For many, having an aquarium full of vibrant, colorful fish and other creatures is a dream. Watching your little underwater ecosystem thrive in your living room can be immensely rewarding and relaxing. However, keeping an aquarium properly maintained and the inhabitants happy and healthy can be time-consuming and demanding. An intensive high-maintenance aquarium may not be the best fit for those with busy schedules or hectic lifestyles.
Luckily, plenty of lower-maintenance aquarium pets and setups are perfect for beginner hobbyists or those without much extra time to devote to aquarium care. With some planning and research into species with lower care needs, even novice aquarists can have a gorgeous, lively home aquarium running smoothly.
This comprehensive guide will examine some of the easiest, beginner-friendly aquarium pets and setups. Read on to learn all about choosing and keeping thriving low-maintenance aquariums!
Low Maintenance Fish for the Home Aquarium
For many aquarium hobbyists, keeping fish is the main draw. The variety of freshwater tropical fish available means endless options for populating your tank with finned beauties. However, not all fish species are equal regarding their care and maintenance needs.
Some fish require pristine water conditions, highly specific diets, and more hands-on care. But others are far easier to keep healthy and happy even in simpler, lower-maintenance home aquarium environments.
Here are some of the easiest, most beginner-friendly fish species to consider for low-maintenance freshwater aquariums:
|Fish Species||Ideal Tank Size||Feeding Habits||Care Level||Special Notes|
|Betta Fish||5 gallons or more (0.5 gallons minimum)||Omnivorous, not picky. Flake or pellet foods. Feed 1-2 times daily.||Very low maintenance. Tolerant of a wide range of water parameters.||Ideal for beginners. Beautiful fins and colors.|
|Fancy Goldfish||20 gallons or more||Omnivorous, not picky. Flake foods and pellets with occasional treats like live or frozen foods. Feed 2-3 times per day.||Hardy, tolerate a range of water parameters.||Excellent starter fish. Varieties include orandas, black moors, and fantails.|
|Platies||10 gallons or more||Omnivorous, enjoy flake or small pellet foods. Feed 1-2 times per day.||Extremely hardy, tolerant of a wide pH and water hardness range.||Do well in community tanks. Naturally breeding.|
|Zebra Danios||10 gallons or more||Omnivorous and will accept most prepared foods. Feed once or twice daily.||Very hardy and tolerant of a wide pH range.||Best in schools of 5-6. Active and playful.|
|Guppies||10 gallons or more||Omnivorous, not picky. Will accept most flake or pellet foods. Feed once or twice daily.||Very tolerant of a wide range of water parameters.||Breed prolifically. Endless color morphs and patterns.|
The brightly colored, long-finned betta fish is one of the most popular aquarium fish in the world. Luckily, they also happen to be one of the absolute easiest fish for beginners to keep. Here’s a quick rundown of their low-care requirements:
- Tank Size: These fish do well in small tanks and can even be kept in mini desktop tanks or specialized betta tanks as small as .5 gallons. However, a 5 gallon or larger tank is ideal.
- Feeding: Bettas are not picky eaters. They readily accept common tropical fish flakes or pellets. Feed just once or twice daily in small amounts they can consume within a few minutes.
- Care Level: Very low maintenance and ideal for beginners. Not prone to disease and tolerate a wide range of water parameters. Simple partial water changes weekly are sufficient.
With their small housing needs, hardiness, and tolerance of a wide range of water conditions, betta fish are hands-down one of the easiest aquarium fish for even novice hobbyists. Their beautiful fins and array of colors and patterns are just a bonus!
Another fish group often recommended for beginners are fancy goldfish. These include popular varieties like orandas, black moors, and fantails. Here are their basic care needs:
- Tank Size: 20 gallons or more. These fish grow fairly large and are active swimmers that need sufficient room.
- Feeding: Omnivorous, not picky. Flake foods and pellets with occasional treats like live or frozen foods. Feed 2-3 times per day.
- Care: Quite hardy, tolerate a range of water parameters. Partial water changes of 25% weekly are sufficient along with filter cleaning.
While single-tailed common goldfish can grow huge and need massive tanks, the slower-growing fancy varieties make excellent starter fish. Provide at least a 20 gallon tank and keep up with partial weekly water changes; they will thrive for years.
