Fishbowl Adviser

15 Most Popular Freshwater Fish

Over 12 million households in the US keep freshwater fish, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that they are the most popular choice of pet to keep. Having a freshwater fish tank can bring color and beauty to a home, but it is also very relaxing to watch them swim and even develop personalities of their own. Plus, they also have many health benefits for reducing stress and lowering blood pressure and heart rate.

There are many breeds that you can choose from, but if you’re a beginner that is just building their freshwater aquarium, it may be difficult to find the best freshwater aquarium fish. Here are the 15 most popular freshwater fish that you should consider getting for your home.

Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon Innesi)

Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon Innesi)

This colorful freshwater fish got its name because of its incandescent blue stripe that goes across the body and glows in the dark. These tetras are small fish that are easy to take care of, which is why most beginners chose them for their first aquariums. And because they are small fish with just 2.2cm in length, they like to be placed and raised in groups. It’s suggested that you should keep at least 5 neon tetras in a tank at a time so that they don’t feel threatened. They need soft and acidic water that is kept at tropical temperatures. As for food, since they are omnivores, you can feed them worms, brine, insects, shrimp, and plants.

Neon Tetra Fact Sheet:

Scientific NameParacheirodon Innesi
Average LifespanAround 10 years
Average Adult Size0.5 – 2.5 Inches
Optimal Water Temperature72° – 76° F (22° – 24 °C)
Optimal pH6.8 – 7.8

Guppy (Poecilia Reticulata)

Guppy (Poecilia Reticulata)

Guppies are also colorful freshwater fish that have become increasingly powerful because of their vibrant colors and hypnotic tails. They are a popular choice for beginners because they are easy to take care of and can easily adapt to a variety of water conditions. Since they are a very sociable species, it is advised that they should be kept in groups of 3, with each fish having one gallon of water.

However, when making your choice, you should keep in mind that the male guppies are more vibrant and colorful than females. If you don’t want to breed your fish, you may want to think about getting just males.

Guppy Fact Sheet:

Scientific NamePoecilia Reticulata
Average Lifespan4 – 5 Years
Average Adult SizeMales: 0.6 – 1.4 Inches
Females: 1.2 – 2.4 Inches
Optimal Water Temperature50⁰ – 84⁰ F (10⁰ – 29⁰ C).
Optimal pH6.8 – 7.8

Betta (Betta Splendens)

Betta (Betta Splendens)

One of the most popular freshwater tank fish is Betta fish. These small freshwater fish have vibrant colors on their bodies and they are very easy to care for, even for beginners. However, they tend to be aggressive towards other males, so they must not be kept in groups. It’s best to keep one betta in one tank, which means you should get more bowls if you want to keep more bettas. They are small in size, with a maximum size of just 3 inches, but they should be placed in larger tanks. But they can be kept with other peaceful fish. As for food, they need an omnivorous diet that consists of both plant and animal foods.

Betta Fish Fact Sheet:

Scientific NameBetta Splendens
Average Lifespan2 – 3 Years, on average
Average Adult Size2 ½ inches long, tail excluded
Optimal Water Temperature76° – 82° F (24⁰ – 28⁰ C).
Optimal pH6.4 – 7.0

Oscar (Astronotus Ocellatus)

Oscar (Astronotus Ocellatus)

Oscars are known to be one of the most intelligent freshwater tropical fish species. The average oscar fish can even be taught a few tricks, and they can learn to respond to their name. But they are a community fish species. Oscars are very hostile towards other fish species, but they can actually have a very positive relationship with humans. However, because of their hostility, they are not suitable for a freshwater community fish tank. Another reason to keep them alone is their size. Over their two-decade estimated lifespan, they can grow very quickly and become very large. And, because of their carnivorous nature, they create a lot of waste, which means they need a lot of maintenance.

Oscar Fact Sheet:

Scientific NameAstronotus Ocellatus
Average Lifespan10 – 20 Years
Average Adult Size11 – 12 Inches
Optimal Water Temperature74° – 81° F (23⁰ – 27⁰ C)
Optimal pH6 – 8

Molly (Poecilia Sphenops)

Molly (Poecilia Sphenops)

If you’re looking for a community fish that will get along with other species, you should consider molly as your future pet. Apart from being community fish, they are also large freshwater fish. With a size of 5 inches, it’s clear that they need large tanks with a minimum of 20 gallons, depending on the number of fish you want to keep. They are livebearers, which means they give birth to their young, instead of placing eggs. If you’re not ready to take care of more fish, then it might be best to get only one male or female fish for your tank.

