All aquarists want to have a colorful, bright and attractive aquarium to capture everyone’s attention.
Some people prefer the unique appearance of a saltwater tank with some Tangs, whereas others like to make their own freshwater paradise with Discus.
The good news is that with both saltwater and freshwater aquariums there are lots of choices when it comes to the most beautiful fish species.
In this article we share with you the 25 most beautiful freshwater and saltwater fish, including some very popular beginner fish species.
For each fish we also provide some information about their background and care so you can make sure that the fish you pick is best suited for you…
- 25. Orange Basslet
- 24. Threadfin Butterflyfish
- 23. Blue Green Chromis
- 22. Boesemani Rainbowfish
- 21. Picasso Triggerfish
- 20. Clown Triggerfish
- 19. Copperband Butterfly
- 18. Flame Angelfish
- 17. Electric Yellow Cichlid
- 16. Altum Angelfish
- 15. Achilles Tang
- 14. Powder Blue Tang
- 13. Endlers Livebearers
- 12. Royal Gramma
- 11. Paradise Fish
- 10. Yellow Tang
- 9. Bolivian Ram
- 8. Cherry Barb
- 7. Pearl Gourami
- 6. Betta
- 5. Neon Tetra
- 4. Discus
- 3. Lyretail Killifish (Aphyosemion australe)
- 2. Clownfish
- 1. Lionfish
25. Orange Basslet
The Orange Basslet is also known as the Sea Goldie and they are often found in large schools amongst patch reefs in the Indian Ocean.
Males and females look slightly different.
The females have a bright amber color with a purple line extending from their eye. Whereas the males are reddish, with a larger, extended dorsal fin spine and sometimes have a purple hue.
24. Threadfin Butterflyfish
The Threadfin Butterflyfish has a truly distinctive appearance
Their bodies are covered in multiple perpendicular lines which creates a beautiful pattern. This pattern blends into their bright yellow and white contrasting colors on both ends of their bodies.
They can be aggressive but mainly with individuals with a similar appearance, so this species is best kept on their own.
Threadfins are considered to be a hardy fish and are perfect for aquarists of all levels.
23. Blue Green Chromis
Blue Green Chromis are found in Indo-Pacific waters and have grown increasingly more popular in saltwater aquariums.
They are one of the most desired saltwater fish because of their beautiful appearance. The have an iridescent blue-green color that flickers when they swim.
Just like other damselfish they are very peaceful and can be kept within a community tank.
They are omnivorous fish and will eat lots of different foods, but a balanced and varied diet will keep them healthy and their colors shimmering.
Blue Green Chromis are very active swimmers and are fun to watch.
22. Boesemani Rainbowfish
Boesemani Rainbowfish have a simple gradient of colors across their bodies.
This gradient starts from the head with the cooler blue and green tones that fade into warmer, yellow, orange and red color all the way to their tail.
They are easy to care for and can be kept with other peaceful fish like Rasboras, Barbs and large Tetras.
21. Picasso Triggerfish
The Picasso Triggerfish is one of our absolute favorites!
This marine fish is also commonly called the Lagoon Triggerfish and has a peculiar pattern of lines which creates the appearance of a painted art piece. There are a group of distinct blue and black lines close to their face and an orange band stretching from below their pectoral fin, across their mouth and to the other side of their body.
They can be found in Fiji amongst the coastal reefs, however they are not reef compatible in aquariums.
Picasso Triggerfish are an interesting fish species that require caves for hiding spaces and a rocky environment.
20. Clown Triggerfish
Clown Triggerfish are covered in many bold patterns which creates a hypnotizing appearance.
The most common colors are black, white and yellow.
Their big and bold appearance matches their territorial personality.
Because of their enormous size they require a tank that is at least 120 gallons.
Although they have a tendency to become aggressive as they grow, they have moderately demanding requirements and are suitable for beginner hobbyists with the recommended aquarium size.
19. Copperband Butterfly
The Copperband Butterfly has an unusually narrow pointed nose and mouth.
