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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 and beautiful fish that are certain to add glitter and sparkle to your home.

If you’re not sure what species to go for, wonder no more! In this comprehensive guide, we’ve picked out 31 of the most colorful fish to suit aquariums of all sizes.

31 Most Colorful Fish Species

1. Spotted Mandarin Goby

Spotted Mandarin Goby

The Spotted Mandarin goby, scientific name Synchiropus picturatus, is also known as the Target Mandarin goby, Psychedelic Mandarin, and Spotted Mandarin Dragonet. These peaceful marine fish come from the Indo-West Pacific Ocean around the Philippines, Northwest Australia, and Eastern Indonesia.

The fish is a riot of color, being covered from head to tail in a dazzling array of colored patterns in orange, blue, green, and black.

Mandarin gobies grow to around 3 inches in length, are reef-safe, and require a mature tank of at least 30 gallons.

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2. Emperor Angelfish

Emperor Angelfish
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The stunningly beautiful Emperor angelfish is a marine fish that inhabits reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, ranging from the Red Sea to the Austral Islands and Hawaii.

Juveniles are particularly eye-catching with electric blue and white rings adorning their head and body. Adult fish are no less gorgeous, having yellow and blue stripes and black markings around the eyes.

These semi-aggressive fish take around 24 to 30 months to mature and acquire their adult coloring, but the youngsters are certainly not disappointing to look at. A full-grown adult specimen measures up to 15.75 inches in length.


3. Symphysodon

Baby discus fish swimming in freshwater. Discus fishes are native to the Amazon River.

Symphysodon aequifasciatus, or Discus fish, is a species of tropical freshwater cichlid that comes 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/golden. Some specimens are solid-colored, whereas others have dark vertical bars, and some have beautiful effervescent streaks of color.

Red varieties of Discus can have red spots on the tail and belly, and these are the most sought after and expensive examples of the species.


4. Lionfish

Lionfish in blue background.

There are 16 species of Lionfish. Common names for the species include Firefish, Zebrafish, Tastyfish, and Butterfly Cod. As you might have guessed from the fish’s names, it’s regarded as a delicacy in some parts of its range.

The Lionfish is a marine species that is native to the Indo-Pacific, although it’s now noted as an invasive species in parts of the Atlantic regions.

The fish’s spectacular red, cream, black, and white banding, showy pectoral finnage, and upright spiky fin rays are used as a deterrent to predators. Juvenile Lionfish can be just 1 inch in length, whereas adults grow to be an impressive 18 inches.

These beautiful yet menacing fish are very popular with marine hobbyists, but the Lionfish comes with a warning. These fish are venomous and can deliver a painful sting from venom glands hidden between its spines.


5. Nudibranch

Advanced aquarists may like the idea of adding the Nudibranch to their collection. The Nudibranch is also known as a Nudi or sea slug.

These are soft-bodied marine gastropod mollusks that shed their hard carapace 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
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The Clown Triggerfish, scientific name, Balistoides conspicillum, grows to an impressive 20 inches in length and can make an awe-inspiring addition to a large marine aquarium.

This aggressive species has a dark brown base color over its body adorned with large white spots. The fish’s mouth is yellow outlined in white, and it’s back has a yellow “saddle.” The tailfin peduncle is usually the same yellow-gold hue as the saddle patch.

Clown Triggerfish originate from the east coast of Africa, extending south down to Durban and then eastward to Samoa. The species can also be found in Southern Japan and New Caledonia.


7. Mantis Shrimp

Peacock mantis shrimp in Bohol sea, Phlippines Islands

The Mantis shrimp is a stomapod. There are over 400 species of these brightly colored creatures whose lineage can be traced back over five hundred million years!

Some Mantis shrimps have evolved sharp forelimbs that are used to capture prey, while others are able to punch with a speed that’s equal to that of a .22 bullet!

Mantis shrimp are found in the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans, where they are known for their brilliant colors of scarlet, green, blue, and orange.


8. Moorish Idol

Moorish Idol
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The Moorish Idol is a marine fish species that originates from tropical regions throughout the Indo-Pacific and eastern Pacific Oceans, where it lives in lagoons and on reefs.

