The Top World’s Coolest & Most Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes

Having an evolution of more than 450 million years, fish are truly amazing creatures that come in all shapes, sizes, and stunning colors.

As any other creature with a nervous system, fish can perceive the world around them through the ordinary senses of sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste, making them perfect pets for some people. Some species are known for their playful character, learning to interact with their owner, and even being trained to do tricks.

Furthermore, science demonstrated that owning an aquarium brings a lot of benefits such as reducing anxiety and improving sleep and productivity. All these benefits come with a true delight to the human eye.

Here is a list of the world’s coolest and most exotic aquarium freshwater fishes that includes the smallest, largest, the most aggressive freshwater aquarium fish, and much more. We hope that this list of great fish has given you the inspiration you were looking for. Please let us know in the comments which fish you think is the coolest.

38. Vampire Tetra or Payara Fish

Vampire Tetra or Payara Fish - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Vampire Tetra or Payara Fish (Hydrolycus scomberoides)
Payara Fish, Vampire Tetra, Dogtooth Tetra, Sabre Tooth Tetra
Lifespan: Up to 12 years
Size: 120 cm (46.6 inches)
Weight: Most of them usually range in weight from 3 to 8 kg (6.6 lb to 17.6 lb ). Maximum recorded weight of 17.8 kg (38 lb)
Food & Diet: Piscivores (live fish, tetras, crustaceans, trout, earthworms, river shrimp, minnows, piranhas)
Minimum Tank Size: 2,000 L (500 gallons)
Care difficulty: Difficult

Payara fish (Hydrolycus scomberoides) belongs to the Dogtooth Characins family and was discovered in 1918 by the French zoologist Georges Cuvier. This freshwater fish is also known as the Vampire Tetra, which lives in the tropical South American waters, being found predominantly in the tropical waters of the Amazon Basin.

Payara is a carnivorous piscivore, with sharp, pointed fangs designed to kill prey immediately. The diet of this fish consists of live fish, tetras, crustaceans, trout, earthworms, river shrimp, minnows, piranhas, and even other Payara’s. Therefore, Payara is a suitable fish for large aquariums and mixed only with relatively large species, as smaller ones will be seen as potential prey.

Vampire tetra’s lifespan is about six to twelve months in captivity and 12 years in the wild.

37. Flowerhorn Cichlid

The Flowerhorn Cichlid is one of the most popular ornamental aquarium fish.

Golden Base type flowerhorn - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Golden Base type Flowerhorn Cichlid. Author: Inkpassion
Flowerhorn Cichlid
Lifespan: 10–12 years
Size: 30-40 cm (12–16 inches)
Weight: 0.5kg(1lb )
Food & Diet: Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 300 L (75 gallons)
Care difficulty: Moderate

Having vivid colors and a unique look that inspired its name, the Flowerhorn Cichlid is one of the most popular ornamental aquarium fish. Females of this species are small and have black spots, while males are larger and have much more remarkable colors than females.

With a lifespan of 10–12 years and sizes up to 12 to 16 inches, the Flowerhorn Cichlid exists in a few different varieties and color variations such as yellow, red, purple, or blue by the pigment injection process. It is an omnivorous fish that must be accommodated in a large aquarium due to the size it can develop as an adult. Also, being an aggressive fish, it cannot share the same space with other fish of its species.

36. Discus

Symphysodon Discus - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Symphysodon Discus. Author: Patrick Farrelly
Discus fish, pompadour fish, king of the aquarium
Lifespan: 10–15 years in captivity
Size: 12-15 cm (4.8–6 inches)
Weight: 150–250 grams (0.5 lb )
Food & Diet: Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size: approx 210 L (55 gallons for a group of six fish )
Care difficulty: Challenging, requires a higher temperature than many other species

Boasting a laterally compressed body shape, Discus, also known as pompadour fish, is a highly social fish that comes in a variety of astonishing, rich colors and patterns.

This tropical aquarium freshwater fish is part of the cichlids family and prefers taller tanks where it can live up to 15 years. Discus can grow up to 12.3–15.2 cm (4.8–6.0 in) in length and coexist with its species. Sometimes young fish of this type can even mate and remain a couple.

35. Paradise Fish (Macropodus opercularis)

Paradise Fish (Macropodus opercularis) - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Paradise Fish (Macropodus opercularis). Author: Matthias Kloszczyk
Paradise Fish (Macropodus opercularis)
Lifespan: up to 9 years
Size: 5cm (2 inches)
Food & Diet: Paradise Fish (Macropodus opercularis) is an omnivore and likes to eat flake, frozen and live foods. Good at eating snails.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 75 L (20 gallons)
Care difficulty: Medium

Paradise is one of the most colorful freshwater fish that would bring “wow” effects to any tank.

