31 colorful fish – a list of bright and beautiful species
You have your home aquarium all set up and ready to go. Now, you need to fill your tank with a community of bright, beautiful fish that are sure to add sparkle and shine to your home.
If you’re not sure which species to choose, ask no more! In this complete guide, we have selected 31 of the most colorful fish to suit aquariums of all sizes.
31 most colorful fish species
1. Spotted mandarin goby
The spotted mandarin goby, scientifically named Synchiropus picturatus, is also known as the target mandarin goby, psychedelic mandarin, and spotted mandarin snapdragon. These peaceful marine fish come from the Indo-West Pacific Ocean around the Philippines, northwestern Australia, and eastern Indonesia.
The fish is a riot of colour, covered from head to tail in a dazzling array of color patterns in orange, blue, green and black.
Mandarin gobies grow to about 3 inches long, are reef safe, and require a mature tank of at least 30 gallons.
2. Emperor Angelfish
The incredibly beautiful Emperor Angelfish is a marine fish that inhabits the reefs of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, from the Red Sea to the Austral Islands and Hawaii.
Juveniles are particularly striking with electric blue and white rings adorning their heads and bodies. Adult fish are no less beautiful, they have yellow and blue stripes and black markings around the eyes.
These semi-aggressive fish take 24-30 months to mature into their adult color, but the young are certainly not disappointing to look at. An adult adult specimen is up to 15.75 inches long.
Symphysodon aequifasciatus, or discus fish, is a species of tropical freshwater cichlid that hails from the eastern and central areas of the Amazon Basin.
There are three main variants of discus fish, blue, brown, and green, all of which grow to around 9 inches in captivity.
These brightly colored fish can be blue, green, red, orange, brown, turquoise, and yellow/gold. Some specimens are solid in color while others have dark vertical bars and some have beautiful effervescent streaks of color.
Red discus varieties can have red spots on their tails and bellies, and these are the most sought after and costly examples of the species.
There are 16 species of lionfish. Common names for the species include Firefish, Zebrafish, Tastyfish, and Butterfly Cod. As you may have guessed from the fish’s names, it is considered a delicacy in parts of its range.
The lionfish is a marine species native to the Indo-Pacific, although it is now considered an invasive species in parts of the Atlantic regions.
The fish’s spectacular red, cream, black, and white bands, conspicuous pectoral fins, and pointed vertical fin stripes are used to deter predators. Juvenile lionfish can be just 1 inch long, while adults grow to an impressive 18 inches.
These beautiful yet menacing fish are very popular with oceangoers, but the lionfish comes with a warning. These fish are poisonous and can deliver a painful sting from poisonous glands hidden within their spines.
Advanced aquarists may like the idea of adding the Nudibranch to their collection. The Nudibranch is also known as Nudi or Sea Slug.
These are soft-bodied marine gastropod molluscs that lose their hard shell once they have left the larval stage. There are over 3,000 species of Nudi, all of which have extraordinary colors and shapes.
Nudibranchs are often advertised as reef-safe, but that’s not strictly true, as these dazzling rainbow-colored creatures are known to eat specific species of sponges.
6. Clown Triggerfish
Clown triggerfish, scientific name Balistoides conspicillum, grow to an impressive 20 inches in length and can be an impressive addition to a large marine aquarium.
This aggressive species has a dark brown base on its body adorned with large white spots. The fish’s mouth is yellow outlined in white, and its back has a yellow «saddle.» The caudal fin peduncle is usually the same golden-yellow hue as the saddle patch.
The clown triggerfish originates from the east coast of Africa, ranges as far south as Durban and then as far east as Samoa. The species can also be found in southern Japan and New Caledonia.
7. Mantis Shrimp
The mantis shrimp is a stomopod. There are more than 400 species of these brightly colored creatures whose lineage dates back more than half a billion years!
Some mantis shrimp have developed sharp forelimbs that are used to capture prey, while others can strike with a velocity equivalent to that of a.22 bullet.
Mantis shrimp are found in the tropical Indian and Pacific oceans, where they are known for their brilliant scarlet, green, blue, and orange colors.
8. Moorish idol
The Moorish idol is a species of marine fish that originates from the tropical regions of the Indo-Pacific and eastern Pacific oceans, where it lives in lagoons and reefs.
Moorish Idols are spectacular fish, measuring up to 9 inches in length with disc-shaped bodies that are beautifully marked with boldly contrasting stripes of white, black and golden yellow.
Although you can purchase this species at some specialty stores and online, Moorish idols are notoriously difficult to keep in captivity. Usually that is because they are very picky eaters and often starve to death in an aquarium.
9. Clown fish
Clownfish are specialized tropical coral reef fish that come from the Indian and Pacific Oceans, off northwestern Australia, Japan, and southeastern Asia. These small saltwater fish grow to a length of around 4 inches, making them ideal for a home marine aquarium.
