Discover the Top 5 Most Colorful Saltwater Fish and their Characteristics

Most people who decide to begin their journey into fish owning do so for an abundance of reasons, with many people deciding to collect fish due to their array of beautiful colors.

There are two types of fish people collect, saltwater, and freshwater. In this article, we will be focusing on saltwater fish, and more specifically, the top 5 most colorful saltwater fish, to bring some light and contrast to your own personal saltwater tank and aquarium. Yes, there are an abundance of brilliantly colored freshwater fish, but that list is for another day.

Most Colorful Saltwater Fish (List)

The fish appearing on this list must hit certain criteria, for example, they must be colorful (obviously), suitable for living in a saltwater aquarium (200 Gallons or less), the fish will not be suitable for a reef aquarium (non reef fish), and to own these fish you must have the required experience in owning and looking after expert tropical fish. So, let's dive into our list!

You can take a look at my video below, summarizing this article in a more visual format:

1. Royal Gramma

To have the word "Royal" in your name means you have to be somewhat special, right? Well, the Royal Gramma certainly is, with a plethora of vibrant purple and yellow colors that define this beautiful fish.

Accompanying these amazing colors is a sharp and perhaps mean-looking face, which just adds to the incredible characteristics of this fish species. Despite the mean faces, these fish are kind-natured, and will peacefully go about their business in a rather inquisitive way. They are small fish, meaning that they can reside in aquariums as small as 10 gallon fish tanks, however, you can only house 1 per 10 gallon tank.

When it comes to aggressive fish, the Royal Gramma doesn't raise concern as they are fairly peaceful fish and tend to leave others alone or can be known to even socialize with other species. They are perfect for aquariums big and small and are awesome fish to take care of.

2. Clown Triggerfish

It may come as little surprise to see Triggerfish enter the conversation for the most colorful saltwater aquarium fish. And with around 40+ different species of Triggerfish, all possessing their own unique color palets, it was an inevitability that at least one type made the list!

Clown Triggerfish not only have a magnificently distinctive swimming pattern and a slightly unusual yet endearing body shape, but they have a stunning array of colors, from their black bodies with bright yellow freckles, accompanied by slightly larger circular white spots.

Triggerfish, in general, adapt to aquarium life and reef/coral surroundings well, under the assumption that they are given enough space to swim and hide. Clown Triggerfish are larger than most average fish, so they are not suitable for small tanks, and it also might be a good idea to keep them away from some other fish as they are known for being territorial and sometimes aggressive fish, stopping at nothing to protect their area.

3. Flame Angelfish

The Flame Angelfish is a species of Dwarf Angelfish that has become incredibly popular over recent years with home aquarium enthusiasts. This is due to its beautiful and bright array of typical orange, black, and blue colors paired with the fish being confirmed as being "reef safe".

Flame Angelfish are pretty placid little critters, spending the vast majority of their lives happily, and peacefully, without causing problems with coral, however, some have been known for occasionally going against the grain, so be careful as yours could do the same!

4. Lineatus Fairy Wrasse

This majestic beauty comes in a multitude of different colors, almost like a paint pallet, or a rainbow. They display an amazing assortment of pinks, blues, purples, reds, yellows, and more!

The majority of Lineautus Fairy Wrasse are considered to be "reef safe", and tend to be peaceful and not aggressive towards their fellow tank inhabitants. However, only one male is advised per tank, as the males don't tend to get along too well with one another.

5. Mandarin Dragonet

Making the number one spot on our list is the Mandarin Dragonet! These will certainly draw attention from anyone with a pair of eyes. The insane patterns and incredibly unique coloration make these an unmissable species of fish and a must-see.

However, what these Mandarin Fish clearly have in beauty and general aesthetics, they certainly lack in their behavior, and history definitely does not serve them well when it comes to aquariums. They are described by many as being somewhat comical "divas".

The majority of them will require copepods as their primary source of food as many cannot adapt to eating flakes, pellets, or frozen foods, and will starve to death if the issue is not addressed.

Learn how you can set up your very own mandarin dragonet aquarium with our detailed guide taking you through everything you need to know about them, from diet and feeding to tank size and tank mates!

Final Thoughts and Honorable Mentions

If you are an accomplished aquarium owner, have a suitable tank, patients, and most importantly tropical marine fish experience, then these fish will be the perfect challenge for you. They are also by far some of the most beautiful and colorful out there, and are an incredible addition to any aquarium!

Honorable Mentions - Colorful Saltwater Fish

Now that you have completed our list of the top 5 most colorful saltwater fish, it is only fair that we consider some “honorable mentions” – beautifully colored fish that could have easily landed themselves in our list but missed out for one reason or another.

  • Clownfish – when people think of Clownfish, Nemo often springs to mind, which makes sense as the majority of these awesome fish are bright orange in color, with additional white patterns, however, Clownfish also come in yellow, red, and even multicolored, they are also pretty small fish by comparison with some others on the list! The smallest species of these fish grow to 3 inches, whilst the larger ones can grow to double the size - 6 inches.

  • Emperor Angelfish – these awesome fish are well-known for having electric colors displayed all over their uniquely shaped bodies. With a dark black body, and light blue/white highlights these fish will certainly take the spotlight in any aquarium, drawing much attention. However, unfortunately, they do not travel well, and you must analyze your fish before purchasing it, making sure that its length is optimal for adapting to your provided environment, it is recommended to buy one at around 4-6 inches in length.

  • Rainbow Parrotfish – this group of fish adopted their name due to their incredibly parrot-like mouth, which has been considered to be more of a beak and resembles that of a bird. Although becoming somewhat of a laugh, their mouths are incredibly effective at breaking down coral and other food sources, also, they are used to scrape algae from coral too. Being one of the largest fish in the Atlantic Ocean, growing to a whopping 1 meter in length, the Rainbow Parrotfish requires a rather large aquarium (200+ gallons), with the addition of lots of food. These fish, however, are not just well-known for having awesome mouths, they are known for their bright and multi-coloration, having shades of brown, orange, green, and more scattered around their large bodies.