Exotic Cool and Unique Freshwater Aquarium Fish (With Pictures and Common Names)

Exotic Cool and Unique Freshwater Aquarium Fish

There are many varieties of cool and unique fish you can have in a freshwater aquarium. Many types of freshwater tropical fish have large showy fins, bright colorful patterns, and look exotic. Some of the coolest fish for a freshwater aquarium are bettas, gouramis, angelfish, and rainbow fish. Many species of tropical freshwater fish are also easy to look after.

One of the benefits of freshwater aquariums is that they are easier to care for than saltwater ones. If you pick the right exotic fish, you can have some of the coolest and most unique tropical fish swimming around your tank.

Also, some of the prettiest freshwater fish get along peacefully with other fish. So, it is easy to create a beautiful tropical aquatic environment in your home.

If you are looking for some exotic and cool freshwater aquarium fish, you will find them in this article.

The Best Exotic and Cool Freshwater Fish (With Their Picture and Common Name)


betta fish

The colorful betta is one of the most unique and cool freshwater aquarium fish

Bettas, also called Siamese fighting fish, are one of the most popular exotic aquarium fish. With their large showy fins and beautiful colors, they also have to be some of the coolest fish in your tank.

Like most freshwater tropical fish, bettas should be kept in a heated fish tank. Ideally, the water should be between 75 and 82°F (24 – 28°C).

When choosing the perfect species of betta for your tropical aquarium, there are so many beautiful different species to choose from.

Some of the coolest fish have brilliant flowing fins in some of the most striking colors you will find on any fish. It’s not unusual to see bettas with deep red, purple, blue, or metallic colors. Some tropical bettas have multicolored patterns with vibrant contrasting colors.

These cool freshwater fish can be territorial and aggressive towards other fish. In your tank, you should just keep one male to avoid any fighting. It is also important to avoid putting them in a community tank with smaller fish that like to nip fins. Bettas are usually low-maintenance fish and don’t bother other fish, as long as they are not other bettas.


leopard guppies

Leopard guppies can come in various tail colors and are one of the prettiest freshwater fish

Guppies are not only some of the easiest tropical fish to care for, but there are also many colorful and exotic varieties to choose from.

Guppies that are bred for their decorative appearance usually have showy dorsal and tail fins. Some of these colorful tail fins give this cool small fish a larger appearance. You will also find that there are many varieties of guppies with different fin shapes. There are swordtails, fantails, spade tails, and veil tails.

One of the many attractions of guppies in heated freshwater tanks is their beautiful colorful pattern. Some fancy guppies have stunning colors that are iridescent, bright orange, yellow, orange-red, blue, or green. You can also find varieties that are single-colored or are multicolored.

Some of the most unique freshwater guppies are the varieties with black and red leopard-like patterns on their tail. Other cool guppies have single-colored iridescent bodies with a large contrasting colored tailfin.

When populating your freshwater aquarium with guppies, it’s important to have a few together. Guppies swim in shoals and you should have 5 or 6. Guppies are happy to eat fish flakes and the occasional live brine shrimp. Generally, guppies grow up to 2” (5 cm) long.



pearl gourami

The beautiful pearl gourami fish has a unique pattern on its body and it’s possibly the coolest freshwater aquarium fish

blue gourami

Blue gourami and dwarf gourami will add stunning look to your fish tank

Gourami are large graceful tropical freshwater fish that generally swim near the top of the tank. Gouramis are well known for their long trailing dorsal fins that resemble feelers. They have a rounded shape and are usually easy to care for.

The presence of gouramis in a freshwater fish tank gives the tank a real tropical look. Gouramis are not fast swimmers and they will live peacefully with other cool fish such as guppies, tetras, and mollies.

There are many interesting species of gourami to choose from. For example, the pearl gourami has a speckled pattern like small pearls on its body and fins. They also may come in various colors such as silver, red, or orange.

The paradise fish is a type of gourami with a flatter body and long fin tails. These beautiful fish are often blue with red or orange fins. These are best kept in community tanks with other large tropical fish.

Dwarf gouramis are pretty fish that are good for heated aquariums with smaller fish.

The blue gourami can grow quite large and has an attractive whitish-blue body with orange edging on its fins.

When choosing the best type of exotic gourami for your freshwater fish tank, you have to choose carefully. To prevent aggressive behavior, only have one male gourami fish in your freshwater tank and make sure the tank is at least 20 or 30 gallons (75 – 113 l) in size.