These small, active fish come in a rainbow of colors including yellow, orange, blue, red, black, and multi-colored varieties. Here are some platy fish care basics:
- Tank Size: 10 gallons or more. A trio or small group would be comfortable in a 10 gallon tank.
- Feeding: Omnivorous, enjoy flake or small pellet foods. Feed 1-2 times per day in small amounts.
- Care: Extremely hardy, tolerant of a wide pH and water hardness range. Do well in community tanks. Weekly 25% water changes sufficient.
Platies naturally breed fish, so be prepared for babies if you keep males and females together. But the offspring provide endless entertainment as they grow and display their colors. Overall, platies are fun, active fish that couldn’t be easier to maintain.
These busy little striped fish are a staple in community tanks and make fantastic starter fish. Their care needs are straightforward:
- Tank Size: 10 gallon or larger tank. These active fish need ample swimming room.
- Feeding: Omnivorous and will accept most prepared foods. Feed once or twice daily.
- Care: Very hardy and tolerant of a wide pH range. Do well in community tanks with similar sized fish. Weekly 25% water changes are adequate.
Danios do best in schools of 5-6 fish or more. Their constant motion and playful behavior make them fun to observe. Just provide ample space and they will thrive with minimal care required.
Yet another extremely popular starter fish, guppies are livebearers with endless color morphs and patterns. Here is a quick look at their basic care needs:
- Tank Size: Minimum 10 gallon, but the more space the better. They are active and enjoy ample room.
- Feeding: Omnivorous, not picky. Will accept most flake or pellet foods. Feed once or twice daily.
- Care: Very tolerant of a wide range of water parameters. Partial weekly water changes sufficient.
Guppies breed prolifically, so either separate males and females or be prepared for babies. But because they are so prolific, guppies are inexpensive and it’s easy to start a small colony of beautiful fish. They are active, hardy fish requiring minimal care while displaying endless colors and fins.
Alternative Tank or Cage Pets
While fish are the classic aquarium pets, there are alternatives for those seeking unique lower maintenance aquatic creatures. Reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and more can all thrive in home aquarium-style setups. Here are a few to consider:
African Dwarf Frogs
These tiny fully aquatic frogs are a unique, low maintenance aquarium resident. Their care needs are quite simple:
- Tank Size: 5 gallon or larger
- Feeding: Carnivorous. Feed frozen or live foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp 2-3 times weekly.
- Care: Partial weekly water changes and tank cleaning. Tolerant of a range of water parameters.
These tiny frogs are quite active at night and rest during the day. They are fun to keep and observe, and their small size and simple care make them ideal for nano aquariums. Make sure to house them with peaceful tank mates of similar size.
Native to Taiwan, these tiny freshwater shrimp come in bright cherry red hues. They make excellent scavengers and cleanup crew for planted aquariums. Their care needs are minimal:
- Tank Size: 5 gallons or larger
- Feeding: Mostly subsist on naturally occurring algaes and debris in tank. Can supplement with specialty shrimp pellets or foods.
- Care: Weekly partial water changes. Prefer slightly acidic, soft water but are adaptable.
A colony of cherry shrimp will help keep algae down in a planted tank while providing endless motion and activity. They are very simple to keep and breed readily in captivity.
If you want a unique aquarium janitor that never stops moving, nerite snails are an excellent choice. Here are their basic care requirements:
- Tank Size: 5 gallons or larger
- Feeding: Herbivorous, will consume algaes, debris, and supplemental vegetables.
- Care: Weekly partial water changes. Do not require additional filtrations or aeration.
These snails constantly crawl across tank surfaces, walls, decorations and plants, clearing away algae or food particles. Their intricate shells and patterns also add visual interest. A few nerites can help maintain spotless glass and decor in an aquarium with minimal effort.
Low-Maintenance Aquarium Pets for Beginners
Complete newcomers to the aquarium hobby often feel overwhelmed by the equipment, technology, and maintenance requirements of keeping fish. But there are ways to simplify setups and choose fish species that are tolerant and flexible when it comes to care, making aquarium ownership much more accessible and enjoyable.
