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20 Popular Types of Tropical Aquarium Fish

Mychelle Blake
Dwarf Gourami

Fish like guppies and angelfish are staples for aquarium hobbyists, but there are plenty more species of tropical aquarium fish to choose from. If you want to add more visual interest to your tank, consider these other types of tropical fish.

Popular Tropical Species of Aquarium Fish

Some of these fish can live together, while others are best kept only with fish of the same species. Many are relatively inexpensive at five dollars or less for young specimens.

Dwarf Gouramis

Quick stats about dwarf gouramis include:

  • Size: About 3-1/2 inches long
  • Care level: Easy
  • Preferred tank size: About 10 gallons
  • Typical diet: Flaked food, species-appropriate pellets, and live foods such as bloodworms and brine shrimp

Dwarf gouramis are prized for their lovely coloring of an almost fluorescent blue with red stripes. Males will flush a deeper purple and flare their fins when they are trying to court females, putting on quite the display.

  • These fish are members of the anabantoid group, which means they can breathe through their gills as well as by gulping air at the water's surface.
  • They are egg layers and will build bubble nests at the water's surface where they will attach their eggs.
  • Dwarf gouramis are generally peaceful toward other species, but you must take care to avoid housing them with fish known for aggression, such as bettas.
  • Males can be a bit aggressive towards other dwarf gouramis, so it's good to include a lot of plants in your aquarium to give them places to retreat. Preferred plants include hygrophila, limnophila and riccia.
Trichogaster (Colisa) in aquarium

Swordtails

Swordtail quick stats include the following:

  • Size: Up to 6 inches long
  • Care level: Easy
  • Preferred tank size: 20 gallons or larger
  • Typical diet: Flake food, brine shrimp, bloodworms, tubifex worms

Walk into any aquarium shop, and you're bound to find Swordtails available. These fish are popular because they are quite attractive and come in various color varieties. You'll find gorgeous reds, yellows, blacks and more. The male of this species has the characteristic long tip on the bottom of his tail, which resembles a sword, hence the name.

  • Swordtails are livebearers so plan on stocking the aquarium with bushy plants, especially Java moss, to give the babies a place to hide.
  • Males of this species can also be a bit territorial with each other, so you'll need to remove extras and place them in other tanks or find new homes for them.
Swordtail

Leopard Cory Catfish

Leopard cory catfish stats include the following:

  • Size: Approximately 2-1/2 to 3 inches long
  • Care level: Moderately easy
  • Preferred tank size: 10 gallons
  • Typical diet: Sinking pellets, frozen bloodworms, frozen or live brine shrimp

Leopard cory catfish are popular for their attractive, leopard-like pattern, as well as the fact that they help keep the bottom of the aquarium clean. They are bottom feeders, so they eat the food which winds up on the bottom of the tank.

  • These cute little catfish get along with most community tank species, but do not keep them with more aggressive fish such as cichlids.
  • They tend to do well in small groups of three or four cories.
  • Make sure your tank's gravel is fairly smooth to avoid unnecessary damage to their barbels or whiskers.
  • These fish also like a well-planted aquarium with bogwood they can use for cover.
Leopard Cory Catfish

Mollies

If you want mollies, here are their basic stats:

  • Average size: About 2 inches long with some varieties growing larger
  • Care level: Easy
  • Preferred tank size: 20 gallons
  • Typical diet: Flaked food, bloodworms, brine shrimp, algae

The popular molly comes in numerous varieties. There are different colors such as blacks, dalmatians, and golds, as well as specimens with sail-fins, lyre-tails, and balloon-shaped bodies. With so many types to choose from, you can certainly set up a visually stunning tank.

  • Mollies are laid back as a rule, but they are known to do a bit of chasing and fin nipping, especially if a tank mate has flowing fins.
  • These fish typically spend a lot of time at the mid-tank level, but they are little explorers who love to swim the entire length of the aquarium.
  • Like most community aquarium dwellers, mollies appreciate living amongst a variety of plants which will offer them places to hide whenever they feel the need.
  • The plants also provide cover for any babies they might produce since these fish are prolific livebearers.
Molly fish

Rainbow Shark

Keep the following in mind when considering rainbow sharks.

  • Average size: Up to 6 inches long
  • Care level: Moderate
  • Preferred tank size: 29 gallons minimum
  • Typical diet: Flake food, tubifex worms, bloodworms

The beautiful rainbow shark typically comes in shades of gray to black and has red fins, but there is also a striking albino variety that has a pinkish-pearl body with red fins. These fish are not true sharks, but they are prized for the drama they add to a community tank.

