3 Best Fish For Beginners: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re a beginner trying to set up your first tank in 2024 then you probably already know that the process isn’t always as simple as it seems-

There are many types of fish out there, so many “best fish for beginner lists” and overall contradicting information on the internet that you’re left even more confused than you were before.

So how do you cut through the clutter and find the best fish for a beginner?

In this article, we’ll walk you through the 3 most popular options are there, and cut through the clutter to give you the best understanding of which fish is best for you.

Table of contents

Why We Choose These Best Fish For Beginners

There is a lot of good fish for beginners out there- I’m not going to lie. But since we are talking about the best fish for beginners- we have to leave some out.

We chose the following fish because of the following:

Hardiness: These three species are incredibly easy to keep alive.

Low-Maintenance: Guppies, bettas, and goldfish have relatively simple care requirements compared to some other fish types.

Adaptability: All 3 are adaptable to different tank environments, making them highly forgiving to beginner’s mistakes.

Availability: All are widely available in pet stores and aquarium shops, making them easily accessible to beginners.


Best Fish For Beginners - Guppies

Why Are Guppies The Best Fish For Beginners?

In a nutshell

Guppies are perfect for beginners because they are easy to keep alive and they are beautiful fish. They are best suited for those looking for low-maintenance, visually stunning fish to brighten up their aquarium. Guppies are fairly inexpensive to buy and require as small as 10 gallons.

Inexpensive to Get Started With

One of the biggest reasons why guppies are so popular nowadays is the fact that they are fairly inexpensive to get started with.

They’re readily available in pet stores and online, with prices often ranging from just a few dollars per fish.

They also don’t require big tanks, with a 10-gallon tank being the minimum tank guppies can comfortably live in. Since they don’t require big tanks, the equipment that those tanks require isn’t as large as other fish species.

For Example

The average price to get started with a beautiful guppy tank is about $250~. If you were to get started with some discus fish for example, you’d be looking at a minimum of $800 just to get started.

This affordability allows beginners to start their fishkeeping journey without breaking the bank, making guppies an attractive option for those dipping their toes into the hobby for the first time.

Easy to Keep Alive

One of the greatest advantages of guppies is their hardiness and resilience.

Think about fishkeeping more like gardening- about 90% of the game is keeping the water within parameters. Unlike most saltwater fish and most tropical fish, guppies are incredibly adaptable to a wide range of water conditions, both fluctuations in temperature and pH.

What this means for you is that this forgiving nature allows even an inexperienced fishkeeper like yourself to succeed in keeping guppies alive and thriving.

Caring for guppies is fairly straightforward and virtually all you have to do is feed them 2-3 times a day and clean their tank about once a week.

With proper care and maintenance, guppies can live for several years, providing beginners with a rewarding and enjoyable fishkeeping experience.

Beautiful and Community-Oriented

Guppies are truly captivating fish- there’s no other way to say it.

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent just sitting and staring at the tank doing absolutely nothing else. It’s almost like they’ve got this magic that draws your eyes to them.

And in simpler words- they turn your tank into an art piece.

Another big benefit of keeping guppies is their social nature and tendency to thrive in groups.

Where your betta would need to live alone, guppies are quite the opposite. The more guppies the happier they’ll be (as long as it’s within a good taste) and they also make great tankmates, if you decide to add to it.

In a community setting, guppies provide you with endless hours of lively interactions, playful behaviors, and dynamic schooling patterns that add life and energy to the tank.

Another fun thing about guppies is that they are the least picky eaters in the group. Guppies can eat up to 23 different foods, including commercial fish food, live food, vegetables, and even some homemade recipes.

Who Are Guppies Good For?

  • Beginners on a Budget: Guppies are a budget-friendly option for those new to fishkeeping, as they are typically affordable to purchase and maintain. Their relatively low cost makes them accessible to beginners who may be hesitant to invest a significant amount of money in their first aquarium setup.
  • Those Looking for a Low-Maintenance Fish: Guppies are well-suited for beginners seeking a low-maintenance fish that requires minimal care and attention. Their ability to thrive in varied environments reduces the need for frequent water changes and complicated aquarium setups, simplifying the maintenance process for noobs.
  • Those Looking for a Community Fish: Guppies are social creatures that thrive in community settings, making them an ideal choice for beginners looking to create a community tank. They peacefully coexist with a wide range of tankmates, including other guppies, tetras, mollies, and platies.


