The Best Fish For Beginners In A Small Tank: A vibrant Betta fish swims among aquatic plants in a small tank in a bustling atmosphere.

The Best Fish For Beginners In A Small Tank: A Comprehensive Guide

Small Aquarium Fish For Beginners


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Beginning your journey into the world of aquariums is both exciting and challenging, especially when deciding on the best fish for beginners in a small tank. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll introduce you to 15 ideal fish species for small tanks, each known for their suitability for novice aquarists. We’ll also provide valuable tips on maintaining a stress-free environment for these beginner-friendly fish.

Dive in now, as these nuggets of knowledge will make your journey into aquarium keeping more enjoyable and less challenging!

Key Takeaways

  • Betta fish, neon tetras, fancy guppies, and rasboras are the best fish for beginners in a small tank.
  • Factors to consider when choosing fish include their size, compatibility with other fish, and behavior.
  • Maintaining a stress – free environment for small tank fish involves keeping their home clean, feeding them well, and providing good lighting.

Choosing the Right Fish for a Small Tank

A vibrant aquarium filled with colorful tropical fish and aquatic plants, captured in stunning detail and clarity.

When selecting fish for a small tank, it’s important to consider their compatibility with the tank size and other inhabitants.

Types of Fish That Thrive in Small Tanks

There are many types of fish that live well in small tanks. These include:

  1. Betta Fish: They have bright colors and can adjust to small tanks.
  2. Neon Tetras: They are little, easy to care for, and add color to the tank.
  3. Fancy Guppies: These fish are very friendly and have lovely tails.
  4. Rasboras: They like to swim in groups.and bring life to a tank.
  5. Zebra Danios: Freshwater Danios do well in small tanks with little effort needed.
  6. Harlequin Rasboras: They have beautiful colors and only need a 10-gallon tank.
  7. Kuhli Loaches: These worm-like fish love hiding spots but don’t grow large.
  8. Corydoras (like Panda Cory and Salt) can thrive in 5 – 10 gallon tanks.
  9. White Cloud Mountain Minnows stay small and don’t mind cooler water.
  10. Celestial Pearl Danios brighten up any tank with their stunning scales.
  11. Sparkling Gouramis stand out because they sparkle under light!
  12. Otocinclus fish clean up any algae and keep the tank tidy.
  13. Endler’s Livebearers are active swimmers that don’t take up much space,
  14. Chili Rasboras boast deep red colors but are tiny in size,
  15. Cardinal Tetras, just like Neon Tetras, love the company of other fish.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Fish

You need to think about a few things when you pick fish. Size matters. Small tanks can’t hold big fish. Also, some fish don’t get along with others. They may fight or eat each other! Think about their needs and behavior more than how they look.

Over stuffing your tank also causes fights among the fish. Remember, one inch of a fish needs one gallon of water in the tankKeep their home cleanfeed them well, and give them good light for their best health and joy!

Top 15 Fish for Small Tanks

A vibrant and lively aquarium filled with colorful fish and aquatic plants.

Here are the top 15 fish species that are perfect for small tanks: Betta Fish, Neon Tetras, Fancy Guppies, Rasboras, Zebra Danios, Harlequin Rasboras, Kuhli Loaches, Corydoras Catfish, White Cloud Mountain Minnows, Celestial Pearl Danios (Galaxy Rasboras), Sparkling Gouramis (Pygmy Gouramis), Otocinclus Catfish (Otos), Endler’s Livebearers, Chili Rasboras and Cardinal Tetras.

Betta Fish

Betta fish shine in bright colors and have nice, flowy fins. They stay small, not growing over three inches. These fish like to live in tanks that hold at least 5 gallons of water.

Betta fish are strong and easy to look after, which is great for new fish owners. The best part about them is their special organ. It lets them breathe air from the top of the tank!

Neon Tetras

Neon Tetras are a popular choice for beginners in small tanks. These tiny fish grow up to 1.5 inches long, making them perfect for smaller aquariums. They have specific care needs, so it’s important to create the right environment for them.

Neon Tetras should be kept with other small and peaceful fish to prevent them from getting eaten. Since they are schooling fish, it’s best to keep them in groups of at least six to eight individuals.

These colorful fish prefer soft, slightly acidic water with temperatures ranging from 72-78°F (22-26°C).

Fancy Guppies

Fancy guppies are a popular choice for beginner fishkeepers because they are colorful and peaceful. These small and attractive fish come in a variety of vibrant colors, making them a delight to watch in the tank.

Their peaceful nature also makes them compatible with other community fish. Guppies are adaptable and can thrive in different water conditions, which is another reason why they are suitable for beginners.

Guppies are known for their ease of care, making them low maintenance pets for new aquarium owners. They have a relatively long lifespan and can grow to a small size, making them suitable for smaller tanks like a 10-gallon or 20-gallon tank.

Feeding guppies is simple as they readily accept both dry and frozen foods. They reproduce easily as well, so if you’re interested in breeding fish, guppies offer an exciting opportunity to observe the offspring growing up.