  • These fish should only be housed with other semi-aggressive species such as barbs, some tetras, and others of similar size.
  • Plan on only housing one shark per aquarium because these fish are fairly territorial and will display aggression toward other sharks.
  • Rainbow sharks prefer habitats which include plants, driftwood, rock caves, and even tank ornaments that help define the space so they can establish their territory and find a secure place to rest.
Rainbow shark

Khuli Loach

Khuli loach are relatively small fish.

  • Average size: 4 inches long
  • Care level: Moderate
  • Preferred tank size: 15 gallons
  • Typical diet: Sinking loach pellets, frozen or live brine shrimp and bloodworms, flake food

Khuli loaches are popular, in part, because they resemble small eels and are colored brown with tan stripes along the length of their bodies. They are peaceful fish, but they do have some specific requirements if you're going to keep them in a community tank.

  • They should only be housed with peaceful species, and they are happiest when they have a small group of other khuli loaches to keep them company.
  • The bottom of their tank should be filled with sand, not aquarium gravel because they like to sift through it.
  • You should also provide them with a hiding place where they can sleep during the day, such as a shrimp hut or a cave made from rocks.
  • If possible, you should add a few almond leaves to the tank to condition their water.
Khuli Loach

Plecostomus

Here's what you need to know about the plecostomus:

  • Average size: Potentially up to 18 inches as adults
  • Care level: Moderate
  • Preferred tank size: 75 gallons
  • Typical diet: Algae pellets, parboiled romaine lettuce and peas, bloodworms, tubifex worms, and all other uneaten food in the aquarium

Plecos, as they are commonly known, are popular because they look so prehistoric and they have a habit of sucking on the aquarium glass until they attach to it. The numerous varieties come in an array of color patterns, but most tend to have some shade of brown as a base color. They are actually members of the catfish family and have barbels which help them locate food.

  • Plecos are peaceful fish, but they do not tolerate other plecos very well. For this reason, you should only keep one pleco in a community tank.
  • Plecos eat a lot and create a lot of waste, so you need a good filtration system to keep the water clean.
  • For their habitat, they prefer a soft substrate such as sand and need a cave or tube to sleep in during the day.
  • Java ferns and various floating plants provide light filtration for this species.
Plecostomus

Neon Tetras

Neon tetras are tiny fish that are easy to care for.

  • Average size: About 3/4 of an inch long
  • Care level: Easy
  • Preferred tank size: 10 gallons minimum
  • Typical diet: Flake food, live or frozen brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms

Simply put, hobbyists love the way neon tetras light up an aquarium. These tiny fish are olive green on top with silver bellies. The back half of their bodies is bright red, and they have an iridescent, neon blue stripe on each side. The fins are basically transparent.

  • Unlike some tetras, neons are quite peaceful and rather timid. They prefer to live in shoals, which means groups of five or more.
  • They should not be housed with larger fish which might consider them prey.
  • Their habitat should include driftwood and a lot of plants, especially floating plants, which offer plenty of places for your fish to hide. Plan on using dark gravel to show their brilliant colors to the best advantage.
Neon Tetra

Betta

Bettas are a popular fish whether kept by themselves in a tank or as part of a community tank with compatible fish.

  • Average size: Up to 2-1/2 inches
  • Care level: Easy
  • Preferred tank size: 5 gallons minimum
  • Typical diet: Flake and pellet food, live or frozen brine shrimp, daphnia, live or frozen bloodworms, mosquito larvae

Bettas are beautiful fish known for their fancy flowing fins and variety of colors. While they have a reputation for being singular fish, you can keep them in a community tank with compatible species.

  • Bettas will be aggressive and territorial to other male bettas, as well fish of similar size, coloring and fins.
  • Though they are often kept in small bowls, these are not suitable to keep a betta truly happy and healthy.
  • They enjoy a tank that has lots of hiding and resting places and don't be surprised if you see your betta taking a nap. Live or silk plants are best, as plastic plants can cause their fins to fray and become damaged.
Blue betta fish Aquarian swims in aquarium

Angelfish

Angelfish are lovely fish, which makes them a popular tropical aquarium fish, although they are not always the best choice for beginners.

  • Average size: Up to 6 inches
  • Care level: Moderate
  • Preferred tank size: 30 gallons minimum
  • Typical diet: Flake, pellet and granular food, live or frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp

Angelfish are peaceful fish, though they can be territorial if they are kept in a tank that's too small. Water conditions are critical to keeping angelfish otherwise they're easy to take care of.

  • Angelfish need water that is kept very clean at a pH of 6.5 to 7.5 and temperature around 76° to 82° degrees Fahrenheit. Ammonia and nitrate levels must be checked off to keep these fish healthy.
  • They do best in a tank with other angelfish, but can live in a community tank if the other fish are not fin nippers like tetras.
  • Their tank should have plenty of places for them to hide with driftwood, rocks and live or artificial plants.
Angelfishes in a fish tank

Guppy

Guppies are a livebearer fish that are come in an amazing array of colors and patterns as well as tail and fin shapes.

