Top 20 Best Colorful Freshwater Fish (Ranked By Color)

Everyone knows that coral reef fish are colorful!

But they are not the only type of fish to have beautiful colors.

Freshwater environments all around the world are full of brightly colored freshwater fish. You can find them in shades of bright red, yellow, blue, green, and even pink.

These colors are not just pretty to look at, many of them serve a practical purpose. Bright colors can be used to attract mates, scare away predators, or blend in with the surrounding environment.

Are you looking to add a pop of color to your freshwater tank?

Here is a list of 20 of the most colorful freshwater fish ranked by color…

20 Best Colorful Freshwater Fish

Color Rank Species Color
1 Dwarf Gourami Blue, Powder Blue, Red
2 Fancy Guppy Rainbow
3 Jack Dempsey Green, Gold, Blue, Purple
4 Jewel Cichlid Red, Orange, Gold, Blue
5 Peacock Cichlid Orange, Blue, Red, Yellow
6 Rainbowfish Rainbow
7 Congo Tetra Rainbow
8 Discus Red, Blue, Brown, Green
9 Killifish Blue, Red, Yellow with Brown Bands
10 Cardinal Tetra Red, Blue
11 Celestial Pearl Danio Blue, White
12 Kribensis Green, Pink
13 Paradise Gourami Blue, Red, Albino
14 Betta Fish Red, Blue, Purple
15 Neon Tetra Red, Blue
16 White Cloud Mountain Minnow Silver, Gold, Cream
17 Koi Fish Red, White, Black
18 Molly Black, Red, Yellow, Orange
19 Red Tail Shark Black, Red
20 Swordtail Red, Yellow, Green

20. Swordtail

Swordtail

In the wild Swordtails are green or yellow.

However in aquariums you can find them in just about any color. These include red, blue, yellow, green, gold, black, or silver. You can even find a variety that looks like a Koi or Shubunkin Goldfish.

Swordtails are primarily freshwater fish, but they can adapt to brackish salinities just like the Guppy.

Because of this they are ideal for brackish communities and can live with Mollies and Platys.

  • Color: Red, Yellow, Green
  • Size: 3-5 inches
  • Care Level: Easy

19. Red Tail Shark

Red Tail Shark

The Red Tail Shark has bright red fins which stand in stark contrast to their jet black body.

It is similar to the Rainbow Shark except that all 6 of its fins are red.

Interestingly they are not a true shark and are only given this name because of the shape of their body.

Red Tails are small but very fierce. They rule the bottom levels of the tank and can be quite aggressive when their territory is intruded upon. They should not be kept with any other bottom dwelling fish.

  • Color: Black and Red
  • Size: 5-6 inches
  • Care Level: Intermediate

18. Molly

Dalmatian Molly

You can find Mollies in several different colors, from tan colored wild types to radiant red, yellow, orange, and more.

  • Short finned Mollies have short, rounded fins that are bordered in red, white, orange, or other bright colors.
  • Sailfin Mollies have tall, wide dorsal fins that resemble a ship’s sail.
  • Lyretail Mollies have forked caudal fins that thin out at the tips, giving them a very graceful appearance.

Mollies with any fin type can come in any of the possible color variations.

These fish can live in groups on their own, or with other Livebearers such as Guppies, Platys, and Swordtails. In addition to that they will get along with other community friendly nano fish.

  • Color: Black, Red, Yellow, Orange
  • Size: 2-4 inches
  • Care Level: Easy to Intermediate

17. Koi

Types Of Koi

The Koi is the most popular fish for ponds.

This ornamental version of the Common Carp has a history that goes back hundreds of years.

In the wild the Common Carp is a solid tan or bronze color. However you can find Koi in over 50 different colors and patterns.

  • The Kohaku Koi is a solid white fish with red markings all over their body. This is the most common variety and the go-to for beginners.
  • The Taisho Sanke is very similar to the Kohaku, but has black ink spots against a red and white body.
  • The Asagi is a highly prized iridescent blue color. A high quality Asagi Koi may cost over $200 at a breeder.
  • Solid gold and silver Ogons carry an even heftier price tag. These can go for up to $1000 at some retailers.

