Low Maintenance Fish for Beginners – 5 Easiest Pet Fish to Keep Happy & Alive

Looking to dive into the world of aquarium ownership but don’t know which species of fish to start with?

For a beginner aquarist, starting with a low maintenance species is key to your success as a fish owner – and necessary to ensure that you don’t get frustrated and fed up when your fish keep dying and you don’t know why.

While first-time aquarists may not realize it, some fish species are considerably higher maintenance than others and you do not want to overload yourself too early before you understand the basics of aquarium care.

Figuring out the logistics of running an aquarium can be a headache in itself. So, which fish species should you start with? We’re going to take you through the five easiest pet fish to keep alive and happy so there is no guessing when it comes to your first purchase.

What Do I Need to Consider Before Purchasing My Fish?

There are plenty of things to think about before purchasing your fish. Here are just a few:

  • It’s important to consult a professional that knows exactly what they’re talking about when it comes to selecting your tank. You need to consider how many fish you would like to have in the long run. Do not purchase a tank that’s meant for one or two fish when, in reality, you plan on adding a lot more. The size of the tank is important when it comes to the growth, general wellbeing, and the lifespan of the fish themselves.
  • You also have to think about where you want to put your tank. Do you have the room for the size of the fish tank you want? You need to keep an aquarium away from direct sunlight as well as both windows and heating. Maintaining the proper temperature is important and you do not want any outside factors influencing it.
  • Investing in a quality filter is another important step in owning a fish tank/aquarium. A decent filtration system is key for keeping pollutants, debris, and waste out of the water. Fish can easily become sick and infected from pollutants, contracting diseases such as ich, ammonia poisoning, fin/tail rot, fungal infections, and more.
  • Consider adding an air pump. Not every fish tank has an air pump as some may not need one so it’s best to consult with a professional on this. That said, purchasing an air pump for your tank can be a good idea. They keep the water in the tank in motion and oxygenated, both of which are good for your fish. There are different pump sizes available depending on the size of your tank so, again, it’s best to consult a professional before purchasing.
  • Does the species of fish you wish to purchase need heat and light? While not necessary for all fish, some need both heat and light to thrive. Tropical fish should also be kept at a certain temperature. While goldfish and other cold-water fish do not require heat, they are a rare exception. Light is also beneficial and if your tank contains real plants, light is necessary for them to grow and thrive.
  • Consider adding gravel and decorations to your tank. Gravel is used on the bottom of the most aquariums and fish tanks and it’s not just for decoration. Besides the aesthetic aspect, gravel is used for a couple of other reasons. One, it gives healthy bacteria somewhere to live which is actually beneficial to fish. And two, it helps break down your fish’s waste to keep your tank clean.
  • Consider adding plants and greenery. While it’s not necessary to include real plants, it’s a great idea. Fish like to both hide and play and plants give them somewhere to do both, whether they’re real or artificial. Real plants are also great for maintaining nutrients in the tank which artificial plants obviously cannot do.

5 Easiest Pet Fish to Keep Alive & Happy

Now, onto what you’re here for! We’re going to take you through the lowest maintenance pet fish to keep alive and happy so you can start off your life as an aquarist on an easy note.

1. Bettas

They are separated because male Bettas

You may also know Bettas as the “Siamese Fighting Fish”. They are commonly kept in little bowls by themselves on the shelves of pet stores. But don’t be fooled. This is not an ideal living condition for them.

They are separated because male Bettas will fight to the death once they reach a certain age. That said, Betas don’t need to live in solitary confinement.

Female Bettas can live together and a singular male Betta can live in a community with a few other low maintenance, non-aggressive fish.

While Betta fish don’t need to be kept in an aquarium with light and heater, it is still recommended to keep bacteria at bay.

  • Average length: 5-7 cm
  • Average lifespan: 2-4 years
  • Temperament: Peaceful with the right tankmates
  • Minimum tank size: 5 gallons
  • Diet: Live brine shrimp, worms, mosquito larvae, and/or Betta pellets


2. Neon Tetras

Neon Tetras at a time

If you’re looking for a small school of fish to start off your new life as an aquarist, look no further than the Neon Tetra.

If you want a seriously mellow tank, full of small, easy-going, good-natured fish, we could not recommend this species more. Another benefit is that their small size hardly affects water quality.

It’s recommended to purchase three to five Neon Tetras at a time as this fish enjoys company and likes to school with its own kind.

  • Average length: 3.5 cm
  • Average lifespan: 5-10 years
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Minimum tank size: 10 gallons
  • Diet: Brine shrimp, daphnia, freeze-dried bloodworms, tubifex, flake food and/or micro pellets.

3. Mollies & Platys

While Mollies and Platys are not the same species

While Mollies and Platys are not the same species, they are in the same family and have many similarities. They are both known for being among the easiest fish to breed in captivity and are both live bearing fish.

Because both Mollies and Platys breed frequently, there’s a chance you have adopted a pregnant fish if you have selected a female so you may end up having quite a few more fish than you bargained for as there is no way to tell from the outside if a fish is expecting.

Mollies and Platys are easy to please fish that are easy-going in nature. While both prefer company, they are also fine if kept as a solo fish.

  • Average length: 3 inches for the Molly, 1.5-2.5 inches for the Platy
  • Average lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Minimum tank size: 10 gallons
  • Diet: Flake food, a variety of vegetables (peas, cucumber, spinach, etc.).

4. Swordtail

The Swordtail can be kept with its own species

The Swordtail is another live-bearing fish and is closely related to the Platy. It has all of the characteristics that beginner aquarists love – they’re passive, easy-going, come in a variety of colors, and have relatively long lifespans.

They’re also entertaining to watch, as they’re quite lively and like to swim all over the tank.

It’s important to give this fish plenty of room to move about, providing it with a large tank and lots of plants and decorations to move in and out of. The Swordtail can be kept with its own species or other easy-going, compatible fish.

  • Average length: 5-6 inches
  • Average lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Minimum tank size: 15 gallons
  • Diet: Flake food, bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae and/or fruit flies

5. Goldfish

Goldfish are a great pet for beginners

Last but certainly not least is the Goldfish. Goldfish are a great pet for beginners but keep in mind that keeping one alive and thriving is not as simple as placing them in a bowl of water.

Goldfish prefer water that’s on the colder side (60 to 70°F) so they are best kept in a room temperature tank. That said, bacteria can quickly build-up.

While breeds such as fancy Goldfish are better left to intermediate fish keepers, beginners should start with breeds that have a long-body, including the comet, Sarasa, and shubunkin.

Keep in mind that a goldfish needs 20 gallons of water per fish so keeping a Goldfish in a small bowl is not an option if you want them to live.

Although they are calm, easy-going, and low maintenance, it’s also important to keep in mind that they produce a lot of waste – therefore, their tank maintenance will be slightly more than the other fish on this list!

  • Average length: Anywhere from 1-6 inches
  • Average lifespan: 5-10 years
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallons
  • Diet: Specialized goldfish flakes and granules, live brine shrimp, frozen brine shrimp, daphnia and/or vegetable mix

While the species listed here are all great ideas for beginner aquarists, it’s important to keep in mind that each still requires a certain level of care – no fish will survive if kept in poor conditions.

When purchasing your first fish, be sure to consult a professional regarding that species-specific requirements and that you have the proper home for them. Keeping a fish in a fishbowl is rarely recommended.

If cared for properly, your pet will provide you with years of companionship and entertainment.

More Guides For Beginners

Check out the following pots for some great info for aquarists who are just starting out:

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