40 Unique Freshwater Fish Pets And Their Care

There are so many kinds of freshwater fish pets out there to choose from, and they’re all so different!

You have to get a pet you can take care of, whether you’re a beginner or a pro.

So, here’s our list of 40 lovable freshwater fish and how to care for them!

#1 Betta Fish

freshwater fish pets betta fish
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 2-5 years
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Water Temp: 75-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C)

Betta fish are beautiful, with so many bright color varieties to choose from.

There are more than ten types of tails alone, with some of the most popular being the veiltail betta and double tail betta.

Also called Siamese fighting fish, betta splendens are sometimes very aggressive. You know they’re feeling territorial or aggressive when they flare their fins.

Not all bettas flare often, though! Some are the sweetest, shyest beings on this planet.

Bettas are easy to care for as well.

#2 Neon Tetra

freshwater fish pets neon tetra
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 4-8 years
  • Water pH: 6.8-7.8
  • Water Temp: 75-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C)

This is a cool fish with a distinct appearance and super bright colors.

Neon tetras are slim and small with blue heads and backs. They also have bright red stripes extending from the stomach to the tail fins on both sides of their body.

They’re peaceful, social fish who do best when at least five other fish are in the aquarium.

Most people who keep them say neon tetras are calm and sweet, which makes them the perfect beginner fish!

#3 Cardinal Tetra

freshwater fish pets cardinal tetra
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 4-8 years
  • Water pH: 6.8-7.8
  • Water Temp: 75-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C)

Cardinal tetras have very similar markings to neon tetras but with several key differences.

Compared with neons, cardinals have red stripes extending the entire length of their body.

They also tend to swim faster than neons, which is why we recommend a bigger tank.

Cardinal tetras also share the neon’s social traits. So, the two make great roommates if you want to house them together.

#4 Guppies

freshwater fish pets guppies
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 2-5 years
  • Water pH: 7.0-8.0
  • Water Temp: 72-82° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C)

The guppy is a popular type of freshwater fish with big color variations and personalities.

The males of this fish species have much more vibrant colors than the females. They even have more patterns on their tail fins to choose from.

Guppies are almost always happy and energetic. They have a variety of personalities, though.

Here’s a study I enjoyed reading on the different personality traits of guppies.

#5 Mollies

freshwater fish pets mollies
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Water pH: 7.5-8.5
  • Water Temp: 78-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C)

The molly comes in various colors, including black, red, and silver. And they tend to have spots along their body.

They’re rather small, never more than 10cm long.

This beautiful fish has an easygoing and social personality.

Mollies need a shoal to swim around with, so be sure to get four or five of them.

#6 Goldfish

freshwater fish pets goldfish
  • Care Level: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years
  • Water pH: 7.5-8.0
  • Water Temp: 68-74° degrees Fahrenheit (23° C)

I think we’ve all seen a TV goldfish die tragically within a day or two, but they live much longer in real life.

You might also expect them always to be round and have a gold-orange color, but this is another misconception!

Goldfish come in standard and “fancy” body types and range in color from white to red to black.

Some types of goldfish also grow up to 16” inches in length, which is much bigger than most people are ready to accommodate!

The movies got one thing right, though. Goldfish are very sweet pets.

#7 Angelfish

freshwater fish pets angelfish
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 5-10 years
  • Water pH: 6.8-7.8
  • Water Temp: 78-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C)

I could look at angelfish all day long!

These lovely fish have a flat body shape and rounder dorsal fins than many aquarium fish.

They’re relatively small, usually less than 15cm or 6in long.

Despite their size, angelfish require at least a 10-gallon tank. Twenty gallons is even better.

Angelfish are cichlids and get territorial sometimes, although they’re usually peaceful.

Put them with fish who can hold their own.

#8 Golden Dwarf Barb

freshwater fish pets Golden Dwarf Barb
  • Care Level: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 3-6 years
  • Water pH: 6.0-6.5
  • Water Temp: 68-78° degrees Fahrenheit (26° C)

Golden dwarf barbs are an iridescent yellow-gold color with black spots.

