15 Low Maintenance Fish for a Stress-Free Tank

Aquariums are meant to be relaxing and stress-free. However sometimes people choose fish that are both demanding and sensitive. Or bad tempered, easily stressed, etc.

If you’re looking for fish that are both low maintenance and stress-free, you’re in luck because there are dozens of species that meet your needs. However I’ve laid out the 15 best choices for smooth sailing here!

Disclaimer: No fish are 100% “hands off”. When I say “low maintenance”, I simply sharing my opinion based on personal experience. Like any pet, all fish require upkeep and regular care.


15 Low Maintenance Fish for a Stress-Free Tank

Here are 15 low maintenance fish that you should consider stocking in your tank:

Betta

Feeding betta fish

Bettas just might be the ultimate low maintenance fish for a stress-free tank! As beautiful as they are hardy, there are next to no downsides to keeping them, besides their occasionally poor social skills.

Betta males are infamous for being aggressive and are typically seen swimming solo in glass bowls on the pet store shelves. This is only partially true.

Betta males will fight each other to the death. However they are much gentler towards female Bettas. And they tend to ignore most of their tank mates if kept with other fish.

While Bettas are cold tolerant, they are still tropical fish and should have a heater at all times. They prefer temperatures ranging from 75-84℉; much warmer than room temperature!

A filter also ensures their water quality remains good, they eat well and actively explore their tank. If ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate is allowed to build up, it not only causes stress but increases their chances of catching diseases.

When well cared for Bettas can live up to 5 years, busily building bubble nests and eagerly awaiting their next feeding. Considering how personable they are, many aquarists even take the time to name their Betta!

  • Scientific Name: Betta splendens
  • Origin: Thailand
  • Size: 2 to 3 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful to Semi-Aggressive

Zebra Danio

zebra danios

Many of the tropical fish found in pet stores actually do just as well in cold water aquariums. Goldfish are the most common choice but many smaller, more colorful fish are options.

Zebra Danios are one of my favorite low maintenance fish. Small, handsomely patterned, very hardy, and easy to spawn, they are excellent beginner fish. Like all Danios they hail from South Asia where they normally swim in cool, well aerated mountain streams.

As a result they can live comfortably in room temperature water and tropical environments up to 75℉ before stress sets in. Being Cyprinids, Zebra Danios are closely related to Barbs and Goldfish.

And like these fish, they are hearty omnivores! So feed them both plant and animal matter. Prepared foods like flakes and pellets, frozen foods like brine shrimp, and spirulina flakes all contribute to good color and eventual spawning!

Zebra Danios also come in several morphs, including Golden Zebras, Albinos, Leopard, and Longfin Zebra Danios. All will get along splendidly and willingly reproduce with one another.

  • Scientific Name: Danio rerio
  • Origin: South Asia
  • Size: 1½ – 2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Schooling

Platy

platy fish

Livebearers are famous for being stress free and easy to care for. This group includes not only Platies but their close cousins the Swordtail, Guppy, and Molly. Each has their charms but I find Platies to be tied with Guppies for being the most low maintenance fish around.

Platies will eat absolutely anything. They will pick at hair algae and blanched vegetables, snap up flakes, frozen food, and anything else you offer them.

Platies also come in an incredible array of colors. In fact, even two parents that look alike may have fry that grow up into a rainbow thanks to their well mixed genetics.

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Assuming you wish to raise the fry, you’ll need to move the female to a separate breeding box before she gives birth. Livebearers are infamous for eating their own young; even the mother will eventually turn on them in time.

Otherwise they are model community residents that will ignore the majority of their tank mates and cause no trouble.

  • Scientific Name: Xiphophorus maculatus, variatus
  • Origin: Mexico
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Dwarf Otocinclus

Otocinclus

Choosing an algae eater for a community tank can be a real hassle. Some, such as the Common Plecostomus, grow large and aggressive with age. However the Dwarf Otocinclus is a peaceful, schooling alternative that stays under 2 inches.

They are just as good at eating algae as their larger cousins. In fact they are even better algae eaters in planted aquariums because they are very gentle with fine leaves and delicate plants.

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Once they’ve cleaned your tank of algae you should provide them prepared and fresh vegetarian food. They can’t compete with other fish during the day so feed them either in the morning or evening.

As Amazonian natives you should keep your Otos in elevated tropical temperatures (75-84℉). They also prefer soft, acidic to neutral conditions (pH 5.5-7.0).

  • Scientific Name: Otocinclus vittatus
  • Origin: Amazon River
  • Size: 1 to 1½ inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Schooling

Goldfish

goldfish tank

Most of us have kept a Goldfish at one point or another. They are the very definition of stress-free. So long as you keep their aquarium clean and free of ammonia, that is!

Notice that I did say aquarium instead of bowl. Not everyone knows this but Goldfish can grow anywhere from 8 to 24 inches when fully grown! Even the smallest breeds will outgrow a glass bowl, or more likely die as their waste products accumulate.

