25+ Most Colorful Freshwater Fish

Freshwater fish are sometimes perceived as being monotonous and almost colorless. However, freshwater fish can be as bright and eye-catching as their saltwater relatives, you just have to know what type of freshwater fish to look for.

Here is all the information you need to look for colorful varieties, so let’s dive in!

25+ Most Colorful Freshwater Fish

1. German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus Ramirezi)

Colourful Freshwater Fish - German Blue Ram

The German Blue Ram is a colored fish at the smaller end of the scale. It is a very quiet species of fish that belongs to the cichlid family. 

They are identifiable by their green and yellow body coloring and blue dots on their fins. But, the telltale sign of a German Blue Ram is the seven dark blue vertical stripes running down their body. They also have a strip running between the eyes.

The fish features red markings on their underside, near their eyes, and at the top and bottom of the fins. In addition, the rear half of their bodies have tiny spots that evenly coat their entire bodies. There are also different patterns and color combinations of these fish, so take your pick!

  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Tank Size: 20 Gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful 
  • Size: Around 2.5 inches

2. Boeseman’s Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani)

Colourful Freshwater Fish - Boeseman’s Rainbowfish

As you might have inferred from the name, Boeseman’s Rainbowfish is one of the most colored freshwater fish. This is because their color and attractive appearance are so prevalent in freshwater home aquariums. 

These colored fish species are endemic to the region of Indonesia, near Western New Guinea.  While there are several species of rainbowfish, the Boeseman’s Rainbowfish (known as the Boseman Ranbowfish) has a unique pattern.

Their front half is a beautiful shade that can best be described as a combination of shades between blue, purple, and gray.

  • Care Level: easy
  • Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Temperament: peaceful
  • Size: 4.5 inches

3. Flowerhorn Cichlid (Cichlasoma Sp.)

Colourful Freshwater Fish - Flowerhorn Cichlid

Hobbyists crossbred various American Cichlid species to create the Flowerhorn Cichlid.  Farm-raised in the United States, this semi-aggressive breed is notable for its weird-shaped head and dark petal-shaped markings.

There are many color variations to choose from, though the consensus amongst hobbyists is that you can’t go wrong with red.

But, this is one fish that can break the bank.  More colorful and distinctive varieties will cost more than their “plain” counterparts.

One such breed, the Golden Monkey, was sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars at an exhibit in Malaysia in 2009.

  • Care Level: easy, suitable for beginners
  • Tank Size: 70 gallons
  • Temperament: semi-agressive
  • Size: 10 inches

4. Endler’s Livebearer (Poecilia Wingei)

Colourful Freshwater Fish - Endler’s Livebearer

Popular amongst Endler enthusiasts, the Endler’s Livebearer (Poecilia Wingei) is sometimes difficult to find in your average pet shop or aquarium supply store.

Some people say they bear a striking resemblance to wild Guppies. They are very colorful, displaying bright neon patterns that include green, yellow, blue, and even orange.

The Endler’s Livebearers are very peaceful and adaptable. This is one species that can go with the flow.  Their small size and low-key approach to aquarium life make them easy to miss, but their unique coloring will make them the jewel of your tank.

  • Care Level: easy
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: peaceful
  • Size: 1.8 inches

5. Male Betta (Betta Splendens)

Colourful Freshwater Fish - Betta Fish

Sometimes referred to as a Siamese Fighting Fish, the Betta is a popular fish known for its distinctive fin shape and vibrant colors.  You can have almost any color, but some more popular shades include blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, white, and black.

This species has a relatively long lifespan and is typically easy to care for.  But, you must remember to keep only a single Male Betta in an aquarium at a time.

They are highly aggressive towards other Male Bettas and similarly shaped, small fish.

  • Care Level: easy
  • Tank Size: 5 gallons
  • Temperament: aggressive
  • Size: 2- 2.5 inches

6. Discus (Symphysodon)

Colourful Freshwater Fish - Discus Fish

Researchers initially found the popular Discus in the Amazon River Basin. They are another breed of brightly colored fish and an excellent option for freshwater tanks.  The Discus comes in many red, blue, brown, and orange shades.

Various colored choices are available, including those with brilliant, all-over colorings and monochrome varieties.  You can even get them in solid white!

Certain varieties have been bred for their coloring and shapes, so check out breeders to see if you can choose something more interesting.

  • Care Level: moderate
  • Tank Size: 50 gallons
  • Temperament: peaceful
  • Size: 10 inches

7. Fantail Guppy (Poecilia Reticulata)

Colourful Freshwater Fish - Fantail Guppy

The many varieties of colors and patterns on Fantail Guppies make them a favorite for hobbyists.  They are good-looking pets with relatively low price tags, which makes them all that much more popular.  The addition of Fantail Guppies brightens up many freshwater aquariums.

