20 Most colorful marine aquarium fish 2019

One of the most amazing things about having an aquarium is the colors of the marine fish that inhabit out aquariums, to give us some visual pleasures. This is my top 25 most colorful marine fish In no particular order. If you would like me to add any of your current favorites then please comment below.

Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavecens)

most colorful marine aquarium fish

The yellow tang is popular aquarium fish which is commonly imported from Hawaii. It's the brightest colored member of the surgeon fish family with it's shinning coat of canary yellow.

The yellow tang occurs over a wide area of the Indian and Pacific ocean, but appears to be most common in Hawaii , where it lives on coral reefs usually in depths of over 6 feet. Large specimens are taken in wire fish traps while the juveniles are easily caught with chemicals anesthetics.

Kaneohe Bay, on the windward side of Oahu, is an especially good hunting ground for the fish. Flavecens is primary an algae eaters in its native habitat and will thrive in the aquarium if a green mat of algae is allowed to grow on the sides and rear walls of the tank. It will accept feedings of live and frozen brine shrimp.

Royal Empress Angelfish (Pygoplites diacanthus)

colorful freshwater fish

The Royal Empress Angelfish is a regal beauty! Unfortunately, most of the specimens available to aquarists are too large for the average sized tank. Small specimens (under 3inch total length) are every bit as attractive as the adults and are characterized by having a large black spot on the soft dorsal fin. The reason that the young fish are seldom available is because of their shy and retiring habit of living far back in dark crevices and caves of the reef. They are therefore often overlooked by collectors. 

By contrast, the adults are often seen swimming out in the open, sometimes in water as shallow as 3 to 4f feet. The adults do best in tanks of 75 gallons and bigger. If you are fortunate enough to acquire a juvenile fish it will be comfortable in a 30 to a 50-gallon aquarium and may be kept in the company of several other small species. Be sure and provide your fish with lots of shelter, since this is essential to its well being. In nature, most of the angelfish species are fond of sponges, but in the aquarium, they can be induced to take feedings of frozen or live brine shrimp, chopped fish, and algal material.

Purple queen (Mirolabrichthys tuka)

colorful saltwater fish

The purple queen is a fish which is virtually unknown to the aquarium world. I'm sure if collectors can come up with a steady stream supply of these eye-catching beauties they will fast become one of the most popular of aquarium fishes. They are indescribably beautiful, and although there is no captivity data on them at this time, they should prove to be reasonably hardy. It's a school fish which is generally found in water over thirty feet deep! At Eniwetok, small specimens about 2-3 inches form aggregations of up to 50 fish at the entrance of caverns in the coral reef. Since this fish is a newcomer to the aquarium, experiment with a wide variety of food items until a certain preference is observed.

Polkador Grouper (Cromileptes Altivelis)

colorful freshwater aquarium fish

This is by far the most popular of the many Indo-Pacific groupers. This fish is docile is is almost unbelievable. They are unafraid and hover around collectors as if asking to be caught and are are among the easiest of fishes to collect. As the fish grows the spots on the body become smaller and more numerous.

It's a perfect aquarium fish which prefers to be out in the open most of the time, unlike many of the groupers. Their peculiar habit of hovering off the bottom is most interesting to watch, and they seem to get along fine with other fishes in the tank providing they are not too small. Live foods are recommended, but canned Norwegian brine shrimp and frozen fish are good substitutes.

Clown Surgeon (Acanthurus lineatus)

freshwater aquarium fish list

This is a very colorful and beautiful fish for the home aquarium if you are fortunate enough to get young specimens. After the fish is about 1 1/2 inches it begins to take on a change in form and its adult coloration, even though sexual maturity isn't reached until the fish is about 3 inches long, or longer.

For the public aquarium, this fish is a must. It is extremely colorful which is why i added it into the most colorful aquarium marine fish and its very hardy, taking almost all kinds of foods. It is especially fond of Norwegian brine shrimp (canned) when it is small (up to 6 inches) but it takes freeze dried tubifex and brine shrimp readily. It is very photogenic species and the markings in the center of the tail have to be interpreted in various ways. This caudal pattern changes as the fish get larger and as far as is known have no sexual connotations.