So make sure you have a tank or pond for your Goldfish. As omnivores they will eat next to anything you provide for them. However they also have a taste for soft plants like Cabomba and Anacharis.

Goldfish also love digging so don’t get too attached to your plants staying in one place for very long!

With literally hundreds of goldfish varieties in existence, they are some of the most diverse fish when it comes to choices. And they all have similar care requirements so mix and match as you please!

  • Scientific Name: Carassius auratus
  • Origin: East Asia
  • Size: 8 to 24 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

White Cloud Minnow

closeup of a white cloud minnow

As Cyprinids, White Cloud Minnows are tiny cousins to Goldfish and Barbs. Sometimes known as the Poor Man’s Neon Tetra, White Clouds have been in the hobby for decades but have never been super popular.

Like Neon Tetras, they have a broad iridescent stripe that catches the light and helps them signal to mates and rivals.

However these are definitely cold water fish. They prefer temperatures between 62-72℉. Colder is fine and they even do well at 41℉!

Beyond 72℉ they start to get stressed and fade in color. Males have a ruby red nose, red fin edges, and a brighter body stripe. While they will compete for females White Cloud Minnows are mostly peaceful and can be kept as a group even in small nano tanks.

White Clouds greedily devour any sort of tiny prepared or live foods. They also prefer their water conditions as close to neutral as possible (pH 6.5-7.5) with moderate to low water hardness.

  • Scientific Name: Tanichthys albonubes
  • Origin: Southern China & Northern Vietnam
  • Size: 1½ inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Schooling

Guppy

guppy fish

Guppies just might be even easier to breed than other livebearers! Another common name for them is “Million Fish” because they will readily breed even in not so clean conditions.

Unfortunately, they tend to eat their young if they don’t have a safe place to avoid their parents. Fortunately, in an aquarium with lots of living space or dense plants like Guppy Grass (Naja guadalupensis), you can expect some of the fry to reach maturity.

Guppies are also low maintenance when it comes to living with other fish. The males will chase females with gusto and occasionally get into small spats with each other. However they typically ignore other fish and are entirely peaceful.

Guppies are omnivores but lean slightly towards the animal protein side. They especially love mosquito larvae, blood worms, and other insect larvae. However they will also consume softer algae varieties.

  • Scientific Name: Poecilia reticulata
  • Origin: South America
  • Size: 1 to 1½ inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Ghost Shrimp

This next low maintenance pet is an invertebrate and scavenger! Ghost Shrimp are typically thought of as feeders as best. But they are actually great pets so long as you keep them with fish too small to eat them. Other than Goldfish, any fish on this list is a great tank mate for them!

Ghost Shrimp get their name from their near-transparent camouflage that helps them blend into the plant choked marshes they call home.

They often look pale and unappealing in stores. But they take on complex marbled patterns and red antennae once they settle into a mature aquarium! And being so inexpensive there’s no reason not to get a small group of these lively shrimp!

When it’s time to eat Ghost Shrimp will usually swim straight through the water column, eagerly reaching for flakes and other tidbits. As North American natives they can tolerate both cold and hot extremes; 65-80℉ and a wide range of water chemistries.

  • Scientific Name: Palaemonetes paludosus
  • Origin: North America
  • Size: 1 inch
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Ramshorn Snail

Ramshorn Snails are also extremely low maintenance and stress-free. They can sometimes be a little too easy to keep because they are famous for their ability to breed like rabbits!

Unlike many animals, these snails are hermaphrodites. This means they possess both male and female organs and can self-fertilize if there are no mates around. One snail can become hundreds in just a few weeks.

However it’s not all bad. Ramshorn Snails are excellent detritivores, eating leftover food, dead plant matter, fish waste, and algae. They also come in several attractive colors and are one of the more active snail species.

In order to keep their numbers in check, there are a few things you can do. Adding a piece of fresh lettuce or zucchini clipped near the bottom at night will attract them. You can then remove as many as you need to keep their population down.

You can also add predators like Pea Puffer Fish or Assassin Snails, both of which love to eat Ramshorn Snails!

  • Scientific Name: Planorbidae family
  • Origin: Worldwide
  • Size: Up to 1 inch in diameter
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Neon Tetra

neon tetra dither fish

Neon Tetras are one of the fish you immediately think of when the word “aquarium” comes up! They are some of the oldest fish in the hobby. And having been tank bred for decades they thrive in a wide range of temperature and pH extremes.

Still, like most Tetras, they do prefer tropical conditions and soft, acidic water. However they aren’t nearly as sensitive as their close cousin the Cardinal Tetra. Since Cardinals are typically wild caught they are more demanding in terms of water quality.

Neon Tetras are easier to breed than most Tetras but can still be a bit of a challenge. Providing loads of fresh live foods and Amazonian water conditions is the best way to condition them for spawning.