Moorish Idols are spectacular fish, measuring up to 9 inches in length with disc-shaped bodies that are beautifully marked with boldly contrasting bands of white, black, and golden yellow.

Although you can buy this species in some specialist stores and online, Moorish Idols are notoriously difficult to keep in captivity. Usually, that’s because they are very picky eaters and often starve to death in an aquarium setting.


9. Clownfish

Clownfish in a white background.

Clownfish are specialized tropical coral reef fish that come from the Indian and Pacific Oceans, off Northwest Australia, Japan, and Southeast Asia. These small saltwater fish grow to a length of around 4 inches, making them ideal for a home marine aquarium.

Clownfish are brilliant orange in color with three bright, white stripes that are outlined in black.

These gorgeous fish must be hosted by an anemone, living within the creature’s tentacles.

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10. Rainbow Parrotfish

Rainbow Parrotfish

One of the most confusing and mystifying colorful fish is the enigmatic Parrotfish.

Parrotfish can not only change shape during their 7-year lifetime, but they can also change their gender and coloration! As the name suggests, Parrotfish have a beak-like mouth that they use to crunch up coral, which helps the fish to digest the tough seagrass on which they feed.

These aquatic chameleons can literally display every color of the rainbow, including hot pink, bright aquamarine blue, turquoise, green, and yellow.


11. Flowerhorn Cichlid

Flowerhorn Cichlid
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The Flowerhorn Cichlid is an ornamental aquarium fish that’s prized for its stunning color variations and for the large “nuchal” hump on their head that gives the species its name.

The Flowerhorn is a man-made 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 are regarded as an invasive pest species in Malaysia and Singapore, and their importation is banned in Australia.


12. Peacock Cichlid

Peacock Cichlid

The peaceful Peacock cichlid is renowned as one of the most brightly colored fish in the aquatic hobby world.

Peacock cichlids are members of the Astatotilapia genus, and there are at least 22 varieties, most of which are truly beautiful. The Peacock’s coloring varies from red, yellow, blue, orange, and gold. To add to their glittering metallic glory, the fish’s scales are iridescent!

Interestingly, each fish’s coloration is influenced by the whereabouts in Lake Malawi the species is found. Peacock cichlids are one of the more peaceful cichlids, growing to around 6 inches in length in captivity.


13. Electric Blue Ram

Close up image of an Electric Blue Ram in a blackwater aquarium

The Electric Blue Ram is also known as the Apistogramma ramirezi and Papiliochromis ramirezi and is a captive-bred variant of the wild Ram. Rams originate from the Venezuelan and Colombian Llanos of the Orinoco River drainage.

These stunning little fish make great community members, being peaceful and growing to a manageable size of around 2 inches. A small group of these bright, metallic turquoise blue fishes flitting around your tank will certainly bring an unrivaled vibrancy and brilliance to your display.


14. Killifish

Killifish in black background.

Killifish are members of the Cyprinodontidae family of fishes and are distant relatives of livebearing Guppies, Mollies, and Swordtails.

Killifish grow to measure 1 to 2 inches long and are a peaceful species that make a perfect shoaling fish to add to any community tank. Despite their brightly colored, metallic golden, red-spotted bodies, killifish are often overlooked by beginner aquarists. That’s a shame, as a group of these swimming gems looks truly stunning.

There are over 1,250 species of killifish, so do be sure to ask for advice at your local fish store before you buy.


15. Royal Gramma

The Royal Gramma is also known as the Gramma Loreto and Fairy Basslet. The species is a saltwater fish that’s native to the Caribbean, where it lives on deep-water 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 startling, iridescent violet that blends into golden yellow toward the fish’s tail. In the center of the fish’s body, where the two colors meet, there’s a series of spots, which is unique in each individual fish.

There’s also a fine black line, extending from the fish’s mouth up through the eyes, and a tiny black dot on the dorsal fin.

At just 3 inches in length, any marine setup should find space for a beautiful Royal Gramma!


16. Crowntail Betta

Crowntail Betta in a white background.

Betta fish are also known as Siamese Fighting Fish, originating from the Mekong Delta region of Southeast Asia. Wild betta fish are short-finned and somewhat drab in comparison with their hybrid, captive-bred cousins.