Koi are not just beautiful, they are friendly and intelligent too. They can learn to recognize their keepers, and can even be trained to memorize a feeding schedule or eat from your hands.

  • Color: Solid White with Red
  • Size: 1.5-3 feet
  • Care Level: Intermediate

16. White Cloud Mountain Minnow

White Cloud Mountain Minnow

White Cloud Mountain Minnows are tiny minnows that come from the mountains of China.

The most common White Cloud variety is silver, with bright orange fins and a chalky blue stripe. They shoal in groups of 6 to 10 and can make a big statement while in a group.

You can also find a Hong Kong variety that has a golden body with the same orange fins and stripe. There is also a Golden Cloud form with a cream colored body and a single white stripe.

These colorful minnows can be kept in a cool water community with Weather Loaches, Bristlenose Plecos, and Zebra Danios. They may also be kept with hardier tropical fish that can handle lower temperatures such as Platys and Endlers.

Contrary to popular belief they are not a good tank mate for Goldfish. The reason for this is that they tend to nip at the Goldfish’s fins.

  • Color: Silver, Gold, and Cream
  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Care Level: Easy

15. Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra

The Neon Tetra grabs attention with its brilliant red and blue colors. Their neon blue stripe can be noticed from near or far.

They are very docile and will get along with anything that is not large enough to eat them. This makes them an excellent beginner fish.

If you want to keep these Tetras then the best home is a dimly lit nano tank with slightly acidic water, that is full of low light plants such as Java Ferns and Crypts.

They provide a lovely complement to Harlequin and Chili Rasboras, Zebra Danios, and Cory and Oto Catfish. They are also safe for small invertebrates like the Cherry Shrimp. If there are not enough Neons to shoal with then they will form shoals with the Cardinal or Black Neon Tetra.

  • Color: Red and Blue
  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Care Level: Easy

14. Betta Fish

Royal Betta Fish

The Betta Fish is one of the most famous freshwater fish.

There are hundreds of different colors to choose from including: red, blue, yellow, orange, purple, green, and pearl white.

Some varieties are bi-colored and some can have up to four colors at once.

In the wild however, Bettas are not very colorful and are usually tan to reddish brown.

Males are brighter and have long, trailing fins, while the females are small and dull. The flashy appearance is used for attracting mates.

You will notice that when courting a female a male will chase after her and flash his bright colored fins in an attempt to get her attention!

  • Color: Red, Blue, Purple
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Care Level: Easy

13. Paradise Gourami

Paradise Gourami

The Paradise Gourami is the star of any freshwater setup.

Their colors can change under certain lights from green to blue and red to orange.

You can also find an albino variety with pale red stripes.

Their lyretail caudal fin and trailing dorsal fin gives them a very graceful appearance. However, this beautiful little fish can be quite fierce. Paradise Gouramis are known for their aggression and should not be kept in community tanks.

The problem is that the Gourami always wants to be the dominant fish in the tank. It will pick fights with any other fish that it sees as a threat to its position.

You should keep them in a single species tank.

  • Color: Blue and Red, Albino
  • Size: 3 inches
  • Care Level: Advanced

12. Kribensis

Kribensis

The Kribensis is deep green and has a blush pink underside and a black stripe down the lateral line. Their fins are bordered with bright yellow or orange.

They are very peaceful and make a good introduction to the Cichlidae family.

Kribensis are one of the few Cichlids that can be kept with nano fish. In fact, they get along particularly well with the Congo Tetra.

  • Color: Green and Pink
  • Size: 3-5 inches
  • Care Level: Easy

11. Celestial Pearl Danio

Celestial Pearl Danio Close Up

The Celestial Pearl Danio is the smallest and most colorful Danio around.

You can find them in a heavenly steel blue color with white pearl dots across their entire body. Their fins are bright orange and have black markings and borders.

