* Petmoo is reader-supported. When you buy products via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.
Exotic-Pets Pets

11 Excellent Exotic Fish Choices For Beginners

Rating: 5.00/5 (1 votes)

Keeping tropical freshwater fish is an enjoyable hobby that’s enjoyed by over 139 million Americans, according to statistics.

Although most aquarists are familiar with Neon tetras and goldfish, there are plenty of surprisingly exotic species that are even suitable for a beginner’s tank.

That said, you need to provide your fish with a clean tank and stable water parameters if your pets are to thrive and remain healthy.

Read this guide to discover 11 beautiful exotic fish species that you can keep in your home aquarium.

Flowerhorn Cichlid (Paraneetroplus Synspilus)

  • Care level – Beginner
  • Life expectancy – 12 years
  • Temperature – 80° to 89°F

Although there are a few wild populations, Flowerhorn cichlids are artificially created hybrid fish.

These long-lived exotic-looking creatures are very easy to care for, although you do need a big tank of at least 125 gallons for a pair of these fish.

These fish are carnivores, so you must be prepared to provide a diet of meaty protein for them.

Flowerhorns are supposed to be lucky fish, bringing their owners financial wealth, good health, and luck.

These fish are very interactive, too, coming up to the water surface to greet you and even taking food from your hand!

Zebra Pleco (Hypancistrus Zebra)

  • Care level – Beginner
  • Life expectancy – 10 to 15 years
  • Temperature – 79° to 88°F

The easy to care for Zebra pleco is a really cool-looking fish that’s an absolute eye-catcher in any fish tank! As the name suggests, these plecos are black and white striped.

These shy, nocturnal fish were first discovered quite recently in 1990 and are now firm favorites in the hobby.

You need a relatively small tank of 20 gallons or more to keep these peaceful omnivorous fish that are found living in the wild in the rivers of Brazil.

Like most pleco species, these guys spend most of their time on the substrate or hiding out in caves and among dense planting.

Black Ghost Knifefish (Apteronotus Albifrons)

  • Care Level – Some fishkeeping experience is preferable
  • Life expectancy – 15 years
  • Temperature – 73° to 82°F

The Black Ghost knifefish is another long-lived species that can make an impressive, fascinating addition to a peaceful community tank.

Since the fish can reach quite a large size of up to 20” long, you will need a big tank of at least 100 gallons to accommodate one.

These spooky-looking fish come from the Amazonian jungle, taking their exotic moniker from the tribal belief that the souls of the departed inhabit these fish.

African Butterflyfish (Pantodon Buchholzi)

  • Care level – Some fishkeeping experience is recommended
  • Life expectancy – 5 years
  • Temperature – 75° to 86°F

The African Butterflyfish is a predator that hunts by hanging around the upper area of the water column waiting for prey to settle on the water surface.

These are highly aggressive fish that need a tank of at least 30 gallons and live for up to five years.

These exotic fish are able to jump and can even glide through the air over short distances as they hunt for prey.

For that reason, you must be sure to have a tightly fitting lid on your tank to prevent any accidental escapes!

Chinese Hillstream Loach (Beaufortia Kweichowensis)

  • Care Level – Some experience in fishkeeping is recommended
  • Life expectancy – Up to 8 years
  • Temperature – 68° to 75°F

These pretty fish are peaceful herbivores that can live for up to eight years in the tank environment.

You’ll need a spacious aquarium of up to 45 gallons to comfortably accommodate these fish. Loaches live mostly on the substrate, so provide these shy fish with plenty of dense planting, overhangs, driftwood, and caves to hide in.

Chinese Hillstream loaches have a clever trick. If the fish are alarmed, they change to a lighter color, and their spotted markings almost vanish.

When angered, the fish turns a lighter shade, and a dark band appears along the length of the fish’s back. The finnage also becomes rimmed with darker coloration.

Izumo Nankin Goldfish (Carassius Auratus)

  • Care Level – Experience in keeping Fancy goldfish is recommended
  • Life Expectancy – up to 15 years
  • Temperature – 60° to 80°F

If you love Fancy goldfish, the rare Izumo Nankin is an exotic fish species that you might want to consider for your tank.

