A freshwater aquarium with plants and tropical fish

A well planted aquarium (240 l)

An aquarium (plural aquariums or aquaria) is a vivarium consisting of at least one transparent side in which water-dwelling plants or animals are kept. Fishkeepers use aquaria to keep fish, invertebrates, amphibians, marine mammals, turtles, and aquatic plants. The term combines the Latin root aqua, meaning water, with the suffix -arium, meaning “a place for relating to”.

An aquarist owns fish or maintains an aquarium, typically constructed of glass or high strength plastic. Cuboid aquaria are also known as fish tanks or simply tanks, while bowl-shaped aquaria are also known as fish bowls. Size can range from a small glass bowl to immense public aquaria. Specialized equipment maintains appropriate water quality and other characteristics suitable for the aquarium’s residents.

History and popularization

In the Roman Empire, the first fish to be brought indoors was the sea barbel, which was kept under guest beds in small tanks made of marble. Introduction of glass panes around the year 50 allowed Romans to replace one wall of marble tanks, improving their view of the fish. In 1369, the Chinese Emperor, Hóngwǔ, established a porcelain company that produced large porcelain tubs for maintaining goldfish; over time, people produced tubs that approached the shape of modern fish bowls.[2] Leonhard Baldner, who wrote Vogel-, Fisch- und Tierbuch (Bird, Fish, and Animal Book) in 1666, maintained weather loaches and newts.

Goldfish in a glass: portrait of Therese Krones, 1824

In 1836, soon after his invention of the Wardian case, Ward proposed to use his tanks for tropical animals. In 1841 he did so, though only with aquatic plants and toy fish. However, he soon housed real animals. In 1838, Félix Dujardin noted owning a saltwater aquarium, though he did not use the term.[4] In 1846, Anna Thynne maintained stony corals and seaweed for almost three years, and was credited as the creator of the first balanced marine aquarium in London.[5] At about the same time, Robert Warington experimented with a 13-gallon container, which contained goldfish, eelgrass, and snails, creating one of the first stable aquaria. He published his findings in 1850 in the Chemical Society’s journal.

An aquarium of the 1850s containing Vallisneria spiralis and coldwater fish

The keeping of fish in an aquarium became a popular hobby and spread quickly. In the United Kingdom, it became popular after ornate aquaria in cast iron frames were featured at the Great Exhibition of 1851. In 1853, the first large public aquarium opened in the London Zoo and came to be known as the Fish House.[7] Philip Henry Gosse was the first person to actually use the word “aquarium”, opting for this term (instead of “vivarium”) in 1854 in his book The Aquarium: An Unveiling of the Wonders of the Deep Sea. In this book, Gosse primarily discussed saltwater aquaria.[8] In the 1850s, the aquarium became a fad in the United Kingdom.

“What an Aquarium Should Be” – a humorous 1876 British engraving, apparently showing Thomas Huxley dreaming about sea creatures

Germans soon rivaled the British in their interest. In 1854, an anonymous author had two articles published about the saltwater aquaria of the United Kingdom: Die Gartenlaube (The Garden House) entitled Der Ocean auf dem Tische (The Ocean on the Table). However, in 1856, Der See im Glase (The Lake in a Glass) was published, discussing freshwater aquaria, which were much easier to maintain in landlocked areas.[10] During the 1870s, some of the first aquarist societies were appearing in Germany.[11] The United States soon followed. Published in 1858, Henry D. Butler’s The Family Aquarium was one of the first books written in the United States solely about the aquarium.[12] According to the July issue of The North American Review of the same year, William Stimson may have owned some of the first functional aquaria, and had as many as seven or eight.[13] The first aquarist society in the United States was founded in New York City in 1893, followed by others.[11] The New York Aquarium Journal, first published in October 1876, is considered to be the world’s first aquarium magazine.

In the Victorian era in the United Kingdom, a common design for the home aquarium was a glass front with the other sides made of wood (made watertight with a pitch coating). The bottom would be made of slate and heated from below.[15] More advanced systems soon began to be introduced, along with tanks of glass in metal frames.[15] During the latter half of the 19th century, a variety of aquarium designs were explored, such as hanging the aquarium on a wall, mounting it as part of a window, or even combining it with a birdcage.

Pike in an aquarium c. 1908, at the Belle Isle Aquarium, Belle Isle Park

Circa 1908, the first mechanical aquarium air pump was invented, powered by running water, instead of electricity.[17] The introduction of the air pump into the hobby is considered by several historians of the hobby to be a pivotal moment in the development of the hobby.

Aquaria became more widely popular as houses had an electricity supply after World War I. Electricity allowed artificial lighting as well as aeration, filtration, and heating of the water.[19] Initially, amateur aquarists kept native fish (with the exception of goldfish); the availability of exotic species from overseas further increased the popularity of the aquarium.[20] Jugs made from a variety of materials were used to import fish from overseas, with a bicycle foot pump for aeration.[21] Plastic shipping bags were introduced in the 1950s, making it easier to ship fish.[22] The eventual availability of air freight, allowed fish to be successfully imported from distant regions.[3] In the 1960s metal frames made marine aquaria almost impossible due to corrosion, but the development of tar and silicone sealant allowed the first all-glass aquaria made by Martin Horowitz in Los Angeles, CA. The frames remained, however, though purely for aesthetic reasons.

In the United States, aquarium keeping is the second-most popular hobby after stamp collecting.[23] In 1999 it was estimated that over nine million U.S. households own an aquarium. Figures from the 2005/2006 APPMA National Pet Owners Survey report that Americans own approximately 139 million freshwater fish and 9.6 million saltwater fish. Estimates of the numbers of fish kept in aquaria in Germany suggest at least 36 million. The hobby has the strongest following in Europe, Asia, and North America. In the United States, 40 percent of aquarists maintain two or more tanks.


An 80 liter home aquarium

Aquarium containing a variety of plants and a piece of driftwood, with white gravel at front and a plant with red leaves at the upper left.

58 gallon (220 litre) freshwater aquascape

Aquascaping is the craft of arranging aquatic plants, as well as rocks, stones, cavework, or driftwood, in an aesthetically pleasing manner within an aquarium—in effect, gardening under water. Aquascape designs include a number of distinct styles, including the garden-like Dutch style and the Japanese-inspired nature style. Typically, an aquascape houses fish as well as plants, although it is possible to create an aquascape with plants only, or with rockwork or other hardscape and no plants.

Although the primary aim of aquascaping is to create an artful underwater landscape, the technical aspects of aquatic plant maintenance must also be taken into consideration. Many factors must be balanced in the closed system of an aquarium tank to ensure the success of an aquascape. These factors include filtration, maintaining carbon dioxide at levels sufficient to support photosynthesis underwater, substrate and fertilization, lighting, and algae control.

Aquascape hobbyists trade plants, conduct contests, and share photographs and information via the internet. The United States-based Aquatic Gardeners Association has about 1,200 members.


Dutch style

Aquarium densely packed with clumps of fine-leaved plants, some with green leaves and some with red leaves. A large red fish swims at left.

Dutch style aquascape

The Dutch aquarium employs a lush arrangement in which multiple types of plants having diverse leaf colors, sizes, and textures are displayed much as terrestrial plants are shown in a flower garden. This style was developed in the Netherlands starting in the 1930s, as freshwater aquarium equipment became commercially available.[1] It emphasizes plants located on terraces of different heights, and frequently omits rocks and driftwood. Linear rows of plants running left-to-right are referred to as “Dutch streets”.[6] Although many plant types are used, one typically sees neatly trimmed groupings of plants with feathery foliage, such as Limnophila aquatica and various types of Hygrophila, along with the use of red-leaved Alternanthera reineckii, Ammania gracilis, and assorted Rotala for color highlights.[6] More than 80% of the aquarium floor is covered with plants, and little or no substrate is left visible.[6] Tall growing plants that cover the back glass originally served the purpose of hiding bulky equipment behind the tank.[1]

Nature style

Aquarium with multiple=

Nature style aquascape

A contrasting approach is the nature or Japanese style, introduced in the 1990s by Takashi Amano.[1] Amano’s three-volume series, Nature Aquarium World, sparked a wave of interest in aquarium gardening, and he has been cited as having “set a new standard in aquarium management”.[7] Amano’s compositions draw on Japanese gardening techniques that attempt to mimic natural landscapes by the asymmetrical arrangement of masses of relatively few species of plants, and carefully selected stones or driftwood. The objective is to evoke a landscape in miniature, rather than a colorful garden. This style draws particularly from the Japanese aesthetic concepts of Wabi-sabi (侘寂?), which focuses on transience and minimalism as sources of beauty, and Iwagumi (岩組?),[8] which sets rules governing rock placement. In the Iwagumi system, the Oyaishi (親石?), or main stone, is placed slightly off-center in the tank, and Soeishi (添石?), or accompanying stones, are grouped near it, while Fukuseki (副石?), or secondary stones, are arranged in subordinate positions.[9] The location of the focal point of the display, determined largely by the asymmetric placement of the Oyaishi, is considered important, and follows ratios that reflect Pythagorean tuning.[10] Plants with small leaves, such as Eleocharis acicularis, Glossostigma elatinoides, Hemianthus callitrichoides, Monosolenium tenerum, Riccia fluitans, and Java moss (Versicularia dubyana or Taxiphyllum barbieri) are usually emphasized, with more limited colors than in the Dutch style, and the hardscape is not completely covered. Fish, or freshwater shrimp such as Caridina multidentata and Neocaridina heteropoda, are usually selected to complement the plants and control algae.


Aquarium with large stones of various shapes piled high. Some bare sticks are at right, and blue and yellow fish swim in the water.

This Lake Malawi biotope with cichlids is at the Artis Aquarium, Amsterdam. Note the absence of plants in this rift lake habitat.

The styles above often combine plant and animal species based on the desired visual impact, without regard to geographic origin. Biotope aquascapes are designed instead to replicate exactly a particular aquatic habitat at a particular geographic location, and not necessarily to provide a garden-like display. Plants and fish need not be present at all, but if they are, they must match what would be found in nature in the habitat being represented, as must any gravel and hardscape, and even the chemical composition of the water.


Aquarium viewed from slightly to the side. Some rocks are in a shallow layer of water at the bottom, and plants with spiky leaves in rosettes rise above the water.

A paludarium

In a paludarium, part of the aquarium is underwater, and part is above water. Substrate is built up so that some “land” regions are raised above the waterline, and the tank is filled with water only part way. This allows plants, such as Cyperus alternifolius and Spathiphyllum wallisii, as well as various Anubias and some bromeliads, to grow emersed, with their roots underwater but their tops in the air, as well as completely submersed. In some configurations, plants that float on the surface of the water, such as Eichhornia crassipes and Pistia stratiotes, can be displayed to full advantage. Unlike other aquarium setups, paludariums are particularly well-suited to keeping amphibians.

Saltwater reefs

Aquarium filled densely with corals in many shapes, and bright colors including pink, purple, blue and green.

Reef aquascape

Dutch and nature style aquascapes are traditionally freshwater systems. In contrast, relatively few ornamental plants can be grown in a saltwater aquarium. Saltwater aquascaping typically centers, instead, on mimicking a reef. An arrangement of live rock forms the main structure of this aquascape, and it is populated by corals and other marine invertebrates as well as coralline algae, which together serve much the same aesthetic role as freshwater plants.

Lighting plays a particularly significant role in the reef aquascape. Many corals, as well as tridacnid clams, contain symbiotic fluorescent algae-like protozoa called zooxanthellae.By providing intense lighting supplemented in the ultraviolet wavelengths, reef aquarists not only support the health of these invertebrates, but also elicit particularly bright colors emitted by the fluorescent microorganisms.


A drawing in brown ink on an ocher background. A rectangular glass aquarium tank sits on a wooden stand with carved, curled legs, and contains two fish as well as plants with wavy grass-like leaves.

