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The Best Cold Water Fish For A Low-Maintenance Tank

If you’re starting your own home aquarium, you may be tempted into thinking that a warm aquarium is the only way to go. But what if you don’t want to buy a heater – or if a warm-water set up just isn’t the right choice for you?

Don’t worry! You still have plenty of options. There are plenty of fish that require no heating element, and you can easily start your own aquarium habitat without having to invest in an expensive heater.

Cold Water Fish

The Allure Of Cold-Water Fish

Cold water fish, as the name implies, are those that not only survive but thrive in colder temperatures. In fact, there are plenty of cold-water fish who cannot live in warm waters that you normally use to house tropical fish.

Therefore, there are many species of cold water aquarium fish that you can keep in species-only tanks. However, cold water tanks tend to be much cheaper – you won’t have to buy heaters or use up electricity tin order to run the m – and they also tend to be lower maintenance. After all, you won’t have to worry about keeping the water temperatures up!

Furthermore, algae has a more difficult time developing and growing in cold environments. You will need to make sure you clean your tank, still, of course, but you will likely find that your cleaning duties are drastically reduced.

The Best Cold Water Fish For A Low-Maintenance Tank

Ready to get started? Consider some of these top coldwater tank species.

1 Fancy Goldfish

Fancy Goldfish 2
Photo by Goldfish Eiei

The name may say fancy, but there’s nothing high-maintenance about these fish at all! Fancy goldfish are bred selectively from the Prussian carp. Although common goldfish aren’t great aquarium inhabitants, growing to massive sizes and requiring aquariums that are no smaller than 150 gallons, fancy goldfish don’t get nearly as large.

In addition, fancy goldfish tend to move around more slowly than their common cousins.t hey can easily be housed in a 40-gallon breeding tank – you can easily fit two goldfish in this size tank. They are fun to own as they are extremely interactive. Plus, they thrive in most home environments.

You can keep your fancy goldfish in a tank that is between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They can survive wider rangers, getting as cold as freezing and as hot as 90 degrees, but you may notice drastic changes in behavior and an increased likelihood of disease at these temperatures. Therefore, you will be better off keeping your goldfish at mor enetural temperatures.

These fish are highly social, so it is recommended that you keep them in paris of in a group. They aren’t finicky when it comes to their food, but you will want to fee stem mostly plant-based pellets and vegetables as too much protein can cause them to bloat. You might also want to feed them blanched vegetables once a week to keep them healthy.

2 White Cloud Mountain Minnow

White Cloud Mountain Minnow
Photo by animalisterra

These small schooling fish can be found in two different color varieties – the normal pattern and the gold color. They usually only reach about an inch and a half in length. As fast swimmers, they should be kept in 20 gallon tanks. This will give them plenty of room to move around.

These fish can handle temperatures between 40 and 80 degrees but prefer to be in these ame temperature range as goldfish. They aren’t great tank mates for goldfish, however, so don’t think that just because they can tolerate the same temperatures that you should keep them in this range. There’s a chance that your goldfish will try to eat them since they are so small.

Nevertheless, these charming little fish are great additions to most tanks. Because they have gorgeous, glitter scales and an iridescent shine, they will add a nice complement to just about any cold water tank setting.

3 Rosy Red Minnow

Rosy Red Minnow
Photo by Sunland water Gardens

These fish are a selectively bred species, closely related to the gray fathead minnow. These fish are small, rarely growing over two inches. They some school but sometimes don’t. Nevertheless, you should consider investing in at least six of these fish, as they are condenser social species.

They can tolerate a massive temperature range, which is part of what makes them so attractive to novice fish keepers who are trying to set up a coldwater community environment. Ideally, these fish should be housed in temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees, but they can be kept in waters that are as cold as freezing or as hot as 100 degrees.

Remember that with these fish, the higher the empteruate, the quicker the metabolism and the short rehte lifespan. Keep them in colder waters to keep them healthy. Nevertheless, these fish are hardy species that makes them an ideal piece for beginners looking to keep a low-maintenance tank.

4 Asian Stone Catfish

These fish don’t have quite as large of a temperate range as some of the other fish we have mentioned, but they are still unique fish that do quite well in completely unheated aquariums.