Because the larger golden barb likes a strong current, beginner aquarists often make the mistake of getting a powerful air filter.

But the golden dwarf barb is too small and will struggle in a strong current!

Golden dwarf barbs are not only gentle but tend to be shy as well. They make poor fighters, so don’t house them with angelfish or other cichlids.

#9 Tiger Barb

freshwater fish pets tiger barb fish
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 3-6 years
  • Water pH: 6.0-7.0
  • Water Temp: 68-82° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C)

As the name implies, tiger barbs have black tiger-like stripes. But they actually come in a few different base colors.

Tiger barbs are really hardy but don’t stray too far from their preferred water conditions.

Get a big tank as well, at least 20 gallons!

While they’re usually quite playful and active, this species also has a reputation for aggression.

You have to be careful about housing them with other fish. They’ll nip at smaller, slower tank mates.

#10 Rainbow Fish

freshwater fish pets rainbow fish
  • Care Level: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 5-8 years
  • Water pH: 6.0-7.0
  • Water Temp: 72-84° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C)

Rainbow fish are fascinating and beautiful with their multi-colored scales.

Did you know their color actually gets brighter with age?

While many of us have one idea of what a rainbow fish looks like, many more are out there.

According to PetMD, rainbowfish come in over 50 varieties!

They’re social butterflies, so buy a big tank and welcome at least six rainbow fish into it.

#11 Zebra Danio

freshwater fish pets zebra danio
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 2-5
  • Water pH: 6.8-7.8
  • Water Temp: 65-75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C)

Zebra danios are small, low-maintenance fish.

The females are silver with long blue stripes. Males have a similar appearance but with some gold on their bodies as well.

You’ll constantly see your zebra danio zipping around the tank. I have ADHD, and there’s no fish I relate to more!

Despite their active personalities, these guys do well with a 10-gallon tank because they’re so small.

#12 Celestial Pearl Danio

freshwater fish pets Celestial Pearl Danio
  • Care Level: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 2-5 years
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Water Temp: 72-79° degrees Fahrenheit (26° C)

The celestial pearl danio has an unusual and pretty appearance. Their body is blue and covered in small pearl-colored spots.

Their dorsal and tail fins are bright orange-red, which makes them stand out even more.

Celestial pearl danios are social beings. Keep them in a shoal of about a half-dozen fish or more.

The good news is you don’t need a massive tank to house a school of celestials.

Say you get 3-5 females; they would be perfectly happy in a 10-gallon tank.

#13 Platy

freshwater fish pets platy
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Water pH: 7.0-8.0
  • Water Temp: 72-78° degrees Fahrenheit (26° C)

The platy is a wonderful fish for beginner aquarists.

While they’re easy to care for and get along well with other fish, they also have big personalities and do not require a school of friends. 

Meanwhile, a platy is also a great choice for more experienced aquarists who want to start breeding for the first time.

They are said to be easy to breed and come in various colors.

#14 Rainbow Shiner

freshwater fish rainbow shiner
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 1-2 years
  • Water pH: 6.5-8.0
  • Water Temp: 60-72° degrees Fahrenheit (22° C)

They live short lives, but rainbow shiners are extremely hardy.

While we recommend keeping their freshwater aquarium at 60° degrees Fahrenheit (16° C) or higher, they can actually survive in temperatures as low as 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C).

You’ll also notice they withstand a wider range of pH levels.

They’re brightly colored and small, usually less than 3.5” inches long.

The rainbow shiner is a great fish to pair with beautiful environments and admire when your blood pressure gets a little high.

#15 Hillstream Loach

freshwater fish pets hillsteam loach
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 5-10
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Water Temp: 68-75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C)

The hillstream loach gets only as big as 3” inches.

Paired with their horizontal fins and oblong body shape, this gives them an odd appearance. 

If you’re experienced or have done a lot of research into loaches, this is a great new pet for you.

However, if you’ve never raised freshwater fish before, consider starting elsewhere.

Hillstream loaches need constant oxygen in the tank to stay healthy. One way to fill this need is to keep underwater plants in their tank.

Given the right water conditions and diet, Hillstream loaches are rather hardy.

