There are thousands of different species of fish kept in aquariums and tanks across the world today. These animals can be kept as exotic decorations for a home or office, or as beloved family pets. Some require carefully designed habitats and specific diets while others can live in, and eat, almost anything.
Below is a list of 15 of the most popular colorful fish species on the market ranked from least popular to most. This ranking is not definitive and every fish owner has their own favorites but these can help tank and aquarium owners decide which fish to buy.
When buying a fish for a tank or aquarium it is very important to research what the fish needs in order to survive. You need to know what environment to create, what to feed the fish and what health conditions to look out for. You also need to watch out for any other plants or animals you put in the tank to make sure they are all compatible.
15. Sailfin Mollies
Sailfin mollies are one of the more common breeds of fish in tanks and aquariums. They are a peaceful species that can adapt easily to many different tank environments, including salt and fresh water. Mollies do best in large schools with only a few males and many females, but will suffer when put in tanks with larger, more aggressive fish.
14. Pearl Gourami
The pearl gourami is one of the easiest fish in the gourami family to keep, being a hardy and even tempered breed. They are named after the many black and white spots that cover their bodies which make it looks like they are covered in pearls. Pearl gourami are unique because they have labyrinth organs which take oxygen out of the air instead of water, so they need to surface regularly to breathe.
13. Endler’s Livebearers
Endler’s Livebearers are a small and easy to care for fish with a peaceful disposition, making them perfect for beginner aquarium owners. They are very closely related to guppies, and in fact have been bred with guppies such as the fancytail to create the many colorful species of livebearer that exist today. Due to their small size Endler’s livebearers can be easily bullied by larger and more aggressive fish so they should be kept with other small, peaceful fish.
The Swordtail is perhaps one of the most peaceful and agreeable aquarium fish on the market today. They adapt easily to most tank environments as long as they have room to move, although the tank should have a cover since swordtails are known to jump out of their tanks if given the chance. Swordtails also do not form schools and males can be aggressive towards other swordtails when competing for mates. For this reason it is important to keep more female swordtails than males to prevent competition.
11. Rainbow Parrotfish
Rainbow parrotfish are a rare and beautiful species of aquarium fish, but their specific environment and feeding requirements mean that are suited for beginners. Parrotfish come in a wide range of vibrant colors and can grow from 12 to 20 inches long, making them extremely large for a tank fish. Parrotfish are named for their beak-like mouths which they use to scrap algae off rocks and coral. Because of this and their slow speed you should not place them in tanks with faster algae-eating species that might eat all of their potential food.
10. Cherry Barbs
Cherry barbs are famous for their vibrant red and orange scale as well as their tendency to form large, brightly colored schools. They are a very peaceful species and get along with other fish well but they are most active when in a school of other cherry barbs, so it is important to keep small groups of them. Cherry barbs do best in a low light environment with plenty of vegetation to hide behind.
9. Flowerhorn Cichlids
The flowerhorn cichlid is a rare man-made species of cichlid known for its striking scale colors and unusual heads. Flowerhorns are large fish, measuring 1 foot long or more, and so they need a large tank of warm water to thrive. They are a very aggressive species and their large size can make them dangerous to other fish. Flowerhorns are best kept in pairs alongside other fish too large and aggressive to bully. They also require a lot of food given their size, but are not particularly picky eaters.
Killifish are a striking group of aquarium fish that, depending on the specific species, come in a variety of vibrant colors. Killifish are able to survive in most environments but will require either salt or fresh water depending on the specific species. Killifish are mostly peaceful but males can be aggressive and territorial with each other. They are also mostly carnivores with a preference for live food such as brine shrimp and tubifex worms, although some species are omnivores.
7. Neon Tetras
The neon tetra lives up to its name, sporting a neon blue stripe that runs the length of its colorful, inch long body. For this reason and because they are so easy to maintain they are sometimes called the ‘Jewel of the Aquarium’. Neon tetras will adapt to most environments, although they will suffer if the environment around them is constantly changing, and get along well with most fish. In fact, the biggest problem you might have with neon tetras and other fish is having large or aggressive fish swallow the much smaller tetra, either on purpose or by accident.
6. Mandarin Fish
The mandarin fish is perhaps the most striking and unique fish on this list, sporting a wide array of different color patterns. Despite their vibrant appearance mandarin fish are slow moving, shy and generally prefer to live at the bottom of fish tanks away from other fish. They can be aggressive towards each other but get along well with most other species. The only real sticking point with this species is their diets, they are carnivores that only feed on living rock at the bottom of tanks and they eat almost constantly. Copepods are a good choice of food for this species.
The clownfish was made famous by the 2003 Disney-Pixar movie ‘Finding Nemo’, but there is more to this fish than its film debut. It is not difficult to create the warm saltwater environment they need, with or without anemones, and are incredibly easy to feed. They get along well with other species and only become aggressive around different species of clownfish, so you should only keep one species per tank. Perhaps the only drawback of the clownfish is how shy they are, preferring to stay in hiding places away from other fish most of the time.
Guppies are one of the most common and well-known aquarium fish on the market, and for good reasons. There are many species of guppy and they come in almost every color and have earned the nickname ‘Rainbow Fish’ for this. Guppies get along well with each other and other fish, although sometimes males can get territorial with other males. They are a very active species and take little effort to feed, but require a warm, clean freshwater environment to live in. Also, guppies breed quickly so a tank with males and females could get overwhelmed if not properly managed.
3. Crowntail Betta
Crowntail bettas truly live up to their names, being famous for their massive fins which can be three times the size of their bodies. This combined with their vibrant scale patterns ranging from dark red to bright orange makes them very striking. However, they require a lot of care and attention to maintain. They need a special environment, are known to jump out of their tanks, are strictly carnivores, and are extremely aggressive with other fish. This is because they were bred as fighting fish in Thailand and are designed to be as violent as possible.
2. Emperor Angelfish
The emperor angelfish is definitely not a fish for beginners in tank and aquarium care. Fully grown they can measure 1’ 4” long and are known to be aggressive with any fish that is small enough to bully or looks like another angelfish. They are also a strictly saltwater fish and need a large, open tank to swim around in. Still they are incredibly beautiful and come in many vibrant color patterns making them stand out in any tank due to their unique yellow and blue stripe pattern.
Discus fish are often called the ‘Kings of the Aquarium’ due to their large size and bright color patterns. These fish can be 8-10 inches long, which is very large for an aquarium fish, with a thin body that comes in a variety of colors including reds, blues, greens and yellows. While they are beautiful and generally peaceful, in order to keep a discus healthy they need an environment similar to their home in the Amazon. This means high temperatures, plenty of wood and plants for them to maneuver around, and keeping a very delicate chemical balance.
Maintaining an aquarium or fish tank can be a rewarding, if sometimes difficult experience. Fish can liven up a room or become cherished pets if properly taken care of. This list was designed to help fish enthusiasts by discussing 15 of the most popular fish available.
As stated in the beginning, when picking fish for an aquarium or tank it is important to think about what they need and how they will interact with each other.