Can You Identify These Tropical Fish?

By: Kennita Leon
Image: Wiki commons

About This Quiz

A clear blue ocean. Warm sea water. A rich and diverse coral reef beckons. How many of the fish around it can you recognize?

You'll be treated to hundreds of tropical fish species fluttering, feeding and stalking prey as you go snorkeling or scuba diving.  These underwater beauties will be easy to spot; tropical fish have bright, vivid colors typically derived from both pigmented and iridescent cells. However, since hundreds of species can exist in a small area of a healthy reef, you may also need to look hard to find those hiding or those in plain sight, but camouflaged. 

Although many people think they cannot own tropical fish without a heated aquarium along with the perfect density of saltwater, there are freshwater tropical fish, as well. In fact, freshwater tropical fish are more commonly kept than saltwater tropical fish, as it's easier to turn on the tap and refill the aquarium.

With climate change, one wonders how long we'll have this diversity under the sea. Scientist are predicting that tropical fish will invade what were once cooler waters and are analyzing how it will impact the native species already there. But for now, enjoy the lush beauty and grace of the underwater show, one image at a time. Find out if you can identify these tropical fish. 

Bettas are also known as the Siamese fighting fish and are vibrantly colored freshwater fish ranging from anywhere near 2.5 cm to 12.5 cm in size. They are able to thrive in low-oxygen water conditions, which would be detrimental to the survival of other fish, through a distinctive organ called a labyrinth.

The dwarf gourami, like its name suggests, grows to a mere two inches and is considered a timid and peaceful species of fish. The females are silver, and blue-gray in color while the males are larger with a brightly colored orange-red body with turquoise vertical stripes extending to their fins.

This freshwater fish, commonly known as the "leopard bush fish," is prevalent in the Congo River Basin in Middle Africa. Despite its slow growth, the "spotted climbing perch" is a predator in the wild, eating insects and any sea creature small enough to fit into its mouth.

The paradise fish, also called the blue paradise, is brightly colored with turquoise and orange stripes extending to the tail and fins, seemingly like feathers. Over 150 years ago, these tropical fish were believed to have been imported from Europe. Their diet includes algae-based foods and meaty foods as they are omnivores.

The bristle-nosed catfish is primarily native to the Amazon as well as other rivers and streams in South America. Though bottom dwellers, these peaceful and sociable fish with a diet consisting of algae are nocturnal and prefer eating at night.

Having been introduced to aquariums in 1876, the peppered cory is considered to be a well-known aquarium fish. Though they are mainly bronze with gray patches, they sometimes vary in patterns and color based on their place of origin.

This saltwater fish has sharp-edged, fang-like teeth which adds to its snake-like appearance. They vary in color based on species, from dark gray, dark green, white or blue on their upper bodies to white bellies with silver sides while other species have black spots with yellow fins.

This large tropical freshwater fish originates from Southeast Asia and are common near shallow, thickly vegetated remote places. The name "kissers" as they are commonly called, derived from their distinctively protruding mouths, with horny teeth which line their lips.

The pink-tailed chalceus, as its name suggests, has a vibrant pink tail with large, silver shimmering scales on its upper body. This species of fish is common in South America, in rivers that are highly oxygenated.

This tropical fish originates in South America and gets its name from its sizeable protruding belly, resembling that of a hatchet. This species of fish has a natural inclination to jump when disturbed, as well as to catch small flying insects.

This fish grows up to 3 inches in length and is gray in color, though fading from black at the tail to light gray at the nose. It is native to South-Central Brazil and is commonly kept in aquariums.

This large African predatory fish can grow up to 4.9 feet in length, weighing over 110 pounds. Their large teeth fit into grooves along their jaws, which can be compared to those of the tiger, giving rise to their names.

The silver dollar is a round-shaped silver tropical fish which is native to South America. With a lifespan of over ten years, these peaceful fish tend to be popular with fish-keeping hobbyists. Their diet is entirely vegetarian; however, they eat worms and small insects.

