Freshwater Fish:17 Best Freshwater Fish For Aquarium

Over 2.5 million households in the U.S. prefer and keep freshwater fish as pets because there is a number of benefits of having freshwater fish such as reducing stress, lowering heart rate, blood pressure, etc.

Here is a list of 17 best freshwater fish for your aquarium:

1. Cherry Barb

The name ‘Cherry Barb’ means spawning man. The fish is a freshwater fish with a silver or black colour having a golden line drawn laterally on it. It has a length of about 2 inches. The minimum size of tank required for Cherry Barb is 25 gallons. It is omnivorous in dietary mode and feeds on fresh, frozen, and flack foods.

2. Oscar

The most intelligent freshwater fish for the aquarium is the Oscar. Another interesting fact about Oscar is that you can train it to tricks as well. It is not a community fish like others so it should be kept separately or in species tank only. The amazing fact about Oscar is that it grows very quickly to a remarkable size. It is carnivorous in nature and you can feed it with your hand. The only drawback of keeping an Oscar is, it needs more maintenance because of the wastes created by it. At a young age, it can survive if kept in pairs or groups of 5 or more numbers.

3. Neon Tetra

They are small freshwater fish that are easy to care for. They grow up to a length of 2.2cm. They have a cool temperament and live in small communities. They are of bright colors with a blue strip seen horizontally on the body and are often visible in dark waters. The optimum conditions for a neon tetra include soft, acidic water with tropical temperature. They are omnivorous and feed on both plants and animal foods such as brine, shrimp, worms, insects, etc. On monthly basis, over 1.5 million neon tetras are imported to the U.S. because of this purpose.

Fresh water fish - Neon Tetra

4. Bettas

The reason for the extreme popularity of Bettas is they are of vibrant colors and easy to handle. The only drawback of bettas is their males are aggressive so there should not be more than one male in one tank. They have an omnivorous diet mode. They reach a size a maximum of 3 inches. People often keep them in small-sized ornamental tanks but they should be kept in tanks of large size. The interesting fact about Bettas is they can breathe even outside of water because of their labyrinth.

5. Guppies

Guppies can adapt to different water conditions. They are colorful but the male guppies more vibrant. They require a tank of the size of 1-gallon water per guppy. They should be kept in a group of 3 members. If you do not want to breed then keep only male guppies because they breed easily. The optimum temperature of water for guppies is in the range of 10 degrees Celsius to 29 degrees Celsius provided that the temperature should be constant. They are omnivorous feeding on both plant and animal-based foods.

6. Angelfish

Angelfish is a member of the Cichlid Family which also constitutes other members such as Discus, Parrotfish, Oscar, etc. It grows about 6 inches in length and 8 inches in height. It can be found in a variety of colors and patterns.

Angelfish is omnivorous having a balanced diet that depends on both animal-plant-based foods. There are many different types of angelfish. The minimum size of tank required is 20 gallons with water slightly acidic and soft. If the tank is overcrowded, there is a chance that angelfish may become aggressive when they get mature. If we talk about angelfish generally, it is good community fish but you should avoid keeping it along with small fish of fin-nipping species because there is a possibility that angelfish may eat them.

Fresh Water Fish - Angelfish
Fresh Water Fish – Angelfish

7. Plecostomus

Plecostomus are a breed of catfish with heavy armored plates on the body. They have sucker-shaped mouths so that they can eat algae. Some of the species of Plecostomus feed on algae while others enjoy eating meat e.g. frozen brine shrimp. If you want to breed them then you should know the fact about them that it is really difficult for Plecostomus to breed so you can find other options for the purpose.

Another astonishing fact about Plecostomus is there life span can be of 20 years and even longer. They are different from other fish in many ways such as they can jump so you have to make sure that the tank is covered. They can be kept with different species but try to keep them away from flat or fat body fish such as goldfish because they can suck them.

8. Swordtails

Swordtails are given the name because of the sword-shaped extended fins they have. Overall, they resemble in shape with guppy and platyfish with the slightly bulkier body. There is a variety of colors in Swordtails. They have a peaceful and energetic nature so they are the best freshwater fish for beginners. They can be kept in community tanks. Before having swordtails in your aquarium, you should know first that they breed very easily. An alarming situation for swordtails is, their parents eat them up so you must keep them away from their parents.

