Best Freshwater Fish For Small Aquariums

Last Updated: 20th December 2018

Freshwater fish are the 3rd most popular pets in the USA. That is no surprise, because having an aquarium in you home can have so many benefits. It is proven that home aquariums work as a great stress relief product. So it is great to have one either in your office or in your home. Not only that, but aquariums are the most fancy decoration you can have in any room. If you have one, you can be sure, it is going to be at the center of attention for each visitor. They are also great for teaching your kids responsibility and facts about how the world around us works. Trust me when I say, since the moment your new friend will drop into your aquarium, you will be hooked. Fish are beautiful to watch and they have personalities of their own. Starting an aquarium can seen like an overwhelming task, so we have prepared a step-by-step guide on How To Start An Aquarium that will help you get started into the hobby.

Choosing a freshwater aquarium is recommended for beginners who are just starting the wonderful hobby of having their first aquarium. But they are not great for only beginners, more advanced hobbyists enjoy them just as much. Starting with a freshwater tank is a great idea, because it requires a lot less maintenance than a saltwater fish tank would. And fish who live in freshwater are usually more sturdy and forgiving. Earthy colors combined with sleek lines of aquarium freshwater fish and fauna will look strikingly well in any interior. If you are ready to take the plunge and get into this amazing hobby, but don’t know where to start, check out our choice of Best small aquariums for beginners. This article will be perfectly aligned with the best small fish tanks we found for you. Next, keep reading to find a list of freshwater fish for small aquariums.

Common beginner mistake in fishkeeping people make, is over stuffing their aquarium. If your aquarium is 10 gallons or less, there are only few fish species that can live in packs there. Also, note what kind of fish you want, either cold water or tropical water. If you go for cold water, you won’t need to worry about the water temperature in your aquarium. Room temperature will be perfectly fine. But do note, it needs to be consistent. So do not place your aquarium in places where temperature is regularly changing all the time. A bad place would be placing your fish tank by the window or near radiators. Tropical freshwater fish require a bit warmer water. So for that, make sure your aquarium comes with a heater or order it as well, when ordering an aquarium. They are not expensive, so you should be fine. The species we are going to look at are going to be easy to care for, so they are the best freshwater fish for beginners. And now meet your potential new freshwater nano fish.


Neon Blue Guppies

[Neon Blue Delta Tail Guppy]

Guppies are a very popular choice for beginner home freshwater tanks. That is because they are hardy freshwater fish that can adapt well to most environments. Guppies can reach 1.5 to 3 inches in size. Female guppies are larger than male guppies. But females are usually less colorful than males. Males are known as rainbow fish, because they can be very colorful. Guppies usually live around two years mark.

Guppies are great addition to a home aquarium, because they are very active freshwater fish, so they are very fun to watch. They usually swim around the top level of aquarium. Guppies are friendly and social freshwater fish, so never let a guppy be all by herself in a fish tank. Keep at least three guppies together at all times and watch them go. As they are one of the fastest swimmers you will find, they need space to enjoy their new environment. A good rule of thumb is to have 2 gallons of water per guppy. But you could get away with having 3 guppies in a 5 gallon tank, but no more.

Guppies have only the very basic requirements when it comes to water to stay healthy. You should replace about 13 of water in your aquarium on weekly basis to heep your guppies happy. Guppies are considered ar tropical freshwater fish, the ideal temperature would be 75-80 degrees. They will be fine in room temperature as well, if it is constant and not really cold. But it is recommended to buy a heater as well, if you want to be sure your guppies are happy. When it comes to feeding guppies, any quality flake food will do fine. You can feed them flakes that are designed for tropical fish, because that will enhance their colors. They also eat algae and shrimp.


Dumbo Half-moon Betta

[Dumbo Half-moon Betta]

The lonely Betta, also known as Siamese Fighting Fish, is another very popular freshwater fish choice for home aquariums. But do not let their colorful looks fool you. Even though they are vey magnificent, they are very low maintenance tropical freshwater fish. Because Bettas are so popular, they are bred in different color variations, so anyone can find something they enjoy. The Betta in the image above, has red fins and tail, as you can see, but there are many more variations to that. Adult Betta fish is usually around 3 inches in size and has a lifespan of 2-3 years. It is another top dweller fish, which means it will mostly occupy the top level of your aquarium. It is often sold together with vases, but that is extremely stupid in irresponsible. It is a very hardy fish, but that doesn’t mean it should be abused.

For a Betta fish, you should provide a 5 gallon aquarium as minimum. 10 gallons would be perfect (Of course, the more room, the better). But one thing to note - Betta is an aggressive freshwater fish. So you should have only one male in your aquarium. Females usually liv together quite well. Although you should avoid placing two or more Bettas together, they live in harmony with most peaceful freshwater fish. Avoid placing it together with fish that have similar body type and long fins, because they might think of them as rivals.

