Livebearers 
The family Poeciliidae contains, among others, Guppies, Mollies, Platies and many other fishes.

Poeciiids, as they are also called, come from the Americas, primarily Central America. They are called “livebearers” because the eggs are fertilized within the female and the fry (baby fish) are born alive.

The Guppy

Length 30mm
From Trinidad
Easy to keep
Eats all foods
75F (24C)
Friendly

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Guppy Fish laying an egg (notice the live fish with developed eyes)

The Guppy is one of the hardiest livebearers. It is the easiest of the tropical fish to keep and has been bred into a wide variety of beautiful colors. The male guppy has a large tail. Females are bigger but not as well colored.

They get bigger when pregnant until they look like they will pop. In fact, they have a brood of fry (babies) about once a month and can have 30-75 eggs at a time.

If you want them to be successful at breeding, isolate the female in a *breeding tank* in your main tank, or put her into a special *breeding tank* with lots of *bushy plants* for the fry to hide in.

This is because once she has given birth, she will try to EAT them!

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Guppy fry hiding in the bush so they do not become eaten by their own mother!

The reason you do not keep her in the main tank is that the other fish will simply follow her as she produces the young and eat them before they can hide. The parents are cannibalistic so they may breed very successfully but will certainly eat all the young they can produce!

Platy
Length 50mm
From Trinidad
Easy to Keep
Eat all foods
75F (24C)
Friendly

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A chart showing the color diversity of platies

Platies have a number of color and fin varieties. In some cases the body and fins are a single color; in other the body is multicolored. These fish need at least a teaspoon of salt per gallon of water to be healthy. Besides the guppy this is one of the easiest and hardiest fish around. Ensure however that you get fish from healthy stock because sometimes they can carry diseases. They will survive conditions that will kill off other fish btu in good conditions will thrive and busy themselves around the tank. They seldom if ever bully other fish and are active members of a fish tank.

Swordtail
Length 70mm
From Central America
Easy to keep
Friendly
Eats all foods
Best at 75F (24C)
Friendly

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Sword tail fish next to dark colored gravel (fish do better in dark colored gravel from my observations)

These fish can grow a very splendid tail which with its bright red coloring makes it a must for a colorful and interesting community tank. There are also many other color varieties of swordtails but my favourite is the good old-fashioned bright red. Best kept in numbers of 3-5 in a community tank, they tend to swim around in a group. They can, however, be nippers of Angel and Gourami fins but with a good tank set up this can be minimised. An interesting fact with these fish was that they were thought to change sex from female to male later in life. It seems that this was an interesting story but what happened was the males simply took a long time to gain tails in some cases.

Molly
Length 80mm
From Mexico
Easy to Keep
Eats all food, loves algae
Best at 75F (24C)
Friendly

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Molly fish

The common molly is the black molly.

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The black molly, the most common molly fish

Black mollies need at least one teaspoon of salt every five litres of water to keep them healthy and prevent the outbreak of “ich”, a parasite commonly seen in aquaria.

The jet-black molly makes a nie contrast in some tanks where all the fish are a lighter color but there are many variations. They are very active fish and will keep you amused as they constantly tumble and follow each other around. They are also best kept in small groups where they can “play” with each other and leave the quieter fish to their own devices.

Sailfin Molly
Length 140mm
From North America
Medium-Easy to keep
Eat all food, loves algae
Friendly

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Sunset red sailfin molly

This impressive looking fish gets its name from its dorsal fin. The body is normally dark green but can vary in color from albino to gold in color. It can get very big and at that size needs a large tank with similar size fish otherwise it an become a bit of a worry to smaller fish. Sail-fin mollies need at least 3 teaspoons of salt per gallon, this makes them hard to keep together with lots of other community fish, which do not appreciate all that salt. Remember, salt-fins grow large – make sure your tank is big enough to keep them.

Beginners have never found sail fin mollies to be very easy to keep because they tend to be unforgiving of bad water conditions and will be one of the first fish to clamp their fins to their bodies and simply wither and die if water conditions are poor. They just just swim in one spot without going anywhere, fins tightly clamped against their bodies. If they do that you are surely going to lose them. You must *check* the tank’s essentials carefully.

