Top 10 Temperate Fish for Beginners

Written By Lewis German  |  Temperate Fish  |  0 Comments

As someone new to fishkeeping, tropical fish can sometimes seem a little daunting, the idea of maintaining the water temperature through the use of expensive equipment can be a little off putting for some.

Temperate fish however, do not always need a heater, but still bring bright colours and interesting behaviours to the tank.

They are great fish to keep for anyone interested in having an unheated aquarium.

What is a temperate fish?

“Temperate fish” is a term used to describe a wide range of fish species that are in between being coldwater and tropical.

Most of these fish are located in subtropical parts of the world.

These areas may undergo various seasonal changes throughout the year, but only receive mild winters, which is why they don’t need to be kept at tropical temperatures, but are not quite as adept at living in true coldwater conditions.

They are not quite able to live in freezing temperatures, but they are able to tolerate a much cooler temperature range than most tropical fish, and so they can be kept in an aquarium without a heater.

It is typically said that if a fish can live anywhere from 15C – 24C (59F – 75F) then it is a temperate species.

What is good about temperate fish?

Temperate species are great because they come with a more relaxed style of fishkeeping and tend to be very forgiving of mistakes.

Due to the fact they undergo various seasonal changes in their natural habitats, temperate fish are often quite hardy, which is why they are attractive to beginners.

It is common for these species to be highly tolerable to a range of different water parameters and temperatures.

Temperate fish also come with surprising variety, and many species are small enough to fit in your average sized community tank, contrary to many coldwater fish, which usually tend to grow extremely large.

If you want an unheated tank for your living room, but don’t want to keep Goldfish, temperate fish are an excellent alternative.

Do temperate fish need a heater?

No, Temperate fish do not need a heater in most cases.

Situations where they might need one are if you keep them outdoors, or in a poorly insulated building like a shed / garage that becomes colder than 15C / 59F.

You may also use a heater if you are trying to help the fish fight off a disease like white spot, or are aiming to breed a certain species which only spawns at higher temperatures.

However, if you are just keeping your fish normally, then there is no real need for a heater in a temperate aquarium.

What makes a temperate fish good for beginners?

When we look for “beginner fish” what we are looking at is the lifestyle and care requirements that each species needs in order to be kept healthy.

The main things we look at are water parameters, hardiness, diet, behaviour and size.

For a fish to be considered easy to keep, it must be able to live in a range of water parameters, be easy to feed, be able to withstand change, be peaceful in nature, and reach a manageable size.

If a fish can fit within all these categories, then it can be labelled as a beginner fish, and can be recommended to new fishkeepers.

The best temperate fish for beginner aquarists

When selecting your fish, it is important that you choose species that suit your lifestyle and aquarium setup.

Each fish on this list is different, and has its own set of care requirements which we will go over in detail.

We have picked out some of our best recommendations for beginner temperate tanks, taking into account different preferences for tank sizes, community settings and lifestyles, maintaining a bit of variety, while still sticking with “easy” species.

Zebra danio

Zebra Danio

Perhaps one of the most frequently kept and studied species of temperate fish, Zebra Danios or Common Zebrafish are a joy to keep for anyone interested in aquarium keeping.

These fish are hardy, colourful, and bring plenty of energy to the tank, great for those small to intermediate community tanks.

Rosy Barb

Rosy Barbs are a great For adding movement and activity to any aquarium, good for those larger community tanks or for semi aggressive setups.

Rosy Barbs are very hardy, pleasant to keep and are always a top recommendation for temperate and coldwater community tanks.

Variatus Platy

All the great things we love about the Southern Platyfish with the added bonus of not requiring a heater.

Variatus Platies are great fun to keep and breed, and fit into a range of setups and community tanks.

Rainbow Shiner

Excellent brightly coloured temperate fish for larger aquariums.

These fish are highly active and make the tank look like a flowing river with their rapid shoaling movements.

They are very interesting fish to keep and to breed.

White cloud mountain minnow

A very pleasant little fish, sometimes referred to as the poor man’s neon tetra, Mountain Minnows are great for smaller community tanks, or just nano tanks in general.

They are incredibly easy to keep and to breed, and are very interesting to watch as they display and dance to each other.

Japanese Ricefish

Another very pleasant little fish that fits well into small planted setups.

Ricefish make excellent community tankmates, they are peaceful, easy to feed, hardy, and make great additions to temperate, coldwater or tropical aquariums.

Weather Loach

A highly charismatic bottom feeder for those larger community tanks, Weather Loach are always interesting to watch as they scavenge around for anything left on the bottom of the sand.

They are great for helping keep the tank clean and are excellent pest control, always one of our top recommendations for those who have trouble with snails.

Florida Flagfish

Flagfish are an excellent killifish for temperate unheated setups, they are full of colour and character.

They are great fun to keep, and are good algae eaters, ideal for those large slightly unkempt tanks. 

Paradise Fish

Sometimes called the coldwater Gourami, these fish make a great centrepiece for those temperate community tanks.

They bring excellent shape and colour to the aquarium, and can become very personable.

Hoplo catfish

Another bottomfeeder for temperate or cold water setups, Hoplo catfish are a lot of fun, especially when kept in groups in a large wide tank.

Spending most of their time sifting through the sand and constantly scavenging for food, they are always a joy in any aquarium.