Beautiful Aquarium Fish: From Angelfish to Neon Tetra

The aquarium hobby is filled with stunning fish species from around the world. From vibrant tropical freshwater fish to exotic saltwater creatures, there are many options to choose from when creating an underwater paradise. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the basics of aquarium fish beauty, the most visually appealing species, aquarium design tips, compatible freshwater fish combinations, and where to find beautiful aquarium fish for sale. So, let’s dive in!

What Makes an Aquarium Fish Beautiful?

When it comes to aquarium fish, beauty is subjective. However, some common characteristics make fish more visually striking and appealing to aquarists.


One of the biggest factors in an aquarium fish’s beauty is its coloration. Bright, vivid colors attract the eye and stand out in an aquarium environment. Fish with unique color combinations, iridescent scales, metallic sheens, and bold patterns tend to be prized for their beauty. Some examples include species like betta fish, discus, and angelfish, which exhibit an array of vibrant hues.


A fish’s fins’ shape, size, and movement also contribute to its aesthetic appeal. Fish like bettas and guppies have large, flowing fins that catch the eye as they swim gracefully through the tank. Other fish have intricate and delicate finnage, like the lace-like angelfish fins. The hypnotic movements of these elegant fins add to the fish’s beauty.

Unusual Features

Some fish attract attention because of unique features besides color and fins. Fish like the elephantnose, with its distinctive snout, or the vampire tetra, with its haunting fangs, have features that set them apart. Rare color morphs like albino varieties of fish also tend to be prized for their unusual looks.


The behavior of aquarium fish can also add to their beauty. Fish with engaging behaviors like oscars, which seem to interact with their owners, become beautiful differently. The hypnotizing synchronized movements of cardinal tetras or the curiosity of a Siamese fighting fish also appeal to aquarists.

So in summary, a combination of factors like coloration, fin and body shape, unusual features, and behavior all contribute to the aesthetic appeal and beauty of various aquarium fish species. With over 3,000 species of fish found worldwide, there are so many unique looking fish to appreciate in the aquarium hobby.

Types of Beautiful Aquarium Fish

Now let’s explore some specific examples of beautiful aquarium fish that hobbyists commonly keep and admire. This list includes both freshwater and saltwater varieties.

Freshwater Fish


One of the most iconic and graceful aquarium fish is the angelfish. These South American cichlids come in color varieties like silver, black, and gold. Their leaf-shaped fins and trailing filaments give them an elegant, angelic appearance as they smoothly patrol the tank. Their beauty comes from their coloration and flowing fins.

Betta Fish

No list of beautiful fish would be complete without the betta fish. Also known as the Siamese fighting fish, bettas are beloved for their vivid colors and showy fins. These small fish come in color varieties like red, blue, green, black, white, and multi-colored. The males especially have long, flowing fins that add to their beauty.

Discus Fish

Aquarists prize discus fish for their stunning colors and patterns. These fish can exhibit intense red, blue, green, and brown hues across their disc-shaped bodies. Piebald patterns of contrasting colors make each fish unique. Their careful breeding has produced some exceptionally beautiful color variations.


Killifish are another small but colorful species, displaying various colors like red, green, blue, yellow, and orange. Each of the over 700 killifish species has its unique color and pattern. Their striking beauty comes from this diversity of colors compressed into a small fish.

Rainbow Fish

As their name suggests, rainbow fish dazzle with their shimmering colors. The most popular species like bosemani and turquoise rainbowfish exhibit a mix of red, blue, green, and yellow. This blend creates a vibrant rainbow effect as they swim.


Tetra fish like neon, cardinal, and emperor tetras are popular for adding spurts of color to community aquariums. Neons and cardinals display bright red and blue horizontal stripes, while emperor tetras flaunt iridescent blue-green hues. Their compact size and vivid colors make them beautiful additions.

Saltwater Fish


Like their freshwater namesakes, marine angelfish are prized for beauty. Some standouts include the emperor angelfish with its electric blue and yellow stripes and the majestic queen angelfish displaying colorful mask-like patterns.


This large group of small, colorful reef fish contains many stunning beauties. Varieties like the lyretail and square anthias dazzle with bright fuscia, purple, and orange hues.


Butterflyfish draw the eye with bold stripes and splotches of white, yellow, black, and orange. The raccoon, Saddled, and teardrop butterflyfish are exceptionally beautiful specimens.