Clownfish are bright orange with three bright white stripes that are outlined in black.
These beautiful fish must be housed by an anemone, which lives within the creature’s tentacles.
10. Rainbow Parrotfish
One of the most confusing and perplexing goldfish is the enigmatic parrotfish.
Parrotfish can not only change shape during their 7-year lifespan, but they can also change their gender and coloration! As the name suggests, parrotfish have a beak-like mouth that they use to grind up coral, which helps the fish digest the tough seagrasses they feed on.
These aquatic chameleons can display literally all the colors of the rainbow, including hot pink, bright aqua blue, turquoise, green, and yellow.
11. Flowerhorn Cichlid
The flowerhorn cichlid is an ornamental aquarium fish that is prized for its stunning color variations and the large “nape” hump on its head that gives the species its name.
The flowerhorn is an artificial hybrid that was developed in the Far East, especially in Thailand, Taiwan, and Malaysia. Unfortunately, many unwanted Flowerhorns were released into the wild, where they have established small populations. As a consequence, the fish is considered an invasive pest species in Malaysia and Singapore, and its importation is prohibited in Australia.
12. Peacock Cichlids
The Pacific Peacock Cichlid is known as one of the most brilliantly colored fish in the world of aquatic hobby.
Peacock cichlids are members of the Astatotilapia genus, and there are at least 22 varieties, most of which are truly beautiful. Peacock coloration varies from red, yellow, blue, orange, and gold. To add to their shiny metallic glory, the fish’s scales are iridescent!
Interestingly, the coloration of each fish is influenced by the whereabouts in Lake Malawi where the species is found. Peacock cichlids are one of the most peaceful cichlids, growing to around 6 inches long in captivity.
13. Electric Blue Ram
The electric blue ram is also known as Apistogramma ramirezi and Papiliochromis ramirezi and is a captive bred variant of the wild ram. Rams originate from the Venezuelan and Colombian Llanos from the Orinoco River drainage.
These impressive little fish make excellent members of the community, they are peaceful and grow to a manageable size of around 2 inches. A small group of these brilliant metallic turquoise blue fish flitting around your tank is sure to bring unparalleled vibrancy and brilliance to your screen.
Killifish are members of the Cyprinodontidae family of fish and are distant relatives of Guppies, Mollies and Swordtails.
Killifish grow to be 1 to 2 inches long and are a peaceful species that are a perfect school fish to add to any community tank. Despite their brightly colored bodies, metallic golds and red spots, killifish are often overlooked by beginning aquarists. It’s a shame, as a group of these swimming gems looks really impressive.
There are over 1,250 species of killifish, so be sure to ask your local fish store for advice before you buy.
15. Royal Gramma
The Royal Gramma is also known as Gramma Loreto and Fairy Basslet. The species is a saltwater fish native to the Caribbean, where it lives on deep-sea reefs.
When it comes to bright colors, few fish can compete with the Royal Gramma! The front half of the fish’s body is a striking iridescent violet that blends with a golden yellow towards the fish’s tail. In the center of the fish’s body, where the two colors meet, there is a series of spots, which is unique to each fish.
There is also a thin black line, which extends from the fish’s mouth to the eyes, and a small black dot on the dorsal fin.
At just 3 inches long, any marine setup should find room for a beautiful Royal Gramma!
Betta fish are also known as Siamese fighting fish and originate from the Mekong Delta region of Southeast Asia. Wild betta fish are short-finned and somewhat drab compared to their captive-bred hybrid cousins.
Crowntails are a variety of betta splendens that are bred for their spectacular tails. The web between the tail rays is greatly shortened, making the pointed rays appear more prominent and creating a tail that has a crown-like appearance.
Betta fish come in a dazzling array of vibrant colors, including deep blue, dark red, pastels, shades of marble, black, albino, and metallics.
Males should be kept alone as they are very aggressive towards other males and will fight to the death. So, if you want a single, brightly colored, stunning fish for a small tank, a betta fish is the way to go.
17. Candy Basslet
The Candy Basslet belongs to the same family as basslets, groupers and reef bass. These brightly colored marine species are found in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, from the Florida Keys and the Bahamas through the Eastern Caribbean to some of the smaller islands off the coast of South America.
These impressive fish have a deep orange body, decorated with bright purple and red lines. The colors are so vivid and bright that photographing the Candy Basslet is a challenge!
Candy Basslets grow to a maximum adult size of around 2 to 2.5 inches long.
18. Regal Tang
The Regal Tang, scientific name, Paracanthurus hepatus, is also known as the Blue Tang and Palette Surgeonfish. This graceful and incredibly beautiful fish hails from the Indo-Pacific, where it lives on reefs.
The Regal Tang has an incredibly vibrant neon blue flat body adorned with bold black markings in the shape of a painter’s palette, hence the fish’s other common name. The underside of the fish and its tail is bright yellow.
