Aquarium fish come in all shapes, sizes, and activity levels. While they are each beautiful in their own way, some are absolutely stunning. Make your aquarium shine with any of these 25 most beautiful freshwater fish in the world.
Gouramis come in many color varieties, such as the Blue Gourami above and the very popular Flame Dwarf Gourami. They have been tank bred for generations, so are typically hardy fish that tolerate a range of water parameters. They have a labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe air, so access to the surface is a must for these fish.
The Dwarf Gourami only reaches about 2 inches in length, while the full-size variety typically grows to 5 or 6 inches. You can keep a single Gourami in as small as 20 gallons. If you plan to keep more than one specimen, make sure to have a larger tank with plenty of decorations. They can become aggressive if each fish lacks sufficient territory.
- Paradise Fish
When describing what color these fish are, it really depends on the angle you’re looking at them. They are jewel-bright, with bands of blue, green, orange, and red that seem to morph and change as they swim about the tank. If keeping them in a community tank, make sure that the Paradise Fish is the dominant species.
Otherwise, they will start hiding, become stressed, and die. They shouldn’t share space with others of their kind unless it is one male and one female you would like to breed. While they get along with their own kind as juveniles, as adults, they will become aggressive and kill each other.
- Electric Blue Hap
The Electric Blue Hap is a type of Cichlid with a lovely dark sapphire body and 9 – 12 stripes of even darker blue. They are a semi-aggressive species, so they should only be kept with other semi-aggressive fish. They are carnivorous in the wild, so they should not live with tankmates that would fit in their mouths.
Growing up to 6 inches in length, they should have a minimum tank size of 55 gallons.
- Celestial Pearl Danio
These tiny beauties have become hugely popular in the last few years. Their small size (barely 1 inch when fully grown), beautiful red fins, blue bodies, and pearlescent spots make them a highly sought after freshwater fish. They are easy to care for, but be sure to have plenty of plant cover and decorations.
They can be very shy, especially with large or fast-moving tankmates, so they will need hiding places to avoid stress. As they are schooling/shoaling fish, they must be kept in groups of at least 6.
- Rainbow Kribensis
The Rainbow Krib, as it is affectionately known, comes in stunning varieties of red, yellow, blue, and green, as well as an albino version. They make colorful additions to community tanks. When choosing tankmates for the Rainbow Krib, be sure not to include any big, slow-moving fish like Angels, as they have been known to nip at long tails.
They also like to keep the bottom of the tank to themselves, as that is their preferred swim level. They like to burrow into the substrate, so make sure your plants and decorations are secure.
- Fancy Guppy
Available at nearly any pet store, guppies come in an enormous variety of colors and patterns. No matter your decor set-up, there is a guppy that will complement it perfectly! Guppies are incredibly hardy and easy to care for, so they make perfect beginner fish. But even experienced aquarists love guppies because of their active swimming and peaceful nature.
They are excellent additions to the peaceful community tank.
- Electric Yellow Cichlid
If you’re looking to add bold color to your freshwater aquarium, look no further than the Electric Yellow Cichlid! Their bright yellow bodies are sure to catch the eye. Electric Yellow Cichlids are generally more peaceful than other Cichlid varieties, but they will be aggressive to tankmates they see as a threat.
To avoid this, do not choose species of the same general size and color. If you plan to keep multiple Electric Yellow Cichlids, use a large tank and a ratio of at least 3 females to every male.
- Scarlet Gem Badis
This nano fish has recently become a massive hit in the aquarium world. Don’t let its minuscule size fool you. While shy, it is also a fierce predator. They are finicky eaters, consuming only tiny live and frozen foods such as bloodworms and daphnia.
They aren’t suitable for community tanks, as large or aggressive fish will scare them. But they can harass and even kill small tankmates, including their own kind. However, their brilliant red bodies and jeweled blue stripes, make them one of the most beautiful fish for a freshwater aquarium.
