per net gallon of aquarium capacity. This ensures that each fish has adequate room to swim and explore, mimicking their natural habitat. It's important to remember that the fish you buy will likely grow, so plan for their adult size.

However, this rule may not apply to territorial fish. These species require even more space, as they tend to establish and defend their territories. Therefore, if you plan to keep territorial fish like cichlids, you'll need a larger aquarium. Also, remember that an aquarium filled with gravel, plants, and decorations will hold less water than its actual capacity. Hence, it's always better to opt for a larger tank than you initially think you might need. Now, let's move on to understanding different fish species and their specific requirements.

Understanding Fish Species and their Requirements

There is a multitude of species of fish suitable for a freshwater aquarium, each with its own specific requirements. For instance, Zebra danios are easy to care for and can adapt to a wide range of water conditions, making them ideal for beginners. On the other hand, species like dwarf gouramis require a more specific environment, with plenty of plants for hiding and stable water conditions. Therefore, understanding each species' needs is crucial to provide them with a suitable environment.

When choosing your fish, consider factors like scientific name, difficulty level, temperament, adult size, minimum tank size, origin, diet, pH, temperature, and suitability for a planted tank. This information will help you create a compatible community of fish that can thrive together. For instance, if you plan to keep different species together, ensure they require similar water conditions and can coexist peacefully. With this basic understanding, you are now equipped to explore various fish species suitable for beginners.

Role of Decorations and Plants

Introducing decorations and plants into your aquarium serves a purpose beyond aesthetics. Substrate, for instance, not only enhances the visual appeal of the tank but also provides a location for fish to forage and plants to take root. Certain aquatic decorations like lava rock and driftwood add structure, creating spaces for fish to explore and find solace in. These features can mimic their natural environment, offering them a sense of familiarity and comfort.

One type of plant that can be particularly beneficial in an aquarium setup is floating plants. They provide shade, reduce light levels, and offer additional hiding spots. However, your selection of decorations, hardscape, and plants should be made with care. It's crucial that they are safe for an aquatic environment and thoroughly cleaned before being introduced into the tank. Fish tend to be more comfortable over darker, natural colors, so consider this when choosing your substrate and other decorative elements.

Territory and Dominance Hierarchies

The behavior of fish within an aquarium is influenced by a number of factors, including their territorial instincts and the dominance hierarchies that can develop. This is especially true for some species, such as Cichlids, where a pecking order is established and the more submissive or smaller fish may be bullied. In these cases, the safety of the submissive fish could necessitate their removal from the tank.

An alternative solution is to remove the aggressive fish, but this strategy might only result in the next dominant fish continuing the cycle of aggression. Understanding the dynamics of territorial and dominance hierarchies is crucial when setting up your aquarium and choosing compatible species. This knowledge allows for a more balanced and harmonious environment in the tank, benefiting all inhabitants.

Ideal Beginner's Fish: Betta Fish

When it comes to beginner-friendly tropical fish, the Betta fish is a popular choice. Betta fish are tropical freshwater species that require a heated tank to thrive. They are known for their vibrant colors and flowing fins, making them a stunning fish to behold. However, Betta fish are also known for their territorial nature, especially among males. Therefore, it's recommended to keep only one Betta fish in a 10-gallon tank to prevent potential aggression.

While Betta fish can coexist with some other species, care should be taken when selecting tank mates. They can be compatible with smaller, peaceful species such as Tetras, Rasboras, Guppies, and Mollies, but caution should be exercised to avoid fish that nip fins, given that Bettas are slow swimmers. Predatory fish or other territorial species are not recommended as they could harm the Betta. It's also crucial to monitor for leftover food as some fish, like the Betta, are prone to overeating.

Species Overview: Betta Fish

The Betta fish, or Betta splendens, is a tropical freshwater species native to the river basins of Southeast Asia. They are part of the Labyrinth fish family, named for their unique labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe air. Betta fish are known for their vibrant colors and long, flowing fins. They thrive in water with a pH level of 6 and can eat a variety of foods, including fish flakes and live-bearing fish like guppy fish or feeder fish.

While male Bettas are known for their aggression, females can usually be kept together, although 2 to 3 is often the recommended number for a 10-gallon tank. It's essential to note that male and female Bettas should be separated except during breeding time in a dedicated breeding tank. Mixed species tanks with Bettas and fish such as Tetras are possible, but care must be taken to avoid fin-nippers or overly territorial fish.