Asian stone catfish should be kept in a temperate range of 60 to 75 degrees. They can’t survive outside a range that is much larger than that. They are unique in their appearance and small size, one of the few fish that can live their entire lives in a five gallon aquarium – and they’re even more unique because they are one of the few catfish species that can do this.

A ten gallon tank is ideal for this fish species because it is a schooling fish. You should try to keep three to six of the small 1.5-inch fish in the same tank.

5 Weather Loach

Weather Loach
Photo by Duca di Spinaci

Also known as the Dojo loach, this common loach has a dense, cylindrical body. It is quite cute despite its large size. Often, it will grow up to ten inches long, and needs a relatively large school of compulsion to keep it comfortable. This fish can be found in two different color varieties – gold as well as a black-spotted silver variety. These fish need to be kept in groups of six and should be housed on sand substrate.

Why? Weather loaches are burrowing fish. If they try to burrow down into gravel, there is a good chance that they will hurt themselves. As a result, keep them on a soft substrate in terms of substrate, these fish are quite adaptable. They can be housed in tanks that range from 0 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

6 Paradise Fish

Paradise Fish
Photo by Daniella Vereeken

As the name suggests, the paradise fish is one that will conjure up images of a tropical paradise with its gorgeous colors and elegant appearance. However, this fish is not designed for tropical waters, instead preferring waters with temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees Fharneheit. As a result, it’s the perfect candidate for an unheated tank.

The paradise fish has the reputation of being a bit aggressive. It can also be exceptionally nippy. As a result, you will need to exercise caution with the tank mates that you choose. Give Your fish plenty of space to swim around – at least 30 gallons -so that it has room to move and explore.

This fish is quite beautiful to look at, possessing gorgeous flowing fins and a vibrant coloration. It can reach about four inches long and is easy to feed. As long as you provide it with appropriate tank mates that will not be the target of the paradise fish’s aggression and nipping behaviors, you can easily house it in a community aquarium.

7 Medaka Ricefish

The medaka rice fish is another popular coldwater fish. It is one of several types of ricefish that can tolerate low temperatures, but it is perhaps the most cold-tolerant ricefish of them all. This species is difficult to find in many pet stores, but if you can find one, it will be well worth your time. It’s beautiful to behold and is quickly becoming a more widespread, popular species of fish.

This is a great species for raising in an outdoor pond. You can keep it with other small fish, like white cloud mountain minnows or rosy red minnows, as it is a peaceful community species. This fish can tolerate temperatures as cold as 40 degrees and as warm as 105, making it a great candidate for an outdoor pond.

Most medaka rice fish have lovely orange colors, which stand out sharply against the white rims on their fins. They are absolutely gorgeous to view and since they get along with so many other species, they’re a fish worthy of inclusion in your cold water tank.

8 Odessa Barb

Odessa Barb
Photo by Jason Sleator

An attractive fish that prefers to be housed in a school, the Odessa Barb is the perfect candidate for a cold water tank environment. This fish has scales ringed with black along with black-spotted fins, bold red stripes, and a stunning overall appearance. These fish should be kept with multiple companions – at least five others – in order to keep them happy and healthy.

This fish looks quite stunning in a schooling group. They can live in tanks that range between 65 and 75 degrees. Try not to keep these fish in communities with tetras or barbs, both of which have a tendency to nip if they are in too-small schools. Increasing the size of the respective species’ schooling group can often eliminate this behavior.

9 Rosy Barb

Rosy Barb
Photo by groovysuvi

The rosy barb is ideal for a large tank – ideally one that is 50 gallons or larger. It is rare for these fish to reach six inches of length, but you will need to keep them in school for a minimum of six individuals.

These fish are impressive in terms of their gorgeous pink and red colors. They also reach impressive sizes – six inches isn’t that large, but it’s truly something to behold when it is in such a large group.

Rosy barbs prefer to be housed in tanks that are between 65 and 75 degrees Fharenheit. They have long fins which are interesting to see, but can make them a subject of fin nipping if you house them with species that are prone to this kind of behavior. To avoid this, you can select a short-finned variety of the Rosy Barb or house them with species that aren’t prone to nipping behaviors.

Rosy barbs should be housed in planted tanks – the red against the green will truly be a remarkable sight to behold.

10 Gold Barb

Gold Barb
Photo by Randy Keats

Another barb species on our list, the Gold barb is more similar to the Odessa barb than it is the rosy barb, particularly in regards to its size. Usually it will only reach about three inches long. It has a pattern that is similar to the Odessa barb, with golden scales that have black rings around the perimeters.