From the earliest days, aquarists have planted their tanks, as seen in this 1856 example containing Vallisneria spiralis.

In addition to design, freshwater aquascaping also requires specific methods to maintain healthy plants underwater. Plants are often trimmed to obtain the desired shape, and they can be positioned by tying them in place inconspicuously with thread.Most serious aquascapers use aquarium-safe fertilizers, commonly in liquid or tablet form, to help the plants fill out more rapidly.[20] Some aquarium substrates containing laterite also provide nutrients.

It is also necessary to support photosynthesis, by providing light and carbon dioxide. A variety of lighting systems may be used to produce the full spectrum of light, usually at 2–4 watts per gallon (0.5–1 watts per litre).Lights are usually controlled by a timer that allows the plants to be acclimated to a set cycle.[22] Depending on the number of plants and fish, the aquascape may also require carbon dioxide supplementation. This can be accomplished with a simple homemade system, using a soda bottle filled with yeast, warm water, and sugar, and connected to an airstone in the aquarium, or with a pressurized CO2 tank that injects a set amount of carbon dioxide into the aquarium water.

Algae (including cyanobacteria, as well as true algae) is considered distracting and unwanted in aquascaping, and is controlled in several ways. One is the use of animals that consume algae, such as some fish (notably cyprinids of the genera Crossocheilus and Gyrinocheilus, and catfish of the genera Ancistrus, Hypostomus, and Otocinclus), shrimp, or snails, to clean the algae that collects on the leaves. A second is using adequate light and CO2 to promote rapid growth of desired plants, while controlling nutrient levels, to ensure that the plants utilize all fertilizer without leaving nutrients to support algae.

Although serious aquascapers often use a considerable amount of equipment to provide lighting, filtration, and CO2 supplementation to the tank, some hobbyists choose instead to maintain plants with a minimum of technology, and some have reported success in producing lush plant growth this way. This approach, sometimes called the “natural planted tank” and popularized by Diana Walstad, can include the use of soil in place of aquarium gravel, the elimination of CO2 apparatus and most filtration, and limited lighting. Instead, only a few fish are kept, to limit the quantity of fish waste, and the plants themselves are used to perform the water-cleansing role typically played by aquarium filters, by utilizing what fish waste there is as fertilizer.


Early Dutch hobbyists began the practice of aquascape contests, with over 100 local clubs.[6] Judges had to go through about three years of training and pass examinations in multiple disciplines in order to qualify.  This competition continues to be held every year, under the auspices of the National Aquarium Society. There are three rounds, beginning with contests in local clubs. First-place local winners are entered in the second round, held in fifteen districtkeuring (districts). The winners at that level are then entered in the third round, which is the national championship.

In the Dutch contest, the focus is not only on composition, but also on the biological well-being of the aquarium’s inhabitants. Most points are, in fact, awarded for such biological criteria as fish health, plant health, and water quality. Unlike contests in other countries, the judges travel to each contestant’s home to evaluate the tank, where they measure the water parameters themselves.

The Aquatic Gardeners Association,based in the United States, Aqua Design Amano,based in Japan, and AquaticScapers Europe,based in Germany, also conduct annual freshwater aquascaping contests. Entries from around the world are submitted as photographs and explanatory text online.

The Aquatic Gardeners Association contest is judged based on:

  • overall impression (35 points),
  • composition, balance, use of space and use of color (30 points),
  • selection and use of materials (20 points), and
  • viability of aquascape (15 points).

There are also smaller contests conducted by Acuavida in Spain, and by the Greek Aquarist’s Club.

Public aquariums

Large public aquariums sometimes use aquascaping as part of their displays. Because they typically present wildlife from a particular habitat, the displays are often created to be biologically accurate biotopes, either freshwater or saltwater.

Underwater scene, with white sand at bottom and a large piece of driftwood at the right. Various green plants grow in the sand, including a large plant with wavy leaves at the left. A shoal of blue and red striped fish swims around.

Discus and cardinal tetras in an Amazon River basin display at the Palais de la Porte Dorée aquarium in Paris
Underwater scene with some whitish sand at the front left and greenish-brown stones piled at right. Green plants grow out of the sand, and a large group of heavy-bodied gray fish with orange-red bellies swims from left to right.

Piranhas in another Amazon River display at the Antwerp Zoo aquarium in Belgium


Most aquaria consist of glass panes bonded together by silicone, with plastic frames that are attached to the upper and lower edges for decoration. The glass aquarium is standard for sizes up to about 1000 litres (250 gal). However, glass as a material is brittle and has very little give before fracturing, though generally the sealant fails first.[26] Aquaria come in a variety of shapes such as cuboid, hexagonal, angled to fit in a corner (L-shaped), and bow-front (the front side curves outwards).[27] Fish bowls are generally either made of plastic or glass, and are either spherical or some other round configuration in shape.

The very first modern aquarium made of glass was developed in the 1800s by Robert Warrington.[28] During the Victorian age it was common for glass aquaria to have slate or steel bottoms, which allow the aquaria to be heated underneath with an open flame heat source. The aquaria back then had the glass panels attached with metal frames and sealed with putty. These metal framed aquaria were still available on the market until the mid 1960s when the modern, silicone-sealed style displaced them. Acrylic tanks were not generally available to the public until the 1970s.

Although glass aquaria are usually preferred by aquarists over the acrylic ones because of their much more accessible price, they come with several disadvantages. Not only are they not as crack resistant as acrylic tanks but they are also nearly two times heavier than the latter. They also provide less insulation than acrylic aquaria and do not come in as many interesting shapes as these do.[29] Many aquarists or beginners who want to get fish as pets find it particularly onerous that many online suppliers will not ship glass aquaria because of the high potential for cracking and the high weight, which increases the cost of shipping. However, glass tanks are more convenient for other aquarists because unlike acrylic, glass does not yellow over time, and also because glass tanks do not need as much support as acrylic aquaria.

Even though the price is one of the main aspects which is taken under consideration by aquarists when willing to purchase one of these two types of aquaria, when it comes to very large tanks the price difference tends to disappear.

Acrylic aquaria are also available and are the primary competitor with glass. Acrylic aquariums are stronger than glass, and much lighter.[30] Acrylic-soluble cements are used to directly fuse acrylic together (as opposed to simply sealing the seam).[26] Acrylic allows for the formation of unusual shapes, such as the hexagonal tank.[15] Compared to glass, acrylics are easy to scratch; but unlike glass, it is possible to polish out scratches in acrylic.

Laminated glass is sometimes used, which combines the advantages of both glass and acrylic.

Large aquaria might instead use stronger materials such as fiberglass-reinforced plastics. However, this material is not transparent.[26] Reinforced concrete is used for aquaria where weight and space are not factors. Concrete must be coated with a waterproof layer to prevent the water from breaking down the concrete as well as prevent contamination from the concrete.[26]


Aquariums have been fashioned into coffee tables,[31] sinks, and even toilets. Another such example is the MacQuarium, an aquarium made from the shell of an Apple Macintosh computer.[32]

A kreisel tank is a circular aquarium designed to hold delicate animals such as jellyfish. These aquariums provide slow, circular water flow with a bare minimum of interior hardware, to prevent delicate animals from becoming injured by pumps or the tank itself.[33] Originally a German design (kreisel means spinning top), the tank has no sharp corners, and keeps the housed animals away from the plumbing. Water moving into the tank gives a gentle flow that keeps the inhabitants suspended, and water leaving the tank is covered by a delicate screen that prevents the inhabitants from getting stuck. There are several types of kreisel tanks. In a true kreisel, a circular tank has a circular, submerged lid. Pseudokreisels have a curved bottom surface and a flat top surface, similar to the shape of either a “U” or a semicircle.[34] Stretch kreisels or Langmuir kreisels are a “double gyre” kreisel design, where the tank length is at least twice the height. Using two downwelling inlets on both sides of the tank lets gravity create two gyres in the tank. A single downwelling inlet may be used in the middle as well. The top of a stretch kreisel may be open or closed with a lid. There may also be screens about midway down the sides of the tank, or at the top on the sides.[35] It is possible to combine these designs; a circular shaped tank is used without a lid or cover, and the surface of the water acts as the continuation of circular flow. It is now possible to start a jellyfish aquarium at home as easily as a regular fish tank.

Another popular setup is the biotope aquarium.[37] A biotope aquarium is a recreation of a specific natural environment. Some of the most popular biotopes (to name only a few) are the Amazon river,[38] Rio Negro River, Lake Malawi,[39] Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Victoria. The fish, plants, substrate, rocks, wood, and any other component of the display should match that of the natural environment. It can be a real challenge to recreate such environments and most “true” biotopes will only have a few species of fish (if not only one) and invertebrates.

Aquarium size and volume

Photo - silhouettes of people in foreground. One large fish with many smaller fish in background.

The large Georgia Aquarium houses a whale shark.

Lisbon Oceanarium designed by architect Peter Chermayeff

An aquarium can range from a small glass bowl containing less than a litre (34 fl.oz.) of water to immense public aquaria that house entire ecosystems such as kelp forests. Relatively large home aquaria resist rapid fluctuations of temperature and pH, allowing for greater system stability.[27]

Unfiltered bowl-shaped aquaria are now widely regarded as unsuitable for most fish. Advanced alternatives are now available.[40] Aquariums should contain three forms of filtration: biological, mechanical and chemical to keep water conditions at suitable levels.

Reef aquaria under 100 litres (20 gal) have a special place in the aquarium hobby; these aquaria, termed nano reefs (when used in reefkeeping), have a small water volume.

Practical limitations, most notably the weight (one litre of fresh water has a mass of 1 kilogram (8.3 lb gal−1), and salt water is even denser) and internal water pressure (requiring thick glass siding) of a large aquarium, keep most home aquaria to a maximum of around 1 cubic metre in volume (1,000 kg or 2,200 lb).[27] Some aquarists, however, have constructed aquaria of many thousands of litres.

Public aquariums designed for exhibition of large species or environments can be dramatically larger than any home aquarium. The Georgia Aquarium, for example, features an individual aquarium of 8,100,000 US gallons (30,700 m3).


Drawing of transparent 3-dimensional rectangle with two boxes and one cylinder above it and one longer, thin cylinder within it. Arrows point from the rectangle long cylinder to the top box, from the top box to the lower box, from the lower box to the other cylinder, from that cylinder back to itself, and from the cylinder to the rectangle.

Filtration system in a typical aquarium: (1) intake, (2) mechanical filtration, (3) chemical filtration, (4) biological filtration medium, (5) outflow to tank

The typical hobbyist aquarium includes a filtration system, an artificial lighting system, and a heater or chiller depending on the aquarium’s inhabitants. Many aquaria incorporate a hood, to decrease evaporation and prevent fish from leaving the aquarium (and anything else from entering the aquarium). They also often hold lights.

Combined biological and mechanical aquarium filtration systems are common. These either convert ammonia to nitrate (removing nitrogen at the expense of aquatic plants), or to sometimes remove phosphate. Filter media can house microbes that mediate nitration. Filtration systems are the most complex component of home aquaria.[43]

Aquarium heaters combine a heating element with a thermostat, allowing the aquarist to regulate water temperature at a level above that of the surrounding air, whereas coolers and chillers (refrigeration devices) are for use anywhere, such as cold water aquaria, that the ambient room temperature is above the desired tank temperature.[27] Thermometers used include glass alcohol thermometers, adhesive external plastic strip thermometers, and battery-powered LCD thermometers.[27] In addition, some aquarists use air pumps attached to airstones or water pumps to increase water circulation and supply adequate gas exchange at the water surface. Wave-making devices have also been constructed to provide wave action.