These beautiful, peaceful fish live for up to 20 years and need a large tank of at least 20 gallons to be comfortable, as they can grow to reach six to eight inches long.

You can also keep Fancy goldfish in a garden pond if you live in a temperate climate.

However, since these fish are not generally exported from their native Japan to preserve their quality and breeding of the species, you might find it very difficult to get hold of one of these beauties.

Betta Fish (Betta Splendens)

  • Care Level – Easy
  • Life Expectancy – 2 to 4 years
  • Temperature – 60° to 80°F

Betta fish are one of the most exotic beginner-friendly species that you can find!

Bettas come in a wide range of gorgeous colors, and their flowing finnage is something truly beautiful to behold!

Although bettas are pretty straightforward to care for, they are highly territorial and aggressive toward other males, so you can only keep one.

That said, bettas generally get along fine with peaceful species, snails, and shrimp.

Betta fish are great fun fish to own. You can teach your betta a few simple tricks, and the fish will quickly learn to recognize their owners, especially at feeding time!

Redcap Oranda (Carassius Auratus)

  • Care Level – Easy
  • Life Expectancy – 10 to 15 years
  • Temperature – 75° to 81°F

The Redcap Oranda is a very exotic-looking goldfish species that are readily available in good fish stores for a modest price.

These omnivorous fish are peaceful community species that you can mix with other Fancy goldfish species.

However, you do need a large tank with excellent filtration since these fish produce a lot of waste. You can breed Orandas in your fish tank quite easily, too.

Powder Blue Gourami (Trichogaster Lalia Variation)

  • Care Level – Easy
  • Life Expectancy – up to 5 years
  • Temperature – 72° to 82°F

The Powder Blue gourami is a variation of the Dwarf gourami.

These beautiful fish are very easy to care for and can live happily in a community of peaceful species, making them a very popular choice for beginner tanks.

Like bettas, all gouramis are labyrinth fish, which means that they need to take gulps of air at the water surface periodically to ensure that they get enough oxygen.

These gouramis are happiest when kept in a small group of up to six individuals. However, males can become aggressive if spawning, so you might want to keep only male fish to avoid any potential confrontations.

Boesemani Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia Boesemani)

  • Care Level – Easy
  • Life Expectancy  – 5 to 8 years
  • Temperature – 76° to 82°F

Boesemani Rainbowfish are really cool fish to have in your tank. Males are absolutely beautiful with gorgeous graded blue and orange coloration that flashes and glistens with every turn that the fish makes.

These are schooling fish that need an aquarium of at least 40 gallons with plenty of open swimming space and lush planting around the perimeter.

Despite their exotic appearance, Rainbowfish are pretty straightforward to care for, provided that you keep their tank clean and provide them with a decent flow rate.

Albino Rainbow Shark (Epalzeorhynchos Frenatum)

  • Care Level – Some fishkeeping experience is recommended
  • Life Expectancy – 5 to 8 years
  • Temperature – 75° to 81°F

Rainbow sharks are a perennial favorite in tropical tanks. However, these feisty fishes need a large tank of at least 50 gallons, as they are very territorial and will chase away any other fish that enters their chosen patch.

Rainbow sharks can be kept in groups of up to six, but to do that safely, you need an aquarium of at least 125 gallons. When kept alone, these sharks tend to keep to themselves and don’t bother other peaceful species in the community.

The Albino variety is an artificially created color morph that can make a nice alternative to the usual dark gray and red-finned fish.

In Conclusion

As you can see, there are plenty of very exotic-looking fish species that are suitable for a beginner’s tank.

Before you set up your tank, do some research to make sure that all the fish you’ve chosen will get along together and share the same requirements for water parameters and temperature.

It’s also easier to choose fish that have the same dietary requirements, as that makes feeding your fish less complicated and expensive.


Petmoo Tools
Essential Tools for Pet Owners
Top Rated Services In Your Neighborhood