25 Colorful Freshwater Fish to Liven up your Aquarium

When it comes to looking for colorful freshwater fish, you’re not short of options.

 

In this guide, I’ll take you through 25 if my favorite fish that’ll brighten any tank and share some key care tips for each one.

Table of Contents

1. Discus (Symphysodon sp.)

Discus Swimming in aquarium

Appearance: disk shaped bodies. Huge variety of colors and patterns, some solid, others with stripes, spots or striations.
Tank size: 30 gallon (113 liters)
Type of tank: 30 gallon tall with lots of live plants and open swimming areas.
Care level: advanced – not for beginners.
varied diet high in protein
Behavior: will shoal together with other discus. A school will have a pecking order, otherwise peaceful.
How many can be kept together: bigger groups are better.
Lifespan: 10 years
Size: 6.5-8 inches (16.5-20.3 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Discus

Tank size: 30 gallon (113 liters)
Temperature: 82°-86°F (27.7°-30°C)
pH: 6-7
Hardness: 2-5 dGH (33.3-83.4 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with peaceful community fish
Care level: advanced

2. German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)

German blue ram in planted tank

Appearance: yellow bodies, brilliant blue spots covering the abdomen, tail and fins. Distinctive black stripes run through their red eyes.
Tank size: 20 gallons (75 liters)
Type of tank: 20 gallon long with lots of plants, hiding places and some open areas
Care level: intermediate – very sensitive to poor water quality.
Diet: omnivorous
Behavior: stays towards the bottom of the aquarium and claims a territory. Can be aggressive with other rams.
How many can be kept together: A pair can be kept in a 20 gallon, add 10 gallons for each additional ram.
Lifespan: 3 years
Size: 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for German Blue Ram

Tank size: 30 gallon (113 liters)
Temperature: 82°-86°F (27.7°-30°C)
pH: 6-7
Hardness: 2-5 dGH (33.3-83.4 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with peaceful community fish
Care level: advanced

3. Betta (Betta splendens)

Close up of blue half moon Siamese fighting fish in a fish tank

Appearance: torpedo-shaped body with very large showy fins, wide variety of colors
Tank size: 5 gallons (18.9 liters)
Type of tank: shorter tanks with more surface area
Care level: Easy – very hardy
Diet: Carnivorous – high protein diet
Behavior: Fairly low energy. They are slow swimmers and rest part of the day but are also curious and interact with people who approach their tank. Can be aggressive.
How many can be kept together: one male or several females
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Size: 2.25 inches (5.7 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Betta

Tank size: 5 gallons (18.9 liters)
Temperature: 76°-82°F (24.4°-27.7°)
pH: 6.5-7
Hardness: 3-4 dGH (50-66.7 ppm)
Compatibility: some will tolerate other tank mates, others will not. Tank mates should be peaceful community fish.
Care level: Easy

Read full Betta fish care guide here.

4. Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)

The cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) is a freshwater fish

Appearance: bright blue and red stripes from nose to tail
Tank size: 10 gallons (38 liters)
Type of tank: taller tanks provide more swimming room
Care level: beginner
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: peaceful, active schooling fish
How many can be kept together: at least 6, bigger groups are better
Lifespan: 5 years
Size: 2 inches (5 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Cardinal Tetra

Tank size: 10 gallons (38 liters)
Temperature: 73°-79°F (22.7°-26.1°C)
pH: 5.5-6.5
Hardness: 1-3 dGH (16.7-50 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with peaceful community fish
Care level: beginner

5. Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)

Blue neon- tetra, freshwater fish in aquarium

Appearance: silver abdomen, blue stripe from nose to adipose fin, red stripe from tail to dorsal fin
Tank size: 10 gallon (38 liters)
Type of tank: taller tanks provide more swimming area
Care level: beginner
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: peaceful, active schooling fish
How many can be kept together: at least 6, bigger groups are better
Lifespan: 10 years
Size: 1.2 inches (3 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Neon Tetras

Tank size: 10 gallon (38 liters)
Temperature: 72°-76°F (22.2°- 24.4°C)
pH: 6-7
Hardness: <10 dGH (<166.7 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with peaceful community fish
Care level: beginner

 

See our complete Neon Tetra care guide here.