Cyprinids

Egg Layers

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Cyprinids


White Clouds, Danios, Rasboras, and Barbs are all Asian fish related tot he 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. These fish not only look good but are also in reality far hardier than they look and will often tolerate poor conditions. Originating in Europe, Asia, Africa and America, this family has a wide choice of colorful fish. They are some of my favourite fish, in particular the Barbs. Barbs are very active fish and are very tough creatures. Cyprinids have one unique feature: they have no teeth in their jaws; instead they grind up their food using teeth in their cheeks.

White mountain cloud minnows:

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White mountain cloud minnows: a Chinese fish

Length 50mm
From China
Easy to keep
Eat all foods
Best unheated but tolerant
Friendly

Found in mountain streams in China, White Clouds can be kept in unheated tanks. Some people advise against putting these fish in tropical tanks but I have found that they do fine in heated aquaria, as long as the temperature is not kept above 68F (20C).

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 neon lines that shines in the light.

They need a shoal of at least 5 fish in order to see them at their best.

Zebra Danio

Length 45mm
From Eastern India
Easy to keep
Eats all food
75F, 24C
Friendly

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Zebra Danio

This fish is covered in alternative horizontal stripes of dark blue and silver. The fish is very hardy, and is often an exciting fish as they are very active, constantly moving around. They can swim at all levels of the tropical fish aquarium but prefer to cruise in the upper third of the tank.

These tropical fish should be kept in a shoal of 5 or more so they can display to each other and keep themselves, and yourself, amused.

Several species of Danios are often found in pet stores, including the Giant danio, the zebra Danio, the Leopard Danio and Pearl Danio. These fish are fast swimmers and are always in motion. Different patterns of blue markings allow one to tell these fish apart.

It is a good idea with all the Danio family to make sure the lid is on tightly because these top-swimming, hungry fish can often be very good jumpers!

Rosy barb
Length 100mm
From Northern India
Easy to keep
Eat all food
Best at 75F, 24C
Friendly

Rosy barb

The Rosy Barb is a hardy and colorful fish. They’re very easy to *breed*, mature fish change to a deep pink color when they reach breeding maturity.

This is not an aggressive fish and like most of the Barbs are middle to bottom swimmers who love to interact with one another and will ignore most other fish if they have enough of their own kind to maintain their attention.

Tiger barbs and green tiger barb

Length 50mm
From Sumatra
Easy to keep
Eat all food
Best at 75F, 24C
Friendly (mostly)

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Green tiger barb

The original tiger barb is pictured above, it is a friendly fish as long its kept with fish with its own size and temperament. They can be bullies of small fish if they don’t have enough of their own kind to pester.

Tiger barbs particularly like to nip the fins of Angels and Gourami who find them very irritating, as so will you, to have a beautiful fish reduced to less than its glory.

The Green Tiger has a dark green body, with splashes of orange on the face and on fins. The females are less colorful. Although many Barbs will mix well with other fast swimming fish, these two types of fish may well nip any other slow moving and long tailed fish constantly. Watch out!

Ruby barb

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Black Ruby Barb

Length 60mm
From Sri Lanka
Easy to keep
Eat all food
Best at 75F, 24C
Friendly

The Ruby Barb is a more peaceful Barb than the Tiger but like all small fish wants to be in a shoal of 5 or more. It, like all of the barbs, is truly omnivorous and will eat almost all kinds of food you care to put in your tank.

The male, in particular, undergoes a dramatic color change at breeding time and it is worthwhile to get into this side of the hobby even if only to see the displays of fish like these make when its in breeding time. I didn’t know that this would happen with my first pair and was quite worried about my fish. The body becomes a black-red color, where the head looks more of a deep blue hue. It has stripes across its body. All in all, it is quite a dramatic change in color.

Sharks

These fish are known as sharks simply because of the way they look and their manner of cruising around the tank. They don’t have the same eating habits, as other real sea sharks however, so don’t worry too much about other fish.