Molly Fact Sheet:

Scientific NamePoecilia Sphenops
Average Lifespan3 – 5 Years
Average Adult Size4 – 5 Inches
Optimal Water Temperature75° – 80° F (24° – 26.7° C)
Optimal pH7.5 – 8

Zebra Danio (Danio Rerio)

Zebra Danio (Danio Rerio)

As a very adaptable and easy to take care of fish, the zebra danio is a great choice for beginners. They can grow to be 5 to 7 centimeters in length, which means they can thrive in a 10-gallon freshwater fish tank. However, the tank must be covered. The zebra danio is known for jumping, so they might jump out of an open tank. Another thing you should know is that they like to live and travel in groups. They can get stressed and sick if kept alone, so you might want to consider getting more than one. But they are not fussy eaters, so you won’t have problems feeding them.

Zebra Danio Fact Sheet:

Scientific NameDanio Rerio
Average Lifespan2 – 5 Years
Average Adult Size2 – 2.5 Inches
Optimal Water Temperature70° – 78° F (21° – 26° C)
Optimal pH6.5 – 7.5

Goldfish (Carassius Auratus)

Goldfish (Carassius Auratus)

The most popular and probably the best freshwater fish for both children and adults. They are considered the best fish to keep in a fishbowl, along with bettas, gourami, paradise fish, and white cloud fish. What many are not aware of is that there are many different varieties of Goldfish, so be careful not to mix breeds that compete with each other for food.

If they have an adequately sized tank, with a 20-gallon minimum, they can grow up to 4 inches in length and live for a decade or more. But, you also need to get a filter, perform weekly water changes, and make sure you properly clean their bowl. Check out our post on how to properly clean a fishbowl.

Goldfish Fact Sheet:

Scientific NameCarassius Auratus
Average Lifespan5 – 15 Years
Average Adult Size1 – 4 Inches
Optimal Water Temperature68° – 74° F (20° – 23° C)
Optimal pH7.5

Angelfish (Pterophyllum)

Angelfish (Pterophyllum)

As one of the coolest freshwater aquarium fish, angelfish can also be a challenge to keep. Angelfish are an omnivorous species and need to have a balanced diet of both plant and animal food, so it might be challenging to get the right diet if you don’t have any prior experience with keeping aquarium fish. They can be difficult to raise, but many aquarists consider that their unique bodies and many different color variations are what make it worth raising them. And because they can reach up to 6 inches in length, angelfish also need a large tank with a minimum of 20 gallons of water.

Angelfish Fact Sheet:

Scientific NamePterophyllum
Average Lifespan10 – 12 Years
Average Adult Size6 – 10 Inches
Optimal Water Temperature74° – 84° F (23° – 29° C)
Optimal pH6 – 7.5

Discus (Symphysodon Aequifasciatus)

Discus (Symphysodon Aequifasciatus)

Discus is considered a breathtaking fish, but also very difficult to keep. They have very specific needs, which don’t make a suitable choice for beginners. They need a tank with at least 25 gallons since they can grow to be 8 inches. Since they are carnivorous, their diet should be made of beef heart and blood worms, but you can add some flakes as well to give them more vitamins and minerals. They can live with other fish, as long as the species are not aggressive.

Discus Fact Sheet:

Scientific NameSymphysodon Aequifasciatus
Average Lifespan10 – 15 Years
Average Adult SizeUp to 8 Inches
Optimal Water Temperature80° – 86° F (27° – 30° C)
Optimal pH6 – 7

Corydoras Catfish (Corydoras Aeneus)

Corydoras Catfish (Corydoras Aeneus)

Corydoras Catfish, or simply Cory Cats, are popular community fish that you can find in most freshwater tanks. They are very calm and peaceful, as long as there are no aggressive species in the tank. Apart from that. they are also easy to keep. You can keep them individually, but they are very social, which means they will thrive if they have a group. They are also bottom feeders, which means that they will pick up leftover foods. This means that they should be fed with flakes sinking pellets, and bottom feeder tablets. As for their size, they can grow to be 2.5 inches in length over their 5-year lifespan.