Killifish include many species with pretty and unique patterns

If you are looking for vibrantly colored cool fish for your tropical aquarium, then killifish are an excellent choice. Depending on the species, killifish can grow to between 0.7” and 3.5” (2 and 9 cm). There are so many variations in color and shape that there are too many to list here.

Killifish may not be the easiest type of tropical freshwater fish to care for. They can be quite sensitive to water changes. However, there are some species that are easy for beginners to look after.

Many species of killifish have speckled patterns on them. Some of these are arranged in horizontal lines of red dots and other specimens have random spotted patterns. Reds, oranges, and iridescent blues are the most popular colors of killifish.

The best advice for keeping a number of killifish in a tank is to provide plenty of hiding places and limit the number of males.

African Cichlids

African cyclids

African cichlid are exotic freshwater aquarium fish with a wide array of colors

Choose a species of African cichlid to create an awesome freshwater tropical tank. African cichlids are a large colorful freshwater species of social aquarium fish. Their amazing colors will add to your aquarium’s exotic look.

Cichlids, including the African variety, are active swimmers and are usually constantly on the move. They are not the cheapest of tropical fish, and the more unique type of coloring usually means a larger price tag. Their deep blue, yellow, red, or metallic colors will create a beautiful aquatic environment with other types of tropical fish.

If you want to keep a few African cichlids in a tank, there are a few tips to keep in mind.

The tanks should be at least 30 gallons (113 l) or more to prevent aggressive behavior. Also, cichlids like to hide, so it’s important to have plenty of plants and decorations for cover. Other expert aquarists advise having soft substrate on the bottom of the tank as they like to dig for food.

Cichlids can grow to between 3” and 8” (7.5 – 20 cm). So, take their size into account when planting your community fish tank.

Jewel Cichlids

jewel cyclid

The Jewel Cichlids are pretty and colorful freshwater fish but are high maintenance

Jewel cichlids are another cool freshwater fish you can add to a large aquarium. These colorful freshwater fish are certainly not for beginners. Jewel cichlids are known for their aggressive behavior and are not suited to all types of community tanks.

Because they are high maintenance tropical fish, some fishkeepers recommend only have one species of cichlid in a tank. With the right environment and fish tank setup, many aquarists can create stunning community tanks with cichlids.

Bolivian Ram

Bolivian ram

The Bolivian ram fish has a unique and unusual look and is a hardy tropical fish

If you want to get a type of peaceful cichlid for a community aquarium, then the Bolivian ram is a perfect choice. These large exotic tropical fish are one of the best freshwater aquarium fish for beginners who like to keep fish pets. In fact, the Bolivian ram is unique among the cichlid species because of its placid, non-aggressive behavior.

These cool-looking cichlids have an oval body and large spiky fins. They are not as vibrantly colored as other cichlids and they usually have dull colors. They are also identified by black markings around their eyes and on their sides. Some species have interesting colorful iridescent fins.

Bolivian rams (also called ruby crown cichlids) are hardy freshwater tropical fish. They thrive in heated aquariums that are between 72 and 79°F (22 – 26°C).

These cichlids may be the perfect choice for a large tropical fish in a community tank.



The colorful rainbowfish are peaceful freshwater aquarium fish

Rainbowfish are some of the most brilliantly colored freshwater fish you can add to a community tank. Their peaceful nature, interesting colors, and swimming behavior can create an exotic fish tank.

Seeing these cool fish, it is not hard to understand why they are called “rainbow fish.” They have bright iridescent colors that can be all shades of the rainbow. Some of the most spectacular species are two-toned with their body light blue at the front half and bright yellow or orange at the rear.

These docile tropical fish are excellent community fish that live peacefully with other non-aggressive fish. They can grow to between 2.5” and 4” (6 – 10 cm). Thanks to their stunning bright colors, they will turn your fish tank into an aquatic paradise.



While not the prettiest of the freshwater tropical fish, the transparent glassfish are certainly unique

One of the most unique types of freshwater fish to have in your tropical tank is glassfish. Usually, tropical fish are defined by their vibrant colors, striking patterns, and showy fins.

What makes glassfish so cool and unique among the tropical fish varieties? As their name suggests, glassfish have a completely transparent body. Their peaceful nature and lack of aggression mean that they are good community tropical fish.

These delightful friendly fish grow to between 2.4” and 3.1” (6 – 8 cm). As with most tropical fish, they live on a diet of fish flakes and some live foods.

