With so many fish out there, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what you should add to your new aquarium. The best thing that you can do is figure out what’s out there and what you want, and that’s where this list excels.
We go over 35 of the best options for your tank and give you tips on how to pick the best fish for your aquarium.
Table of contents
- 1. African Cichlids
- 2. Angelfish
- 3. Black Skirt Tetra
- 4. Bleeding Heart Tetra
- 5. Bluefin Notho
- 6. Boesemani Rainbow
- 7. Cardinal Tetra
- 8. Celestial Pearl Danio
- 9. Cherry and Ghost Shrimp
- 10. Cherry Barb
- 11. Cory Catfish
- 12. Discus Fish
- 13. Dwarf Gourami
- 14. Electric Blue Harp Cichlid
- 15. Electric Yellow Lab Cichlid
- 16. Fancy Guppy
- 17. Flame Angelfish
- 18. Florida Flag Fish
- 19. Flowerhorn Cichlid
- 20. German Blue Ram
- 21. Gold Nugget Pleco
- 22. Green Spotted Puffer
- 23. Green Terror Cichlid
- 24. Harlequin Rasboras
- 25. Jack Dempsey Cichlid
- 26. Jewel Cichlid
- 27. Kuhli Loach
- 28. Neon Tetra
- 29. Oscar Fish
- 30. Paradise Fish
- 31. Peacock Cichlid
- 32. Plecostomus
- 33. Rainbow Kribensis
- 34. Swordtail
- 35. Zebra Danio
- Tips for Stocking Your Tank
- Final Thoughts
1. African Cichlids
While the African Cichlid is a gorgeous fish, keep in mind that they’re moderately aggressive and will go after smaller fish. Not overcrowding your tank is key to keeping all the fish in your tank happy and alive.
Also, keep in mind that their size can vary from 3 to 8 inches, which has a big impact on what you can house them with and how many you should get.
One of the most unique-looking freshwater fish, the Angelfish is a fun addition to your aquarium. However, keep in mind that a 55-gallon tank is the minimum size for an Angelfish, and they do better with a tall aquarium.
If you add an Angelfish to your 55-gallon tank, you won’t be able to add many more fish.
3. Black Skirt Tetra
The Black Skirt Tetra is a schooling fish, so this is an excellent option if you’re looking for 55 gallons full of tons of smaller fish. Try to keep at least five Black Skirt Tetra in your aquarium at one time, but they’ll appreciate at many as you can give them!
4. Bleeding Heart Tetra
The Bleeding Heart Tetra is a unique schooling fish in that they have a red spot shaped like a heart on their side. Keep in mind that different Tetra species need their own schools, so don’t mix and match Tetra to try to form a single school of fish.
5. Bluefin Notho
The Bluefin Notho, also known as the Rachovi Killifish, is a great fish that’s easy to add to almost any aquarium setup. They’re laidback and add a nice touch of color to your tank. They’re a slightly large fish but are plenty small enough for a 55-gallon tank.
6. Boesemani Rainbow
The Boesemani Rainbow fish can add a splash of color to your tank without adding a ton of work. These fish are easy to care for and excellent community fish. Even better, they can grow up to 4 inches, making them large additions that are still plenty small enough for a 55-gallon tank.
7. Cardinal Tetra
A Cardinal Tetra is a great way to brighten up your tank with a splash of blue and tons of red. They’re easy to care for, but you need at least five of them so they can school together. Keep in mind that Tetras like to nip at larger fins, which means they don’t pair well with Angelfish.
8. Celestial Pearl Danio
The Celestial Pearl Danio is an extremely unique-looking schooling fish, but you need to be careful with how many males you get because they can start to fight in a full tank. Still, for the most part, they’re incredibly peaceful fish, so they make great additions to your tank.
9. Cherry and Ghost Shrimp
If you want to have a tank full of peaceful shrimp, both the Cherry and the Ghost shrimp make outstanding low-cost choices. They pair well with tons of different fish, and since they hang out at the bottom of the tank, they don’t count too much against the number of fish that you can have!
10. Cherry Barb
The barb fish line is another schooling fish option outside of Tetras, and caring for them is extremely similar. You should keep five to six of these fish together, but since they are large, a school will fill up your tank much faster.
11. Cory Catfish
If you’re looking for a bottom feeder to help clean up your tank, the Cory Catfish is a great choice. However, these are also schooling fish, so you should keep five or six of them together to keep them happy and healthy.