  • Average size: Up to 2-1/2 inches
  • Care level: Easy
  • Preferred tank size: 20 gallons minimum
  • Typical diet: Flake food, veggie pellets, spirulina tablets, frozen bloodworms, tubifex worms and brine shrimp

Guppies are not only popular types of tropical fish for their coloring and ease of care, but they're popular with breeders as well. There are fancy guppy breeding shows where you can see an incredible range of these beautiful small fish.

  • Guppies are livebearer fish and you will need to take care regularly of guppy fry if you keep males and females together in one tank.
  • Guppies are easy to care for because they can tolerate different water conditions and are not as delicate as other type of fish.
  • Their tank can contain other tank mates as long as they are peaceful fish. They do well in tanks with either live or fake vegetation and guppy fry will need plants like floating ferns to keep them safe from adults.
Guppy. Poecilia (Lebistes) reticulata

Goldfish

One of the most popular tropical fish for beginners, goldfish are often kept in tanks that are too small without proper filtration. They have a reputation for being delicate, but they're actually easy to care for if you keep them in the correct conditions.

  • Average size: up to 2 inches, though some can grow up to 6 inches in the right conditions
  • Care level: Easy
  • Preferred tank size: 30 gallons minimum
  • Typical diet: Flake and pellet food made specifically for goldfish, live, frozen or freeze dried brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, mealworms or ghost shrimp

Despite their name, goldfish come in several colors and patterns. They also come in many shades of gold, from metallic shimmery golden fins to bright orange-red tones.

  • Goldfish can live with other fish as long as they are compatible species, and you have a tank that is large enough. Often the tanks for beginning goldfish keepers are much too small.
  • Goldfish require frequent water changes and cleanings as they can be "dirtier" than some other species. Weekly water changes and cleanings are important to keep your fish happy.
  • Goldfish need an underground filter to keep their tanks clean otherwise bacteria will accumulate quickly in their tank gravel or other surface substrate.
GoldFish Swimming In Aquarium

Oscar

Oscars are members of the cichlid family which hail from South America.

  • Average size: Up to 12 to 14 inches
  • Care level: Difficult
  • Preferred tank size: 70 gallons minimum
  • Typical diet: Oscars are carnivores that eat live food such as fly larvae, mealworms, wax worms, crickets, shrimp, and small feeder fish

Oscars are fascinating and intelligent tropical aquarium fish. Some owners describe them as having their own unique personalities.

  • Aside from needing a large tank, oscars are difficult to care for in that they have very specific water quality needs. You must have excellent filtration and do regular cleanings and water changes to keep them healthy.
  • Oscars can jump out of a tank so a good secure tank hood is a non-negotiable when keeping these fish.
  • Oscars are known for "redecorating" their tank by moving decorations and plants around. This can make keeping the tank clean difficult and can also harm live plants.
Oscar fish

Zebra Danio

Zebra danios are small, peaceful schooling fish that can be an excellent addition to a community tank.

  • Average size: Up to 2 inches though some can get to 3 inches
  • Care level: Easy
  • Preferred tank size: 10 gallons minimum
  • Typical diet: Flake and pellet food and live or frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp or daphnia

Zebra danios are a very commonly kept fish because they're easy to care for and compatible with many other species.

  • They are known for their colored stripes and though they're small fish, they're active swimmers who will dart around your aquarium.
  • Zebra danios are schooling fish and do best if kept with five or more of their own species in a tank.
  • They do best in aquariums with a mixture of open areas for fast swimming around and planted areas for hiding.
Zebrafish in aquarium

Platy

Platys are an excellent choice for people new to keeping fish as they are hardy fish that are generally easy to care for.

  • Average size: Up to 2 inches
  • Care level: Easy
  • Preferred tank size: 10 gallons minimum
  • Typical diet: Flake food and live, frozen or freeze-dried brine shrimp, bloodworms and tubifex worms

Platys are peaceful small fish that are popular for novice and advanced fish keepers. They are easy to care for and come in a wide array of colors and patterns.

  • Platys are livebearer fish that can live with many other species that have an equally peaceful temperament.
  • They will give birth if males and females are housed together and can have baby fry often.
  • Platys can survive harsher water conditions compared to other species, though you still need to change their water and clean the tank regularly. They do best in tanks with a lot of vegetation, whether live or artificial.
Sunburst tuxedo platy male Xiphophorus

Cherry Barb

Cherry barbs are treasured for their vivid coloring that can be made even brighter by feeding certain foods. Males tend to be redder than females, which can be a paler shade tending towards white.