#16 Dojo Loach

fresh water fish dojo loach
Credit: Aquariadise
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 7-10 years
  • Water pH: 6.5-8.0
  • Water Temp: 65-75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C)

Compared with the hillstream loach, dojo loaches are big!

They’re also thinner and lack the hillstream’s flat fins, which makes them look almost like an eel.

They grow to be anywhere from 6-12” inches long at full size, usually keeping to the smaller end.

So, if you decide to get a dojo, be sure to invest in at least a 20-gallon tank.

You would probably expect a big fish like this to be a bit of a bully toward smaller fish. In reality, dojo loaches are peaceful to the point of hiding from more aggressive fish.

#17 Clown Loach

freshwater fish clown loach
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 10+ years
  • Water pH: 6.5-8.0
  • Water Temp: 75-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C)

Another great fit for advanced aquarists is the clown loach!

While they’re only 2-3” inches when they’re young, adults are often 12” inches or even longer.

Being a pretty active fish, they need a much bigger tank than others.

We recommend getting a few of them at a time and using a 100-gallon tank or larger.

Much like the dojo, the clown loach is a lover, not a fighter. They’re social and do not get aggressive or territorial with others in the tank.

#18 Kuhli Loach

freshwater fish kuhli loach
  • Care Level: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 8-14 years
  • Water pH: 5.5-7.0
  • Water Temp: 75-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C)

Kuhli loaches want to live in slightly acidic water with a small group of other loaches.

They only get to be about 3” inches long at full size.

So, it’s perfectly fine to use a 20-gallon aquarium for a small group of these guys.

If you’re in a household without a ton of extra space, the kuhli loach is a better pet for you than the clown or dojo.

#19 Endler’s Livebearer

freshwater fish endler's livebearer
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years
  • Water pH: 6.5-8.0
  • Water Temp: 70-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C)

The endler’s livebearer is easy to mistake for a fancy guppy.

Their bodies have a similar shape and appearance except for the wider range of colors on the endler’s livebearer.

The guppy actually makes a great match to share their aquarium since both are peaceful.

#20 Clown Killifish

freshwater fish pets clown killifish
  • Care Level: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Water pH: 4.0-7.0
  • Water Temp: 68-76° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C)

Clown killifish have black bodies and yellowish stripes, though their heads and tails are different colors too.

They love to hide but generally stay near the top of the aquarium. So, get lots of plants and others for them to enjoy!

These guys are carnivorous and eat a lot of live micro-prey.

Despite this, clown killifish are less than 1.5” inches tall and make good tank-mates with other small fish.

You don’t even need an especially large tank. Something as small as 5 gallons will do the trick.

#21 White Cloud Mountain Minnow

freshwater fish white cloud mountain minnow
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 5-7 years
  • Water pH: 6.5-8.0
  • Water Temp: 68-72° degrees Fahrenheit (22° C)

White cloud mountain minnows are usually very friendly and peaceful.

However, males get aggressive when they feel the need to compete for a mate.

Keeping your white clouds with other small and social fish is great. Just be ready for territorial behavior during mating season.

Keeping just females is one solution.

It’s also important not to put them with bigger, aggressive species. They’ll sadly end up as someone’s prey.

#22 African Cichlid

freshwater fish pets African Cichlid
  • Care Level: Intermediate/Advanced
  • Lifespan: 4-8 years
  • Water pH: 7.8-8.2
  • Water Temp: 72-82° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C)

An African cichlid is more a group of fish than an individual type.

Because of this, there are a ton of color varieties as well as sizes ranging from 2” inches all the way up to 12” inches.

African cichlids are energetic and social, always zipping around. But they also get very aggressive with other fish, so carefully choose their tankmates.

#23 Convict Cichlid

freshwater fish convict cichlid
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 8-10 years
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.8
  • Water Temp: 79-84° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C)

Convict cichlids for their white and black bars giving the appearance of an old prison jumpsuit.

This pattern is the reason they’re sometimes called zebra chichlids as well!

When you set up your convict’s aquarium, be sure to get plenty of little rocks and branches.