Corydoras Catfish Fact Sheet:

Scientific NameCorydoras Aeneus
Average Lifespan5 Years
Average Adult Size1 – 2.5 Inches
Optimal Water Temperature72° – 79° F (22° – 26° C)
Optimal pH7 – 8

Rainbowfish (Melanotaeniidae)

Rainbowfish

You can rarely see rainbowfish in tanks, but they are actually a great community fish with very vibrant colors that can fit into your home quite well. Once you get a rainbowfish, it won’t start to show its colors until adulthood, but once they do, you will enjoy watching them. But even though they are not popular, they are very sociable and will get along with other peaceful species, especially with tetras, danios, and bards. They can grow to be 6 inches in length, which means they will need a tank with some space, especially if you want to combine them with other fish.

Rainbowfish Fact Sheet:

Scientific NameMelanotaeniidae
Average Lifespan5 – 8 Years
Average Adult Size1 – 6 Inches
Optimal Water Temperature72° – 82° F (22° – 28° C)
Optimal pH6.5 – 7.5

Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

Platy (Xiphophorus Maculatus)

Platies are also a community fish that, just like zebra danio, likes to live and travel in a group. However, despite living in groups, they can thrive in smaller tanks, with a minimum of 10 gallons of water. And just like danios, they are also visually pleasing because of their body’s unique colors and patterns. They are very peaceful, and they will get along with other small and peaceful species, like guppies and mollies. As for food, they should be fed with both animal and plant food, even though they prefer the latter. Ideally, they should have a mix of plant-based food and proteins.

Platy Fact Sheet:

Scientific NameXiphophorus maculatus
Average Lifespan3 – 4 Years
Average Adult Size2 – 3 Inches
Optimal Water Temperature70° – 80° F (21° – 27° C)
Optimal pH7.0 – 8.2

Killifish (Austrolebias Affinis)

Killifish

One of the best freshwater aquarium fish for beginners is the killifish. Killifish come in many different bright colors and patterns, with around 700 different types of this species. They are very peaceful and likely won’t be the ones who start any battles, but during mating season they can get aggressive. Because of that, it’s best to have only one male killifish, even if you plan on breeding them. But, if you do plan on breeding your fish, then the killifish is your choice. They are the best freshwater aquarium fish for breeding since their breeding needs just a few specific conditions, unlike many other species.

Killifish Fact Sheet:

Scientific NameAustrolebias Affinis
Average Lifespan2 – 5 Years
Average Adult Size1 – 2 Inches
Optimal Water Temperature68° – 75° F (20° – 24° C)
Optimal pH6 – 7

Cherry Barb (Puntius Titteya)

Cherry Barb

If you’re looking for one of the easiest fish to take care of, then cherry barbs should be your choice. Cherry barbs got their name because of their color. They are primarily silver, but they become bright red color when spawning. Since they can grow to be 2 inches in length, you will need a tank that has at least 25 gallons of water. And the tank should also have some plant displays because they like to hide among them. Whether they are in danger or not, you will usually find them hidden. Cherry Barbs are omnivorous, so their diet should consist of fresh, live, frozen, and flake foods.

Cherry Barb Fact Sheet:

Scientific NamePuntius Titteya
Average Lifespan5 – 7 Years
Average Adult Size1 – 2 Inches
Optimal Water Temperature73° – 81° F (23° – 27° C)
Optimal pH6 – 8

Pearl Gourami (Trichopodus leerii)

Pearl Gourami (Trichopodus leerii)

The Pearl Gourami is a peaceful and large freshwater fish, but it’s also one of the easiest to keep in a tank. They need a tank that has at least 30 gallons of water, with many hiding places (plants and other decorations). Along with that, their tank should also have a dark substrate and low lighting. Being a very peaceful species, they can be placed in community tanks with other species that are similar in size and temperament. They will thrive as long as there are no aggressive fish. As for their diet, they are omnivorous, so you should feed them with both meaty and algae-based foods. They are mostly known for eating Hydra, which is a small pest with tentacles that have venom in them.

Pearl Gourami Fact Sheet:

Scientific NameTrichopodus leerii
Average Lifespan4 – 5 Years
Average Adult Size4 – 5 Inches
Optimal Water Temperature77° – 82° F (25° – 28° C)
Optimal pH5.5 – 7.5

Summary

When looking for freshwater tank fishes to keep in your home, you need to make some decisions and choose species that you can take care of. If you plan on having a community tank, then you need to check which species can go with which. You should also see how many gallons of water they need 0 for both community and regular tanks. This means, that you need to choose which freshwater fish you want to keep before you find the best fishbowl for them.

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