An aquarium’s physical characteristics form another aspect of aquarium design. Size, lighting conditions, density of floating and rooted plants, placement of bog-wood, creation of caves or overhangs, type of substrate, and other factors (including an aquarium’s positioning within a room) can all affect the behavior and survival of tank inhabitants.

An aquarium can be placed on an aquarium stand. Because of the weight of the aquarium, a stand must be strong as well as level. A tank that is not level may distort, leak, or crack.[27] These are often built with cabinets to allow storage, available in many styles to match room decor. Simple metal tank stands are also available.[27] Most aquaria should be placed on polystyrene to cushion any irregularities on the underlying surface or the bottom of the tank itself.[27] However, some tanks have an underframe making this unnecessary.

Aquarium maintenance

Photo of 50 foot-tall yellow plants in water behind glass wall divided into sections.

A 335,000 U.S. gallon (1.3 million liter) aquarium at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, displaying a kelp forest ecosystem

Large volumes of water enable more stability in a tank by diluting effects from death or contamination events that push an aquarium away from equilibrium. The bigger the tank, the easier such a systemic shock is to absorb, because the effects of that event are diluted. For example, the death of the only fish in a three U.S. gallon tank (11 L) causes dramatic changes in the system, while the death of that same fish in a 100 U.S. gallon (400 L) tank with many other fish in it represents only a minor change. For this reason, hobbyists often favor larger tanks, as they require less attention.

Several nutrient cycles are important in the aquarium. Dissolved oxygen enters the system at the surface water-air interface or via an air pump. Carbon dioxide escapes the system into the air. The phosphate cycle is an important, although often overlooked, nutrient cycle. Sulfur, iron, and micronutrients also cycle through the system, entering as food and exiting as waste. Appropriate handling of the nitrogen cycle, along with supplying an adequately balanced food supply and considered biological loading, is enough to keep these other nutrient cycles in approximate equilibrium.

An aquarium must be maintained regularly to ensure that the fish are kept healthy. Daily maintenance consists of checking the fish for signs of stress and disease, on a daily basis.[44] Also, aquarists must make sure that the water has a good quality and it is not cloudy or foamy and the temperature of the water is appropriate for the particular species of fish that live in the aquarium.

Typical weekly maintenance includes changing around 20% of the water while cleaning the gravel, or other substrate if the aquarium has one. A good habit is to replace the water extracted while “vacuuming” the gravel as this will eliminate uneaten foods and other residues that settle on the substrate.[45] Tap water is not considered to be safe for fish to live in because it contains chemicals that harm the fish, so any tap water used must be treated with a suitable water conditioner, such as a product which removes chlorine and chloramine, and neutralises any heavy metals present. The water parameters must be checked both in the tank and in the replacing water, to make sure they are suitable for the species of fish kept.

Water conditions

The solute content of water is perhaps the most important aspect of water conditions, as total dissolved solids and other constituents dramatically impact basic water chemistry, and therefore how organisms interact with their environment. Salt content, or salinity, is the most basic measure of water conditions. An aquarium may have freshwater (salinity below 500 parts per million), simulating a lake or river environment; brackish water (a salt level of 500 to 30,000 PPM), simulating environments lying between fresh and salt, such as estuaries; and salt water or seawater (a salt level of 30,000 to 40,000 PPM), simulating an ocean environment. Rarely, higher salt concentrations are maintained in specialized tanks for raising brine organisms.

Saltwater is typically alkaline, while the pH (alkalinity or acidicity) of fresh water varies more. Hardness measures overall dissolved mineral content; hard or soft water may be preferred. Hard water is usually alkaline, while soft water is usually neutral to acidic.[46] Dissolved organic content and dissolved gases content are also important factors.

Photo of water-filled glass tank containing with two green plants and pebbles on the bottom.

A typical home 10 gallon tropical freshwater aquarium

Home aquarists typically use tap water supplied through their local water supply network to fill their tanks. Straight tap water cannot be used in countries that pipe chlorinated water. In the past, it was possible to “condition” the water by simply letting the water stand for a day or two, which allows the chlorine time to dissipate.[46] However, chloramine is now used more often and does not leave the water as readily. Additives formulated to remove chlorine or chloramine are often all that is needed to make the water ready for aquarium use. Brackish or saltwater aquaria require the addition of a commercially available mixture of salts and other minerals.

More sophisticated aquarists modify water’s alkalinity, hardness, or dissolved content of organics and gases, before adding it to their aquaria. This can be accomplished by additives, such as sodium bicarbonate, to raise pH. Some aquarists filter or purify their water through deionization or reverse osmosis prior to using it. In contrast, public aquaria with large water needs often locate themselves near a natural water source (such as a river, lake, or ocean) to reduce the level of treatment.

Water temperature determines the two most basic aquarium classifications: tropical vs. cold water. Most fish and plant species tolerate only a limited temperature range: Tropical aquaria, with an average temperature of about 25 °C (77 °F), are much more common. Cold water aquaria are for fish that are better suited to a cooler environment. More important than the range is consistency; most organisms are not accustomed to sudden changes in temperatures, which can cause shock and lead to disease. Water temperature can be regulated with a thermostat and heater (or cooler).

Water movement can also be important in simulating a natural ecosystem. Aquarists may prefer anything from still water up to swift currents, depending on the aquarium’s inhabitants. Water movement can be controlled via aeration from air pumps, powerheads, and careful design of internal water flow (such as location of filtration system points of inflow and outflow).

Nitrogen cycle

The nitrogen cycle in an aquarium
Main article: Nitrogen cycle

Of primary concern to the aquarist is management of the waste produced by an aquarium’s inhabitants. Fish, invertebrates, fungi, and some bacteria excrete nitrogen waste in the form of ammonia (which converts to ammonium, in acidic water) and must then pass through the nitrogen cycle. Ammonia is also produced through the decomposition of plant and animal matter, including fecal matter and other detritus. Nitrogen waste products become toxic to fish and other aquarium inhabitants at high concentrations.

The process

A well-balanced tank contains organisms that are able to metabolize the waste products of other aquarium residents. This process is known in the aquarium hobby as the nitrogen cycle. Bacteria known as nitrifiers (genus Nitrosomonas) metabolize nitrogen waste. Nitrifying bacteria capture ammonia from the water and metabolize it to produce nitrite.Nitrite is toxic to fish in high concentrations. Another type of bacteria, genus Nitrospira, converts nitrite into nitrate, a less toxic substance. (Nitrobacter bacteria were previously believed to fill this role. While biologically they could theoretically fill the same niche as Nitrospira, it has recently been found that Nitrobacter are not present in detectable levels in established aquaria, while Nitrospira are plentiful.) Commercial products sold as kits to “jump start” the nitrogen cycle, often still contain Nitrobacter.

In addition to bacteria, aquatic plants also eliminate nitrogen waste by metabolizing ammonia and nitrate. When plants metabolize nitrogen compounds, they remove nitrogen from the water by using it to build biomass that decays more slowly than ammonia-driven plankton already dissolved in the water.

Maintaining the nitrogen cycle

What hobbyists call the nitrogen cycle is only a portion of the complete cycle: nitrogen must be added to the system (usually through food provided to the tank inhabitants), and nitrates accumulate in the water at the end of the process, or become bound in the biomass of plants. The aquarium keeper must remove water once nitrate concentrations grow, or remove plants which have grown from the nitrates.

Hobbyist aquaria often do not have sufficient bacteria populations to adequately denitrify waste. This problem is most often addressed through two filtration solutions: Activated carbon filters absorb nitrogen compounds and other toxins, while biological filters provide a medium designed to enhance bacterial colonization. Activated carbon and other substances, such as ammonia absorbing resins, stop working when their pores fill, so these components have to be replaced regularly.

New aquaria often have problems associated with the nitrogen cycle due to insufficient beneficial bacteria. Therefore fresh water has to be matured before stocking them with fish. There are three basic approaches to this: the “fishless cycle”, the “silent cycle” and “slow growth”.

In a fishless cycle, small amounts of ammonia are added to an unpopulated tank to feed the bacteria. During this process, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels are tested to monitor progress. The “silent” cycle is basically nothing more than densely stocking the aquarium with fast-growing aquatic plants and relying on them to consume the nitrogen, allowing the necessary bacterial populations time to develop. According to anecdotal reports, the plants can consume nitrogenous waste so efficiently that ammonia and nitrite level spikes seen in more traditional cycling methods are greatly reduced or disappear. “Slow growth” entails slowly increasing the population of fish over a period of 6 to 8 weeks, giving bacteria colonies time to grow and stabilize with the increase in fish waste.

The largest bacterial populations are found in the filter; efficient filtration is vital. Sometimes, a vigorous cleaning of the filter is enough to seriously disturb the biological balance of an aquarium. Therefore, it is recommended to rinse mechanical filters in an outside bucket of aquarium water to dislodge organic materials that contribute to nitrate problems, while preserving bacteria populations. Another safe practice consists of cleaning only half of the filter media during each service.

Aquarium supplies

A way to keep the aquarium clean and fresh is by using specific aquarium cleaning supplies. These may include cleaning agents especially designed to clean the water and keep it fresh, nets, algae magnets and scarpers, algae pads, brushes, gravel cleaners, sealant and tongs and grabbers. A properly cleaned aquarium means healthy and happy fish. Aquarium cleaning must be performed on a regular basis to ensure that the fish are healthy. Also, by maintaining a clean aquarium one makes sure the tank looks appealing to the visitors.

Nets are very important cleaning supplies because they are helpful in transferring the fish to breeders or refugiums or to take them out of the aquarium whenever a thorough cleaning is needed.[48] Nets come in a variety of sizes and designs. The size one needs depends on the size of the tank they need to clean.

The cleaning liquid agents are substances especially designed to clean the water without harming the health of the fish. Cleaning agents also include scratch removers, lime dissolvers, glass and acrylic polishers, wipes, salt creep removers and magnetic cleaners. All of these are intended to be used on the tank, ornaments and equipment.

Aquarium pest control products may be needed for cleaning aquaria with corals or live rocks. Aquarium pest control is helpful in fighting infestations with different organism coming from new fish or from the plants, corals or rocks that are recently acquired. If not taken care of, infestations like this may cause damage to the aquarium by depleting resources and causing illness.

The water cleaners are amongst the first aquarium cleaning supplies that must be purchased. Aquarium water conditioners and additives like chlorine removers and stress relievers make tap water safe for use in aquariums, and should be used when preparing for tank setup or water changes. The “new tank syndrome” may be avoided if using cycle aids to establish the nitrogen cycle. Also, creating the natural water conditions for an aquarium implies getting aquarium salt, vitamins and supplements.

The level of ammonia in the water must be closely monitored as a too high level of ammonia in the water may cause the death of the fish. The market provides especially designed ammonia removers which transform ammonia into a non-toxic form until the filter is able to process it. Aquarists are recommended to have ammonia removers around for immediate use in case of ammonia emergency.

Water clarifiers are used to clean up the water that might get foamy or cloudy due to chemicals or biological blooms. Overfeeding or fish death can lead to a sudden increase in organic waste which may result in biological clouding. Water clarifiers are useful in these cases. However, they should not be needed too often because excessive clouding can mean that the filters or filter media are not working properly and should be changed.

Excessive algae and cyanobacteria can be removed with the help of algaecides. Although algaecides are the fastest way to solve problems caused by algae they are not recommended in reefs, planted tanks or in those with crustaceans or livebearers. Algaecides are also not a long term solution for this type of issue and aquarists are advised to avoid direct sunlight or lights that are not intended for aquariums on their tanks because they cause algae blooms.

The cleaning supplies that are fluid such as the water purifiers or conditioners are not to replace the thorough cleaning that should be performed at least once in two weeks. However, they are handy supplies to keep the fish healthy until the aquarist can find the right time to perform such a cleaning.

