Freshwater aquariums are popular additions to anyone’s home, and they fire the imaginations of novice and expert aquarists alike. The possibilities for set-up and design are almost endless. When it comes time to stock your tank the choices are almost as infinite, with variations in color, size, and unique characteristics abounding in the aquatic kingdom.
It’s always important to research the particular needs of your chosen fish (habitat requirements, diet preferences, and ideal tank mates) prior to visiting the fish store. This guide serves as a reference to 100 of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish out there (yes, there are even more!) – you’ll still want to do your homework. After all, as amazing as some of these fish are, not all of them are practical for every aquarium.
Now let’s dive in!
“Labyrinth” fish are named for the labyrinth organ: a cavity covered with bony plates called lamellae that contain membranes that allow for the absorption of oxygen; this is in addition to their gills. These fish “gulp” air from the surface – something you need to be aware of as this is a sign of stress in other fish. The labyrinth organ develops as the fish age, and these species don’t have well-developed gills; they will need to have access to air at the top of the tank.
For those who are interested in breeding, these fish are bubble nest builders. The male will blow bubbles at the surface of the tank that adhere together. If you have a lone male who builds a nest, it isn’t cause for concern – this is a sign he’s happy in his environment.
The labyrinth fish include the following families: Belontiidae, Holstomatidae, Osphoronemidae, and Anabantidae (the betta and gouramis).
- Betta (Betta splendens) are extremely popular fish, though they’re aggressive toward one another, particularly the males; they can actually share tanks with plecos, corys, and some tetras. They are carnivores, so make sure you do your homework before pairing them with other fish. They’ll live for about 2-3 years under ideal conditions (no tiny bowls).
- Chocolate gourami (Sphaerichthys osphromenoides) are dark brown in color with 3-5 vertical stripes running down the body. These fish are slow-moving omnivores, and they can easily end up out-competed for food. They have a lifespan between 5-8 years.
- Dwarf gourami (Colisa lalia) are very easy to keep, and their beautiful colors make them great centerpiece fish. They are omnivores, but if kept in a small tank, they become territorial. They live for about 4 years.
- Honey gourami (Colisa chuna) vary in color depending on sex: females are silver, and males are gold or orange and black. They are peaceful labyrinth fish, and they require sand, rocks, and plants to replicate their natural habitat. These fish are omnivores, and they should be kept with fish of similar temperament. They live between 4-8 years.
- Leopard bush fish (Ctenopoma acutirostre) are unusual members of the this group with a startling appearance – dark spots scattered over a yellowish body. They like to hide, and they require a planted tank to avoid stress. They are carnivores, though they’ll adapt to eating frozen or dried versions. They tend to live between 8-12 years.
- Kissing gourami (Helostoma temminicki) come in three varieties: pink, silver-green, and mottled. They get their name from their “kissing” behavior – the reason still isn’t well-understood. They are omnivores, but they can become aggressive and “ram” into other fish, stripping off the protective slime coat.. Their average lifespan is 7 years, but when they’re well-kept, they have been known to live up to 25 years!
- Moonlight gourami (Trichogaster microlepis) are silver with a greenish hue similar to moonlight on water and long filaments from the ventral fins. These fish are timid, and they shouldn’t be kept with known nippers – those filaments are tempting. They’re omnivores, and they have a lifespan of 4 years.
- Pearl gourami (Trichogaster leeri) have a white, circular pattern across their bodies. They make great centerpiece fish, but they don’t tolerate the presence of other labyrinth fish. They are omnivores, and they live for up to 5 years.
- Three-spot gourami (Trichogaster trichopterus) have one spot in the middle of the body and a second near the base of the tail (the third spot is their eye). These lovely fish are known to change color with their mood, especially during spawning. They are omnivores, and they like just about anything. They live for approximately 5 years.
The members of the family Cyprinidae are the largest family in the freshwater aquarium group – not to mention fish in general. For the aquarium trade, they include such popular choices as danios, barbs, rasboras, and goldfish.
- Bala shark (Balantiocheilus melanopterus) aren’t actually sharks; they have torpedo-shaped bodies and large, triangular dorsal fins, giving them a shark-like appearance. They prefer to stay in schools, and while they’re juveniles, they do well in community tanks. They are omnivores, and as they get older, they will eat smaller fish. They live for around 10 years.
