Types of Freshwater Fish for Your Aquarium

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on July 17, 2023
4 min read

If you’re thinking of setting up an aquarium in your home, you may be wondering what kind of fish you’d like to have in your tank. Freshwater fish are a popular option since it can be easier for beginners to set up a freshwater environment.  

A freshwater fish aquarium can bring a lot of fun and enjoyment into your life. It can even lower your stress levels. They’re also a good option for people who don’t have a lot of space for other kinds of pets. 

There are many choices available when it comes to freshwater fish. Below are some types of freshwater fish you might consider for your aquarium. 

Neon tetra. The neon tetra is a brightly colored freshwater fish typically just under 1 inch in length. An iridescent blue stripe runs across its body, making it easier to spot in darker waters. You’ll need to make sure your aquarium contains soft, acidic water kept at a tropical temperature. Neon tetras are not particular about food. They eat everything from shrimp to worms to plants.

Dwarf corydoras. These fish reach up to 1.5 inches in length. They are full of energy and like to swim in schools. If you are going to add any corydoras to your freshwater aquarium, you should get at least six so they have company. One type of dwarf corydoras, the hastatus, tends to hide in plants if it’s kept in a tank with larger fish.

Guppies. Guppies are a popular freshwater fish for aquariums. They’re lively, colorful, and able to adapt to various water conditions. Guppies are among the easiest freshwater fish to keep in an aquarium. You should get at least three and keep them in a tank that holds at least 1 gallon of water for every guppy. The males tend to have brighter colors than the females. You can feed guppies plant or animal-based fish food.

Sparkling gouramis. Sparkling gouramis are known for the bright blue spangles adorning their pinkish-brown bodies. Most grow to around 1.5 inches. They do well in small aquariums with a lot of plants. Sparkling gouramis tend to swim near the top of the tank. They may be harder to spot in a tank with other more aggressive fish. They are more sociable if they are kept in a peaceful aquarium environment. 

Mollies. Mollies are small fish with peaceful natures that can grow to be 3 - 4 inches long. It’s best to keep them in a tank that holds at least 20 gallons of warm water kept at a pH of 7.0 – 7.8. Mollies are omnivores, so they are happy eating plant or animal food. Unlike fish that lay eggs, they give birth to live babies. They breed quite easily, so you should keep fish of the same sex in your aquarium unless you want to end up with a lot of mollies. 

Neolamprologus brevis. The neolamprogolus brevis thrives in hard alkaline water. They can reach up to 1.5 inches long. If you’re going to get a pair, they should be kept in a freshwater aquarium that holds at least 10 gallons of water. They like to dwell in shells, so it is a good idea to have some along the bottom of your aquarium that they can use as a home.

Zebra danios. The zebra danios is an excellent breed to acquire if you are just starting as a fish owner. They don’t require a lot of care and just need a 10-gallon freshwater tank. They can grow to be 2 - 2.75 inches. Because they are sociable creatures that like company, you should get at least five of them. You can feed them a diet consisting of worms, crustaceans, and insects. They can also be happy with a diet of quality flake food supplement with other live or frozen food.

Platies. Platies are a community breed of freshwater fish that come in a variety of colors. They can coexist in a tank with other fish species like mollies and guppies. You should make sure there are at least five of them and keep them in a tank that holds at least 10 gallons of water. They prefer a diet consisting of plant-based food, though you should make sure your platies get enough protein each day.

You have a lot of choices when it comes to picking freshwater fish for your aquarium. Make sure that the breeds you include in your fish collection have enough space to thrive.

Think about how much effort you want to put into maintaining your fish. If you’re someone who doesn’t have a lot of time to spare, you’ll want to look for freshwater fish that don’t require a lot of hands-on care. Make sure that any new pet fish you add to your aquarium is temperamentally compatible with others already in the environment.