They are schooling fish that live in groups of hundreds to thousands of individuals in nature. Never keep them in groups smaller than 6 fish as they tend to be skittish otherwise.

  • Scientific Name: Paracheirodon innesi
  • Origin: South America
  • Size: 1½ inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Schooling

Dwarf Gourami

Blue Dwarf Gourami

Gouramis are a diverse group of South and Southeast Asian fish. Most are medium to large in size however the Dwarf Gourami is a small, low maintenance, stress-free option for the small community tank.

Like Bettas, they can breathe atmospheric air to supplement the oxygen they get from the water. Males will also build bubble nests and try to coax females to spawn beneath them.

Dwarf Gourami males are much more colorful and will compete for females. However they aren’t nearly as aggressive as Bettas and multiple males can live together when given at least 10 gallons of space each

All Gouramis prefer temperatures from 76-84℉ and a pH between 5.5-7.0. As carnivores they should be offered a mixture of appropriately sized prepared foods and small prey like brine shrimp and daphnia!

  • Scientific Name: Trichogaster lalius
  • Origin: South Asia
  • Size: 3 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Territorial

Cherry Barb

cherry barb

Barbs can be a bit of a hassle at times. Many, including Tiger Barbs, can be fin nippers and territorial. Others, like the TInfoil Barb, will outgrow all but the largest of aquariums.

Cherry Barbs are some of the most peaceful of this group of highly active fish. These Barbs come from the island of Sri Lanka and live in schools within weedy streams and rivers.

They occupy the same environmental niche as Tetras: small, schooling micro predators with a taste for insect larvae and other tiny items.

Both sexes are handsomely patterned but the males have a ruby red shade that becomes intensely crimson when ready to spawn! It’s always a good idea to provide them with dense plants like Java Moss to catch the eggs they eventually scatter about!

  • Scientific Name: Puntius titteya
  • Origin: Sri Lanka
  • Size: 1½ inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Schooling

Kuhli Loach

pangio kuhli

Loaches are some of my favorite bottom dwellers. Unlike many Catfish, they are very active during the day and not shy about feeding. Most are also social and peaceful towards their tank mates.

Kuhli Loaches are probably the most popular species because they are small, colorful, and very unusually shaped. Like all Loaches, they love to burrow and should be given a fine sand substrate to live in. Otherwise, their soft scaleless skin is prone to getting scratched by gravel.

Loaches love invertebrates; live tubifex, bloodworms, and other prey are their favorite foods. However they will also go for prepared foods that find their way to the bottom.

Kuhli Loaches are some of the only Loaches that will breed in captivity, but you usually need a planted tank with soft, acidic conditions for them to develop eggs.

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While they are low maintenance and stress-free, they do best in near black water conditions (pH 5.0-6.5) with plenty of tannins from driftwood and decaying plants buffering the water towards acidity.

If you don’t want to add driftwood to the tank, consider using water additives that replicate their natural conditions. Other blackwater fish include Discus, Cardinal Tetras, and Angelfish!

  • Scientific Name: Pangio kuhlii
  • Origin: Malaysia & Indonesia
  • Size: 4 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Black Skirt Tetra

black skirt tetra

While subdued in coloration, Black Skirt Tetras are a popular choice for aquarists looking for low maintenance fish for a stress-free tank. They are larger than most Tetras but still quite peaceful.

Their fins are naturally a little longer, hence their popular name. There are also long-finned varieties with fins more like veils!

These hearty carnivores love anything meaty, including brine shrimp and bloodworms alongside standard flakes and pellets.

Black Skirt Tetras are also one of the main species of Glofish in the hobby today. Glofish are the first commercially available genetically engineered pets! They use jellyfish and coral DNA to fluoresce under UV lighting.

They can breed true with wild type Black Skirt Tetras and pass on this trait. Their care is also identical so mix and match as you please!

  • Scientific Name: Gymnocorymbus ternetzi
  • Origin: Brazil
  • Size: 2½ inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Schooling

Celestial Pearl Danio

Danio margaritatus - celestial pearl danio

Celestial Pearl Danios (CPDs) are some of the hottest commodities right now. They are tiny nano fish from Myanmar that are popular for planted aquariums because they have stunning coloration.

While a little more exotic than most of the fish on this list, CPDs are very easy to care for. The only major requirements are that they prefer their water conditions as close to neutral as possible (pH 6.5-7.5) and slightly cooler than most tropical fish (70-75℉).

Unlike most Danios they aren’t true schooling fish. CPDs create small territories where the males compete for the attention of wandering groups of females.

Make sure you have plenty of decorations and plants for the males to form territories around because they tend to fight continually if not given borders to defend.

They are otherwise rather shy and should be given plenty of plant cover to feel secure. CPDs are entirely peaceful towards their tank mates and some of the most stress-free fish around!

  • Scientific Name: Danio margaritatus
  • Origin: Myanmar
  • Size: 1 inch
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Shy

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