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6 Most Expensive Aquarium Fish In The World – Saltwater & Freshwater

most expensive aquarium fish

Most Expensive Aquarium Fish 

Ever wondered how vendors come up with the exorbitant prices for fish that some of us haven’t even heard of? The most expensive aquarium fish has been sold at $400,000!

So, it’s not like the vendors are asking for ridiculous prices and not finding buyers.

What influences the prices of the most expensive aquarium fish species available for sale?

  • Availability – the rarer the fish, the higher the price tag.
  • Number of recorded captive specimens – some fish might not be rare in the wild but can be rare in privately owned aquariums.
  • Difficult breeding – fish that are difficult/impossible to breed in captivity, and can only be sourced from the wild or through costly breeding programs, will drive up prices.

Here’s a list of the 6 most expensive aquarium fish available for purchase (not available everywhere!):

Most expensive saltwater fish

Most expensive freshwater fish

Peppermint Angelfish$30,000Platinum Arowana$400,000
Masked Angelfish$20,000Polka Dot Stingray$100,000
Bladefin Basslet$10,000 
Peacekeeper Maroon Clownfish$9,000 

Most Expensive Saltwater Aquarium Fish

The most expensive saltwater aquarium fish are not only rare and difficult to breed; these fish are also difficult (even dangerous!) to capture in the wild.

The depths at which these marine splendors live, along with their preference for hiding in caves or among coral reefs, are prime reasons why vendors will rightfully charge up to $30,000 for just one specimen.

Some expensive saltwater aquarium fish are part of some of the most common species (clownfish are the perfect example!), but get sold for shocking prices when they’re scientifically bred as designer show fish with remarkable features.

Designer fish are also bred in small numbers, by choice, to keep prices high.

Peppermint Angelfish (Centropyge boylei)

Peppermint Angelfish most expensive aquarium fish

Peppermint Angelfish (Centropyge boylei)

Care levelMedium
Size2.5 inches
Lifespan10 years
pH range6.8-7.8
Temperature78-84° F
Temperament/BehaviorPeaceful
Price online $30,000

 

  • Family

Pomacanthidae

  • Appearance

Peppermint angelfish are among the most colorful reef-safe fish available for purchase. They are popular for the fact that they don’t grow to the larger sizes that most angelfish species do.

With a short and solid orange body, it has distinct thick white vertical stripes framing its figure.

Being sold for upmost of $30,000, the peppermint angelfish is the most expensive saltwater fish per inch, growing to 2 ½ inches at most.

  • Natural habitat

The natural habitat of the peppermint angelfish is recorded to extend from the East Pacific to the Eastern Central Pacific, in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

Deep-sea dwellers by nature, peppermint angelfish live at depths of over 300 feet. They also instinctively hide in caves and in difficult-to-explore steep seaward reefs.

Being nearly impossible to catch, these nano marine fish can also be difficult to keep alive for a successful transfer into an aquarium.

  • Behavior

Peppermint Angelfish, like most angelfish, have a peaceful and shy temperament.

They can become stressed if bullied by larger fish.

  • Tank conditions

In order to mimic their habitat in the wild, the owner of a peppermint angelfish needs to provide plenty of hiding spots and refuge areas, either by incorporating live rock or by relying on aquatic plants.

Rocks and stones are a must-have, as this angelfish is a grazer, using algae found on tank decorations as a snack in-between feedings.

  • Diet

At such an expensive price, the peppermint angelfish has some pretty common dietary requirements.

A variety-focused diet of zooplankton (frozen cyclops, copepods) and small crustaceans (Mysis shrimp, artemia) is recommended.

Feeding 2 to 3 times per day, and adding Spirulina enriched supplements, will keep a peppermint angelfish healthy and resilient.

  • Tank mates

Keep the peppermint angelfish away from aggressive species! Or that will be a very expensive snack for whatever fish treats this high-ticket nano fish as a snack.

Give them enough room and hiding spaces when sharing a tank with similarly sized fish, and you should be able to have a wide range of compatible saltwater fish to choose from.

  • What makes the Peppermint Angelfish expensive?

For the longest time (up until at least 2019), the only peppermint angelfish available for public display was located at the Waikiki Aquarium.

Private hobbyists don’t hesitate to pay a high price for this bright-colored elusive reef fish.

Capturing & successfully surfacing this saltwater gem is a rare occurrence, so its market value has yet to drop.

Watch a superb peppermint angelfish explore its habitat here:

Masked Angelfish (Genicanthus personatus)

masked angelfish
Photo Credit: NOAA Photo Library (Flickr)

Masked Angelfish (Genicanthus personatus)

Care levelHard
Size8 inches
Lifespan10 years
pH range7.9-8.5
Temperature70-78° F
Temperament/BehaviorSemi-aggressive
Price online $20,000

 

  • Family

Pomacanthidae

  • Appearance

Masked angelfish have a marble-like white body with a distinct dark mask contouring its head.

The unique coloration of this rare angelfish boils down to the brilliant-white coloration that outshines the pale-white varieties of saltwater fish available on the market.

  • Natural habitat

The masked angelfish is native to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where collection of aquarium fish is currently prohibited.

This fact plays a huge part in the expensive price an aquarist has to pay to own this rare-in-captivity marine fish.

In areas where fish collectors don’t face restrictions, the masked angelfish can only be found at depths of over 300 feet.