Best Fish For Beginners

In a nutshell

Bettas make a great first-time pet thanks to their low set-up costs, budget-friendliness, and overall gorgeous looks. Their small size also makes them super easy to care for, requiring minimal maintenance compared to larger fish. And let’s not forget- they’re stunning to look at.

Low Setup Costs

When it comes to setting up an aquarium, costs can quickly add up.

But unlike other fish, one of the standout features of betta fish is their affordability. In fact, one of the reasons I often recommend bettas is because they are relatively inexpensive to purchase and maintain, making them accessible to beginner aquarists on a budget.

The low setup costs associated with bettas stem from their minimal requirements.

A basic betta setup typically includes a small aquarium or fish tank, a heater (if needed to maintain optimal water temperature), a filter, and some decor or plants for enrichment.

Unlike larger fish species that may require larger tanks and more elaborate equipment, bettas thrive in smaller environments, making them an economical choice for beginner fishkeepers.

On top of that, because bettas are solitary fish that prefer to live alone, you won’t need to invest in multiple fish or worry about compatibility issues with tankmates.

This helps reduce the initial investment required to set up a betta aquarium, making it an attractive option for beginners looking to dip their toes into the hobby without breaking the bank.

Ease of Care Due to Their Small Size

Another reason I recommend bettas for beginners is their small size, which contributes to their ease of care.

Unlike larger fish species that require more space and resources, bettas can thrive in smaller aquariums, making them well-suited for aquarists with limited space or resources.

Their size also means that they have relatively modest care requirements.

They produce less waste and require less frequent water changes, reducing the time and effort needed to maintain their aquarium. On top of that, bettas are hardy and adaptable fish that can tolerate a range of water conditions, including fluctuations in temperature and pH levels, simplifying their care requirements for beginners.

With those in mind, bettas are also known for their ability to breathe air from the surface of the water, thanks to a specialized organ called the labyrinth organ. This adaptation allows them to survive in oxygen-poor environments and makes them less reliant on highly oxygenated water compared to some other fish species.

What that means to you is that they are less dependent on equipment and plants to oxygenate the water- which results in cost-saving and less equipment maintenance.

They Are A True Beauty

Last but certainly not least, bettas are very popular because of their stunning beauty.

With their vibrant colors and flowing fins, bettas are like living works of art that add elegance and charm to any aquarium. Bettas come in virtually all colors of the rainbow and even in solid colors- like the back orchid betta.

Because there are so many varieties and options to choose from, you can hone down on the exact look and feel of your tank. It also means that you don’t need to have top-notch aquarium design skills- simply through some substrate and decor and in a tank- and let the betta do the beautifying for you.

Who are Bettas good for?

  • Busy people: Betta fish are perfect for busy people who have limited time to dedicate to aquarium maintenance. Their small size and low maintenance requirements make them ideal pets for those with hectic schedules.
  • Apartment dwellers: Bettas are well-suited for individuals living in apartments or small spaces, as they can thrive in compact aquarium setups. Their ability to thrive in smaller environments makes them a convenient and space-efficient option for urban living.
  • Relaxation seekers: For individuals looking to add a touch of tranquility to their lives, betta fish provide a calming presence with their graceful movements and vibrant colors. Watching these beautiful fish swim gracefully in their aquarium can be a peaceful and therapeutic experience after a long day.


Best Fish For Beginners - Goldfish

In a nutshell

Goldfish are ideal for beginners because they are incredibly hardy and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions, making them forgiving of beginner mistakes and ideal for those just starting in the hobby. They are also relatively low-maintenance, requiring minimal care compared to some other fish species. And last, goldfish are simply fun to watch, with their vibrant colors and playful personalities adding beauty and excitement to any aquarium.

They’re Hardy:

First things first, goldfish are incredibly hardy and easy to keep alive.

This is probably why they have dominated the “beginner pet” category for all those years—they can withstand a wide range of water conditions and bounce back from beginner mistakes like champs.

So even if you’re still figuring out the ins and outs of aquarium maintenance, you can rest easy knowing that your goldfish will be there, swimming happily along, no matter what.

Compared to guppies and betta’s goldfish require a much bigger tank. Guppies and bettas are happy with a 10 and 5-gallon tank (respectively) but goldfish would need a 30-gallon just to get started.

