The Coolest & Prettiest Freshwater Aquarium Fish for a Colorful Tank

From the very start, as a beginner in fishkeeping, I’ve always had my eyes wide open for new compelling swimming pet buddies.

I was trying to find the best and coolest possible fish combination to create a mesmerizing freshwater aquarium with happy inhabitants abundant in color and personality.

We can all agree that it is quite interesting to find out about the existence of exotic pretty fish with unique looks and inner worlds, even if you eventually decide not to keep them in your own fish tank.

For the reader’s convenience, I decided to create this list while making sure to include high-resolution pictures and the approximate price.

This guide gives a glimpse of the beauty and some very basic care guidelines that will help you uncover the colorful species that will suit your new aquarium best.

I’ve tried to list small and big pet examples because I’m aware the fish tank’s size plays a huge role in one’s setup.

I also made sure to point out which mentioned species remain tiny, and what’s the smallest of the beautiful ones.

That being said, I’m positive that you’ll be able to discover most all cool representatives of the prettiest and most brightly-colored freshwater fish that you can own at home.

So let’s stop wasting any more time and get into it!

Before we start, here’s how a beautiful aquarium that’s dense on color and contrast looks like:

By IoanVladPappa

So which are the dandiest and prettiest freshwater aquarium fish in the hobby?

Most of these exceptionally colorful freshwater fish can contribute to an impressive display aquarium. Other species listed below stand out with their unique and exotic shapes and faces.

Here are the coolest freshwater fish that will help you own the prettiest aquarium:

1. Malawi Mbunas

By Brad

Max. size: 7 inches (18 cm)
Suggested tank size: 30+ to 55+ (depending on the max size of the specimen)
Water temperature: 72.5°F to 82.5°F (22.5°C to 28°C)
Compatible with: other Mbuna cichlids
Pricing: $7 – $20 (depends on the specimen)

If you want to have a spectacularly colorful aquarium these freshwater fish are one of the top choices.

I have two hobby buddies that got into fishkeeping after me rambling about and showing them the pretty Malawi Mbunas.

Since these tropical fish are rock-dwelling cichlids, Mbunas’ tanks should be set with rocks, caves and enough hiding places for everybody.

The grey background that this aquascape creates, makes the colors of this cichlid family stand out even more. That’s why the Mbuna aquarium is so enjoyable to observe.

Malawi Mbunas come in different shapes and sizes.

Here are some examples of cool Mbuna species:

  • Cynotilapia afra (can reach up to 4 inches)
  • Gephyrochromis moori (4.5 – 5.5 inches)
  • Labidochromis caeruleus (max size of 6 inches)
  • Petrotilapia sp. Chitimba Bay (up to 7 inches)

The one seen on the photo is Labidochromis s. “hongi”.

It’s worth mentioning that some, like the Chitimba, have sexual dimorphism.

In their natural habitat male Mbunas compete for food and that’s why they tend to be aggressive and territorial toward one another.
To avoid that, especially in smaller tanks, you can play it safe and only get one male specimen with 3 females.

When deciding which type to incorporate in your tank, make sure that you don’t have two similar-looking species, as the Malawi Mbuna fish might confuse their partners.

This way you will avoid hybrids, which are not only less colorful but also tend to get more aggressive.

2. American Flagfish – Jordanella floridae

by CheepShot

Max. size: 2.2 inches (5.5 cm)
Suggested tank size: 10+ gallons
Water temperature: 67°F – 75°F (19.5°C – 24°C)
Compatible with: dwarf fish such as Guppies and Danios, Corydora catfish, pigmy suckermouths, groups of barbs or tetras
Pricing: $4 – $7

This colorful Killifish immediately caught my eye when I first saw it in a small local fish store.

Not only is the American Flagfish pretty, but also, as I’ve mentioned in another article of mine, it can take care of the accumulated algae.

They usually grow up to around 2.2 inches, so you can go with a 10+ gallon tank.

The males have stronger coloration and it’s because of them this species got its name.

Supposedly, the male Flagfish’s coloration is a resemblance of the American flag (a resemblance that my imagination still can’t quite captivate to this day).

Females aren’t that saturated with different colors, but they also look attractive in their own way.

