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23 Most Expensive Aquarium Fish in the World (with Pictures)

Brooke Billingsley

By Brooke Billingsley

Arapaima in fresh water aquarium

The average person who keeps an aquarium in their home as a hobby is likely not accustomed to spending more than $20–$30 on a fish. If you’re interested in more unusual fish, you’re maybe used to spending $100 or so for a fish. However, there are some fish in the world that are far more expensive than what the average fish keeper is used to spending. In fact, some aquarium fish can easily cost you tens of thousands of dollars. If you’ve ever wondered how expensive aquarium fish really can get, keep reading for a list of the most expensive types of aquarium fish in the world.

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The 23 Most Expensive Aquarium Fish:

1. Asian Arowana

asian arowana in aquarium
Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock

This large fish is the most highly sought-after fish in the world and is considered to be so high value that they are given a microchip before they are sold. These fish can sell for $200,000 or more, with a Platinum Asian Arowana selling for $400,000 or more. These fish do reach over 4 feet in length and require a large tank of at least 250 gallons.


2. Flowerhorn Cichlid

Flowerhorn-Cichlid
Image Credit: Huy-Thoai, Shutterstock

The most expensive aquarium fish that has been sold on record was a Flowerhorn Cichlid that sold in Malaysia in 2009 for $600,000. This hybrid species of Cichlid can be purchased at an affordable price if you’re not looking for a showpiece, though. Sometimes, you can find Flowerhorn Cichlids for $150 or so, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re interested in this unusual fish.


3. Freshwater Polka Dot Stingray

These attractive rays can reach around 30 inches in size and require a tank of at least 180 gallons, although it is often recommended to keep them in a tank that is 200 gallons or more. They are beautiful and hard to find, and to purchase a Freshwater Polka Dot Stingray you should expect to spend $1500 on the low end, but these fish can sell for up to $100,000.


4. Peppermint Angelfish

Peppermint Angelfish are red and white candy-striped fish that only reach around 3 inches in length, making them one of the smaller fish on the list. They can sell for around $30,000 and are exceptionally rare. So rare, in fact, that there’s currently one on display in the US and that’s in Hawaii at the Waikiki Aquarium. They require a 125-gallon tank to ensure plenty of space and comfort for your investment.


5. Masked Angelfish

The Masked Angelfish is a black and white fish that reaches around 8 inches in length. Females have a mostly white body with a black “mask” on the face and black on the fins, while the males look similar but have an orange “mask”. These fish can sell for $20,000 and, although not rare in the wild, are difficult to catch due to commercial fishing laws, making them highly sought-after in the aquarium market.


6. Bladefin Basslet

These tiny fish only reach around 1.5 inches in length but can sell for $10,000. The reason they are so expensive is that they are wild-caught and extremely difficult to catch because they live around 500 feet deep in the ocean around reefs. In order to catch these tiny fish, submersibles must be used, which is accounted for in their price.


7. Neptune Grouper

The Neptune Grouper is a strange looking fish that lives around 800 feet deep in the Pacific Ocean. They must be brought to the surface using a special decompression technique that keeps the fish from dying during the transition, which accounts for much of their $6,000 price tag. These fish reach around 6 inches in length and can live in excess of 30 years in captivity.


8. Golden Basslet

Like the Bladefin Basslet, the Golden Basslet is a small fish, only reaching around 2 inches in length, but sells for around $8,000. They are rare and difficult to source, having to be brought to the surface from their deep ocean homes via special decompression techniques. Once established, the Golden Basslet is considered to be a low-maintenance fish.


9. Australian Flathead Perch

This 6-inch long Basslet variety sports attractive yellow and blue striping, and typically sells for around $5,000. These fish are difficult to find and, like other Basslets, live at great ocean depths. They live almost exclusively on the Eastern Australia coast in deep ocean reefs. Their rarity and the difficulty level of capturing them commands a high price.


10. Platinum Alligator Gar

Although Alligator Gar are indigenous to the Southern US, the Platinum Alligator Gar is a rare color that often comes from color breeders in Asia. These massive fish can reach 6–10 feet in length and require at least 200 gallons of tank space. However, they are social fish that prefer to be kept in groups of 3–6 fish. Selling for around $7,000 each, a tank of Platinum Alligator Gar can easily cost you over $20,000.


11. Golden Alligator Gar

Like the Platinum Alligator Gar, the Golden Alligator Gar often comes from color breeders in Asia. They reach 6–10 feet in length and require at least 200 gallons of tank space, but keep in mind that the more fish you have, the larger the environment will need to be. These giants cost $7,000 each and can live up to 50 years in captivity.


12. Arapaima/Pirarucu

Arapaima, also called Pirarucu, are one of the largest freshwater fish in the world, reaching 10 feet in length and requiring a tank that holds at least 1,000 gallons. They are unusual in that they are obligate air breathers, which means they must breathe surface air to survive. While not anywhere near as expensive as some of the fish on this list, you can expect an Arapaima to cost you at least $180 for a small juvenile, with large adults exceeding $200.


