Fishkeeping 101: A Concise Guide for Beginners

Watching tiny fish swim around in an aquarium can be relaxing. Although they may not offer the same level of companionship as dogs or cats do, fish still make great pets.

But while they are popular as low maintenance pets, you still need to learn a thing or two about caring for them properly. Responsible pet ownership begins with planning how you’ll take care of the animals you bring home.

Luckily, this article contains information you need to know for your first attempt at fishkeeping, starting with making the right choice of fish down to the crucial tips for caring for them.

Choose the Perfect Pet for Your Level: 4 Best Fish for Beginners

As a beginner, you’ll want to stick to fish that can thrive with little effort on your part. Although these animals are generally easier to care for compared to others, some of them are quite hardy.

You can ask the shopkeeper for recommendations. However, you should also do your own research, so you can have a better idea of the available choices. Below are four beginner-level fish you can choose from:

Cherry Barbs

The cherry barb is a hardy fish you should consider for your very first fish tank.

Known for their bright cherry red hue, these fish can withstand small environmental changes, making them excellent beginner pets. They are more likely to “just keep swimming” while you master the art of fishkeeping compared to other freshwater species.

Males of this species are particularly colorful, while females seem paler in comparison. This is why many cherry barb keepers prefer males in their fish tanks. Meanwhile, no need to worry about looking for a high-quality saltwater fish tank because you can buy one online.

An aquarium that will serve as a home for this pretty little thing should ideally contain 25 to 30 gallons of water. Categorized as shoaling fish, cherry barbs thrive well in an open swimming area. However, they do benefit from having plants in their home, especially females when spawning.


Another popular choice as a beginner pet fish is the danio.

Like cherry barbs, danios are very hardy and can thrive even if their pet parents make mistakes that are common in beginners. They can also be kept in a wide range of setups, which is why they are quite famous among enthusiasts and serious fishkeepers alike.

Available in different forms that mostly hail from Asia, danios found in most pet stores are the striped Zebras and spotted Pearl Danios. Both are quite appealing, especially when kept as a part of a big shoal.

Danios are very social and active in nature. This is why even experienced aquarists love to take care of them.

Of course, these fish are also great for beginners, particularly those who can only keep small aquariums. Because danios only grow up to two inches, they can fit in something as small as a 10-gallon tank.


Mollies are considered the easiest fish to care for. They tend to mate regularly. They are also famous for being livebearers, which means they carry their eggs in their bodies, and from these eggs hatch the live fry.

But there’s more to Mollies than being a breeder favorite. They can also thrive even under rookie care and are mid-water swimmers that provide plenty of colors to an aquarium.


Made popular by an animated movie about a forgetful fish, the damselfish is one of the brightest swimmers you can put in a beginner’s marine tank.

Also called “demoiselle,” this fish can live for about five to six years. They can grow between three to 12 inches long, depending on the breed. One three-inch damselfish requires a 30-gallon aquarium, which means a small school will need a bigger marine tank.

Like in the movie “Finding Nemo,” damselfish also do well when placed with clownfish. However, certain species can become territorial, so be sure to ask experts or do more research before bringing one home.

Learn About Tank Basics: 4 Tips for Newbies

Now that you know what fishes are best for beginners, it’s time to focus on their home.

The most basic thing you need to remember is that the fish tanks should match the fish’s requirements. However, bigger tanks are often better since fish – even the tiny ones – need room to swim.

Of course, you still need to consider the designated area for the tank. One mistake that even beginners aren’t allowed to make is buying a tank too big for their home. To be safe, measure the space for the aquarium before you go to the fish supply store.

Aside from that, below are four more essential tips newbies should know about:

1. Don’t skimp on a good filter.

If you’re not keen on cleaning the fish tank frequently and want your fish to live longer, you should make sure that you buy a good filter from trusted pet shops in Dubai. This will keep the water clean longer as it eliminates pollutants, debris, and other waste.

2. Toss in some greens.

Many fish need underwater plants to hide, play, and spawn in. Even if you’re not breeding the fish, be sure to add several plant varieties to your aquarium to help your fish feel safe in this new environment.

Real plants are best for maintaining the level of nutrients in the aquarium, but you can also use artificial ones for the sake of giving your swimmers a place to hide.

3. Add some gravel.

Gravel serves as a home for beneficial bacteria that are crucial for fish survival. These also help break down waste and help make your aquarium look more attractive.

4. Change the water regularly.

Clean water is important for your fish. Although there are plenty of products you can use for this, replacing the water frequently is much better for your pets.

When changing water, remove about a third from your aquarium weekly. Then, replace it with fresh and clean water to dilute the chemicals in your tank. Failure to do this might make it difficult to keep water parameters in check and can leave your fish unhealthy.

Before You Dive In

Caring for fish may not be the same as caring for other pets. Although they just keep swimming all day, there are plenty of things you must know first before you dive into the world of fishkeeping, starting with the ones presented here.


Sam Saleki is the owner of Paws & Claws, a trusted family-run online pet store in Mirdif, Dubai. A lifelong animal lover, Sam founded the business in 2006 to fill the need for a pet shop offering good-quality dog food, pet accessories and pet grooming products in the area. Sam is an animal welfare advocate and is currently working on an online animal homing platform that helps facilitate the fast rescue and adoption of animals in need.