Crowntails are a variety of betta Splendens that are bred for their spectacular tails. The webbing between the tail’s rays is greatly shortened, making the spiky 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, marble shades, black, albino, and metallics.

Males must be kept alone, as they are highly aggressive toward other males and will fight to the death. So, if you want a single brightly colored, impressive fish for a small tank, a betta fish is the way to go.

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17. Candy Basslet

The Candy Basslet belongs to the same family as reef basslets, groupers, and sea basses. These brightly colored marine species are found in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, ranging from the Florida Keys and the Bahamas through the Eastern Caribbean to some of the smaller islands off the South American coast.

These stunning fish have an intensely colored orange body, decorated with brilliant 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 in length.


18. Regal Tang

Colorful Dori from "Finding Nemo" swimming through coral reef

The Regal Tang, scientific name, Paracanthurus hepatus, is also known as the Blue Tang and the Palette Surgeonfish. This elegant and unbelievably beautiful fish comes from the Indo-Pacific, where it lives on reefs.

The Regal Tang has a flat body of an amazingly vibrant neon blue color, emblazoned 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

Banggai Cardinalfish

The Banggai Cardinalfish is also known as the Karudern’s Cardinal or Longfin Cardinalfish.

These fish have a very limited wild range, inhabiting only the tropical marine waters around the Banggai Islands of Indonesia.

Unfortunately, the numbers of wild fish captured for the aquarium trade have impacted the species significantly, and it is now classed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. However, most of the specimens offered for sale in recent times are captive-bred.

The Banggai Cardinalfish has a very simple color scheme of a shimmering silver body with white spots, and the long fins are accentuated by bold, black stripes. That said, these 3-inch A-listers deserve a place in any marine or reef aquarium.


20. Yellow Tang

Yellow Tang

The Yellow Tang is a marine fish that belongs to the Acanthuridae family of fishes.

These startlingly attractive fish make a gorgeous centerpiece in a marine display tank. Adults grow to around 7.9 inches in length and are brilliant sunshine yellow in color. Interestingly, at night the fish’s coloring fades, and they develop a brown patch bisected by a horizontal white stripe in 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 at a depth of up to 150 feet. Although the species is not currently classed as endangered, up to 70% of fish destined for the aquarium trade are wild-caught in Hawaii.


21. Arabian Angelfish

Arabian Angelfish

The Arabian Angelfish is a colorful ocean fish that’s found in East African coastal waters 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 at a depth of up to 50 feet.

These eye-catching fish grow to around 16 inches in length. Interestingly, juveniles and adults look completely different. Young specimens 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 tail of brilliant yellow.


22. Yellow Butterfly Fish

Yellow Butterfly Fish

The Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish is also called the Forceps fish, Long-nosed Butterflyfish, and Long-nosed Coral fish.

These spectacular fish grow to measure around 8.5 inches in length. They have a distinctive long, protruding snout, ending in a tiny mouth, which they use as a set of forceps to extract prey items from crevices in the rocks.

The fish has a bright yellow disc-shaped body, as well as yellow pelvic, anal, and dorsal fins. A mask of jet black covers the upper half of the eyes, the head and tail are blue, and there is a prominent eye-spot below the tail.

The Yellow Butterflyfish comes from Hawaii, eastern and central Polynesia, the tropical Pacific Ocean, and is also found through the East Indies, the coast of Africa, and the Red Sea.

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23. German Blue Ram

Blue German Ram, mikrogeophagus ramirezi, Aquarium Fishes

The German Blue Ram is a member of the cichlid family of fishes and is a great choice for a peaceful community tank.

These brightly colored freshwater fish have a brilliant yellow-greenish body and head, with the remainder of the body being blue and white. The fish’s body is decorated with black curved stripes, and there’s a black spot in the central part of the body. The German Blue Ram has red eyes and red or yellow finnage 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

Jack Dempsey Cichlid

The Jack Dempsey is a cichlid species that is found across North America from Mexico to Honduras. The fish is named for the 1920s boxer because of its aggressive nature and strong facial features.

