The freshwater fish tank seems to be the most common fish tank for most beginning aquarists. But don’t be fooled, not all freshwater fish are easy to care for! If you’re just starting an aquarium journey, take the time to get to know the most popular fish that are available and which are the best for the beginning aquarium. Some have strict dietary needs while others may be aggressive and eat other fish. Here are the top five fish for a beginning aquarium.

Tetras – Tetras tend to be the golden standard when beginning an aquarium journey. Their small, bright colored bodies bring excitement to the water, while they bring few needs other than an appetite. Tetras are community fish and do best in schools of five or more. You can have a nicely sized school in a tank as small as ten gallons. Because they are omnivores, they will exist quite happily on flake food. Even the pickiest Tetras have few requirements beyond a well planted tank, low lighting and warm-ish water around 75˚F.

Guppies, Mollies and Platys – This group of fish is excellent for beginners. They bring bright colors and beautiful fin displays to the aquarium. They don’t grow more than four inches and enjoy schooling. These fish reproduce through “live birth,” which can also be quite exciting to watch (if a little weird). They exist happily on flake food, though they do enjoy brine shrimp on occasion.

Oscars – While Oscars are large fish, they are hardy and will live up to 15 years in a well-kept freshwater aquarium. They will thrive in most water conditions, grow rapidly, and will eat anything that is offered to them. The greatest concern when keeping Oscars is making sure you have a tank large enough to accommodate their final size of up to sixteen inches. They also tend to produce a lot of waste and need a good filtration system. Your greatest concern in terms of feeding is over-feeding since Oscars have a voracious appetite and will pretend to starve in order to get more food.

Goldfish – They are perhaps the most popular and often purchased fish on the market. Goldfish are known by everyone and are fairly easy to keep. They are ideal, in fact, for beginning aquarists that want to make fish-keeping a long-term hobby. Remember though that a single goldfish requires ten gallons of water because they are high waste producers. They are easy to feed and will eat constantly if allowed. Goldfish will happily eat flake food or pellets and enjoy boiled lettuce or spinach. A good filtration system is important with goldfish as it helps to keep down waste, but overall these are an excellent starter fish. Do not keep them with warm water fish as they quickly get too hot.

Sharks – Many assume that the purchase and maintenance of a freshwater tank excludes them from owning bright and colorful or exotic fish, and to some extent they are correct. However, while those who own a marine aquarium may corner the market on bright and beautiful, freshwater aquarists have the ability to own “sharks.” Granted, these aren’t sharks in the truest sense of the word, but the minnows that make up this family of fish resemble the saltwater predators in shape and style. They are quite hardy and very easy to care for, though the greatest requirement in owning sharks is ensuring they have enough room to grow.