However, the most popular of them (the Red Tailed Black Shark) which you may be tempted to buy – I would not recommend for a beginner’s tank.

Red tailed black shark 

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Red tailed black shark – a very beautiful species but not recommended for beginners

Length 120mm
From Thailand
Easy to keep
Eat all food
Best at 75F, 24C
Can be aggressive

This is a popular fish with a striking red/black contrast, making it very attractive. The red tailed black shark is a tropical fish which tends to be a loner, it is territorial and could be aggressive especially with its own species. It needs a lot of space to tolerate other tank-mates.

Do yourself a favour with this fish, don’t be tempted to get one until you are quite sure that in your tank there are not fish that are going to get bullied. This shark can get very “bossy” and bully more timid fish, and this doesn’t necessarily mean only the smaller ones.

Bala/Silver Shark

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bala/silver shark shoal. This small shoal of bala/silver sharks is an eye catching focus for the tank as they are fast and constantly moving.

If you have a tank that can accomodate them when they are fully grown they will make a great choice. If your tank is less than 2 metres long you are only going to cause a problem because it can only hold a limited number of fish.

Length 130mm
From Asia
Easy to keep
Eat all food
Best at 75F, 24C
Friendly but gets big

The Bala shark is a very popular fish, but they can be a problem because they can become very large. It’s a peaceful fish which can be kept with smaller tank-mates. This tropical fish species is known to be great at jumping, just make sure your tank has a lid. Interestingly, this fish can make audible sounds!

Algae Eaters

Some aquarists are going to try to sell to you Indian or Chinese Algae eaters but at that point just nod politely and say you don’t think so. This is a trap because the young fish are just fine, but they get big (23-28cm) and this is a large fish. Even before it gets to that size it will be a problem.

  • The tend to dash around a lot and scare the other fish and they also tend to dig up plants and make holes in the gravel
  • Add to this one more serious “crime” and that is the habit of sucking onto the sides of larger fish like Angels. This can cause irritation to the bigger fish and they can eventually develop infections. Not good.

Anabantoids

Anabantoids. Focus on the general body shape, this species of tropical fish algae eater has an extremely wide variety of different colorations

These fish originate in Africa and parts of Asia an they are best known as “air breathers”. They have generally evolved from rivers and stream systems which are either very muddy or lacking in oxygen. Some of these fish can even travel across land for short distances to find other ponds. Climbing Perch is said to be able to climb trees and to live out of water for up to two days.

Anabantids offer some unique options to fish keepers as well as presenting a few problems. Some anabantids are able to withstand cooler temperatures, and because of their ability to survive in water with very low oxygen, these fish can be kept in tanks or bowls without heaters or filtration. On the other hand, some Anabantids (particular males of some species) are very territorial and some grow quite large.

The most famous of this family has got to be the Siamese fighting fish, because if a rival male is introduced to the aquarium only one will survive. Most Anabantids are peaceful to fish of other species. It is wise to find out from your fish supplier if more than one male can be kept of the tropical fish species you may want to keep.

If you find your male anabantid in a corner of the tank with a lot of bubbles above him, he is producing the “bubble nest’ so famous in many of these species. Once the male has made his nest he will try to lure the female to mate with him. This can occur peacefully in some species but in others the female is in great danger because the male will chase her even when she is not ready to mate. If you want to get a Siamese fighter male, please do, but it is best to wait until you are sure you want to *breed* them before you get a female.

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Siamese fighting fish

To see the male in all his glory – hold a mirror to the side of the tank and watch how he uses his fins to threaten his rivals and also attract a female.

Paradise fish
Length 60mm
From China/Korea
Easy to keep
Eat all food
Best at 75F, 24C
Friendly to other species of the same size

Paradise fish

This fish is one of my favourites. They were one of the first available in the early days of tropical fish keeping. They withstand bad water conditions and are cold tolerant, even down to 12C or 14C. The original species with vertical blue and red bands is as aggressive to males of the same species as a Siamese fighter, so don’t be tempted to buy two males because you will end up with only one. The varities that can be bought now lack the stirping but are better suited to community tanks. If you can find one of the original vertical orange and blue types do keep them in a tank of similar to large sized fish. They will bully smaller fish for sure.