These fish like tanks that are between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, you will want to house them in a rank that is between 20 and 30 inches long. This will give the fish plenty of space to swim around. You should be able to keep six fish in a tank of this size. As with other barbs we’ve mentioned, these fish fit well into a community tank setting – although they can be somewhat nippy.

11 Pygmy Sunfish

Pygmy Sunfish
Photo by Uland Thomas

There are multiple species of pygmy sunfish for you to choose from. All of these are quite beautiful to look at and are also exceptionally colorful. Pygmy sunfish can tolerate temperatures ranging from 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, a vast range that is especially helpful if you aren’t sure where to start.

These fish can be kept in tanks as small as just five or ten gallons. Often, they are kept in ponds, not due to their size but because of their broad temperature tolerance. Although they can survive in a wide range of temperatures, we recommend keeping them between 60 and 75 degrees.

Pygmy sunfish do best in species-only tanks rather than community settings. This is because they are quite small, shy, and somewhat picky when it comes to food.

12 Bloodfin Tetra

Bloodfin Tetra
Photo by Juan Valdivieso Vicuña

The Bloodfin Tetra is a lovely schooling fish that will make a great addition to tanks 30 gallons or larger. These fish have remarkably silver bodies with vibrant red color patterns. They usually grow to about two inches in length, but they should be kept in schools of at least six different individuals.

These fish are easy to feed. They are not picky in the slightest, which makes feeding them an easy chore.

However, you need to make sure you keep bloodfin tetras in group with their own kind. This will prevent stress and also enhance the feeling of security that they have in the tank. A schooling fish that is not housed with its own kind will be easily stressed unless it has ample tank mates to keep it company.

13 Platy Fish

Platy Fish
Photo by Kevin

The platy is a very common aquarium fish. Often, it is sold as a starter fish. This fish can reach a whopping four inches in length, so you will want to start it out in a 20 gallon tank and then potentially move it to a tank that is 55 gallons or larger.

A live bearing fish, this fish need to be kept a ratio of two females for every one male. Females can become pregnant and give birth to up to 30 babies every four weeks. Without population controls in place, you might find that your platy population quickly grows out of hand. That being said, platies do have a tendency to exhibit cannibalistic behaviors – you may find that only a few babies survive from each hatch.

These fish are tolerant of a vast array of water temperatures, from 60 to 85 degrees, but the best range is 70 to 85. Therefore, they aren’t as well adapted to colder temperatures as other fish, but they can still make as suitable addition to your cold water tank.

14 Panda Corydoras

 Panda Corydoras
Photo by gsaingtw

There are multiple types of corydoras catfish in the world. Some are suitable for cold water while others are more well adapted to warm water living. That being said, the panda Cory is one of the best fish for lower temperatures, with the ability to survive at temperatures ranging from 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some people keep their panda corydoras with goldfish. Since these fish reach up to three inches, they aren’t usually small enough for your goldfish to munch on. However you need to be careful about the fish you do choose to keep with your panda corydoras. This is because this unique fish has several spines and spikes along its body, and if a fish tries to eat one – even unsuccessfully – the spines can become lodged in the fish’s throat.

Often, this results in the death of the goldfish as well as the corydoras catfish. It’s not a risk you are going to want to take!

Corydoras are schooling fish that are also quite active. You should keep them in groups of six or more to help their personalities shine.

15 Mosquito Fish

Just as the name might lead you to believe, the mosquito fish is a tiny little fish that does quite well in a wide variety of temperatures. These fish look quite similar to guppies but are unique in that they can tolerate temperatures as low as 40 degrees and a high as 80. They are uncommon species in the aquarium trade because they have a tendency to be nippy.

However, they are often overlooked because they aren’t as colorful as most guppies. Instead of offering a wide array of colors and patterns, they tend to instead be a bold gray color. You can’t keep guppies in an outdoor pond, but mosquito fish can be kept just about anywhere – they are highly tolerant of a diversity of water temperatures and will also help keep local mosquito population down, ironically!