Biological loading

Photo displaying plants, small fish, and what appear to be tipped-over orange vases

Small aquarium (19 liter) with Paracheirodon innesi, Trigonostigma heteromorpha, and Hemigrammus erythrozonus

Biological load is a measure of the burden placed on the aquarium ecosystem by its inhabitants. High biological loading presents a more complicated tank ecology, which in turn means that equilibrium is easier to upset. Several fundamental constraints on biological loading depend on aquarium size. The water’s surface area limits oxygen intake. The bacteria population depends on the physical space they have available to colonize. Physically, only a limited size and number of plants and animals can fit into an aquarium while still providing room for movement. Biologically, biological loading refers to the rate of biological decay in proportion to tank volume.

Calculating capacity

Limiting factors include the oxygen availability and filtration processing. Aquarists have rules of thumb to estimate the number of fish that can be kept in an aquarium; the examples below are for small freshwater fish, larger freshwater fishes and most marine fishes need much more generous allowances.

  • 3 cm of adult fish length per 4 litres of water (i.e., a 6 cm-long fish would need about 8 litres of water).
  • 1 cm of adult fish length per 30 square centimetres of surface area.
  • 1 inch of adult fish length per gallon of water.
  • 1 inch of adult fish length per 12 square inches of surface area.

Experienced aquarists warn against applying these rules too strictly because they do not consider other important issues such as growth rate, activity level, social behaviour, surface area of plant life, and so on. Establishing maximum capacity is often a matter of slowly adding fish and monitoring water quality over time, following a trial and error approach.

Other factors affecting capacity

One variable is differences between fish. Smaller fish consume more oxygen per gram of body weight than larger fish. Labyrinth fish can breathe atmospheric oxygen and do not need as much surface area (however, some of these fish are territorial, and do not appreciate crowding). Barbs also require more surface area than tetras of comparable size.

Oxygen exchange at the surface is an important constraint, and thus the surface area of the aquarium matters. Some aquarists claim that a deeper aquarium holds no more fish than a shallower aquarium with the same surface area. The capacity can be improved by surface movement and water circulation such as through aeration, which not only improves oxygen exchange, but also waste decomposition rates.

Waste density is another variable. Decomposition in solution consumes oxygen. Oxygen dissolves less readily in warmer water; this is a double-edged sword since warmer temperatures make fish more active, so they consume more oxygen.

In addition to bioload/chemical considerations, aquarists also consider the mutual compatibility of the fish. For instance, predatory fish are usually not kept with small, passive species, and territorial fish are often unsuitable tankmates for shoaling species. Furthermore, fish tend to fare better if given tanks conducive to their size. That is, large fish need large tanks and small fish can do well in smaller tanks. Lastly, the tank can become overcrowded without being overstocked. In other words, the aquarium can be suitable with regard to filtration capacity, oxygen load, and water, yet still be so crowded that the inhabitants are uncomfortable.

General aquarium description (freshwater)

Identifying care methods that work for all aquarists is extremely difficult as there are several maintenance routines frequently used that have proven successful for keeping aquarium fish. However, there have been some studies done on freshwater aquarium systems that do indicate successfult trends in aquarium care. According to one study in particular that polled data from one hundred freshwater aquarists, the median/average conditions of the freshwater aquarium were described as follows[56]:

  • Median Tank Size: 37 Gallons (inconclusive)
  • Median Stocking Density: 13 Fish at 2 Inches Each (more being worse with regard to lethality but not necessarily efficiency)
  • Median Water Change Frequency: 7 Days (inconclusive, no trend)
  • Median Water Change percentage: 30% (very large water changes may be detrimental to efficiency, but not lethality)
  • Median Lighting Wattage: 40 Watts (more watts being better)
  • Median Plantedness: Moderately Planted (more plants being better if appropriately cared for)
  • Average Snail Presence: 53% (snails seem to be associated with better efficiency and lower lethality)
  • Average Fertilizer Presence: 48% (fertilizers seem to function like snails)
  • Best Overall Filter Type: Canister (HOBs are the most prevalent, worst filter type with regard to lethality while HOB+ filters are the most prevalent, worst filters with regard to efficiency)

The above list represents the midpoints of freshwater aquarium dynamics, meaning that freshwater aquariums that are close to these parameters are likely to be at least moderately successful. Nonetheless, the study did confirm that some extreme parameter configurations were successful despite not being close to these parameters.

Aquarium classifications

Photo showing a tank filled with water and multiple=

A planted freshwater aquarium

From the outdoor ponds and glass jars of antiquity, modern aquaria have evolved into a wide range of specialized systems. Individual aquaria can vary in size from a small bowl large enough for only a single small fish, to the huge public aquaria that can simulate entire marine ecosystems.

One way to classify aquaria is by salinity. Freshwater aquaria are the most popular due to their lower cost.

A temperate marine aquarium

More expensive and complex equipment is required to set up and maintain a marine aquaria. Marine aquaria frequently feature a diverse range of invertebrates in addition to species of fish[43][57]. Brackish water aquaria combine elements of both marine and freshwater fishkeeping[57]. Fish kept in brackish water aquaria generally come from habitats with varying salinity, such as mangroves and estuaries. Subtypes exist within these types, such as the reef aquarium, a typically smaller marine aquarium that houses coral[57].

Another classification is by temperature range. Many aquarists choose a tropical aquarium because tropical fish tend to be more colorful.[57] However, the coldwater aquarium is also popular, which may include fish such as goldfish.

Photo of water, coral, and fish behind a glass wall.

A saltwater aquarium

Aquaria may be grouped by their species selection. The community tank is the most common today, where several non-aggressive species live peacefully. In these aquaria, the fish, invertebrates, and plants probably do not originate from the same geographic region, but tolerate similar water conditions. Aggressive tanks, in contrast, house a limited number of species that can be aggressive toward other fish, or are able to withstand aggression well. Specimen tanks usually only house one fish species, along with plants, perhaps found in the fishes’ natural environment and decorations simulating a natural ecosystem. This type is useful for fish that cannot coexist with other fish, such as the electric eel, as an extreme example. Some tanks of this sort are used simply to house adults for breeding.

Ecotype, ecotope, or biotope aquaria is another type based on species selection. In it, an aquarist attempts to simulate a specific natural ecosystem, assembling fish, invertebrate species, plants, decorations and water conditions all found in that ecosystem. These biotope aquaria are the most sophisticated hobby aquaria; public aquaria use this approach whenever possible. This approach best simulates the experience of observing in the wild. It typically serves as the healthiest possible artificial environment for the tank’s occupants.

Although freshwater aquaria are the most popular, they also require special attention. For instance, freshwater fish species need to be thoroughly researched before purchasing because many species do not get along with one another.[58] Some species are more aggressive than others and they might perceive other fish in the aquarium as threats.

Public aquaria

Photo looking upward through 15 feet (4.6 m)-diameter glass tube into a fish-filled aquarium

Tunnel at the world’s largest aquarium, Georgia Aquarium, USA
Main article: Public aquarium

Most public aquarium facilities feature a number of smaller aquaria, as well those too large for home aquarists. The largest tanks hold millions of gallons of water and can house large species, including sharks or beluga whales. Dolphinaria are specifically for dolphins. Aquatic and semiaquatic animals, including otters and penguins, may also be kept by public aquaria. Public aquaria may also be included in larger establishments such as a marine mammal park or a marine park.

Virtual aquariums

A virtual aquarium is a computer program which uses 3D graphics to reproduce an aquarium on a personal computer. The swimming fish are rendered in real time, while the background of the tank is usually static. Objects on the floor of the tank may be mapped in simple planes so that the fish may appear to swim both in front and behind them, but a relatively simple 3D map of the general shape of such objects may be used to allow the light and ripples on the surface of the water to cast realistic shadows. Bubbles and water noises are common for virtual aquariums, which are often used as screensavers.

The number of each type of fish can usually be selected, often including other animals like starfish, jellyfish, seahorses, and even sea turtles. Most companies that produce virtual aquarium software also offer other types of fish for sale via Internet download. Other objects found in an aquarium can also be added and rearranged on some software, like treasure chests and giant clams that open and close with air bubbles, or a bobbing diver. There are also usually features that allow the user to tap on the glass or put food in the top, both of which the fish will react to. Some also have the ability to allow the user to edit fish and other objects to create new varieties.

List of freshwater aquarium fish species

A vast number of species of fish have been successfully kept in the home aquarium. This list gives only some of the most commonly-kept species.

Bichirs and reedfish

Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Gray bichir Polypterus senegalus Polypterus senegalus senegalus headstand.jpg 35.5 cm (14.0 in) Species Easy Predatory needs a big tank
Ornate bichir Polypterus ornatipinnis Polypterus-ornatipinnis.jpg 38 cm (15 in) Species Easy/Intermediate
Reedfish Erpetoichthys calabaricus Akwa19 reedfish.jpg 40 cm (16 in) Species Easy/Intermediate Nocturnal 22 and 28 °C (72 and 83 °F) 6.5-7.5 pH


