Rearing fish in an aquarium set up in your house can be an adventurous and fun-filled hobby as you get to get to create your own aquatic world, decorate it the way you want and fill it with the fishes you like. Having your own fish tank not only makes your house a modern place with character but also provides a serene and relaxing activity as you watch the colorful charmers swim around and play with each other, bringing life to the room.
Fish are surely one of the best pets in the world. They don’t make a mess in the house, stay in one corner and only need to be fed once or twice a day. You might have selected a fish tank and done your research on how to set up an aquarium, but with literally hundreds of species of fish out there, choosing the best ones can become a daunting task. If you are looking for the types of aquarium fish, then look no further than this article.
Here we discuss the various types of aquarium fish based on their size, appearance, dietary needs, maintenance requirements, and friendliness level. Whether you are a first-time fish owner or a serious aquarist, these are the top varieties of fish for entertainment and decorative purposes that you absolutely need to know about.
Table of Contents
Related: Types of Aquarium Filters
Chart for Popular Aquarium Fish
The following chart illustrates the most common types of aquarium fish that are a popular choice among many aquarists.
EASY Care Level
As is evident by the name, freshwater fish are the species of fish that thrive in normal water (not salt water). The smaller and colorful fish in this species are the go-to option for all aquarists. This is because freshwater fish easily fit in most tanks, get along peacefully with other fish and are generally low-maintenance.
Whether you are a first-time fish owner or an expert aquarist, the following freshwater aquarium fish are the ideal buddies to go for.
here’s no denying that goldfishes are the most renowned and most common species amongst aquarists when it comes to tank fish. In fact, they can rightfully be applauded as the variety that set the stage for fish-keeping from an ornamental viewpoint. While the first record of a goldfish dates as far back as the Jin Dynasty in China (265 – 420 A.D.), today there are over 200 breeds of goldfish that are recognized worldwide. The most celebrated amongst them includes the common goldfish, the lionhead goldfish (with a fancy hood), the telescope goldfish (with large protruding eyes), the veitail (with an elaborate tail like a flowing veil) and the pompom (short round body with fleshy fins).
Goldfish are famous amongst aquarists because they are generally low-maintenance and easy to keep. They can be kept on their own without the need for adding more variety and still make an impressive fish tank due to their pretentious beauty.
Also called millionfish or rainbow fish, the guppy is perhaps the most well known freshwater fish for aquariums. First found in the natural range in northeast South America, guppies are without a doubt the hardiest aquarium fish as they can survive for over a week without being fed at all! They are not very selective in terms of diet and are happy with various fish feeds such as blood worms, brine shrimp (frozen or live), Daphnia (small aquatic crustaceans called water fleas) or even just regular fish flakes. These lovely aquarium fish come in a wide variety of beautiful color combinations so you can easily choose one that suits your style.
However, unless you intend to rear them for breeding purpose, remember that guppies love to reproduce. So, if you don’t want the guppies in your tank to multiply crazily in a short span of time, it’s best to keep either all male or all female guppies.
Growing up to a length of 3 cm (approx 1.5 inches) in total, Neon Tetra is a small but truly attractive fish. Native to the natural water channels of South America, this fine fish features bright colors such an iridescent orange stripe over a shiny silver body. This makes them easy to spot even in blackwater streams despite their miniature size. They have a simple diet and will stay healthy even if fed on basic fish flakes.
Neon Tetra is a really friendly fish that prefers to stay in groups. Buy as many of these fish as you want because the larger their group, the happier they will be.
Originating from the east coast of Central America and Southern Mexico, platy is a freshwater fish that is a good choice for keeping in an aquarium. They are friendly in nature and will fit in well with other species in the tank so long as they are non-aggressive. Platies are not very demanding when it comes to feeding and will eat most of the different types of flakes or even frozen live foods that can be given every now and then.
Due to selective breeding over the years, platies are now available in a wide variety of colors and sizes. The most striking ones include the Rainbow Platy which has a splash of glittery indigo and silver scales and deep cobalt blue fins and tail; and the Mickey Mouse Platy that features a black tail on a creamy, golden-white body.
Perfect for beginners, Danios is a hardy aquarium fish that will do well in various environments and be content with plain fish food. These fish are native to the Himalayan region and can grow up to 6.4 cm (or 2.5 inches) in length. However, their average size is only 4 cm (about 1.5 inches), and they have a lifespan of almost three years if kept under proper conditions. Danios can come in different color combinations such as light orange horizontal stripes on a sky-blue body. The most popular Danios include the Giant Danios and the Zebra Danios, which is so called because its black and silver-white lines resemble the pattern on a zebra.