But this beauty comes bundled with extreme aggression. Paradise is a small aggressive freshwater fish that attacks both females and males of its species.

Native to Asia, the Paradise fish is one of the oldest species of domestic fish that have been kept in tanks since 1665. Their average lifespan is about 9 years, while their maximum length can go up to 5cm (2 inches).

34. Zebra Plecos

Zebra Plecos - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Zebra Plecos. Author: M.Sykes
Zebra Pleco (Hypancistrus zebra)
Lifespan: 10–15 years
Size: 7-10 cm (3-4 inches)
Weight: 0.008 lb (4 grams)
Food & Diet: Zebra Plecos do best on a high-protein diet.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 75 L (20 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy to medium

Zebra Pleco (Hypancistrus zebra) are shy and passive fish that can be easily identified by their appearance. The most distinguishable feature that Zebra Pleco has is its black and white stripes.

This freshwater fish can be found swimming in one of the largest clearwater basins in the Amazon called Xingu River and is currently classified as endangered in the wild due to the construction of dams in their natural habitat.

The Pleco zebra lives between 10 and 15 years old, reaching sizes of 7 to 10 cm (3-4 inches) at maturity. As a diet, Zebra Pleco is an omnivorous fish that also prefers goodies such as brine shrimp and bloodworms, as well as live or freeze-dried foods.

Also, breeding this exotic species of freshwater fish is extremely easy. All you have to do is adjust the water temperature to about 27°C (82°F), infuse oxygen into the water with an air stone, and make caves where the male will trap the female, lay, and fertilize the eggs.

33. Fancy Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)

Fancy Guppy (Poecilia reticulata) - Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Fancy Guppy (Poecilia reticulata). Image credit
Fancy Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)
Lifespan: up to 3 years
Size: 3-6 cm (1.2 to 2.4 inches)
Food & Diet: Fancy Guppy eat algae and plant matter, zooplankton, diatoms, invertebrates, small insects, and insect larvae.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 40-80 L (10-20 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

Fancy Guppy are extremely active and friendly, making them the most widely available species of tropical fish and loved by the aquaria community.

Discovered in 1859 by Wilhelm Peters, Fancy Guppy originates from Southern and Central America, specifically Venezuela, Barbados, Trinidad, Brazil, and the Guyanas. They have a small, elongated body that can reach between 3-6 cm (1.2 to 2.4 inches) at full maturity. They come in 4 colors wild color, albino, blond, and blue, and live up to 3 years.

As for their diet, the Fancy Guppy eat algae and plant matter, zooplankton, diatoms, invertebrates, small insects, and insect larvae.

32. Salvini Cichlid (Trichromis Salvini)

Salvini Cichlid (Trichromis Salvini) - Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Salvini Cichlid (Trichromis Salvini). Author: Banteo
Salvini Cichlid (Trichromis Salvini)
Lifespan: 12 years and more
Size: up to 18 cm (7 inches)
Food & Diet: Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size: approx 200 L (50 gallons)
Care difficulty: Intermediate

Originating from Mexico and Belize, Salvini Cichlid is a semi-aggressive species with extraordinary beauty. Both females and males of this species have a vibrant yellow color with black lines, the only difference being that the males are slightly larger than the females.

Their diet consists of small insects, fish, and aquatic organisms. Reaching up to up to 18 cm (7 inches) long at full maturity, Salvini Cichlid has an average lifespan of 12 years.

31. Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)

Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)
Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha). Author: Roel Balingit
Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)
Lifespan: 5 to 8 years
Size: 5cm (2 inches)
Food & Diet: High-quality flakes or granules and live foods such as daphnia and artemia.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 40 L (10 gallons)
Care difficulty: Intermediate

If you’re looking for a shoaling fish for your freshwater aquarium, then Harlequin Rasbora can be a great addition. Harlequin Rasbora loves to swim, eat, and have fun in groups and can live from 5 to 8 years. They have a round body shape and can grow up to 5cm (2 inches) in length at full maturity.