(note, only one male per tank. and don’t really bother with a female    until you want to try breeding. Then you will need a separate *breeding tank*. This is best tried in the summertime when you can use glass jars without heaters (in some states). )

Dwarf Gourami

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Flame Dwarf Gourami


Length 55mm
From North-East India
Easy to keep
Eat all food
Temperature 75F, 24C
Friendly

The Dwarf Gourami is a species of tropical fish with brilliant colors around its body, probably the most colorful freshwater tropical fish. At breeding times, the colors intensity in the male. Its a good idea to buy them in pairs and not to get two males. Like many fish, these and other gouramis only show their best color when they truly feel at home. They will sometimes breed in a community aquarium and make their bubble nest, but don’t expect too many to survive if there are other fish about to gobble up any stray fry that wander away from the nest.

Kissing Gourami
Length 200mm
From Thailand
Easy to keep
Eat all food
24C temperature
Friendly

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That’s right fellas, they do kiss each other

There are two variations of the kissing Gourami. One is olive-green, the other is purple-white. It has the unusual habit of “kissing” members of its own species – this is of course not real kissing but a way of fighting and establishing dominance. I once had a tank full of these and they tended to destroy everything by thrashing about a bit. Don’t keep a tank full but two or three won’t be too much of a problem.

Blue Gourami

Blue Gourami


Length 60mm
From India
Easy to keep
Eat all food
Temperature 75F, or 24C
Friendly to fish of the same size

These fish are relatively easy to keep and do not have any major problems provuided you give them places to hide or consider their own. A nice thickely planted back and sides to the aquarium, with perhaps a small cave, will give them a really safe and happy home. They can be a little aggressive to really small fish when fully grown, but if you buy them and the other tank mates young together they should grow in size amicably.

Snakeskin Gourami

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Snakeskin Gourami – one of my favorite fish


Length 200mm
From India
Easy to keep
Eat all food
Temperature 75F, 24C
Friendly

These fish have a good reputation with fish keepers because they are generally quite hardy and tolerate a wide variety of habitats. They, like most gouramis prefer well-planted areas to glide through. They also love live food but are really big peaceful giants and will not be a worry to any but the smallest of fry. They are certainly one of my favorite fish and are a must for any community tropical fish tank.

Characins

These fish originate in South America and Africa. They are very suitable fish for any aquarium and their sizes vary. Tetras are probably the most famous of this family. Neon tetras are alwasy popular. Don’t’ forget about the Piranha, a fearsome fish with a taste for flesh! Not so popular in this tank!

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Piranha cutting wood like scissors

Beware
The biggest problem for you as a beginner is that the pet shop owner may not refuse to sell you these fish for your new tank. The biggest cause of failure with these fish, which are easy to keep, is that all tetras love a really established tank with slightly soft, acidic water (low pH). This is easier to achieve in a mature tank. Consider them as second – round fish when your tank is established for at least 4 months.

Neon tetra
Length 45mm
From South America
Easy to keep
Eat all food
Temperature 75F (24C)
Friendly

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Neon tetra

With a red coloration topped by an electric-blue flash, this is a very popular little fish. Occasionally it falls victim to the incurable Neon disease and there is nothing you can do about it. It looks its best in a large shoal of about 8-12.

Black Neon Tetra
Length 55mm
From South America
Easy to keep
Eat all food
75F, 24C temperature
Friendly

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Black Neon Tetra

This tetra is also easy to keep provided the tank is well aged. The adult fish have a high golden stripe but need live good, like mosquito larvae, to bring out the best color.

