Having a freshwater aquarium in your home is an excellent way to introduce children to the responsibility of owning a pet. After all, there’s a good reason why over 13 million American households have a fish tank in their homes. Not only is it rewarding, but it’s also a relaxing way to spend some time gazing into this aquatic environment. The sounds of the filter and running water are also mesmerizing.
Some fish are easier to keep than others. They are more tolerant of less-than-ideal conditions. They can also handle changes in their environment better. Owning an aquarium is also educational. Children can witness the live birth of some young. They can get lessons in chemistry and ecology as they watch the interplay between different species.
The amount of care is often a factor in the popularity of fish. You—or your kids—will put in the greatest effort setting up the tank. Then, nature takes her course to create the balance of chemicals in the water to create a stable environment. Our lineup includes some of the most popular freshwater fish you can add to your aquarium, along with some fun facts to share.
The 25 Most Popular Aquarium Fish
1. Guppy fish
If we had to pick one starter fish for kids, the Guppy would top the list in a heartbeat. He makes care easy, being tolerant of a not-so-clean tank better than many fish. Guppies are live-bearing, so your children can get a biology lesson, too. Some varieties have elaborate fins and brilliant colors to make them fun to watch.
2. Molly fish
The Molly is another live-bearing fish. He is an omnivore, as are many others. Like the Guppy, he is peaceful and forgiving of water conditions. He gets a bit larger, growing up to 2 inches if he has the real estate. He’ll do well with several other species on our list, including Guppies and Tetras.
3. Swordtail fish
Like the previous two fish, the Swordtail is also a live-bearing fish. However, he’s not aggressive, as his name may suggest. It refers to the long tail that the male has. He’ll make an excellent addition to a tank with Mollies and Guppies. Just make sure to add some live plants and hiding places for any young that are born.
4. Betta fish
You probably recognize the Betta from the row of small glass bowls at the counter of your local pet store. This flashy fish’s claim to fame is his fighting behavior with other males. He is an omnivore that will eat both protein and plants. He’ll do best in an aquarium with other peaceful fish that won’t chase him or nip at his tail.
5. Neon Tetra
The Neon Tetra is a beautiful fish that is appropriately named. His brilliant colors seem to pop when viewed under an aquarium light. They are active animals that do best in schools. It’s all the better to enjoy their gorgeous display. He’s an excellent addition to a child’s aquarium.
6. Zebra fish
The Zebra Danio is another example of the clever names you’ll encounter in the aquarium realm. As his name suggests, his body is lined with a series of parallel black stripes. He is a smaller fish, only getting to 2 inches in length. He is quite energetic and will dart around the tank, especially if you keep him in schools with other of his kind.
A Plecostomus is a welcome addition to any aquarium if just to keep the algae under control. This curious-looking fish goes by his genus name, referring to the bristles on his snout. They are generally solitary and can get up to 6 inches in length. The pleco is a fish for larger tanks because of his potential size.
With his orange body and black tail, you can call the Platy the Halloween fish. He has many qualities that make him a good starter fish. He gets along with others of a similar temperament. He is hardy, even if the tank isn’t as clean as it should be. This fish is another live-bearing fish. Unfortunately, he also will eat his young if there aren’t hiding places to protect them.
9. Rosy Barb
The name, Rosy Barb, refers more to the shape of his fins than the temperament of this peaceful fish from South America. Its beauty is understated with its lovely iridescent color. They can reach a size of nearly 2 inches long. They are also active fish and need an aquarium of at least 20 gallons to thrive.
10. Tiger Barb
The Tiger Barb is true to his name, with a combative side to his nature. He does best in schools of at least six others to keep his aggression in check. He is a larger fish that can get up to 3 inches. You should only keep him with fish closer to his size. Otherwise, he’s liable to chase smaller ones in the tank.
11. Pearl Gourami
The Pearl Gourami is probably one of the more beautiful aquarium fish on our list. His colors shimmer with his lacey fins. He is part of a sub-order called Labyrinth Fish. The term refers to a unique lung-like organ that they have. You’ll notice this guy at the surface a lot, gulping mouthfuls of air.
Angelfish are some of the darlings of the tropical fish world. They’re gorgeous animals that can get up to 6 inches tall. Both their colors and fin pattern make them so striking. Their long appendages also mean that you shouldn’t keep them with smaller, faster fish that may chase and nip at them.