Here are some top low-maintenance aquarium options perfect for absolute beginners:
Betta in a 5-10 Gallon Planted Tank
As mentioned above, betta fish are ideal starter fish given their hardiness and low care requirements. A simple setup for a betta beginner would include:
- Tank Size: Minimum 5 gallons, but 10 is better. This provides swimming space and stable water parameters.
- Feeding: Feed high quality betta pellet once daily, about as much as the fish can consume in 2-3 minutes.
- Care: 1-2 partial water changes weekly. A simple hang-on-back filter provides adequate filtration. Easy to care for live plants like anubias, java fern, and moss help maintain water quality.
A single betta in a planted tank of this size is as simple as it gets for fishkeeping. The natural plants aid the nitrogen cycle and improve water quality, meaning fewer water changes. The betta will thrive with minimal maintenance required.
Group of Guppies in 10 Gallon Tank
Another beginner scenario is a trio of male guppies in a 10 gallon tank:
- Tank Size: 10 gallons
- Feeding: Flake food once daily is sufficient.
- Care: Weekly 25% water change and filter cleaning/replacement. Easy plants like hornwort can supplement filtration.
Guppies are extremely adaptable and will tolerate the water conditions in a lightly stocked 10 gallon tank. The males provide beautiful colors and active movement to observe. Overall maintenance is minimal aside from weekly partial water changes.
Planted Bowl with Snails/Shrimp
For a zero-maintenance setup, consider a planted bowl or vase with just hardy plants and cleanup crew:
- Tank Size: 2-5 gallon glass bowl or vase
- Feeding: None required. Snails and shrimp subsist on naturally occurring food.
- Care: Top off evaporated water weekly. Trim plants as needed.
With hardy low-light plants like java fern, anubias, and moss, this setup nearly takes care of itself. The snails and shrimp help break down waste and debris. Beyond topping off water, no real maintenance is required. Easy for anyone to enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are fish low maintenance pets compared to other animals?
Generally yes, certain fish require less daily hands-on care and commitment than other common pets like dogs or cats. Fish don’t need to be walked, groomed or played with regularly. Most fish care for themselves as long as their basic habitat needs are met.
However, there are still maintenance requirements for aquariums and fish. While fish themselves may be low effort, you do need to perform tasks like feeding, changing water, and cleaning filters. Time commitments range from less than an hour per week for very simple setups, to an hour per day for heavily stocked tanks.
So fish can be low maintenance compared to mammalian pets, but they still require regular care and dedication to thrive. Proper aquarium setup and stocking is key to minimizing maintenance time.
What types of pets can you have in an aquarium?
The most common aquarium pets are fish, but other possibilities include:
- Freshwater shrimp and snails
- Aquatic frogs and salamanders
- Freshwater crabs and crayfish
- Turtles and newts (with special setups)
Fish make up the bulk of aquarium pets, but invertebrates like shrimp and snails are increasing in popularity. Certain amphibians can also do well if their specific care needs are met. Thoroughly research compatibility and proper care for any aquatic animal you consider.
What is the easiest fish to care for in a small fish bowl?
Even easier to care for fish species will gradually become stressed and suffer if kept in tiny containers like traditional fish bowls. No fish truly thrives in such limited space and water volume long-term.
That said, the hardiest fish for small tanks under 5 gallons would have to be betta fish. Their low oxygen and flow needs allow them to fare better than most fish. However, a filtered heated 5+ gallon tank is still recommended as a minimum for even these hardy fish.
If you want pet fish for a desk or small space, consider a 5 gallon filtered aquarium kit tailored for bettas. This provides a humane living environment while compact and easy to maintain with weekly partial water changes. Bowls may seem convenient, but the fish will be much healthier long-term in a larger filtered tank.
Fish and aquatic creatures with lower care requirements can simplify aquarium ownership for busy people or beginners. Hardy fish like bettas, guppies, danios, cory cats, and certain minnows can be easily maintained in simpler setups. Shrimp, snails, and aquatic frogs are also lower maintenance options. Focus on proper aquarium cycling, adequate filtration, and optimal tank dimensions for the livestock. Regular partial water changes and tank/filter maintenance can help maintain a low-maintenance aquarium. Proper planning and research can create a lively underwater ecosystem, providing a calming centerpiece for any room.