Remember that the colors, as with all fish, are ravishing only when you take proper care for these guys.

If you make sure that you’ve provided the proper water condition and if the Flagfish isn’t stressed out, it will show off the beauty it carries.

Bear in mind that the males may get a little territorial and aggressive.
To avoid that in small tanks you can go for 1 male and a few females.

In case you want more than 1 male, make sure that there is a larger group in the fish tank.

This way they will establish a pecking order, which establishes a leader and significantly reduces aggression.

The American Flagfish is curious by nature and therefore enjoys an abundance of hiding spaces.

They like it when their habitat contains some rocks, roots, and driftwood.

They also appreciate planted tanks, but make sure you don’t place soft-leaved aquatic plants, as the fish might eat the leaves.

3. Bristlenose Pleco – Ancistrus cirrhosus

by Kurisu Mills

Max. size: 6 inches (15.2 cm)
Suggested tank size: 30+ gallons
Water temperature: 65°F – 79°F (18°C – 26°C)
Compatible with: platy fish, groups of schooling fish such as tetras, barbs and danios, guppies, mollies, Goldfish, swordtails
Pricing: $4 – $24

This unique bottom-dweller is popular among fishkeepers because of its uncommon look and the tendency to eat algae.

The Bristlenose pleco is a great beginner aquarium fish, as its hardy, not demanding and small in size compared to other plecos. It grows up to 5 to 6 inches maximum, which is relatively small for this fish family.

This Birstlenose pleco’s exotic look and captivating behavior will have you smile every day.

What makes its appearance so interesting are the tentacles that sprout from its head with age.

You can see them better pronounced in male Bristlenose plecos.

Each Bristlenose plecostomus has an individual personality that you’d love to get familiar with overtime.

There are different varieties like the Long Finned Bristlenose or the Albino Bristlenose.

They get annoyed with other bottom dwellers, so try to avoid housing them with such, especially if they are similar-looking.

It’s good to place a piece of wood as they not only love hanging out around that, but it’s also thought the lignin in it is an essential part of their diet.

4. Bolivian Ram – Mikrogeophagus altispinosus

by Johnathanlegoeland

Max. size: 3 inches (7.6 cm)
Suggested tank size: 20+ gallons
Water temperature: 75°F – 83°F (24°C – 28°C)
Compatible with: Tetras, Angelfish, less aggressive Gouramis (like Honey Gourami), Bristlenose plecos, in general – relatively peaceful community fish
Pricing: $6 – $15

With its gentle appearance, pronounced coloration patterns and attractive fin design, the Bolivian Ram is generally believed to be the prettiest fish for a freshwater aquarium.

That being said, beauty also comes from within and these cichlids don’t make an exception with their good temper and peaceful souls.

It’s best to group them, as they feel much more comfortable when there are 6 to 8 of their own in a fish tank.

In case you want to own a group consider the bigger tank – 40 to 55 gallons.

However, it’s acceptable for the Bolivian Rams to be kept singly.

Mind that you should use soft sand for the bottom as a substrate for the aquarium.

The Bolivian Ram enjoys a well-planted aquarium with a few rocks, caves for hiding and a driftwood piece.

This handsome fish can live well with other peaceful community fish too.

5. Powdered Blue Dwarf Gourami – Trichogaster lalius

by Hayrabet

Max. size: 3 – 3.5 inches (7.6 cm – 8.9 cm)
Suggested tank size: 10+ gallons
Water temperature: 73°F – 81°F (22.7°C – 27.2°C)
Compatible with: Cory catfish, tetras, harlequin rasboras, zebra loach;
Pricing: $6 – $10

Here is another example of a highlight fish for a relatively small tank.

Your eyes will be drawn to the attractively tinted Powdered Blue dwarf gourami.

Breeders managed to develop the powdery blue color that we can today enjoy.

Bear in mind that males tend to get aggressive. To avoid unwanted situations you can stick to a female powder blue gourami in there, especially in a smaller community tank.

Of course, males can also become part of your community tank. You should just make sure to avoid other surface-dwelling fish.

More than one male of this species isn’t recommended in less than 40 gallons of a heavily planted tank.

I’d suggest that you install a dark substrate to enhance the coloration of the gourami.

