Have you ever studied the fish in a stream or at your local aquarium and been awed by the diverse fish colors and patterns? There are tens of thousands of fish species, each with its own unique characteristics. However, there are ten fish – 14 if you count our honorable mentions – that stand apart from the rest!
Top 10 Most Colorful Freshwater and Aquarium Fish
This list of the most colorful freshwater and aquarium fish will prove once and for all that freshwater aquariums can be just as lively and colorful as saltwater ones. These colorful fish all live in freshwater environments and add a pop of color to any aquarium setup.
We had such a hard time narrowing down the choices that we also included a few runners up for you to check out.
1. Paradise Fish
The paradise fish, also called the paradise gourami, have iridescent stripes of orange or red interspersed with blue or green. The rare albino variety has pink eyes and white, pink, and blue stripes.
Native to southeast Asia, paradise fish are easy to care for but are very aggressive. Males of the species shouldn’t be kept together, and it’s important to choose non-aggressive tankmates of a similar size.
These hardy fish can be kept in ponds or aquariums. In the wild, they tend to prefer shallow water and can often be found in rice paddies.
2. Betta Fish
Betta fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish, are native to Thailand. They feature beautiful flowing fins and tails that they puff out when startled or angered.
Bettas come in a wide assortment of jewel-like colors:
The fish can be a solid color, marbled, or fade from one color into another.
These fish are known for being highly aggressive and are often kept alone.
Because they’re surface breathers, bettas can live in a relatively small environment, which is why they’re often kept in vases and similar containers. But for bettas to flourish, they should be kept in a fishbowl or aquarium that offers them room to explore and hide.
These fish are easy to care for and make excellent starter fish.
There are 1,270 species of killifish around the world. They live in lakes, streams, and rivers in the Americas, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and islands in the Indian ocean.
Many of the killifish commonly kept in aquariums are orange or red with iridescent white spots, but they also come in shades of blue, neon yellow, and even green. As with most fish, the males of the species tend to be significantly more colorful than the females.
Popular varieties include:
- Red striped: silver or white with orangish-red stripes or dots
- Blue gularis: blue and orange with rust-colored stripes
- Gardneri panchax: white with red or orange stripes or dots and bright yellow fin tips
- Clown: black and white striped body with fins outlined in bright red or blue
- Golden wonder: yellow or greenish body with red-tipped fins
- Lyretail: multiple color combinations and a flowing, lyre-shaped tail
As you can see, there’s a lot of difference between even these few species!
Killifish are easy to care for and breed easily, although they can sometimes become aggressive and are prone to eating smaller fish if kept together.
4. Electric Blue Hap
The electric blue hap is technically a cichlid, but this jewel of a fish is so stunning it deserves its own section. A dazzling sapphire blue color, this fish will be the central focus of any aquarium.
This interesting fish is native to Lake Malawi, where Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania meet. It likes to hide in caves and crevices, so make sure to provide them with plenty of rocks if you decide to keep one.
Electric blue haps are decent sized fish (about eight inches long) and require an aquarium of at least 80 gallons in size. They’re pretty easy to keep, so they’re good starter cichlids. Haps are carnivores and will keep their colors nice and bright by eating a well-rounded diet.
These fish will eat smaller tank mates and fight with certain others of a similar size, but they can be housed with rainbowfish, discus, and some species of catfish.
5. Harlequin Rasbora
Harlequin rasbora are one of the most rasbora types to keep. Their distinctive coloring makes them a favorite among fish hobbyists.
Harlequins are usually orange or pink, depending on their ancestry and water conditions. They have a black triangle-shaped marking on their backside and tail. They can also be silver with the black triangle-shaped marking and orange or red along the fins and dorsal area.
In nature, harlequin rasbora are found in streams of many parts of Asia, including Singapore and Thailand. They’re shoaling fish, so they should be kept in groups of six or more when in captivity.
These rasbora aren’t especially difficult to keep, but they do best in aquariums that contain a fair amount of live plants. Otherwise, they can be kept in most aquarium setups with other non-aggressive fish of a similar size.
6. Endler’s Livebearer
Endler’s livebearer is a small fish from Venezuela that’s very similar in size and shape to a guppy. In fact, the two are so similar they often breed if kept together. The resulting guppy-endler’s hybrids are known as endler’s guppies.
Endler’s Livebearers have bold orange, red, or green bodies with black markings that vary from fish to fish. Breeders and hobbyists have had a lot of success in breeding endless beautiful color combinations.
These little fish do best in schools, which not only keep them happy but lends lots of flashes of color to your aquarium setup.
Endler’s livebearers aren’t quite as popular as guppies yet, but their upkeep is more or less identical, making them good starter fish. The main thing to keep in mind with prolific breeders like these is to provide plenty of greenery in your tank for the fry to hide in so they don’t get eaten by adults.
7. Cherry Barb
Cherry barbs are small fish of about 2 inches in length that are native to Sri Lanka. They make an interesting addition to any tank due to their bright colors and the fact that they’re not as ubiquitous as many other freshwater aquarium fish.
As you probably guessed by the name, male cherry barbs are cherry red. The females are also beautiful but in a more understated way. Females are tawny-colored with rosy stripes that darken when breeding.
Goldfish have become so commonplace that it’s easy to forget them when describing colorful aquarium fish. But they deserve to be on this list, not only because of their bright colors but also their ease of care.
They’re actually descended from carp and have been bred in captivity for thousands of years. These beauties originated in china and can now be found in aquariums all over the world, displaying brilliant shades of red, orange, black, and white.
Cichlids are a large family of fish that include 2,000-3,000 species. Their native habitats range from Africa to the Americas. Some of the most colorful freshwater and aquarium fish, such as oscars, discus, blue acara, and angelfish, are actually cichlids.
Other exceptionally beautiful varieties Include:
- Jewel: red or orange with iridescent white spots
- Green terror: green or blue with white spots and orange or red fins
- Peacock: marbled with blue, yellow, orange, and gold
- Flowerhorn: blue, purple, red, green, white, and more in varying patterns
- Salvini: yellow and orange with black stripes
- Firemouth: black, grey, and white striped with a reddish-orange belly up to its mouth
- Parrot: solid colors of bright purple, red, blue, green, yellow, or orange
- Electric yellow: neon yellow with black fins
Due to the wide range of species, it makes sense that the feeding and care for cichlids will vary depending on which type you have, but most aquarium species are fairly hardy.
10. Fancy Guppy
In addition to the goldfish, the humble guppy is also easy to overlook. But many guppy breeds boast impressive color combinations, especially the fancy guppy. These little shoaling fish originated in the tropical waters of South America.
Fancy guppies, also referred to as fantail guppies, have gorgeous flowing tails that are sometimes as long as their body. They come in endless color combinations, such as purple, pink, blue, red, and black.
Guppies are one of the easiest fish to keep, provided you don’t keep them with larger predators, and you give young offspring plenty of places to hide.
A Few More Colorful Freshwater and Aquarium Fish to Check Out
- Cardinal Tetra: very similar to the popular neon tetra, thee small schooling fish have bands of bright red and neon blue
- Zebra danio: silver or orange with dark stripes
- Florida flag fish: Green, red, or orange with iridescent white polka dots
- Boeseman’s rainbowfish: fades from blue, grey, or purple in the front to reddish-orange in the back
This list is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the most colorful freshwater and aquarium fish. Although saltwater fish are known as being the showy ones, freshwater fish come in a wide range of colors, making beautiful additions to any aquarium. Freshwater fish tend to be easier to care for, too, so next time you’re in the market for some new fish, give one of these a try.