Fish are some of the Earth’s most diverse creatures, coming in all shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. From adorable clownfish (think “Finding Nemo”) to regal Koi, the diversity is astounding. Below, we’ve summarized ten of the most beautiful fish in the world. We’ve also thrown in some honorable mentions at the end for good measure since choosing just ten was an impossible task.
Top 10 Most Beautiful Fish
Before we jump in, a quick disclaimer: There are thousands of gorgeous fish swimming in the sea, and a list of just ten can’t capture all the beauty the ocean offers. Still, these are widely considered some of the prettiest swimmers you can come across.
1. Mandarin fish
This hypnotizing fish also goes by the name “psychedelic goby” — a testament to the creature’s vibrant pattern. Its body features a blue-green tint with reddish or orange squiggly lines (hence the psychedelic reference). These little swimmers flit through the water rapidly, and it’s an eye-catching sight when their multicolored bodies reflect the sun.
The Mandarin Fish lives in inshore reefs and sheltered lagoons. Like many of the other beauties on this list, its pretty appearance is a warning to predators. This fish is small but highly dangerous. It’s covered in tiny spikes, and if you touch it, it will inject a toxic mucus into you.
Here’s a fun fact: This fish is one of the few species of animals that can produce blue coloring. Other animals that appear blue, like male peacocks and Bluejays, actually have colorless cells, which reflect light to appear blue.
There are a few different types of angelfish, and choosing just one to mention is downright impossible. Our personal favorite is the Regal Angelfish, which features vibrant yellow, blue, white, and yellow stripes. Another Angelfish worth mentioning is the Queen Angelfish, which has a jewel-toned yellow body and electric blue “highlights” along the fins, eyes, and gills.
Then there’s the Flame Angelfish, which (no big surprise) has a fiery red color. Finally, we have to mention the Annularis Angelfish, which has an orange and tan body and electric blue stripes. Long story short, there is a shade of Angelfish to suit every style.
3. Clown Triggerfish
This fish stands out due to its dynamic color and pattern. Many other undersea animals feature multicolored bodies and mosaic patterns, which allow them to blend in better in water dappled by sunlight. However, the Clown Triggerfish features a bold black body. The top half of the body has small yellow speckles, while the bottom half is covered in large white dots.
The fish also features a noteworthy orange or yellow snout and a stark white stripe across its face. Once you spot that vibrant pout, you’ll understand how this creature got its name: The pattern resembles the bold red mouth of a circus clown.
4. Crosshatch Triggerfish
The Crosshatch Triggerfish lives up to its name, with a body featuring a distinctive crosshatch pattern. The body itself is dark blue and yellow. It’s accentuated by vibrant yellow or red fins and a tail. Also known as a Blue Cheekline Triggerfish, the fish further has horizontal blue lines across the face, running from the mouth to the gills’ back.
These fish rarely grow above 11 inches. Although they are compact, they still stand out thanks to their eye-catching coloring. Although small, these little swimmers are tough. They are carnivorous, subsisting on everything from clams and small squids to other small fish.
If we’re basing this ranking on cuteness, the clownfish is the clear winner. These fish shot to fame thanks to the movie “Finding Nemo,” and kids will quickly recognize the “Nemo fish” thanks to its bright orange body and characteristic white stripes. The edges of the tail and fins feature black marking.
These fish are also known as Clown Anemonefish, thanks to the fact that they like to make their homes in anemones. This is because Clownfish are immune to anemone tentacles’ toxin and have a symbiotic relationship with this usually lethal underwater creature. The anemone gives Nemo shelter, while Nemo removes parasites and brings the anemone food.
6. Moorish Idol
The Moorish Idol is one of the smallest marine aquarium fish globally, but it’s exceptionally well known. You might recognize this fish from “Finding Nemo” as well — the character of Gill, voiced by actor Willem Dafoe, was the leader of the “Tank Gang” in the film. This fish features broad vertical black and white stripes, accentuated by a yellow tinge along the body’s back.
Its shape is what makes it truly unique, however. The fish has a compressed, disc-like body and an exceptionally long dorsal fin with six to seven spines coming off of it. These spines form a sickle-shaped crest that trails behind the fish as it swims. The Moorish Idol also has a noteworthy “snout” at the front. These little fish prefer shallow flat coral reefs.
7. Banggai Cardinalfish
Hailing from Indonesia’s Banggai islands, these fish are prevalent in aquariums worldwide but rarely found in the wild. It’s a shame because these swimmers are real beauties. The Banggai Cardinalfish has a distinctly elegant appearance, thanks to its simple black and white markings.
The black fins and tail are accentuated by white dots, while the body features broad vertical black and white stripes. The fish has a graceful appearance as it moves through the water due to its long, flowing fins. These are social fish and feed together in groups, snacking on small crustaceans and plankton.
Also called tiger fish, scorpionfish, or dragon fish, these creatures of the deep are just as dangerous as they are beautiful, so beware! You don’t want to swim across a Lionfish’s path in the ocean. They make for a gorgeous sight, however. Lionfish feature varicolored stripes of tan, dark red, brown, and white, arranged in a zebra-like pattern.
However, what makes them so eye-catching is there many fins and tendrils, which ripple in the water as they drift around. The tendrils are venomous, and a sting can cause vomiting, nausea, convulsions, and even death. Lionfish can range from two to sixteen inches in length.
9. Betta fish
Betta fish, also referred to as Siamese Fighting Fish, have small bodies similar to simple guppies’. However, they differentiate themselves thanks to their impressively large, wing-like fins and tail and vibrant colors. As their alternative moniker suggests, these fish are highly aggressive. Owners of Betta fish can’t allow males to share tanks, or they will fight.
Betta fish come in various colors, the most striking probably being a magenta-like hue. However, note that these colors are the product of breeding in captivity. If you see a Betta in the wild, it won’t have the same stunning coloration. Here’s another fun fact about Bettas: They are labyrinth fish, which means they can take in oxygen through their gills and from the air.
Koi are magnificent fish and are often used as a decorative touch for garden ponds. These monstrous fish can grow up to two feet in length. Don’t let their size scare you, though: They’re completely harmless. Koi come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, from black to white, red, pinkish, and orange.
In Japanese culture, the fish is a symbol of good fortune and prosperity. Ornamental Koi are often seen in Japan, and the country even hosts an annual Koi show. There are many variants of Koi, differing in size, pattern, and scales. Many Koi varieties have been created through breeding, such as the Butterfly Koi, developed in the 1980s and noted for its long flowing fins.
A Few Other Beautiful Fish Worth Mentioning
The list above covers ten of our favorite fish, but the fact is, the ocean is full of fantastic creatures. A list of just ten can’t possibly cover them all. Here are a few more honorable mentions that can’t be ignored:
- Picasso Triggerfish: A relative of the Clown Triggerfish, this creature has the same body shape but a different color patterning. The tan body features bold blue and black stripes, giving it a cartoon-like “face” — sort of like a cubist Picasso painting.
- Symphysodon Discus: This fish’s name should give you a hint as to its shape — its body looks like a slim disc. This fish stands out due to its pattern and coloration. It consists of a light blue body with squiggly orange stripes.
- Goldfish: The simple, humble goldfish is a staple in many households. It might not be big and bold, but its beautiful golden hue makes it one of the prettiest pets you can have.
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The Final Word on the Most Beautiful Fish
Beauty is subjective—even when it comes to fish. This list isn’t comprehensive, and there are many other gorgeous fish in seas, lakes, rivers, and ponds worldwide. While some people might be drawn to the dangerous beauty of a Lionfish, others might prefer a cute clownfish. Our list covers some highlights so that you can pick your favorite.