Here again, the available colors span the rainbow.  Fantail Guppies are available in reds, blues, yellows, and even metallic and white patterns.

If you have any color at all in your aquarium decoration scheme, there’s a good chance you can find a Fantail Guppy that will match or complement it.

  • Care Level: easy
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons or more
  • Temperament: peaceful
  • Size: 2 inches

8. Killifish (Fundulus Heteroclitus)

Colourful Freshwater Fish - Killifish

Available throughout North and South America, Asia, Europe, and even Africa, the Killifish are notable for their bright color patterns and relative ease of upkeep.

Unlike some of the brightly colored species listed previously, the Killifish is relatively low-key. Available in combinations of red, blue, and orange, the males of the species are known to have yellow and blue colorings with orange stripes to the tips of their fins.

While they are pretty popular amongst hobbyists, they are not always familiar with pet or aquarium supply stores, so call around before choosing a retailer.

  • Care Level: easy to difficult (depends on the species)
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons per pair
  • Temperament: most species are peaceful
  • Size: two to nine cms

9. Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara Stuartgranti)

Colourful Freshwater Fish - Peacock Cichlid

The Peacock Cichlid is native to Lake Malawi. There are 22 different species of Peacock Cichlid. Peacocks are bottom dwellers. They are one of the most vivid freshwater fish.

The Peacock Cichlid has been popular with beginners to experts for decades, a peaceful fish that gets along with almost any other species.

Vertical striping is standard, and dizzyingly vivid colors such as orange, red, yellow, blue, and even gold are easy to find. 

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Tank Size: 55 gallons
  • Temperament: semi-aggressive
  • Size: four to six inches

10. Gourami (Osphronemidae)

Colourful Freshwater Fish - Gourami

The Gourami ranks out of the top ten list of most colorful freshwater fish. Initially found in Asia, India, Korea, and Pakistan, many color variations are available.

More colorful species are the Banded Gourami, the Blue Gourami, and the Red Fire Dwarf Gourami.

It is not uncommon to find great color palettes like gold, neon, blue, and even sunset. In addition, the Gourami is known to be quite active, playfully entertaining, and relatively easy to care for.

They are also renowned for low maintenance, giving you one less thing to worry about.

  • Care Level: Easy to medium
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful 
  • Size: between 2- 28 inches

11. True Red Terror Cichlid (Mesoheros Festae)

True Red Terror Cichlid

True Red Terror Cichlids are also known as Harley Quinn Cichlids. They originate from West and South America and can be found in Ecuador and Peru.

They love a strong water flow and can be seen lurking in the middle of a tank. They are incredibly aggressive and will eat small fish and bully them.

  • Care Level: moderate
  • Tank Size: 180 gallons
  • Temperament: aggressive
  • Size: 18 inches

12. White Cloud Mountain Minnow (Tanichthys Albonubes)

White Cloud Mountain Minnow

White Cloud Minnows are tropical fish belonging to the streams of Guangzhou Mountain in China. They have other common names like White Cloud Mountain Minnow, China Danio, and Canton Danio.  In the 1960s, the White Cloud Minnows were “poor man’s neon tetra.” They look similar in their colors and marks on the body, but neon tetras were relatively rare. 

In the wild, they live peacefully with fish like Weather loaches, Paradise Fish, Cherry Barbs, Dojo loaches, Horseface loaches, and Gold Barbs. 

Today, they enjoy fame for their active lifestyle and hardiness. If you put them in a small community, the fish will thrive. They are peaceful and do not pick fights. 

Remember not to place them with larger fish as they might get their fins nipped or be seriously injured.

  • Care Level: easy
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons or more
  • Temperament: peaceful
  • Size: up to 2 inches

13. Dwarf Cichlid (Apistogramma Macmasteri)

Dwarf Cichlid

Dwarf Cichlids are inquisitive, brightly colored, small community fish making a comeback in the aquarium industry! 

Cichlids are a group of fish that people misunderstand as aggressive and territorial. This is why some hobbyists prefer them. People blame the Cichlid species for doing aggressive acts such as digging up gravel and plants. Because of this, they are not as popular as their other fish counterparts. 

Fortunately, the Dwarf Cichlids are pretty different from their counterparts. These fish species are not as significant as other cichlids. They are much less aggressive and will live well with other fish species in the same tank.

Another good feature of the Dwarf Cichlids is that they do not require much care as long as you keep them in larger tanks. The fish usually offers fascinating displays in an aquarium setting and great satisfaction with a hobbyist. Keeping the fish in smaller tanks is easy and breeding them in small tanks is also an easy task. 

There are two main types of Dwarf Cichlids: the South American Dwarf Cichlids and the African Dwarf Cichlids.

