Setting up your first fish tank in your home can be a very exciting project, but it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. One of the biggest problems that beginners have is trying to figure out which fish to get for their tank. There are a huge variety of different types of freshwater aquarium fish to choose from today.
Having all of that variety is nice, but freshwater aquarium fish range from easy to keep to extremely temperamental types that would prove very difficult for the novice. Nobody wants to get their tank set up and stocked only to lose fish to water conditions that were not right for the fish. The money, time, and emotion of having newly purchased fish die is not pleasant to go through, but it can be avoided if you choose the right fish.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of suitable fish for the beginners fish tank. The list below is just a sampling of some commonly available fish that all would be appropriate for the novice aquarium keeper. They are good looking fish that do not have restrictive diets and they are not extremely sensitive to water conditions. That doesn't mean that these fish will take abuse, they still need quality water and a regulated environment, they just are not the type to go belly up when the pH shifts by a small fraction.
When it comes time to pick out fish, any of the fish listed here would be good choices, but bear in mind that the tank size will be the major consideration when it comes to how many and what types of fish to actually purchase. Do not overcrowd the tank, as no matter how hardy the fish are, they will not do well in a tank that has too many fish. Here is a good starter "shopping" list of hardy fish. This list is only a sample of what is out there, but it includes some very colorful fish, different levels of activity, fish that occupy different water levels in the tank, and all are suitable for a community tank.
  • Guppies, Platies, and Mollies - These are all solid choices for the beginner, and they are colorful fish that are active throughout the tank. Some mollies and platies get to be a bit bigger so they add some size variation to the tank. All three of these fish are livebearers, meaning they give birth to live fish as opposed to laying eggs.
  • Selected Cyprinids - This species of fish includes many easy to care for fish. The Pearl and Zebra Danios are wonderful, as they are quite beautiful and they are constantly in motion. Rosy Barbs are very colorful, hardy, and active. The White Cloud is one of the hardiest fish you can find and they make a nice addition to a tank.
  • Selected Characins - This group includes the tetras, of which the lemon, yellow banded, and cardinal tetras are some of the easiest to care for. They are not as active and a bit on the shy side, but they provide great color to the aquarium.
  • Cory Cats - These fish are small catfish that prefer to be in groups of 3-6 and will constantly patrol the bottom of the tank looking for food. With their whiskered face and big expressive eyes, Cory cats add a lot of personality to the tank.
  • Goldfish - Generally speaking, goldfish are one of the hardiest fish that you can get, but again, that doesn't mean they'll live anywhere. They will tolerate a very wide range of temperatures and as such do not require a heater for their tank. Because goldfish are highly tolerant of varying water conditions, people assume they are hard to kill and they make they mistake of overcrowding them. Goldfish produce more waste than almost any other fish, so it is better to have only a few of them in a tank unless you are willing to do significant water changes quite often.
One of the most enjoyable steps in aquarium setup is choosing the fish because there are so many types of freshwater aquarium fish available. Do some research, choose wisely, and you will have a healthy, thriving community of fish that will provide years of enjoyment and pride.
Drew Bartlett is a freshwater aquarium fish enthusiast that has been involved in the hobby for over 30 years.

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