As seen above, Discus Fish come in solid colors, stripes patterns, albino, and everywhere in between. These fish are absolutely stunning but do require some specific care guidelines that may be difficult for beginners. They should be kept in groups of at least 6 and prefer warmer water.
When choosing tankmates, look for other peaceful species that enjoy warmer temperatures. It’s a good idea to add all your Discus to the tank at the same time, as adding others later will disrupt their pecking order.
- German Blue Ram
The German Blue Ram is possibly the most docile of the Cichlid varieties. They do well with other peaceful species in a community tank, although males of the same species don’t tolerate each other. You should have at least 10 gallons per male species of this fish. They are very colorful, displaying hues of orange, blue, green, and red with a few black markings.
German Blue Rams do best in aquariums that offer lots of hiding places, such as plants, driftwood, caves, and rocks.
- Endler’s Livebearer
Endler’s Livebearers come from the same family as guppies, and like the guppy, come in endless color and pattern varieties. The main difference in appearance between Endler’s and Fancy Guppies is in the tail. While guppies have large, fan-like tails, Endler’s tails are more streamlined. Endler’s are also generally smaller, making them perfect for a nano tank.
They are easy to care for and make beautiful additions to a peaceful community tank.
- Betta Fish
Betta Fish, also known as Siamese Fighting Fish, has long been one of the most popular species in fish keeping. A common misconception is that Betta can live in anything, even tiny, dirty puddles. While they may be able to survive this way for a little while, they won’t be happy, and they won’t live long. Just like any other aquarium fish, they need a proper home.
Bettas should be kept in tanks of no less than 3 gallons (although at least 5 is preferred) with slow-moving, filtered water, decorations, and a heater. While Bettas can have tankmates in certain situations, a species only tank with one fish is recommended due to their aggressive nature.
- Neon Tetra
Neon Tetras have long been a favorite in the fishkeeping world. Their sparkling blue body contrasts nicely with their bright red tails. They are exceptionally hardy fish and are very small, so you can keep lots of them! If fact, the more Neon Tetras, the happier they will be.
You can house 10 of them together in a 10 gallon tank, but they really thrive in even larger groups. Keeping 15-20 in a 20+ gallon tank will keep them well content. You’ll be content too, watching them hypnotically darting around their home.
While one of the most common and inexpensive fish on the market, Goldfish are also uncommonly beautiful. They are exceedingly easy to care for, provided their tank is kept clean, and they have the proper amount of space. It is a common mistake to keep a Goldfish in a bowl, but just like the Betta, they need a suitable home with a water filter and decorations.
Most Goldfish also grow to be around 10 inches long. Because of this, they need a large aquarium, especially if they are kept in a community. They produce a lot of waste, so it’s essential to clean their tank regularly or have a considerably sized cleanup crew as tankmates.
- Freshwater Angelfish
Angelfish have one of the most recognizable shapes in the fishkeeping world. Their tall, thin bodies should be considered when selecting a tank and decorations. They are rather showy fish, strutting their colors in the middle levels of their tank.
While one or two Angels can live in a habitat as small as 20 gallons, if you want to keep more, or keep them in a community, they will need 55+ gallons. You should select their tankmates with care, as they can be aggressive with certain species.
There are over 1,200 varieties of Killifish, so you’re sure to find one of these gorgeous fish to suit your tank! They are some of the most brilliantly colored and patterned fish in the freshwater aquarium hobby. Killifish vary widely in their care level and tankmate compatibility, so it is important to research the species you prefer before adding them to your collection.
- Boeseman’s Rainbowfish
The coloring of the Boeseman’s Rainbowfish is genuinely something to behold. Their blue head gradually changes to a bright yellowish-red at the tail. They are relatively easy to care for, provided their water is kept very clean. They won’t be happy all by themselves, so keep at least 6 of them together, though 8 or more is preferred.
Giving them the company of their own kind, dense plant cover, and pristine water will bring out their best colors. They are peaceful fish and do well with other non-aggressive fish. They grow up to 4 inches in length, so be sure to pick a large home for them!
