10 Types Of Tropical Fish

If you want to keep an aquarium in your home or office, you should integrate tropical fish. But first, you want to learn more about the different types of tropical fish available. Doing so can help you find the right choice for your aquarium.

Found in tropical environments, these fish survive in freshwater, and saltwater, particularly in coral reefs. Below, we’ve shared an in-depth guide to the different types of tropical fish. This guide is the perfect reference to help you find the best option for your needs.

What Are The Different Types Of Tropical Fish?

As stated above, different types of tropical fish survive in different water conditions. You can find them in freshwater and marine water sources around the world. Some of the popular tropical fish include;

Freshwater Tropical Fish

Freshwater Tropical Fish

Freshwater tropical fish are the most readily available and cheapest options in the market. Commercially bred in farms or fished out of their natural habitats, the fish are easier to manage. This is because they have pretty minimal environmental requirements.

They don’t need any complicated equipment. Plus, they can survive in regular conditions with just tap water. With saltwater tropical fish, you need to control the sea salt conditions. However, with freshwater tropical fish, this shouldn’t be a problem.


The most expensive tropical fish in the world, Arowana fish are widely distributed across the world. A single Arowana fish can sell for as high as $400,000. There are 10 common types of Arowana fish from Asia, South America, Australia, and Africa. In fact, the Asian Arowana fish species possess an endangered classification.

In the U.S., Asian Arowana fish are even banned. Also known as bony tongues, these fish feature a bony head and elongated body with large and heavy scales. The scales come in mosaic canal patterns.

Arowana fish are solitary fish and only swim in packs when young. As adults, they are carnivorous and aggressive – often feeding on smaller surface fish. Thus, in the aquarium, they don’t have many pairing options.

They are typically paired with fish such as clown knife fish, pacu, and jaguar cichlids. Due to their size, they need an aquarium of at least 300 to 800 gallons. But, they can still easily outgrow a small tank in just 8 to 10 months.

Flowerhorn Cichlids

Similar to Arowana fish, flower horn cichlids are also one the most expensive freshwater tropical fish. The ornamental aquarium fish features an attractive body marked with vivid colors. Thanks to the vivid colors, the fish stand out in the tank.

You can easily identify the fish by their colorful bodies and uniquely shaped heads. In fact, they get their name from the shape of their heads. These fish are not a natural breed but rather, a hybrid one reintroduced to the wild.

Emerging from Malaysia, Taiwan, and Thailand, fish are now popularized in the US, Europe, and India. In captivity, the fish need at least a 40-gallon tank. The water temperature and pH level should be around 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and 7.4 to 8.0, respectively. In an aquarium, the fish can survive for up to 12 years.

Cory Catfish

Widely distributed in South America, cory catfish are small freshwater fish. The fish are available in a range of body shapes and colorations. Also known as corydoras, cory catfish measure anywhere between 1 and 4.7 inches long.

Whilst they have small bodies, cory catfish have body armor and sharp, venomous spines. They use their body armor and spines to protect themselves against predators. Cory catfish are not aggressive.

This means that they pair well with different species in freshwater aquariums. Due to their timid nature, you should keep at least six or more shoals in one tank. Cory catfish survive in a range of water conditions, even cool waters. However, they prefer soft and acidic waters with no nitrate.

Freshwater Angelfish

Popular amongst aquarists, angelfish originate from the Amazon and Orinoco basins, as well as rivers in the Guiana Shield. Angelfish features a laterally compressed and rounded body. The dorsal and anal fins on the other hand boast a more elongated triangular shape.

Their rather thin body allows them to hide in roots and plants. Furthermore, their body features transverse stripes with distinct coloration. The distinct coloration acts as camouflage. Angelfish are predators and prey on small fish. In captivity, they prefer warm aquariums around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Neon Tetra

Native to the blackwaters and clear waters of the Amazon basin, the neon tetra is a popular freshwater aquarium fish. The small fish features an ultra brightly colored body. The bright body colors make it easily recognizable in dark black water.