30. African Butterflyfish

African Butterflyfish - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
African Butterflyfish. Author: Toniher
The African Butterfly Fish
Lifespan: 5-6 years
Size: 12 cm (5 inches)
Food & Diet: Since they are carnivores, the African Butterflyfish will eat all types of protein foods.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 120 L (30 gallons)
Care difficulty: Medium

The African Butterfly is the only fish in the family Pantodontidae and lives in parts of West Africa. Like others above, the African Butterfly is also a freshwater fish that gets its name after its most noticeable feature: large pectoral fins. Its large pectoral fins are similar to a butterfly’s wings that help it stay motionless in the water. This fish is small in size, no more than 12 cm (5 inches) long at maturity, and has a pretty small body and a wide mouth that helps it catch various insects.

In general, the African Butterfly Fish is very peaceful and likes to hide most of the day, becoming active at dusk. With a lifespan of up to 6 years, the African Butterfly fish likes to spend time at the surface of the water, so it must be placed in a tall aquarium with a minimum of a 30-gallon tank.

This type of fish can coexist with species such as Angelfish, Gouramis, Danios, Barbs, Tetras, and some Cichlids.

29. Celestial Pearl Danio (Danio margaritatus)

Celestial Pearl Danio (Danio margaritatus) - Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Celestial Pearl Danio (Danio margaritatus). Author: Peter Macguire
Celestial Pearl Danio (Danio margaritatus)
Lifespan: up to 5 years
Size: 2.5 cm (1 inch)
Food & Diet: Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size: approx 40 L (10 gallons)
Care difficulty: Moderate

Celestial Pearl Danio is a nano schooling aquarium fish discovered in 2006. Being discovered relatively recently, specialists are sure that not all the details about this species have been found yet. However, they were able to identify all color variants.

Celestial Pearl Danio is mainly a peaceful fish, but the males sometimes become aggressive. They have large eyes and tiny bodies covered in vibrant red with blue and white spots. Celestial Pearl Danio grows up to 2.5 cm (1 inch) in length and lives up to 5 years.

28. Betta Fish (Betta splendens)

Betta Fish
Betta Fish. Author: Lerdsuwa
Betta Fish (Betta splendens)
Lifespan: 2 – 5 years (In captivity)
Size: 7cm (3 inches)
Food & Diet: The best betta fish diet would include a variety of freeze-dried foods, live foods (mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, bloodworms).
Minimum Tank Size: approx 20 L (5 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

Moving on to Betta Fish (Betta splendens), we can tell you that this is a tropical freshwater fish that comes in various different shapes and colorations.

Betta Fish (Betta splendens) it’s one of the most sold aquarium fish in the world.

With an average lifespan of 3 years, the Betta fish can live in low oxygen waters because it can take the oxygen it needs directly from the surface of the water. Even though they are small fish and only grow up to 7cm (3 inches), these fish do not do well in very small containers.

27. African Lungfish – Protopterus

African Lungfish - Protopterus - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
African Lungfish – Protopterus. Author: Vassil
African Lungfish – Protopterus
Lifespan: more than 20 years in captivity
Size: 200 cm (78 inches)
Food & Diet: They are carnivorous, eating crustaceans, aquatic insect larvae, and molluscs.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 240 L (60 gallons)
Care difficulty: Medium

The Protopterus is part of the genus of lungfish found in Africa. This unique freshwater fish is an elongated fish that can grow up to 200 cm (78 inches) long, with pectoral and pelvic shingles in the form of a thread. This fish is a good swimmer but also likes to crawl on the bottom of the water or in muddy areas.

The Protopterus fish diet consists of crustaceans, aquatic insect larvae, and mollusks. But what is remarkable about this fish is that it can live up to three and a half years without any food intake.

26. Arowana Fish

Super Red Arowana - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Super Red Arowana. Author: Ginkgo100
Arowana Fish – Scleropages formosus
Lifespan: 10 to 15 years
Size: up to 90 cm (35 inches)
Food & Diet: They are carnivorous, eating scorpions, centipedes, mealworms, crickets, shrimps, feeder fish, small frogs, and earthworms.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 240 L (150 gallons)
Care difficulty: Intermediate to advanced

Native to Southeast Asia, the Asian Arowana is a beautiful freshwater fish, very popular in the aquarium community, especially in China and its culture. Its other names include Asian bony tongue and Dragonfish due to its resemblance to the Chinese dragon.

The long body, elongated pectoral fins, and extremely vivid colors like green, silver Asian, and red, make it stand out amongst other aquarium fish.

This fish requires a large aquarium due to the fact that it can grow up to 90 cm (35 inches) long. Asian Arowana is carnivorous and needs to be fed live foods including scorpions, centipedes, mealworms, crickets, shrimps, feeder fish, small frogs, and earthworms.