Rasboras are a type of fish that belong to the Cyprinidae family. They are known for their hardiness and beauty, making them popular choices for beginners. Rasboras are considered schooling fish, meaning they thrive when kept in groups.

With 84 different species available, there is a wide variety to choose from. Two popular types of rasboras are harlequin and chili rasboras. So if you’re just starting out with a small tank, consider adding some vibrant and easy-to-care-for rasboras to your collection!

Zebra Danios

Zebra Danios are a great choice for beginners with small tanks. These fish prefer plenty of open swimming space in the middle of the tank, so make sure to provide that. They can tolerate a wide range of water chemistry and temperature, which makes them adaptable and easy to care for.

The ideal pH level for Zebra Danios is between 7.0 and 7.8, with alkalinity around 3°. It’s important to keep them in groups because they are schooling fish. With a maximum size of only 2 inches, these little zebras will add some flair to your aquarium without taking up too much room!

Harlequin Rasboras

Harlequin rasboras are a type of freshwater fish that originate from Southeast Asia, specifically Singapore, Malaysia, Sumatra, and southern Thailand. They are small schooling fish that prefer to live in groups of at least eight individuals.

This makes them a great choice for beginners as they are relatively easy to care for. Harlequin rasboras can be kept in smaller-sized community aquariums and they are peaceful towards other species.

A 10-gallon tank can be suitable for their needs. With their vibrant colors and active behavior, harlequin rasboras add beauty and liveliness to any small tank setup.

Kuhli Loaches

Kuhli Loaches are small fish that like to stay at the bottom of the tank. They look a bit like eels, with long, slender bodies. These fish can grow up to 4 inches long. Kuhli Loaches have an omnivorous diet, which means they eat both plants and small insects.

If you want to keep Kuhli Loaches in your tank, make sure it’s at least 15 gallons in size. That way, they’ll have enough space to swim around and explore their surroundings.


Corydoras catfish are small bottom-dwelling fish that are perfect for beginners. They have a peaceful nature and are easy to take care of. With many different species and varieties available, you can choose the one that suits your tank best.

Cory catfish have a gentle personality, making them great tank mates with other fish. Plus, they can thrive in small tanks, so they’re perfect for those starting out in the hobby.

White Cloud Mountain Minnows

White Cloud Mountain Minnows are a great choice for beginners looking to start their first aquarium. These small freshwater fish are peaceful and low-maintenance, making them perfect for small tanks.

They are also quite colorful and strong, adding a vibrant touch to your tank. White Cloud Mountain Minnows thrive in community tanks and are easy to care for, as they do not require much attention.

They are not too messy, which means less cleaning and maintenance work for you. Overall, these minnows are a fun and rewarding addition to any beginner’s aquarium setup.

Celestial Pearl Danios

The Celestial Pearl Danio, also known as the galaxy rasbora, is a small and beautiful fish that would be a great addition to a small tank or nano aquarium setup. These danios have an eye-catching appearance with their galaxy-patterned pearl scales, resembling miniature brook trout.

They are known for their peaceful temperament and can live harmoniously with other fish in a community aquarium. In order to provide them with the best environment, it’s important to have a well-planted tank with plenty of hiding spots and open swimming areas.

The Celestial Pearl Danios are fascinating fish that will add color and vibrancy to your small tank setup.

Sparkling Gouramis

Sparkling gouramis are small fish that come from Southeast Asia. They have shiny scales that make them look like they’re sparkling. These fish are great for beginners because they are hardy and easy to take care of.

It’s recommended to keep sparkling gouramis in a tank that is at least 15 gallons in size. If you want to have other fish with your sparkling gouramis, choose small tetras, rasboras, or yoyo loaches as tank mates.

With their beautiful appearance and peaceful nature, sparkling gouramis can be a wonderful addition to any small aquarium.


Otocinclus catfish are a type of fish that can thrive in small tanks. They are herbivores and eat algae, making them great for keeping the tank clean. These catfish are relatively easy to care for and can be kept in groups of multiple individuals.

They prefer to be in schools with their own species, as it makes them feel more secure. It’s important to regularly test and maintain water conditions for these sensitive fish to ensure they stay healthy in their environment.

Endler’s Livebearers

Endler’s Livebearers are perfect for beginners because they are easy to care for and very hardy. They are often compared to guppies because of their similar characteristics. These colorful fish can thrive in small tanks, like a 5-gallon tank, with proper care and maintenance.

Endler’s Livebearers are social fish, so it is best to keep them in groups. Overall, they make an excellent choice for beginner fishkeepers looking for low-maintenance and vibrant fish for their small tanks.

Chili Rasboras

Chili Rasboras are small fish that come in a beautiful red color with black markings. They are one of the smallest fish you can have in an aquarium, growing to less than an inch long.

These little fish are perfect for smaller tanks, like those that hold 15 gallons or less. Chili Rasboras are known for their playful behavior and love swimming together in schools.

