Skip to main content

Which fish to have in your freshwater tank

Fish are a perfect option for pet owners who don’t want the high-maintenance care that comes with dogs and cats. But before you head out to the pet store, you might ask, “What do I need to know before buying a fish tank?”

For many beginners, choosing the right type of fish is more challenging than they might think. There are tons of different freshwater fish available, with a variety of colors, sizes, temperaments, and care requirements. Keep reading to learn about the seven best freshwater fish to keep in your aquarium and how to care for them.

If you’re interested in more, you can also find out what are the best small sharks for your home aquarium.

Common goldfish

When you think of keeping a fish as a pet, you probably imagine the common goldfish. While some expert fish keepers warn against these fish, they can be a great option for beginners. Goldfish are easy to care for and exceptionally resilient. These fish can become quite large and grow up to 12 to 14 inches. Common goldfish need 30 gallons of water per fish. Additionally, they would be best in a single-species aquarium; goldfish will try to eat any fish or plant that can fit in their mouth.

Neon tetras

neon tetra near substrate
Kristiana Berzina/Shutterstock

This small, well-known species is one of the easiest fishes for new fish owners. You may recognize it by its bright blue body and red stripe. The neon tetra grows to only about 2.2 centimeters, which means you can keep a lot of them in your freshwater aquarium. These fish also have a calm and passive temperament. Neon tetras are happiest in groups, living in aquariums with lots of rocks and plants for hiding.

Betta fish

Another fish you will see in a lot of freshwater tanks is the betta fish. These are brightly colored, meat-eating fish who are simple to care for. Bettas are small fish that can be kept by themselves or in a larger tank with other compatible species. These fish get along with tetras, corydoras, and other peaceful fish. Just be sure to keep them away from other betta fish, or you may find out why they’re nicknamed “Siamese fighting fish.”


You can tell an angelfish by its delicate fins, beautiful stripes, and distinct shape. You’ll find many types of angelfish at your local pet shop, including zebra, veil, koi, and marble angelfish. Because they can grow to be quite large, it’s best to keep them in tall tanks that hold at least 55 gallons of water. Angelfish get along with tetras, rasboras, and other community fish. However, it’s ideal to keep only one of these fish to prevent any territorial fighting.

Platy fish

Platies are beautiful fish that come in a variety of vibrant and unique colors. For those who want to keep several species of fish in their aquariums, platies are an excellent choice. Platy fish are peaceful fish that do well in freshwater communities. So, what fish go well together in a freshwater tank? Platies are very social and enjoy living with mollies and guppies. They also need a combination of proteins and plant-based foods, but they can eat meat-based foods as well.


If you’re looking for an easygoing fish with simple care requirements, consider adding mollies to your freshwater aquarium. These fish are omnivorous, meaning they eat plants and animals. Mollies can grow to be three to four inches long, and, unlike many other common tank fish, they breed with ferocity and give birth to live fish. If you don’t want mollies to overtake your tank, keep only one gender of the species.


Cory catfish, also known as corydoras, are another excellent addition to any freshwater aquarium. They are passive schooling fish who tend to congregate at the bottom of the tank where they can scavenge for crumbs. There are more than 100 species of corydoras; some of the most popular include emerald green, panda, albino, and bronze cories. Cories can range from one to three inches long and prefer to be in groups of three to six.

There are so many types of freshwater fish that would be a welcome addition to any aquarium. These seven fish are colorful, beautiful, and, perhaps most important, easy for beginners to take care of. Hopefully, this guide provided you with some helpful suggestions and will make you consider some species that you hadn’t thought about before.

Want to know if you can keep seahorses in your home aquarium? Check out our guide.

Editors' Recommendations

Shannon Cooper
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Shannon Cooper has written about everything from pet care and travel to finance and plumbing in her seven years as a writer…
What fish can live with bettas? These are your best bets for fish buddies
These are the 6 fish that do well living with bettas
Blue betta fish staring at the camera

Betta fish are known for being territorial, feisty, rather combative, and therefore not great tank mates in general. This reputation, however, only holds true in particular situations and with certain fish friends. Male betta fish are aggressive, but only with other male bettas so it is important to never put two males in the same tank. It will lead to tail nipping and other aggressive behavior. So what fish can live with bettas?

Happily, there are several other fish that will keep your betta company in a safe and non-aggressive environment. Many colorful, friendly fish cohabitate well with bettas. This is our guide to finding the perfect fish companion (or companions) for your betta.

Read more
Are bubbles in a fish tank a problem? They just might be
5 reasons bubbles in a fish tank might be there (and what to do)
Fish tank with healthy bubbles coming out of filter

Where there's water, there are bubbles. It's unavoidable and you'll be chasing an impossible dream if you try to eliminate them from your aquarium entirely. For starters, the filter produces a continuous stream, and that's a good thing! It means the system works. But some bubbles may reveal underlying problems with your water or with your inhabitants. So, why are there bubbles in your fish tank, and how do you know if those little oxygen sacks indicate an issue or a healthy ecosystem? Here's how to tell where they're coming from and figure out what to do about it.
Why are there bubbles on plants?
Like we said, bubbles are often totally normal — no action required. This will especially hold true if you have live plants, which produce oxygen naturally and sometimes hold on to it in the form of bubbles. Of course, those eventually dissipate, at which point the gas inside seeps into the water. That's good! Fish need to breathe just like the rest of us and do so through their gills by pulling oxygen from the water in the tank. These types of bubbles go on the good to neutral list.

Why are there bubbles covering the surface?
So, what happens when there's not enough oxygen for your fish to function happily? When they can't get it from the water, they'll make their way to the surface and breathe the air. Some fish do this frequently, as do aquatic frogs and other non-fish aquarium dwellers, so don't take that act alone as an immediate cause for concern.

Read more
Can you make a profit breeding your bearded dragon?
Does breeding your bearded dragon make you money? Read on to find out
Two bearded dragons sit on a rock

The first step in getting a new pet of any species is research. You want to make sure you're adopting or purchasing your pet from a reputable breeder who uses ethical sourcing techniques to acquire their animals. While veterinarians suggest that all pet parents spay and neuter their companions, some animals can be bred without causing distress to you or your pet.

One of the easiest pets to breed is the bearded dragon. With that being said, we recommend having experience under your belt before you embark on your journey as a breeder. Here's what you should know about breeding bearded dragons.
Is my beardie male or female?
When they're babies, it's really difficult to tell the sex of your lizard. Wait until he or she reaches maturity before making that determination, which is actually a good thing for breeding. You don't want to start your female reptile before 18 months for health reasons. In order to look at the little beast, you need to get comfortable enough to feel the underbelly, so give it a few days after bringing your beardie home.

Read more