Fish – Good Choices for Beginners

February 12th, 2013 posted by PETsMART.com

Many of the smaller schooling fish make ideal first fish. These include White Cloud Mountain Minnows, the several commonly available species of Danios and Rasboras, and most available species of Barbs. For those with a slightly larger tank, Rainbowfish make a great schooling fish. Corydoras Catfish are ever popular schooling catfish.

While many beginners are tempted to get just one or two of each of several different schooling fish, this should be resisted. Schooling fish do better if there are several of their own species present for them to interact with. A minimum of six of each of the midwater schooling fish is recommended, while four is the bare minimum for Corys. In the long run, a school of a dozen fish showing their natural behavior will be more pleasing than a mixed group of fish unhappily forced to share the same tank. (“Mom, why is that one fish hiding behind the heater and that other one just hanging in the corner?”)

Of course, as mentioned in the introduction, the population needs to be built up slowly, two or three fish at a time. The aquarist might, for instance, build up a school of eight Rasboras of a certain species, then turn to building up a school of six of a species of Cory Cats.

Some Cyprinids

// White Clouds, Danios, Rasboras, and Barbs are all Asian fish related to the Carp and the Minnow. All of these fish belong to the family Cyprinidae. White Clouds, Danios, Rasboras, and Barbs are small, active, hardy, and colorful.

“White Cloud Mountain Minnows” – Tanichthys albonubes Found in mountain streams in China, White Clouds can be kept in unheated tanks (down to 55F). Some people advise against putting these fish in tropical tanks but I have found that they do fine in heated aquaria as well, as long as the temperature is not kept above the mid 70s. They can be fed any small food and they spawn often but fry will not be seen unless the parents are removed to another tank. White Clouds are brown with a red tail and a silvery white line down the side that shines in the light. They get to be 1 1/2″ long.

Danios Several species of Danios are often found in pet stores, including the Giant Danio – Danio aequipinnatus, the Zebra Danio – Brachydanio rerio, the Leopard Danio – Brachydanio frankei, and the Pearl Danio – Brachydanio albolineatus. These fish are fast swimmers and are always in motion. Different patterns of blue markings allows one to tell these fish apart. Most Danios stay under 2 1/2″ long, although Giant Danios can get up to 4″.

Rasboras The most popular Rasbora is the Harlequin Rasbora – Rasbora heteromorpha. A very similar looking species, Rasbora espei, is also available, as is the Clown Rasbora – Rasbora kalochroma and the Scissor-Tail Rasbora – Rasbora trilineata. Orange, brown, and red are usual colors for Rasboras, and their stop-and-start swimming makes them interesting to watch as a school. Scissor-Tails can get up to 6″ long and Clown Rasboras up to 4″ while Harlequins stay under 2″ long.

Barbs By far the most commonly seen and commonly cursed Barb is the Tiger Barb – Capoeta tetrazona. It nips the fins of other fish if not kept in a large school of its own species and because it is over-bred it is susceptible to diseases. Several aquarium morphs are also available (such as the greenish “Mossy Barb” and an albino variety) but these are even more sickly and often deformed.

Don’t give up on the Barbs too fast though, as many are well suited as first fish, especially for those with moderate sized tanks. Capoeta titteya, the Cherry Barb, is a terrific little barb – up to 2″ long and with a wonderful orange-red color. Mid-sized barbs (up to about 4 1/2″ long) include Clown Barbs – Barbodes everetti, Rosy Barbs – Puntius conchonius, and Black Ruby Barbs – Puntius nigrofasciatus. The artificial morphs (long-finned, albino, etc.) of the Rosy Barb should be avoided though, as these tend to be sickly. Checker Barbs – Capoeta oligolepis and Spanner or T-Barbs – Barbodes lateristriga are large, peaceful barbs (Spanner Barbs up to 7″ long). Unless you have a very large aquarium avoid Tinfoil Barbs – Barbodes schwanefeldi. They grow to be over a foot long!

Note that many barbs don’t school as “nicely” as do Danios or Rasboras, but most should be kept in schools nonetheless. Also note that many authors may put all of the above mentioned species in the genus Barbus.

Corydoras Catfish

Cory Cats are members of the family Callichthyidae, a family of armored catfish from South America. Corys are small (generally 2 1/2″ long or less), schooling fish that are always searching the bottom of the tank for food. There are at least 140 species of catfish in the genus Corydoras. Some of these are quite delicate and die quickly even in the hands of experts. The fragile ones, however, are rarely seen in pet stores and are high priced when they can be found. The Corys you will see for reasonable prices are hardy and can even survive in a tank with low oxygen as they can swallow air from the surface and absorb it through their intestines. Some Corys you may encounter are the Bronze Cory – C. aeneus, the Spotted Cory – C. ambiacus, the Leopard Cory – C. julii, the Skunk Cory – C. arcuatus, the Bandit Cory – C. metae, and the Panda Cory – C. panda.

Corys generally feed at the bottom of the tank and special sinking foods should be fed. These include sinking pellets like Tabi-Min and frozen blood- worms. Care should be taken to insure that all frozen foods are eaten quickly as they decay rapidly and can foul the tank. Don’t overfeed!

PETsMART.com Fish Rainbowfish

Rainbows are extremely colorful fishes native to Australia, New Guinea, and Madagascar. Like the Cyprinids described above, Rainbows are schooling fish and should be kept in groups of six or more. Larger, somewhat more expensive, and harder to find than many of the schooling fishes already discussed, Rainbows are easily cared for, active, and make good first fish for those who want to try something a little less common. Look in your dealer’s tanks for the Australian Rainbow – Melanotaenia splendida, Boeseman’s Rainbowfish – M. boesemani, Turquoise Rainbows – M. lacustris, and the Celebes Rainbow – Telmatherina ladigesi.

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