Armored catfish including Aspidoras, Brochis, Callichthys, and Corydoras
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
棕点盾皮鮠 (brown-point shield skin longirostris) Aspidoras fuscoguttatus 3.8 cm (1.5 in) 22 to 25 °C (72 to 77 °F) 5.5–6.8 pH
Paranankaitamonninen Aspidoras lakoi 4 cm (1.6 in)
Schmerlenpanzerwels (loach catfish) Aspidoras rochai 4 cm (1.6 in)
Sixray corydoras, false corydoras Aspidoras pauciradiatus 2.9 cm (1.1 in)
Britski’s catfish Corydoras britskii 8.9 cm (3.5 in)
Emerald catfish Corydoras splendens 10 cm (3.9 in) Green spots on the gills are normal and do not indicate disease.
Hognosed brochis Corydoras multiradiatus Fish at Louisville Zoo 025.jpg 6.6 cm (2.6 in)
Cascarudo Callichthys callichthys 20 cm (7.9 in)
Adolfo’s catfish Corydoras adolfoi 5.7 cm (2.2 in)
Banded corydoras Scleromystax barbatus Schleromystax barbatus5015.jpg 10 cm (3.9 in)
Masked corydoras, bandit corydoras Corydoras metae 4.8 cm (1.9 in)
Barredtail corydoras Corydoras cochui 2.5 cm (0.98 in)
Blackstripe corydoras Corydoras bondi 4.7 cm (1.9 in)
Blacktop corydoras Corydoras acutus 4.4 cm (1.7 in)
Blue corydoras Corydoras nattereri 5.4 cm (2.1 in)
Bluespotted corydoras Corydoras melanistius 5.1 cm (2.0 in)
Bronze corydoras Corydoras aeneus Corydoras aeneus 2.jpg 6.35 cm (2.50 in) The albino strain is common
Caracha Corydoras atropersonatus 4.5 cm (1.8 in)
Hohtolaikkumonninen Corydoras ehrhardti 4.1 cm (1.6 in)
Ruutuselkämonninen Corydoras evelynae 4 cm (1.6 in)
Sukamonninen Corydoras geoffroy 7 cm (2.8 in)
Hellgrüner Panzerwels Corydoras latus 5.2 cm (2.0 in)
Deckers Panzerwels Corydoras loxozonus 4.9 cm (1.9 in)
Corydoras nain Corydoras nanus 4.5 cm (1.8 in)
Narziß-Panzerwels Corydoras narcissus 6.5 cm (2.6 in)
Schmuckpanzerwels Corydoras ornatus 4.9 cm (1.9 in)
Sirrimonninen Corydoras osteocarus 4 cm (1.6 in)
Savannenpanzerwels Corydoras polystictus 3.2 cm (1.3 in)
鋸背兵鯰 Scleromystax prionotos 5.3 cm (2.1 in)
Flügelpanzerwels Corydoras semiaquilus Corydoras semiaquilus 1.jpg 6.0 cm (2.4 in)
Siebenfleck-Panzerwels Corydoras septentrionalis 4.9 cm (1.9 in)
Schlichter Schwarzrücken-Panzerwels Corydoras simulatus 4.9 cm (1.9 in)
Gewellter Panzerwels Corydoras undulatus 4.4 cm (1.7 in)
Dwarf corydoras Corydoras hastatus Corydoras hastatus.jpg 3.5 cm (1.4 in)
Elegant corydoras Corydoras elegans Corydoras elegans.jpg 5.1 cm (2.0 in)
False network catfish Corydoras sodalis 4.9 cm (1.9 in)
False spotted catfish Corydoras leucomelas Corydoras leucomelas.jpg 4.5 cm (1.8 in)
Green gold catfish Corydoras melanotaenia 5.8 cm (2.3 in)
Guapore corydoras Corydoras guapore 4.1 cm (1.6 in)
Mosaic corydoras, reticulated corydoras Corydoras haraldschultzi Corydoras haraldschultzi.jpg
Mosaic corydoras, reticulated corydoras Corydoras reticulatus
Panda corydoras Corydoras panda Corydoras panda 01.jpg
Pastaza corydoras Corydoras pastazensis
Peppered corydoras Corydoras paleatus Corydoras paleatus by NiKo.jpg
Pink corydoras Corydoras axelrodi
Pygmy corydoras Corydoras pygmaeus Corydoras pygmaeus5333.jpg
Sailfin corydoras Corydoras macropterus
Salt and pepper catfish Corydoras habrosus Corydoras habrosus.png
Schwartz’s catfish Corydoras schwartzi Corydoras schwartzi.jpg
Spotted corydoras, longnose corydoras Corydoras ambiacus
Sterba’s corydoras Corydoras sterbai Corydoras sterbai.jpg
Sychr’s catfish Corydoras sychri
Tailspot corydoras Corydoras caudimaculatus
Threestripe corydoras, leopard catfish Corydoras trilineatus Corydoras trilineatus3.jpg
Xingu corydoras Corydoras xinguensis
Armored suckermouth catfish (plecos)
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Bristlenose pleco, bushynose placo Ancistrus spp. Bristlenose Catfish 700.jpg the bristlenose genus has at least 59 identified species and many others yet to be named
Gold nugget pleco Baryancistrus spp. Baryancistrus-L018.jpg many species exist but not yet officially identified; the three common aquarium species are known as L-018, L-081, and L-177
Whiptail catfish Rineloricaria spp. there are about 20 species of whiptail catfish
Twig catfish Farlowella spp. Farlowella arcus 3.jpg there are at least 20 species in the twig catfish genus
Panaque Panaque spp. Panaque.JPG Several species of panaque are popular aquarium fish
Pineapple pleco, orange cheek pleco Pseudorinelepis spp. Pineapplepleco.JPG there are 4 species in this genus
Common pleco, suckermouth catfish, Amazon sailfin catfish Pterygoplichthys pardalis Liposarcus pardalis.jpg 16 cm (6.3 in) Easy one of the several fish sold under this name; there is also an albino variation
Common pleco, suckermouth catfish Hypostomus punctatus SukermouthCatfish.jpg one of the several fish sold under this name
Common pleco, suckermouth catfish Hypostomus plecostomus Plecostomus 700.jpg one of the several fish sold under this name
Leopard sailfin pleco, clown sailfin pleco Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps Sailfin-pleco.jpg other related fish also share this common name
Zebra pleco, L-046 Hypancistrus zebra Hypancistrus zebra4305.jpg
Sailfin catfish Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus Liposarcus multiradiatus 01 ssj 20050321.jpg
Golden dwarf sucker, golden oto Macrotocinclus affinis Otocinclus affinis.JPG
Zebra dwarf sucker, zebra oto Otocinclus cocama Otocinclus cocama.jpg
Airbreathing catfish
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Walking catfish Clarias batrachus Clarias batrachus.jpg 21 cm (8.3 in) Easy/Intermediate albino form is common in the aquarium tradeAfter some years of keeping this fish, it will know its owner and come to his/her hand when he/she puts his/her hand in. This fish can stay out of the water and “walk” as long as moisturised for a very long time.
Banjo catfish
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Banjo catfish Bunocephalus coracoideus Bunocephalichthys verrucosus verrucosus seitenansicht.JPG
Talking catfish
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Striped Raphael Platydoras armatulus Platydoras costatus 2 (Piotr Kuczynski).jpg
Spotted Raphael Agamyxis pectinifrons Agamyxis.jpg Females at around 6 inches males slightly smaller around 5.5 inches Tropical aquarium Intermediate, Do not buy if you are new to the aquarium trade. Only keep if you have fully researched the needs of this fish. Main diet is algae although they are know to eat aquarium snails.[citation needed]
Squeakers and upside-down catfish
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Cuckoo squeaker Synodontis multipunctatus Synodontis multipuntatus.jpg
Decorated squeaker Synodontis decorus
Even-Spotted squeaker Synodontis petricola Synodontis petricola.jpg
Featherfin squeaker Synodontis eupterus Synodontis eupterus 1.jpg
Lake Malawi syno Synodontis njassae Synodontis njassae 01 ssj 20050321.jpg
Polka dot syno Synodontis angelicus
Common syno, false upside down catfish Synodontis nigrita
Upside-down catfish Synodontis nigriventris Synodontis.jpg 9.6 cm (3.8 in) Community Prefers bottom feeding of Tubifex but main diet is algae.
Shark catfish
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Iridescent shark Pangasius hypophthalmus Iridescent shark.jpg Community albino form is common in the aquarium trade
Chao Phraya giant shark, Giant pangasius Pangasius sanitwongsei Pangasius hypophthalamus 1.jpg dwarf “balloon” form is available in the aquarium trade
Sea catfish
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Colombian shark catfish Arius seemanni
Berney’s shark catfish Arius berneyi
Australian shark catfish Arius graeffei
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Glass catfish Kryptopterus bicirrhis Kryptopterus species.jpg 10–12 cm (4–5 in), 15 cm (6 in) in the wild. Needs to be kept in a group of 5 or more.
Two spot glass catfish Ompok bimaculatus 45 cm (18 in) Looks very similar to Kryptopterus bicirrhis except the difference lies in the triangular dorsal fin of the Ompok in contrast to what looks like a small spine than a fin of the K. bicirrhis.
Bagrid catfishes
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Crystal eyed catfish Hemibagrus wyckii 71 cm (28 in) This fish is highly aggressive and must be kept alone.
Asian redtail catfish Hemibagrus wyckioides 130 cm (51 in) This fish is highly aggressive and must be kept alone.
Horabagrus brachysoma Horabagrus brachysoma Day.jpg 45 cm (18 in)
Long-whiskered catfish
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Leiarius marmoratus 100 cm (39 in)
Leiarius pictus 60 cm (24 in)
Redtail catfish Phractocephalus hemioliopterus Phractocephalus hemioliopterus-Dixi.jpg 120 cm (3.9 ft) this fish grows really large and will need a 300 gallon Min. when mature.
Spotted pimelodus, pictus, Pictus catfish Pimelodus pictus Pimelodus pictus.jpg
Tiger shovelnose catfish Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum 104 cm (3.41 ft) This fish is easy to confuse with P. tigrinum.
Tiger shovelnose catfish Pseudoplatystoma tigrinum Pseudoplatystoma tigrinum1.jpg 130 cm (4.3 ft) This fish is easy to confuse with P. fasciatum.

Characins and other characiformes

Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Black phantom tetra Hyphessobrycon megalopterus Hyphessobrycon megalopterus.jpg 4.5 cm (1.8 in) Community Easy the black phantom tetra enjoy being in groups of 6 or more and a slightly shaded tank. Males may claim small territories and occasionally minor battles may occur. The Phantom tetra goes well with other tetras of similar size. They also prefer floating plants.
Black neon tetra Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi Black neon tetra.jpg 4 cm (1.6 in) Community Intermediate this fish is similar to the neon tetra other than coloration.
Black tetra Gymnocorymbus ternetzi BlackTetras.JPG 5 cm (2.0 in) Community Easy a highly spirited fish that may occasionally chase its own species as well as harass slow moving fish with long fins. This fish is very hardy and can stand a variety of water qualities. Disease is not a big problem with the black tetra. The black tetra is also known as the black skirt tetra. The female black tetra is more robust and larger than the male.
Bleeding heart tetra Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma Kirschflecksalmler-W.jpg 6.5 cm (2.6 in) Community Intermediate the bleeding heart tetra is distinguished by the small red spot on both sides of the fish. This fish is very prone to diseases, and can grow larger than most tetra species. It is not recommended for beginners.
Bloodfin tetra Aphyocharax anisitsi Bloodfin dec20 2006.jpg 5 cm (2.0 in) Community
Blue tetra Boehlkea fredcochui Boehlkea fredcochui malefemale.jpg Community
Bucktooth tetra Exodon paradoxus Bucktoothed Tetra Image 001.jpg 5 cm (2.0 in) will eat smaller fish and harass larger fish, lepidophage (scale eater)
Buenos Aires tetra Hyphessobrycon anisitsi 7.5 cm (3.0 in) Easy Has some reputation as a fin nipper
Cardinal tetra Paracheirodon axelrodi Paracheirodon cardinalis.JPG 5 cm (2.0 in) Community
Cave tetra, blind tetra Astyanax mexicanus Astyanax mexicanus.jpg 12 cm (4.7 in) Easy cave tetra is the blind cave form of the Mexican tetra. The blind cave tetra is easy to care for and is hardy. The fish is born with eyes, but they quickly deteriorate leaving behind two scars where the eyes once were. The blind tetra needs to be in a shoal in order to show peaceful behavior, and to prevent fin nipping. Despite their lack of eyes, the blind cave tetra can easily avoid other fish and obstacles in the tank. This tetra prefers low to moderate lighting.
Congo tetra, Lufundi (native name) Phenacogrammus interruptus Phenacogrammus interruptus (aka).jpg 7.5 cm (3.0 in) Community Intermediate Sufficiently peaceful for home aquariums, though it may bite fishes smaller than its size. It is more comfortable in indirect light. Over-head lighting is preferred and under no circumstances should light be directed at the front or rear glass.
Emperor tetra Nematobrycon palmeri Emperor tetra.jpg 5 cm (2.0 in) Easy
Garnet tetra, pretty tetra Hemigrammus pulcher 6.5 cm (2.6 in) Community
Glowlight tetra Hemigrammus erythrozonus Redglow.jpg 3.75 cm (1.48 in) Community Easy
Green neon tetra Paracheirodon simulans Paracheirodon simulans.jpg 2.5 cm (0.98 in) Community Intermediate
Lemon tetra Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis.jpg 5 cm (2.0 in)
Neon tetra Paracheirodon innesi Neonka obecna paracheirodon innesi.jpg 3.75 cm (1.48 in) Community Easy the neon tetra is sensitive towards water quality and is susceptible to many freshwater diseases. However, the fish is very peaceful and will not attack another member of the tank. Females are larger than the males. Due to their small size, the neon tetra should not be kept with large fish. Neon tetras are also very delicate and any harassment they may receive can result in death. This can be prevented by putting them with other small community fish or fish known to ignore their tankmates. The neon tetra feels the most comfortable when in groups.
Penguin tetra, blackline penguinfish Thayeria boehlkei Thayeria boehlkei.jpg 6.5 cm (2.6 in)
Rummy-nose tetra Hemigrammus rhodostomus Brilliant rummy nose.jpg 5 cm (2.0 in) Community Intermediate
Disk tetra Myleus schomburgkii Myleus schomburgkii .jpg 5 cm (2.0 in) 5.0 – 7.0 23°C to 27°C
Serpae tetra Hyphessobrycon serpae Serpae tetra.JPG 4.5 cm (1.8 in) Community Easy this fish may nip the fins of slow moving fish or fish smaller than it. It is best put with other large tetras or with fish of similar size or larger.
[hide]Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Common hatchetfish Gasteropelecus sternicla Gasteropelecus sternicla.JPG
Silver hatchetfish Gasteropelecus levis Gasteropelecus levis2.jpg
Marbled hatchetfish Carnegiella strigata Carnegiella strigata.jpg 5 cm (2.0 in) Community Intermediate Peaceful and dwells at the top of the tank in schools. Rarely breeds in captivity. This powerful leaper can easily jump out of an aquarium, so keep only in a fully-covered tank.
Black-winged hatchetfish Carnegiella marthae Carnegiella marthae.jpg 4 cm (1.6 in) Community Intermediate Peaceful and dwells at the top of the tank in schools. The most hardy of all the hatchetfish, but not the most plentiful. Does not breed in captivity. This powerful leaper can easily jump out of an aquarium, so keep only in a fully-covered tank.
Pencil fishes
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Three-lined pencilfish Nannostomus trifasciatus Nannostomus.jpg 5 cm (2.0 in) Community Intermediate Males defend small territories. Otherwise a peaceful, beautiful species.
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Marbled Headstander Abramites hypselonotus Abramites hypselonotus.jpg 13 cm (5.1 in) Community Intermediate Keep either one headstander or a group of seven or more as they will fight mongst themselves in small groups.
Serrasalminae (pacus, piranhas, and silver dollars)
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Silver dollar Metynnis argenteus Silver dollar fish Metynnis argenteus.jpg 15 cm (5.9 in) The name “silver dollar” may also refer to Metynnis hypsauchen, Metynnis maculatus, or other related fishes. It will chew and eat plants.
Red bellied pacu Colossoma bidens 120 cm (3.9 ft) Difficult the red bellied pacu is a close relative of the piranhas, but without the sharp teeth and the aggression. However, care should be taken if interacting physically with the pacu as their powerful jaws can crush human bone. The Pacu is a peaceful fish that requires at least a 750 litre (200 gallon) tank when fully mature. It is omnivorous and can be put with large cichlids, but avoid smaller fish. Despite their similar appearance to piranhas, the pacu is not suited to eat meat very well, as their natural diet of nuts suggests. Be aware that this fish can grow to 1.2 metres (four feet) and the owner must be prepared to house them in a very large tank if they wish to keep the fish (750 l/200 gal minimum). Also be aware that this fish grows very fast, and can grow as much as one foot in the first year.


