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Home > Fish > 12 Rare Freshwater Fish (With Pictures)

12 Rare Freshwater Fish (With Pictures)

Pair of Black and White Polka Dot Sting Rays on Sea Floor

Fish are some of the most unique creatures on earth. While saltwater fish are certainly amazing in their own right, freshwater fish are just as incredible. Today, we’re unveiling some of the world’s rarest and most interesting freshwater fish. From vibrant colors to peculiar shapes, these fish have characteristics that set them apart from the rest.

divider-fishbowlThe 12 Rare Freshwater Fish

1. Zebra Shovelnose Catfish

Large predatory Zebra shovelnose catfish
Image Credit: Pavaphon Supanantananont, Shutterstock

The Zebra Shovelnose Catfish is rare, expensive, and coveted for its bold patterns. Found in the Amazon River basin, this catfish sports dark, wavy stripes against a light background. Popular with monster fish enthusiasts, it can reach lengths of up to two feet.

As such, plenty of tank real estate is required for optimal health and wellness. If you’re considering bringing a Zebra Shovelnose Catfish into your home, be prepared to shell out $1,200 per fish.

2. Imperial Flower Loach

The Imperial Flower Loach is an incredibly unique specimen known for its bright golden hue and dark, erratic blotches. Native to the well-oxygenated parts of the Yangtze River system, it’s facing a serious threat due to dam constructions on the river.

Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that any purchase involves captive-raised species. Potential buyers need to know that this species can reach a length surpassing two feet, so an accommodating task is required. Also, each one will cost you more than $200.

3. Zebra Pleco

Zebra Plecostomus
Image By: Pavaphon Supanantananont, Shutterstock

This species was only officially identified in the 90s, but since then, it has become a prized fish amongst aquarists. Known for its characteristic black stripes against a white background, the Zebra Pleco is indeed a sight to behold.

Hailing from Brazil’s Rio Xingu River, it’s best kept by experienced aquarists due to its shy nature. So, you want to ensure that you’re up to the task if you’re considering adopting this incredible species of freshwater fish. They fetch a price of more than $200 per fish.

4. Petrochromis

Image By: Mattia Matarrese, Shutterstock

More commonly referred to as Red Bulu Point, this fiery-red cichlid is making waves among enthusiasts. Native to Lake Tanganyika in Africa, this fish’s vibrant colors and peaceful temperament set it apart from other cichlids.

While its biology remains largely unexplored, its scarcity has propelled its price to sky-high levels. Furthermore, its lack of aggressive tendencies—a feature common among cichlids—has also made it appealing to enthusiasts. Buyers can expect to pay more than $500 a fish.

5. Golden Gar

The Golden Gar is a sight to behold with its sunburst of yellow to orange. Growing impressively large, it demands a significant investment not only in its initial purchase but also in its ongoing care. With a price tag that’s upwards of $5,000, this fish is no small purchase.

What’s more, it requires a vast tank and a hearty diet to thrive. So, it’s safe to say that only serious enthusiasts need apply.

6. Freshwater Polka-Dot Stingray

Black and White Polka Dot Sting Ray on Sea Floor
Image By: Bonnie Taylor Barry, Shutterstock

These stingrays, with their striking patterns, have long captivated aquarists. The Polka-Dot Stingray, in particular, stands out with its black body speckled with white dots. What’s more intriguing is its unique U-shaped body form, a genetic mutation that makes hand-feeding a daily necessity.

So rare is this species of freshwater fish that it fetches a dizzying price of up to $100,000. Now that’s one pricey pet! Of course, not all rare fish are for sale. Let’s look at some species that are protected due to their scarcity.

7. Devils Hole Pupfish

The Devils Hole Pupfish is a small blue fish residing in a cave lake in Nevada’s Death Valley National Park. With a population never exceeding 553, this pupfish is among the rarest fish species worldwide. Thankfully, recent counts indicate a slow but steady increase in numbers.

In fact, there are currently more Devils Hole Pupfish in existence since 2003. This brings new hope to conservationists who wish to see this species thrive in the wild.