  • Care Level: medium to hard
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: semi-aggressive, mostly peaceful
  • Size: 3 to 3.5 inches on average

14. Chili Rasbora Fish (Boraras Brigittae)

Chili Rasbora Fish

Chili Rasbora is also known as mosquito rasbora. While they are referred to as rasboras, they no longer belong to the exact genus of Rasbora. 

In 1978, they were described as Rasbora xerophthalmia Brigitte but were later moved to the Boraras genus. This was based on morphological differences. It is also believed that they were referred to as mosquito rasbora due to the amount of blood-sucking insects that were present when they were discovered! 

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Tank Size: 5 gallons
  • Temperament: peaceful
  • Size: 0.5 inches

15. Paradise Gourami Fish (Macropodus Opercularis)

Paradise Gourami Fish

Paradise Gourami Fish is also called blue paradise fish, blue paradise gourami, and paradise gourami. You can find paradise fish across Asia, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Ryukyu Islands, Korea, and Japan.

These are often confused with other species of their own family because of their similarity. But, they are very adjustable and can adapt to almost any water condition.

  • Care Level: easy 
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Temperament: semi-aggressive 
  • Size: 4 inches

16. African Butterfly Fish (Pantodon Buchholzi)

African Butterfly Fish

African Butterfly Fish is also known as freshwater butterflyfish. They are tiny, but they specialize in hunting on the surface. They can even jump and glide above water if they feel threatened. 

Freshwater butterflyfish can be found in the water bodies of West Africa, especially in Lake Chad, the Congo Basin, Zambezi.

  • Care Level: difficult
  • Tank Size: 40 gallons
  • Temperament: semi agressive
  • Size: 5.1 inches

17. Red Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon Sweglesi)

Red Phantom Tetra

Red Phantom Tetra lives in South America. They are peaceful fish, and they look timid compared to others. But, they are often confused with Black Phantom Tetra due to their similar appearance.

  • Care Level: peaceful
  • Tank Size: 15 gallons
  • Temperament: easy to care for
  • Size: 1.6 inches

18. Banded Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia Trifasciata)

Banded Rainbowfish are also known as the Jewel rainbowfish, three-striped sunfish, or regal rainbowfish. They are native to northern Australia and Queensland. They are active shoaling fish. Their native habitat is that of rivers, slow-moving streams, and lagoons.

Banded Rainbowfish come in a flurry of colors such as red, green, yellow, and purple. They are some of the calmest fish ever and human-friendly. They make for an excellent choice for a colorful community tank.

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Tank Size: 60 gallons for a group of 6
  • Temperament: Friendly
  • Size: about 5 inches

19. Pygmy Sunfish (Elassoma)

Pygmy Sunfish

Pygmy Sunfishes are calm and can live in nano tanks. They can be territorial and will do well in a species only tank. They can grow to a maximum length of 1.5 inches, and they are carnivores. They are not true sunfish but members of the family Centrarchidae. Researchers believe that they’re related to pipefishes and sticklebacks. They are native to North Carolina, Florida, Texas, and Illinois.

  • Care Level: Medium
  • Tank Size: 5 gallons for a group
  • Temperament: Peaceful and territorial, not a community fish
  • Size: up to 1.4 inches

20. Red Neon Stiphodon Goby (Stiphodon Semoni)

Red Neon Stiphodon Goby

Red Neon Stiphodon Goby is a very rare freshwater dwarf goby. They come from Cook Island, the Philippines, Japan, etc. They are algae grazers and are easy to care for.

They look beautiful in their red and orange colors, especially the males. 

They are peaceful community fish so that you can keep them in the tank along with others.

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons for a pair
  • Temperament: peaceful
  • Size: 2 inches

21. Snakeskin (Cobra) Guppy Fish (Poecilia Reticulata)

Snakeskin Cobra Guppy comes from South America, especially Venezuela, Trinidad, Barbados, etc. 

Guppies are trendy aquarium fish, and they don’t need special care or attention. But, keep them in pairs to ensure that they don’t bully each other.

Guppies are very easy to raise, so they are familiar and inexpensive. In addition, they come in a variety of colors. 

  • Care Level: easy
  • Tank Size: 5 gallons or more
  • Temperament: peaceful
  • Size: 3 inches

22. Clown Loach (Chromobotia Macracanthus)

Clown Loach

The Clown Loach comes from Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo, etc. They prefer waters with leaves and plant debris. We recommend you keep them in a school to keep them entertained.

Remember that they are large schooling fish, so you need to give them plenty of space to recommend around. You can add several hiding spots for them throughout the tanks to make things interesting.

  • Care Level: moderately difficult
  • Tank Size: 100 gallons
  • Temperament: peaceful
  • Size: 12 inches

23. Celestial Pearl Danio (Danio Margaritatus)

Celestial Pearl Danio

Celestial Pearl Danios are peaceful and popular among fish keepers. The reason for their popularity is that they are pretty recent! They were discovered in 2006 and make a perfect addition to a 10-gallon tank. 