Moorish Idol- Toby (Zanclus canescens)

cool saltwater fish

It has long been thought that there were two species of Moorish Idols, namely Zanclus cornutus and Z.canescens. These two forms were essentially identical except for the presence of small spines in front of the eye on canescesns. However, Dr Donald Strasburg, in a short article in the scientific magazine Copeia, points out that the spines are shed as the fish grows larger and are merely a juvenile character. Zanclus canescens is the older name and therefore the valid one for this species.

This fish is generally acknowledged as one of the hardest of fishes to keep since they are often reluctant to feed upon most foods which are offered. Some success has been obtained with freeze-dried foods, Norwegian brine shrimp as well as fairy shrimp and freeze dried tubifex worms with chlorella algae.

Lyretail Wrasse ( Thalassoma lunare)

tropical community fish

The Lyretail Wrasse earns its common name from the darkened outer rays of the caudal fin. In addition, it has a dark bar on the pectoral fins. These fish are usually found in the areas of abundant coral growths, but never in large numbers. They spawn in typical Thalassoma fashion either in aggregations or in pairs. They are reasonably good fish which do best in large aquaria. Fresh frozen live brine shrimp are excellent fare.

Painted sweetlips (Spilotichtys pictus)

The adults of this fish are completely different from the juveniles. No adult would be shipped as an "exotic" fish as they are just grey, silvery, spotted and uninteresting. The young specimens, 2-3 inches long, are characterized by the broad bands. As the fish gets older the bands break into spots and gradually diminish. These are active, schooling fish and require a fairly large aquarium. Five specimens in a 50 gallon tank would be their minimum space required, so obviously they are not for the small aquarist.

They feed on anything, but prefer canned Norwegian brine shrimp and cooked fairy shrimp.

Blue Surgeon fish (paracanthurus hepatus)

This beaty has to be considered the king if the surgeonfishes. They look like something out of an abstract painter's sketchbook. The contrast if black and blue is a sight to behold. It has been claimed that there is no bluer fish in the world, but i'll let you be the judge of that. One of the most wondrous sights in nature is to view a large school of them swarming over a multicolored coral reef. It's almost unreal!

​​​Give these fish plenty of room in your aqaurium since the 3-4 inch ones are the most commonly imported, 2 or 3 per 30 gallon tank is about right. The tank should be well lighted for at least part of the day, and a healhty growth of Algae on the back wall will help round the diet. Freeze dried products which contain chlorella Algae are also excellent.

Longnosed filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris)

The longnosed filefish is immediately recognizable by virtue of its striking pattern. It is found in shallow waters, usually swimming among the branches of staghorn coral or between layers of table coral. These fish are wary and hard to catch without the use of chemicals (now often used by collectors to anesthetize their pray) It is one of the most beautiful of all the filefishes, but may prove to be one of the more difficult species to maintain in captivity. Feeding is a problem since in its native habitat it feasts on the polyps of living coral. However, with a little experimentation, the aquarist may find an acceptable substitute. These fish seem to feel more at home when there are several of them in the same tank. Dead staghorn coral should be provided, as it is ideal for them to "wedge" into during the night.

Spotted box fish (Ostracion Meeagris)

Another fish which displays male-female color differences is the Spotted Box Fish. The male, which is pictured above is beautifully decorated with orange spots on the sides, while the female is uniformly covered with smaller white dots on a black background. It has been discovered that the box fishes exude a toxic mucus when they are alarmed, and this secretion can kill everything in the aquaria in a matter of minutes. Some collectors say that after a box fish has given off its slime, it takes a period of time to regenerate more.

They expose the fish to stress by holding it out of the water for a minute or two and then rinse of the discharged mucus thoroughly before placing the fish inti a collecting bucket.

It is recommended that that box fish be kept in isolation until they are feeding well and appear happy happy. Then they should be carefully transferred to a community tank and watched over closely at first. There are exceptions to every rule, and sometimes a freshly caught or newly purchased box fish can be introduced without fatal results but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Pinecone fish (Monocentrus japonicus)

Here's a real oddity which gets its common name from the scaly appearance of the body. Chances are you won't find this one at your local pet shop, since it is rare and usually found deep (over 100 feet) One of the few places you can see the pinecone fish on display is at the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco, where they have successfully kept a pair. The fish was a gift from the Crown Prince of Japan, who is an ichthyologist of reputation as well.

Candy Basslet (Liopropoma camabi)

This pretty fish closely resembles the swissguard and if the two aren't observed simultaneously they surely will be misidentified by the average hobbyist. They make interesting additions to the marine community aquarium.