They love hiding away in a still water tank.

#24 Ram Cichlids

freshwater fish ram cichlid
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 2-4 years
  • Water pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Water Temp: 78-84° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C)

Ram Cichlids are another species with a wide variety of colors.

Some ram cichlids (such as the neon blue one) require slightly different water conditions.

The german blue ram is a great fit if you’re looking for a cichlid for your community tank.

They’re small and tend to be more peaceful than other cichlids.

#25 Plecostomus

freshwater fish Plecostomus
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 10+ years
  • Water pH: 6.8-8.0
  • Water Temp: 74-82° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C)

This species originated in South America and was recently introduced to US waters.

But now, plecos are a relatively common addition to freshwater tanks in American households.

I think they’re so cool because they act as tank cleaners in some ways.

This is because they eat pretty much anything!

#26 Bristlenose Pleco

freshwater fish Bristlenose Pleco
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 5-10 years
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Water Temp: 72-82° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C)

Like common plecos, bristlenoses are great algae eaters and make tank cleaning easy.

As far as catfish go, Bristlenose plecos are tiny. They only reach about 5” inches when fully grown.

Don’t let their miniature size fool you; these fish need about a 40-gallon tank to survive. 

An even larger tank is best. The good news is, these guys are safe roommates for small fish like tetras.

#27 Cory Catfish

freshwater fish cory catfish
  • Care Level: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 5-10 years
  • Water pH: 7.0-7.8
  • Water Temp: 72-78° degrees Fahrenheit (26° C)

Cory catfish are another small species living their best at the bottom of your freshwater tank.

They aren’t particularly hard to care for and can even live longer than a decade sometimes.

But it is really important to follow the right water parameters so they don’t get sick.

Here’s a great video all about caring for cory catfish!

#28 Discus

freshwater fish Discus
  • Care Level: Intermediate/Advanced
  • Lifespan: 10+ years
  • Water pH: 5.0-7.0
  • Water Temp: 82-86° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C)

I love discus fish for their unique body shape and coloration.

But they like their water even warmer than many freshwater fish, so it’s hard to find a good tank mate.

They can’t compromise and join a cooler tank either because they’ll get sick.

But if you love the discus as much as I do and want one, it’s a good idea to get a small school of them anyway.

#29 Dwarf Gourami

freshwater fish dwarf Gourami
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Water pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Water Temp: 72-82° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C)

A lot of people will tell you dwarf gouramis are easy to keep. But the truth is, they’re susceptible to disease because of how they’re bred.

If your fish survives its first year, there’s a good chance it’ll live 4-5 years.

But it’s not uncommon for dwarf gouramis to die before they’re a year old.

Gourami disease (also called Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus) is contagious, so it could very well affect an entire fish tank.Here’s a video of someone who lost a fish to this disease explaining the illness if you’d like to know more:

#30 Pearl Gourami

freshwater fish Pearl Gourami
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 4-5 years
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Water Temp: 75-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C)

Pearl gouramis like to hang out in the middle or on top of your freshwater aquarium.

Like the pearl danio, they get their name from their pearl-like spots.

Their color form is strikingly similar to the pearl danio, though they have different body shapes.

These are non-aggressive fish, but sometimes this changes during mating season.

If you’re a beginner and don’t want to see aggressive behavior, start by keeping all females.

#31 Sparkling Gourami

  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 4-5 years
  • Water pH: 6.0-7.0
  • Water Temp: 74-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C)

Sparkling gouramis are striking and were named for the iridescent spots along their bodies and tail fins. They make awesome display fish.

They’re also peaceful and small (less than 2” inches) but with their own little personalities.

While you won’t find them in households as often as the betta fish, those who raise them speak highly. 

#32 Harlequin Rasbora

freshwater fish Harlequin Rasbora
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 5-8 years
  • Water pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Water Temp: 72-82° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C)

Harlequin rasboras don’t get longer than about 2” inches at full size. 

It’s hard for this aquarium fish species to live outside of a shoal, so make sure you get a group of them.

Don’t keep them in the same tank as aggressive or territorial fish, as harlequins are timid.