As it matures, the fish’s color changes from tan or light gray with faint specks of turquoise to dark purple-grayish with extremely bright, metallic green, gold, and blue flecks. During the breeding season, the fish becomes much darker in color until it appears almost black.

The aquarium trade offers color variants of the Jack Dempsey, including gold, pink, and electric blue.

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25. Cardinal Tetra

Cardinal Tetra

If you’re looking for a super-brightly colored and active freshwater fish to add to a peaceful community tank, the tetra family of fish must be on your shopping list.

The Cardinal tetra is native to the upper Negro and Orinoco Rivers in South America.

These tiny fish grow to just over an inch in length and are a dazzling metallic blue in color with a lateral line of shimmering bright red.


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 purple-bluish head, fading to a stunning yellow and orange tail. Females are slightly less brightly colored, being more plain silver.

These fish are found in the Ayamaru Lakes and their tributaries in the mountainous regions of West Papua, Indonesia. The population of Boesemani Rainbows is known to be declining, and the species is now regarded as endangered.


27. Bluefin Notho Killifish

Bluefin Notho Killifish
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The freshwater Bluefin Notho or Nothobranchius rachovii is a type of killifish that’s found in Mozambique.

These unusual fish are a nice addition to a peaceful community setup, growing up to 2.5 inches long. The Notho’s body is bright reddish-orange adorned with vertical turquoise-blue stripes that continue on the fins and tail. Females are generally more neutral and darker in color.


28. Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf gourami on a blurred background (Trichogaster lalius)

The Dwarf gourami is one of my favorite aquarium fish and is a popular choice with many aquarists as it’s easy to care for and also exquisitely beautiful.

Dwarf gouramis or Trichogaster lalius originate from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Male wild specimens are attractively marked with diagonal red and blue stripes, and you can also find pretty, metallic powder blue and red flame-colored fish in aquarium stores, which are color morphs that are captive bred for the trade.


29. Starfire Red Barb

Starfire Red Barb

The Starfire Red barb is a type of Tiger barb that has been genetically engineered to produce a brilliant neon glow, hence the fish’s common name, GloFish.

Back in 2012, Tiger barb genes were altered, using the genes of an anemone that gives off a brilliant luminescence to produce an electric green GloFish barb. That variety had faded vertical dark bands on its body, so, in 2015, a new “high-contrast” GloFish barb was released that had much darker banding on its body and fins.

In 2016, further genetic tinkering produced the Starfire Red GloFish Barb. The fish’s glowing red color will not fade or change during its lifetime, and the color is inherited by its spawn.

For the best effect, you’ll need blue “actinic” lighting.

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30. Paradise Fish

Paradise fish or Macropodus opercularis is a type of freshwater gourami that originates from East Asia, ranging from northern Vietnam to the Korean Peninsula.

These fish grow to be around 2.6 inches in length and look very similar in coloration to the Dwarf gourami, having a metallic red and turquoise blue-banded body and fins.

These fish are not popular in the trade, as they can be very aggressive toward their own species and smaller fish, rather like their relatives, the betta splendens.

When fighting, the Paradise fish is known to change color, often displaying dark blue lateral lines along its body, extending its fins and operculum.


31. Endler’s Livebearers

Male black-bar Endler

Endler’s, scientific name Poecilia wingei, is a small freshwater fish species that are only found in Laguna de Patos in Venezuela.

Endler’s Livebearers are multicolored fish that have harlequin-patterned bodies with metallic shades of red, green, blue, and orange on a silver background. These tiny fish grow to just 1 inch in length and make a stunning display in an aquarium when kept in large schools.

These fish are extremely easy to breed and can be hybridized with guppies to produce some beautifully colorful variants.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed my choice of fishy A-listers!

Now, you’re sure to have a clearer idea of what species would make the best community members in your home aquarium.

I’d love to know what fish you decided to buy and why you chose them, especially if those bright beauties feature on my list.

Share with us in the comments box below!

Alison Page has been an avid fish keeper for over 35 years and has owned many different species of freshwater tropical fish including bettas. Currently Alison has two large freshwater tanks. The first tank has two huge fancy goldfish who are almost ten years old and still looking as good as ever. In the other, she has a happy community of tiger barbs, green tiger barbs, corydoras catfish, platys, and mollies.

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