popular types of pet fish

10 Popular Types of Pet Fish

by Jane Meggitt - 7/12/19

What’s the most popular pet in America? Most people would say dogs or cats, but based on sheer number, the answer is freshwater aquarium fish. While fish can’t cuddle like warm-blooded pets, they offer their owners constant beauty and a calming influence. Fishkeeping is also a wonderful family endeavor.

betta popular types of pet fish

1. Betta

For ease of maintenance, bettas can’t be beat. Also known as Siamese fighting fish, bettas require separation from most other species, which means these brilliantly colored swimmers do well in small fish bowls. While keeping male bettas separate is imperative, some female bettas can live in tanks with other fish. Bettas are a cold-water species.

goldfish popular types of pet fish

2. Goldfish

Another cold-water fish, goldfish belong to the carp family. Because they enjoy cool water temperatures, keep goldfish in a separate tank from warm water fish. Avoid keeping goldfish in a bowl, as they can grow quite long and need sufficient swimming room. Because they do grow so large, don’t overcrowd your goldfish tank. Well-kept goldfish can live for many years.

angelfish popular types of pet fish

3. Angelfish

Large, lovely and graceful, angelfish appear in various color patterns. Because of their size when full-grown, angelfish require at least a 55-gallon tank. Angelfish do well with other fish species (although they may eat very small fish) but can fight with each other. Provide plenty of plants in the aquarium, as angelfish like to hide beneath them.

catfish popular types of pet fish

4. Catfish

Catfish aren’t the most spectacular fish in a tank, but they serve an important purpose. These low-maintenance, bottom-dwelling fish consume algae growing in the tank, so they aid in keeping the tank clean. Choose among various catfish species and colors. Most types of catfish are compatible with the fish commonly kept in community tanks.

guppies popular types of pet fish

5. Guppies

These easy-care aquarium fish appear in a variety of colors. There is one drawback to guppies: They breed constantly, so if you have male and females together, the offspring can soon overwhelm a tank. For best results, choose all males or all females. The former sport longer tails and brighter colors.

mollies popular types of pet fish

6. Mollies

These small, hardy fish do best in tanks with heavy filtration. Unlike many tropical fish breeds, mollies bear live young rather than lay eggs. If you want to raise mollies, a ratio of one male per three to four females works best. Too many male mollies stress out the females with constant breeding. Mollies tend to nip the fins of other species, so you may want to keep them in a separate aquarium. Keeping a few mollies in a community tank can work out well.

neon tantra popular types of pet fish

7. Neon Tetras

These small, translucent blue and red fish hail from the Amazon jungles. Because they aren’t aggressive, they are a welcome and colorful addition to any freshwater tank. Keep neon tetras in a school of at least six fish, and preferably more. You’ll find them swimming in the middle of your tank.

platies popular types of pet fish

8. Platies

Platies are ideal for those getting started in tropical fishkeeping. They are available in dozens of shades, and their harmonious natures mean they are good community fish. If you only have room for a smaller tank, around 10 gallons, little platies make a good choice. These active fish tend to swim mid-tank.

swordtail popular types of pet fish

9. Swordtails

The larger the tank, the larger you can expect swordtails to grow. The name comes from their sword-like tails, and these fish most often sport a red body with a black tail. Swordtails make good fish for the beginning hobbyist, as they don’t require any special care, although males may fight with each other. It’s best to keep swordtails in a larger tank, or at least one larger than 10 gallons.

zebra danio popular types of pet fish

10. Zebra Danios

Named for their striped bodies, zebra danios are tough fish. They can thrive in a variety of water temperatures, even into the low 60s. Unlike many species, zebra danios mate for life. These active fish are perhaps the easiest of the egg-laying species, if you want to breed them. Zebra danios swim all over the tank, and make good community fish due to their peaceful nature.

A graduate of New York University, Jane Meggitt’s work has appeared in dozens of publications, including USA Today, The Alternative Daily,, The Houston Chronicle and The Nest.