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5 Aquarium Fish Alternatives to Consider (With Pictures)

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

cute pink axolotl

You may have heard the dreaded words, “No more fish!” It’s a sad day when your family members are fed up with your fishkeeping hobby. Well, that does not always mean your aquarium hobby must come to a screeching halt.

Or maybe you just want a non-fish tank. Or want to make your current tank (with fish) more interesting – without adding more fish. Well, I’ve got good news: there are other ways to approach the situation with these alternatives to fish in the aquarium!

Here are some non-fish ones you can get:

The 5 Aquarium Fish Alternatives to Consider:

1. Newts

Image Credit: Aleron Val, Shutterstock

Let’s face it: these guys are just downright awesome. They do great with most goldfish. And they’re super interesting to watch. Just pop a piece of floating wood in the tank and watch them bask.

Their underwater movements are also fascinating. They aren’t high maintenance. Just feed them bloodworms a few times a week (and keep the water clean, which is a given for any fish).

But you doo need a lid on your aquarium, and a tight fitting one at that. These guys are escape artists! Just remember: if the fish are too big, the newt may become a tasty snack for a jumbo goldfish!

2. Snails

pomacea diffusa : blue snail
Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock

Ah, I could talk for ages on my love for snails. There are many different species of aquatic snails. Some of my favorites?

  • Mystery snails are big, lovable, and come in a wide range of colors.
  • Ramshorn snails are cute, stay relatively small, eat many algae types and look like little gems in your tank (also a great food source for many fish).
  • Japanese Trapdoor snails are beautiful, sizable and great for eating algae. Won’t overpopulate.
  • Nerite snails are hard workers that eat almost every kind of algae. They won’t reproduce in freshwater.
  • Melantho giant pond snails are speedy and sparkly algae eaters

They’re so useful for the health of your aquarium, so  you can feel good knowing they are not just fun to look at, but beneficial for your tank as well.

It’s also a lot of fun raising their babies, if you have the time and space. You can even selectively breed some to improve certain features over time, if you want a mini hobby that’s aquarium related, without the fish part.

3. Axolotls

Image Credit: ArnPas, Shutterstock

If you haven’t heard of (or seen) these before, they’re quite something. They’re not a fish. They’re not a reptile.

What are they? They’re an amphibian.

Sometimes called the Mexican Water Dragon, axolotls are super chill creatures that are very easy to care for. Unlike newts, they stay exclusively in the water. They are one of the few aquatic animals that prefer cool water (under 70 degrees F).

Some fancy goldfish owners fine the two species can coexist together without issues (provided the fish are large enough not to get eaten and well fed enough not to pick on the axie). Not saying it always works or is advisable, just throwing that out there.

4. Shrimp/inverts

aquarium shrimp
Image Credit: Edwin Aquaneo, Shutterstock

Lobsters? Crayfish? Shrimp?

Inverts are a non-fishy critter that might give you your new aquarium inhabitant fix. Admittedly, most of the time they don’t go well with goldfish. But shrimp are great for teeny nano setups. They’re also very interesting to watch, and come in a rainbow of colors.

If you tend to their needs and the time/place/circumstances is right, they will reproduce for you too! Some people even make a tiny sum doing this.

5. Plants

Image Credit: Cheng Wei, Shutterstock

If you just feel the urge to add some living thing but are forbidden from animals, maybe an aquarium plant is the thing for you.

Sometimes a lovely live plant is enough to make a big difference in your tank’s layout. It also gives you something to care for and appreciate, without having as much responsibility as a living animal. The best part? There is a TON of variety when it comes to buying live plants online.

Don’t underestimate the joy of keeping plants. Just ask the planted tank community. For them, the animals are just a side thing. Some of them keep a few shrimp and that’s it – or nothing at all.

Growing plants is also a great way to relax. I’d say it’s safe to say that they’re probably not as stressful as keeping pets can be sometimes. But you’re still caring for a living thing though, so that can be rewarding.

fish divider


Just so you all know, I’m not advocating getting more creatures/plants/whatever if you have a loved one on your hands who has reached their limit. As much as I love fishkeeping, I would never advocate jeopardizing your relationship with your family for the sake of your hobby.

So, please take the following things above with discretion and use your best judgment. It happens, people get tired with other people’s hobbies when they aren’t into it. They may not feel the thrills you do – maybe they only see you hauling buckets and spending all your hard earned money. In that case even a plant may be all they need to tip them over the edge. But maybe not. Maybe it’s just goldfish that is becoming too emotionally draining for them. After all, it’s not an easy hobby to keep goldies, and they are very lovable.  You can take it or leave it – just don’t tell them I told you about this secret list

Or, maybe it’s just you and you feel like you want to step back from the more intensive requirements of keeping goldfish as compared to some other aquarium inhabitants.


I hope you found these alternatives useful. Whatever your situation, enjoying the hobby can be done without buying endless numbers of goldfish.

Do you own any of these already? Have any suggestions I forgot?

Let me know in the comments below – and thanks for reading!

Featured Image Credit: Arm001, Shutterstock

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