12. Discus Fish
A challenging fish to add to your aquarium is the Discus fish. Still, they have a unique size and coloring and add a great look to your aquarium. However, because of their larger size, you should limit a 55-gallon tank to only this fish.
13. Dwarf Gourami
The Dwarf Gourami is a peaceful fish that you can add to your aquarium. They don’t take up a ton of space, and you don’t need to school them, which gives you more options for variety. They aren’t the easiest fish to care for, but they aren’t the most difficult either.
14. Electric Blue Harp Cichlid
A colorful option that you can add to your tank is the Electric Blue Harp Cichlid. However, while they’re easy to care for, they take up a ton of space and are a bit aggressive, so you shouldn’t add any extra fish to a 55-gallon tank if you pick this fish.
15. Electric Yellow Lab Cichlid
While similar to the Electric Blue Harp, the Electric Yellow Lab is a bit smaller and a tad less aggressive. This makes them a better fit for a 55-gallon tank, and you can even add a few more fish if you’re careful with your selection.
16. Fancy Guppy
While you have to be careful what you house Guppies with because of their flowing tails, Guppies themselves are easy to care for. They aren’t schooling fish, but they are shoaling fish, so it’s best to have more than one in a tank at a time.
17. Flame Angelfish
If you plan on having a saltwater 55-gallon tank, you should consider a Flame Angelfish. While these fish are expensive, they make beautiful centerpieces for your aquarium, even though they are also challenging to care for. You might want to get experience with less expensive fish before adding a Flame Angelfish.
18. Florida Flag Fish
The Florida Flag Fish, also known as the American Flag Fish, is a fish that can help contain the algae in your tank. They’re easy to care for, are good for your tank, and can reach up to 2.5 inches in length. Even better, they aren’t schooling fish, so you can add even more variety by adding one.
19. Flowerhorn Cichlid
While the Flowerhorn Cichlid is an extremely aggressive fish, they have such a unique design, they become a centerpiece all on their own. When you consider that they can reach 12 inches in length, though, it’s best to house these fish by themselves.
20. German Blue Ram
An extremely hard to fish to care for, the German Blue Ram Cichlid is the rare Cichlid that is peaceful in nature. Still, they have a small size of 2.5 inches and aren’t overly expensive.
21. Gold Nugget Pleco
Every tank needs a suckermouth fish to clean up algae, and the Gold Nugget Pleco is an impressive-looking option. They can reach 10 inches in length and are extremely peaceful and relatively easy to care for. They’re a great addition to a 55-gallon tank, but they will limit the overall number of fish that you can have.
22. Green Spotted Puffer
While the Green Spotter Pufferfish is an excellent addition to your tank, you need to keep in mind that they’re aggressive. So, for a 55-gallon tank, you might be relegating yourself to a single fish.
Still, they’re a Pufferfish, which makes them a cool centerpiece. Also, this fish does better in brackish conditions, not pure freshwater.
23. Green Terror Cichlid
The Green Terror Cichlid is an extremely aggressive and territorial fish that you can add to a 55-gallon aquarium. Due to their size and territorial behavior, it’s best to house this fish alone.
24. Harlequin Rasboras
A beautiful red-and-orange fish with black spots, the Harlequin Rasboras is an excellent addition to a community tank. However, they are a shoaling fish, which means that they do best in groups of eight to 10.
25. Jack Dempsey Cichlid
While the Jack Dempsey Cichlid is a territorial fish, they’re relatively easy to care for as long as there are enough rocks in the tank. Just keep in mind that you likely won’t be able to add any more fish because of their larger size.
26. Jewel Cichlid
If you’re looking for a tank of Cichlid fish, the Jewel Cichlid is an excellent choice for a 55-gallon tank. While you shouldn’t pair other types of fish with a Jewel Cichlid, a 55-gallon tank is enough space for three or four of these beautiful fish.
27. Kuhli Loach
The Kuhli Loach is a great fish option for a community tank. While they don’t add a ton of color to your tank, they do a good job of keeping things clean. Not only that, but they can reach 5 inches in length and live up to 10 years!
28. Neon Tetra
Perhaps the most common fish in pet stores, the Neon Tetra is a great schooling fish that you add to your tank. They are extremely small, which means you can easily add 15 to 20 fish to your 55-gallon tank and still have plenty of space for more fish.
29. Oscar Fish
Oscar fish are highly aggressive and territorial fish that you can have as a centerpiece to your tank. They don’t do well with tank mates, but you shouldn’t be adding more fish, anyway, for a 55-gallon tank and a fish this size.
