Top 12 Hardy Fish for Kids and Beginners

Are you excited about getting your first aquarium for your home? I understand the feeling, as I have kept tropical fish for years! An aquarium stocked with beautifully colored fish makes for a pleasurable viewing experience and a fulfilling hobby.

But with so many species of tropical fish, how do you know which ones are best for beginner aquarists, or even kids? The answer to that question is that you want to get hardy fish. Read on to learn about the best fish hardy fish for beginners and kids, and how to maintain them.

What Is Considered a Hardy Fish?

If you’re new to the aquarium hobby, you want to get the most enjoyment and least headaches. Getting hardy fish will make that possible.

Hardy fish have the following characteristics:

  • They can tolerate changes in water conditions (we will explain this later).
  • They’re simple to take care of.
  • They get along with other fish species.

Hardy fish are inexpensive and low maintenance. If you make a mistake, it won’t not be costly, and if you have a busy schedule, this is a plus.

🐠 Only have a small tank? Here are the best freshwater fish for a 5-gallon tank.

Popular Freshwater Hardy Fish Breeds

The following freshwater fish are recommended for beginners. They’re also great fish for children. Keeping fish teaches children about responsibility, igniting their curiosity about nature. In turn, hardy fish are more tolerant to mistakes that children may make when caring for them.

Zebra Danio (Danio rerio)

Zebra Danio
  • Tank size: 15 gallon
  • pH: 6-8
  • Temperature: 64-74 degrees Fahrenheit.  (17-23.3 Celsius)
  • Diet: Carnivores. Feed them high- quality fish flakes
  • School quantity: 8 or more fish

Originating from India, zebra danios reach an adult size of up to two inches. They’re active, and have a peaceful temperament. Zebra danios have a higher tolerance to changes in water conditions than most fish.

Cherry Barbs (Puntius titteya)

Cherry Barbs
  • Tank size: 20 gallon
  • pH: 6-7
  • Temperature should be 74-79 degrees Fahrenheit (23.3-26.1 Celsius).
  • Diet: Omnivorous. Feed them high- quality fish flakes
  • School quantity: 6 or more fish

Rosy barbs were first discovered in India in 1822. Later, wild populations were found in Mexico, Australia, and other parts of the world. These fish get their name from the cherry coloration that males develop when spawning.

Only reaching a length of two inches, these active fish have a gentle disposition. I recommend keeping some plants in the tank for them to hide in as this will make them feel more secure. These fish will do well on most fish diets but may not eat right away as they may need time to get adjusted first.

Kuhli Loach (Pangio semicincta)

Kuhli Loach
  • Tank size: 15 gallon
  • pH: 6-7
  • Temperature: 70-79 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1-26.1 Celsius).
  • Diet: Omnivorous. Feed them high- quality fish flakes
  • School quantity: 3 or more fish

Found in Southeast Asia, the Kuhli loach is one fish that will grab your attention! These four-inch fish have an eel-like shape, tiny eyes, and whisker-like structures (barbels) surrounding their mouths. Despite their odd appearance, they’re very gentle. 

Kuhli loaches are bottom-dwelling fish and can be your clean-up crew for your aquarium.  Besides their scavenging, I recommend you feed them fish food that sinks to the bottom of the aquarium. A good choice is Repashy Community Plus. As these fish are nocturnal, it’s best to feed them at night.

Platies (Xiphoporus maculatus)

  • Tank size: 10 gallon
  • pH: 6-7
  • Temperature:7-8.5 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1-26.6 Celsius).
  • Diet: Omnivorous. Feed them high- quality fish flakes
  • School quantity: 5 or more fish

These two-inch fish from Central and South America are perfect for your freshwater fish tank. They’re brightly colored, have a peaceful temperament, and are easy to care for, as they’re related to guppies. They’re also easy to breed in captivity, aren’t picky, and will eat most fish diets.

Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon innesi)

Neon Tetras
  • Tank size: 15 gallon
  • pH: 6-7
  • Temperature: 70-77 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1-25 Celsius).
  • Diet: Omnivorous. Feed them high- quality fish flakes
  • School quantity: 6 or more fish

Neon tetras are among the most popular tropical fish kept. This is no wonder, given their vibrant colors. However, I need to make a qualifying statement: you should only add neon tetras to a mature aquarium, meaning it should be at least six weeks old so that water conditions have been well established.

These South American fish only reach a size of 1.25 inches. They have a peaceful temperament and are easy to care for.

Guppies (Poecilia reticulata)

freshwater fish
  • Tank size: 10 gallon
  • pH: 7-8.5 
  • Temperature: 63-82 degrees Fahrenheit (17.2-27.7 Celsius). 
  • Diet: Omnivorous. Feed them high- quality fish flakes
  • School quantity: 3 or more fish

Guppies are excellent beginner fish and are simple to keep. Originating from South America and the Caribbean, guppies come in various colors. These fish range from one to 2.25 inches, with females being the on the larger end.

Guppies commonly breed in captivity, so it’s important that you keep that in consideration. If you don’t not want them to breed, keep only the same sexes together.  You can tell the males by their brighter colors and smaller size.

Popular Saltwater Hardy Fish Breeds

I recommend the following saltwater fish for beginners:

Blue Green Chromis (Chromis  viridis)

Blue Green Chromis
  • Tank size: 30 gallon
  • pH: 8.1-8.3
  • Temperature: 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit (22-25.5 Centigrade).
  • Diet: Omnivorous. Feed them high- quality fish flakes
  • School quantity: 3 or more fish

With their iridescent colors and peaceful nature, blue green chromis make a great addition to the beginner tank. Found in Pacific coral reefs and lagoons, these active and inquisitive fish can tolerate wide changes in water conditions and require low maintenance. These fish are related to damselfish and get along with other fish their size. 

Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)

Ocellaris Clownfish
  • Tank size: 20 gallon
  • pH: 8.0-8.4
  • Temperature: 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit (22-25.5 Centigrade).
  • Diet: Omnivorous. Feed them high- quality fish flakes
  • School quantity: Keep a single pair. 

Ocellaris clownfish gained popularity from the release of the movie Finding Nemo. This species is found in the Eastern Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean. However, most of those sold today are captive-raised.

They’re excellent beginner fish as they’re beautifully colored, peaceful, hardy,  and can each a length of up to three inches. Despite what the movie might have shown us, ocellaris clownfish don’t need to be kept with a sea anemone.

Banggai Cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni)

Banggai Cardinalfish
  • Tank size: 30 gallon
  • pH: 7.8-8.2
  • Temperature: 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit (22-25.5 Centigrade).
  • Diet: Carnivores: Feed a quality commercial diets
  • School quantity: Keep alone.

Originating from Indonesia, the Banggai cardinalfish has protected status due to threats to its natural population. However, these fish are easily bred in captivity. The Banggai cardinalfish is a great choice for the beginner aquarist as they are attractive, personable, and hardy. These fish reach a length of three inches.

Yellow Watchman Goby (Cryptocentrus cinctus)

  • Tank size: 30 gallon
  • pH: 8.1-8.4
  • Temperature: 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit (22-25.5 Centigrade).
  • Diet: Carnivorous.   
  • School quantity: Keep alone.

If you are looking for a seriously enjoyable fish to watch, I strongly suggest getting a yellow watchman goby. They bring a lot of joy to fishkeepers with their unique behaviors and antics.

Yellow watchmen gobies are a burrowing species and spend much of their time under the substrate with their heads poking out. They’ll also form symbolic relationships with pistol shrimp.

Yellow watchman gobies get to be four inches long. Make sure to have a deep enough substrate for them to burrow in. They ‘re gentle with other fish but can get territorial with each other. For this reason, only keep one. They’re bottom feeders, so feed them a commercial protein diet that sinks to the bottom.

Royal Gramma (Gramma loreto)

Royal Gramma
  • Tank size: 30 gallon
  • pH: 8.1-8.4
  • Temperature: 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit (22-25.5 Centigrade).
  • Diet: Carnivorus. 
  • School quantity: Keep alone. 

These may be the most mesmerizing and beautiful fish for beginners. These peaceful fish have a bright purple and yellow coloration. They also have a habit of suspending themselves on different objects in the aquarium, which is fun to watch.

These fish reach a length of three inches. They can be shy at times and may hide in a crevice. However, you can often tempt them to come out by offering them food. Feed them:

You should keep only one royal gramma in the tank, as they can be territorial.

Pajama Cardinalfish (Sphaeramia nematoptera)

  • Tank size: 20 gallon
  • pH: 8.1-8.4
  • Temperature: 72-79 degrees Fahrenheit (22.2-26.1 Centigrade).
  • Diet: Carnivorous. 
  • School quantity: 6 or more fish

The pajama cardinalfish is closely related to the banggai cardinalfish. They share the same body shape, habits, and care requirements. However, one feature makes the Pajama cardinal stand out from most fish.: I’m referring, of course, to its odd pattern display.  These fish have a mixture of stripes and spots!

Another thing to consider before getting a pajama cardinal is that they’re slow swimmers with a passive personality. For this reason, only keep them with fish species with the same temperament. It also means that you must ensure they’re getting their share of food.

Pajama cardinals reach a length of 3.5inches in length. These fish need to be kept in a group for them to thrive and should be six in a group or more. They’re carnivorous and need meaty protein. Good food choices are:

  •  Bloodworms
  • Brine shrimp
  • Mysis shrimp
  • High protein flakes or pellets

Pajama cardinalfish fish are nocturnal, so feeding them at night is best, although some will learn to feed in the daytime.

What is the most hardy fish?

The zebra danio is considered the hardiest of aquarium fish.  Few fish can tolerate changes in water conditions to the extent that this species can.

Caring for Your Hardy Fish

Although the fish in this article are hardy, they’ll still require your daily attention. You’ll need to:

  • Check on them daily and see how your pet fish are doing.
  • Check the water conditions (pH and temperature) to ensure they’re in acceptable range.  If you’re keeping saltwater fish, you must also check the salinity.
  • Do a partial water change every week or every other week.  (Dependent on the pH levels).

The Importance of Nitrogren Cycling

Before you put any fish in the aquarium, you’ll need to make sure it goes through the nitrogen cycle.

When fish eliminate waste or when there’s uneaten food, nitrates and ammonia levels increase. These substances are toxic to fish. By allowing the tank to cycle, beneficial bacteria have time to grow, which will help make these substances less toxic.

To cycle the tank, let it sit for a week or two without any fish. There is a test that you can buy to test the water. Test the water using an aquarium test kit, and when the ammonia and nitrates are at a safe level, you can add the fish.

Hardy Fish Aren’t Hard to Keep!

Keeping the fish on this list will provide an enjoyable experience keeping an aquarium. As you gain experience, you can try keeping other, more challenging species. We hope you enjoyed this article. We would enjoy hearing your comments below, and please share this article with any beginner fishkeepers you may know.

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