Low maintenance freshwater fish are often the best choice for beginners, particularly if you don’t have much aquarium-keeping experience. These fish are easy to care for, relatively inexpensive, and won’t require many hours of your time to keep them healthy and happy.
The idea of keeping an aquarium might sound like something only experts can do, but in reality, it’s much easier than you think – even if you aren’t the best at keeping plants alive!
If you’re looking to decorate your home with an aquarium, but don’t have the time or patience to deal with messy marine water systems and finicky saltwater fish, consider a freshwater tank instead.
Freshwater fish are easy to keep, easy to feed, and low maintenance as long as you follow simple rules and choose your fish wisely.
This list of 19 low maintenance freshwater fish includes everything from bright color tetras to peaceful mollies and hardy goldfish, so whether you have an indoor or outdoor aquarium, there’s something here for you.
Popular low maintenance freshwater fish
Standard Goldfish (Carassius auratus)
Standard Goldfish are classic, low maintenance freshwater fish that can be a great addition to your aquarium. They are hardy and have been kept as pets in homes for centuries. They can grow up to 12 inches long but their average lifespan is 3 years.
Standard Goldfish come in a wide range of colors, including red, white, and black. They are omnivores and will eat most types of food. The downside is that they can produce large amounts of waste so it’s important to change the water often or provide a lot of plants for them to nibble on.
Betta Fish (Betta splendens)
The Betta fish has a reputation for being one of the most difficult to keep freshwater fish because of their aggressive nature. However, with a little bit of preparation, they can make for an easy and beautiful addition to your home.
Betta fish are small, freshwater fish native to Thailand where they can be found in rice paddies and stagnant water. These fish have a reputation for being notoriously hard to keep because of their aggression towards other tank mates but, with some careful preparation, you can bring this beautiful species into your own home.
The first step is finding a healthy specimen from a reputable seller that is free from disease or parasites and adding it directly into the tank. Males will often have longer fins than females but both sexes should display deep red colors on their body which will deepen as they age.
Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon innesi)
Neon tetras are one of the most popular freshwater fish around. They are a staple in most community aquariums and they can be found at just about any pet store. These fish are easy to care for and have very few requirements.
The only downside is that they tend to not do well with other neons or other types of tetras, so it is best to keep them by themselves or with some other type of small schooling fish.
Like all fish, they need good water quality, but their requirements are minimal. If you want an easy-to-take-care-of tank mate then a group of neon tetras will do the trick!
Mollies (Live bearers)
Mollies are live bearers which means they will give birth to their offspring in the aquarium. If you have a large enough tank, and you’re willing to feed them live foods, mollies are an excellent choice for a beginner fish keeper.
They can also be bred in captivity so if you want to start your own molly farm, this is a great low maintenance option. Because of their prolific breeding habits, it’s important to ensure that there is always a healthy number of females for every male in order to avoid overpopulation.
Mollies make great tank mates with many other fish types including neon tetras, guppies, platys, and swordtails. They enjoy swimming around in planted areas where they can feed on the algae growing on the plant’s leaves.
Platys (Xiphophorus maculatus, variatus)
The Platy is a relatively easy fish to keep but has many color variations. It grows to approximately 2 inches and is omnivorous. The water should be kept at about 72 degrees Fahrenheit with a pH of 6.0 – 7.0 and hardness below 10 dH. This species does well in freshwater tanks as well as saltwater aquariums.
They do not have an eye spot and are blind which may lead some people to think they are less interesting than other fish. However, this doesn’t stop them from being very active when fed regularly. They can thrive with other species of the same genus, but will fight with others if not given enough space.
Fancy Goldfish (Carassius auratus)
Fancy goldfish are one of the most popular fish in the world, and for good reason. They’re a low maintenance freshwater fish with a long lifespan that can be enjoyed by both novice and experienced fishkeepers. In fact, they are so easy to care for that they are often recommended to newbies to the hobby.
Fancy goldfish come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. The two main varieties you’ll find at pet stores are single-tailed and double-tailed, which refers to how many tails they have.
