If we’re being honest, yes, pet fish are a bit easier to care for than, say, a dog or cat. But if you’re still living with the childhood trauma of coming home from school to find your beloved goldfish belly up in his bowl, then you know that keeping a flippered friend alive isn’t exactly a walk in the park.
That trauma, however, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a fish or two if you’re looking for an easy-to-care for pet. We know that the big flush is always inevitable, but you’ll avoid that heartache a bit longer if you invest your time in nurturing certain species that are known to be more low-maintenance.
What makes a fish easy?
There’s a lot more that goes into the care of fish than you might think. Life happens, you get busy and those fun little fish tend to take the back burner. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance fish, choose one that’s hardy. Look for a fish that can handle a little overfeeding (because how much is a “pinch,” really?) or a little underfeeding (oops). You’ll also want a fish that can stand less-than-frequent water changes, because who has time for that? Finally, you’re going to want a fish that’s peaceful.
Not to worry — we won’t leave you high and dry in the fish aisle. We went straight to the experts to find out which fish are the most no-fuss.
- Bettas: According to Nick Saint-Erne, D.V.M., Certified Aquatic Veterinarian, resident PetSmart veterinarian, the easiest and most popular starter fish is the Betta. They’re the only fish that don’t require a filter or heater and can be kept in small bowls. The only real maintenance you’ll face with these guys is a 25 percent water change once a week.
- Tetras: Tetras are the perfect beginner fish. They are bright, colorful and very active, so they’re a lot of fun to watch. They’re also small, which means you can have several, even if you have a smaller tank. This is good, because tetras do well in schools of at least three to five fish.
- Guppies: Guppies are gorgeous fish that brighten any tank. “These fish have large, brilliantly colored dorsal fins and are easy to keep,” said Yupangco. The male fish have brighter colors and bigger fins, making it easy to tell the males and females apart. It’s a good thing, too. Guppies are prolific breeders, so if you don’t want a huge family of fish on your hands, only choose guppies of the same sex.
- Angelfish: The popular angelfish is not as delicate or difficult to keep as many people think,” says Yupangco. They are community fish, and can live with other tropical community fish quite peacefully. They do grow up to 6 inches in length, though, so they shouldn’t be kept in a tank that’s less than 20 gallons.
- Goldfish: Goldfish are another easy choice of fish because, unlike most tropical fish, they don’t require heaters. Yupangco warns, though, that once you start a goldfish tank, you’re limiting yourself to only that species. “You should not mix tropical fish like tetras, angelfish or guppies with goldfish.