They use this in the wild amongst reefs to go feeding within crevices and between rocks.
Copperband Butterfly have orange and white vertical lines that give this species their beautiful and exceptional appearance. These vertical bands are outlined with black and a small black dot is present close to the dorsal fin that is usually outlined with white.
Their peaceful temperament can make them very shy so you should avoid keeping this beautiful fish with aggressive tank mates.
18. Flame Angelfish
The Flame Angelfish is one of the most popular dwarf angelfish species.
Their fiery appearance makes them very desirable for most aquarists. They have a bright orange/red coloration with black and blue bar patterned fins.
They can grow up to 6 inches and are found mainly in the region of Oceania and spotted, less commonly across the Hawaiian Islands.
17. Electric Yellow Cichlid
These Cichlids are the most popular African Cichlid around.
Their solid yellow color is vibrant enough to compete with even marine fish!
Electric Yellow Cichlids are known to be a peaceful species but it is best to keep them in a large group of the same species. They are often kept with other Mbuna Cichlids of different colors, where the diversity of moving colors can create a beautiful show. Make sure to keep them with Cichlids from South America (such as the Convict Cichlid) because of parasite risks.
16. Altum Angelfish
Altum Angelfish (Pterophyllum altum) are one of the most expensive and hard to find fish on this list.
However their price tag is worth it.
They are silver with triangular shaped bodies and have thick dark brown/black vertical bars.
Because of their size (10 inches) they are best suited for tall and large aquariums that are at least 60 gallons.
They require specific water parameters, high quality food and minimal stress to stay happy and healthy – this is why this species is not recommended for beginners.
15. Achilles Tang
The Achilles Tang is dark brown/black with a small orange circle covering their scalpel-like blades on either side of their tail. The same orange color underlines the dorsal, caudal and anal fins.
Achilles have a captivating appearance but are known to be a very difficult species to look after within home aquariums and are only suitable for more advanced aquarists.
14. Powder Blue Tang
The Powder Blue Tang is known for their bright colors and vivid markings.
This beautiful fish is bright blue and has a yellow dorsal fin with a dark colored face highlighted by pale markings.
Their body is perfectly oval in shape with a small triangular caudal fin and faint pectoral fins.
Powder Blue Tang should only be kept by experienced hobbyists because of their strict care requirements and aggressive behavior.
13. Endlers Livebearers
Endlers Livebearers are just like guppies but with added flare!
They are very colorful and their patterns resemble a mosaic art piece.
Endlers are similar in shape to Guppies but they have a slightly forked fin with silver bodies that are tinted with blues, greens, and yellows. They also have orange and black markings across their body.
The pattern changes with each Endler color strain.
12. Royal Gramma
Although Royal Grammas are small they make up for it with their stunning appearance.
They have bright purple/violent anterior and yellow posterior.
Their small size means they are perfect for smaller 30 aquariums.
They are considered a must-have for beginner aquarists.
11. Paradise Fish
The Paradise Gourami Fish is another beautiful member of the Gourami family.
This stunning fish has a reddish orange and blue striped body with unique fins that are pointed.
However with this beauty comes aggression. They have to be the main species within a tank because of their aggressive and territorial nature for dominance. Species that are similar or smaller in size should not be kept within the same tank as the Paradise Gourami.
10. Yellow Tang
Yellow Tangs are one of the most popular saltwater fish.
This is no surprise considering that their bold yellow appearance brightens any saltwater aquarium.
They are also easy to care for but they can sometimes damage reef aquariums.
This Hawaiian fish is a very attractive species and overall a very active swimmer.
9. Bolivian Ram
As their name suggests the Bolivian Ram is mostly found in Bolivia.
Although they are not the most colorful fish on this list, they have a very eye-catching appearance. Bolivian Rams have distinct rayed fins with red edging and their caudal fins are usually forked. They have oval bodies that are usually silver or orange and have a black vertical line on their heads.
You might have heard somebody refer to this fish as a Butterfly Rams too.
Their personality and appearance make a very beautiful and intriguing addition to a freshwater aquarium.
