How Do You Choose Aquarium Freshwater Fish?


Yes!  You’ve finally got your new freshwater aquarium all set up!  Or maybe you haven’t gotten that far yet because you still don’t realize the benefits of a home aquarium.  Suppose you’re now ready and waiting to set up your aquarium, but what you really need is your whole flock of happy, healthy, friendly fish to put in it.

The best choice here is to take your time.  Slow down and take your time doing it right before you jump right in.

What kind of fish do you want to fill your freshwater tank with?  Do you want extremely active?  So that you can always be entertained by them?  Or perhaps you want some bright, interesting colors…

And maybe you want calming, zen-like, perhaps.  The nice thing about a freshwater aquarium is that you can create the type of atmosphere that will suit you best.

If you’d like to have several different breeds together in your aquarium, take your time and research before you buy.  You’ll need to know what works together in a fish family so that you aren’t taking any chances on losing fish because they don’t get along.

It’s Actually Really Simple!

There are so many places where you can get all the information you need to help in picking aquarium freshwater fish.  Don’t forget your local fish supply store.  They’ll have loads of information on what will keep your fish healthy and happy in their new home.

  • What exactly should you think about?
  • Which fish like more open spaces?  Which want to hide in lots of plants?
  • Will this particular breed of fish need more alkaline or more acidic water?  (This is the pH level).
  • How well does one type of fish get along with other breeds of fish?
  • Also consider whether they’re top feeders or bottom feeders (like sharks or catfish).
  • Does this type of fish need a lot of space?  Consider how big they’ll get, that will usually help tell you how much space they’ll need.
  • What’s the optimum temperature for this type of fish to thrive?


If you’re considering more than one type of fish in the same aquarium, be sure to try and match their needs as closely as possible.  The closer you can match their needs, the better they’ll get along, and the healthier they’ll be.

How Do I Choose My Fish?

It’ll be very confusing for us to start out naming the different breeds of fish, so we’re not going to do that.  What I like to do is fall in love with a fish.  A particular breed of fish, or even a particular fish.  That’s why we’re not going to recommend a particular type of fish.

First off, go to your local or favorite fish store.  Look around.  Take your time.  Take notes, write down the types of fish that you like the most.  Talk to the fish experts in the store about what they may like and what types of fish live well together.

Then go home.  Do more research.  In your books and on the internet.  The internet is a great place to do this.  Make a list, copy pictures and compare notes to see which types of fish will live well together.

When you’ve done this, you’ll have a really great background in freshwater fish culture.  Super groundwork for setting up your tank.

Fish Love to Eat, Too!

Another piece of information to consider is that not all fish are created the same when it comes to eating their food.  Some of your fish may eat on the surface of your tank, and others will eat on the bottom (considered bottom dwellers).

By all means, mix it up, get some top feeders and some bottom dwellers.  But keep an eye on those aggressive top feeders.  You want to be sure that the bottom guys get some food, too.

Aggressive Fish

Click here to view a discussion of aggressive freshwater fish. Another tip to consider is to make sure that your fish aren’t going to eat each other.  Yes, really.  That can happen.  There are fish that are more aggressive than others.  There’s always a risk of this.

Some other fish factors to consider and watch out for are the more aggressive fish biting other fish in the tank, especially the smaller fish who can’t always defend themselves against the big guys.  And fish that have long, beautiful flowing fins are almost always a target.

The moral here is to try and match aggression levels.  Sometimes this is hard to do, but you can at least keep an eye out for it.

The male fish are usually going to be more aggressive in general, so try not to pair more than one male fish in your tank unless you have less aggressive types of fish in your tank.

Surprisingly enough, sometimes fish that have similar colors can set off the aggressive fish.  The best combination seems to be several female fish to one male fish, but sometimes you have to experiment a little.

Don’t Do This!

The best piece of advice that we can give is this:  don’t overstock your aquarium with the most exotic looking fish you can find!  This is what most tank owners do, and that’s where they can get into trouble!