10 Most Exotic Freshwater Fish

In this context, freshwater means rivers or lakes, anything with a saline level of 1.05% or below. The conditions of freshwater locations differ greatly from marine habitats. If you are creating a freshwater tank, be sure to research freshwater fish before purchasing them. You need to ensure that they are safe to live and thrive within your set-up.

10. Wolf Cichlid

A relatively plain-looking fish as an adult so you may be wondering why this Cichlid makes our most exotic freshwater fish list. Well, it’s because this fish is hyper-aggressive. It is easily the most aggressive cichlid you can buy and arguably the most aggressive freshwater fish commonly available. 

9. Vampire Tetra

This is one crazy-looking exotic freshwater fish. They have giant front teeth which are where the name vampire comes from. They are very aggressive fish that require expert-level maintenance. Most of these fish usually will not live very long in captivity, unfortunately.

They usually only eat live fish and will rarely accept frozen foods. They are best suited for a species-only aquarium with most aquarists who keep them only having a single fish in the tank.  

8. Red Texas Cichlid

This hybrid cichlid was created by breeding a Texas Cichlid and a Flowerhorn Cichlid. They are difficult to find and usually available seasonally from breeders. They command a high price tag since they are hard to find. 

7. African Cichlids

There are so many African cichlid types we could list here. Since many of them are often confused as saltwater fish by many people who see them for the first time, I felt that it was best to include most of the African lake cichlids in one group. There are some Africans that you can get for cheap like assorted Mbunas from a local fish store.

6. Flowerhorn Cichlid

A very beautiful exotic freshwater fish that originates from Malaysia. In Asia, they are considered a bringer of good luck. Flowerhorn Cichlids come in a variety of colors including reds, blues, pinks, yellows, and oranges. They are an aggressive Cichlid species and prefer large tanks all to themselves.  

5. Pleco

While most hobbyists will think a Pleco is a common freshwater fish, they really are a unique exotic freshwater fish. Many varieties like Snowball, ZebraGolden Nugget and Royal Plecos are examples on how exotic-looking Plecos can be.

There are common plecos which can get fairly large typically around 12-18 inches in length and there are smaller varieties like Bristle Nose Plecos which are suitable for smaller aquariums.  

4. Discus

When one thinks of exotic freshwater fish, this is usually the fish most people think of. They can be expensive, have a variety of colors, are very delicate, and require excellent water parameters. Discus belong to the Cichlid genus and originate from South America. They are very social with members of their own species.

3. Freshwater Stingrays

Beautiful, bold, and unique looking they are difficult to resist if you have a big enough aquarium. This exotic fresh fish is also venomous. While there are no known cases of a freshwater stingray causing a human fatality, they have been cases where the sting has caused numbness at the wound site several years later!

2. Arowana

An extremely popular freshwater fish due to its prehistoric cosmetic appearance, the Arowana is well known exotic freshwater fish. They are known for jumping as high as 6 feet in the air for prey in the wild and have been known to jump out of aquariums.

Prized Arowana like the Platinum Arowana can sell for over $300,000!. These Arowanas are considered so valuable that they have microchips implanted into them before they reach sexual maturity to help identify and authenticate it. 

1. Japanese Koi

In Japanese culture, the Koi fish is celebrated as a noble creature. It is said that Japanese Koi are able to climb large waterfalls bravely, which symbolizes that incredible achievement is possible with hard work. It is also said in Koi lore that if a Koi fish is caught, it will lie on the cutting board awaiting its death without fear, similar to the Samurai warriors.


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