9. Platies

Sunburst Platy or platyfish is one of the best freshwater fish for aquariums. They are popular because of the two main reasons :

  1. They can be found in every color
  2. They are easy to take care of

They can survive with the community especially mollies and guppies. They are very social and love being surrounded by groups of other fish. The tank size for 10 platies is 20 gallons. They are omnivorous as most freshwater fish but the difference is, they need herbivorous foods more than carnivorous. They feed upon proteins that are a mixture of both plants and animal-based foods.

10. Goldfish

Gold is a famous freshwater fish and is loved by kids especially. There are many different types of goldfish e.g. normal-eyed, single-tailed etc. It is not a small fish as most people assume because it can grow up to about 14 inches. The minimum size required for a tank if you want to keep goldfish is 20 gallons. A minor drawback of keeping goldfish in the aquarium as your pet is you have to keep the filter as well and change the water of the aquarium every week (10%-15%).

Goldfish - Fresh Water Fish

11. Killifish

It is a unique breed with species over 700 in number that adjusts in every type of tank condition. They have vibrant colors and are extremely hardy fish. It is a community fish hence never gets aggressive. The male killifish can be aggressive so keep only 1 male killifish in one tank. They are annual/non-annual breeders and hence are quick breeders. The annual killifish lay their eggs temporarily in water that dry up for months. Eventually, the fry hatches when they refill. Mostly, the killifish is carnivorous and feeds upon worms, larvae of insects, crustaceans, etc.

12. Pearl Gourami

The easiest to keep freshwater fish is Pearl Gourami. It is larger than other freshwater fish and requires a tank of size 30 gallons minimum. The tank should contain a number of places to hide with low lighting and dark substrate. You can keep them with fish of similar size. They have a cool temperament hence should not be kept with aggressive fish. Depending upon the mode of nutrition, they are omnivorous and feed on both algae-meaty foods.

13. Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras catfish or Corycats are very social freshwater fish. They have a calm, peaceful temperament and are active bottom developers. You can keep them separate. They survive in a group of 2 or more members. Live in a community tank but not with aggressive fish. They grow up to 2.5 inches and an amazing fact about Corydoras Catfish is, they clean the tank excellently. They are easy to manage. They even eat the leftover food but also need other food such as bottom feeder tablets, flakes etc.

14. Discus

They are attractive, quite large, and thus require a larger tank with a minimum size of 25 gallons. It is a little difficult to handle them so beginners are not recommended to have Discus as a pet. Discus can be kept with fish that require the same water environment. They are carnivorous and their favorite diet is blood worms, beef heart, flakes for vitamins and minerals, etc.

15. Rainbowfish

The origin of Rainbowfish is Australia and Southeast Asia. They can have a length of 6 inches and is rare freshwater fish. They are usually colorless or have light colors before adulthood but they get colorful when become mature. You can keep them with other freshwater fish like Bards, Danios, and larger tetras.

16. Zebra Danios

Almost all the freshwater fish are easy to care for and can be kept in a community tank. Zebra Danios is also one of them with a length of 5-7cm approximately. The required tank size for Zebra Danios is 10 gallons. They are social freshwater fish and live with at least a group of 5 members. They get stressed if the number is less than 5. They eat most foods and are not selective eaters. Insects, worms, flakes of good quality, and crustaceans are their go-to food. They can also jump so you have to keep the tank covered always.

17. Mollies

Mollies are small-sized friendly freshwater fish of 3-4 inches. They require a tank size of 20 gallons with suitable water conditions such as warm water and a pH of 7-7.8. They are omnivorous and feed on both types of foods i.e. plant and animal-based. If you are a beginner, keep single-sex Mollies because they breed easily. The specialty associated with Mollies as freshwater fish is, they are livebearers i.e. they give birth to babies instead of laying eggs just like other fish.


Characteristics of some of the best freshwater fish are described above in detail but if you are a beginner and want to have freshwater fish as a pet for your aquarium then you should keep in mind some essential things before going to have them, such as:

  • If they are easy to care
  • The required tank size
  • Length of the freshwater fish
  • Type of dietary habits
  • The nature of the freshwater fish
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