Popular Choice for Novices: Neon Tetra

Neon Tetras are a fantastic choice for beginners seeking a vibrant addition to their aquarium. These small, brightly colored fish are a pleasure to watch, with their neon blue and red hues providing a striking contrast against a darker substrate. Neon Tetras are typically kept in small schools and can comfortably inhabit a heated aquarium of less than 5 gallons. They are peaceful species that get along well with many other tropical community fish.

Neon Tetras are easy to care for and have simple dietary needs that can be met by most commercial tropical fish diets. They also enjoy a variety of décor and plants in the aquarium, adding to their appeal for beginners. These fish are not aggressive or territorial, making them a safe choice for a mixed species tank. With their vibrant coloration and easygoing nature, Neon Tetras are a welcome addition to any beginner's aquarium.

Species Overview: Neon Tetra

The Neon Tetra, scientifically known as Paracheirodon innesi, is a small but vibrant species native to South American freshwater habitats. Its compact size, just over 1 and 1/2 inches long, makes it a suitable choice for beginners with small aquariums. This brightly colored fish, featuring stunning neon blue and red stripes, is a real eye-catcher and can instantly brighten up any tank.

Neon Tetras are generally easygoing and get along well with many other species, making them a great addition to a diverse aquarium community. These fish enjoy environments with plenty of decorations and plants, mimicking their natural habitats in the wild. They are also not very demanding when it comes to their diet, as most commercial tropical fish diets are well suited to their nutritional needs.

Recommended Fish for Beginners: Guppy

Guppies, with their scientific name Poecilia reticulata, are another excellent choice for those new to the world of freshwater fish. Known for their vibrant colors and playful nature, Guppies add a lively touch to any freshwater community aquarium. They are easy to care for, making them an attractive choice for beginners looking to build their aquarium.

One of the appealing aspects of Guppies is their ability to thrive in various conditions. These fish are not picky and can adapt to a range of environments. However, maintaining a pH of around 5 in the aquarium can help ensure their optimum health. Guppies are omnivores and can easily subsist on flake foods, which provide all the necessary nutrients they require.

Species Overview: Guppy

The Guppy, or Poecilia reticulata, is a small freshwater fish that typically grows to be about 3-4 inches in length. They come in a wide variety of vibrant colors, including red, green, purple, and blue, and their long, delicate fins make for a stunning visual display in any aquarium. Their diet is omnivorous, and they can thrive on a diet of flake foods.

Guppies are known for their hardiness and adaptability, making them an excellent choice for beginners. They can adapt to a wide range of water conditions, although a pH of 5 is ideal. Overall, their easy care requirements and vibrant colors make them a popular choice among novice aquarists.

Hardy and Colorful Option: Molly

For those looking for a hardy and colorful option, the Molly, scientifically known as Poecilia sphenops, is a great starter fish. Originating from Malaysia, Mollies are recognized for their peaceful temperament and ability to adjust quickly to new environments. Their playful and energetic nature adds a dynamic element to any aquarium.

Molly fish are available in an array of colors, adding to their appeal. They are also reasonably priced, making them an affordable addition to any aquarium. They can grow up to 3-5 inches in length and typically require a tank of at least 20 gallons. Hardy and less aggressive, Mollies are an easy-to-keep fish species, ideal for beginners.

Species Overview: Molly

Molly fish, or Poecilia sphenops, are a popular choice for beginner aquarists due to their hardiness and vibrant colors. They are a small freshwater fish, typically growing between 3-4 inches in length. Mollies come in many beautiful colors, including red, green, purple, and blue, and their long, delicate fins add an aesthetic appeal to any aquarium.

They are easy to take care of and adapt quickly to new environments, making them a great starter fish. Mollies are omnivores, meaning they will thrive on a diet that includes both plants and small animals. They are a peaceful species that can coexist well with other calm, tropical community tank species, making them an excellent addition to any freshwater aquarium.

Strikingly Colorful Fish: Congo Tetra

The Congo Tetra is a stunning addition to any freshwater tank. These gorgeous fish hail from the Congo River Basin in Africa and boast an array of colors, including blue, red, and gold. Their lively nature makes them an engaging spectacle, especially when they dart around in search of bits of food, radiating an almost surreal glow. Their need for medium to large aquariums and preference for warm water conditions make them suitable for beginners eager to embark on a tropical fish keeping journey.