- Black ruby barb (Pethia nigrofasciata) are purplish-red with three black vertical bands. When these fish become stressed, their colors pale – something to watch out for. This fish is an omnivore, and they tend to live for 5 years.
- Celestial pearl danio (Celestichthys margaritatus) have spotted bodies with orange and red fins. They are peaceful, schooling fish and tolerate community tanks with similar fish. They are omnivores, and they have a lifespan of 3-5 years.
- Checkerboard barb (Puntius oligolepis) are sexually dimorphic: females are gold and males are red with black borders that give them their characteristic “checkerboard” appearance. They are one of the smallest barbs, and they prefer to be kept in schools. This fish is an omnivore, and they tend to live for 8 years.
- Cherry barb (Puntius titteya) have a bright red color and an energetic personality. They do well schooling alone or in community tanks, though they can be shy around more aggressive fish. They are omnivores and have a lifespan of 4-5 years.
- Denison barb (Sahyadria denisonii) have a black line across the body, topped half-way by a red line. The popularity of this fish led to over-harvesting in the wild, and they’re now listed as endangered. They require a large amount of room for swimming. This fish is an omnivore, and they have a lifespan of a little over 5 years.
- Dwarf spotted danio (Danio nigrofasciatus) have black and white stripes across the body, with black spots along the bottom. They are timid, schooling fish, and they do best with fish from their same region (Myanmar). They are omnivores and relatively easy to care for. They live for around 3 years.
- Giant danio (Danio aequipinnatus) are gold with blue spots and stripes along the body; unlike other danios, they reach up to 4 inches in length. They’re active swimmers, and they should be kept with similar-sized fish. They are omnivores, and they will eat smaller fish. They have a lifespan of over 5 years.
- Gold barb (Puntius sachsii) have a gold body with red fins. They need to be kept in schools, and if the school is too small, they will get nippy. These fish are hardy omnivores. They have a lifespan of 5-7 years.
- Golden dwarf barb (Pethia gelius) are gold with faded black stripes, and they’re tiny – only about 1.4-1.6 inches as adults. They like to stay in schools, and they’re perfect to keep with dwarf shrimp. They are omnivores, but their color remains best on a primarily carnivorous diet. They tend to live around 2-3 years.
- Goldfish (Carassius auratus) come in a variety of colors and patterns. While they tolerate a variety of conditions, they prefer cooler tanks and thrive best in goldfish-only tanks. They are omnivores, and they live for about 5-10 years. Like bettas, they shouldn’t be kept in tiny bowls.
- Glowlight danio (Danio choprai) have stripes of green, gold, red, and turquoise. They are active, schooling fish and recently gained popularity with aquarists. This fish is an omnivore, and they live for around 5 years.
- Harlequin rasbora (Rasbora heteromorpha) have red bodies with black tails and are named for the DC Comics® character. They are schooling fish and tolerate community tanks. They are interactive omnivores, and they live for around 3-4 years.
- Odessa barb (Pethia padamya) are silver with a red horizontal stripe from their head to their tail. They are hardy fish, and they make peaceful additions to a community tank. They are omnivores, and they live for a little over 3 years.
- Pearl danio (Brachydanio albolineatus) have a violet-blue body with an orange-red stripe and an iridescent shine for which they’re named. They’re hardy, schooling omnivores, and easy to keep. They live for about 5 years.
- Rainbow shark (Epalzeorhynchos frenatus) are not sharks, but they are very territorial fish; they should not be kept in schools or they’ll turn on each other. They require decorations and a large tank in order to establish a personal territory. This fish is an omnivore, and they can grow to be quite large – something to consider when you choose your tank size. They live for around 5-8 years.
- Red tail shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) are also not sharks; they have a black body and a bright red tail. This species also comes in an albino version. Due to their popularity, over-harvesting has landed them on the endangered species list. They are extremely territorial, and they should only be kept in large aquariums. They are omnivores, and they’ll help keep the algae down in your tank. They tend to live for 4-6 years.
- Rosy barb (Puntius conchonius) have red scales that reflect a pink color. They need to be kept in schools to minimize the risk of nipping. They are omnivores and not picky about their food. They tend to live for around 5 years.