Thanks to “Finding Nemo,” clownfish are arguably the most recognizable reef fish. What makes them beautiful are their bright orange and white stripes, set against the popping anemones in which they live. No reef tank looks complete without these classic beauties.


This group contains some of the most vividly colored saltwater fish like the clown tang, blue tang, sailfin tang, and more. Their deep blues, purples, and yellows make them true standouts. The vibrant color in their compressed bodies makes tangs so beautiful.


Wrasses are hugely diverse in color and patterns. Standouts include the ornate wrasse, adorned with bright purple and orange markings, and the brilliant rainbow wrasse, which lives up to its name.

Freshwater vs Saltwater: A Comparison

So, how do freshwater and saltwater fish compare when it comes to beauty? Here is a quick rundown:

  • Color diversity: Saltwater reef fish generally exhibit a wider range of bright, vivid colors than freshwater fish. However, certain freshwater species like discus and killifish can hold their own in terms of color.
  • Color intensity: The colors of saltwater fish often appear more intense and eye-catching due to specialized pigment cells in their skin. Freshwater fish colors are subtler in comparison.
  • Patterns: Saltwater fish tend to have bold, complex patterns such as stripes, spots, and geometric designs. The patterns on freshwater fish are usually more subdued.
  • Fin shapes: The flowing, elegant fins of freshwater fish like bettas and guppies stand out. Saltwater fish fins tend to be smaller and less dramatic.
  • Unusual features: Saltwater fish take this one, boasting unique features like the trunk-like snout of the trumpetfish or the detached fins of the mandarinfish. Most freshwater fish look relatively conventional in comparison.
  • Behavior: Saltwater fish often appear more animated and lively with intricate behaviors. However, large freshwater fish like oscars also interact and show personality.

So while opinions vary, exotic saltwater reef fish tend to be considered more beautiful overall thanks to their intense colors, striking patterns, and unusual features. But there are certainly stunning beauties in the freshwater world as well.

Creating a Beautiful Aquarium Design

While fish are the show’s stars, creating an aesthetically pleasing aquarium design around them is key. Here are some tips for creating a beautifully designed freshwater tank:

Choosing Complementary Colors

Select fish and decor with colors that complement each other. Reds, oranges, and yellows give warmth while blues, greens, and purples create a cool, tranquil vibe. Using color theory helps set the tank’s mood.

Creating Focal Points

Direct the eye using striking hardscape like driftwood, stone formations, or 3D backgrounds. Position them asymmetrically for maximum interest. Bright plants and fish can also serve as focal points.

Using the Golden Ratio

The golden ratio or rule of thirds positions elements for optimal aesthetic balance. You achieve pleasing proportions by dividing the tank this way and placing focal points strategically.

Choosing Fine Substrates

Smaller gravel or sand brings out fish colors better than large, distracting gravel. Dark substrates make fish pop while light ones brighten the tank. Match substrate to the vibe you want.

Arranging Plants Artfully

Plants lend natural beauty while also breaking up sightlines. Use groupings of plants, height variation, and triads for an artful look. Remember to leave swimming space.

Directing Flow Strategically

The flow path in a tank creates visual intrigue. Using hardscape to direct flow, aiming powerheads to complement the layout, and adding air stones for bubbles gives motion and interest.

Playing with Lighting

Lighting can make or break aquarium beauty. Using dimmable lights, playing with color temperatures, and adding effects like lunar lighting transforms a tank’s looks.

Maintaining Pristine Water

Crystal clear water is the hallmark of a visually stunning tank. Regular partial water changes, mechanical filtration, and routine maintenance keep water unblemished.

Aquascaping for Beauty

Aquascaping arranges hardscapes, plants, colors, and fish to create a balanced underwater landscape. Following basic aquascaping principles results in captivating beauty.

So in short, beauty stems from the fish themselves and how you design the tank around them. Using aquascaping techniques, maintaining water clarity, and creatively playing with colors, hardscape, and lighting takes tank beauty to the next level.

Best Freshwater Aquarium Fish Combinations

While individual fish have beauty, you can also create visual interest by combining compatible species in freshwater community tanks. Here are some stunning tankmates:

Angelfish + Neon Tetras

The bold stripes and colors of neon tetras beautifully complement the larger, graceful angelfish. Their sizes and activity levels allow them to coexist.

Discus + Cardinal Tetras

Another classic pairing, the red and blue hues of cardinal tetras contrast nicely with the diverse color morphs of discus fish.

Dwarf Gourami + Mollies

The fiery colors and flowing fins of dwarf gouramis shine beside the Dalmatian spots and colorful forms of mollies.