6. Dwarf Gourami (Trichogaster lalius)

Dwarf gourami on a blurred background (Trichogaster lalius)

Appearance: oval-shaped body with large anal and dorsal fins. Comes in several different color variations.
Tank size: 10 gallon (38 liters)
Type of tank: doesn’t really matter
Care level: beginner
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: active fish that swims at all levels in the tank. Shy with other species but males will be aggressive with each other.
How many can be kept together: one male or several females, males may fight and even kill each other
Lifespan: 3-4 years (38 liters)
Size: 3 inches (7.6 cm)
Defining features: pair of modified pelvic fins the fish use as “feelers” to investigate their surroundings

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Dwarf Courami

Tank size: 10 gallon (38 liters)
Temperature: 77°-82°F (25°-27.8°C)
pH: 6-9
Hardness: 5-20 dGH (83.4-333.4 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with slow-moving, peaceful community fish
Care level: beginner

7. Jack Dempsey Cichlid (Rocio octofasciata)

Jack Dempsey Cichlid in Aquarium

Appearance: long, stocky body with elongated anal and dorsal fins. Body is a light pink, covered with iridescent blue speckles
Tank size: 55 gallon (210 liters)
55 gallon long with rocks and driftwood for cover
Care level: intermediate
Diet: carnivore
Behavior: hangs out in the bottom and mid-water, can be very aggressive
How many can be kept together: this is dicey, you may be able to keep several together if you raise them together from juveniles
Lifespan: 10 years
Size: 10 inches (25.4 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Jack Dempsey

Tank size: 55 gallon (210 liters)
Temperature: 78°-86° F (25.6°-30°C)
pH: 6.5-8
Hardness: 5-12 dGH (83.4-200 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with other large fish like severums
Care level: intermediate

8. Boesemani Rainbow (Melanotaenia boesemani)

Boeseman's rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani). Freshwater fish.

Appearance: long-bodied fish, powder blue on front half of body, bright yellow on back half
Tank size: 40 gallons (150 liters)
Type of tank: 40 gallon long, heavily planted works best
Care level: beginner
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: active, mid-water shoaling fish
How many can be kept together: bigger groups are better
Lifespan: beginner
Size: 3-4.5 inches (7.6-11.4 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Boesemani Rainbow

Tank size: 40 gallon (150 liters)
Temperature: 81°-86°F (27.2°-30°C)
pH: 7-8
Hardness: 10-20 dGH (166.7-333.4 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with peaceful community fish
Care level: beginner

9. Paradise Fish (Macropodus opercularis)

Paradise fish swimming in fish tank

Appearance: bright red and blue stripes on the body with large dorsal and anal fins and a large forked tail
Tank size: 20 gallon (75 liters)
Type of tank: 20 gallon long with densely planted areas
Care level: beginner
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: can be aggressive. They are an active mid and top level fish.
How many can be kept together: one male alone or with several females
Lifespan: 6-8 years
Size: 2.4 inches (6 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Paradise Fish

Tank size: 20 gallon (75 liters)
Temperature: 70°-82°F (21.2°-27.8°C)
pH: 6-8
Hardness: 5-30 dGH (83.4-500 ppm)
Compatibility: should not be kept with other gouramis or bettas. Fancy guppies may also be a problem. Male paradise fish may see these as another paradise fish. Otherwise, they can be kept with peaceful community fish.
Care level: beginner

10. Endlers (Poecilia wingei)

Male black-bar Endler

Appearance: very similar to guppies. Several color morphs. Males have bright flashy greens and reds over their bodies and tails. Females are a drab gray/green
Tank size: 2 gallon (7.5 liters)
Type of tank: heavily planted tanks preferred
Care level: beginner
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: shoal together if kept in groups over 6
How many can be kept together: bigger groups are better. Better to keep two females per one male in a mixed school.
Lifespan: 2-3 years
Size: 1-1.8 inches (2.5-4.5 cm)
Defining features: hardy livebearers that easily breed in a tank

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Endlers

Tank size: 2 gallon (7.5 liters)
Temperature: 70°-84°F (21.1°-28.9°C)
pH: 7-8
Hardness: 10-20 dGH (166.7-333.4 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with peaceful community fish
Care level: beginner

11. Bluefin Notho (Nothobranchius rachovii)

Bluefin notho swimming in planted tank

Appearance: males have a bright red body covered in shiny blue speckles. Females are a drab gray/beige
Tank size: 10 gallon (38 liters)
Type of tank: 10 gallon tank with lots of plants and hiding places
Care level: intermediate
Diet: carnivore
Behavior: active fish that swim in the bottom and mid-water levels. Males can be aggressive with each other.
How many can be kept together: one male and several females
Lifespan: 1 year
Size: 2.4 inches (6 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Buefin Notho