- Royal blue danio (Danio kerri) have a strong blue color, as their name suggests. They are hardy, schooling fish. They prefer planted aquariums, and the more plants you have available, the more active they’ll become. These fish are omnivores, and they live for up to 8 years.
- Scissortail rasbora (Rasbora trilineata) have deeply-forked tails with a barred pattern. When swimming or resting, they open and close their tails like a pair of scissors, which gave rise to their name. These omnivores prefer to live in schools, and they have a lifespan of 5 years.
- Tiger barb (Puntius tetrazona) have identifiable orange and black stripes. These fish need to be kept in schools. They are omnivores, and they’re known to be nippy – watch them carefully if you have angelfish. They have a lifespan of around 6 years.
- White cloud minnow (Tanichthys albonubes) have white bodies and red fins. They’re peaceful schooling fish gaining in popularity with aquarists. They’re very hardy and perfect for novices. They are omnivores and not picky about their food. They live for around 3 years.
- Zebra danio/Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are very popular for their striking appearance. When kept in schools, they’re also extremely energetic. They are omnivores, and they live for about 5 years.
Catfish encompass a variety of groups, but all of them have the unique Weber’s apparatus. This adaptation connects the hearing and swim bladder organs, providing these fish with exceptional hearing. Popular members of this group hail from the following families: Loricariidae, Callichthyidae, Pimelodidae, Mochokidae, Doradidae, Siluridae, Corydoradinae, Erethistidae, and Gyrinocheilidae.
- Asia stone catfish (Hara jerdoni) are tiny members of the catfish family – only 1.5 inches. They should be the only bottom-dwelling member of the tank or these omnivores risk starvation as they compete for food. They live for around 5-6 years.
- Bandit cory (Corydoras metae) have a vertical black band running over the top of their eyes. These fish do not have scales, so water quality is a paramount concern for keeping them healthy. This fish is an omnivore, and they should be kept in schools. They live for 5 years or more.
- Bristlenose pleco (Ancistrus cirrhosus) are popular additions to many aquariums. They are peaceful and rarely get larger than 5 inches. They are herbivores and will help keep algae under control, but they’ll still need supplemental feedings. They live between 5-15 years.
- Bronze cory (Corydoras aeneus) are a greenish-brown color; avoid any that are suspected of being an unnatural color. They are a peaceful fish and should be kept in a school. This fish is an omnivore, and they like to dig in the substrate. They live between 5-10 years.
- Chinese algae-eater (Gyrinocheilos aymonieri) are herbivores, and aren’t actually found in China – they’re native to Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. They are golden with a dark stripe. They tend to be solitary, and they are aggressive towards fish their own size. They have a lifespan of 10 years.
- Glass catfish (Kryptopterus bicirrhis) are so-named for their transparent appearance which results from a complete lack of scales; they also lack a dorsal fin. They stress easily, and they must be kept in schools and a decorated tank to provide them with hiding places. They are omnivores, and they live for 7-8 years.
- Leopard cory (Corydoras leopardus) are small, with isolated, patterned spots. They should be kept in schools, and they tolerate other peaceful tank mates. They’re known for their “winking” behavior – making them popular with aquarists. This fish is an omnivore, and they tend to live for 5 years.
- Otocinclus catfish (Otocinclus affinis) are tiny patterned catfish that need to be kept in schools. These fish have a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria in their gut, and they require a properly cycled aquarium or they’ll starve to death. They’re herbivores, and they have a lifespan of 3-5 years.
- Panda cory (Corydoras panda) have a black and white patterning similar to a panda bear. They should be kept in schools of at least four fish. They are highly social, and they’ll even play “tag” with other fish. They are omnivores, and they require a varied diet. They have a lifespan of around 10 years.
- Pepper cory (Corydoras paleatus) are tan with green-black markings all over their body; no two pepper corys are the same. These schooling fish prefer cooler water temperatures and peaceful tank mates. They’re omnivores and active during the day. They tend to live for up to 5 years.
- Pictus catfish (Pimelodus pictus) have a “classic” catfish appearance, with longer barbels than other species. They’re active and won’t stay on the bottom of the tank. They’re omnivores, and they will eat smaller tank mates if they get hungry. They have a lifespan of 8 years.
