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15 Exotic Freshwater and Saltwater Fish To Keep At Home

If you think that your home fish tank is only suitable for keeping goldfish or a few tetras, this listicle will make you think again! 

As you’ll see, there are plenty of stunning and unusual marine fish types that you can keep in a home tank, including eels, corals, seahorses, and many unique and weird creatures that are sure to impress your friends! Our guide also includes plenty of rare freshwater fish that you might not have even heard of before.

Read this guide to discover 15 exotic fish that you can keep in your home aquarium.

15 Exotic Fish Species For Your Home Aquarium

1. Discus (Symphysodon discus)

Discus Fish (Paracheirodon axelrodi)
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Generally peaceful
  • Life Expectancy: 10 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons
  • Water Conditions: pH range 6.0 to 7.0, water hardness 1 to 4 dKH, temperature 82° to 86° Fahrenheit
  • Diet: Omnivore

Discus can grow up to 8” in diameter, making a majestic sight as they cruise in a school around a large tank. 

These exotic freshwater fish come from the flooded florists and lakes of the lowland Amazon River basin and a few of its tributaries, specifically the Rio Negro, living in large schools, locally known as “galhadas,” in areas where the water is quiet and still.

2. Wolf Cichlid (Parachromis dovii)

Wolf Cichlid (Parachromis dovii)
Source : instagram.com
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Very aggressive
  • Life Expectancy: 30 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 125 gallons
  • Water Conditions: pH range 6.0 to 8.0, water hardness 5 to 20 dGH, temperature 75° to 82° Fahrenheit
  • Diet: Carnivore

The Wolf cichlid grows to an impressive 28” long, so you’ll need a very large tank for one of these fish.

These antisocial predators cannot be kept in a community tank, even with other large, aggressive fish. The Wolf cichlid is extremely aggressive and territorial and will kill any other fish that encroaches on their territory.

3. Flowerhorn Cichlid (Paraneetroplus synspilus)

flowerhorn cichlid or cichlasoma fish in the aquarium
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Aggressive and territorial
  • Life Expectancy: 12 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 125 gallons for a pair
  • Water Conditions: pH range 6.5 to 7.8, water hardness 9 to 20 dGH, temperature 80° to 89° Fahrenheit
  • Diet: Carnivore

The exotic-looking Flowerhorn is an artificially created hybrid that doesn’t exist in nature, except in a few isolated populations of unwanted pet fish that were released into the wild.

These cool fish are said to bring good Feng Shui and fortune to their owner, even influencing relationships, wealth, and health.

4. Zebra Pleco (Hypancistrus zebra)

Hypancistrus Zebra Pleco Juvenile
Image Source : wikimedia.org
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Shy, nocturnal
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Water Conditions: pH range 6.5 to 7.0, water hardness 2 to 6 dKH, temperature 79° to 88° Fahrenheit
  • Diet: Omnivore

The Zebra pleco is a real show-stopper in the freshwater tank. These plecos come from the Xingu River’s Big Bend area in Brazil, where they were first discovered as recently as 1990.

As their name suggests, Zebra plecos are black and white striped.

5. Dwarf Pufferfish (Carinotetraodon travancoricus)

Dwarf Puffer (Carinotetraodon travancoricus)
Image Source : wikimedia.org
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Aggressive, territorial
  • Life Expectancy: 10 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Water Conditions: pH range 7.5 to 8.3, water hardness 8 to 15 dGH, temperature 72° to 82° Fahrenheit
  • Diet: Carnivore

The tiny Dwarf or Pea pufferfish grows to just 1” in length. However, these feisty little fish can see-off and even kill other much larger fish and are not suitable for life in a community tank.

6. Black Ghost Knifefish (Apteronotus albifrons)

Black Ghost Knifefish
Image Source : wikimedia.org
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Life Expectancy: 15 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 100 gallons
  • Water Conditions: pH range 6.0 to 8.0, water hardness 5 to 19 dGH, temperature 73° to 82° Fahrenheit
  • Diet: Carnivore

The Black Ghost knifefish gets its exotic name from certain Amazonian jungle tribes who believe that the souls of the dead inhabit these creatures.

This beautiful, peaceful knifefish is a good choice for a very large community tank, as they can grow to reach 20” in length.

7. Sea Robin or Gurnard (Dactyloptena orientalis)

Sea Robin or Gurnard (Dactyloptena orientalis)
  • Care Level: Advanced
  • Temperament: Moderately peaceful
  • Life Expectancy: 6 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 180 gallons
  • Water Conditions: pH range 8.1 to 8.4, water hardness 8 to 12 dKH, temperature 72° to 78° Fahrenheit, salinity 1.020 to 1.025
  • Diet: Carnivore

The Sea Robin lives in Hawaiian waters, extending from Japan and Hawaii to central Polynesia, through the East Indies, and through the Indian Ocean to the African coast.

Sea Robins make a chirping sound by using their swim bladders and certain muscles, which is how they got their common name.