Silver dollar

Silver Dollar


Length 120mm
From the amazon
Medium-Easy to keep
Love plants, will eat flake
75F, 24C temperature
Friendly

Silver dollars are quite a popular tropical fish species as they are peaceful schoolers. Although you can only see the fins with a few spots, this fish can get quite a few “pimples” on their body like a teenager. These fish are closely related to piranhas, but don’t worry, they’re not violent. They in fact are vegetarians and have the personality to match. When they get bigger they seem to get more nervous and I have had some adult fish that when alarmed dashed about the tank madly until they hurt themselves. The solution is a well-planted tank perhaps with a cave so they can hide. One solution to the problem of these fish eating all your greenery is to make use of artificial plants and feed them on lettuce, thawed frozen peas or corn kernels (chopped up for smaller fish).

Serpae Tetra

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Seapae Tetra

Length 50mm
From South America
Medium-Easy to keep
Eat all food
24C, 75F temperature
Friendly

This is a very colorful tetra, I used to have several sitting in an aquarium at the same time. They are a very fast swimming fish, very hard to catch with a net. They love a well-planted tank. They can behave aggressively to a weaker fish of their own species when there is insufficient food. Most tetra though, love a varied diet of flake as well as live food such as brine shrimp and dried worms.

Black widow tetra

Black Widow Tetra

Length 55mm
From South America
Medium-Easy to keep
Eat all food
75F, 24C temperature
Friendly

This is a very peaceful shoaling variety of tetra and it makes a wonderful contrast to the brighter tetra species. Fish breeders have also developed long finned and albino varieties but I have the sneaking suspicion that these are not as hardy as the more original type and are not going to meet the beginner’s needs as well. I would once again suggest at least 5 in a shoal. Don’t forget that they will do better in an established tank with slightly soft, acidic water.

Bleeding heart tetra

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Bleeding heart tetra


Length 45mm
From South America
Medium-Easy to keep
Eat all food
75F, 24C temperature
Friendly

These fish like all tetra, are easy to keep, provided the water quality is right. They are good community fish and love well planted tanks. The conditions which they enjoy is water that is clean, very clear and running which means that unless your tank can imitate this you will find your tank’s inhabitants sicken and die. A water that is high in oxygen content is a must so besides your *normal filter* think about ensuring there is an *aerator* as well. It is a good idea with these, as with many others, to get young inexpensive fish and grow them to full size in your own tank to ensure that the shoal of fish does not cost too much.

These fish like all tetra, are easy to keep, provided the water quality is right. They are good community fish and love well planted tanks. The conditions which they enjoy is water that is clean, very clear and running which means that unless your tank can imitate this you will find your tank’s inhabitants sicken and die. A water that is high in oxygen content is a must so besides your *normal filter* think about ensuring there is an *aerator* as well. It is a good idea with these, as with many others, to get young inexpensive fish and grow them to full size in your own tank to ensure that the shoal of fish does not cost too much.

Rasboras

There are many other types of these fish divided into two main groups, the deeper or full-bodied type and the thinner or sleeker body types. They come from Asia, India and Indonesia, and are mainly insect eaters but will take flake food.

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Rasboras

Harlequin Rasbora

Length 45mm
From Asia
Easy to keep
Eat all food
Temperature 75F, 24C
Friendly

These are good community aquarium fish and are quite hardy. They inhabit areas of both still and running water and are not as difficult to keep in a very new aquarium as some of the South American Tetras. The Harlequin Rasbora in particular needs live food or at least freeze dried tubifex worms or brine shrimp in order to ensure their colors are as clear as possible. Mosquito larvae are great source of fresh food for them and are readily snapped up.

One of the unique things you might get to see if you get the right tank as well as a compatible shoal of these fish is to see them spawn. They lay their eggs on the underside of leaves. Get the water of the tank soft slightly acid and raise the temperature to 25C and you may well see this unusual pattern of behaviour.

Be careful of some of the Rasbora family however, not because they do not make good community tropical fish, but because they will jump! You need a secure cover.

Catfishes (Corydoras) 

Peppered Catfish
Length 50mm
From South America
Medium-Easy to keep
Eat bottom placed food
Best at 75F, 24C
Friendly

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Peppered Catfish

There are over 2000 types of catfish but for the beginner there are only a few that you need to worry about.The Peppered catfish or Corydora is a must for a beginner tank. Like many of the fish I have suggested, they do better and feel more at home with at least a small shoal of 4-5 companions.

