Arthur is an aquarium enthusiast and enjoys keeping unique aquatic species.
Since I was a kid, I have been fascinated with fish. I am an animal lover all around, but there is just something about the peaceful nature of an underwater ecosystem that gives me a lot of joy. My obsession with fish runs deep, so when it came time for me to have my fish tanks, I knew that I didn't want just any old goldfish (but I also know that I am not a marine biologist). That intersection mixed with a general thirst for knowledge has led me through a lot of research—as well as owning a few unique fish myself. Through researching what would be right for me along with visiting multiple fish specialty stores in my area, I came up with a list of some of the cooler fish you can keep in a home aquarium.
Freshwater fish are popular for many reasons, but the top two are that they are less expensive and easier to maintain. The problem is that a lot of freshwater fish are pretty dull, so people want to jump into saltwater right away. While I won't argue that most freshwater fish are boring, there are a few of them that will help amateur aquarists gain some experience while still being super fun to own.
- Pea Puffer: Pea puffers, also known as Dwarf Puffers, are an adorable little fish from Southwest India. These cute miniature fish only get to about an inch to an inch and a half long. Like other puffers, they can get aggressive, so you can't keep too many in a tank. What makes Pea Puffers genuinely unique is that they are the only puffer fish that lives in 100 percent freshwater. While dwarf puffers do take a little more care than a goldfish, they are not difficult to keep. Their unique personalities and appealing color scheme have made them an increasingly popular fish for home aquarists.
- Freshwater Stingray: Stingrays are much like Pea Puffers in the fact that most species are saltwater only, but there are a select few breeds that survive solely in freshwater. These breeds are all native to the rivers of South America and are just as deadly as their saltwater cousins. Unlike Pea Puffers, freshwater stingrays take a considerable amount of care as well as needing a custom tank. Still, if you have the money and the space these creatures are a beautiful and unique animal that can be kept in your home. See the video below to see these gorgeous creatures in action.
- Ghost Shrimp: Ghost shrimp are one of the best aquarium pets in the world to start out with. These hardy crustaceans have almost no downside and can live in any sized tank. They are scavengers, so they help to keep the tank clean, and most fish stores sell them for around 50 cents a piece. What makes them cool other than being a cheap maid is that they are almost entirely see-through making them fun to watch, especially at mealtime. If you are a novice aquarist looking for something slightly different you can't go wrong with a ghost shrimp.
Brackish fish are confusing for a lot of people because they are often listed as freshwater fish even though that is not entirely true. Brackish fish, or rather their preferred habitat, lie somewhere in between fresh and saltwater. Brackish fish and their tank are a little more challenging to take care of than a freshwater tank but not as hard as a saltwater set up, so they are a perfect step between the two for a learning aquarist.
- Mudskippers: Mudskippers are not the prettiest fish in the world, but they are a fun fish to keep. Their natural habitat is brackish water so they should be held in the same environment at home. What makes mudskippers extra fun to own is that they are like a fish and an amphibian all in one because these fish can breathe out of the water. In the wild Mudskippers come out of the water and walk on their fins to hunt. They can survive outside of water because they have adapted to breath through their skin. Make sure to give them space where they can crawl out of the water, and you will have a ton of fun watching these guys.
- Fahaka Puffer: This is a fantastic fish to own, but you need to prepare for ownership. First and foremost, this fish needs a tank that is at least 100 gallons to thrive. On top of that, this fish is highly aggressive and with attack almost any other tankmate so you should be prepared for this to be the only fish in the tank. Before you even think about getting a puffer, you should know that their beaks never stop growing and if they don't chew on enough hard items like snail shells their beak can overgrow and clamp shut. If there is an overgrowth puffer owners will have to learn how to trim the beak or the puffer will starve to death.
- Archerfish: The Archerfish is a fun fish to own thanks to the unique trait that gave it its name. These fish can shoot water from their mouths like a pistol, and they use the ability to stun bugs and eat them. Like the puffer fish, the Archer needs a rather large tank, but unlike the puffer, it is reasonably docile with other fish which makes it a great tank mate. See the video below to watch these underwater assassins hunt.
When it comes to aquariums, saltwater is the dream for most people. Saltwater fish and their habitats are colorful and vibrant which make them living pieces of art. The problem is that the easiest saltwater tank is harder to care for than the hardest freshwater tank. If you have already had success keeping saltwater fish, and are looking for new and exciting saltwater specimens, there are so many out there to choose from. Here are just a few of the coolest saltwater animals you can own if you have the experience.
- Octopus: If you are looking for a real challenge, it is entirely legal to own an octopus. The thing is that octopuses are incredibly smart and shifty and they will almost always find a way out of their tank. They also need precise parameters for their water, and even if you do everything right, they only live for about a year. Still, owning an octopus would be super cool, and I can only hope to get to this level someday.
- Sea Horse: Owning seahorses is the ultimate dream for me, but I'm not sure that will ever happen. They are some of the most beautiful and interesting creatures above or below the water; they are also incredibly sensitive. You have to keep their water in near perfect parameters for these creatures to thrive in a home aquarium. If you have the skills, you can enjoy these beautiful animals in the privacy of your home.
- Jelly Fish: One may think that owning a school of jellyfish would be near impossible, but the care of these creatures is not as difficult as it sounds. The biggest issue with keeping jellyfish is that they need a specialized tank which costs a lot of money upfront. Jellyfish are gelatinous bags so they will get sucked into a traditional filtration system with fatal results. They will also get torn up by any tank decor, so you need a rounded and empty tank to keep these animals. If you can afford all of the upfront costs, the ongoing cost of care isn't too much. If you have ever had the chance to see these animals you know that they can be mesmerizing to watch and perfect addition to a tranquil room. The video below is a jellyfish tank unboxing video that will give you an idea of the tank and set up.
No matter what kind of aquarium you decide to keep, it is important to remember that these are live animals and they deserve proper care. Keeping a fish tank can be therapeutic and teaches many valuable skills but it can also be expensive, so it is vital to know what you are getting into. I love being a fish owner and dreaming about owning some of these fantastic specimens someday.
Joan King on September 21, 2018:
Quite a collection of unusual aquarium fish. Thanks for sharing