- Cardinal Tetra
Cardinal Tetras and Neon tetras look similar, but there are some key differences. With Cardinals, the red portion of their bodies extends from head to tail. They are also slightly larger and more robust looking than Neons. They do require some specific care guidelines but are generally suited for beginner or intermediate fish-keepers.
As with Neon Tetras, Cardinals prefer to be in large groups – the bigger, the better!
- Koi Fish
Koi Fish are revered for their beauty and come in a vast range of colors and sizes. However, adult Koi Fish require a tremendous amount of space. Keeping only five of them requires a pond at least 3 feet deep with at least 1,000 gallons of water. They are tolerant of a wide range of temperatures as long as it is a gradual change.
Koi Fish are very long-lived. They typically live around 25-30 years, but some have been known to live to over 100. The time and space needed to raise these fish are substantial but well worth it due to their grace and beauty.
- Green Terror Cichlid
The Green Terror Cichlid is a large fish with shining blue or green patterns. They are unfussy eaters, so feeding them is a breeze. They don’t keep to one particular swim level, so they are exciting to watch as they cruise around the tank.
They are aggressive fish that grow to about a foot in length, so they should only be kept with other large, aggressive fish like the Jack Dempsy below. If you’d like to keep only a single Green Terror, plan for a 35+ gallon tank.
- Jack Dempsey
The Jack Dempsey fish is named after a 1920’s boxer for a reason! These large fish are very aggressive and prone to pushing around other tank inhabitants. They typically have a grey or brown base color with iridescent blue or green markings. Their color really pops, as in the picture above, when it comes time for them to breed.
Because of their aggressive nature and the need for at least a 75 gallon tank, these striking fish are not recommended for beginners.
- Fire Eel
The Fire Eel is a nocturnal, semi-aggressive carnivore that reaches up to 2 feet in length. Their long, black bodies and vibrant, red, and yellow markings make this a truly spectacular specimen. Because of their size, they require at least 125 gallons of tank space in their home.
While they may eventually adapt to prepared food or pellets, they should start with a diet of live earthworms and black worms.
- Rummy Nose Tetra
The Rummy Nose Tetra is a truly unique looking fish. Their body is silver, with a bright red nose and black and white striped tail. They are great in a community aquarium with other peaceful fish of similar size. They grow to be about 2.5 inches long.
They are a shoaling fish, so keeping them in groups is highly recommended. Aside from keeping stable, clean water parameters, they are easy to care for and will eat most commercially available fish food. Another good thing about the Rummy Nose Tetra is that their red nose also doubles as a warning signal.
If it is anything other than a bright cherry red, it’s a sign that something isn’t right in your aquarium.
- Starlight Bristlenose Pleco
The Starlight Bristlenose Pleco has a galaxy-like array of white spots that look fantastic on its solid black body. Like all Bristlenose Plecos, it has unusual bristle-like appendages on the front of their faces. But unlike many others of their kind, they only grow to about 4 or 5 inches long. This makes them adaptable to smaller tanks of 40 gallons or more.
They are great tank cleaners, eating up extra food that falls to the aquarium floor, as well as algae that grow on tank walls and decorations. They are peaceful and won’t bother other tankmates, as long as they aren’t other Starlight Bristlenose Plecos.
- Florida Flagfish
Also known as the Flagfish or American Flagfish, this red, white, and blue stunner is sure to turn heads in your aquarium. They are straightforward to care for, growing to only 2.5 inches, and are an excellent algae eater. Although considered semi-aggressive, it can be kept with a wide variety of peaceful fish in a community setting and tolerate a wide range of water parameters.
No matter what you choose for your freshwater aquarium, fishkeeping is a fun and rewarding hobby. We hope this list has given you some good ideas for beautiful freshwater fish to add to your tank. Are you looking for a good cleanup crew? Check out our article on freshwater shrimp!