Single-tailed fancy goldfish will typically grow up to 12 inches while double-tailed can grow up to 18 inches or more. Their tail length is dependent on how much room they have in their tank or container as well as their genetics.
Black Skirt/White Skirt Tetras (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi)
Black Skirt Tetras are a type of schooling fish that can be kept in groups of five or more. They are peaceful, easy to care for, and do not need much space. The Black Skirt Tetra is a black/blue color with an iridescent blue stripe on its side. They grow up to two inches in length and live up to six years.
The Black Skirt Tetra should be kept at temperatures between 72°F-82°F and have soft water with low carbonate hardness levels. You should feed the tetras flake food once per day along with occasional frozen foods like bloodworms, tubifex worms, etc.
White Cloud Mountain Minnows (Tanichthys albonubes)
The White Cloud Mountain Minnow is an easy-to-care-for fish that will thrive in a community aquarium. They are low maintenance, peaceful, and do well in groups of six or more. They have silvery body with black spots and can grow up to 3 inches in length. As they mature they change from a silver color to white.
When young, the male has iridescent blue on the upper half of his body while the female has iridescent green on the upper half of her body. It is recommended you only keep one male per tank due to their territorial nature.
Dwarf Otocinclus (Otocinclus vittatus)
The Dwarf Otocinclus is a small fish that is native to the Amazon River basin. The Dwarf Otocinclus is not only low maintenance, but it will also help keep your aquarium clean by eating algae and leftover food.
When water levels are too high for the Dwarf Otocinclus, it can easily survive out of water for a couple hours until you get it back in the tank. It is important to take note that this particular freshwater fish does best in tanks with live plants and at least five gallons of water.
This beautiful saltwater fish may look intimidating but don’t be fooled because they are actually very friendly. As their name implies, they have a spotted pattern on their bodies. These types of spots range from light brown to dark brown depending on how much light they have been exposed to.
When it comes to low maintenance freshwater fish, there are few that are easier to care for than Corydoras Catfish. They are schooling fish that prefer a tank with lots of plants and hiding places as well as larger schools of their own species.
This makes them perfect for aquariums with less than 10 gallons of water, or if you’re looking for a community tank. To keep these fish healthy, feed them high-quality flake food every day and do your best to make sure the water is clean.
Kuhli Loaches (Pangio kuhlii)
Kuhli loaches are freshwater fish that is often referred to as cleaner fish. These little guys will pick away at algae and clean up the tank. They can also get relatively large, which makes them good for larger tanks.
Kuhli loaches are easy to take care of and will do well in community tanks with other species. To ensure they stay happy, it’s important to make sure the water stays nice and clean by performing regular water changes.
Dwarf Gourami (Trichogaster lalius)
The Dwarf Gourami is a freshwater fish that can grow to about five inches long. It has a yellow body with black stripes and spots. The Dwarf Gourami is carnivorous, but it will also eat algae and plants.
This fish can live in temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius and higher. You need to have at least ten gallons of water for this fish because they are very active swimmers. This is a good starter fish for people who want easy-to-take care of pets! All you have to do is feed them twice a day and give them plenty of space. That’s all there is to it!
Celestial Pearl Danios (Danio margaritatus)
Celestial Pearl Danios are one of the most popular freshwater fish in the hobby, and it’s easy to see why. Celestial Pearl Danios are small and peaceful, making them perfect for a community tank.
These little fish are also great jumpers, so be sure to provide an escape route or they’ll be jumping all over your other fish! With a lifespan of three to five years, these fish will provide you with plenty of enjoyment before you have to think about replacing them.
It’s important that you remember to feed them as often as possible because these tiny guys don’t eat a lot. Other than the food, these fish only need some good quality water changes every week. So if you’re looking for a low maintenance freshwater fish, the Celestial Pearl Danio is perfect for your aquarium!
Cherry Barbs (Puntius titteya)
Cherry Barbs are one of the most popular freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby, partly because they are so hardy. These fish are typically brown or olive green with a pinkish hue along their belly and can grow up to 3 inches in length.
