Thinking of building an aquarium at home? Perhaps your youngster is pleading with you to get a goldfish? While there’s nothing wrong with these classic orange tank dwellers, there are so many other amazing species out there you can safely and responsibly keep as pets.
Building an aquarium at home is exciting, with a whole host of colourful animals to choose for your tank. But with that being said, it’s important to do lots of research before you commit to keeping fish, so you understand the work involved.
If you’re ready to start an aquarium and appreciate what you’re taking on, we’ve put together a guide on 10 amazing fish that make excellent aquarium stock for beginner keepers*.
Let’s start with angelfish, one of the most recognisable species on our shortlist. These attractive fish are members of the cichlid family, and are ideal for tanks above 90 litres in volume.
Angelfish can grow to around 15cm in length and 20cm in height, making them a fairly substantial addition to your aquarium. And, because they come in a variety of colours and patterns, they’re sure to put on a vibrant display.
2. Corydoras Catfish
No aquarium is complete without a sociable bottom-dweller, and we think the corydoras catfish is just about the perfect example of this. Calm and peaceful in nature, these small catfish are famously friendly, and will get on with just about any other species in your tank.
Many amateur aquarists see having a bottom-dweller like the corydoras as essential – and for good reason. These little critters are excellent tank cleaners, hoovering up any dirt and leftovers from the floor of your aquarium.
Take one look at the betta and you’ll understand why it needs a place in your aquarium. Growing up to about 8cm, these vibrantly-coloured freshwater fish are beloved for their feathery fins, whose surface will shimmer spectacularly in your tank.
One thing to know about betta, however, is that males can be aggressive with other males, so it’s best to stick to females where possible. Another interesting fact about the species is that they’re able to breathe outside water for limited periods, thanks to a ‘labyrinth’ lung organ that lets them breathe air. Cool, right?
If you’re looking for a head-turning fish that always puts on a show, consider the plecostomus. Part of the armoured catfish family, plecos, or suckermouth catfish, are covered in armoured scales that cover the upper parts of the head and body – making it a seriously eye-catching addition to your tank.
Plecos are a wonderful home aquarium fish for lots of reasons, mainly because they can live up to 20 years! Despite their size and tough, armoured exterior, they’re generally very placid, and can often be found suctioned on to the side of your tank with their unique mouths.
Another cichlid species, discus are named for their circular body shape, which can grow to an impressive size. This means discus are better suited to larger aquariums, with a minimum volume of around 115 litres.
Discus are carnivores, so it’s recommended you feed them with a mix of both standard fish flakes (for vitamins and minerals) and blood worms or beef heart, to ensure they get all the sustenance they need.
With their unique appearance, variety of colours, and hardy nature, swordtails are among the fish species that most pet shops would recommend for beginner aquarists. Peaceful yet energetic in nature, they thrive in tanks with lots of other fish, so they’re a safe bet if you’re concerned about cannibalism or aggression.
Swordtails are available in a variety of colours and patterns, but it isn’t this which makes them unique. Instead, it’s the long, swordlike tail fin extension which makes them such a standout aquarium species.
7. Pearl Gourami
With its attractive scales and placid nature, the pearl gourami is an elegant addition to larger aquariums with a minimum water volume of 140 litres. Pearls are known to be among the easiest gourami species to keep as an aquarium fish, though you should note that these fish do get quite large, so bear that in mind before buying.
The great thing about pearl gourami is that they’re great tank cleaners, eating all sorts of debris and pests to help maintain water quality. They do, however, require some hiding places, as they often like to relax in a dark, quiet location.
8. Zebra Danios
Danios are the number one aquarium fish in the UK after goldfish, and for good reason. Available in a huge assortment of different colours and patterns, danios are super easy to care for and don’t require that big of a tank; a 40-litre aquarium should be more than enough for this energetic and lovable species.
One of our favourites are zebra danios, which feature bold stripes down the length of their bodies. They tend to grow up to 7cm, and live on a diet of worms, insects and small crustaceans. Be careful, though, as they’re known to jump, so always keep a lid on your tank.
9. Neon Tetras
Colourful, energetic and highly social, tetras are a popular freshwater fish that can add a touch of brilliance to your aquarium. Native to the streams and rivers of Africa and South America, this vibrant species is a member of the Characidae family – which are recognised for their adipose fin as well as their unique colouring.
One of the most popular subspecies of the tetra is the neon, whose amazing sparkling scales provide a real showcase of colour in well-planted and well-lit aquariums. These fish are peaceful and communal enough to live alongside other species, but they do prefer to live in small schools, so factor that into your buying decision.
Guppies, like danios, are a hugely popular aquarium fish thanks to their wide variety of colours and patterns, as well as their easy-going temperament. They also thrive well in different water conditions, making them very easy for beginners to care for.
When buying guppies, bear in mind that males are much more colourful than females, and will live together very peacefully, making them the best option. Uniquely, they also like to live in groups of three, so try to buy them in multiples of three where possible.
So there you have it, a look at 10 amazing fish you can keep as pets as a beginner aquarist. Prefer to let the experts handle the fishkeeping? Come on down to Bristol Aquarium, where you can discover our wonderful collection of marine creatures. For more information, visit the homepage.
*Always make sure you do thorough research before investing in any fish to ensure you have the time, resources and ability to care for the fish for the duration of their lifetime.