You’ll need a large marine or reef setup for one of these beauties, as these fish can grow up to 12 inches long.
19. Banggai Cardinalfish
The Banggai Cardinalfish is also known as the Karudern Cardinal or Longfin Cardinal.
These fish have a very limited wild distribution, inhabiting only the tropical marine waters around the Banggai Islands of Indonesia.
Unfortunately, the number of wild caught fish for the aquarium trade has significantly impacted the species and it is now classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List. However, most of the specimens put up for sale in recent times are bred in captivity.
The Banggai Cardinalfish has a very simple color scheme of a shiny silver body with white spots, and the long fins are accented with bold black stripes. That said, these 3-inch A-listers deserve a spot in any reef or marine aquarium.
20. Yellow Tang
The Yellow Tang is a marine fish that belongs to the Acanthuridae family of fish.
These surprisingly attractive fish make a beautiful centerpiece in a marine display tank. Adults grow to about 7.9 inches long and are bright yellow. Interestingly, at night the color of the fish fades and they develop a brown spot bisected by a horizontal white stripe down the center of their body.
Yellow tangs are found in the Pacific Ocean, east of Japan and west of Hawaii, where they live on shallow reefs as deep as 150 feet. Although the species is not currently listed as endangered, up to 70% of the fish destined for the aquarium trade are wild-caught in Hawaii.
21. Arabian Angelfish
The Arabian Angelfish is a colorful marine fish found in the coastal waters of East Africa from the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to Zanzibar. The species is also seen in the Persian Gulf, where it inhabits rocky reefs and caves as deep as 50 feet.
These showy fish grow to around 16 inches in length. Interestingly, young people and adults look completely different. Juveniles have a base color of steel blue decorated with vertical stripes of pale blue and white, while adults are dark gray to black with a wide crescent-shaped yellow belt and a bright yellow tail.
22. Yellow butterfly fish
Yellow longnose butterflyfish is also called forceps fish, longnose butterflyfish, and longnose coral fish.
These spectacular fish grow to be around 8.5 inches long. They have a distinctive long and prominent snout, ending in a tiny mouth, which they use as a set of pincers to extract prey from rock crevices.
The fish has a bright yellow disc-shaped body, as well as yellow pelvic, anal, and dorsal fins. A jet-black mask covers the upper half of the eyes, the head and tail are blue, and there is a prominent eyespot below the tail.
Yellow butterflyfish hail from Hawaii, eastern and central Polynesia, the tropical Pacific Ocean, and are also found throughout the East Indies, the coast of Africa, and the Red Sea.
23. German Blue Ram
The German Blue Ram is a member of the cichlid fish family and is a great choice for a peaceful community tank.
These brightly colored freshwater fish have a bright greenish-yellow body and head, with the rest of the body being blue and white. The body of the fish is decorated with black curved stripes and there is a black spot in the central part of the body. The German Blue Ram has red eyes and red or yellow fins with semi-transparent blue lines.
These beautiful fish are found in the Amazon River, specifically in the Orinoco River Basin of Colombia and Venezuela.
24. Jack Dempsey Cichlid
The Jack Dempsey is a species of cichlid found in North America from Mexico to Honduras. The fish is named after the boxer of the 1920s due to its aggressive nature and strong facial features.
As it matures, the color of the fish changes from tan or light gray with faint flecks of turquoise to dark grayish-violet with extremely bright flecks of metallic green, gold, and blue. During the breeding season, the fish becomes much darker until it appears almost black.
The aquarium trade offers color variants of the Jack Dempsey, including gold, pink, and electric blue.
25. Cardinal Tetra
If you are looking for a super brightly colored, active freshwater fish to add to a peaceful community tank, the tetra family of fish should be on your shopping list.
The cardinal tetra is native to the upper Negro and Orinoco rivers in South America.
These little fish grow to just over an inch in length and are a dazzling metallic blue color with a brilliant bright red lateral line.
26. Boesemani Rainbow
The Boesemani Rainbow is a dazzlingly beautiful freshwater fish that grows to around 3 inches in length.
The male fish has a bluish-purple head, which fades to a stunning yellow and orange tail. The females have a slightly less bright color, being more silvery.
These fish are found in Lakes Ayamaru and its tributaries in the mountainous regions of West Papua, Indonesia. The population of Boesemani Rainbows is known to be declining, and the species is now considered endangered.
27. Bluefin Notho Killifish
The freshwater bluefin Notho or Nothobranchius rachovii is a type of killifish found in Mozambique.
These unusual fish are a welcome addition to a peaceful community setting, growing up to 2.5 inches long. The Notho’s body is bright reddish orange adorned with turquoise blue vertical stripes that continue on the fins and tail. Females are generally more neutral and darker in color.