25. German Blue Ram

German Blue Ram - Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
German Blue Ram. Author: Leonardo Dasilva
German Blue Ram
Lifespan: up to 3 years
Size: 5cm (2 inches)
Food & Diet: German blue rams are omnivores (frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, cyclops, bloodworms, and mysis shrimp for larger adults).
Minimum Tank Size: approx 75 L (20 gallons)
Care difficulty: Intermediate

The German Blue Ram is a small, colorful freshwater aquarium fish making it a good choice for smaller aquariums. Native to slow-moving waters in South America, they have their bodies covered in bright colors such as red, and yellow with blue lines, and red eyes.

The German Blue Ram can only grow up to 5cm (2 inches) and live up to 3 years. Its perfect tank mates can be its species or any other small fish species. Any other larger species will see the German Blue Ram as prey.

24. Archerfish

Archerfish - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Archerfish. Author: Vassil
Archerfish
Lifespan: About 2 years
Size: 25–30 cm (10-12 inches)
Food & Diet: Archerfish are essentially carnivorous. Their diet is mainly insects, small aquatic crustaceans, insect larvae and zooplankton.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 200 L (55 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

The Archerfish are native to freshwater rivers and streams in India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. With sizes up to about 12–18 cm (5–7 inches) long, the Archerfish have a laterally compressed body, with the dorsal fin, and typically live above the water’s surface.

What makes the Archerfish stand out is their way of catching the prey. They usually shoot prey with water droplets from their specialized mouth. Check the video bellow

An archerfish shooting water at a bug on a hanging branch
An archerfish shooting water at a bug on a hanging branch

They also have very good eyesight, and the ability to compensate for the refraction of light as it passes through the air-water interface when aiming at their prey.

23. Elephantnose Fish

Elephantnose Fish - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Elephantnose Fish. Author: Daiju Azuma
Peters’s elephant-nose fish (Gnathonemus petersii)
Lifespan: 6 and 10 years
Size: 23–25 cm (9.1–9.8 inches)
Food & Diet: In the wild, Peters’s elephant-nose fish eat a carnivorous diet of small meaty foods such as shrimp, larvae, and insects. Feed the fish a similar high-protein diet in captivity.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 200 L (55 gallons)
Care difficulty: Intermediate

The Elephant Nose Fish (Gnathonemus petersii) is the most commonly available freshwater elephant fish in aquarium stores in the United States.

It is dark brown to black fish that can be found in the rivers of West and Central Africa. It prefers to live in muddy, slowly moving rivers and can grow up to 23–25 cm (9.1–9.8 inches).

Its most remarkable feature is its trunk-like protrusion on the head called Schnauzenorgan, which is an extension of the mouth, full of electroreceptors that help him defend himself, communicate, navigate, and find food.

The most crucial factor in caring for Elephantnose Fish is to ensure that your tank is large enough for them to prosper. The tank should have more than 200 liters (53 US gal) and lots of plants.

22. Ropefish – Reedfish

Ropefish - Reedfish - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Ropefish – Reedfish. Image credit
Ropefish – Reedfish
Lifespan: 15 to 20 years
Size: 37 cm (15 inches)
Food & Diet: The species is carnivorous. In captivity, you can feed your rope fish meaty live or frozen foods, chopped meats, earthworms, mussel and live blood worms (a rope fish favorite).
Minimum Tank Size: approx 190 L (50 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

The Rope Fish or Rope Fish lives in West and Central Africa, being the only member of the Erpetoichthys genus. They are nocturnal fish who like to stay near the surface of the water. The Reed Fish can reach up to a maximum total length of 37 cm (15 inches) and can survive in very oxygen-poor water due to their pair of lungs.

They are curious fish that will explore every inch of the tank if possible, that’s why they are also difficult to keep in there. They have the habit to jump in order to escape, but also to enter pumps which sometimes leads to their death.

21. Stingrays

Stingrays - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Stingrays. Author: Albert Kok
Stingrays
Lifespan: 15 to 25 years
Size: width of 1.4 m (55 inches) and a length of 2.5 m (98 inches)
Food & Diet: Stingrays’ diet consists of crustaceans, small fish, snails, clams, shrimp, and other small creatures.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 700 L (180 gallons)
Care difficulty: Difficult

Stingrays are freshwater fish with no bones in their body that originates in the regions of Southeast Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America. Related to sharks, sawfish, and skates, stingrays are dangerous because of the venom it produces and stores in the secretory cells of the spine in the middle-distal region, but they never attack unless harassed or threatened.