Betta + Corydoras Catfish

Given enough tank space, betta fish and small armored catfish make excellent tankmates. The betta has beauty above while the catfish stays low.

Rainbowfish + Pearl Gourami

Rainbowfish’s shimmering colors and active nature complement the serene pearl gourami and its subdued shine.

Guppies + Platies + Swordtails

Mixing these three livebearers creates tons of color and finnage diversity while keeping aggression low. The variations pop.

Kuhli Loach + Pencilfish + Tetras

These three smaller species utilize all areas of the tank. The loaches stay low, pencilfish mid, and tetras high, creating multi-dimensional beauty.

Rasboras + Danios + Minnows

All small, peaceful schooling fish, this combo creates organized chaos. Their constant motion and flashes of color are mesmerizing.

Goldfish + Black Skirt Tetra

A single blackwater tank allows goldfish colors to shine, especially alongside a school of glowing black skirt tetras.

African Cichlids

While aggressive, overstocking African cichlids limits aggression while allowing their stunning colors and patterns to be fully displayed.

So mixing things up with vibrant freshwater community tanks creates diverse colors, fins, behaviors, and movements that create captivating underwater displays. Make sure you research compatibility, but the possibilities are nearly endless!

Where to Buy Beautiful Aquarium Fish

Finding healthy, vibrant fish is crucial once you know what species you want. Here are some top sources for buying beautiful freshwater and saltwater fish:

Local Fish Stores

Support small businesses by visiting your area’s local fish and aquarium specialty stores. They often carry hard-to-find species and healthy stock.

Online Retailers

Reputable online sources like have wide selections and the convenience of direct delivery to your door.

Aquarium Clubs and Societies

Joining local clubs allows you to buy fish directly from experienced hobbyists and breeders in your area.

Aquarium or Tropical Fish Shows

Attending aquarium trade shows lets you see specimens in person and buy imported exotic fish directly.

Fellow Hobbyists

Talk to fellow fishkeepers online or locally to find beautiful fish. Many aquarists regularly have extra stock available.

Avoid Big Box Pet Stores

While convenient, these stores often lack specialty fish knowledge and have higher instances of disease and illness.

Using trusted retailers ensures you get healthy, vibrant fish that will enhance the beauty of your underwater oasis. Support those with proven aquarium expertise.

FAQs About Beautiful Aquarium Fish

What is the coolest fish to have as a pet?

Some top contenders for coolest fish include: bettas for their vibrant colors, personality, and elegant fins; pufferfish for their intriguing “smiling” faces and ability to learn tricks; moray eels for their snake-like appearance and shy but engaging personalities; leaf fish for their incredible camouflage; and clownfish for their iconic beauty and symbiotic relationship with anemones.

Are there universally agreed upon most beautiful aquarium fish?

While beauty is subjective, a few species are almost universally admired for their aesthetic appeal. Saltwater favorites like clownfish, tangs, and angelfish consistently top beauty lists. For freshwater, bettas, discus, and angelfish are hard to beat for pure beauty.

What aquarium fish have the most amazing colors?

Some of the most unbelievably colored fish include mandarinfish, parrotfish, neon dwarf rainbowfish, and the electric blue ram cichlid. Discus fish also come in some incredibly vivid color morphs. But almost any healthy fish can display mesmerizing colors under proper care.

What is the most expensive aquarium fish?

Some of the most coveted and pricey aquarium fish include the Asian arowana which can cost up to $10,000, the peppermint angelfish at $3,000, and the platinum arowana reaching $400,000! Quality matters with these luxury fish.

What are some cool unique freshwater aquarium fish?

If you want something unusual, consider fish like vampire tetras with their fangs, elephantnose fish with prehensile snouts, flowerhorn cichlids with their cranial protuberances, the hypnotic maze angelfish, and the glass catfish with transparent bodies. The options for unique fish are nearly limitless!


The aquarium hobby undoubtedly contains some of nature’s most extraordinary freshwater and saltwater fish. Their stunning colors, elegant fins, mesmerizing behaviors, and diversity represent the peak of aquatic beauty. While glowlight tetras, blue tangs, and red oscars are popular standouts, part of the allure is discovering new and amazing species. You can create an underwater masterpiece by choosing fish carefully, designing an aesthetically pleasing tank, and providing proper care. Just buy captive-bred species only to protect wild fish populations. With the right knowledge and inspiration, your aquarium can become a gallery of all that is beautiful about fish.