If you’re going to keep one of those tropical fish, bear in mind that they’ll need access to the water surface because they occasionally breathe atmospheric oxygen. In that regard, never fill a closed-top gourami aquarium with water to the top.

Make sure to place the fish tank in a house room where there isn’t too much noise and constant traffic, as they will get stressed.

6. Roseline Torpedo Shark – Sahyadria denisonii

By Anandarajkumar

Max. size: 5 to 6 inches (12.7 to 15.2 cm)
Suggested tank size: 75+ gallons but go for a 125 gallon tank if you can
Water temperature: 72°F to 77°F (22.2°C to 25°C)
Compatible with: Tiger barbs (more than 6), Zebra danios (more than 7), Black skirt tetras (a school of at least 6), Siamese algae eaters, cichlids such as the Bolivian ram (fast-swimming);
Pricing: $8 – $15

The also known as Red-line torpedo Barb is another beguiling fish that I’ve mentioned before when listing freshwater shark look-alikes.

Its looks and personality have me obligated to include it in this list as well.

The Roseline Torpedo comes from India and it’s an active schooling fish.

As long as they form a school aggression will not be an issue. You can place them in community tanks, but make sure you have at least 5 of them and so that they won’t bother others.

This way you will be able to acknowledge their friendliness and attractive behavior.

They like planted aquariums with gravel, rocks, and driftwood.

I’ve set a tank with a school of 8 Roseline sharks and Discus, and a while back I had seen these in a tank peacefully shared with angelfish.

However, I wouldn’t recommend this combination, as discus and angelfish are slow-swimmers and they can easily be stressed out by the red-lined barbs. Mine just had chill personalities.

The Roseline Torpedo shark is an endangered species, so when purchasing, make sure the ones you get are actually fish tank raised, and not wild-caught.

7. Kuhli loaches – Pangio kuhlii

By aoi_kokoro

Max. size: 4 inches (10.1 cm)
Suggested tank size: 20 gallons for juveniles and 125 gallons for adult specimens
Water temperature: 76°F to 86°F (24.5°C to 30°C)
Compatible with: peaceful, small enough not to be a thread species. Some cool ideas: Neon Tetra, Harlequin rasbora, honey gourami;
Pricing: $2 – $7

You can find Kuhli loaches and their eel-shaped bodies in different hues and with different color patterns.

Here on the photo, you can see a Pangio Kuhlii.

You can also find light orange to pink Kuhlis, some are patterned, others are brown-tinted or grey.

Depending on your color preference you can enrich your tank with these peaceful bottom-dwelling freshwater fish.

They are part of the eel-resembling fish that can be kept in freshwater aquariums. The resemblance is not only in the looks, however, as they “imitate” the behavior of true eels as well.

You can see these scavengers during the day when feeding them.

For Kuhlis to be active in the daytime make sure they are in a group of at least 3, as they do not feel well when all by themselves.

Kuhli loaches enjoy planted aquariums abundant in hiding spaces.

It’d be great to place driftwood.

The substrate should be soft and in case you decide to place rocks make sure they are smooth river rocks.

You don’t want Kuhlis to harm their cool sensitive barbels!

I find it quite entertaining to observe them filtering the sand through their gills.

Kuhli Loaches can share a tank with almost all likewise peaceful species that need similar water conditions.

And of course, make sure tank mates are small enough not to eat the, may I say, Coolies.

8. Multicolored Crowntail Betta – Siamese fighting fish

by MoMo Bettas USA

Max. size: generally up to 3 inches long (7.6 cm) (excluding fin)
Suggested tank size: 5+ gallons for a solo specimen
Water temperature: 75°F to 82°F (24° to 28° in Celcius)
Compatible with: Dwarf fish such as danios or rasboras, dwarf corydoras,a single pleco from the small ones, Short-fin tetras, Small shrimps, dwarf Loaches, most snails, dwarf livebearer fish, Bristlenose catfish Click here to see more options for tank mates.
Pricing: $5 – $26

Because of their attractive appearance and the misleading ‘ease of care’ information roaming around pet stores and the internet, bettas are one of the most widely spread fish among households.

