13 Most Popular Colorful Fish

Adding a new fish to your aquarium can be a big decision.

However, adding the right colorful fish to your aquarium can really transform it.

Colorful fish species, such as Mandarinfish and Discus, are known for their vivid coloration, and are the crowning glory of many home aquariums.

We kept two key things in mind whilst putting this list together.

  1. Fish color
  2. Beginner friendly?

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the 13 most colorful fish you can add to your aquarium today.

Mandarinfish

Striped Mandarinfish
Striped Mandarinfish

Mandarinfish are a saltwater fish and members of the dragonet family.

One of the most colorful members of this family is the Striped Mandarinfish (Synchiropus splendidus), which is native to the Pacific Ocean.

The shape of the Striped Mandarinfish is similar to a goby. Its blue base is highlighted with vivid orange stripes.

If you are planning to keep one, you should know they are difficult to keep due to their dietary requirements. They are difficult because they typically only eat live food and reject frozen or pellet food.

This can make the Mandarin species more difficult for beginners due to the complexities of storing, growing and harvesting live food. However their vibrant colors more than make up for this!

Flowerhorn Cichlid

Flowerhorn Cichlid
Flowerhorn Cichlid

If you’re looking for a unique fish with a completely unrivalled appearance then the Flowerhorn Cichlid is for you.

They are known for their peculiar shaped head and vivid colorations. Interestingly they are the result of selective human breeding.

When buying a Flowerhorn you should remember that their coloration and pattern will change significantly as they grow from adolescents to matured adults. As a result of this, if you’re looking for a certain coloration/pattern you should buy a matured adult.

You should expect your Flowerhorn Cichlid to grow up to 16 inches, so remember they need a large freshwater tank (Minimum 60 gallons).

You can read more about what makes the perfect cichlid tank here.

Juvenile Emperor Angelfish

Juvenile Emperor Angelfish
Juvenile Emperor Angelfish

Known for their electric color, with a dark black body and light blue/white highlights, the juvenile Emperor Angelfish is a standout in any aquarium.

It will need a saltwater aquarium that is at least 125 gallons, with water temperate between 72-82oF and a pH of 8.1-8.4.

Emperor Angelfish don’t travel well, it’s crucial that you inspect your fish before you buy it. You should look to buy a juvenile around 4-6 inches long; they adapt best to captivity.

If you’re thinking of adding an Emperor Angelfish to your tank, be sure to read our complete care guide here.

Discus

Discus
Discus

Arguably the most colorful fish in existence, the Discus is a beautiful freshwater fish that can grow up to 8 inches long.

They are a very popular fish, however they aren’t suitable for beginners as they are very sensitive to water changes and poor water quality is a common beginner’s mistake.

Discus should be kept in water temperatures between 78-87 oF and a pH of between 4.5 and 7.8.

If you’re planning to keep Discus with other fish, make sure you choose non-aggressive fish like Cardinal Tetras or Long Fin Red White Clouds.

Clown Triggerfish

Clown Triggerfish
Clown Triggerfish

Clown Triggerfish also called, Bigspotted Triggerfish, are large saltwater fish that grow up to 19 inches.

They have a large ‘stocky’ body that is extremely colorful. Its black base is highlighted with a yellow mouth and a collection of white spots.

Like Oscars, they are known for ‘reorganizing’ any ornaments placed within their tank.

So make sure to anchor down any ornaments in your aquarium. It’s also worth adding here that they aren’t reef compatible, but can live with live rock.

Rainbow Parrotfish

Rainbow Parrotfish
Rainbow Parrotfish

The Rainbow Parrotfish was named because of its strange mouth. If you look at their teeth, you will see they are stuck together; this creates a ‘beak’. Their beak is an evolutionary feature which allows them to scrape algae from coral.

In terms of herbivore fish, they are one of the largest fish in the Atlantic, growing to over 1 meter in length. Because of this it is an expensive fish to keep as it requires a huge aquarium (200 gallon) and lots of food.

Known for their bright coloration, you will find green, brown, orange and green shades on this fish.

As always you should match the tank conditions to their natural habitat, so ensure slow moving water currents with a sea grass bed.

Peacock Cichlid

Peacock Cichlid
Peacock Cichlid

Cichlids in general are known for their coloration and vibrant patterns, but the Peacock Cichlid has some of the most beautiful coloring of all Cichlids.