- Pygmy cory (Corydoras pygmaeus) are silver with black horizontal lines, and they’re small – only about 1 inch as adults! They like to stay in schools, and they’ll even shoal up to the surface. They are omnivores, and they have a lifespan of up to 3 years.
- Skunk cory (Corydoras arcuatus) have a prominent black stripe down their backs – as you’d expect from the name. They are active, and they prefer to be in schools. These fish are omnivores, and it’s fun to watch the school dart to the surface after food. They have a lifespan of 5 years or more.
- Striped Raphael catfish (Platyodras armatulus) have alternating horizontal bands of cream and brown on a tadpole-shaped body. They also have hidden spines and long fins which means they can’t be netted like normal fish – they’ll become stuck with no way to release them. They are peaceful, nocturnal omnivores, and you should try to drop some extra food in the tank an hour after the lights go out to make sure they get enough to eat. They can live up to 15 years.
- Three-lined cory (Corydoras trilineatus) are silver with a black line along the body from which spots branch off. These small fish get to be about 2 inches long, and they prefer to be kept in schools. This fish is an omnivore, and they will need feeding in addition to what they scavenge from the bottom. They live for around 10 years.
- Tiger pleco (Peckoltia vermiculata) have brown stripes covering their bodies, including the eyes. They prefer to be solitary, and they become more aggressive as they age. They are omnivores, and it’s important to give them a balanced diet. They live between 10-15 years.
- Upside-down catfish (Synodontis nigriventris) earned their name from their unique swimming habits – a sign that would be a concern in other fish. They prefer to be kept in schools. They are omnivores, and they live for around 5 years.
The Characins are another diverse group popular with freshwater aquarium crowds. A lot of the members from this group are peaceful, and they prefer to be kept in schools, so make sure you stock accordingly. Families represented here include: Characidae, Gasteropelecidae, and Anostomidae (hatchetfish, silver dollars, and tetras).
- Black-banded leporinus (Leporinus fasciatus) are unique members of the Characin group. They have alternating black and yellow stripes that allow you to age the fish – one band for every year. They grow to well over 12 inches in length, and they are known jumpers, so plan your tank size and cover accordingly. They’re omnivores, and they will fight with each other if they’re kept in schools that are too small. They live for over 5 years.
- Black neon tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi) are silver with black and white stripes with a red cap over the eye. They’re a peaceful, schooling omnivore. They have a lifespan between 5-10 years.
- Black phantom tetra (Megalamphodus megalopterus) have a black patch behind the gills. Males engage in mock fight displays during spawning. They are schooling omnivores that live for 5 years.
- Black widow tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) have black dorsal and anal fins and black vertical stripes; avoid any unnatural color variations. They are peaceful, schooling fish, though they have been known to nip at tank mates with flowing fins. This fish is an omnivore, and they have a lifespan of 5 years.
- Blind cavefish (Anoptichthys jordani) are a silver-pink color, and they obviously lack eyes. They make a great addition to aquariums, and their lack of eyesight make them fierce competitors for food. They are omnivores, and they live for around 10 years.
- Bloodfin tetra (Aphyocharax anisitsi) are silver with prominent red fins – hence their names. They are peaceful, schooling fish. These fish are undemanding omnivores. They live between 5-7 years.
- Buenos Aires tetra (Hemigrammus caudovittatus) are silver with a narrow blue line down the body and orange fins. They are very social fish and prefer to be kept in schools; they will nip at the flowing fins of other fish. They are omnivores, and they’ve been known to decimate the plants in a tank. They tend to live for 5 years.
- Cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) are similar in color to neon tetras, but the blue and red stripes are more prominent, and they are larger. They are schooling fish, and they are becoming more popular. They are omnivores, and they live up to 4 years.
- Diamond tetra (Moenkhausia pittieri) have silver, slightly raised scales that produce an iridescent shine that gives them their name; there is a slight red patch above their eyes. They are peaceful, schooling fish. They are omnivores, and they won’t attempt to monopolize food from other fish in the tank. They have a lifespan of 5 years.
- Emperor tetra (Nematobrycon palmeri) are blue-grey with an iridescent shine. They are a schooling fish, but it’s best to have just a single male in the group. These fish are omnivores and pretty undemanding in their diet. They have a lifespan of 6 years.