Depending on the breed, the multicolored Crowntail Betta can be generally considered as the most brightly-colored freshwater fish. Some more expensive breeds include more than 5 different warm colors.

There are different types of pretty Bettas, but here I’ve pointed out the multicolored Crowntail, for this particular reason.

Your eyes will be drawn to the Siamese fighting fish, be it Half-moon, Superdelta, Overhalfmoon, Rosetail, etc.

Crowntails though, I find quite outstanding with their particular fins, especially when bathed in multiple colors.

Some people say those fins contribute to a not-quite-appealing insect look, but I strongly disagree with that statement.

I would say they are a bit harder to keep because of the fragile crownlike fin design.

The spikes catch on things easier as well, but proper tank maintenance and making sure there aren’t sharp-edged decorations will make Crowntails thrive.

Remember, if you decide on a Betta, don’t keep it in one of those small bowls – it is an active fish that needs enough space to swim around. If you’re just starting out in the hobby, then you should probably read this guide on what fish tank would best suit a betta.

It’s also really important not to overfeed them.

No more than 5 minutes after throwing in the food remove the remains.

Do proper research on how to take care of your pretty siamese fighting fish and you will be able to enjoy its company for more than 4 years.

9. Angelfish – Pterophyllum

By CichlidsAndPlants

Max. size: 6.2 inches long, 8.2 inches tall (15.7 cm long and 20.8 cm tall)
Suggested tank size: 29+ gallons
Water temperature: 74°F – 83°F (23.3°C – 28.3°C)
Compatible with: Elephant nose and the snake loaches, Kuhli loach, big enough tetras as Red Eye Tetra, Catfish like the Bristlenose pleco, Dwarf Gourami, Bolivian ram, Mollies (some Mollies are fin nippers, so make sure yours aren’t by observing their behaviour);
Pricing: $7 – $20

With its uncommon body shape and cool color varieties, Angelfish often play the “highlight of a freshwater tank” role.

If you want to add a spectacular fish in your 29+ gallon community tank, you can go for one of those beauties.

Angelfish as most cichlids, especially when reaching adulthood, get territorial and aggressive.

In a 29 gallon tank, you shouldn’t add more than one.

In a bigger tank, you can have a pair, but these make monogamous mated pairs tend to get even more defensive.

They feel best in planted tanks with hiding places.

Their compatibility with other fish varies.

Generally, you can avoid fish small enough to fit in their mouth and fin nippers.

10. Royal Whiptail Catfish – Sturisoma panamense

By caswal

Max. size: 8 inches (20.3 centimeters)
Suggested tank size: 30+ gallons
Water temperature: 73°-79° F (22.7° – 26°C)
Compatible with: Gouramis, dwarf community fish, Corydoras, a group of Kuhli loaches;
Pricing: $10 – $20

Also known as ‘twig catfish’ this bizarre-looking freshwater fish became more popular for its ability to graze on algae.

It’s a peaceful fish that needs hiding spaces in the tank to handle stress.

It’s a bit shy, especially during the day, but when it decides to reveal itself in the tank for a bit longer I love to stare at this exotic whip-tailed buddy as long as it lets me.

Despite its uncommon and exotic look the royal whiptail is a community fish and gets along with others fine.

Still, you should avoid any semi-aggressive or aggressive tank mates.

Even though it is an algae eater the twig catfish needs diet diversity, which you can provide by feeding it with sinking pellets and bloodworms.

11. Agassiz’s dwarf cichlid – Apistogramma Agassizii

By dbcyeo

Max. size: 3.6 inches (9 cm)
Suggested tank size: 20+ gallons
Water temperature: 77°F – 84°F (25°C – 29°C)
Compatible with: Cardinal Tetra, Kuhli Loach, Julii Cory, Dwarf rainbowfish, Barred Espei Pencilfish, Dwarf Gourami;
Pricing: $6 – $40+ (double-reds you can find at a lower cost as they are more widely spread, but some blue, super-reds and other rarer colored agassiziis are more expensive)

The vibrant colors of the Apistos attract the attention of a lot of fellow hobbyists.

They are dwarf cichlids and are often called Apistogramma.

You can choose between gold, blue and red Apistogrammas when deciding what would be the preferred hue of the fish that you will incorporate in your tank.