These freshwater fish are primarily found in subtropical South America and resemble the piranha. If allowed to reach adult size, the pacu grows to an enormous size of more than two feet.

This species was named after the Giant Panda of China because of the markings over their eyes which are black and their pale bodies. First collected in 1968, the Panda Corys originated in Peru and are highly social and peaceful fish when kept in aquariums.

The pearl gourami grows to about 4.7 inches long and is brownish-silver in color, with distinctive black lines from its head to caudal fins. They can be found in lowland swamps with acidic water and a diet consisting of both meaty and algae-based foods.

These extremely predatory freshwater fish are indigenous to South America and are found in black stained water. Their diets vary based on origin and are believed to be largely omnivorous, but due to their very sharp teeth and powerful jaws, they are considered flesh eaters.

The Pterophyllum species, known to aquarists as angelfish, originate in South America, namely the Amazon and Orinoco basins. These ambush predators with their round bodies and camouflage coloration are able to hide among plants, preying on small fish.

The firemouth is native to Central America in typically slow-moving warm water. The name of this species derives from their throat and breast that range from a brick shade to a fiery red color, as well as the underside of their jaw, which is a vibrant orange-red.

In 1986, the parrot cichlid was first produced in Taiwan as a hybrid of the redhead cichlid and the midas. They can grow to 8 inches in length with a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. There have been debates over the beliefs of the creation of the fish, as well as their numerous deformities, including their beak-shaped mouth which makes them vulnerable to malnutrition, since they are harder to feed.

The shark catfishes are native to southern Asia in fresh and brackish waters. These got their name due to the location of the dorsal fin which is high, triangular and close to their heads, like those of sharks.

Being named after Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, the Buenos Aires tetra is found in the Río de la Plata, which is formed by the joining of the Paraná and Uruguay rivers. For many years, this species has been imported, having gained popularity due to its toughness and ease of care.

The green terror is a greenish-white fish with a wide array of electric blue spots on its chin. This generally peaceful species of freshwater fish originates from South America, namely the Pacific side of Peru (Tumbes River) and Ecuador (Esmeraldas River).

The moonlight gourami is a popular aquarium fish which grows up to 5.1 inches in length. Its name derives from its color which is silver, with a slightly green shade resembling the soft glow of moonlight. These are native to basins of Cambodia, Vietnam and Chao Phraya, but have been introduced to other nations such as Thailand.

The discus, also referred to as the pompadour fish, is a popular freshwater fish native to South America. This species grows up to 6 inches in length weighing nearly 250 grams with a diet consisting mainly of algae and other plant material.

The red zebra gets its name as a result of its yellow color, which radiantly appears red in the wild for females and light blue for males. The male and female colorings are quite appealing and often look like two distinct species. They could grow up to 4 inches in length, with a lifespan of almost 10 years.

Having first been described in 1858, the blue acara was found to have dwelled in the Central and South American countries of Colombia, Venezuela and Trinidad. They reach up to 8 inches in length and are carnivorous feeders. As its name suggests, the blue acara is gray and blue in color, with several blue sparkles over its body as well as vertical black bands.

The glass catfish or the ghost glass cat as it is often called, is a unique name given to a fish which due to its low-pigment and "glass-like" appearance, gives its viewers a clear view of its internal organs. They are omnivores and often prefer darkness or very low light conditions, thus often hiding from the light.

This small clear-bodied tropical fish originates in the Essequibo River in Guyana. This peaceful fish is silver with a vibrant orange-red stripe extending from its nose to the base of its tail. When conditions are favorable, the glow light tetra glows up like a lamp.

This elongated fish grows to about 3.3 inches in length and prefers the alkaline water. It can be found in Lake Tanganyika, Africa. The species prefers conditions like the rocky environs of the lake, more specifically in the extreme northern and southern shorelines.

The otocinclus, also known as the dwarf suckers or otos, are native to South America. They are small in size, and their names originate from their under-slung sucker mouth, which they use to suck on the glass of aquariums. They are herbivores and thus prefer algae-based foods.