- Hatchetfish (Carnegiella strigata) have a distinct hatchet-shaped appearance. They swim just under the surface in schools, and they are known to jump. They are carnivores, and they live for around 2-5 years.
- Head and tail light tetra (Hemigrammus ocellifer) are silver with two coppery spots – one behind the gills and one at the base of the tail. They are schooling omnivores, and they prefer subdued lighting. They live for up to 5 years.
- Neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) have a brilliant blue and orange stripe, and they only get to be about 1-1.5 inches in length. They’re omnivores and peaceful fish.. They have an average lifespan of up to 10 years.
- Red minor serpae tetra (Hyphessobrycon callistus) are red fish with a black comma-like mark behind the gills. They are peaceful, and they should be kept in schools of at least six to prevent nipping of other fish. This fish is an omnivore, and they tend to live for 5 years.
- Redeye tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomene) have a red ring around their eyes and two vertical bands on their tail – one white and one black. They are shy, schooling fish, and they need plants or decorations to hide in when in a community tank with more aggressive fish. They are omnivores, and they live for around 5 years.
- Silver dollar (Metynnis argenteus) are a bright silver, as their name suggests, and they grow to be 6 inches across. They are a peaceful, schooling herbivore – funny, considering they’re related to the piranha! They have a lifespan of over 10 years.
- White skirt tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) are partially translucent; try to avoid variations with unnatural colors as they will fade with time. They are a schooling fish and easy-going omnivores. They tend to live for 5 years.
Cichlids are very popular with aquarists, and they come in a variety of colors, shapes, and personalities – all within the single family Cichlidae.
- African cichlids are hardy and easy to care for. They come in a variety of colors, shapes, and patterns. Most of these cichlids are mouth-brooders, which makes for an interesting sight popular with aquarists. They have both carnivore and omnivore members, and their lifespans average around 8 years.
- Angelfish (Pterophyllum sp) have a unique appearance that’s popular with a lot of aquarists. They have a variety of personalities – they are cichlids – so you may need to research ways to deal with aggression. They are omnivores, and they live for around 10 years.
- Blood parrot cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus x Paraneetroplus synspilus) are a man-made hybrid with a cute appearance. They have round, pink bodies with a distinct separation between the head and the remainder of the body. They are omnivores, and while they can have aggressive tendencies, their misshapen mouths prevent them from harming other fish in a community tank. They live for around 10-15 years.
- Blue peacock cichlid (Aulonocara nyassae) coloration depends on their sex: males are a bright yellow or blue, while females are a subdued brown or gray. The male’s color brightens during the breeding season, and they’re known to be more aggressive towards their own species. They are omnivores, and they have a lifespan of 8 years.
- Bolivian ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) have a startling appearance with the prominent spines down their back, but they’re one of the more peaceful cichlids. They’re fine on their own or in small schools. These fish are omnivores, and they’re more apt to scare other fish than attack them. They live for around 6 years.
- Butterfly cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi) are yellowish-brown with five black bars along the body. They are a shy member of the cichlid family, and they prefer to be kept with peaceful tank mates. This fish is an omnivore, and they aren’t picky about their food. They live for around 4 years.
- Cockatoo cichlid (Apistogramma cacatuoides) have red, orange, and yellow fins splayed in a flame pattern. They make great centerpiece fish, and they only tend to be aggressive during spawning. They do require tight-fitting caves with a single entrance. This fish is an omnivore, and they aren’t demanding. They have a lifespan of 5 years.
- Convict cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus) are recognizable by their distinctive banded stripes. They’re very easy to care for and one of the easiest fish to breed. They are omnivores, but they’re very territorial, especially when spawning. They live for about 8 years.
- Discus (Symphysodon sp.) come in a variety of colors and patterns and are very popular, though they aren’t recommended for novice aquarists. They are carnivores, producing a lot of nitrogenous waste and requiring frequent water changes. They should be kept in schools, and they live for 10 years or more.
- Firemouth cichlid (Thorichthys meeki) have a striking appearance and are hardy fish. They tolerate a range of water conditions, and as long as their tank mates are similar in size, aggression isn’t usually a problem. They like having rocks or decorations to set an established territory. They are omnivores, and they tend to live for 10 years.