Celestial Pearls can live with both Danios and Rasboras, as well as Tetras, Guppies, and Killifish. They are best kept in heavily planted aquascapes and must be kept in a group of 6 or more.

  • Color: Blue and White Spots
  • Size: 1 inch
  • Care Level: Easy

10. Cardinal Tetra

Cardinal Tetra

Cardinal Tetras are among the most radiant Tetra fish.

These very popular nano fish are known for their red colors and neon blue stripes.

They are notably similar to the Neon Tetra, however the Cardinal Tetra’s colors occur along the entire ventral side, rather than just the tail.

In addition to the typical red color you can also find them in a cream colored or golden variety.

These fish are very docile and extremely community friendly. If you have a few Neons and Cardinals in the same aquarium the two species may even form a shoal together. Cardinals make excellent background fish for planted tanks.

  • Color: Red, Albino, or Gold
  • Size: 1.5-2 Inches
  • Care Level: Easy

9. Killifish

Eggers Killifish

Killifish are some of the brightest freshwater fish around.

You can find them in red, blue, yellow, orange, and many more colors. They can be sail finned, short finned, or lyretailed.

Just remember that there are 3 different kinds of Killifish, each with their own unique needs:

  • Annual Killies come from temporary ephemeral pools, which dry up at the end of the rainy season. These species are better for more experienced keepers.
  • Semi-Annual Killifish live in areas that experience occasional dry seasons.
  • Non-Annual Killifish live in permanent bodies of water. These species are the best kind for beginners.

They are excellent for communities and enjoy heavily planted aquariums.

  • Color: Blue, Red. Yellow with Brown Bands
  • Size: 2-5 inches
  • Care Level: Easy to Advanced

8. Discus

Lots of Discus Fish

The Discus is a very large but very peaceful schooling Cichlid.

It grows up to 10 inches long and is best known for its unusual disc-shaped body and many vivid color forms.

The Red or Heckel Discus is the most common.

It comes in red, blue, orange, yellow, gold, and white. Pigeon Blood is a popular variety that features a white body and red spots.

The Blue or Brown Discus comes in both blue and brown, along with yellow, gold, black, white, and green. The Green Discus is green or yellow with black bands.

In addition to the many colors, Discus also have many different scale patterns, including: spots, bands, speckles, and stripes.

Discus are extremely sensitive fish that require specific water parameters so they should only be kept by experienced freshwater keepers.

  • Color: Red, Blue, Brown, Green
  • Size: 8-10 inches
  • Care Level: Advanced

7. Congo Tetra

Congo Tetra

Most Tetra species come from South America but the Congo Tetra comes from the Congo River in Africa.

Congo Tetras are rainbow colored and have trailing fins which makes them one of the most colorful freshwater fish around.

At 3 inches long, they are also one of the largest.

Similar to the Betta fish, it is the males who are colored. The females come in dull gray colors and lack the long fins.

Unfortunately, these fish are quite expensive and generally not recommended for beginners. They shoal in groups of 8 and have a very energetic personality so you will need at least a 40 gallon tank to keep a group of them.

While they are safe for communities they are also quite skittish. They should only be kept with small, docile tank mates that do not nip fins.

  • Color: Rainbow
  • Size: 3 inches
  • Care Level: Intermediate

6. Rainbowfish

Boesemani Rainbowfish

Rainbowfish refers to any species in the Melanotaeniidae family.

These hardy nano fish come from New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea, and Madagascar.

One of the most colorful is Boeseman’s Rainbowfish which comes in all of the colors of the rainbow. The colors appear in different hues depending on where the light falls on the fish.

Other species are a bit less colorful and are often yellow and black.

The best thing about the Rainbowfish is that you cannot have just one. These dazzling beauties travel in schools of 6 or more.

Because they are so peaceful they can be kept in communities full of other brightly colored fish. The Congo Tetra makes a particularly good tank mate.

