10 different starter fish groups for a beginner’s community tank
Nearly everyone in the fish keeping hobby starts off with a community tank. These offer the best combination of bright colors and fascinating inter-species behavior, and are easily maintained by beginners if the right fish are chosen from outset.
When it comes to selecting fish for a community tank, it is important to take the experience of the aquarist into consideration. Highly experienced aquarists with years of practical fish keeping knowledge will be able to maintain more exotic combinations of fish than beginners can. If you are just beginning your first community tank, the lists below may help you get on the right path from the start.
It is not just a matter of selecting any fish from a list of community fish one by one. Individually each fish might make a good beginner fish. However, it is when you buy several different beginner fish that problems might arise. So, you must buy beginner fish that will create a community of compatible fish.
Choosing compatible fish
Your choice of fish has to be determined based on their compatibility with one another. This means taking two major factors into account: the behavior of the fish, and the environment in which it will thrive. Two fish that require very different water conditions will never be compatible—you need to make sure that your fish can physically complement one another.
The behavior of your fish is another important element: aggressive fish are generally off-limits for beginners, since any environmental stress will invariably cause the fish to lash out and attack its neighbors. Your first fish need to be peaceful, hardy, and willing to adapt to a wide variety of situations.
An additional consideration to take into account is the part of the aquarium that your fish prefer to inhabit. Ideally, you would like some fish to rest around the bottom of the aquarium, some of them in the middle area, and others around the surface. Selecting your fish based on these criteria will help ensure that they live peacefully with one another. Fish in different zones will mostly keep out of each other’s way.
10 ideal community fish set ups for beginners
- The livebearer tank – Beginners would do well to start off with livebearers such as platies, mollies and swortails. Buy 1 male with 3 females of each type of fish. Avoid guppies that are usually a little delicate because of extensive in-breeding. Also, buy a group of 6 dwarf corydoras to inhabit the tank floor. This aquarium will provide you with a colourful, lively and interesting group of fish that are hardy. As long as you perform reasonable maintenance this beginner tank should be a success.
- The danio starter tank—Schooling fish like danios make an excellent starting point for a community tank. You will have to keep between six to ten of them, but you can then enjoy their excellent coloration and fascinating behavior properly. Zebras danios and pearl danios are the best species to choose from, but other danios make good beginner fish too. To complement the danio school, a smaller school of Corydoras catfish and a couple of kribensis cichlids will offer you a simple and beautiful community tank set up.
The two-school variety tank—If you have a larger tank, between 120 liters and 200 liters in size, you can keep two separate schools of six to ten fish each. Try combining a school of giant danios with another school of gold barbs along with six bottom-feeding Corydoras and one algae-eating bristlenose pleco. Add one male and two female swordtails if you have the room for them.
- The novice’s nano tank—A small tank , ideal for beginners starting out with a tank between 40 and 80 liters in volume, this tank focuses on small fish: two schools of six zebra danios, small tetras, or white clouds, along with one male swordtail and two female ones, six Corydoras, and a Peckoltia catfish.
- The Asian Riverbed—If you can install a reasonably powerful current in your 120 to 200 liter aquarium, you can enjoy this South-East Asian biotope easily: 15 zebra danios, 10 tiger barbs, 4 tinfoil barbs, and a single red tail shark. Be sure to add in plenty of sturdy plant species that will thrive without extra carbon dioxide or fertilizers to enjoy this tank at its best.
The Gourami Aquarium—If you have between 120 and 200 liters of volume to fill, you can base your tank on two schools of six gourami fish: one male and three female pearl gouramis and the one male with three female dwarf gouramis. Add a few kribensis to populate the lower range of the tank. Add six corydoras to complete the tank.
- The Malawi Tank—Malawi cichlids can be great fish for beginners, because they are quite hardy. They are territorial at first but eventually once they establish a pecking order, aggression quietens down. But the beginner must have a very strong filtration system for this aquarium. This combination of fish is ideal for a plant-free tank between 120 liters and 200 liters. Six red zebras, six Labeotropheus trewavasae, and six Pseudotropheus socolofi will go together perfectly. Keeping the tank stocked to the limit will actually help reduce aggression. You can add a Cuckoo catfish or two if necessary.
- The small Amazon tank—With 100 liters of tank volume, you can keep a beautiful Amazon-themed tank. The star of the show will be a single angelfish, supported by six hatchet fish and a school of six bottom-dwelling Corydoras catfish. Be sure to include plenty of driftwood in the tank to give it the proper rainforest feel.
- The large Amazon tank—While not strictly an Amazon biotope, this stretch of the imagination is a perfectly viable option for a beginning aquarist with 200 liters of volume to fill: eight neon tetras, eight cherry barbs, eight panda corydoras, three Oto fish, four zebra loaches, one pearl gourami and a single bristlenose pleco to round out the bunch.
The tiny apartment tank—If size is an issue and you don’t have more than 40 liters to work with try this rewarding and simple tank set up: two platys, male and female, along with six neon tetras and six cherry barbs. Small tanks require great care, since changes in water conditions can affect your fish very quickly.
With any of these tanks, you should be able to enjoy a peaceful, colorful, and highly rewarding initial foray into the community tank experience. Many of the theme tanks can be easily refitted into a full-scale biotope with minimal adjustments, giving you room to improve later on as well!