Even though fish require less hands-on responsibility than a dog or cat, they are still living creatures that need proper care and attention. If you’re just starting out as a fish owner, select easy-to-care-for, hardy fish that don’t require a lot of specialized care or tank maintenance. This will help you get your feet wet, and in no time you’ll be ready to explore the world of more exotic fish and aquarium set-ups.
Fresh Coldwater Fish
For ease of care, select fresh coldwater fish to start. With more than 100 different breeds to choose from, goldfish are a hardy selection for the beginning fish owner. Consider common goldfish, fantails, comets and bubble-eyes to start. Avoid exotic goldfish initially, as they typically require specialized care. Other easy coldwater fish include tetras, danios and loaches. These are considered easy fish because they're inexpensive, low-maintenance and don't require a heater.
For a little added color, consider easy tropical fish such as barbs, platies and guppies. These fish are hardy and generally healthy and don't require a lot of upkeep. Resist the urge to start out with a saltwater tank. While saltwater fish are beautiful and exotic, their set-ups are very expensive and tough for a beginner to navigate.
Even basic starter fish still need certain types of equipment to be healthy and happy. The ASPCA recommends a tank no smaller than 20 gallons, a light, air pump and a good filtration system. Coldwater fish don’t need a heater, which can be tricky for a newbie fish owner to navigate. Think about where you want to put your tank because it will be hard to move once it is filled with gravel and water. Avoid space with direct sunlight, which can impact temperature. While you don’t need to heat coldwater fish, it’s best to keep their water temperature steady. Also provide a hiding place for fish in the tank -- plastic plants or decorative faux rock caves, available at pet supply stores, work well.
Growing Your Fish Family
When you’re starting out, it’s best to get just a few fish initially. Watching them acclimate and thrive in their new environment will help build your confidence to the point you’ll be comfortable adding additional fish. A fish specialist at a pet supply store can be an excellent source of information for helping you decide which fish will do well together and how many you can accommodate based on the fish’s size and the size of your tank.
Coldwater fish don’t require any type of elaborate feeding system. Just a pinch of fish food flakes will give them the nutrition they need. Be careful not to over-feed, a common mistake newbie fish owners make. Uneaten food will just clog up your filter or make your tank cloudy. For best results, follow the instructions on the fish food box.