  • Color: Rainbow
  • Size: 3-7 inches
  • Care Level: Easy

5. Peacock Cichlid

Peacock Cichlid

The Peacock Cichlid comes in red, green, yellow, gold, pink, or orange.

Their color will depend on which particular lake they came from. These different colors emerged as a result of differences in the environment.

They can be as aggressive and territorial as any other Cichlid, but are thankfully not too difficult to manage. A 55 gallon tank is suitable for one Peacock Cichlid. You can use makeshift caves for the Cichlids to reduce their aggression. Hollow logs or overturned flowerpots are a few of the best options.

  • Color: Orange, Blue, Red, Yellow
  • Size: 5-6 inches
  • Care Level: Intermediate

4. Jewel Cichlid

Jewel Cichlid

One of the most beautiful Cichlids is the Jewel Cichlid.

This is an African Cichlid that is famous for its hot temper.

You can find them in bright red or orange, with blue or green spots. It may also be blue, gold, or pale pink.

Jewel Cichlids are not community friendly and are one of the most difficult Cichlids to care for. They fight with anyone, often with little provocation. They are also known to uproot plants and destroy decorations.

  • Color: Red, Orange, Gold, Blue and Pink
  • Size: 6 inches
  • Care Level: Advanced

3. Jack Dempsey

Jack Dempsey Fish

The Jack Dempsey is a very active Cichlid from Central America. They are one of the most colorful Cichlids around.

You can find them in brown with a blue or green spotted pattern. Other varieties include electric blue, gold, and purple.

To keep a Jack Dempsey you will need at least an 80 gallon aquarium.

Jack Dempseys are not particularly community friendly. They will express their displeasure by rushing at the intruder. You should only keep them with equally boisterous fish, such as the Green Terror. You can use rocks, crevices, logs, or flower pots to create a suitable area for them to live in. It is better not to include any plants, as they are likely to uproot them.

  • Color: Blue, Green, Gold or Purple
  • Size: 10-12 inches
  • Care Level: Advanced

2. Fancy Guppy

Fancy Guppy

The tiny Guppy is one of the most colorful freshwater fish.

At less than an inch long their bright colors help them stand out.

A single Guppy can come in up to 4 colors at once.

Their radiant rainbow patterns have earned them the nickname Rainbow Fish.

The Cobra pattern features a red, yellow, or green base with black markings that give the appearance of snakeskin. Leopard Tail Guppies have colorful tails peppered with black spots.

Mosaic is one of the most beautiful varieties of all, featuring a geometric pattern over the body and caudal fin. Color combinations include red, purple, blue, yellow, orange, and more.

  • Color: Rainbow
  • Size: 0.5-1.5 inches
  • Care Level: Easy

1. Dwarf Gourami

Blue Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf Gouramis come in a wide array of colors.

The most famous color is blue or powder blue with red or tan stripes.

You can also find a flame variety which has a bright red body and a steel blue head. You can think of it as an inverse of the Blue Dwarf’s colors. The Honey variety matches the Honey Gourami’s buttery yellow color.

If you are looking for your first Gourami then the Dwarf Gourami makes a great first pick.

It is far less boisterous than other Gouramis and can live safely with most nano fish.

  • Color: Blue, Powder Blue, Red
  • Size: 4 inches
  • Care Level: Easy

Summary

There are so many ways to create a colorful freshwater tank!

Anyone of these colorful tropical fish will add bright spots of color to an underwater garden. They may even complement the colors of your plants.

Lots of the fish mentioned here are community friendly so they will fit in perfectly with other brightly colored fish.

Just remember that when stocking your aquarium it is natural to want the brightest fish you can find. However, not all of these fish are suitable for first time keepers. Some are fine for aquarists of any skill level, while others should be saved for when you have a little more experience.

What is the most colorful freshwater fish that you have seen?

Let us know in the comments section below…

David Thomas Author Bio Picture
David Thomas leads the team at Everything Fishkeeping as the Editor-in-Chief. David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.