16 Bristlenose Plecos

Photo by Jonathan “Howie” Howard

Bristlenose Plecos are small versions of Plecostomus catfish. They usually only reach a maximum of five inches in size Often sold as algae eaters, these fish have voracious appetites that rivals that of a goldfish. They also produce a massive bio load on your aquarium, so if you raise one of these fish, it’s important that you have the filtration system and time on your hands to accommodate for the intensive cleaning needs.

Nevertheless, these fish can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. They also offer a prehistoric appearance and an amazing personality. They don’t do a lot in terms of cleaning up algae – and will actually produce more waste for your tank than they clean up – but nevertheless they are still a joy to keep.

17 Least Killifish

Least Killifish
Photo by Anttanager

The smallest known livebearer, the Least Killifish has somewhat of a misnomer. This fish is certainly not least! It is, however, quite small, and very tolerant of a wide range of temperatures.

As a livebearer, this fish does not give birth in the way that a guppy or platy might, producing 30 babies at once. However, it will release a single fully developed fry every couple of days. It can tolerate temperatures ranging from 65 to 80 degrees, which most people can easily handle. Temperature variance is not a problem – you really don’t need to worry about including a heater or any other heat-controlling device unless you find that the temperature in your tank fluctuate more than two degrees every hour.

This small fish usually only reaches about three quarters of an inch, rarely growing larger than an inch and a half. They do well in small tanks – you can even keep them in tiny five-gallon tanks. Just make sure the tank is heavily planted, as this fish can be quite shy.

18 Danios

Photo by Wutthichai Nangkasem

Danios are tiny, fast-moving schooling fish. If you choose to keep one of these fish, you will want to make sure you provide it with plenty of swimming space. Ideally, a 20 gallon tank will be the best starting place, with larger tanks even better.

There are several types of danios, many of which can grow larger than five inches. In those cases, you will need a large tank of at least 20 to 30 gallons. You can choose from a range of hardy danio species, including zebra, leopard, or long-finned danios. All prefer temperatures around 65 to 75 degrees but many can survive at 60 to 80 degrees, too.

19 One-Sided Livebearer

A one-sided livebearer is rare to find in the aquarium trade, but we don’t know why – it’s a gorgeous species that reproduces rapidly and can tolerate a wide variety of tank temperatures.

This fish has a gorgeous silver or light tan coloration, along with black and gray horizontal spots. A quickly-reproducing fish, this species has a gestation period of only about sixty days. They will produce ten to twenty fry after gestation.

You may find that the parents prey on the fry, so it’s important to remove the fry from the parents as soon as they are born.

Otherwise, this tiny fish is easy to care for. It usually only reaches about an inch in size, and it’s a true coldwater fish that can thrive at colder temperatures. It does well in tanks that range from 60 to 73 degrees.

20 Empire Gudgeon

Another rare, gorgeous fish is the empire gudgeon. This fish has a tan and red body along with bright red fins. It also has black and white bands that are quite impressive to look at.

This fish does well in tanks ranging from 65 to 90 degrees. It requires plenty of frozen foods but can also eat some live options. A wild caught fish, this species is used to preying on insects and crustaceans in the wild. You can replicate this through feeding out frozen foods like daphnia, blood worms, mosquito larvae, and brine shrimp.

21 Galaxy Rasbora

Also referred to as the celestial pearl danio, this gorgeous tiny fish only reaches about an inch long. It can be found with a gray body with whit speckles, but some have unique orange fins. This fish does well in a planted ten-gallon tank, but will need at least five other companions, as it is a schooling fish.

These fish can tolerate temperatures as cool as 65 degrees and as warm as 75. They aren’t picky eaters, but they can be quite shy.

22 Rainbow Goodeid

An absolutely adorable fish, this coldwater fish almost looks like its smiling with its unique, cute face. It looks somewhat like a puffer fish and has horizontal black stripes along with spots in the center of its body. Some also look orange.

This livebearing fish often is not found in the aquarium hobby, despite the fact that it is easy to care for. It is only known to reach about two inches, and is often kept in species-only tanks. It prefers temperatures between 65 and 73 degrees, and high temperatures can actually be quite harmful.

Is A Cold Water Fish Right For Me?

If you want to keep fish but don’t think you have the setting appropriate for a warm-water tank, one of these cold water fish species might be the perfect choice for you. Not only are they easy to care for, but they offer gorgeous appearances and pleasant demeanor that can quickly make them the new focal points of your living room – or wherever you choose to place your versatile cold water tank.

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