They make great pets for beginners because they are relatively easy to care for. So if you’re starting out in the aquarium hobby and want some lively and colorful fish, Chili Rasboras could be a great choice!

Cardinal Tetras

Cardinal Tetras are a popular choice for small tanks because of their stunning appearance. These fish have vibrant red and blue colors, with neon blue stripes that make them stand out in any aquarium.

They look quite similar to neon tetras, but they have longer fin extensions and larger bodies.

To keep Cardinal Tetras healthy and happy, it’s important to maintain proper water quality. These fish can be sensitive to toxic elements in the water, so regular testing and monitoring are necessary.

It’s recommended to provide a well-established planted tank with plenty of hiding spots for these tetras to feel secure.

One great thing about Cardinal Tetras is that they have a relatively long lifespan compared to other small fish species. With proper care, they can live up to five years or more in captivity.

Tips for Maintaining a Small Tank

Maintain proper water parameters, regularly clean and maintain the tank, monitor fish health, and ensure adequate tank size and filtration.

Proper Water Parameters

Maintaining proper water parameters is important for the health of fish in a small tank. Here are some key factors to consider:

  1. Regularly test the water for ammonia and nitrite levels to ensure they are at safe levels for fish.
  2. Keep an eye on pH levels, as different species of fish have specific pH requirements.
  3. Maintain a stable water temperature within the recommended range for your fish species.
  4. Adequate filtration is crucial to remove waste and toxins from the water.
  5. Use a high – quality water conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramines from tap water before adding it to the tank.

Tank Size and Filtration

  • Choose a tank size between 5 and 20 gallons, which is recommended for beginners.
  • larger tank provides more stability for the fish and easier maintenance.
  • Smaller tanks require more frequent water changes and monitoring.
  • Invest in a good filtration system to keep the water clean and clear.
  • The filter should be suitable for the tank size and provide adequate mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration.
  • Regularly clean or replace filter media to prevent buildup of harmful substances.
  • Use a heater if necessary to maintain a stable temperature for tropical fish.
  • Monitor water parameters regularly, including temperature, pH level, and ammonia/nitrate levels.

Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

Regular cleaning and maintenance are crucial for keeping a small fish tank healthy and thriving. Here are some important tasks to include in your routine:

  1. Clean the glass or acrylic walls using an aquarium-safe scraper or magnet cleaner.
  2. Vacuum the substrate to remove uneaten food, waste, and debris.
  3. Perform regular water changes to maintain good water quality and remove excess nitrates.
  4. Test the water parameters regularly using a reliable test kit to ensure they are within appropriate levels for your fish.
  5. Clean and replace filter media as needed to maintain proper filtration.
  6. Trim and prune any live plants to prevent them from overgrowing and overshadowing other tank inhabitants.
  7. Check and adjust the temperature of the aquarium heater if necessary.
  8. Inspect equipment such as filters, air pumps, and lights for any signs of damage or malfunction.

Monitoring Fish Health

Regularly monitoring the health of your fish is crucial for maintaining a thriving aquarium. To ensure their well-being, it’s important to keep an eye on water conditions such as temperature, pH levels, and ammonia levels.

This can be done using simple test kits that are readily available in pet stores. Additionally, observing the behavior and appearance of your fish can also provide valuable insights into their health.

Look out for signs of distress or illness such as lethargyloss of appetite, abnormal swimming patterns, or unusual growths on their bodies. Any changes should be addressed promptly to prevent further complications and maintain a healthy environment for your fish.


In conclusion, choosing the right fish for a small tank is crucial for beginners. Betta fish, neon tetras, guppies, and rasboras are among the top choices due to their vibrant colors and easy care requirements.

Remember to research each species before adding them to your tank and maintain regular maintenance to ensure the best possible environment for your fish. Happy fishkeeping!


1. What are some easy to care for fish suitable for small tanks?

Some of the best beginner-friendly fish that fit in a small tank include White Cloud Minnows, Betta Fish, Guppies, Neon Tetras, and Cherry Barbs.

2. How do I maintain the right conditions in my freshwater fish tank?

Maintaining your fish tank involves regular cleaning, proper aquarium lighting, ensuring correct salinity if required and managing nitrogen cycling through good aquarium filtration.

3. Do all types of goldfish suit a beginner’s small tank setup?

While Goldfish like Standard Goldfish or Comet goldfish can adapt well to various environments; larger varieties such as Sarasa and Shubunkin may need more space than a beginners’ small-sized tank offers.

4. Can different species of fish live together in the same small tank?

Yes! Many species including Cory Catfishes, Zebrafishes and Harlequin Rasboras show good compatibility with others but check individual needs about their habitat requirements before mixing.

5. Is feeding only part of taking care of fishes?

Not just feeding them the right diet but understanding their behavior such as lifespan or reproduction patterns is also key to successful fish care along with providing appropriate equipment for their comfort.

6. Can I add plants to my beginner’s small freshwater fish tank?

Yes! Aquarium plants not only enhance appearance but help with water conditioning making it healthy living environment for your fishes.