They are also some of the more peaceful species from the Cichlids family.

Peacock Cichlids can be kept with other cichlids (such as the flowerhorn cichlid discussed above), just make sure you provide them with enough space; restricting their space can make them more territorial

Like other species discussed in this guide, males have the most vibrant colors, so if color is the most important factor for you, get a male.

As all Peacock cichlids come from Lake Malawi, they all share similar freshwater habitat requirements. You can read more about this in our Cichlid tank requirements article here.

Clownfish

Ocellaris Clownfish
Ocellaris Clownfish

There are lots of colorful species within the Clownfish family, the majority of them are orange, yellow or a reddish color; several of them are also decorated with white vertical lines on their body.

The smallest species grow to 3 inches; whilst the larger ones can be double this at 6 inches.

Clownfish are omnivorous; meaning they eat both plant and animal. In the wild they are known for eating small zooplankton and algae.

The most popular species is the Ocellaris Clownfish, made famous through the film Finding Nemo.

It’s a medium sized, orange, saltwater fish with white bands that have black outlines.

It’s known for being a hardy fish that is easy to breed in aquariums .

Killifish

The Blue Lyretail Killifish
The Blue Lyretail Killifish

Killifish, also known as Cyprinodontiformes, is a huge family of fish with around 1,250 species.

The species are so diverse that they live across nearly every continent, the exceptions being Antarctica and Australia.

Their name ‘Killi’, can sound threatening and scary, however it’s a Dutch expression which roughly translates to “ditch of channel”. One of my favorite colorful Killifish is the Blue Lyretail Killifish. It’s a blue-silver fish, with red spots and a yellow/golden line on top.

If you are looking for the most colorful Killi make sure you pick a male as they tend to have more vivid colorations.

The best place to start is with our complete guide to Killifish so you can understand their temperament, diet and tank requirements.

Golden Sailfin Molly

Golden Sailfin Molly
Golden Sailfin Molly

Without a doubt, Molly fish are one of the most popular freshwater fish species alive today.

Whilst many people think of Mollies as plain dull colors, there are several varieties that are extremely colorful.

One of these being the Golden Sailfin Molly.

As their name suggests, Golden Mollies have a golden spotted coloration on top of a silver base.

Most aquarists have kept at least one Molly during their hobby.

They are gentle fish that are great for beginners due to their peaceful nature and small tank requirements.

Electric Blue Ram

Electric Blue Ram
Electric Blue Ram

As their name suggests, this is an extremely vibrant, electric blue colored fish.

Despite its aggressive appearance, Rams have a fantastic personality; it’s a social and peaceful fish.

They will grow up to 3 inches in size and need to be placed in an already matured saltwater aquarium. Don’t place Rams in newly set up aquariums.

You can house your Ram with other non-aggressive fish such as Discus, Dwarf Rainbow and Neon Tetras.

Royal Gramma

Royal Gramma
Royal Gramma

The prized fish of many saltwater aquariums, the Royal Gramma is a beautiful saltwater fish native to the Caribbean.

It’s a vivid purple in color with a golden/yellow tail and a golden stripe across their eye.

They are one of the hardiest fishes around, making them ideal for both beginners and experienced fish keepers.

If you’re looking for a friendly tank mate that offers a playful personality, and has a wonderful coloration, then the Royal Gramma could be the fish for you.

You can read more about it in our complete guide to Royal Grammas here.

Crowntail Betta

Crowntail Betta AppearanceWell known for its vibrant color and beautiful caudal fin, the Crowntail Betta is one of the most popular freshwater fish species around.

Whilst there are lots of Betta species, the Crowntail Betta is the best known; even though the species is only 20 years old.

Fully grown you should expect your Crowntail to grow to around 2.5 inches; the most popular colors for Bettas are blues and reds.

If you want to know more about keeping them, read our Crowntail Betta care guide.

Summary

So now you’ve seen the 13 most colorful fish you can add to your aquarium.

I hope this list has helped you choose the next fish you can add to your aquarium.

Remember the majority of fish discussed develop their color and pattern as adults; so if you want to guarantee the exact coloration you should buy the fish as a matured adult. However, for certain species (e.g. Juvenile Emperor Angelfish) they don’t travel well so you won’t have a choice. Make sure you research well and understand each species.

Did we miss any species? Let us know in the comments section below…

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