- Flowerhorn cichlid are a man-made hybrid, and the exact “recipe” is a closely-guarded secret. Their coloring and patterns change as they age, so don’t get too attached to the juvenile you purchase at the store. They are omnivores, and their lifespan is dependent on their size: short-bodied versions average 4-5 years while long-bodied versions average 11-12 years.
- German blue ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) are beautiful cichlids that do well in pairs or small schools. These fish have big personalities, and they like to “show off” for other fish in the tank. They are omnivores, but they can be picky about their food, so you may need to present a variety. They live for around 3 years.
- Jack Dempsey (Rocio octofasciatum) have dark bodies with opalescent scales. They are known to be aggressive, and they’ll require a large tank. They are carnivores, and their food can be expensive. They have a lifespan of between 5-7 years.
- Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher) are peaceful members of the cichlid family. They come in red, yellow, green, and blue varieties, and they prefer the bottom of the aquarium. They are omnivores, and they are known to nip at the fins of other fish. They tend to live for 5 years.
- Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus) have distinct personalities: they learn to recognize you and respond positively to your presence (they’re referred to as “water puppies”). They are carnivores, and they can be aggressive towards other fish so larger tanks are better. They can live up to 20 years – you need to be prepared to take on that commitment!.
- Texas cichlid/Rio Grande perch (Herichthys cynoguttatus) is the North American member of this group. They are extremely aggressive, and during breeding season, they will attempt to kill other fish in the tank. They should only be kept with other fish of similar size and temperament (you CAN successfully keep an aggressive tank if you want the challenge). They are omnivores and live for over 10 years.
The groups that reproduce via live birth tend to be very peaceful in nature, which makes them popular with aquarists. When kept under ideal conditions, don’t be surprised if you wake up and find fry darting around the tank (provided there are no avid predators in residence). This group comes in a variety of colors and shapes. The most popular families represented in the freshwater aquarium trade are Poeciliidae, Aplocheilidae, Cyprinodontidae, Fundulidae, Profundulidae, and Valencildae.
- Guppy (Poecilia reticulata) are extremely diverse in their colors and patterns, making them one of those most popular fish in the aquarium trade. They are easy to care for and don’t need a large tank, which makes them a prime choice with novices. They’re omnivores and will tolerate a wide range of diets. They tend to live for 2-3 years.
- Killifish are unique in the livebearing group. There are 1,270 species in nine different genera! They are prone to jumping so a cover is a must. They’re carnivores, and they do best in a single species tank – community tanks tend to cause stress. Their lifespans range from 3 months up to 5 years. Each individual killifish has specific requirements, and it’s best to research the fish you’re interested in.
- Molly (Poecilia latipinna) are very hardy fish, and they come in a variety of colors. Like guppies, they reproduce easily. They’re omnivores with no major food preferences. They tend to live for 5 years.
- Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus) come in a variety of colors, and they’re hardy fish. However, these fish prefer hard water, so balancing their tank needs can be tricky. They’re omnivores, and they will cannibalize their young. They live for between 3-4 years.
- Swordtail (Xiphophorus helleri) are another in the easy-to-manage group. Males possess a “sword” protrusion from their caudal fin, which is where they get their name. These fish are peaceful omnivores. They have a lifespan of 3-5 years.
Loaches are bottom-dwelling fish with a similar appearance to catfish. However, this group doesn’t behave with the same peaceful nature as other catfish, and you can find loaches bullying your more peaceful corys if you don’t watch out. These fish tend to have longer lifespans, so be prepared to invest in them! They all come from a single family, Cobitidae.
- Clown loach (Chromobotia macracantha) have vertical black and yellow stripes, giving them a bold appearance. They’re active, and they need to be kept in schools. They are carnivores, and people often get them to deal with snail infestations. They have a lifespan of 10-25 years.
- Horse face loach (Acantopsis dialuzona) are tan with dark spots and an elongated snout reminiscent of a horse’s head – hence its name. They prefer to be kept in schools, and they like to burrow under the substrate. They are omnivores and pretty easy to please. They live for around 10 years.
- Kuhli loach (Pangio kuhlii) have an eel-like appearance, and they’re nocturnal unless kept in a school. They are carnivores, but they only reach a size of 3-5 inches, so they’re manageable for novices. They live for up to 10 years.