30. Paradise Fish
While Paradise Fish can be a little aggressive, with a 55-gallon tank, you should be fine to pair them with the right tank mates. Paradise Fish adds a big splash of color to your tank. If you want to keep all the same type of fish, you can safely add four or five Paradise Fish to a 55-gallon tank.
31. Peacock Cichlid
Peacock Cichlids come in a wide array of colors, so this is a great way to add variety to your tank. However, they can be aggressive, so it’s best only to pair them with other Peacock Cichlids. Since they can come in so many color options, this doesn’t mean you need to have a full tank!
If you do opt for Cichlids or Angelfish, one fish that you can typically safely add is the Plecostomus. They’re a bottom feeder, but since they grow to about 15 inches in aquariums, most other fish leave them alone.
33. Rainbow Kribensis
If you’re looking to add a splash of color to your tank with a peaceful fish, the Rainbow Kribensis is an outstanding choice. Even better, they aren’t schooling or shoaling, so you only need to add one of these fish.
A great option to add to your tank is the Swordtail Fish. They’re extremely passive fish that do well in community tanks. You should keep at least five to seven fish in your tank, with far more females than males. Due to their small size, this leaves you plenty of space for more fish!
35. Zebra Danio
A super easy fish to care for is the Zebra Danio. They have red and black stripes and thrive in community aquariums. They are schooling fish, so you should aim for at least five Zebra Danio in the tank at all times.
Tips for Stocking Your Tank
With so many fish options for your tank, it can be tempting to head out and purchase as many as you can. However, there are tons of reasons that this is a bad idea.
It’s better to do your research and get the right fish and the right number of them for your tank. Here are the four most important things that you need to follow when picking fish.
Freshwater vs. Saltwater Tanks
Before you select any fish, you need to decide if you want a freshwater or saltwater tank. For a 55-gallon tank, we recommend freshwater. This is because most saltwater fish are large, which means you won’t have a ton of space to get a bunch of them.
Saltwater fish are also far more expensive. While most freshwater fish cost well under $20, many saltwater fish quickly clear the $100 mark. Caring for a saltwater tank also requires more work, which means it’s easier to kill your fish accidentally.
Stick with a freshwater tank unless you have a fair amount of experience.
There are three main dwelling zones in your tank, and having fish that inhabit each zone allows you to fill up your tank completely. Bottom-dwelling fish include most catfish, suckerfish, and shrimp. These bottom-feeders keep your tank clean, which is a huge perk to adding a few.
Your tank also has a high dwelling zone near the top. Fish that reside here tend to be a bit more active, but they don’t typically stay exclusively in the high zone. They also tend to move into the middle of the tank, which is the third dwelling zone.
Fish that live in the middle of the tank also tend to migrate toward either the top or bottom of the tank occasionally. This is completely normal, and if you get a mix of fish that dwell in both the top and bottom of your tank from the middle zone, you can typically add a few more fish.
How Many Fish Can Your Tank Handle?
Since each fish is a different size, it’s best to adhere to the 1-inch rule when determining how many fish you can have in your tank. This rule states that you should have 1 inch of fish per gallon.
So, for a 55-gallon tank, this means no more than 55 inches of fish. However, there are few exceptions to this rule. First, you can’t have a 55-inch fish; the maximum size fish that you should have in a 55-gallon tank is about 15 inches.
The second exception is schooling fish. Schooling fish swim in tight bunches, so there’s no reason that you can’t add more. For example, if you’re adding Neon Tetras to your tank, they can grow up to 2 inches in length, but even if you added 27 Neon Tetras to your tank, you’d find that you still have plenty of space to work with.
Use a bit of common sense here, and remember that you can always add more fish later. Start with a few fish, and slowly add more if there’s still plenty of space in your tank.
Always Check Compatibility
Some fish just don’t swim well with others. Cichlids are notoriously aggressive and don’t pair well with other fish, while Tetras can’t help but nip at the flowing tails of Guppies and Angelfish.
In short, do your homework. Research each fish that you want to add to your tank and which fish they swim well with and which ones they don’t. You might find that you can’t have all the fish that you want, but you may be able to get quite a few varieties.
Having an empty aquarium is like having a blank canvas. Have fun with it and use your imagination — there’s no reason that you can’t have a beautiful and colorful aquarium full of fish! The possibilities are endless, but you need a bit of direction before you start.
Read More: 8 Best Fish for a 20-Gallon Tank
Featured Image Credit: Frantisek Czanner, Shutterstock