13. Jack Dempsey Cichlid
The Jack Dempsey Cichlid is true to his name. He is an aggressive fish that feeds on other fish in the wild in his native Central America. He is often territorial and sometimes a messy pet because of his digging. He does best in at least a 55-gallon aquarium, preferably with a hiding place or two and some artificial plants.
14. Silver Dollar
The Silver Dollar looks just like his name implies. His body is even a round shape like the coin. He is a hardy fish that can get up to 6 inches. He is best kept with other fish his size. You should also have live plenty of plants in your tank for him to munch.
15. Cardinal Tetra
Like others in his genus, the Cardinal Tetra also prefers the company of others like him. He gets his name for the bright red stripe running down the length of his body. He is a slender and fast fish. He only gets about 2 inches long but is a hardy addition to your tank.
16. Glass Catfish
The Glass Catfish will make you do a double-take. Just as his name suggests, this fish has no color, with his skeleton visible. He is more sensitive to water conditions than many of the other species on our list. Surprisingly, he is a schooling animal that is best kept in small groups in an aquarium with a lot live of plants to keep them busy.
The Oscar is the second cichlid on our list. He hails from South America. Like others of his kind, he is aggressive and territorial. Overall, he is a hardy fish that can get quite large, depending on the tank size. You should only keep this guy with others that are bigger than he could eat. Instead of fish, you can offer him a commercial pellet food.
18. Bloodfin Tetra
Despite what his name might imply, the Bloodfin Tetra gets along with other fish. He prefers to swim in schools. He gets his moniker from the red color of his fins, which are a striking contrast to his sleek, silver body. He makes an excellent beginner pet that is quite tolerant of an aquarium environment.
19. Rainbow Shark
The name of the Rainbow Shark is something of a misnomer. Instead of a palette of colors, he has orange fins and a slate-gray body with some black markings. He is another fish that is appropriately named because of his temperament. He’ll fare best as the only example in your aquarium. He can get up to 6 inches long in an adequately sized tank.
20. Blind Cavefish
The Blind Cavefish is an amazing example of evolution and adaptation. He has his name because of his lack of sight. However, it isn’t a problem for this quick fish. He makes excellent use of his lateral line running down the length of his body to detect movement and obstacles around him. Nevertheless, a few hiding places in your tank are welcome features.
21. Bleeding Heart Tetra
The Bleeding Heart Tetra is named for the bright red spot on his flank that appears just where you might expect his heart. He can get larger than other species in his genus, getting up to nearly 3 inches in length. While he is attractive, he’s not a beginner fish, unfortunately.
The Goldfish is probably the first fish you’ve ever owned for a good reason. He is perhaps one of the easiest animals to care for and keep. He’ll thrive better in the stable environment that an aquarium offers. He prefers it on the cool side, unlike many of the species on this list. You’ll find a variety of types, including Fantails, Bubble Eyes, and Black Moors.
23. Golden Pencilfish
The Golden Pencilfish is another species with a fitting name, describing both his shape and coloration. He is a peaceful fish that prefers an aquarium with plenty of cover and plants that replicate his native Brazil habitat. He is also hearty, making him a popular choice among enthusiasts. While not a live-bearer, you can breed the Golden Pencilfish.
The curious name of the Hatchetfish refers to his unusually shaped body. He is an active fish that will readily feed on smaller fish. He does best in a well-planted tank. In the right setting, he can get to his maximum 2.5-inch size. You should keep this species in larger groups of four or more to keep the intraspecies aggression under control.
25. Glowlight Tetra
The Glowlight Tetra is another example of the stunning coloration you see in tropical fish. This South American species is a non-aggressive schooling fish. Like many of his temperament, he prefers an aquarium with plenty of cover, especially if you have fish of several sizes. He is hardy and makes an excellent beginner fish.
Final Thoughts About Aquarium Fish
Aquarium fish are a joy to own. Once you’ve set up their habitat, maintenance is minimal. The key is keeping the tank at the correct temperature with regular water changes to control the waste. With the right setup, they’ll provide years of pleasure and entertainment from watching the interactions between the community members.
Featured Image Credit: Thanes Pruttivanichakul, Shutterstock