They enjoy eating algae off plants and other surfaces, making them an excellent addition for an established tank with live plants. They also have a voracious appetite for mosquito larvae, making them perfect for keeping these pests at bay.
The only downside to this peaceful fish is that they will occasionally nip at the fins of slow-moving or smaller fish. If you’re looking for a community tank full of interesting personalities, cherry barbs are your go-to option!
Zebrafish (Danio rerio)
The zebrafish is one of the most studied vertebrates in the world, making it a popular choice for undergraduate and graduate students looking to study biology. It’s also a great fish for an aquarium as it’s easy to take care of.
Like many other freshwater fish, zebrafish need clean water and temperatures between 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit (22-27 degrees Celsius). They can’t be kept with other types of fish because their tank mates might attack them or eat them. Their natural habitat is in the shallow waters of south Asia where they live among vegetation on the bottom.
They are omnivores that feed on small crustaceans, plankton, and plants but will scavenge food from time to time if no other options are available. To make sure your zebrafish has enough food, you should supplement its diet with dried food pellets designed specifically for them such as Tetra Color Bits.
Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)
The guppy is a small, brightly colored freshwater fish with a life span of about two years. Guppies are sexually dimorphic meaning males and females look different. Females are larger than males, they can grow up to 1 inch in length while males stop growing at around 3⁄4 inch.
The females also have a rounder belly than the males. They live together in schools and feed on insects, plants, algae, crustaceans, and other smaller fish. When kept with other types of fish, the guppies will sometimes hybridize so it’s best to keep them on their own or only with other guppies.
Otocinclus Catfish (Otocinclus macrospilus)
The Otocinclus Catfish, also known as the Common Sucker Catfish, Dwarf Armored Catfish, or Dwarf Sucker Catfish, is one of the most popular freshwater fish for aquariums. These are small catfish that prefer to live in groups and will eat any algae or food that falls to the bottom of your tank.
They are peaceful and will be happy with almost any other type of fish you might keep in your aquarium. They can grow up to 3 inches long so they will need a bigger tank than some of the smaller species. There are many different varieties that vary in color from blackish brown to white/silver but all have dark stripes on their bodies.
The Oto Catfish is a tiny, shy freshwater fish that will do well in a densely planted aquarium with lots of shelters. It is usually found at the bottom of the tank where it spends its time grazing on plant leaves.
The Oto Catfish is an excellent community fish and prefers to live with other peaceful species such as Corydoras Catfish, Cherry Barbs, Platies, White Cloud Mountain Minnows or Harlequin Rasboras.
A schooling type of fish, they should be kept in groups (preferably five or more) to get along well and feel safe. Otocinclus Catfish are considered to be hardy because they tolerate both low and high water temperatures very well. Otocinclus Catfish are not aggressive eaters so they can be fed a variety of foods including sinking pellets, frozen bloodworms or algae wafers two times per day.
Pineapple Swordtail (Xiphophorus helleri)
Pineapple Swordtails are beautiful fish and make a great addition to any aquarium setup. They are good for beginners because they are hardy, easy to care for, and have an interesting personalities. These fish live in the wild in Mexico and Central America, so they prefer warmer water than most other freshwater fish.
One thing you should be aware of is that these fish are aggressive with their own kind. If you want more than one pineapple swordtail in your tank, then you will need to put them in separate areas of the tank and provide plenty of hiding spaces where they can avoid each other. In the wild, these fish feed on algae from rocks, plants, and driftwood but do not eat prepared foods in captivity.
To supplement their diet give them lettuce or spinach leaves as well as cucumber slices or zucchini cubes which they will enjoy eating off of a plant leaf.
Tiger Barbs (Puntigrus tetrazona)
The Tiger Barb is a schooling fish that reaches a maximum size of 6 inches. They are very hardy and will thrive in most water conditions, but they prefer temperatures between 78-86 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tiger Barbs are best suited as bottom dwellers since they like to spend their time on the substrate looking for food.
They have also been known to nip at the fins of other fish, so it’s best to keep them with other species that are more tolerant of this behavior. Their diet consists mainly of plant matter, but they will eagerly eat blood worms or other meaty foods if offered.