Tank size: 10 gallon (38 liters)
Temperature: 70°-75°F (21.1°-23.9°C)
pH: 6-7
Hardness: 2-5 dGH (33.3-83.4 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with small, peaceful community fish
Care level: intermediate

12. Flowerhorn Cichlid (man-made hybrid)

Flowerhorn cichlid swimming alone

Appearance: large, heavy bodied fish. There are several color morphs but most have a bright red head fading to a golden color that is covered with iridescent speckles. Most also have dark spots along the lateral line.
Tank size: 75 gallon (284 liters)
Type of tank: longer tank with large open swimming areas
Care level: intermediate
Diet: carnivore
Behavior: very aggressive and cannot have tank mates. Flowerhorns interact with owners when they approach the tank.
How many can be kept together: there can be only one.
Lifespan: 8-12 years
Size: 10-12 inches (25.4-30 cm)
Defining features: males have an enormous nuchal hump, a large, round fluid-filled growth at the top of the head.

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Flowerhorn

Tank size: 75 gallon (284 liters)
Temperature: 82°-85°F (27.8°-29.4°C)
pH: 6-8.5
Hardness: 6-20 dGH (100-333.4 ppm)
Compatibility: cannot be kept with other fish
Care level: intermediate

13. Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya)

Cherry barb swimming in planted aquarium

Appearance: bright red, long-bodied fish
Tank size: 20 gallon (75 liters)
Type of tank: 20 gallon long with lots of live plants and open swimming areas
Care level: beginner
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: active schooling fish that will swim in all levels of the tank
How many can be kept together: bigger groups are better, six or more
Lifespan: 5-7 years
Size: 2 inches (5 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Cherry Barb

Tank size: 20 gallon (75 liters)
Temperature: 75°-80°F (23.9°-26.7°C)
pH: 6-8
Hardness: 3-20 dGH (50-333.4 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with other peaceful community fish
Care level: beginner

14. Electric Blue Hap (Sciaenochromis fryeri)

Electric blue hap swimming in fish tank

Appearance: long, slender-bodied fish. Males are bright blue with darker blue vertical bars. Females are a dull brown with darker bars.
Tank size: 55 gallon (210 liters)
Type of tank: long 55 gallon with sandy substrate and rock piles or other caves
Care level: intermediate
Diet: carnivore
Behavior: can be aggressive. Active and territorial fish. Males will fight until one dies.
How many can be kept together: one male with several females
Lifespan: 7-10 years
Size: 6-6.5 inches (15.2-16.5 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Electiv Blue Hap

Tank size: 55 gallon (210 liters)
Temperature: 71°-80°F (21.7°-26.7°C)
pH: 7-8.5
Hardness: 18-25 dGH (300-417 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with other Lake Malawi cichlids, as long as they do not look similar
Care level: intermediate

15. Electric Yellow Lab (Labidochromis caeruleus)

Appearance: long-bodied fish that is bright yellow with a black stripe along the dorsal fin
Tank size: 55 gallon (210 liters)
Type of tank: long 55 gallon with sandy substrate and rock piles or other caves
Care level: intermediate
Diet: carnivore
Behavior: can be aggressive. Very active fish. Males are territorial.
How many can be kept together: one male with several females. Males will fight until one is killed.
Lifespan: 10-15 years
Size: 4-5 inches (10-12.7 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Electic Yellow Lab

Tank size: 55 gallon (210 liters)
Temperature: 71°-80°F (21.7°-26.7°C)
pH: 7-8.5
Hardness: 18-25 dGH (300-417 ppm)
Compatibility: other African cichlids from Lake Malawi
Care level: intermediate

16. Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)

Appearance: arrowhead shaped body, red-orange body and fins with a triangular black patch on both sides
Tank size: 20 gallon (75 liters)
Type of tank: 20 gallon long with lots of live plants and open swimming areas
Care level: beginner
Diet: carnivore
Behavior: active schooling fish that swims in top and mid-water
How many can be kept together: bigger groups are better, 10 or more
Lifespan: 5 years
Size: 2 inches (5 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Harlequin Rasboras

Tank size: 20 gallon (75 liters)
Temperature: 72°-77°F (22.2°-25°C)
pH: 6-7
Hardness: 5-10 dGH (83.4-167 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with other peaceful community fish
Care level: beginner