  • Average size: Up to 2 inches
  • Care level: Easy
  • Preferred tank size: 25 gallons minimum
  • Typical diet: Flake foods, algae wafers and live, frozen or freeze-dried blood worms, daphnia and brine shrimp

Cherry Barbs are schooling fish that do best when kept with others of their species. They should be kept at a ratio of one male for every two females in a school.

  • Although they're smaller fish, they need at least a 25 gallon tank to accommodate a school. They can tolerate a range of water conditions but do best with a pH of 6 to 7.5 and temperatures around 73° to 81° degrees Fahrenheit.
  • They can live with other peaceful tank mates like tetras, platys, mollies, guppies, gouramis and more.
  • Their habitat should include driftwood and a lot of plants, especially floating plants, which offer plenty of places for your fish to hide. Plan on using dark gravel to show their brilliant colors to the best advantage.
Beautiful red fish on soft green plants

Discus

Discus are distinctive for their round, "disc-shaped" bodies and their wide array of bright colors and patterns, which can change over time and in reaction to its environment.

  • Average size: Up to 6 inches
  • Care level: Moderate
  • Preferred tank size: 50 gallons minimum
  • Typical diet: Flake food, spirulina, algae pellets and live, frozen or freeze-dried blood worms, brine shrimp and mosquito larvae

Discus are striking fish but can be difficult to care for and are not the best choice if you're a novice fish keeper.

  • They are schooling fish that are peaceful but do best in tanks without other species. They can be territorial around food with other fish species.
  • They need warm water at around 82° to 88° degrees Fahrenheit and a pH level between 6 and 7. They also need a tank with calm water so fast moving filters should be avoided.
  • Their tank should have lots of places for them to hide, such as plants and driftwood, but some open areas for swimming as well.
Discus Fish

Harlequin Rasbora

Harlequin Rasboras get their name from the black section of the back half of their bodies.

  • Average size: Up to 2 inches
  • Care level: Easy
  • Preferred tank size: 10 gallons minimum
  • Typical diet: Flake food and live, frozen or freeze-dried bloodworms and tubifex worms

The Harlequin Rasbora are peaceful fish that can live with many other types of fish, although they should not be kept with larger carnivorous fish.

  • They are known to be "shoaling" fish which means they stay together in groups of their own species although unlike schooling fish, they do not have coordinated movements together.
  • They need water kept around 72° to 81° degrees Fahrenheit and a pH around 6 to 7.8 to stay healthy.
  • They require a lot of plants in their tank for hiding, which can be live plants or artificial, and they do not require other types of decorations like rocks, wood or statues.
The Harlequin Rasbora (Rasbora heteromorpha) a popular freshwater aquarium fish

White Cloud Mountain Minnow

Also known as the "White Sky Fish," the White Cloud Mountain Minnow originates from the White Cloud Mountains area of China.

  • Average size: Up to 2 inches
  • Care level: Easy
  • Preferred tank size: 10 gallons minimum
  • Typical diet: Flake food and live, frozen or freeze-dried bloodworms and tubifex worms

These small fish are popular for aquariums due to their peaceful nature and their silver to gold shimmery colors coupled with a red tint.

  • White Cloud Mountain Minnows should be kept in schools, and if you have at least eight in a tank, their activity level in the tank will increase.
  • They need aquarium conditions kept at 64° to 72° degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 6.5 to 7.5.
  • White Cloud Mountain Minnows do best with a mixed tank that has some planted areas for hiding and open areas for swimming about.
White Cloud Mountain Minnow Fish

GloFish

The GloFish or danio rerio, is a zebra danio that has been genetically modified to produce its bright fluorescent colors.

  • Average size: Up to 2-1/2 inches
  • Care level: Easy
  • Preferred tank size: 10 gallons minimum
  • Typical diet: Flake and pellet food and live or frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp or daphnia

GloFish were originally created by using a naturally occurring gene to help scientists learn more about environmental pollutants. Their bright neon colors make them a popular fish for aquarium lovers.

  • The GloFish is a peaceful fish that can live well with other similar fish like tetras, barbs and rasboras. They do best with schools of six or more of their own species.
  • They come in five neon colors that they were bred to produce from birth and are not dyed as some might think when first viewing them.
  • They need a tank that has areas with live or fake plants for hiding and resting and open areas for swimming.
Colorful Glofish fish underwater

Choose Compatible Tropical Fish Species

Stocking your tank is just the beginning of all the fun, but you need to make sure the species you select, if you select more than one, can live together in relative peace. Live Aquaria offers an excellent chart which shows which species can get along as a community. With careful choices and an appropriate aquarium setup, you can enjoy your tropical fish for many years to come.

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20 Popular Types of Tropical Aquarium Fish