Stingrays’ diet consists of crustaceans, small fish, snails, clams, shrimp, and other small creatures.

As for life in a tank, Stingrays are very intelligent fish that are not easy to take care of. Having a large tank, pristine water conditions, and specialized diets are some of the requirements.

20. Japanese Koi

Japanese Koi - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Japanese Koi. Author: Asturio Cantabrio
Japanese Koi
Lifespan: up to 40 years
Size: 70 cm (30 inches)
Food & Diet: Japanese Koi fish are omnivores. They will eat about anything, from small bugs and insects, to plants and algae at the bottom of the fish pond.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 900 L (240 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

Native to Central Europe and East Asia, the Japanese Koi is an extremely popular freshwater fish in the aquaria world. The popularity of these fish is due to their beauty and the many colors they have. Some of the major colors are white, black, red, orange, yellow, blue, brown, and cream, besides metallic shades like gold and silver-white (‘platinum’) scales.

Symbolizing wealth, love, and success in Japan, the Koi fish can live for decades and even centuries, so if you look for a long-life fish for a home aquarium, this is the one.

The oldest koi recorded in history is the legendary koi named Hanako that live from 1751 to 1977, living a total of 226 years.

The Japanese Koi diet consists of a wide variety of treats, which includes cooked rice, orange slices, grapes, watermelon, garlic, broccoli, and lettuce. One thing to keep in mind is that the Japanese Koi fish do not have stomachs, so they need to be fed small amounts of food frequently.

Last but not least, Japanese Koi fish can grow up to 70 cm (30 inches) long and are very sensitive to the sun.

19. Wolf Cichlid – Dovii Cichlid

Wolf Cichlid - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Wolf Cichlid. Author: Sesamehoneytart
Wolf Cichlid – Dovii Cichlid
Lifespan: up to 30 years
Size: 61-72 cm (24-30 inches)
Food & Diet: Wolf Cichlid fish are carnivores and love to eat fish, insects, and crustaceans.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 550 L (150 gallons)
Care difficulty: Intermediate

Next on our list is the Wolf or Dovii Cichlid which is the most popular freshwater fish. Dovii Cichlid is native to various lakes and rivers throughout Lake Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras and can grow up to 61-72 cm (24-30 inches) long, so they are relatively large aquarium fish.

Wolf or Dovii Cichlid is the the most aggressive freshwater aquarium fish.

Dovii Cichlid males boast a golden yellow color pattern mixed with several specks of purple, black, and blue, while the females are yellow only. Living up to 30 years, they are carnivores and love to eat fish, insects, and crustaceans.

Dovii Cichlid must be placed in a massive tank, with a minimum of 150 gallons, and with other large and powerful fish as tank mates.

18. Dwarf Puffer Fish – Pea Puffer

Dwarf Puffer Fish - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Dwarf Puffer Fish. Author: Starseed
Dwarf Puffer Fish – Pea Puffer
Lifespan: up to 5 years
Size: 3.8 cm (1.5 inches)
Food & Diet: Dwarf Puffer Fish or Pea Puffer fish are carnivores and loves to eat bloodworms and brine shrimp.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 37 L (10 gallons)
Care difficulty: Intermediate

Dwarf Pufferfish can be easily identified by their round, oblong body and large eyes. Boasting a yellow and green coloration, with black sports, Dwarf Pufferfish can be found in Southwest India in large groups.

Dwarf Puffer is the smallest puffer fish in the world, growing up to 3.8 cm (1.5 inches) at full maturity.

But even if they are small fish, Dwarf Puffers are also extremely territorial and aggressive. They have a unique defense mechanism against attackers, managing to inflate their bodies with water very quickly. They also have skin spines on most of their body, making them difficult to swallow.

Dwarf Pufferfish or Pea Puffer has an average lifespan of 5 years and loves to eat bloodworms and brine shrimp.

17. Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf Gourami
Dwarf Gourami. Image credit
Dwarf Gourami
Lifespan: 4 to 6 years
Size: 8.8 cm (3.5 inches)
Food & Diet: Dwarf Gourami fish are omnivorous and their typical diet includes algae, blood worms, and brine shrimp.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 55 L (15 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy to intermediate

Dwarf Gourami are very peaceful fish that come in red, powder blue, and turquoise. They can survive in low oxygen environments due to their ability to breathe the air directly from the water’s surface.

Dwarf Gourami can live up to 4-6 years and grow up to 8.8 cm (3.5 inches). They are omnivorous and their typical diet includes algae, blood worms, and brine shrimp.