These dwarf cichlids are small – they can reach up to 3,6 inches.

They are classified as community fish.

The best tank mates for Apistogrammas would be peaceful small species. For example, cardinal tetras are a good idea.

They enjoy planted tanks with river rocks.

When deciding how many of these cuties to adopt, be aware that a good rule of thumb is to only have one Apisto, especially in a smaller tank.

You can get away with having two Apistos in a 29gallon community tank if they are a mated couple, but never 2 males.

Here on the pic, you can see a double red Apistogramma agassizii.

The coolness is obvious, so to your gratitude that I pointed this fish out I can gladly say – YOU ARE VERY WELCOME!

12. Boeseman’s rainbowfish – Melanotaenia boesemani

Max. size: 4.5 inches (11.4 cm)
Suggested tank size: 55+ gallons
Water temperature: 77°F – 83°F (25°C – 28°C)
Compatible with: Tiger barbs, other similar by size Rainbowfish, Danios, Bristlenose pleco, Cory catfish, Swordtail fish;
Pricing: $12 – $18 for grown fish that already show color

You’ll immediately fall in love with the Boeseman’s Rainbowfish and its vibrant appearance.

Not only are their merging saturated colors exceptional, but these beautiful rainbowfish are peaceful and compelling by character.

They are schooling species, so make sure you have at least 6 in a tank.

They love the well-planted environment, but still – give them enough space to swim, as they will appreciate it. This way you will be able to enjoy their vivid nature roaming around actively.

A long 55+ gallon fish tank would be perfect for housing the Boeseman’s rainbowfish.

It is worth noting that taking good care of these marvelous creatures, can result in 10 or more years of lifespan, all while beautifying your aquarium.

And I can ensure you that there is no better feeling than having fish that recognize and interact with you because of the long friendship you’ve established.

13. Chili Rasbora – Boraras brigittae

By Peter Macguire

Max. size: 1 inch (2.5 cm)
Suggested tank size: 10 gallons
Water temperature: 75°F – 81°F (24°C – 27°C)
Compatible with: other rasboras (Neon blue rasbora – also nice color) Julii Cory, Panda Cory, freshwater shrimps as Cherry shrimp, Neon tetra, Danios like Rosy danio or Celestial pearl danio;
Pricing: $3 – $6

The chili rasbora is a great schooling fish that loves planted aquariums with some driftwood in it.

They are tiny and will reach a maximum one inch, but they have the confidence of a 4+ inch fish.

They love swimming around, and have strong red coloration which stands out beautifully on the green background of a well-planted fish tank.

They look great in smaller nano community aquariums, but also 12 or more chillis contribute to a pretty exotic view in a larger 55+ gallons as the school creates mesmerizing red veil flattering the overall sight.

If you want a multicolored tank with cool yet small fish in it you can definitely consider a school of Mosquito Chili Rasboras.

14. Golden Honey Gourami – Trichogaster chuna

By Eternalcheddar

Max. size: 2.5-3 inches (6.3 cm – 7.6 cm)
Suggested tank size: 20+ gallons
Water temperature: 72°F – 82°F (22.2°C – 27.7°C)
Compatible with: small tetras and corydoras, Platy fish, guppies, freshwater shrimp;
Pricing: $4 – $10

The sweetness in this Gourami doesn’t only show through the colors, but also through their personality.

Males have this strong yellow honey-ish vibe going on, while female’s coloration is a bit duller.

When feeling emotionally and physically well, like any other fish, their color will get more and more saturated.

Make sure your gourami tank has enough vegetation and hiding spots, where it can find its peace.

The Honey Gourami fish is hardy and a great choice for beginners, especially if you’re looking for a bit bigger centerpiece specimen in a relatively small aquarium with tiny schooling species.

They enjoy having friends from their own kind, so if there is enough room – a group of 4 to 6 gouramis will provide an interesting environment to observe social behavior.