These active fish are known to swim against the current, providing an interesting dynamic to the tank. However, they are not aggressive and usually maintain a peaceful coexistence with other fish. Their vibrant colors and graceful body shape make them one of the most attractive species to have in a freshwater tank, making the Congo Tetra a great choice for beginners.

Species Overview: Congo Tetra

Congo Tetras are one of the larger tetra species, growing up to 3.5 inches in length. They are best recognized by their elongated body shape and distinctive fin structure. The males, in particular, have longer, more flowing fins that contribute to their striking appearance. While they are peaceful community fish, they are also active swimmers. Their need for a larger tank and specific water conditions makes them a slightly more advanced choice for beginners, but their hardy nature and vibrant colors can certainly make the extra effort worth it.

These fish, scientifically known as Phenacogrammus interruptus, are an excellent choice for a community tank setup. They can coexist harmoniously with other peaceful species such as the Zebrafish (Danio rerio). Their vibrant colors and active nature make them an attractive focal point in any tank, but they also provide valuable companionship for other community fish. With their striking colors and peaceful nature, Congo Tetras are an excellent choice for anyone considering a freshwater aquarium.

An Interesting Choice: Kuhli Loach

The Kuhli Loach, with its eel-like body and distinct brown and yellow stripes, is an intriguing choice for beginners. This tropical fish species is well-suited for beginners due to its small size and peaceful nature. Despite its exotic appearance, the Kuhli Loach is surprisingly low-maintenance, making it a good choice for those new to fish keeping. These bottom feeders are most active at dawn and dusk, adding an interesting dynamic to your tank's ecosystem.

The Kuhli Loach thrives best when provided with adequate hiding spots. They tend to be less active during the day, preferring to retreat to the safety of their hiding spots. For this reason, it's important to provide plenty of hiding spots in your tank to ensure their comfort. They are peaceful community fish, capable of coexisting harmoniously with other non-aggressive species.

Species Overview: Kuhli Loach

The Kuhli Loach, or Pangio kuhlii, is a tropical fish species native to Southeast Asia. They have an elongated body with small fins, giving them an eel-like appearance. Their bodies are dark brown with yellow stripes, making them a visually striking addition to any tank. Despite their unique appearance, these fish are quite peaceful and do well in a community tank set up.

These loaches grow to a length of about 3 to 4 inches. They are bottom dwellers and are most active at dawn and dusk. While they are not particularly active during the day, the sight of them emerging from their hiding spots to forage for food can be quite fascinating. In terms of diet, these fish are not picky eaters and will do well on many commercial tropical fish diets.

Low Maintenance Fish: Bristlenose Pleco

Of the many catfish species available for aquariums, the Bristlenose Pleco stands out as one of the best choices for beginners. These fish are known for their unique mouth bristles, which are not seen in other species. Unlike the common Suckermouth Catfish, which can grow up to 2 feet long, the Bristlenose Pleco stays relatively small, making it a more manageable choice for beginners.

The Bristlenose Pleco is a bottom dweller, using its mouth as a suction cup to attach to smooth surfaces. It's not uncommon to see these fish attached to the sides of the tank or on large, smooth driftwood logs. They are primarily herbivorous, but they will also eat an omnivore diet, making them easy to feed and care for. Their low maintenance nature and unique appearance make the Bristlenose Pleco a popular choice among novice fish keepers.

Species Overview: Bristlenose Pleco

The Bristlenose Pleco, a small tropical fish, is a fascinating addition to any beginner's aquarium. Known for their unique physical characteristics, they are easily recognizable by their long, delicate fins. Males of this species have a variety of caudal fin shapes that make them quite distinctive.

One of their most appealing features is their color variety. They come in many colors including red, green, purple, and blue, bringing a splash of color to any aquarium. Apart from their striking appearance, Bristlenose Plecos are known as algae eaters. They actively feed on any algae that grows in the aquarium, helping to keep the tank clean and healthy for other species.

Bright and Attractive: Harlequin Rasbora

The Harlequin Rasbora is a freshwater fish that captivates fish keepers with its vibrant metallic color of reddish copper. Its fascinating color, combined with its active behavior, livens up any aquarium. This species is native to Asia, specifically Singapore, southern Thailand, Malaysia, and Sumatra. Its affordability, with an average cost of $2, makes it an appealing choice for beginners.

Harlequin Rasboras are ideally suited for a planted aquarium. They thrive in small 10-gallon tanks filled with soft, acidic water and dense vegetation. The subdued lighting in a planted aquarium enhances their metallic color, making them even more appealing. For the best experience, they should be purchased in groups of 8-10 individuals, matching their peace-loving temperament.