This semi-aggressive freshwater shark is also known as the silver shark because of its metallic body that has a yellow and black dorsal and caudal fin. The Bala Shark is an omnivore and prefers dried bloodworms and vegetable-based foods.

This South American tropical fish gets its name from its flushed red gills which seem to resemble a bleeding heart, as well as the markings on its body. This species prefer slightly acidic water, with eating habits which include many small foods such as shrimp and dried bloodworms.

This tropical freshwater fish is native to Southeast Asia and grows up to 14 inches in length. With a lifespan of up to 10 years, these silvery or golden yellow fish have distinctive red dorsal fins with black markings at the tip and orange or blood-red caudal fins.

In 2002, this species was discovered by fish collectors who expanded their search into Myanmar (Burma) and thus, it is also known as the Burmese border loach. The polka dot loach has gray, black and gold dots on its body, which varies based on its size, growing up to 15 cm in length producing many patterns along the way.

This catfish reaches up to 5 feet 11 inches in length with a weight of over 180 pounds. Though their backs are brown, their sides are yellow with orange-red dorsal and caudal fins, giving rise to their common names, the "redtailed catfish."

This Southeast Asian species of freshwater fish grows up to 6 inches in length. Its diet includes green algae, thus sometimes being mistaken for the Siamese algae eater, which is less colorful. The flying fox has a black horizontal band from its head to its tail with a golden stripe above the band.

These freshwater fish prefer fast-flowing and vegetated water sources. Being omnivorous, their diet includes both plants and fish foods such as shrimp, as well as insects and worms. The males grow up to 5.5 inches in length and have swordlike tails, making them easily noticeable.

The neon rainbow fish is commonly known as the dwarf rainbow fish and is native to tropical climate of Indonesia. They can reach up to two inches in length and the males have vibrantly colored fins, possessing deeper bodies in comparison to the females.

The very active tiger barb fish, also known as the Sumatra barb, earn their names from their silver/gold color, with orange-accented fins and black stripes. Their diets include a variety of vegetable and meaty foods.

The common pleco is a tropical fish which is native to north-eastern South America. It is also known as the suckermouth catfish because of its mouth, which enables it to stick to surfaces and hold onto its foods. Its diet includes vegetation such as algae and other aquatic plants, as well as small crustaceans.

The silver catfish, commonly referred to the makriel, silver barbel and butter barbel, is endemic in the northern regions of South Africa. This species of fish is usually silver in color, but it varies based on the water.

The topaz puffer, also referred to as the green puffer, ranges from tan to green in color and is off-white near the belly area, with several large black spots covering its back and sides. This species is carnivorous and thus their diets include crustacean foods such as shrimp, as well as earthworms.

This African tropical fish originates in the deepwater caves in Lake Malawi. The name "bumblebee" derives from their elongated bodies with vertical golden yellow and black bars. Their diets include vegetable matter such as leafy seaweeds and meaty plankton-rich foods such as bloodworm and saltwater shrimps.

The archerfish are found in salty waters of mangroves in regions such as Australia, Sri Lanka and Polynesia. They are typically small in size and grow between 5cm to 10 cm long. They get their name from their remarkable ability to shoot their prey with water from up to 3 meters above the water's surface due to their superb eyesight.

This peaceful Southeast Asian tropical fish is also known as the red scissortail and greater scissortail. They can be found in fast-flowing forest streams, as well as slow-moving black waters, and can grow up to 6 inches in length.

This small fish has been in circulation since 1934 and gets its name from the black triangular patch on its body which resembles the checkered patterns on a harlequin stock character's costume. They originate in Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra and southern Thailand and once fully matured they grow up to 5 cm in length.

The red rainbowfish has big eyes and black or silver bands running through the middle scale rows, mouth and dorsal fins. The males are vibrantly colored and become dull in color with the absence of the silvery females. They are omnivores and should be fed small foods due to their narrow throats.

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