Catfish are normally native to South America and Africa. Most Catfish are suitable to any aquarium. They forage for food at the bottom of the tank, and others will be very happy eating the algae off the glass. Having said that however it is also important to know that not all of them are suitable as first or even second purchase fish so stick to the Peppered Catfish for the time being. In the wild they grub around eating worms off the bottom so give them a diet of dried worms or sinking tablets especially made for these little fellows. Be careful to make sure they are getting food because sometimes their tank mates might get to the food first and not leave them much. It is best to perhaps feed them after you switch the tanks light off. This is when they feel more inclined to be active.

Lastly, you might see them dash to the surface to get some oxygen. In their natural mean, however, there is anything wrong with your tank; it is just a reflex action they possess.

Kuhli Loaches
Length 80mm
From South-East Asia
Medium-Easy to keep
Eat bottom placed food
Best at 75F, 24C
Friendly

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Kuhli Loach

These Loaches are long-bodied asian fishes. Loaches have down-turned mouth equipped with barbels – an adaptation for living and feeding at the bottom of ponds and streams. They will scavenge the tank bottom, eating the food missed by other fishes, but you should take care to see that they get enough to eat. Special sinking foods are a must.

They are not first off fish though, and should only be bought once the tank has been established. Loaches make great additions to most community fish populations.

The most commonly seen loaches are the Kuhliloaches. BNrown with yellow striopes and bands, Kuhli Loaches are shy and spend a lot of time buried in the gravel. Having said that though, it is great to watch them at “dusk”, with the fish tank light off and the room light. That is when they come out from the cave or pot you have for them. Watch them wiggle and swim over the floor. Keep them in group of 4-8 and they will get bolder and give you more fun.

The only down side to these fish is that once in your tank, forget about trying to catch them! Also, be careful of filter material. Have a good look in your filters and pipes because they love to get in everywhere and I have been known to toss out a loach or two when performing maintenance for my tropical fish tanks.

Cichlids

Angels
Length 120mm
From Central America
Medium-Easy to keep
Eat all food
Best at 75F, 24C
Friendly (mostly)

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Angelfish

This fish belongs to a family called Cichlids. Many of these tropical fish are absolutely unsuitable because of either their size, temperament and need for special requirements. You will be tempted to buy Angels but resist that temptation until you get your tank a little better established. If you have a nice big tank there is very little quite as spectacular as having a shoal of Angelfish cruising through the plants – a spectacular sight of tropical fish indeed.

In a smaller tank a couple or even a single one can be just as effective, but you must make sure that there are no fin nippers like Tiger Barbs, which love to rip off the flowing fins off the angels.

One more thing of note. When your Angel gets quite big you may notice little Neons and other fish disappear! That graceful Angel cruising about your tank has probably just swallowed them.

If you are starting to get into the hobby and are starting to breed
some of the easier fish like guppies or platies there is never a problem in getting rid of deformed or unwanted small fish. Your Angel will be quite prepared to do that nasty job for you. (Provided they are a nice bit size!)

Lastly, you will be tempted to get many fish at the beginning of your tank’s life, Don’t.
Add a few species at a time and make sure your knowledge is up to the task. Read more books and find out more information ont he species you are interested in.

Have fun and get into the breeding of your fish because that is when you will become better at keeping them. To get fish to breed is both a rewarding and exciting challenge if you get it right. (may be even more rewarding than breeding yourself)

When you have graduated from beginner status to expert, try some of the more difficult breeds. My favorites are the Cichlid family, some of which live a long time and most of which will become true pets and interact with you and come to be fed and even appear to know you.

Don’t try the Discus Cichlid as a first or even second/third fish.
Get a [air only when you have successfully kept some of the easier types and are looking for a challenge.

Conclusion.
We have covered all the different types of tropical fish. Make sure you perform adequate research before deciding on the right species to keep. It is always better to spend more time and money in the beginning as it is easier to make changes, saving you exponentially more time, money and effort in the future.


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