They cannot coexist with other Dwarf Gourami males, but they are perfectly fine with tank mates such as Swordtails, Mollies, Platies, Zebra, and Harlequin Rasboras.

16. Swordtail

Swordtail - Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Swordtail. Author: Wojciech J. Płuciennik
Swordtail
Lifespan: up to 5 years
Size: 16 cm (6.3 inches)
Food & Diet: Swordtail fish are omnivores.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 60 L (15 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

Due to their ease of care, peaceful temperament, and amazing coloration, the Swordtailare are amongst the world’s coolest aquarium fish. They are native to North and Central America, including Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize, and come in orange, red, blue, and green with wonderful patterns.

Swordtail fish loves to live surrounded by fish of its species, but in a tank, the female population must always outnumber the male population, because if there are too many males, the Swordtail becomes violent.

An average Swordtail adult can grow up to 16 cm (6.3 inches) long and live up to five years in captivity given proper care.

15. Black Ghost Knifefish

Black Ghost Knifefish
Black Ghost Knifefish. Author: Clinton & Charles Robertson
Black Ghost Knifefish
Lifespan: up to 15 years
Size: 60 cm (23 inches)
Food & Diet: Aquarium-kept knifefish will eat fresh and frozen meaty foods, including bloodworms, blackworms, brine shrimp, and mosquito larvae. In the wild they eat insects, small fish, and small invertebrates. They will eat anything that is small enough to fit in their mouths.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 450 L (120 gallons)
Care difficulty: Intermediate to difficult

Black Ghost Knife are large and peaceful fish that live in tropical waters of the Amazon River Basin of South America. Its long body with no caudal or dorsal fins looks exactly like a knife.

Both females and males come in black with two white rings on their tails and a white stripe on the nose. The eyes are the only physical characteristic that helps identify the sex of this fish. The males have their eyes on the top of their heads, whereas female fish have eyes on the front.

Black Ghost Knife needs a large tank because it can grow to be 60 cm (23 inches) long. Also, if the tank is not big enough, the fish can become aggressive.

This tropical freshwater fish can live up to 15 years if properly looked for.

14. Snakehead Fish

Snakehead Fish - Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Snakehead Fish. Author: Brian Gratwicke
Snakehead Fish
Lifespan: up to 15 years
Size: 30 and 90 cm (12 and 35 inches)
Food & Diet: Juvenile snakeheads eat zooplankton, insect larvae, small crustaceans, and other small fish. Adult snakeheads not only eat other fish, they prey on insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 2000 L (500 gallons)
Care difficulty: Intermediate

Snakehead is a top-level freshwater predator fish for aquariums that is native to areas such as Asia and Africa. Because they are very aggressive, have no enemies, and can destroy other fish populations, the Snakehead is considered invasive species in American waters.
They have a long body and dorsal, large mouths, and sharp teeth and can grow up to 30 and 90 cm (12 and 35 inches).

Snakehead are also capable to survive for a period of up to 4 days on land.

13. Chinese Hillstream Loach

Chinese Hillstream Loach - Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Chinese Hillstream Loach – Image credit
Chinese Hillstream Loach
Lifespan: up to 5 years
Size: 7cm (3 inches)
Food & Diet: Its diet includes algae wafers, spinach, zucchini, cucumbers, kale, and mashed peas.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 200 L (50 gallons)
Care difficulty: Very difficult

Chinese Hillstream Loach is a cold-water aquarium fish that loves to crawl at the bottom of the river or in the tank. It originates from China and is known for its peaceful, fascinating social behavior with members of its own and other species.

Chinese Hillstream Loach is a small aquarium fish that can grow up to 7cm (3 inches) in length, with a flat belly and yellow-brown body with lots of black spots.

Its diet includes algae wafers, spinach, zucchini, cucumbers, kale, and mashed peas. In captivity, they live up to 5 years.

12. Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)

Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) - Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi). Author: Axel Rouvin
Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)
Lifespan: 2 – 5 years
Food & Diet: Cardinal Tetras are omnivores.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 60 L (15 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) is one of the cheapest and low-maintenance freshwater fish for aquariums.

They are small and colorful freshwater fish with small mouths and large eyes that prefer to live in large groups and are very easy to look after. All they need is clean water and to be fed twice per day.

The Cardinal Tetras’ lifespan is between 2 to 5 years, while their maximum length is around 5cm (2 inches). The breeding of Cardinal Tetras is not possible in captivity, but in the wild, the female can release up to 130 to 500 eggs.

11. Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)

Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi). Author: Tan Meng Yoe
Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)
Lifespan: up to 7 years
Size: 4 cm(1.5 inches)
Food & Diet: Neon tetras are omnivores, meaning that they will eat both plant and animal material (algae, mall invertebrates, and insect larvae).
Minimum Tank Size: approx 80 L (20 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

Found in the wild in Western and Southeastern Colombia, Eastern Peru, and Western Brazil, the Neon Tetra amaze everybody with their incredibly striking colors. Usually, they have a blue back, a silver abdomen, and iridescent blue and red stripes horizontally along each side that turn gray and black during sleep.

As omnivores, Neon Tetras will eat algae, mall invertebrates, and insect larvae. Their length can go up to 4 cm(1.5 inches), while their lifespan can be up to 7 years.

10. Jack Dempsey Cichlid (Rocio octofasciata)

Jack Dempsey Cichlid - Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Jack Dempsey Cichlid – Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Jack Dempsey Cichlid (Rocio octofasciata)
Lifespan: up to 10 years
Size: 40 cm(15 inches)
Food & Diet: The Jack Dempsey fish are true carnivorous freshwater fish.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 210 L (55 gallons)
Care difficulty: Intermediate to Expert

The Jack Dempsey fish is known for its resemblance to the famous boxer of the ’20s Jack Dempsey, which gave them their name. The Jack Dempsey fish are true carnivorous freshwater fish with special teeth, which allow them to eat meat.

They are native to rivers from Southern Mexico, Belize, and Honduras, and come in blue, pink, green, silver, and purple, but their full coloration is available at full maturity only. The Jack Dempsey Fish is also a true freshwater predator fish, making it very difficult to take care of them in captivity.

The Jack Dempsey Fish can live up to 10 years and grow up to 40 cm(15 inches) in length.

9. Boesemani Rainbow (Melanotaenia boesemani)

Boesemani Rainbow - Most Coolest & Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Image credit
Boesemani Rainbow (Melanotaenia boesemani)
Lifespan: up to 8 years
Size: 4 inches (10 cm)
Food & Diet: The Boesemani Rainbowfish is an omnivore and likes to eat brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 120 L (30 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

As its name suggests, the Boesemani Rainbowfish is a vividly colored, peaceful fish that could spice up every tank. Native to Asia, this tropical freshwater fish can grow up to 4.5 inches in length and live up to 8 years.

The Boesemani Rainbowfish’s color depends on sex, age, mood, and general health. Also, the color’s intensity is fully reached at maturity.

The Boesemani Rainbowfish is an omnivore and likes to eat brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms.

8. Endlers (Poecilia wingei)

Endlers (Poecilia wingei) - Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Endlers (Poecilia wingei). Author: Dgrummon
Endlers (Poecilia wingei)
Lifespan: up to 9 years
Size: 5cm (2 inches)
Food & Diet: Omnivore (high quality flake food, and live or frozen foods).
Minimum Tank Size: approx 20-40 L (5-10 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

Colorful, energetic, and peaceful, the Endler Guppy was first discovered in 1937 by Frankly F. Bons and is one of the best freshwater aquarium fish. The males of this species are more colorful than the females, which display a tannish-silver color, but both sexes can reach up to 5cm (2 inches) long.

Another reason this freshwater nano fish is so popular in the aquaria world is because of its simple breeding process. If the right conditions are provided, the Endler Guppy will breed and will give birth to live fish.

7. Bluefin Notho (Nothobranchius rachovii)

Bluefin Notho (Nothobranchius rachovii)
Bluefin Notho (Nothobranchius rachovii)
Bluefin Notho (Nothobranchius rachovii)
Lifespan: up to one year
Size: 6 cm (2.4 inches)
Food & Diet: Quality flake food, and live or frozen foods).
Minimum Tank Size: approx 40 L (10 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

Bluefin Notho is a beautiful freshwater fish that lives in Mozambique. Reaching 6 cm (2.4 inches) in length, the Bluefin Notho is a very popular annual killifish, which means that it will die at the end of the breeding season, living only one year.

Bluefin Notho comes in orange and blue variants, with females being more boring colored than males.

6. Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya)

A male and female Cherry Barb Fish
A male and female Cherry Barb Fish. Image credit
Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya)
Lifespan: 4-7 years
Size: 5 cm (2 inches)
Food & Diet: Cherry Barb eat small crustaceans, insects and algae.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 120 L (30 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

Cherry Barb, also known as the Crimson Carplet, is a gorgeous and colorful species of fish that is part of the Cyprinidae family. It comes in 2 different colors including red and cherry red for males, while females boast a brown color.