Rock Beauty (Holacanthus tricolor)

The rock beauty is one of the more popular aquarium fishes found in US pet shops. It is not as high priced as the closely related pygmy angelfishes, most of which are imported from the Indian and Westers Pacific Oceans. However, it is every bit as beautiful as there higher priced imports.

The young fish are almost entirely yellow with a blue edged black spot on the upper part of the body, very similar to the coloration of juvenile Lemonpeels from the tropical South Pacific. The size of the black spot increases as the fish grows larger, until nearly the entire body is covered by it.

The head, breast, and caudal fin remain a bright yellow color. Ample shelter should be provided in the aquarium for this species, especially when first introduced since they are usually a bit on the spooky side. Rock beauties require Algae material in their diet, and it is advisable that the growth of green Algae be allowed to grow on the rear wall of the tank. Brine shrimp and chopped fish will also be accepted.

Longface Beakfish (Gomphosus varius)

There are two colorations on this popular aquarium fish, the males turn green when adult and the females are brown. There are very agile, colourful fish that seem to do very well very well in the marine aquarium. Their heads are elongated, much like the other labrids, but more so with varius. It seems that in the aquarium, the longface likes to poke into small crevices for his food. They are very active and make interesting tank mates to nearly every kind of marine fish.

They must have vegetation in their diets or they slowly starve. Freeze dried food are readily taken, especially brine shrimp, but they relish freeze dried tubifex with chlorella algae imbedded in it. They feed heavily on canned Norwegian brine shrimp, as do most marine fishes.

Long-nose Butterflyfish (Focipiger flavissimus)

It was formerly thought that there was only one kind of long-nose, but there are 2 distinct species involved, Both are very similar in appearance, but there are some minor differences which will enable you to tell them apart. Flavissimus is by far the most common species, and 99 times out of 100 this will be one encountered in pet shops. It is similar in appearance to longirostris. Forcipeger longitrosris also had a phase in which is is entirely black in coloration in contrast to its yellow brothers. It is rare species, occasionally sighted by divers on the Kona Coast of Hawaii.

The long nose is a brilliant attraction which will thrive in the aquarium. Feed a variety of freeze dried foods and live brine shrimp. It was prove difficult to keep with others of its own kind they are prone to fighting.

Yellow-faced Angelfish. (Euxiphipops xanthometapon)

Another one of the magnificent angelfish species, E. axanthometapon is much sought after aquarium fish. There is no other group of fishes which can compete with the angels and butterflies when it comes to wild colors and boldness of body markings. Many exhibit patterns which appear to have been literally painted on.

Such s fish is the yellow faced angel with its gaudy yellow face mask, scales outlined in gold and brilliant blue head markings and fin boarders. It is one of natures master pieces! Give your treasure the attention it derserves. This means a tank all to itself or with only very small and peaceful neighbors.

Live brine shrimp is a good starter food, but eventually they will accept such items as canned Norwegian brine shrimp, finely chopped beef, fish,and shrimp and freeze dried tubifex.

Neon goby (Elacatinus oceanops)

colorful fish

The neon goby is one of the most popular Florida fishes. They almost always are found on red coral and they spend a great deal of their time picking parasites from the other fishes. Several reports have been seen in the aquarium press about this fish having spawned, but to the best of my knowledge no one has ever raised them any to free swimming stage. They do well on canned Norweagian brine shrimp and most live foods.

Clown Labrid (Coris aygula)

colorful fish

This is one of the most popular of the labrids because it is so easy to obtain. They occur in small quantities all over the usual all over the usual marine collecting areas and most exporters have them from time to time. Though they undergo extreme changes in coloration as they mature, the two black ocelli in the dorsal always seem to be present.

The orange blotches on the back are more or less permanent, especially the rear blotch. They can be seen picking parasites from the bodies of larger fishes and are thus dubbed "cleaners" by some authors.

Saddled butterflyfish (Chaetodon falcula)

most colorful marine aquarium fish

This butterfly fish is easily confussed with the pacific species C. ulietnesis. These two species are easily recognized by the color pattern , as are all butterfly fishes, and can be distinguished from each other by the size and extent of the dark saddles. In C. falcula they are narrow and pointed, as shown in the photo, in C. ulietensis they are broader and extend ventrally almost to the level of the pectoral fin base. 

Small specimens occasionally appear in pet shops in Europe, but this Indian Ocean fish is rarely, if ever imported into the US.