Danios are active fish so you will love to watch them zap vivaciously from one corner of the tank to another at an incredible speed.
Betta or the Siamese Fighting Fish is an exquisite aquarium fish that you wouldn’t want to miss. In close competition with the common goldfish, the betta is the second most popular fish variety that is an all-time favorite amongst beginner and expert aquarists alike.
Betas come in an array of different vibrant colors such as intense orange, rich blue, shocking pink and so on. It has become a common practice to sell bettas in small ‘betta bowls’ often in the form of a planter or a centerpiece for tables. However, such vases are not the best fit for these dazzling beauties. Bettas should be housed in a tank with a capacity of minimum 2 gallons and have sufficient space to swim around. These creatures prefer live foods but can also be raised on flakes or frozen fish foods. Bettas grow up to 3 inches long and have a lifespan of approximately 3 years.
Reaching up to 2 inches when mature, the Cherry Barb is another low-maintenance fish although they might take a bit longer to settle than most of the other species listed above. This stunning fish got its name due to the fact that it is drenched in a deep, vivid red color from head to tail. Their striking appearance coupled with their highly energetic nature gives them a prominent place amongst the best types of fish for entertainment purpose.
Because they take some time to adapt to their new surroundings, it is recommended that you place lots of lively plants and similar items in the tank before placing Cherry Barb in their new home. This gives them plenty of hideouts and provides a good environment where they can adjust at their own pace. This type of aquarium fish can thrive on normal fish food but note that they might not eat at all initially in a new place.
Barbs like to stay in schools so you should house at least five together at any given time. However, although it is well liked by the aquarists, the Cherry Barb is an endangered fish species in the world so you might not be able to find it very easily.
Pearl Gourami is a type of fish that belongs to the Anabantoidei or the Gourami family. The family includes various species such as the Mosaic Gourami, Lace Gourami, Diamond Gourami, and the Leeri Gourami. However, out of all the different species, the Pearl Gourami is surely the most attractive of all. Originating from Thailand and Malaysia, this species is hardy and very easy to care for. It can grow up to 4 or 5 inches long and has an average lifespan of about 4 years.
Pearl Gourami is a Labyrinth fish which means that unlike most of the other fish who obtain oxygen from the water, it has a special organ that allows it to breathe air directly. Therefore, no matter what type of aquarium you house them in, the tank must have empty space at the top so that the Gouramis can breathe air. They prefer algae-based fish feed but are omnivorous so can also be given worms, brine shrimps and the likes. Besides their wonderful colors, you will also love to add Pearl Gouramis to your tank because they can ‘talk’ by making low growling noises, especially during the breeding season.
This type of aquarium fish is truly unique in every sense. Originating from Indonesia and the Malay Peninsula, the Kohli Loach is a snake-like fish that closely resembles an eel, except that it is much more good-looking and makes a fine addition to fish tanks. It has the ability to adapt to different water conditions as well as mix well with others in the tank. When matured, Kohli Loach can reach a length of about 7 cm to 10 cm and live for as long as a decade or even more!
These fish have a sleek and slender body that features deep brown or black vertical segments that alternate with light pink to yellow parts in between. Kohli Loach loves to eat fish pellets but is also happy living off the extra feed such as shrimps and worms that has sunken to the bottom of the tank. When keeping Kohli Loach in a community tank, it is important not to keep them with any large species that might mistake them for food. Also, these fish want company, so it’s best to buy them pairs or better yet, in groups of at least three members.
Fire Mouth Cichlid
Native to Central America, the Fire Mouth Cichlid is an exquisite freshwater fish that is best suited to large home aquariums. Fire Mouth got its name from the streaks of intense red color that appear near its mouth and the lower body during the breeding season. These fish are an excellent choice for homeowners with a relatively big fish tank as Fire Mouth can grow to an average length of 6 inches and prefer to stay in groups. They are not very selective about their diet and can be easily found at various pet stores
They are generally easy to look after and mix well with other fish in the tank except during breeding season when Fire Mouths can become quite territorial. It is better to keep them isolated from other species but if you prefer a community tank instead, then make sure that you provide several private places such as upturned plant pots, large rocks or similar items where they can hide whenever they want.
Black Molly is probably the hardiest aquarium fish in the sense that it can thrive in fresh as well as saltwater fish tanks provided that the pH level is adjusted gradually. As the name suggests, this variety of ornamental fish comprises of jet black aquatic vertebrates that usually grow to a standard size of 3 to 4 inches long. Black Molly is a passive fish and can live peacefully in a community tank. Its ability to thrive in neutral, brackish as well as salty water is what makes it a popular choice for new fish-keeping hobbyists because it gives them flexibility in setting up a new tank.
