Exotic Freshwater Fish for Your Aquarium

While for many people, “exotic pet fish” equals “saltwater fish,” several freshwater fish exist that can appeal to enthusiasts. These include puffers, cichlids, and even stingrays!

Exotic Aquarium Fish

18 Types of Freshwater Aquarium Exotic Fish

These are some of the exotic fish worldwide that are kept in captivity, arranged by their difficulty level. The prices of these fish depend on several factors, including rarity, size, and color.

1. Zebra Pleco

Zebra Pleco

As its name indicates, this fish has black and white stripes similar to a zebra. It is a species endemic to Brazil, is territorial and loves hiding places.

While the Brazilian government currently bans the export of this fish, breeders in the US sell these at high prices, reaching up to $1800.

Care LevelBeginnerTemperamentPeaceful
Size5 inchesTank Size20-30 years
Water Temperature79°-88°FLife Expectancy9-15 years
pH6.5-7.0Compatible WithOnly members of its own species

2. Black Ghost Knifefish

Black Ghost Knifefish

A South American fish capable of communicating with electric impulses, the Black Ghost Knifefish has an almost eerie presence. Even its name comes from the indigenous people of its home region, who believed that the spirits of the departed lived in these fish.

The price of these fish may vary greatly, from as low as $20 to as high as $90.

Care LevelIntermediateTemperamentPeaceful
Size1.5-1.7 feetTank Size100 gallons
Water Temperature73°-82° FLife Expectancy10-20 years
pH6-8Compatible WithPeaceful fish

3. Chinese Hillstream Loach

Chinese Hillstream Loach

A Chinese fish that requires an oxygen-rich environment to survive, this loach needs a bit of care. A little experience with handling fish will help in this regard.

These fish cost between $11.99 and $19.99.

Care LevelIntermediateTemperamentPeaceful
Size3 inchesTank Size55 gallons
Water Temperature68°-75° FLife Expectancy8-10 years
pH7-8Compatible WithPeaceful fish

4. Pea Puffer

Pea Puffer

One of the few puffers that can be reared as an ornamental fish, the Pea Puffer should be kept on its own as it can start a fight with others of its species as well.

A single specimen costs between $3 and $15.

Care LevelIntermediateTemperamentAggressive and Territorial
Size0.98 inchesTank Size10 gallons
Water Temperature74°-82°FLife Expectancy4 years
pH6.8-7.8Compatible WithTo be kept alone

5. Elephantnose Fish

Elephantnose Fish

A native of West and Central Africa, the Elephantnose Fish certainly stands out. Its “nose” is actually an extension of its mouth which it uses to protect itself as well as hunt for food. 

These cost between $24.99 and $69.99.

Care LevelIntermediateTemperamentSemi-aggressive
Size9-14 inchesTank Size50 gallons
Water Temperature73°-82° FLife Expectancy7-10 years
pH6.5-7Compatible WithOther fish except for members of its own species

6. Flowerhorn Cichlid

Flowerhorn Cichlid

Originally bred in Malaysia, the Flowerhorn Cichlid has spread to most of the rest of Asia, parts of Europe, and the United States. Its bright colors and unique hump make it stand out, but its aggressive nature means it should be kept on its own.

This fish is on the expensive side, reaching up to $300.

Care LevelIntermediateTemperamentAggressive
Size10-12 inchesTank Size75 gallons
Water Temperature72°-80°FLife Expectancy10-12 years
pH6.5-7.8Compatible WithOthers of its species

7. African Butterflyfish

African Butterflyfish

A carnivorous top-dwelling fish, the Freshwater Butterflyfish is carnivorous and is quite aggressive, attacking even its own kind.

These fish cost around $20-$40.

Care LevelIntermediateTemperamentAggressive
Size1 inchTank Size30-40 gallons
Water Temperature77°-86° FLife Expectancy5 years
pH6.8-7.2Compatible WithTo be kept alone

8. Izumo Nankin Goldfish

Izumo Nankin Goldfish

A rare Japanese breed of goldfish that typically comes in a red and white color, the Izumo Nankin is seldom seen out of Japan as there are restrictions on its exportation.

Care LevelIntermediateTemperamentPeaceful
Size3-4 inchesTank Size20 gallons
Water Temperature60°-80° FLife Expectancy10-15 years
pH7.0-8.0Compatible WithPeaceful fish

9. Japanese Koi

Japanese Koi

A domesticated version of the Amur Carp, the colorful Koi is often kept in large ponds. They are very hardy, capable of withstanding disease, and have even been reported to have lived as long as 200 years, though those instances are rare.