17. Salvini Cichlid (Cichlasoma salvini)

Salvini cichlid swimming on bottom of tank

Appearance: Oval shaped body with a pointed snout, golden body, two lines of black dots along the sides with bright blue on the dorsal fin. Iridescent speckles over body. Colors more vibrant on males.
Tank size: 55 gallon (210 liters)
Type of tank: planted tank with large open areas. Driftwood and other decor to help establish territory. Prefers strong current.
Care level: intermediate
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: can be quite aggressive. Territorial fish that swims in bottom and mid-water levels
How many can be kept together: one male one female
Lifespan: 8-10 years
Size: 6-8 inches (15-20 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Salvini Cichlid

Tank size: 55 gallon (210 liters)
Temperature: 72°-77°F (22.2°-25°C)
pH: 6.5-8
Hardness: 5-8 dGH (83.4-133.4 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with similar sized South/Central American cichlids
Care level: intermediate

18. Celestial Pearl Danio (Danio margaritatus)

Appearance: long-bodied fish with dark green body covered in bright yellow dots. Bright red/orange belly and fins. Males are brighter than females.
Tank size: 10 gallon (38 liter)
Type of tank: heavily planted tank with soft current
Care level: intermediate
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: shy schooling fish that likes to dive in and out of plants
How many can be kept together: bigger groups are better, six or more. It’s better to have more females than males.
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Size: 1 inch (2.5 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Celestial Pearl Danio

Tank size: 10 gallon (38 liter)
Temperature: 73°-79°F (22.8°-26.1°C)
pH: 6.5-7.5
Hardness: 3-6 dGH (50-100 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with other peaceful community fish
Care level: intermediate

19. Fancy Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)

Appearance: slim long-bodied fish with a fanned tail. Many different color morphs and patterns. In some varieties, female is somewhat drab while male is colorful and showy.
Tank size: 5 gallon (19 liters)
Type of tank: lightly planted tank with lots of open areas
Care level: beginner
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: active fish that shoal together at the top level of the tank. Voracious eaters that will swarm towards anyone who gets near the tank.
How many can be kept together: school can be as large as the tank can handle. It’s fine to have an all male tank. In a mixed tank, more females than males.
Lifespan: 2 years
Size: 2 inches (5 cm)
Defining features: livebearers that readily breed in an aquarium

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Fancy Guppies

Tank size: 5 gallon (19 liters)
Temperature: 74°-82°F (23.3°-27.8°C)
pH: 7-7.8
Hardness: 8-12 dGH (133.4-200 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with peaceful community fish
Care level: beginner

Read full Guppy care guide here.

20. Florida Flag Fish (Jordanella floridae)

Florida flag fish swimming upwards in aquarium

Appearance: dark blue head, long body covered in bright red, green, blue and gold iridescent speckles
Tank size: 20 gallons (75 liters)
Type of tank: 20 gallon long with lots of live plants and slow water current
Care level: intermediate
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: can be aggressive. Males may be aggressive with each other. Both sexes may nip the fins of slow moving tank mates.
How many can be kept together: groups of 6 or more are best
Lifespan: 2-3 years
Size: 2 inches (5 cm)
Defining features: will happily feast on hair or thread algae

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Florida Flag Fish

Tank size: 20 gallons (75 liters)
Temperature: 70°-85°F (21.1°-29.4°C)
pH: 6.5-7.5
Hardness: 12-25 dGH (200-417 ppm)
Compatibility: fast moving community fish like danios
Care level: intermediate

21. Rainbow Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher)

Three rainbow kribensis swimming in planted aquarium

Appearance: yellow body with black lines over the head, dorsal area and lateral line. Bright pink belly and orange tips on the dorsal fin and upper tail with black spots. Females are brighter than males.
Tank size: 20 gallon (75 liters)
Type of tank: 20 gallon long with lots of live plants and several options for caves.
Care level: beginner
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: cave dwelling species that likes lots of cover. Kribs are excellent parents who readily breed and care for their fry.
How many can be kept together: one male a several females
Lifespan: 5 years
Size: 3-4 inches (7.6-10 cm)
Defining features: one of the more peaceful cichlids that can be kept in a community tank

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Rainbow Kribnesis

Tank size: 20 gallon (75 liters)
Temperature: 75°-80°F (23.9°-26.7°C)
pH: 6-7
Hardness: 3-5 dGH (50-83.4 ppm)
Compatibility: fast-moving peaceful community fish. Avoid other bottom and cave dwellers.
Care level: beginner