Species Overview: Harlequin Rasbora

The Harlequin Rasbora, scientifically known as Trignostigma heteromorpha, is a favorite among tropical freshwater fish keepers. With its diverse color varieties and striking metallic reddish-copper hue, it adds a burst of color to any aquarium. This species requires a varied diet, which includes brine shrimp, to maintain its vibrant color and health.

This fish is ideally suited for a planted aquarium, which replicates its natural habitat. The dense vegetation in the tank provides the necessary cover and comfort, making the Harlequin Rasbora feel at home. Given their peaceful nature, they are best kept in groups of 8-10, providing a flurry of activity and color in the tank.

Considerations when Mixing Fish Species

Adding variety to your aquarium is exciting, but it also calls for careful consideration. It is crucial to understand the nature and needs of different species of fish before introducing them to the same environment. Each species has unique requirements in terms of diet, tank size, temperature, and more. Understanding these factors is key to ensuring a harmonious and healthy aquarium.

Another important consideration is the temperament of the fish. Some species are peaceful and can coexist with others, while some are territorial and might not get along with other fish. Therefore, it's essential to research each species thoroughly before adding them to your tank.

Monitoring Fish Personalities

Just like humans, fish also have individual personalities. Some are active and sociable, while others are shy and prefer solitude. Monitoring the behavior and interaction of fish in your aquarium is essential to ensure a peaceful environment. Observing their behavior patterns can provide valuable insights into their compatibility with other species.

However, always be prepared for the unexpected. Even the most peaceful species might sometimes behave in unexpected ways due to stress or changes in their environment. If you notice any signs of aggression or discomfort, it might be best to separate the fish to maintain peace in the aquarium.

Beware of Accidental Fish Eaters and Fin Nippers

When setting up a community tank, it's crucial to be mindful of the potential for accidental fish eaters and fin nippers. Some species may appear harmless when young, but they can grow to become a threat to smaller fish in the tank. This is not because they are predatory by nature, but their size difference can lead to accidental ingestion of smaller species.

For instance, Silver sharks and Angelfish are popular choices that may seem suitable for community tanks at first glance. However, as these species grow larger, they become a potential risk to smaller species like Neon tetra. Therefore, it's crucial to keep your tank clean and monitor the growth of your fish. This helps to prevent the disproportionate growth of certain species and maintain a balanced community within your tank.

Understanding Peaceful Communities

Creating a peaceful community in your fish tank involves more than simply filling it with peaceful fish. While they don't all have to hail from the same geographic region, it's important to select species that can coexist harmoniously. A mix of fish from South America, South East Asia, and Africa can make for a vibrant and peaceful community if chosen wisely.

However, an average community tank containing Neon tetras, Guppies, Tiger barbs, Angelfish, Silver sharks, a Redtail black shark, Common plec, and Clown loach can quickly run into problems. This is due to the varying temperaments and needs of these species. To avoid this, consider opting for fish known for their small to medium size, ease of keeping, availability, and generally good community behavior. These could include Neon tetra, Congo tetra, Harlequin rasbora, Bristlenose catfish, and Danios among others. Remember, maintaining peace in your tank is not just about the fish you choose, but also about how you nurture their coexistence.

Wrapping Up: Making the Best Fish Choice for Your Aquarium

As a beginner in the fascinating world of freshwater aquariums, deciding on the best tropical fish to keep can be an exciting yet daunting task. The choice is vast and comes in a variety of colors, from the shy and elusive Kuhli Loaches, widely distributed in parts of South Asia, to the active species like the colorful Congo Tetras or the vibrant Cherry Barbs. However, some species, like the Rainbow Sharks and the Silver Dollars, are not recommended for novices due to their complex care requirements.

It's important to consider the compatibility chart when mixing fish, ensuring a harmonious environment. You should also take into account the breeding season of fish, as some species, like the Cory Cats (a shorter name for corydoras catfish), are known to be more aggressive during this period. Furthermore, shy fish prefer aquariums with plenty of plants and decorations that provide places to hide. On the other hand, Lake Malawi cichlids and the Pictus Catfish are more outgoing and require larger spaces to swim. The diet of the fish is also critical; some species, like Trichogaster Lalius, thrive on a diet of frozen foods. Your choice should ultimately depend on your readiness to meet the needs of the fish and maintain a healthy, thriving aquatic environment.