- Weather loach (Misgurnus angullicaudatus) have an elongated, olive-colored body with ten barbels around the mouth. When storms approach, they become agitated and begin swimming around the tank, which is how they got their name; in Europe, many people use weather loaches to predict the approach of bad weather. These omnivores don’t need to be kept in a school, though they will tolerate their own species. They live for around 10 years.
- Yo yo loach (Botia lohachata) are silver with dark markings said to resemble the letters “Y” and “O” – this is most visible when they’re juveniles. Their colors dim when they engage in mock fights or hide. They should be kept in a school or they will “team up” with other fish in the tank – whether that fish likes it or not. They are omnivores, though they tend to prefer the carnivorous side of things. They have a lifespan of 5-8 years.
- Zebra loach (Botia striata) have vertical stripes along their entire body, which is where their name came from. They prefer to be in schools, and while they are mostly nocturnal, they are more active during the day than other loaches. These fish are omnivores, but they really like live food. They live for around 10 years.
- Rainbowfish come from a single family, Melanotaeniidae, and are native to Australia, New Guinea, and Madagascar. They became popular with aquarists because of their bright colors – to the point of near-extinction in the wild. Many are now available through captive-breeding programs.
They are divided into four distinct sub-families: Bedotiinae (the Madagascar rainbowfish), Melanotaeniinae (the Australian rainbowfish), Pseudomugilinae (the blue-eyed rainbowfish), and Telmatherininae (the sail-fin silver-sides).
They are peaceful, schooling fish – active and tolerant of community tanks. They love planted tanks (they weave between the stalks), and the green makes their colors pop. Rainbowfish all tend to be omnivores, and their average lifespan is around 5 years.
These last few fish don’t fall into any of the listed categories, but they still make for popular additions to any freshwater aquarium. Some of these make for challenging fish to keep, and they may not be suitable for aquarists just starting out with novice tanks. As always, make sure you do your research, especially when tackling these last few entries.
- Archerfish (Toxotes jaculatrix) are members of the Toxotidae family. These fish actually prefer brackish water, but they can tolerate freshwater. Known for their practice of “spitting” jets of water to target insects near the surface, these fish are amazing to watch. They are omnivores, and will happily consume regular diets. They have a lifespan of 5-8 years.
- Black ghost knifefish (Apteronotus albifrons) are from the Apteronotidae family and native to the Amazon basin. These interesting fish generate a mild electric current in order to hunt – similar to the electric eel, though on a much lower scale. They’re nocturnal omnivores, and they live for 10-15 years.
- Bichir (Polypterus ornatipinnis) are members of the Polypteridae family. These fish have a look that harkens back to the prehistoric age, making them a popular choice for any aquarium. They are strict carnivores, and feeding them can present a challenge in terms of cost and supply. They have an average lifespan of 10 years.
- Indian dwarf pufferfish (Carinotetraodon travancoricus) are tiny members of the Tetraodontidae family These interactive fish are strict lovers of freshwater. They can be aggressive and nip at smaller fish, so consider tank mates carefully. They are carnivores, though you can try frozen foods and flake foods. They have a lifespan of 4-5 years.
- Elephant nose (Gnathonemus petersii) are members of the Mormyridae family hailing from Africa. As their name suggests, they have a long proboscis they use to probe the murky waters in their native region. Similar to the black ghost knifefish, they can also generate a mild electric current to aid in hunting; unlike the knifefish, they have great night vision. These fish are carnivores, and they don’t like to socialize with one another. They have a lifespan of 6-10 years.
- GloFish® were originally genetically engineered to detect environmental pollutants and hail from both the Cyprinidae and Characidae families. They’re available in a variety of neon colors, and they prefer to be in schools; they tolerate community tanks with other peaceful fish. Like their danio and tetra counterparts, they’re omnivores, and they have a lifespan of 2-4 years.
The options for stocking a freshwater aquarium are almost endless – from colorful to interesting, from bizarre to useful, and from charming to long-lived. Regardless of which popular fish you choose to go with, make sure you invest some time for homework, and definitely check to make sure your intended fish are compatible with one another. Now take this inspiration and plan out a decorative aquarium of your own!