13. Wrought Iron Butterflyfish

The beautiful Wrought Iron Butterflyfish will set you back almost $3,000, but reaches less than 6 inches in length, so it requires less than 100 gallons of tank space. They sport metallic black and grey scales that look almost as if they are made of chainmail. They prefer to be kept in bonded mating pairs or small groups, so be prepared to purchase at least two Wrought Iron Butterflyfish.


14. Zebra Shovelnose Catfish

These unique catfish grow to around 2 feet in length and can live for over 10 years in captivity. They have flat, shovel-shaped snouts and long, flat bodies featuring grey and white or black and white “zebra” stripes. They are usually wild caught in Peru and typically cost around $500. They need at least 180 gallons of tank space and need a strong water current and soft substrate.


15. Black Devil Catfish

The Black Devil Catfish typically grows to sizes larger than 2 feet and requires at least 300 gallons of tank space. They sell for around $200 each and are a deep black color. These fish earned their name with their poor temperament that increases in aggression and decreases in tolerance as they age. Considering they can live to be 15 years old in captivity, you may end up with a large, angry fish you can’t handle. They can rarely be kept in tanks with any other fish because it becomes too great a risk that they will kill their tank mates.


16. Clarion Angelfish

The Clarion Angelfish is a long-lived fish, reaching around 40 years in captivity. They are striking with an orange and blue coloration. A Clarion Angelfish will set you back around $2,500 due to their status as an endangered species. There is a captive breeding program in Bali, but their rare nature has caused their value to skyrocket. When they were added to the endangered species “red list”, a Clarion Angelfish set the world record at the time for the most expensive captive-bred fish sold, with the purchaser dropping $5,000 on the fish.


17. Electric Eel

We’ve all heard of the Electric Eel, but you may not have realized that some people risk it all to keep these fish as pets. Reaching sizes of 6–8 feet, making them larger than most grown men, the Electric Eel can create an electrical charge of around 600 volts. Considering a standard US outlet only produces 120 volts, this is an impressive feat. These fish are incredibly dangerous and should only be cared for by seasoned professionals. Be prepared to drop around $200 for an Electric Eel. By the way, Electric Eels aren’t Eels at all, but are actually a type of Knifefish.


18. Blue-Eyed Plecostomus

These unusual Plecos don’t get quite as large as a Common Pleco, only reaching around 16 inches at their maximum size. They are one of the rarest Plecos on the aquarium market, though, and do require close to 200 gallons of tank space. They have patterned armored scales and bright blue eyes. The Blue-Eyed Pleco will cost you around $600. Make sure you feed it its preferred diet of wood.


19. Discus

fineline discuss
Image Credit: Andrej Jakubik, Shutterstock

There are multiple color and patterns of Discus fish, but they usually are sold in bonded mating pairs that cost around $500 per pair. They reach 6–8 inches in size and should be kept in at least 75-gallon tanks. These fish are beloved in the fish-keeping community for their social personalities and tendency to bond with the person or people who care for them.


20. Izumo Nankin Goldfish

The Izumo Nankin Goldfish is exceptionally rare outside of Japan. They are rarely exported due to the desire to maintain pure breeding lines within the fish. They are a variety of fancy goldfish with egg-shaped bodies and butterfly-shaped tail fins. They can reach up to 12 inches in length but will usually stay closer to 8 inches. If you can find an Izumo Nankin Goldfish outside of Japan, be prepared to spend between $100–$500.


21. Zebra Plecostomus

These zebra-striped Plecos are one of the smallest varieties of Pleco, only reaching 3 inches in length. This makes them a great pick for smaller tanks, since they only require 30 gallons or so of tank space. Don’t let their small size fool you, though! The Zebra Pleco will cost you around $300. This cute Pleco species wasn’t discovered as an individual species until 1990.


22. Betta Splendens

betta splendens
Image Credit: Grigorii Pisotsckii, Shutterstock

If you walked into any big box pet store right now, you could probably walk out with a Betta fish for $5-25. However, rare and unusual Betta fish can fetch high prices, with a mated pair having sold for $1,500. Most Betta Splendens are around the same size, only reaching 2–3 inches, and they all have practically identical care needs. If you’re just interested in a brightly colored Betta fish, you won’t have to drop $1,500 for one.


23. Royal Clown Loach

These large Loaches can reach 30 inches in length and require at least 100 gallons of tank space. They can live for 20 years in captivity and sell for around $125. Royal Clown Loaches are often sold while still very small, leading people to misconstrue what their full-grown size will be like. This often leads to these Loaches ending up in inappropriate tanks that are far too small for them.

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In Conclusion

Did you realize how expensive some fish can be and how dedicated some people are to acquiring rare and unusual specimens? If you’ve taken an interest in some of the fish on this list, keep in mind that many of them, especially the larger ones, are considered “tank busters”. These fish are extremely difficult to keep in aquariums due to their ability to shatter glass, making them unsuitable for the average fish keeper to attempt to keep them in a home aquarium. When it comes to keeping rare fish or extremely large fish, it’s often best left to well-funded public aquariums with highly trained staff.

See also: 30 Cold Water Fish for Your Aquarium


Featured Image Credit: Tatiana Belova, Shutterstock

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