Lake Malawi cichlids
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Sunshine peacock cichlid Aulonocara baenschi 15 cm (5.9 in) Easy Beautiful coloration on males
Copadichromis borleyi Copadichromis borleyi2.jpg
Eureka red peacock Aulonocara jacobfreibergi Aulonocara jacobfreigi.jpg 15 cm (5.9 in) Easy Beautiful coloration on males
Spilo Champsochromis spilorhyncus 40 cm (16 in)
Blue dolphin cichlid, lumphead cichlid Cyrtocara moorii Cyrtocara moorii.jpg 25 cm (9.8 in) Easy
Afra cichlid, dogtooth cichild Cynotilapia afra C afra.jpg 10 cm (3.9 in) Mbuna Easy
Rusty cichlid, lavender cichild Iodotropheus sprengerae Iodotropheus sprengerae.jpg 10 cm (3.9 in) Mbuna
Fuelleborn’s cichlid, Blue mbuna Labeotropheus fuelleborni Labeotropheus fuelleborni crop.png 18 cm (7.1 in) Mbuna
Electric yellow cichlid Labidochromis caeruleus IMG 1166 filtered.jpg 20 cm (7.9 in) Mbuna Easy Very active and entertaining fish, need many rock caves to allow establishment of territories, less aggressive than other mbuna
Malawi eyebiter Dimidiochromis compressiceps Dimidiochromis compressiceps.jpg Easy
Hongi, Red-top kimpumpa Labidochromis sp. “Hongi” Labidochromis sp hongi.jpg 13 cm (5.1 in) Mbuna
Labidochromis sp. “Mbamba Bay” 13 cm (5.1 in) Mbuna
Auratus cichlid, Malawi golden cichlid Melanochromis auratus Melanochromis auratus (female).jpg 10 cm (3.9 in) Easy Aggressive
Chipokee cichlid Melanochromis chipokae 12 cm (4.7 in) Mbuna Easy Aggressive
Blue johanni cichlid, Maingano Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos.jpg 10 cm (3.9 in) Mbuna Easy Very active and entertaining fish, need many rock caves to allow establishment of territories. Aggressive
Pearl of Likoma Melanochromis joanjohnsonae Melanochromis joanjohnsonae.jpg 10 cm (3.9 in) Mbuna
Johanni cichlid Melanochromis johannii 10 cm (3.9 in) Mbuna Easy Aggressive
Aurora Melanochromis aurora 10 cm (3.9 in) Mbuna Easy
Red zebra cichlid Metriaclima estherae Pseudotropheus estherae in aquarium.jpg 10 cm (3.9 in) Mbuna Easy Very active and entertaining fish, need many rock caves to allow establishment of territories
Cobalt blue cichlid, cobalt zebra cichlid Maylandia callainos Cobaltblue1.jpg 10 cm (3.9 in) Mbuna Easy Very active and entertaining fish, need many rock caves to allow establishment of territories
Kenyi cichlid Maylandia lombardoi Maylandia lombardoi.jpg 13 cm (5.1 in) Mbuna Easy Aggressive; sexually dichromatic
Fusco Nimbochromis fuscotaeniatus 25 cm (9.8 in)
Livingston’s cichlid Nimbochromis livingstonii Adult male livingstonii.gif 25 cm (9.8 in)
Kaligono Nimbochromis polystigma Polystigma.jpg 30 cm (12 in)
Venustus cichlid, giraffe cichild Nimbochromis venustus Nimbochromis venustus.JPG 25 cm (9.8 in) Easy ‘giraffe’ spotting is juvenile coloration only
Red empress cichlid Protomelas taeniolatus Protomelas taeniolatus by Derek Ramsey.jpg 15 cm (5.9 in)
Bumblebee cichlid, hornet cichlid Pseudotropheus crabro Pseudotropheus Crabo Male .JPG 15 cm (5.9 in) Mbuna
Yellow-tail acei Pseudotropheus acei Yellow tailed acei.jpg 10 cm (3.9 in) Mbuna
Pseudotropheus demasoni Pseudotropheus demasoni.jpg 10 cm (3.9 in)
Saulosi Pseudotropheus saulosi Pseudotropheus saulosi.jpg 7.5 cm (3.0 in) Mbuna
Malawi barracuda Rhampsochromis cf. macrophthalmus 23 cm (9.1 in)
Tyrannochromis macrostoma 38 cm (15 in)
Lake Tanganyika cichlids
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Boulengerochromis microlepsis 90 cm (35 in) The largest cichlid
Frontosa cichild Cyphotilapia frontosa Cyphotilapia frontosa by Ark.jpg 40 cm (16 in) Aggressive; well-known
Cyathopharynx furcifer Cyathopharynx.JPG Not readily available in the aquarium trade.
Variabilichromis moorii Variabilichromis moorii.jpg
Frontosa cichild Cyphotilapia gibberosa 40 cm (16 in) The frontosa have recently been broken up into three separate species. The gibberosa come from the southern part of the Lake
Frontosa cichild Cyphotilapia sp. “North” 40 cm (16 in) This yet to be officially named species is intermediate in scale count between gibberosa and frontosa.
Julie cichlid Julidochromis dickfeldi Julidochromis dickfeldi.jpg Easy Beautiful; interesting
Masked Julie Julidochromis marlieri Julidochromis marlieri katoma.jpg 15 cm (5.9 in) fem / 10 cm (3.9 in) male Easy Striking coloration
Julie cichlid Julidochromis ornatus
Julie cichlid Julidochromis regani Julidochromis regani adult.jpg 15 cm (5.9 in) fem / 10 cm (3.9 in) male
Julie cichlid Julidochromis transcriptus J gombe1.jpg 10 cm (3.9 in) Intermediate Striking coloration
Herring cichlid, Sardine cichlid Cyprichromis spp. Cyprichromis leptosoma.jpg
Ectodus descampsii Ectodus descampsii.jpg
Chalinochromis spp. Chalinochromis popelini.jpg
Neolamprologus multifasciatus Neolamprologus multifasciatus 2.jpg 3.8 cm (1.5 in) A small shell-dwelling cichlid from Lake Tanganyika. Distinguished from the similar L. similis by the lack of striping on the face]]
Lamprologus ocellatus Lamprologus ocellatus.jpg 5 cm (2.0 in)
Neolamprologus similis Neolamprologus similis 2060.jpg 3.8 cm (1.5 in) A small shell-dwelling cichlid from Lake Tanganyika. Very similar to N. multifsciatus but similis has striping from the body continue to the head
Lobochilotes labiatus 40 cm (16 in)
Lyretail cichlid, fairy cichlid Neolamprologus brichardi Neolamprologus brichardi.jpg 10 cm (3.9 in) Easy
Lemon cichlid Neolamprologus leleupi Neolamprologus leleupi.jpg 11.5 cm (4.5 in)
Featherfin Opthalmotilapia ventralis 15 cm (5.9 in)
Petrochromis trewavasae 20 cm (7.9 in) Aggressive
Petrochromis sp. “Zaire Texas” 18 cm (7.1 in)
Simochromis pleurospilus 10 cm (3.9 in)
Tropheus duboisi Tropheus duboisi.jpg 13 cm (5.1 in) Advanced Males very aggressive; juveniles distinctively colored
Tropheus moorii Trophs1.jpg 14 cm (5.5 in) Easy
Tropheus polli Tropheus polli.jpg 14 cm (5.5 in)
Lake Victoria cichlids
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Astatotilapia aenocolor 13 cm (5.1 in)
Astatotilapia elegans 10 cm (3.9 in)
Zebra obliquidens Astatotilapia latifasciata 11.5 cm (4.5 in)
Astatotilapia nubila 11.5 cm (4.5 in)
Astatotilapia piceatus 10 cm (3.9 in)
Astatotilapia schubotziellus 10 cm (3.9 in)
Astatotilapia sp. “Red Tail” 11.5 cm (4.5 in)
Astatotilapia sp. “Spot Bar” 13 cm (5.1 in)
Hippo Point Salmon Ptyochromis sp. “Hippo Point Salmon” 14 cm (5.5 in)
Flameback Pundamilia nyererei 10 cm (3.9 in)
Xystichromis phytophagus 10 cm (3.9 in)
Miscellaneous African cichlids (non-Rift Lake)
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
African butterfly cichlid Anomalochromis thomasi Anomalochromis thomasi 2.jpg
Jewel cichlid, two-spotted jewel cichlid Hemichromis bimaculatus Hemichromis bimaculatus.jpg Easy other hemichromis species are sometimes sold under the same name
Steatocranus spp. Steatocranus casuarius.jpg
Lifalili jewel cichlid, blood-red jewel cichlid Hemichromis lifalili
Kribensis, krib Pelvicachromis pulcher Pelvicachromis pulcher (male).jpg Easy Readily breed in small aquaria
Zebra tilapia Tilapia buttikoferi Buttikoferi.png
Guenther’s Mouthbrooder Chromidotilapia guentheri Chromidotilapia guntheri Bama BF cpl fry2.jpg
Allauad’s haplo Astatoreochromis alluaudi Astatoreochromis alluaudi.jpg
Pale usisya aulonocara Aulonocara steveni Aulonocara steveni Usisya.jpg
Benthochromis tricoti Benthochromis tricoti.jpg
Dwarf cichlids (apistogrammas, rams and others)
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Agassiz’s dwarf cichlid Apistogramma agassizii Apistogramma Agassizii.jpg Advanced Beautiful
Zebra acara Nannacara adoketa Ivanacara adoketa5265.jpg
Yellow dwarf cichlid Apistogramma borellii
Cockatoo dwarf cichlid Apistogramma cacatuoides Kakadua male.jpg
Panda dwarf cichlid Apistogramma nijsseni Apistogramma nijsseni (f).jpg
Three-Stripe Dwarf Cichlid Apistogramma trifasciata
Apistogramma eremnopyge
Two-Stripe Dwarf Cichlid Apistogramma bitaeniata 7.5 cm (3.0 in) 40 litre (10 gallon) tank for one pair Intermediate
Checkerboard Cichlid Dicrossus filamentosus
Blue ram, German ram Mikrogeophagus ramirezi Mikrogeophagus.jpg Easy Fairly common
Bolivian ram Mikrogeophagus altispinosa BolivianRams1.jpg
Dwarf flag cichlid Laetacara curviceps
American cichlids (cichlasomas, acaras, angelfish, discuses and others)
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Midas cichild, red devil cichlid Amphilophus citrinellus Dählhölzli - Zitronen Buntbarsch 3.jpg Note that Amphilophus labiatus is also called red devil cichild
Poor man’s tropheus Hypsophrys nematopus Neetroplus nematopus.png
Red devil cichlid Amphilophus labiatus
Firemouth cichlid Cichlasoma meeki Feuermaulbuntbarsch.jpg Easy Typically medium aggression; easily bred
Jack Dempsey cichlid Cichlasoma octofasciatum Cichlasoma octofasciata.jpg
Jaguar cichlid, managuense cichlid Parachromis managuensis Managuense with eggs.jpg Easy Exceptionally beautiful adult coloration; large adult size
Mayan cichlid Cichlasoma urophthalmus Mayan10a.jpg
Convict cichlid Archocentrus nigrofasciatus Archocentrus nigrofasciatus female.jpg Easy Common
T-bar cichlid Cryptoheros sajica Archocentrus sajica 3 (Piotr Kuczynski).jpg
Severum Heros severus GoldSeverum.jpg Easy the gold variety is more common than the natural green one
Green terror Andinoacara rivulatus Aequidens rivulatus.jpg Fairly common
Blue acara Andinoacara pulcher
Thread-finned acara Acarichthys heckelii Acarichthys heckeli.JPG
Eartheater cichlid Geophagus altifrons
Greenstreaked Eartheater,cupid cichlid Biotodoma cupido Biotodoma cupido.png
Keyhole cichlid Cleithracara maronii Akara z Maroni.jpg
Angelfish Pterophyllum scalare Freshwater angelfish biodome.jpg 15 cm (5.9 in) Intermediate several color varieties; this species is the common angelfish in the aquarium trade. Angelfish can grow up to fifteen centimetres (six inches), and therefore should be housed in a large aquarium. Angelfish should be kept alone, or kept with three or more. This is because that if two are kept together, the larger fish will pick on the smaller fish. Angelfish are not as hardy as other cichlids and should not be kept with small fish such as neon tetras. However, just the opposite is true: Angelfish should not be kept with fish that may nip and annoy it such as some large tetras.
Altum angelfish Pterophyllum altum Pterophyllum altum.jpg
Spotted angelfish Pterophyllum leopoldi Pterophyllum leopoldi.jpg
Common discus, red discus Symphysodon discus Discus heckel.jpg 20 cm (7.9 in) Difficult various color varieties, the discus requires high water quality and a varied diet. Do not keep with fast fish as the discus is a slow eater and will not fight for food. Despite their beauty, the discus is one of the least hardy aquarium fishes available. This fish should only be kept by the experienced aquarium keeper.
Blue discus, green discus Symphysodon aequifasciatus Blue Discus.jpg 20 cm (7.9 in) Difficult fancy hybrids of this species and Symphysodon discus can also be found in trade
Chocolate cichlid Hypselecara temporalis
Oscar Astronotus ocellatus Astronotus ocellatus.jpg 45 cm (18 in) has different varieties including long-fin, albino, golden, etc. The oscar cichlid is fast growing and can grow to a very large size when mature, and therefore should be housed in a large aquarium. The oscar can be messy to look after as they love to dig up plants and scoop up rocks. The oscar should be put with fish of similar size as they will eat any fish that can fit in their mouth. The oscar prefers to be with members of its own species, but this is not a necessity for its well being. The oscar is one of the more hardy cichlids, and can be put with other large cichlids, pacus, large plecos, large sharks, and other large fish.
Uaru, waroo Uaru amphiacanthoides
Peacock bass, butterfly peacock bass Cichla orinocensis Peacock bass.jpg
Texas cichlid, Rio Grande cichlid Herichthys cyanoguttatus Herichthys cyanoguttatum (Rio Grande Cichlid).jpg Easy Large adult size
Other cichlids
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Orange chromide Etroplus maculatus
Blood parrot cichlid – Hybrid – BloodParrot.jpg In the scientific community it is not considered a cichlid (or any species of fish) because it does not occur naturally in the wild (created by man), for this reason it will not be given a scientific name.
Flowerhorn cichlid – Hybrid – Flowerhorn.jpg In the scientific community it is not considered a cichlid (or any species of fish) because it does not occur naturally in the wild (created by man), for this reason it will not be given a scientific name.
Wolf cichlid Parachromis dovii


Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Arulius barb Puntius arulius 12 cm (4.7 in)
Bigspot barb, Duncker’s barb Puntius dunckeri 13 cm (5.1 in) Peaceful when small but should not be kept with other species at adulthood.
Black ruby barb Puntius nigrofasciatus Black Ruby Barb 700.jpg 6.5 cm (2.6 in)
Checker barb Puntius oligolepis 5 cm (2.0 in)
Cherry barb Puntius titteya Male Cherry Barb 700.jpg 4.8 cm (1.9 in) Community Easy very peaceful, and works well with white clouds and neon tetras
Clipper barb Barbus callipterus 7.5 cm (3.0 in)
Clown barb Puntius everetti 15 cm (5.9 in)
Gold barb Puntius semifasciolatus Brokat.jpg 8 cm (3.1 in) Community Easy
Golden barb Puntius gelius 5 cm (2.0 in)
Greenstripe barb Puntius vittatus 5 cm (2.0 in)
Melon barb Puntius fasciatus 15 cm (5.9 in)
Onespot barb Puntius terio 15 cm (5.9 in)
Pentazona barb, fiveband barb Puntius pentazona Puntius pentazona.jpg 5 cm (2.0 in) this species may be confused with tiger barb due to similarities
Pool barb Puntius sophore 18 cm (7.1 in)
Partipentazona barb Puntius partipentazona 3.8 cm (1.5 in)
Red line torpedo barb, Denison’s barb Puntius denisonii Akwa18 puntius2.jpg 15 cm (5.9 in)
Rosy barb Puntius conchonius Male Rosy Barb.gif 13 cm (5.1 in) Community Easy
Shortfin barb Barbus brevipinnis 4.6 cm (1.8 in)
Spanner barb, t-barb Puntius lateristriga 20 cm (7.9 in)
Spotted barb, common barb Puntius binotatus 19.5 cm (7.7 in)
Spottedsail barb, dwarf barb Puntius phutunio 7.8 cm (3.1 in)
Swamp barb Puntius chola 15 cm (5.9 in)
Ticto barb Barbus ticto 10 cm (3.9 in)
Tic-tac-toe barb Puntius stoliczkanus 5 cm (2.0 in)
Tiger barb, sumatra barb Puntius tetrazona Tigerbarbe Puntius tetrazona.jpg 7.5 cm (3.0 in) Community Easy There are many varieties as well as hybrids with other barbs. Good community schooling fish. They are fin nippers.
Tinfoil barb Barbonymus schwanenfeldii Tinfoil Barb 700.jpg 36 cm (14 in) This species is much larger than most other barbs
Cold-water cyprinids
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Goldfish Carassius auratus Common goldfish.JPG 15+ cm (6+ in) Community Easy variations: Black Moor, Bubble Eye, Butterfly Tail, Calico, Celestial Eye, Comet, Common, Fantail, Lionchu, Lionhead, Oranda, Panda Moor, Pearlscale, Pompom, Ranchu, Ryukin, Shubunkin, Telescope eye, Veiltail
Koi, common carp Cyprinus carpio Six koi.jpg 30+ cm (12+ in) Pond Easy the fancy variations of common carp are known as koi.
White Cloud Mountain minnow Tanichthys albonubes White Cloud Mountain Minnow 1.jpg 3.8 cm (1.5 in) Pond Easy lutino variety can also be found in the aquarium trade
Common dace Leuciscus leuciscus 40 cm (16 in)
Rosy red minnow, fathead minnow Pimephales promelas 5-7.5 cm (2–3 in) Pond/Minnow Tank Easy sold as feeder fish; the gold variety known as “rosy red” is very common
Southern redbelly dace Phoxinus erythrogaster Phoxinus erythrogaster.jpg 7.5–10 cm (3–4 in) Pond/Minnow Tank Easy
Danios and other danionins
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Bengal danio, Sind danio Danio devario
Giant danio Devario aequipinnatus Devario aequipinnatus.JPG
Malabar danio Devario malabaricus Danio sp.jpg 11.5–14 cm (4.5-5.5 in) Community Easy
Pearl danio Danio albolineatus Danio albolineatus.jpg 6.5 cm (2.6 in) Easy subspecies:blue-redstripe danio, Kedah danio
Queen danio Devario regina
Spotted danio Danio nigrofasciatus Danio nigrofasciatus.jpg
Turquoise danio Brachydanio kerri Danio kerri.jpg
Zebra danio Brachydanio rerio Zebrafisch.jpg 5 cm (2.0 in) Easy there are many variations of this fish: leopard danio,the spotted colour morph, and GloFish, the genetically modified fluorescent fish.
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Harlequin rasbora Trigonostigma heteromorpha Harlequin rasbora.jpg 5 cm (2.0 in) Also known as Harlequin tetra
Blackline rasbora, red-tailed rasbora Rasbora borapetensis Redtail.JPG
Red-striped rasbora Rasbora pauciperforata 7.5 cm (3.0 in) Community Range: Sumatra; Temperature: 22 – 29 °C (72 – 85 °F)
Volcano rasbora Rasbora vulcanus
Other cyprinids
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Bala shark Balantiocheilus melanopterus Haibarben (Balantiocheilos melanopterus).jpg 40 cm (16 in) Community
Flying fox (fish) Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus2.jpg this species may be sold as Siamese algae eater
Red-tailed black shark Epalzeorhynchos bicolor Epalzeorhynchos bicolor.jpg
Red-finned shark Epalzeorhynchos frenatum albino variation available
Cambodian log sucker, false Siamese algae eater Garra cambodgiensis this species may be sold as Siamese algae eater
Chinese algae eater Gyrinocheilus aymonieri this species may be sold as Siamese algae eater
Siamese algae eater Crossocheilus siamensis Crossocheilus siamensis (2) by Ark.jpg many other cyprinids are sometimes mistakenly sold under this name


Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Blue Lyretail Fundulopanchax gardneri Fundulopanchax gardneri.png Species Easy/Intermediate
Bluefin Notho, Rachow’s Notho, Rainbow Notho Nothobranchius rachovii Nothobranchius rachovii male.jpg 6 cm (2.4 in) Species Easy/Intermediate Considered most beautiful freshwater fish by some killifish enthusiasts.
Striped panchax, Golden Wonder Aplocheilus lineatus Aplocheilus lineatus Day.png Species Easy Golden Wonder is the more yellowish variant.