#33 Oscar

freshwater fish oscar fish
  • Care Level: Advanced
  • Lifespan: 8-12 years
  • Water pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Water Temp: 75-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C)

Oscar fish are tough for beginner aquarists to raise.

There are two reasons for this: they need stable water conditions, and they secrete a LOT of waste.

These two things would be somewhat manageable separately, but it gets hard when they’re both true.

It’s not easy to constantly clean the tank and keep their water parameters consistent.

#34 Otocinclus

freshwater fish Otocinclus
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Water Temp: 70-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C)

The otocinclus catfish goes by a couple of other names: dwarf suckers or, fondly, otos.

Otos are docile and friendly, so they’re a good fit for most freshwater fish tanks.

They’re another algae eater, which is great for beginner aquarists who haven’t settled into their cleaning routine.

#35 Pictus Catfish

freshwater fish Pictus Catfish
  • Care Level: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 7-10 years
  • Water pH: 7.0-7.5
  • Water Temp: 75-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C)

Pictus catfish are a nocturnal species of fish, so their environment should have a couple of hide-y holes, so to speak.

They won’t be adventuring much during the day and will want somewhere dark to rest.

At full size, some reach 5” inches long. This might not seem very big compared with other fish on this list, but it’s important because they sometimes eat smaller fish.

#36 Rainbow Shark

freshwater fish Rainbow Shark
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 4-6 years
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Water Temp: 72-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C)

Rainbow sharks are a deep royal blue color with bright red fins.

They are some of the more aggressive freshwater fish. This makes it tough to take proper care of the other fish in your aquarium.

If you have experience raising territorial fish, you’ll do fine.

But if this would be your first time, we recommend starting with one of the other species on our list.

#37 Swordtail Fish

freshwater fish Swordtail Fish
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Water pH: 7.0-8.4
  • Water Temp: 65-82° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C)

Female swordfish are about an inch longer than males when fully grown. 

Both are resilient fish, and you’ll notice they tolerate a wide range of temperatures in their home.

This is one reason we love them as a unique choice for your first pet fish.

In their natural environment, swordtail fish are surrounded by vegetation. So they love living in an environment with lots of aquarium plants.

#38 Siamese Algae Eater

freshwater fish Siamese Algae Eater
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Water Temp: 75-79° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C)

They’re good at tolerating a wide range of pH levels, which is convenient if you want to put them with your other freshwater fish.

These guys are a great fit for a community tank too because they’re social and have peaceful intentions.

However, their temperature preferences are not so lax.

Luckily, they like a similar temperature to the many tropical fish in your freshwater tank.

#39 Dwarf Puffer Fish

freshwater fish Dwarf Puffer Fish
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Lifespan: 4-5 years
  • Water pH: 7.2-7.5
  • Water Temp: 74-82° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C)

The dwarf puffer is a smart and curious pet fish, not to mention cute.

They’re sometimes called pea puffers rather than dwarves due to their size and color.

They make good tank mates for many friendly freshwater fish like tetras and some danios.

#40 Rainbow Krib (Kribensis Cichlid)

freshwater fish Kribensis Cichlid
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Water pH: 5.5-7.0
  • Water Temp: 72-79° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C)

The rainbow krib is a kind of cichlid sometimes called the palette cichlid or kribensis cichlid.

They’re total sweethearts who you’ll be able to keep safely in a community tank.

As the name implies, kribs are colorful and pretty.

They’re native to West Africa, so they’re technically a kind of African cichlid.

Finding Your Own Nemo

Remember to look past the water parameters and tank sizes for all these fish.

The important thing is finding the right fit for your household and any fish you might already have.

I love beautiful and peaceful pets like rainbow fish or swordtail fish. But you might be looking for more adventure!

Don’t forget to share our list with your friends. It’ll help them pick a new pet or maybe find their spirit animal!

We’ve also written a great article on tank mates for betta fish. Head over there now to check it out!

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Jacinta was raised on a dairy farm in Vermont where they worked extensively with cows, chickens, pigs, goats, and other animals. They have a background in writing both creatively and professionally.

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