However, they are very expensive, starting at about $400 and reaching up to $15,000.

Care LevelIntermediateTemperamentPeaceful
Size3 FeetTank Size1000 gallons
Water Temperature59°-77°FLife Expectancy50 years
pH6.5-8.5Compatible WithPeaceful fish

10. Rope Fish

Rope Fish

A long fish with a peaceful disposition, almost all Rope Fish that are kept in aquaria are wild specimens. This issue hasn’t been so far, but it might become one.

Currently, its price range is between $15 and $38.

Care LevelIntermediateTemperamentPeaceful
Size6-16 inchesTank Size45 gallons
Water Temperature72°-82°FLife Expectancy15-20 years
pH6.8-8.0Compatible WithLarge fish

11. African Cichlid

African Cichlid

African Cichlids come in a diverse range of varieties. However, all of them are known to be aggressive and not play well with others at all.

These fish cost between $8.99 and $30.

Care LevelIntermediate-ExpertTemperamentAggressive and Territorial
Size2-15 inchesTank Size55 gallons
Water Temperature74°-82°FLife Expectancy7-10 years
pH7.8-8.4Compatible WithTo be kept alone

12. Wolf Cichlid

Wolf Cichlid

Even by cichlid standards, the Wolf Cichlid is known to have quite the personality. However, for more experienced enthusiasts willing to take on a challenge, these fish can be quite rewarding as they live for a long time and are pretty smart.

A single specimen can cost between $26.99 and $139.99, though the latter is rare.

Care LevelIntermediate-ExpertTemperamentTemperament
Size28 inchesTank Size75-200 gallons
Water Temperature75°-82° FLife Expectancy15-30 years
pH6.0-8.0Compatible WithTo be kept alone

13. Discus


Discus fish are among the most popular among pet keepers as their unique colors and appearance have nearly universal appeal. But they can be too much for a beginner, so only experienced owners should get one.

These fish are expensive, reaching over $150.

Care LevelIntermediate-ExpertTemperamentPeaceful
Size5-8 inchesTank Size70 gallons
Water Temperature82°-86°FLife Expectancy10-15 years
pH6-7Compatible WithPeaceful fish

14. Arowana


While various species of Arowana can be kept as pets, their aggressive nature and tendency to eat any fish smaller than them limit the number of people who can support them.

They are also quite expensive, with certain specimens selling upwards of $900.

Care LevelExpertTemperamentAggressive
Size3 feetTank Size250 gallons
Water Temperature75°-82°FLife Expectancy10-15 years
pH5-7.5Compatible WithTo be kept alone

15. Freshwater Stingrays

Freshwater Stingrays

A lot of space is needed to house a Freshwater Stingray, which is a requirement most people will not be able to fulfill. They also have a stinger that can cause injury while handling them. However, they are generally peaceful, and there have been no recorded cases of death from a pet stingray.

These fish costs about $400, and certain US States do not allow private individuals to keep them.

Care LevelExpertTemperamentPeaceful
Size3 feetTank Size180-250 gallons
Water Temperature75°-82° FLife Expectancy10 years
pH6.8-7.6Compatible WithPeaceful fish

16. Red Texas Cichlid

Red Texas Cichlid

A form of Cichlid that cannot be found in the wild, the Red Texas Cichlid is quite aggressive and requires a lot of space as it can be territorial.

The prices of this fish can vary greatly, from as low as $19.99 to as high as $150.

Care LevelExpertTemperamentAggressive
Size12 inchesTank Size75 gallons
Water Temperature68°-74°FLife Expectancy5-10 years
pH6.5-7.5Compatible WithTo be kept alone

17. Snakehead Fish

Snakehead Fish

Snakeheads are one of the most durable fish out there, capable of living out of water for up to four days as long as they are wet. But they are aggressive and will attack anything else in their tank smaller than them.

These fish cost about $40.

Care LevelExpertTemperamentAggressive
Size12-35 inchesTank Size150-450 gallons
Water Temperature75°-82°FLife Expectancy10-15 years
pH5.0-6.5Compatible WithTo be kept alone

18. Vampire Tetra

Vampire Tetra

This predatory fish that usually lives in the Amazon is a highly aggressive pet that will attack and devour any fish smaller than it in its tank. Best to leave this one to the experts.

Since handling and shipping this fish is difficult, it can be expensive, reaching up to $150.

Care LevelExpertTemperamentAggressive
Size12 inchesTank Size500 gallons
Water Temperature75°-82°FLife Expectancy6-24 months
pH6.0-8.0Compatible WithTo be kept alone

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