A beautiful addition to any home, aquariums often accent one's own sense of style as well as bringing a unique aura to millions of homes. Knowing you're providing a clean, safe and caring environment for your fish makes it even more worthwhile. However, not all fish are equal, and while some may be fairly simple to maintain, others require far more attention and skill.
Like all pets, fish require varying degrees of skill for their care, ranging from the very easy (Bettas) to the more difficult (Cichlids). Choosing what type of fish to stock in your new aquarium depends on how much experience and how much attention you're willing to give your new pets. Consider beginning with the easier fish before adding the more demanding ones. What follows are some of the most popular fish for home aquariums. Take note that these are all freshwater fish. Saltwater fish require an extra degree of care and skill that is usually far beyond beginners.
The Siamese fighting fish, or more commonly known as the Betta, is probably one of the most popular fish for beginners. Often seen sitting solitary in individual bowls, what makes Bettas unique is their ability to breathe air directly from the surface, meaning that filters are not absolutely necessary. Their aggression is often overstated, with the general perception being they fight with all fish. This is not necessarily true; male Bettas will often aggressively battle other male Bettas in close quarters, but a single male Betta will get along fine in a community tank with other, peaceful fish.
For anyone who wants to add vibrant color to an aquarium, Tetras are excellent little community fish that are hardy and peaceful. When buying Tetras, remember to keep them in groups of at least four because they usually swim in schools. While they will be perfectly healthy by themselves, they prefer to be with their own kind. They eat normal fish flakes and enduring temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mollies, Platies, Swordtails and Guppies
Like the Tetras, this group of fish is also very peaceful and often colorful. This group is known as livebearers, meaning they give birth to live fry (baby fish) instead of laying eggs. Pregnancy among these fish is very common, so it's important when picking out your fish that you select the same sex, unless you want to wake up with a tank full of baby fish (which, though heartbreaking, are eventually eaten unless properly maintained). Most of them are easy to sex, and your local pet shop employee should easily be able to make the distinction.
Gouramis are a little more difficult than the aforementioned fish groups, mainly because of their larger size and more independent dispositions. With several varieties ranging from gold to blue and even pink, Gouramis can grow anywhere from 3 to 5 inches across, and require larger aquariums than the other species. They're also slightly more group-oriented, sticking to their own kind. A 30-gallon tank or bigger is preferred, with good filtration and flake or freeze-dried food.
Plecostomus are extremely common with home aquariums and are better known throughout the hobby as Algae Eaters. Built like tanks, these fish stick to the bottom and the walls while sucking algae as their primary diet. While generally very hardy, it's important to realize these fish, particularly the more common Pleco sold as a 2-inch-long baby, will eventually grow to lengths of more than 2 feet long in a proper environment and have a tendency to dislodge plants. Take caution when purchasing one, and make sure the tank has a good amount of green algae growing on the decor and walls before introducing him to his new home.
Cichlids are probably the most specialized of all freshwater fish. While colorful, take extreme caution when deciding on these fish. Most need very large tanks, at least 75 gallons or more, and are a generally very aggressive. You never quite know if they'll get along with each other, and it's absolutely imperative that they are not put into a community tank. Cichlid pellets, which provide very good nutrition, are available and feeder fish make good treats.