22. Redhead Cichlid (Vieja melanura)

Read head cichlid swimming alone is aquarium

Appearance: pink head, body is iridescent blue, green or golden with dark spots and speckles. Males are more brightly colored. Very heavy bodied.
Tank size: 55 gallon (210 liters)
Type of tank: long tank with large footprint. Needs roots/driftwood to use as cover with large open areas
Care level: advanced
Diet: omnivorous
Behavior: can be aggressive. Somewhat shy fish that startles easily. Bottom to mid-water swimmer. Will eat any fish that fits in its mouth.
How many can be kept together: one male and one female. You can’t keep multiple males together.
Lifespan: 10 years
Size: 14-16 inches (35.5-40.6 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Redhead Cichlid

Tank size: 55 gallons (210 liters)
Temperature: 75°-82°F (23.9°-27.8°C)
pH: 6.5-8.5
Hardness: 10-15 dGH (166.7-250 ppm)
Compatibility: other large, calm fish
Care level: advanced

23. Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara sp.)

Peacock cichlid swimming around plants in aquarium

Appearance: long-bodied fish with large dorsal and anal fins. Many different natural colors and man-made hybrids. Males come in a variety of colors. Females are drab brown/gray.
Tank size: 55 gallon (210 liters)
Type of tank: long tank with lots of cave options and a sandy substrate
Care level: intermediate
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: considered semi-aggressive, especially with females present. Very active fish that sets up territory in a cave.
How many can be kept together: one male to four females. Or all male tank in a large group to spread out aggression.
Lifespan: 8 years
Size: 4-6 inches (10-15 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Peacock Cichlid

Tank size: 55 gallon (210 liters)
Temperature: 76°-82°F (24.4°-27.8°C)
pH: 7.8-8.5
Hardness: 18-25 dGH (300-417 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with other semi-aggressive African cichlids
Care level: intermediate

24. Jewel Cichlid (Hemichromis bimaculatus)

Jewel Cichlid resting on bottom of tank

Appearance: long-bodied, slim fish with bright red coloration, two large black spots and iridescent speckles
Tank size: 30 gallon (114 liters)
Type of tank: 30 gallon long with rock work and driftwood for hiding places
Care level: intermediate
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: can be very aggressive. Been known to kill much larger fish, especially mated pairs. May need to be kept by themselves.
How many can be kept together: single or one male, one female
Lifespan: 5 years
Size: 5.5-6 inches (14-15 cm)

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Jewel Cichlid

Tank size: 30 gallon (114 liters)
Temperature: 70°F – 74°F (21.1°-23.3°C)
pH: 7-7.5
Hardness: 7-18 dGH (116.7-300 ppm)
Compatibility: should be kept in a species only tank
Care level: intermediate

25. Green Terror Cichlid (Andinoacara rivulatus)

Green terror cichlid swimming over rock

Appearance: olive green head, each scale on the side of the body is rimmed with bright blue/green iridescent color that forms stripes down the body. Males have bright orange stripes on edges of dorsal fin and tail.
Tank size: 55 gallon (210 liters)
Type of tank: long tank with a large footprint. Provide rocks and driftwood as territorial boundaries. Will destroy most live plants.
Care level: intermediate
Diet: omnivore
Behavior: can be aggressive.
How many can be kept together: one male one female
Lifespan: 7-10 years
Size: 6-12 inches (15-30 cm)
Defining features: males develop large nuchal humps

Quick Care Stats (Water Parameters) for Green Terror Cichlid

Tank size: 55 gallon (210 liters)
Temperature: 76°-80°F (24.4°-26.7°C)
pH: 6-7.5
Hardness: 3-6 dGH (50-100 ppm)
Compatibility: keep with other large South American cichlids or alone
Care level: intermediate

Which Colorful Fish is Best for You?

By now, you should have plenty of inspiration for your colorful freshwater fish urge.

 

Your next step is to research the ones you like the most, and make sure you’re able to provide optimal care to get the most enjoyment out of these beauties.

 

I hope I’ve given you some ideas to run with. And if you have anymore suggestions, let me know in the comments.

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In this guide, We’ll take you through 25 freshwater fish that’ll brighten any aquarium and share some key care tips for each one. #freshwater #modestfish
Discover these 25 colorful freshwater fishes that’ll brighten your tank and we’ll share some key care tips for each one. #modestfish #aquarium #fish

Katherine Morgan

Hey, there! I'm Katherine from Northwest Florida. I've kept aquariums for over two decades, enjoy experimenting with low-tech planted setups and an avid South American cichlid enthusiast.
Katherine Morgan

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