A word of advice for beginner fish enthusiasts: some of these glassy fish are sold having bright colors along their back or underside. This is unnatural coloring and is done by injecting dye into the fish. Fishkeeper experts advise against buying any type of glassfish that has been dyed.


discus fish

Discus fish varieties have amazing colors and patterns but are very expensive and not for beginners

Discus fish are one of the coolest fish you can have in an aquarium. These beautiful unique freshwater fish are a type of cichlid and are recognized by their disc-like shape.

It is not just their round shape that makes these exotic fish look amazing. Many species have bright colors and intricate patterns. These tropical fish can be turquoise, bright orange, light pink, and dark gray or black. Adding to their exotic look are striped zebra-like patterns. Some of the rarer and expensive species have speckled patterning and amazing iridescent colors making them look very cool.

To keep discus fish in a freshwater aquarium requires a large fish tank. Discus fish can grow to about the size of your palm, although some species may be smaller.

Keeping discus fish in an aquarium is not for beginners. They have very specific requirements when it comes to water quality and environment. For example, they need dechlorinated water that is kept around 82 – 88°F (27 – 31°C).

They are shoaling fish and there should be at least 5 of them in a 50-gallon (190 l) tank. However, they are peaceful fish and can live in a community tank with tetras, gouramis, and Bolivian rams.



Anglefish has unique triangular body shape and elegant look

Angelfish are one of the classic tropical fish to have in a heated freshwater aquarium. These exotic fish are easily recognized by their unique shape and cool appearance. Even though they belong to the cichlid family, they are usually placid in nature, however they can be aggressive toward one another, especially when pairing off.

These tropical fish have such an air of elegance in the aquarium that they are also called the “queen of the aquarium.”

One of the cool things about angelfish is their triangular shape and vertical stripes. Shiny silver is the most common color of these cool fish. However, the more exotic species have hints of pink, yellow, and orange in their fins and beside the black stripes.

Angelfish are good for novices and expert fishkeepers alike. They are fairly hardy and live well alongside discus, freshwater catfish, dwarf gouramis, and placid cichlids. Because of their long fins, they should be kept away from barb fish as they have a reputation of being fin-nippers.

Angelfish can grow to about 6” (15 cm) long and some species can have fins up to 8” (20 cm) tall. They swim in shoals, so aim for about 4 or 5 in a community tank.



The long tail of male swordtails adds an interesting and unique look to freshwater aquarium

If you are looking for some smaller fish to establish a tropical freshwater aquarium, then swordtails are a good choice. There are hundreds of species of swordtails to choose from that come in a range of colors. As their name suggests, these small fish have a long spear-like caudal fin at their tail end.

The most common color of their delightful tropical fish is orange. Some species have shiny metallic silver bodies with orange fins and a black tail. Other are multicolored varieties that include iridescent blues, jet-black, or bright yellow.

Swordtails can grow up to 5” (12 cm) and it is only the males that have the swordtail.

Neon Tetras

neon tetra

The small ornamental neon tetras are one of the coolest freshwater aquarium fish

Neon tetras are a cool kind of freshwater fish due to their glowing bellies and shoaling nature. Many tropical aquariums include neon tetras because they are a small fish and live well in community tanks. Due to their miniature size, you can have quite a few of these neon fish without stressing other fish in the tank.

Kuhli Loach

Kuhli loach

Kuhli Loach will give a cool unique look to the bottom of your aquarium

The fact that this tropical fish looks and acts like a snake in the tank make it one of the coolest bottom-feeders for your aquarium. These eel-like fish have a peaceful nature and don’t bother other fish.

One of the interesting features of the kuhli loach is the pale orange or yellow bands on its long body. These unique freshwater fish are usually found swimming around the bottom of aquariums. They feed on debris and algae that have collected in gravel.

Because they love to hide, burr into gravel, and mostly feed at night, you may even forget that you have a kuhli loach in your tank.

Red-tailed Black Shark

Red tailed Black Shark

Red-tailed Black Sharks are a pretty addition to exotic freshwater fish tank

No tropical aquarium would be complete without a shark. One of the coolest and unique-looking sharks is the red-tailed black shark. Because of their striking satin black and bright red colors, these tropical fish attract a lot of interest. They also swim around the aquarium similar to their larger marine namesakes.

These impressive black and red fish are best kept in large aquariums where they have plenty of room. They can be aggressive if other fish encroach on their territory. Because of this, it is best not to keep them with other fish that live near the bottom.

In a community tank, keep your red-tailed black shark with gouramis, angelfish, neon tetras, and barbs.

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