6 best tropical freshwater fish for beginner fishkeepers (Part 2)

by Sunjay Muralitharan, June 1, 2021

In our last issue we introduced and went over the fish lined up on the 4th to 6th spot on this list; this time we will discuss numbers 1 to 3. All the fish below are hardy and have simple care and tank needs. In addition, since beginner fish keepers are likely to set up a community aquarium, I made sure that they are all peaceful with a wide compatibility range and the ability to live off of simple flake food.

3. Cherry Barb

Photo: Tetra Advanced Fishkeeping Blog

The bright-colored Cherry Barb takes the 3rd spot on this list. Their popping red color makes them one of the most popular Barbs in the hobby and a great fish for community tanks. These barbs have a lifespan of 5 - 6 years, grow up to be 2 inches in length, and are very hardy.

Their minimum tank size is quite large: 25 gallons; mainly to give them more swimming space and provide females with hiding spots from horny males. It is also worth noting that you should keep these fish in a 1:2 ratio of males: females to encourage them to be active and give the females a break from the horny males. Distinguishing males and females are extremely easy: males have a popping red cherry color, while females are a more dull brown. It is possible to only keep male cherry barbs in your aquarium, but this will make them more shy and may even cause infighting.

A Cherry Barb male (pictured above) and female (pictured below)

Photo: Arizona Aquatic Gardens

Cherry Barbs are schooling fish and should be kept in groups of no less than 5. They have a vast range of compatibility due to their peaceful nature but get easily stressed by semi-aggressive fish (like the Tiger Barb). Overall Cherry Barbs are a fantastic fish as they are both easy to take care of and have a beautiful coloration that will make any tank pop. However, the top two fish on this list have an even more vibrant coloration, putting the Cherry Barb at number 3.

2. Dwarf Gourami

Photo: Aquapros

Coming in at number 2 is the bright and colorful Dwarf Gourami. Despite being one of the smallest Gouramis, the Dwarf Gourami is the largest fish on this list with its size range of 3.5 - 4.5 inches. This fish only requires a 10-gallon tank and can live for up to 5 years. Their medium size, vivid coloration, and small tank requirements make the Dwarf Gourami an ideal centerpiece fish for small community tanks.

Dwarf Gouramis have various unique variants, all with different vibrant colors. Some of the most popular types include the Flame Dwarf Gourami, Blue Dwarf Gourami, Neon Blue Dwarf Gourami, and the Honey Dwarf Gourami (pictured in this article’s thumbnail). Availability of these Gouramis depends on what your local fish store stocks, the vast majority of them should at least carry one or two of these variants.

The Flame Dwarf Gourami (pictured here) is one of the most popular Dwarf Gourami variants

Photo: Fishkeeping Advice

The only real downside of keeping Dwarf Gouramis is their high susceptibility to diseases, the two most common ones being Dwarf Gourami Disease (DGD) and Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus (DGIV). When inflicted with DGD, Dwarf Gouramis will see their colors and fins degrade. There are no effective treatments for it, but periodic water changes and monitoring of water parameters are great precautions. DGIV also has no cure but can be prevented by strengthening the immune systems of your fish with good water quality and a varying diet. Because of the Dwarf Gouramis susceptibility to various illnesses, it falls short of the number 1 spot.

1. Guppy

Photo: Fishlore

Taking the top spot on this list is Guppy. This fish pretty much checks out every box on what makes a good beginner fish: it has simple care needs, small tank needs, high hardiness, community tank compatibility, and vibrant coloration.

Male guppies grow no bigger than 1.6 inches and can be as small as 0.6 inches; females are a bit larger, they can range from 1.2 to 2.4 inches in length. Because of their small size, these fish only require a 5-gallon tank. Guppies come in a wide variety: there are over 300 different types providing for a plethora of different size and coloration choices for your tank (all guppies fall into the size range mentioned above). These fish have a short lifespan of 2 years but can repopulate themselves easily in your tank.

Like Platies discussed in our last issue, guppies are livebearers meaning they keep their eggs in their body and give birth to live young. This allows for rapid reproduction and is something you should account for when deciding on your tank size if you are planning on getting both male and female guppies. In addition, males and females should be kept in a 1:2 ratio to give the females some resting time. Keeping an all-male tank to avoid reproduction is fine as well.

Telling apart male and female guppies is quite simple once they reach sexual maturity at 3 - 5 months of age. Males are smaller, have brighter colors, a more narrow anal fin when compared to females. Females also have a dark spot, called the gravid spot, behind their anal fin that males lack.

Overall, Guppies are a great all-rounder beginner fish with no substantial downside. They are hardy, come in a large variety of colors, are easy to care for, have small tank needs, and have a wide range of compatibility with other peaceful fish. For these reasons, the Guppy takes the top spot on this list.

The Guppy, Dwarf Gourami, Cherry Barb, Platy, Harlequin Rasbora, and Zebra Danio are all fantastic beginner fish, the question is which beginner fish suits you the best?






Dwarf Gourami Guide: Is This Bright Colorful Fish For You? - Fishkeeping World