Celestial Pearl Danios can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. They are not very fussy and will thrive if you meet their needs.

The fish have a metallic blue body and look pleasant as they streak across the tank. You can find them in schools in the wild, and you can keep more than five together in a small tank. They act as great companions for guppies, mollies, and other small fish. They love well-planted tanks because they remind them of their true home in Southeast Asia. 

When you put them in a small tank, remember to put them in pairs and not imbalance the male-to-female ratio.

As they are pretty new, there is a lot about them that we don’t know yet.

  • Care Level: easy
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons or more
  • Temperament: peaceful, territorial
  • Size: up to 2 inches

24. Chinese Hillstream Loach (Balitoridae)

Chinese Hillstream Loach

The Chinese Hillstream Loach is a unique freshwater loach popular across China. It is very extra-ordinary looking with the patterns on its body. You should keep them in colonies to observe their social behavior.

It is a very peaceful fish with an outgoing personality.

  • Care Level: moderate
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons or more
  • Temperament: Peaceful and social
  • Size: 2 to 2.5 inches

25. Samurai Gourami Fish (Sphaerichthys Vaillanti)

Samurai Gourami is not commonly found and is expensive to buy. Their natural habitat is amongst dead leaves on the bottom of rivers. Even when they move, they move slowly, making them difficult to spot. 

Male and females look alike. These fish can breathe directly from the surface of the water, and that’s why they are hardy. If you care for them, they can live up to eight years.

  • Care Level: easy
  • Tank Size: 20-30 gallons
  • Temperament: easily intimidated
  • Size: 1.8 to 2.2 inches

There you have it…

I’ve shared the 10 most colorful freshwater fish you can have in your aquarium. These fishes will definitely add colors to your tank.

Do you currently have any of these fishes in your tank? How about sharing your experience with us by commenting below.

13 thoughts on “25+ Most Colorful Freshwater Fish”

  1. Which beautifully colored freshwater fish can you put in the same aquarium without them trying to kill each other off?

    • Hi Diane,

      A number of them are possible with the correct size tank. You could have guppies, endlers and gourami together without any issue provided the tank size is big enough.

    • The biggest challenge is keeping fish with similar water requirements, disposition, feeding needs. Discus have very different needs than guppies. I have German Blue Rams and a Single Gold Ram in a 55 gallon tank with Cardinal, Glowlight, White skirt and Serpae Tetras with no issues. I’m adding Platinum Hatchets after another week of QT. I would never mix GBR’s with Peacock or Flowerhorn Cichlids. Endler’s and Killifish may work. Need to consider the number of fish to make the fish happy as well. Unfortunately there is a lot of bad info out there and I can only speak to my experience. Some fish are just bad actors too. I had a long fin white tetra I got by mistake. I was trying to increase my white skits up to 8 fish and the LFS put one in the bag by mistake. When I added it to my QT tank it went after my new hatchets. I traded him back today for a regular white skirt that is playing nice.

      • Hi Stan, thanks for sharing your experience. I agree with you that we need to constantly ensure that all our fishes are suitable for each other. Flowerhorn definitely an aggresive fish and hard to mix it in a community tank.

    • Cichlids — especially the South American ones — are usually very aggressive. Gouramis are mixed in aggression levels. I have had red-fire gouramis that wouldn’t live together (two males) and after re-homing one, the remaining one of them, the the remaining one picked on the cory catfish.

      Honey-fire gouramis are very small and very chill.

    • Hi Maddie,

      You would want to choose fishes that do not nip on your goldfish. Having said that, getting a tank mate for your fancy goldfish can be a little tricky as fancy goldfish tends to be slower thus they will have to compete for food with other fishes. Thus, think twice about getting a tank mate for your fancy goldfish. =)

      Hope that helps.

    • Hi Maddie I also have a fancy tail goldfish (2 actually) and I have a 45 gallon tank.. I have them in with 1 guarami and a couple mollies and a black moore and a pictus catfish and another kind of algae eater (not plucostimus) and a very docile smaller in size beta and everybody seems to get along just fine.. I have had luck with these types for over a year now but all fish are different so I suggest do your homework as to the most docile breeds of fish and I always go toward the smaller in size then my most precious or most docile fish.. good luck!!

  2. I have a freshwatet tank but want to start a 45 gallon saltwater tank is it hard to do so like everybody is telling meI have wanted one since I was young am 67 years old and its my desire to have one what do I need yo get started am going for it

  3. I’m looking into getting fish I want some small freshwater fish that have similar dietary requirements and can live together. I a beginner and need some small easy fish any suggestions?

  4. Thanks for the 10 colorful suggestions. I would like to know if there are any freshwater invertabrates that could be tankmates with any of these fish.


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