15. Blue Dolphin Cichlid – Cyrtocara moorii

By ISOF

Max. size: 10 inches (25.4 cm)
Suggested tank size: 125+ gallons
Water temperature: 73°F to 80°F (22.8°C to 26.7°C)
Compatible with: Frontosa Cichlid, Deepwater Hap, Taiwan reef cichlid, One and a half stripe hap, White Tail Acei, Sunshine Peacock Cichlid;
Pricing: $9 – $40 (depends on their age – fully developed old dolphins can be found at a higher cost)

This curious-looking Blue Dolphin cichlid is a great well-tempered big guy that grows up to around 9 inches.

As you can see on the pic when fully grown it develops this large bump on its head that along with the vibrant blue color, makes it so compelling.

Avoid having 2 males in the same tank as they tend to get aggressive towards one another.

They are polygamous so 1 male with at least 3 females will be the best combination.

Contrary to other cichlids I’ve mentioned these are more peaceful and you can easily keep them with other non-violent cichlids.

They will appreciate a large open area to move around, so the bigger the fish tank – the better.

They like fine substrates (either gravel or sand) and would burrow down into it.

Avoid rocks all around the tank, as it might hurt them. You don’t want this long face to get any longer.

16. Red Wagtail Platy – Xiphophorus Maculatus

By Marrabbio2

Max. size: 2 inches (5 cm)
Suggested tank size: 10+ gallons
Water temperature: 73°F – 77°F (22.7°C – 25°C)
Compatible with: Corys, Tetras, Guppies, Harlequin rasboras, Pearl gourami, Honey Gourami;
Pricing: $3 – $5

What makes the Red Wagtail Platy and Platies in general so special is not only their vibrant coloration but also the fact that they are easy to take care of.

They are also tiny and bearly reach 2 inches, which makes them great for smaller freshwater aquariums.

The Red Wagtail Platy is a great fish choice for beginner aquarists that want to have an amusingly colorful fish tank.

They are not a schooling fish, but they feel better when in groups.

Always place a tank cover on top of the aquarium as they tend to jump.

A friend of mine named his platy Kamikaze, as he had to pick him up several times from the ground outside the tank. He then noticed a really small gap that Kamikaze was using to fly away.

Seal all possible getaways if you decide on the Red Wagtail.

17. Glass Catfish – Kryptopterus vitreolus

By VodooRanger

Max. size: 3.1 inches (7.8 cm)
Suggested tank size: 30+ gallons
Water temperature: 74°F – 79°F (23.3°C – 26.1°C)
Compatible with: Small Tetras (neon, Pristella Tetra) and Rasboras, Bristlenose plecos, Platties, Dwarf Gouramis;
Pricing: $4 – $7

The glass catfish is one of the most unique-looking freshwater fish currently available in the aquarium trade.

The transparency of their bodies contributes to an exotic look that is rarely found in other fish suited for home aquaria.

I love these glass-like fish as they are not only mesmerizing but also posses a great personality.

They are schooling fish, so make sure that you’re housing at least six of them in the aquarium to keep them happy.

Glass Catfish are pretty sensitive when it comes to water parameters and frequent fluctuations in water parameters will be harmful to them.

You should put them in an already settled tank that should be often checked and maintained.

Glass Catfish enjoy well-planted tank with places to hide and enough swimming space.

They might appear with different tints depending on the light.

18. Full-Platinum Albino Guppy – Poecilia reticulata

By heydre1

Max. size: 2 inches (5 cm)
Suggested tank size: 10+ gallons
Water temperature: 76°F – 80°F (24.4°C – 26.6°C)
Compatible with: corydoras, shrimps, Bristlenose plecos (bottom dwellers);
Pricing: $3.5 – $8

Platinum Albino guppies have this soft and gentle look and feel to them.

They contribute to a truly gorgeous fish tank while providing a sense of calm.

Guppies, in general, can be found in many pretty bright colors, with different fin types making them real eye candy.

If you are a beginner in the hobby, guppies are a very good option for your first fish tank.

They feel best in groups of 6 and more.

This is excellent for you as you’ill be able to keep differently colored guppies in the same tank together.

They will complement each other look-wise and will also be happy.

Females should always outnumber males. As platies, guppies are livebearers, so expect them to be raising in number over time.

Even if you have a 10-gallon tank you can keep 5-6 beautiful guppy fish in it.