8. Cherry Barb
The Cherry Barb is an absolutely beautiful fish.
They are a striking red color with a dark line running across the middle of their bodies. Their red color really makes them stand out against plants and other aquarium vegetation.
Cherry Barbs are schooling fish and are very active.
Lots of hobbyists enjoy watching them, especially when they are chasing live food.
They are also a particularly hardy fish that can tolerate fluctuations in water quality which makes them perfect for beginner aquarists as well as advanced ones.
7. Pearl Gourami
The Pearl Gourami is a very beautiful fish that is loved for their speckled pattern across their body.
Underneath this intricate pattern they have a predominantly silver or warm toned color with a dark central line across them.
Although they are fairly large fish (5 inches) they are well known for being very peaceful.
They are also known to be the hardiest and easiest to care for of the Gourami family – this makes them a popular choice for beginners.
No list about the most beautiful aquarium fish in the world would be complete without mentioning the Betta fish.
Because of Betta’s popularity these fish have been selectively bred for decades. This has created fish in just about any shape, color and appearance you could imagine.
The most popular Bettas are red, blue, yellow, orange and even multicolor which can appear almost metallic. You can also find a large variety of fin shapes including the: veiltail, half-moon and crown. The veiltail swoops down, the crown tail is characterized by its spiked edge and the half-moon tail has a fan shape.
Whilst they are very beautiful, their aggressive temperament makes this species more suited for intermediate hobbyists. They are usually kept as individual fish and not part of a group because of their highly territorial and aggressive behavior.
5. Neon Tetra
Neon Tetras are one of the first tropical freshwater fish species that most beginners keep.
This is because of their bright iridescent blue and red bodies that look amazing when they swim.
Tetras are also a schooling species which means they tend to move around the aquarium in one group. This creates beautiful shimmering colors when they swim. They look great when kept with Ember Tetras.
Overall this is an active and beautiful fish that is popular with all aquarists because they are so easy to care for.
Discus fish come from the Amazon river basin and the most common species for hobbyists are Symphysodon aequifasciatus and Symphysodon discus.
They have a distinct circular body shape, bright colors and can grow up to 7 inches in diameter.
One of the most popular varieties is the cobalt blue Discus. They are blue and have black markings across their body and fins that are almost tiger-like!
3. Lyretail Killifish (Aphyosemion australe)
There are lots of different varieties of killifish available.
However one of the most beautiful (Lyretail Killifish) just so happens to be perfect for beginner aquarists.
The West African Lyretail Killifish often has an orange/silver colored body with a red-spotted pattern across their body. Males fins are slightly more extended than the females and flare out as they swim.
They do very well in aquariums with floating plants as they prefer the scattered lighting.
Clownfish are without a doubt one of the most beautiful saltwater fish.
Since the release of Finding Nemo this fish has become very popular (especially with children).
They are a very good fish for beginners and unlike other species they can be kept in fairly small aquariums of 10-15 gallons. Their appearance is complimented with Anemones and the natural relationship between the two is fascinating to watch.
Lionfish are equally beautiful and dangerous.
It is actually very hard to describe their appearance, there is no other fish that looks quite like them.
This venomous fish is compatible with reef aquariums and complements the colors of the coral well.
Although they are definitely a beautiful species their venom limits the number of tank mates. They cannot be kept with species smaller than themselves and are often kept in species only tanks because of the possibility of aggression from other tank members.
If you are still looking for the perfect fish to add to your tank then make sure to read 25 Most Popular Freshwater Fish For Beginners.
Here we have listed some of the most beautiful aquarium fish available.
Just a handful of these striking fish can provide your tank with extra color, brightness and entertainment.
We also tried to pick beautiful fish that are known to be very rewarding to keep. Although some species are bolder than others, the most important thing to think about is the perfect combination of appearance and care requirements.
Make sure to check all their care requirements and water parameters can be met before committing to any one of these beautiful fish species.
Did your favorite fish make the list? Let us know in the comments section below…