Exotic Freshwater Fish for Texas Aquariums

Exotic Freshwater Fish

I can’t name the number of times I’ve switched my tank setup over the years. Especially when I got into the hobby, it seemed like every few weeks I discovered a new species of fish! Some people tend to think that you have to get saltwater in order to get exotic fish, but they’re wrong. There is plenty of exotic freshwater fish to choose from, though some take a little extra time & care. The below list is my personal opinion and I’m sure I’ve left some beauties out, these are just the ones that came into my head! Please feel free to add in the comments any fish you believe should be on the list as I’m always wanting to learn more from me. These are in no particular order.

1. Discus

Discus has got to be the king of the Freshwater aquarium. Native to the Amazon, they require higher temps and lower pH (dependent on where you got it from, mine do fine at pH 7). A lot of people will say they are difficult to keep (FALSE). They are slightly difficult to RAISE from juveniles. During their juvenile years, they are very sensitive to water conditions; require constant feeding and daily water changes. If you’re not up for the challenge but still want discus, fork up money for adult specimens. There are new strains of discus being created every year and if you’re interested in some of the varieties check out this list here.

2. Arowana

I’ve never had one myself yet, but they seem like such majestic fish. As cute as they might look when/if you buy them small, they will get BIG! Aside from requiring a large tank, it will limit your other aquarium inhabitants. Unless you’re going for a single show fish tank or are planning to keep monsters, I’d keep going down the list. One awesome (to some people) thing about Arrowanas is feeding them live food, other alternatives for live food feeding fish would be Oscars or Green Terrors.

3. Stingray

There’s no doubt that stingrays are bad-ass, especially when you can get them in freshwater! They’re inherently messy and require good water quality similar to discus. Just like the Arowana, they grow a lot larger than when you purchase them so unless you have a 90gallon+ tank I wouldn’t go down this road. Sandy bottoms and well-researched suitable tank mates are a must. I would also like to note that they require suitable water conditions to discuss…stingray+discus tank.

4. Flowerhorn

Quite the beast the Flowerhorn is. They are definitely cool-looking fish if you’re into the big balloon thing (personally I’m not). If you plan to get one keep in mind that it grows to be a fairly large fish and its aggression. Flowerhorns come in grades, so make sure you buy from a reputable source and check the overall health of the fish (healthy bump!).

5. Mbunas

A very popular first choice for many aquarium hobbyists (myself included). An amazing selection of fish, it’s easy to go overboard with these guys. Especially since Africans are one of the few fish groups where overcrowding can be a good thing (sometimes). Mbunas tend to be more aggressive fish, which is why higher numbers are recommended to disperse bullying. If you’re into constant movement with an array of colors swimming back and forth, go with Mbunas.

6. Apistos

Apistos AKA Apistogramma is a genus of South American Dwarf Cichlids. There are several types with an array of patterns to choose from. Not only do these fish look really cool, but a lot of them are also harder to get your hands on making them a little rare (at least in my area). One of my favorite things about these fish is they are so versatile in the sense that you could keep a pair in a 20g, or house them in a community tank with other fish.

7. Rams

I think I might like these guys more than discus, they’re so active and fun to watch. A lot of people comment on their shyness, but really if you spend the time to interact with them and feed them, mine always come to “investigate” me when I pass by. The three most popular breeds would be the German ram (classic), electric blue German rams, and Bolivian rams. They make great additions to community tanks or even on their own.

If you were like me at first and thought, “I must have the electric blue ones” please, PLEASE buy from a reputable supplier. A lot of people have contributed to the myth of electric blue rams being hard to take care for when in fact the fish are naturally weak due to bad breeding or hormone injections resulting in death within a week of taking them home.

8. Severum

I like to think of Severums as discus’s fatter cousin. They grow to be about the same size and in general, have mild temperaments. Since they grow to be around the same size as discus (7inch-ish), a 55g tank is probably the bare minimum to keep these guys. Although they are discus’s illegitimate cousin, most people do not recommend housing them in the same tank. There can only be one king! Oh also just like discus there are several color types to choose from, I posted my two favorite types here.

9. Cyphotilapia Frontosa (Frontosa)

Sometimes referred to as the king of Lake Tanganyika, the Frontosa is a definite trophy fish able to grow up to 12 inches long. Most well-known for their beautiful patterns and outgoing personalities, Frontosa’s generally starts getting their classic head bump around 4 inches in size. They are definitely one cichlid that gets better with age, just like a fine wine! You can expect a mature Frontosa to have a well-pronounced head bump and more elaborate fins flowing behind them.

If you do plan on obtaining one keep in mind that they can have unusually long life spans up to 25 years, definitely a long-term relationship type of thing. If possible, try to get your hands on at least one male as they tend to have bigger bumps and grow larger in size for a true trophy fish.
Frontosa’s are a group fish so it’s recommended to keep them at least in groups of 4. Keep that in mind with how big they can reach and you’ll need a fair-sized tank.

10. Peacocks

Peacocks are yet another very popular choice when it comes to African cichlids. It is quite common to see show tanks of both Haps & Peacocks together. Most people that run a Peacock tank opt for all males as they are the most vibrant, generally, females are dull.

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