19. Black Molly – Poecilia sphenops

By Marrabbio

Max. size: 5 inches (12.7 cm)
Suggested tank size: 20-gallon tank or larger
Water temperature: 75°F – 81°F (23.8°C – 27.2°C)
Compatible with: schooling Danios, a female Betta, Platy fish, a group of tetras, Guppies, Swordtails, Gouramis, Angels, Endler’s livebearers;
Pricing: $2 – $5

Black mollies appreciate the planted aquarium and look incredibly sharp when putting in one.

They stand out really nicely on the lush green background.

Apart from their looks, Black Mollies have unproblematic behavior and are rather hardy, which makes them a fitting choice for beginners.

Bear in mind that in case you keep 2 or more males in the tank, females should definitely outnumber them at least twice.

Another great quality of the black Molly is that it eats algae.

So it can actually do maintenance in your tank.

Here’s a friendly tip – the contrast created by black mollies in a tank with some brightly colored tank mates is truly eye-pleasing.

20. Flowerhorn cichlid – hybrid species

By Buildingnumberseven

Max. size: up to 16 inches (40 cm) but usually around 12 inches (30 cm)
Suggested tank size: 70+ gallons
Water temperature: 82°F – 86°F (27.7°C – 30°C)
Compatible with: Jack Dempsey cichlid, Texas cichlid, Blood parrot cichlid, Leopard pleco;
Pricing: $25 – $500 (you can find really expensive mature ones that already show off their colors and have won a competition)

The Flowerhorn cichlid is a unique cichlid hybrid that immediately draws attention with its bright colors.

When it matures it grows this spectacular nuchal kok (the exotic-looking bump on their head).

The Flowerhorn is considered the most colorful cichlid fish species.

Thanks to their selective breeding these cichlids have a heavily diversified coloration all across their bodies.

Fun fact: There is a belief that if you keep a Flowerhorn Cichlid in your home you can change your luck and bring yourself prosperity and peace.

Most Flowerhorns grow up to 12 inches, but some of them can reach up to 16 inches depending on the hybrid species. Because of their size, they require large tanks.

Those fish are aggressive and it is best for them to be kept alone.

If you still want to try a few tank mates with Flowerhorns – you can.

But bear in mind that the tank should be at least 175gallons.

There should be enough space and hiding spots because most acceptable tank mates are also territorial.

A Flowerhorn fish can develop a strong relationship with its owner.

If you take proper care for this outstanding buddy, it will interact with you, show excitement when seeing you and even let you pet it. Here’s someone on YouTube.com petting his.

So just make sure it’s doing well and is not stressed and it will show off its beautiful colors and personality.

21. Celestial Pearl Danio – Celestichthys margaritatus

By amanofscience

Max. size: 1 inch (2.5 cm)
Suggested tank size: 10 gallons
Water temperature: 71°F – 78°F (21.6°C – 25.5°C)
Compatible with: freshwater snails, adult shrimp (will eat juvenile), Guppies such as Endler guppie, Bristlenose pleco, Tetras (like Cardinal or Ruby tetras), Corydoras (like Pigmy cories), Harlequin rasboras, Chili Rasboras, Cherry Barbs;
Pricing: $3 – $7

Well, some say “size doesn’t matter” and this fish screams it with its whole being.

The Celestial Danio can barely reach 1 inch but has exceptionally cool looks and fun personality.

Therefore this species of fish can be considered one of the smallest freshwater aquarium fish that are also exceptionally colorful.

Males are more brightly colored than females, but the latter is needed to ensure peace and balance in your group of danios.

Celestial Danios are active fish, well-kept in nano community tanks.

You can set up a lovely aquarium with some plants and rocks and they will swim around the aquascape showing off their nice shades, spots, and stripes.

22. Checkerboard Discus

By sedialpha5

Max. size: Generally 6 inches (15 cm), but can grow larger than 9 (22.8 cm) when being overfed with high-quality food and housed in a large tank with proper water conditions
Suggested tank size: 75+ gallons
Water temperature: 84°F – 87°F (28.8°C – 30.5°C)
Compatible with: Cardinal Tetras, Sterbai Corydora, Bristlenose pleco, clown loach, Kuhli loach, Harlequin rasbora, Cory catfish, Moonlight gourami;
Pricing: $25 – $300

The Checkerboard Discus is a cool-looking freshwater aquarium fish that will excite your visual senses with its bright color.