The body has a silver-white abdomen and a light blue back. On the middle, posterior, and fin areas, the fish has distinctively colored stripes. The fish survives in cool waters with temperatures of about 68 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit and pH levels of 4 to 7.5.

In captivity, they have a long life span – surviving between 3 to 10 years. However, to keep the fish comfortable and thriving, you have to keep them in shoals of at least 8 to 12 or more. Plus, the fish thrive more in densely planted tanks similar to their native habitat in the Amazon.

Marine/Saltwater Tropical Fish

Saltwater Tropical Fish

Marine and saltwater tropical fish are generally sourced from coral reefs. Unlike freshwater fish, commercial and captivity marine fish breeding require time, precision, and money. You need filtration systems and extra tools to create a livable environment for them.

Marine tropical fish is a less popular choice for aquarists due to their high cost. Yet, they are still favored for their vivid colors, patterns, and behavior


Clownfish account for nearly half of the global marine ornamental trade. Clownfish are easily recognized by their body colors. Think of Nemo and his dad Marlin from the movie Finding Nemo! Depending on their species, they come in yellow, orange, red, or black colors.

Other clownfish types even feature two-color patches with white bars and colorful bars. Clownfish are endemic to the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Red Sea where the waters are warm.

You can also find them in the Great Barrier Reef. Typically, a small fish, a clownfish measures between 2.8 inches and 6.7 inches.


Hawkfish integrate slightly elongated bodies with large and thick heads. They also feature merged dorsal fins with 10 connected spines and rounded tail fins. Typically a small fish, hawkfish measures about 2.7 inches to 3.9 inches long.

Hawkfish are popular amongst aquarists due to their vibrant body colors. Additionally, they are unproblematic to keep, and easily acclimatize to tank life.

Yellow Prawn-Goby

Native to the western Pacific, the yellow prawn-goby is easily recognized by its irregular shape and bright colors. Found in coastal bays and lagoons, the fish measures about 3.9 inches long.

You can find the fish in a vast selection of body colors ranging from yellow to gray and brown. In captivity, the fish require at least a 20-gallon tank with saltwater conditions.


Parrotfish make up a group of over 90 different species. Native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean, the fish live in coral reefs, rocky coasts, and seagrass beds. They get their name from their teeth arrangement which causes their mouths to resemble a parrot’s beak.

The fish grow to a length of about 12 to 20 inches long although, you can also find larger species. At night, the fish release unique mucus that envelops their body. This helps to shield their scent from predators. Like other marine tropical fish, the fish come in a vast range of vividly colored bodies.

Banggai Cardinalfish

Due to its small and attractive body, the Banggai cardinalfish is a popular ornamental fish. Whilst the fish is commonly bred in captivity, it is still listed as endangered in the wild. The fish grows to a length of about 3 inches long and has a unique fin design.

It boasts a tasseled dorsal fin and elongated anal fin design. Its caudal fin on the other end is deeply forked. The body, head, and anterior edges of the fins boast three black bar markings.

What Is The Rarest Tropical Fish?

Wide selections of tropical fish exist in the world from both freshwater and saltwater. However, some of the rarest tropical fish include;

  • Lake Tanganyika bemba orange flame
  • Southern Nevada Moapa dace
  • Nevada Devil’s Hole pupfish
  • Alabama sturgeon
  • Damba Mipentina


What makes tropical fish stand out is you can explore them in different water settings. You can choose to explore the fish in either saltwater or freshwater environments. As an aquarist, you even have a selection of fish types to choose from.

You can opt for rare, brightly colored, expensive, or affordable species based on your needs. As mentioned above, aquarists favor marine tropical fish for their vivid colors and in-tank behaviors. But, their cost is a put-off.

However, aquarists are not the only ones impressed with marine tropical fish. Recreational divers enjoy exploring reefs and documenting different tropical fish species they encounter. Coral reefs offer a more complex and diverse ecosystem where you can experience countless types of fish. In fact, coral reefs are home to over 25% of all marine fish.