8. Moapa Dace

Once common, the Moapa Dace is now critically endangered. Found in Nevada’s Muddy River, this fish has been drastically impacted by habitat alterations. Despite recovery plans, the population hasn’t fully rebounded, making every sighting precious.

Now among the rarest freshwater fish in existence, the Moapa Dace remains protected as experts work to ensure its survival.

9. Futuna’s Emperor

The Futuna’s Emperor, or Emperor Goby, was recently discovered on the South Pacific island of Futuna. Its fascinating behavior, coupled with its beautiful, blue-speckled body, makes it a captivating species to watch.

However, this freshwater goby’s population is alarmingly small, and its distribution is restricted. So scarce is this species that only a mere 20 have been identified by researchers!

10. Conasauga Logperch

This North American native is one of the rarest fish species on the planet, inhabiting a small stretch of the Conasauga River in Georgia and Tennessee. With an estimated population of fewer than 200, every individual counts in the survival of the species.

Thankfully, conservationists are currently working hard to ensure its survival in the wild. Their efforts haven’t been in vain, as hundreds were tagged about a decade ago and released into the wild.

11. Alabama Sturgeon

Among all sturgeon species, the Alabama Sturgeon is one of the rarest and most critically endangered. This freshwater fish is native to the lower Alabama River in Alabama, but its population numbers remain a mystery; only six specimens have been caught since 1997.

Amazingly, scientists feared the species had gone extinct. But in 2016, Alabama Sturgeon DNA was discovered at various locations in the Alabama River, bringing new hope to conservationists!

12. Diamond Darter Diamond Darter is a rare freshwater fish found exclusively in the Elk River of West Virginia. Despite numerous attempts to locate this elusive species, only about 19 specimens have been collected over the past 30 years, leading to its conservation status as critically endangered.

Although its population is currently unknown, the US Fish and Wildlife Service placed the species under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.


Tips on Caring for Freshwater Fish

Whether you’re a seasoned aquarist or a beginner, caring for freshwater fish can be a rewarding and fascinating hobby. Here are some key points to remember.

  • Right Size Tank: The tank’s size should be suitable for the type and number of fish you want to keep. Small tanks can lead to water quality issues and can limit the growth of your fish.
  • Quality Food: Just like humans, fish also need a balanced diet. Feed your fish a mix of dry and fresh foods, ensuring you include the right nutrients for each specific species.
  • Regular Water Changes: Maintain water quality by regularly changing a portion of the tank water. This helps to eliminate waste and toxins and keeps the water chemistry balanced.
  • Proper Filtration: A quality filtration system is essential for removing waste and harmful chemicals, providing a healthy and safe environment for your fish.
  • Suitable Tank Mates: Ensure that the fish you keep together are compatible. Some species are more aggressive, while others are peaceful. Check the compatibility before introducing new fish.
  • Check Water Parameters: The pH, temperature, hardness, and ammonia levels in your aquarium’s water all need to be checked regularly. Different fish species have different water parameter needs, so always research before adding new fish to your tank.
  • Provide Hiding Spots: Fish often need a safe place to retreat. Providing decorations, such as caves, plants, and rocks, can provide much-needed refuge.

Remember, keeping pet fish is not just about enhancing the aesthetic appeal of your space. It’s also about creating a healthy and suitable environment for these aquatic creatures. So, if you choose to embark on this journey, make sure you’re ready to provide the necessary care for your new finned friends.



Every fish species in our list is a unique testament to nature’s vast biodiversity. From striking colors to unusual shapes, these freshwater fishes are truly one-of-a-kind. While some are prized and rare commodities in the aquarium trade, others are in the race against extinction, reminding us of our crucial role in preserving these splendid beings.

Even if you aren’t a serious fish enthusiast ready to shell out thousands of dollars, you can still admire these unique species from afar and learn about their unique characteristics, habits, and habitats. Most importantly, the preservation of such rare species starts with awareness and respect for their individual needs and natural environments.

Featured Image Credit: Bonnie Taylor Barry, Shutterstock

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