Labyrinth fish

Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Chocolate gourami Sphaerichthys osphromenoides Sphaerichthys osphromenoides.jpg 7 cm (2.8 in)
Croaking gourami Trichopsis vittata 6.5 cm (2.6 in) Often confused with the pygmy gourami
Dwarf gourami Colisa lalia Colisa lalia.jpg 5 cm (2.0 in) Community Intermediate the dwarf gourami is perfect for small to mid sized aquariums as it will not grow as large as its larger relatives. A beautiful, peaceful gourami.
Giant gourami Osphronemus goramy Giant.gourami.arp.jpg 60 cm (24 in) Occasionally, some other gouramis are also referred to as “giant gouramis”
Paradise fish Macropodus opercularis Paradise fish female and male 02.jpg 7.5 cm (3.0 in) One of the few freshwater aquarium fish that survive in cold water. Most common variety is the Blue Paradise.
Pearl gourami Trichogaster leerii Fadenfisch mosaik männlich.jpg 11.5 cm (4.5 in)
Pygmy gourami, Sparkling gourami Trichopsis pumila Trichopsis pumila.jpg 3.8 cm (1.5 in) Often confused with the croaking gourami
Kissing gourami Helostoma temminckii Kissfish.jpg 15 cm (5.9 in) The pink variety is more popular than the natural green one. They are called Kissing Gouramis because the seem to pucker their lips outwards. they require aquarium salt in the water or hard water
Moonlight gourami Trichogaster microlepis Trichogaster microlepis.jpg 15 cm (5.9 in)
Snakeskin gourami Trichogaster pectoralis Trichogaster pectoralis male.jpg 20 cm (7.9 in)
Three spot gourami Trichogaster trichopterus Trichogaster trichopterus2004.jpg 10 cm (3.9 in) Various color varieties each given a different name (blue gourami, gold gourami, and opaline gourami)
Siamese fighting fish Betta splendens Kampffisch betta splendenscele4.jpg 7.5 cm (3.0 in) Numerous color and fin pattern varieties. In the U.S., the fish is often called “betta”, although this word is actually the name of the genus that includes more than 60 species other than the Siamese fighting fish. Multiple males in a tank will result in conflicts and possibly death. Females can be housed together in groups of 4+ in a tank, though they may become territorial and attack each other. Males have long flowing fins with vibrant colors, and females have shorter fins. This fish is best put with fish that do not nip fins, as the fins of the betta are easy to attack. They should also not be housed with other fish with long, flowing fins as the Betta may confuse it with another, and attack.


Guppies and mollies
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Guppy Poecilia reticulata Guppy red male.jpg 5 cm (2.0 in) Community/Species Easy Many color and tail pattern varieties exist
Endler’s livebearer Poecilia wingei Poecilia reticulata 01.jpg 3.8 cm (1.5 in) Community/Species
Black molly Poecilia sphenops Molinezje black molly.JPG 5 cm (2.0 in) Community/Species Easy
Sailfin molly Poecilia latipinna Poecilia latipinna.jpg 5 cm (2.0 in) Community/Species Easy Gold and silver varieties commonly found; also thrive in brackish water
Dalmatian molly – hybrid – 5 cm (2.0 in) Community/Species Easy The dalmatian molly is a fertile hybrid that can be generated by crossing some species of Poecilia, like P. sphenops or P. latipinna. The variety “Dalmatian” is spotted alike to a Dalmatian dog.
Platies and swordtails
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Southern platy Xiphophorus maculatus Xiphophorus maculatus in aqarium.JPG Community/Species Easy Many color varieties exist
Variable platy Xiphophorus variatus Sunset platy.jpg Community Easy Many color varieties exist
Green swordtail Xiphophorus hellerii Xiphophorus helleri 02.jpg Community Easy Many color varieties exist

Loaches and related cypriniforms

Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Bengal loach Botia dario Botia dario.jpg also known as the Queen loach
Peanut butter and jelly loach[citation needed]
Blue botia Yasuhikotakia modesta Yasuhikotakia modesta.jpg
Burmese border loach Botia kubotai Botia kubotai.jpg
Clown loach Botia macracantha Botia macracanthus by Martin8721.jpg Clown loach has a sociable personality and should be kept in at least groups of 2. They may eat pond snails kept in aquariums.
Dwarf loach Yasuhikotakia sidthimunki Yasuhikotakia sidthimunki.jpg formerly named Botia sidthimunki
Dojo loach, weather loach Misgurnus anguillicaudatus Misgurnus anguillicaudatus.jpg
Horseface loach Acantopsis choirorhynchus Horseface loach reduced.jpg
Kuhli loach, coolie loach Pangio kuhlii Pangio kuhlii.jpg a number of similar Pangio species are sold under the same name
Longnose loach Acantopsis octoactinotos
Skunk loach Yasuhikotakia morleti Yasuhikotakia morleti.jpg formerly named Botia morleti
Yoyo loach Botia almorhae Botia almorhae 1.jpg
Zebra loach Botia striata Botia striata.jpg
Other related cypriniforms
Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Chinese high fin banded shark Myxocyprinus asiaticus Myxocyprinus asiaticus by OpenCage.jpg 90+ cm (36+ in) Goldfish/Large Pond Difficult the highfin shark is a truly unique fish. At youth, the shark has a high dorsal fin, a plump body, and radiant colors. However, as the fish matures, the characteristics of the fish changes drastically. The dorsal fin becomes shorter, the fish achieves a more cylindrical shape, and the color fades to a dark brown. The fish is not suitable for fish tanks because of the size it can grow to. The highfin cannot be housed with tropical fish due to their lower temperature preferences. The highfin prefers to be in a school, so more than one should be housed together. The “shark” is a peaceful fish, and will not openly attack others. Highfins are bottom dwellers and omnivorous. They will eat invertebrates and scrape algae off rocks.
Chinese hillstream loach Beaufortia kweichowensis Beaufortia kweichowensis.jpg

Neotropical electric fish

Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Black ghost knifefish Apteronotus albifrons Black Ghost Knifefish 400.jpg Intermediate Not to be confused with the featherback “knifefish” of the Bonytongue group (see above)
Brown ghost knifefish Apteronotus leptorhynchus Intermediate Very hard to feed it anything but live food
Clown knifefish Chitala chitala Chitala chitala Thomas.jpg Intermediate
Electric eel Electrophorus electricus Electrophorus electricus 3.jpg Advanced Despite the name, this is not an “eel” but rather a huge knifefish; illegal to possess in some areas; dangerous; very large adult size


Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Figure 8 pufferfish Tetraodon biocellatus Tbiocellatus.jpg 6 cm (2.4 in) Intermediate often sold as freshwater fish, but this species prefers brackish water
Green spotted puffer Tetraodon nigroviridis Gsppuffer.jpg 15 cm (5.9 in) Difficult often sold as freshwater fish, but this species actually thrives in brackish water and may even require saltwater when reaches adulthood
Giant freshwater pufferfish Tetraodon mbu MooBoo.jpg 75 cm (30 in) Difficult This fish also occurs in estuaries.
Dwarf pufferfish Carinotetraodon travancoricus Carinotetraodon travancoricus 2.JPG 2.9 cm (1.1 in) Intermediate
Congo pufferfish Tetraodon miurus Tetraodon miurus.jpg 15 cm (5.9 in) Difficult


Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Salmon-red rainbowfish Glossolepis incisus GlossolepisIncisus.JPG 13–15 cm (5–6 in) aka Red rainbowfish. These are very heardy fish and get along with almost any fish. They aren’t aggressive and love to follow fingers! When these fish get stressed out they tend to turn a more gray color. It will regain its color when it becomes more relaxed
Tami River rainbowfish Glossolepis pseudoincisus 7.5 cm (3.0 in) aka Millennium rainbowfish
Lake Wanam rainbowfish Glossolepis wanamensis Glossolepis wanamensis.jpg 13–15 cm (5–6 in) aka Emerald rainbowfish
Threadfin rainbowfish Iriatherina werneri Iriatherina Werneri-Male group.jpg Easy Threadfins have very tiny mouths and cannot compete well with other fish for food. Keep in species only tanks or with small pseudomugil (i.e.: gertrudae)
New Guinea rainbowfish Melanotaenia affinis 13 cm (5.1 in)
Boeseman’s rainbowfish Melanotaenia boesemani Sunny1.jpg 10–13 cm (4–5 in)
Duboulayi’s rainbowfish Melanotaenia duboulayi M duboulayi.jpg 13–15 cm (5–6 in) aka Crimson-Spotted rainbowfish
Australian rainbowfish Melanotaenia fluviatilis Australian rainbow.jpg 13–15 cm (5–6 in)
Lake Kurumoi rainbowfish Melanotaenia parva 7.5–8 cm (3-3.25 in) aka Flame rainbowfish
Neon rainbowfish Melanotaenia praecox Diamant Regenbogenfisch (Melanotaenia praecox).jpg 6-7.5 cm (2.5–3 in)
Eastern rainbowfish Melanotaenia splendida splendida Eastern Rainbowfish 01.jpg 13–15 cm (5–6 in)

Spiny eels

Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Fire eel Mastacembelus erythrotaenia Ildaal.jpg 100 cm
Spotfinned spiny eel Macrognathus siamensis Macrognathus siamenis.jpg
Tire track eel Mastacembelus armatus Tire Track Eel.jpg 90 cm
Lesser spiny eel Macrognathus aculeatus


Common name↓ Taxonomy↓ Picture Size↓ Tank Type↓ Care Level↓ Remarks Temp Range↓ Acceptable Ph↓
Spotted Gar Lepisosteus oculatus Lepisosteus oculatus1.jpg

List of freshwater aquarium plant species


Bolbitis heudelotii, one of hundreds of aquatic plants found in the hobby

Aquatic plants are used to give the aquarium a natural appearance, oxygenate the water, and provide habitat for fish, especially fry (babies) and for invertebrates. Some aquarium fish and invertebrates also eat live plants. Hobbyists use aquatic plants for aquascaping, with one aesthetic style spearheaded by Japanese aquarist Takashi Amano.

Most of these plant species are found either partially or fully submersed in their natural habitat. Although there are a handful of obligate aquatic plants that must be grown entirely under water, most can grow fully emersed if the soil is moist.

False aquatics or pseudo-aquarium plants

Several species of terrestrial plants are frequently sold as “aquarium plants”. While such plants are beautiful and can survive and even flourish for months under water, they will eventually die and must be removed so their decay does not contaminate the aquarium water.

  • Acorus gramineus var. pusilus (Dwarf sedge, Japanese rush)
  • Acorus gramineus var. variegatus (Dwarf sedge, Japanese rush)
  • Aglaonema modestum (Chinese Evergreen)
  • Aglaonema simplex
  • Chlorophytum bichetii (Pongol sword)
  • Dracaena sanderiana (Striped dragonplant)
  • Hemigraphis colorata (Crimson ivy)
  • Ophiopogon japonicus (Fountain plant)
  • Pilea cadairei (Aluminum plant)
  • Sciadopitys verticillata) (Umbrella pine, Koyamaki)
  • Spathiphyllum tasson (Brazil Sword)
  • Syngonium podophyllum (Stardust ivy)

Freshwater Plant Images Gallery


Acorus calamus

Anubias barteri var. glabra

Aponogeton distachyos

Bacopa monnieri

Damasonium californicum

Echinodorus cordifolius

Elodea canadensis

Eriocaulon decangulare

Elodea densa

Nymphaea lotus

Nymphoides Peltata

Ranunculus aquatilis

Sagittaria sagittifolia

Sagittaria latifolia

Samolus valerandi ssp parviflorus.jpg

Trapa natans

Typha latifolia 02 bgiu.jpg

Utricularia vulgaris (Common Bladderwort)

Vallisneria americana


Eleocharis dulcis

Hippuris vulgaris

Hottonia palustris

Isoetes lacustris

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