Bettas come from tropical climate, so you should make sure you have a heater installed in your aquarium. The temperature should be kept between 75-80 degrees. Bettas are not happy with temperatures below 75 degrees. Always leave space between the lid of your aquarium and water. Because Bettas have evolved in such a way, they need to intake oxygen from air time to time. Also Bettas do not like strong water movement, so it should be kept at minimum. Bettas prefer live foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp. But it will adjust and eat flakes and frozen food as well.

Neon Tetra

Cardinal Tetra

[Neon tetra]

The Neon Tetra Fish is an easy to care for fish that has dazzling looks. This is the first freshwater fish for many beginner aquarists. They have slender topredo shaped body with elegant lines. It is a very small fish in size, only 1.5 inches. But it makes up for it with its colorful looks. Their red white and blue color combination always makes them stand out. They live for about 5 years. They will usually occupy the middle or the bottom of the aquarium. Neon tetras are friendly freshwater nano fish and do well with others. As long as their tankmates are not aggressive, that is. Avoid putting neon tetras together with larger fish, because they will eat them sooner or later.

As they are tropical fish, they also require a heater to be present. Perfect temperature for them is 72-80 degrees. They relatively inactive swimmers, so they do not require as much space as some of the other freshwater species. They like to swim around in schools, so you will often find your tetras swimming in a column in the middle of your aquarium. The recommended school size is at least 10 tetras. So you should look to buy at least 10 gallon fish tank. If the count of tetras is lower, they may be stressed all the time, as they are not feeling safe, when their numbers are lower than 10. they are omnivores and aren’t picky, so they will eat all kinds of pellets, flakes, frozen and live foods.

Dwarf Catfish

Dwarf Catfish

[Dwarf Corydoras]

Dwarf corydoras or catfish, as called by many, is an interesting bottom feeding choice for your aquarium. They are another friendly freshwater fish that gets along well with other species. They are social and should be kept in schools of six or more. Their body is gray olive in color with a lighter underside and clear fins. Males are smaller and more slender than females.

They are omnivores and mostly feed on what they can find at the bottom of the aquarium. Which makes them great cleaners, as they will pick anything that falls to the bottom of the tank. They are small 1.5 inch fish and will live up to 5 years. Temperature range for them is 68–82 degrees. If you choose to house this interesting freshwater fish, the bottom of the aquarium should be covered in sand or smooth gravel.

Zebra Danio

Zebra Danio

[Zebra Danio]

Zebra danios, just like the other fish, is a popular cold freshwater fish choice for many aquarists because of its low maintenance and because it is a rapid breeder. This fish stands out with its easy to recognize striped body pattern. The blue and often white stripes run from gill to tail and makes this fish very attractive to the eye. An adult zebra danio is usually around 2 inches and lives somewhere around the 5 year mark. This is a great choice if you do not wish to add a heater to your aquarium, as this cold freshwater fish ir comfortable even on low 60s degrees.

This is one of the most active nano fish out there and will actively swim through all the levels of your home aquarium. Danios should always be kept in schools and never single. They are peaceful fish and will get along with others quite well. Although, as your starting tank is not very large, you should keep them together with other fish who are not too mellow. Because the activity and fast paced lifestyle of Zebra Danios can make fish that prefer peace and quiet stressed. A perfect pair for Danios would be Guppies.

Zebra Danios are omnivores and will eat almost anything you give them. They particularly enjoy small live or frozen invertebrates and fresh vegetables.

Endler’s Livebearer

Endlers Livebearer

[Endler’s Livebearer]

Endlers livebearer is a good looking fish that is similar to Guppies. Endlers livebeares are very small in size, but bright in colors. Males are no larger than 1 inch, while females - 1.4 inches. They are more peaceful, compared to their relatives guppies, but still more active than most of the fish. And because they are so active, you should always buy more than just one endler. THis fish prefers tanks with rich flora as well. Their usual lifespan is up to 2 years. They are great inhabitants for 5 gallon small aquariums. They prefer the water temperature to be from 72 to 80 degrees.

It is an omnivore an isn’t picky about their food. But one thing to note - do not overfeed it, as it is prone to obesity. But you will probably want to feed it with highest quality food only, so in the end I have listed some feeding that I recommend. Below you can find a beautiful video of this nano freshwater fish doing its thing in aquarium.

So now you have all the ingredients to begin. First, find the perfect small home aquarium for you and order it. Make sure you receive your aquarium first, because you will want to prepare it, so, when your new pet freshwater fish arrives, it will have a new home waiting for it. The list of freshwater fish here contains very hardy and tough species, so most of them would do fine in a room temperature as well. As long as your room is very warm all the time. But keeping the temperature consistent is more important than having it just right. If you are unsure, whether or not you will be able to do that, then buy a heater as well. Although I added a link to Amazon for some wish, I do recommend you to go to your nearest pet shop and buy one. Live fish sellers usually take the best care possible, when shipping fish to your doorstep, but I still believe, it is better to buy one yourself at a pet store. But if there is no pet store near you or they don’t sell the fish you want, then what else are you going to do, right? It’s just a small tip, do as you please. Pick the most beautiful freshwater fish you like and get going!

Good luck and have fun with your new friends!