Native to Ski Lanka, Cherry Barb has an average lifespan of 4-7 years and can reach 5cm (2 inches) long. As far as their behavior goes, they are known to be pretty friendly and peaceful.

5. Electric Blue Hap (Sciaenochromis fryeri)

Electric Blue Hap (Sciaenochromis fryeri)
Electric Blue Hap (Sciaenochromis fryeri). Image credit
Electric Blue Hap (Sciaenochromis fryeri)
Lifespan: 4-7 years
Size: 17 to 20 cm (7 to 8 inches)
Food & Diet: Electric Blue Hap (Sciaenochromis fryeri) are carnivores, meaning they need to be fed meat and proteins.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 300 L (75 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

Electric Blue Cichlids are brilliantly colored freshwater fish that get their name from their bright blue coloring. Also known as Electric Blue Hap, they are native to Lake Malawi, which is one of the largest freshwater reservoirs in the world, and classified as semi-aggressive fish, but that does not mean they should be placed alone in a tank.

Electric Blue cichlids are a large species, reaching around 20 cm (7 inches) in length, and they are carnivores, meaning they need to be fed meat and proteins.

4. Electric Yellow Lab (Labidochromis caeruleus)

Electric Yellow Lab (Labidochromis caeruleus)
Electric Yellow Lab (Labidochromis caeruleus). Author: Jmatz
Electric Yellow Lab (Labidochromis caeruleus)
Lifespan: up to 10 years
Size: 10cm (4 inches)
Food & Diet: Electric yellow cichlids consume diets that are heavy on meat, although they are omnivores.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 210 L (55 gallons)
Care difficulty: Intermediate

Yellow Lab Cichlids are brightly colored yellow, freshwater fish native to Lake Malawi.

Yellow Lab Cichlids are known in the aquaria community as one of the most peaceful fish species you could have.

They grow up to 10cm (4 inches) if proper care, and have an average lifespan of 10 years.

3. Rainbow Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher)

Rainbow Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher) - Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Rainbow Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher). Author: Tino Strauss
Rainbow Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher)
Lifespan: up to 5 years
Size: 10 cm (4 inches)
Food & Diet: Omnivore(mosquito larvae, bloodworms, and even vegetables such as zucchini).
Minimum Tank Size: approx 80 L (20 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

Kribensis Cichlid are African freshwater aquarium fish that can grow up to 10 cm (4 inches) in length and live up to 5 years. Compared to other species, you can distinguish a female Kribensis Cichlid from a male with just one glance. The females are smaller, more rounded, and more colored, while males are longer are thinner.

Kribensis Cichlid are not aggressive, but they are territorial fish, so it is important to have their own space in the tank.

As for the colors, Kribensis Cichlids are available in different ones, but generally, they have yellow heads, red bellies, and black spots.

2. Redhead Cichlid (Vieja melanura)

Redhead Cichlid (Vieja melanura) - Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Redhead Cichlid (Vieja melanura)
Redhead Cichlid (Vieja melanura)
Lifespan: up to 15 years
Size: 30 – 37 cm (12 to 14 inches)
Food & Diet: Redhead Cichlid (Vieja melanura) are primarily herbivorous but also take a small number of live foods.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 450 L (120 gallons)
Care difficulty: Experienced

The Redhead Cichlid is an easy-to-spot fish due to their vibrant splash of color. As the name suggests, they have red heads and very colorful bodies. Their coloration will reach the peak at full maturity, which is around 3 years old.

They are easy to care for, not aggressive, and can live up to 15 years in captivity.

1. Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara sp.)

Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara sp.) - Exotic Aquarium Freshwater Fishes
Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara sp.)
Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara sp.)
Lifespan: up to 15 years
Size: 15 cm (6 inches)
Food & Diet: Provide a combination of high quality fish food flakes, live or frozen brine shrimp, algae wafers, and vegetables like blanched spinach.
Minimum Tank Size: approx 200 L (55 gallons)
Care difficulty: Easy

Peacock cichlids are low-maintenance aquarium fish and one of the best freshwater fish for beginners.

Native to Lake Malawi, Peacock cichlids are popular due to their vibrant coloration and their playful behavior. They come in blue, red, and yellow and have an average lifespan of 9 to 15 years.
Peacock Cichlids grow up to 15 cm (6 inches) and show their emotions by changing their colors.

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