Not only its exotic coloration but also the shape of the discus fish’s body is quite the sight.

You can find it in a huge palette of different hues and create an outstanding single specimen tank. They love being in groups of at least 6 and females should always outnumber males.

Discus fish are to be kept in high temperatures and need frequent water changes.

If you are a novice in the hobby and you think that Discus will be your first fish ever – think twice. You should do proper research and be prepared to put in the effort in raising these beauties.

This applies to a degree to every fish, but still…

Discus like planted aquariums. The live plants should be tolerant to the high temperature as Discus are tropical freshwater fish.

The Anubias plant is an often recommended choice.

A discus-based aquarium can be one of the most attractive setups in the freshwater fishkeeping hobby.

What is the best combo for a colorful freshwater fish tank?

If you want to know how to create an exceptional eye-pleasing fish tank, you should take into consideration the compatibility of the fish and of course – their colors.

When it comes to hues, here you can find a great, simplified article covering the color theory, that will help you scientifically become aware of long-proven combinations that make each shade and tone stand out.

Here’s a picture of the color wheel for your reference:

By Presentitude.com

That being said, tested examples of the best freshwater aquarium fish combinations for color are:

If you have a planted aquarium then you should go for brightly colored fish that are on the opposite of green in a color wheel.

This would mean introducing orange, red or purple fish to the fish tank.

Red plants will contrast better with light-blue or yellow fish.

A fish-only setup would benefit from multi-color community species such as African Cichlids or Discus and schooling fish, such as guppies and danios.

The best combinations for a colorful fish tank with live plants include:

  • Swordtails coupled with Guppies or Mollies
  • Platies and Harlequin rasboras or Neon tetras
  • many varieties of Discus with a school of Kuhli loaches
  • Different varieties of Killifish
  • Pink Chili Rasboras and Neon blue rasboras
  • Cherry Barbs combined with Celestial danios or Chili rasboras
  • Red honey gouramis in the company of neon tetras
  • Red or Pink betta with an Albino cory.

Here’s a picture of a pretty planted tank with contrasting freshwater fish:

By Havage

Red aquarium plants will contrast more with yellow or blue fish such as the Powder blue Gourami, a turquoise or lemon-yellow Discus.

Mind that both red plants and gouramis are advanced-level care.

For a fish-only setup, you’d want to combine fish that either have contrasting or analogous colors.

Some vibrantly colored species combinations for a fish-only aquarium are:

  • Different varieties of cichlids
  • Differently-colored discus fish
  • Small and fast, brightly-colored schooling fish such as neon Tetras, Guppies, Swordtails
  • An angelfish-only fish tank.

A photo of a fish-only aquarium housing some very brightly-colored cichlids:

By Alexdare7

If you prefer to install a background on your FO (fish-only) aquarium, it is generally better to go for dark blue or a black one.

Fill the tank with brightly-colored fish for a maximum visual impact and contrast.

See the contrast between a dark aquarium background and fish with warm colors here:

Which is the best one if you are a beginner?

After all, if you are a beginner in the hobby and you want fun and colorful fish, the best option for you has already emerged among these freshwater buddies.

The best freshwater fish for beginners are the Platies.

They are not demanding when it comes to feeding and water parameters.

Their reach up to 2 inches. You can keep 5 of them in a 10-gallon tank as a starter in the hobby.

You can find different types of platies in a variety of colors.

They are also peaceful and tank mates would be easy to find.

As a novice in the hobby, you would be definitely able to create a cool fish tank with happy and active platies.

A photo of a platy-based aquarium that’s pretty cool and looks exotic:

By QuantiTect

Conclusion

You could own a lot of unique fish that can help you create a gorgeous tank.

If you put in the effort to set up nice aquascape and ensure a healthy environment for your pet fish, it will pay off.

Happy fish show their pretty colors more and also develop fun personalities.

You can only have one centerpiece species in your freshwater aquarium and still achieve fascinating results and the coolest fish tank.

Sometimes, especially when it comes to some of the more aggressive vibrant species that I’ve mentioned above – quality overshadows quantity.

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