8. Freshwater African Butterflyfish (Pantodon buchholzi)

Freshwater African Butterflyfish (Pantodon buchholzi)
Source : instagram.com
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Life Expectancy: 5 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Water Conditions: pH range 6.9 to 7.1, water hardness 1 to 10 dKH, temperature 75° to 86° Fahrenheit
  • Diet: Carnivore

The exotic-looking African Butterflyfish is a stealth hunter, spending most of its time hanging at the water surface.

These awesome fish can jump and are even able to glide for short distances!

9. Arowana (Scleropages formosus)

Silver arowana fish Scleropages aureus. Vintage textured paper background. soft focus
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Aggressive, territorial
  • Life Expectancy: Up to 50 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 250 gallons
  • Water Conditions: pH range 6.5 to 7.5, temperature 75° to 82° Fahrenheit
  • Diet: Carnivore

The prehistoric-looking Arowana can grow to reach 4 feet in length and can be aggressively territorial, so you’ll need a large tank for one single specimen.

These Dragon fish are said to bring good luck to their owner. That’s great news when you consider that the Arowana can live for between 20 and 50 years if properly cared for!

10. Elephantnose Fish (Gnathonemus petersii)

Elephantnose Fish (Gnathonemus petersii)
Image Source : wikimedia.org
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Generally peaceful
  • Life Expectancy: 6 to 10 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gallons
  • Water Conditions: pH range 6.5 to 7.2, temperature 73° to 82° Fahrenheit, water hardness 0 to 10 dKH
  • Diet: Carnivore

The Elephant Nose fish is just about the coolest freshwater aquarium fish you can get!

The fish’s “trunk,” from which it takes its name, is actually called a Schnauzenorgan. The weird protrusion is used by the fish for navigating through the murky waters of the fish’s river home, as well as detecting prey.

11. Snakehead Fish (Channa lucius)

  • Care Level: Advanced
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 150 gallons
  • Water Conditions: pH range 5.0 to 6.5, temperature 75° to 82° Fahrenheit, water hardness up to 8 dGH
  • Diet: Omnivore

If you want to keep an exotic Snakehead fish, you better make sure that your aquarium has a tight-fitting lid. 

These fish can breathe air, and if they stay wet, the fish can survive out of water for up to four days. Snakeheads can migrate up to ¼ mile on wet ground, using their bodies and fins to squirm across the earth.

12. Rope Fish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus)

Rope Fish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus)
Source : instagram.com
  • Care Level: Advanced
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Life Expectancy: 15 to 20 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 45 gallons
  • Water Conditions: pH range 6.8 to 8.0, temperature 72° to 82° Fahrenheit, water hardness up to 20 dGH
  • Diet: Carnivore

Rope fish have pretty poor eyesight, using their excellent sense of smell instead to find food.

These peaceful, nocturnal fish move like snakes across the substrate, and they can also side-wind around the water column surprisingly quickly.

13. Chinese Hillstream Loach (Beaufortia kweichowensis)

Hillstream Loach
Image Source : wikimedia.org
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Life Expectancy: Up to 8 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 45 gallons
  • Water Conditions: pH range 6.0 to 5.8, temperature 68° to 75° Fahrenheit, water hardness up to 15 dGH
  • Diet: Herbivore

The Chinese Hillstream loach has a neat trick. When frightened, the fish morphs into a lighter color, and its spots almost disappear. When angry, the fish also becomes lighter in color, but a very dark line manifests along the creature’s back, and the edges of the fins turn darker too.

14. Vampire Tetra (Hydrolycus scomberoides)

Vampire Tetra (Hydrolycus scomberoides)
Source : instagram.com
  • Care Level: Advanced
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Life Expectancy: 6 months to 2 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 500 gallons
  • Water Conditions: pH range 6.0 to 8.0, temperature 75° to 82° Fahrenheit, water hardness of 2 to 25 dGH
  • Diet: Carnivore

Payara or Vampire tetras are generally only seen kept in groups in public aquariums since at 4 feet long; these fish are too big for most home tanks.

The fish gets its common name from its upturned mouth packed with razor-sharp teeth and two long fangs that can measure a terrifying 4 to 6 inches long!

15. Izumo Nankin Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Izumo Nankin Goldfish (Carassius auratus)
Image Source : tropicalfishcafe.com
  • Care Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Water Conditions: pH range 7.0 to 8.0, temperature 60° to 80° Fahrenheit, water hardness of 0 to 25 dGH
  • Diet: Omnivore

Now, you might not consider goldfish to be exotic, but the rare Izumo Nankin goldfish certainly qualifies both on looks and availability.

These fancy goldfish are almost exclusively available within Japan, where they are extremely popular. Exports of the fish are generally forbidden to preserve the purity of the fishes’ gene pool and quality.

In Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed our list of ideas for exotic fish species that you might be able to keep in a home aquarium

Although many of these fish are rare and therefore quite expensive, there are plenty that are readily available at an affordable price for most hobbyists, including beginners. 

If you have any exotic fish in your collection, we’d love to hear about them. Share with us in the comments box below, and please share this article if you loved it!

Check out our list of the 27 Most Exciting See-Through Fish as well!

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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