You might think that a bigger tank is more work, but the more water the is the less affected the tank will be by fluctuations. In other words, it’s easier to maintain the water in a bigger tank.

They’re Low-Maintenance:

You’ve heard about how hardy goldfish are, but let’s talk about their low-maintenance nature too.

Not only are they tough cookies when it comes to handling different water conditions, but they’re also incredibly easy to care for on a day-to-day basis. Their dietary preferences are refreshingly straightforward—they’re not picky eaters and will happily chow down on a diet of high-quality fish flakes or pellets.

Plus, when it comes to tank setups, goldfish are all about keeping it simple.

Goldfish just need room to freely swim, with decoration playing less of a role in their overall well-being. Don’t get me wrong- you do need some decoration. But it’s not as vital as it would be for smaller fish like guppies and bettas.

Also read: Do Goldfish Need A Filter To Survive?

They’re Fun to Watch:

And at last- let’s talk about the entertainment factor.

Goldfish are not just pretty faces—they’re also incredibly fun to watch. They come in many different shapes and forms and spend most of their day chasing each other around the tank, nibbling on plants, or just lazily cruising through the water.

Goldfish, just like bettas and guppies, have a knack for brightening up any room and putting a smile on your face.

Why Goldfish Are Good For Beginners

  • Hardy: Goldfish are incredibly hardy and resilient, making them perfect for beginners. They can withstand a wide range of water conditions and bounce back from beginner mistakes, so even if you’re still learning about aquarium maintenance, your goldfish will thrive. Goldfish do require larger tanks compared to guppies and bettas, but they are easier to maintain as they are less affected by water parameter fluctuations.
  • Low-Maintenance: Goldfish are not only hardy but also low-maintenance pets. They have straightforward dietary needs and prefer simple tank setups, needing room to swim freely with minimal decoration. While decoration is still necessary, it’s less vital than for smaller fish like guppies and bettas.
  • Fun to Watch: Goldfish are entertaining companions, providing hours of enjoyment, coming in various shapes and colors, and adding visual interest to your aquarium. Goldfish spend their days chasing each other, nibbling on plants, or lazily cruising through the water. And just like bettas and guppies, goldfish have a knack for brightening up any room and bringing joy to their owners.

Wrapping Up

You’ve just chugged a whole bunch of information- and I don’t expect you to remember it all. At the end of the day, all 3 are great options for beginners and each fish will be best for a certain kind of person.

To make the information easier on you, I’ve created a side-by-side comparison of the differences between the 3:

HardinessVery hardy, can tolerate a range of water conditionsHardy, adaptable to various environmentsExtremely hardy, can withstand fluctuations in water parameters
SizeSmall, typically 1-2 inches in lengthSmall to medium, around 2-3 inches in lengthSmall to medium, ranging from a few inches to over a foot in length depending on the variety
Tank SizeCan thrive in smaller tanks, such as 5-10 gallonsCan live in tanks as small as 5 gallons, but prefer larger tanks for swimming spaceRequire larger tanks, starting at 20-30 gallons for a single fish
TemperamentPeaceful, social fish that can live in groupsSemi-aggressive, may not tolerate tankmates wellPeaceful, but may compete for food with tankmates
DietOmnivorous, eat a variety of foods including flakes, pellets, and live/frozen foodsCarnivorous, prefer high-protein diets such as pellets and live/frozen foodsOmnivorous, eat a variety of foods including flakes, pellets, and live/frozen foods
Tank DecorationsPrefer densely planted tanks with hiding spotsThe average lifespan of 10-15 years, but can live over 20 years with proper careMinimal decorations required, may appreciate plants and ornaments
LifespanTypically live 1-3 years, but can live longer with proper careLow maintenance, requires basic care and regular water changesThe average lifespan of 2-4 years, but can live longer with proper care
Maintenance LevelLow maintenance, requires regular water changes and tank cleaningLow to moderate maintenance, may require occasional water testing and tank cleaningLow maintenance, require regular water changes and tank cleaning

Dibyajyoti Bordoloi is the creator and author of FishCampRehab.com, a third-generation experienced fish keeper and owner of a successful pet breeding farm. He is also a member of the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation And Conservation (Assam), the Marine Aquarium Societies of North East India, and the Kaziranga Nature Conservancy of Assam.