Types of Freshwater Aquarium Fish

Types of freshwater aquarium fish can be basically broken up into the family that each fish belongs to.

The way of associating each tropical fish species with a family of fish makes categorising them a lot easier.

Just because a fish is from the same family doesn't mean that can live together in the same tank!!

That's right! A fish may belong to the same family as another, but they may have originated from different parts of the world. These fish would have adapted to their own living conditions and may not survive if placed into water that doesn't suit it.

An example of this is the Cichlidae family, or Cichlid for short. The Cichlid family is very popular amongst avid aquarists but there are some important facts to note about them.

The Cichlid family itself is broken up into four groups of fish, based on which part of the world they come from. These areas are North America, South America, West Africa and East Africa.

As can be expected, each area has different water characteristics with regards to temperature, PH and hardness. Placing a Cichlid from North America in the same water as suited to a Cichlid from East Africa could have undesirable consequences.

Now water condition is not the only factor to consider. You also need to look at the size and temperament of the fish, keeping in mind that the fish will grow over time. I will cover more on this in a separate article that I have coming.

So let�s get started on the most common types of freshwater aquarium fish. Keep in mind that around 40% of the worlds fish species live in fresh water, so not all will be listed here.


Bichirs and Reedfish

There is only one Reedfish species, but is sometimes known by more than one name. The Ornate Bichir is part of the Bichir family. These fish are known to jump out of tanks with open lids!



Catfish themselves are broken up into different groups like Shark Catfish or the very popular Suckermouth Catfish. I�m sure many of you have heard of the Plecostomus, which forms part of the Suckermouth category as is actually a common name used for more than one species.


Characins and Characiformes

Tetras make up a large part of this family and have always been very common in beginner aquariums. Other groups include Hatchetfish, Pencil Fishes and Serrasalminae which is the family that the infamous Piranha belongs to.



Some of the common Cichlids are the Oscar and the Convict Cichlid. The Convict has vertical black stripes which are reminiscent of an olden day�s prison uniform, hence the name. As I mentioned earlier, these fish are generally group together by where in the world they originate.



The family name of the world renowned Koi Fish and the Goldfish. Some other common Cyprinids include the Rosy Barb, Zebra Danio and the Bala Shark. Most young enthusiasts jump at the change to have some shark resembling fish in their aquarium!



These fish originate from Mozambique and the Kruger National Park in South Africa. The males at their peak are beautifully coloured and make a great addition to any well kept aquarium. One to look out for is a Rainbow Notho.


Labyrinth Fish

This family is home to the Gourami, of which there are many different types. Also look out for the Siamese Fighting Fish that are so well known for the aggressiveness between males in the same tank.



As the name suggests, these fish all bear live young and are always popular for beginners wanting to try their hand out at fish breeding. This group is made up of Guppies, Platies, Swordtails and Mollies.


Loaches and Cypriniforms

There are a number of fish that fall into the Loach category. One of the popular names that you may know is the Kuhli Loach or Coolie Loach. More than one variation of this fish are sold under the same name.



These types of freshwater aquarium fish can be difficult to keep and are normally best left for the experts. Losing a few of these could end up costing quite a bit of money. A good example of this species is the Congo Pufferfish.



Rainbowfish come in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes. Look out for the Red Rainbowfish and the Neon Rainbowfish, both can make a nice addition to your aquarium.


Spiny Eels

Having a tight sealed lid is essential for owning any of these species. They are known to be jumpers, managing to find the smallest hole to make their escape from your tank. Care should also be taken to make sure that they can�t get stuck inside the fish tank filter as does sometime happen.

Now that you have a general idea of the different types of freshwater aquarium fish available you can start looking at what species or combination of species you would like in your aquarium.

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