Buy Black Mollies of the same gender if you don’t want them to multiply in numbers. Otherwise, it is recommended that you buy them in a ratio of 3 female mollies for every male molly. Also, note that sometimes, the adult mollies can prey on the younger ones. Therfore you need to make sure there is sufficient vegetation in the tank where the babies can hide.
Lionhead Cichlid which is native to Africa was so named because of the large hump on the forehead of the male species. These fish can grow to a size of 4 to 5 inches, require a minimum tank size of 30 gallons and thrive in moderate temperatures. They have an average lifespan of about 7 years. Although Lionheads prefer to stay in pairs, there are usually so loyal that they will remain solitary in case their mate dies. This variety of fish is omnivorous so you can feed them flake food as well as live foods such as shrimps and worms. They prefer burrowing so make sure there are sufficient hideouts as well as an appropriate substrate in the tank.
Also known as Royal Black, Broken Line Royal Pleco or Royal Panaque, the Royal Pleco is a truly gorgeous freshwater fish. It is a popular choice amongst aquarists due to its fascinating striped pattern and captivating coloration. Royal Pleco is an herbivorous fish and therefore loves to live off decaying wood and algae growth. If you opt for this fish for your aquarium, then buy plentiful algae wafers, flakes and pellet alongside as well. And in case you run out of fish food on any day, you can easily offer them lettuce, cucumbers, green beans or even cooked peas and boiled spinach and they will be more than thankful.
More DIFFICULT Care Level
Tiger barb is quite an easy fish to care for but definitely not manageable for everyone. This is because tiger barbs swim at incredibly high speeds and can be mildly aggressive at times. They tend to nip fish that have flowing fins or feathery tails such as goldfishes. Tiger barbs prefer slightly acidic water conditions but will eat most types of fish food as they are omnivorous.
Freshwater angelfish are members of the cichlid family which means that they belong to the same group that other common aquarium fish like Fire Mouth and Lionhead belong to. They come in a wide variety of colors and sizes but contain certain features that are common to all. For instance, all angelfish have quite a defined triangular shape and pointed fins that complement the shape of their body. Compared to most of the other types listed above, this type of aquarium fish is relatively difficult to care for. Angelfish can grow to 6 inches long and require spacious tanks to stay happy. They can do well in community tanks as long as smaller fish are not housed along with them.
Angelfish can live up to 15 years and prefers all types of food including live feed, frozen fish food as well as artificial supplements.
Red Tailed Shark
The Red Tailed Shark or Fire Tail is an ornamental fish that will look impressive in any fish tank. Native to Thailand, this species comprises of deep black fish that have a dazzling bright red tail. This variety of freshwater fish can reach a size of 6 inches when mature and live up to 6 years on average.
Red Tailed Sharks have a moderate care level and are not suitable for first-time fish owners because they require a tank of minimum 55 gallons along with an elaborate set-up that must include tropical plants, rocks, caves as well as a well-maintained temperature and water conditions (pH, oxygen level and so on).
Discus fish are often called the king of freshwater tanks and for the right reason too. With their intense and spectacular colors that will catch your eye from afar, these fish make a magnificent addition to the tank with their rather large size (approximately 8 inches when fully grown).
Discus is, however, not an easy-to-keep pet. It has a lifespan of 15 years but grows at a sluggish pace. Plus, these fish require a planted tank and addition of carbon dioxide from time to time in order to maintain slight acidity as they thrive at a certain pH level (about 6.5). A bare bottomed tank is often considered as an easy alternative because it is easy to clean and good for Discus babies who otherwise, often get trapped in the gravel.
Whether you have been to Japan or not, you must be aware of koi fish as they are a common species that are found in various aquariums or pools be it at a restaurant, shopping mall or even certain offices. Koi is best suited for outdoor pools but can be kept indoors if the tank has a capacity of at least 30 gallons. However, the tank must be covered as koi have a tendency to jump out from the top.
It is believed that koi have a lifespan of about 50 years and can grow to a massive size of 36 inches – which is obviously rather huge for fish tanks unless you have an enormously large aquarium.
To get the best experience out of the fun and enjoyable hobby that is fish-keeping, narrow down your preferences depending on factors such as the size of the tank, maintenance requirements and so on. Research more about the type of aquarium fish that you like and then dive in!
Get your little pet from your local aquarist and swim along to new adventures in fish-keeping.
Home Stratosphere is an award-winning home and garden online publication that’s a result of our talented researchers and writers who work directly with hundreds of professional interior designers, furniture designers, landscape designers and architects from around the world to create helpful, informative, entertaining and inspiring articles and design galleries.