  • Behavior

Masked angelfish are protogynous hermaphrodites and sexually dichromatic (males have a different coloration than females).

They are peaceful and can share their habitat with other similarly sized non-aggressive reef-safe fish.

  • Tank conditions

A community tank that houses a masked angelfish will need to have a 150-gallon capacity and have a low light setting. This setup will encourage this very active deep-sea dweller to swim confidently.

Live rock is recommended when aquascaping, as angelfish use it to rest and graze in-between feedings.

  • Diet

As omnivores, masked angelfish will thrive on a balanced diet that consists of brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, nori, worms, and crustaceans.

Feedings should only last 2 to 3 minutes, so one should be careful not to overfeed this pricy pet fish.
Masked angelfish do best when fed 2 to 3 times per day.

  • Tank mates

Seeing as the masked angelfish is typically peaceful and reef safe, there are plenty of compatible tank mates to choose from. Smaller fish species are not recommended, as they can become a quick snack.

Tank mate options include: 

Large Tetras

Gouramis

Large Rasboras

Rainbowfish

 

  • What makes the Masked Angelfish so expensive?

Breeding masked angelfish in captivity has seen extremely low success rates.

This information, paired with the fact that they are nearly impossible to dive-for in the wild (where there are no legal restrictions!), means hobbyists will have to pay up to $20,000 for a single individual of this species.

See rarely captured masked angelfish here:

Bladefin Basslet (Jeboehlkia gladifer)

Bladefin Basslet (Jeboehlkia gladifer)

Care levelEasy
Size1.5 inches
Lifespan2-4 years
pH range8.1-8.4
Temperature72-80°F
Temperament/BehaviorPeaceful
Price online $10,000

 

  • Family

Grammatidae

  • Appearance

The bladefin basslet has a stark red and white body, with a blade-like dorsal fin that has a distinct brilliant-white coloration.

A spectacular marine nano fish that comes in at an astounding price tag of $10,000 for a 1 ½ inch mature specimen.

  • Natural habitat

The world of fishkeeping would have never known of this deep-sea gem if it weren’t for the deep divers that caught the bladefin basslet in Curacao, in the Southern Caribbean Sea.

Deep diving submersibles have brought to light the Jeboehlkia, the Golden Basslet, and the Eye-stripe Basslet, along with the bladefin basslet.

  • Behavior

Like other basslets, the bladefin basslet can be territorial and very aggressive towards their own kind in captivity. This doesn’t mean that this nano fish can’t be introduced to a community tank.

It is peaceful around other peaceful fish.

It should be kept away from aggressive fish, as it will starve itself to death by hiding for long periods of time in order to avoid bullying or harassment.

And that would be an extremely costly fatality!

  • Tank conditions

Live rock for hiding and plenty of coral to use as refuge is the perfect aquascaping mix for the bladefin basslets. These nano fish rely on their hiding spots to feed, swim and explore.

Dim lighting is also a comfortable alternative for these deep-sea dwelling basslets.

  • Diet

Believe it or not, these 1 ½ inch saltwater fish are devout carnivores.

Bladefin basslets will prefer live food, like brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, and artemia. But they can be switched to high-quality enriched flake/pellet food.

A mix of both feeding styles will improve the bladefin basslet’s hardiness and extend its lifespan. 

  • Tank mates

Avoid pairing the bladefin basslet with other basslets, and even species with a similar appearance.

Nano saltwater fish with peaceful temperaments are preferred.

Tank mate options include: 

Blennies

Lemon Damsels

Dwarf Wrasses

Transparent Gobbies

 

  • What makes the Bladefin Basslet so expensive?

Living at depths of over 500 feet, the bladefin basslet is incredibly difficult (and dangerous!) to collect. And transferring to an aquarium is just as tricky as the extreme deep-water collection itself.

The $10,000 market value doesn’t sound as ridiculous when you learn what efforts go into collecting bladefin basslets.

Peacekeeper Maroon Clownfish (Premnas biaculeatus)

maroon clownfish most expensive aquarium fish

Peacekeeper Maroon Clownfish (Premnas biaculeatus)

Care levelMedium
Size6-7 inches
Lifespan3 to 5 years
pH range8.1-8.4
Temperature75-82° F
Temperament/BehaviorSemi-aggressive
Price online $9,000

 

  • Family

Pomacentridae

  • Appearance

The peacekeeper maroon clownfish is what fish collectors call a “designer fish.”

It has a vividly colored head with a mask-like pattern, followed by its distinct dramatic striping with irregular yet framed areas of bold patterns.

This mix of coloration and striping is the first of its kind in maroon clownfish, as the peacekeeper marron clownfish was scientifically bred to achieve these striking physical traits. Hence the $9,000 market value!

  • Natural habitat

Maroon clownfish are native to the Indo-Pacific area, extending from Western Indonesia to Taiwan and the Great Barrier Reef.

They inhabit coastal waters, lagoons, and seaward reefs.

The peacekeeper maroon clownfish itself is a captivity-bred species.

  • Behavior

Like other maroon clownfish, the peacekeeper is a sequential hermaphrodite. They live in a female-dominated hierarchy, where size trumps all.

They are typically territorial but social marine fish.

  • Tank conditions

Maroon clownfish are usually considered a hardy and resilient saltwater fish species, but that might not be the case with peacekeeper maroon clownfish.

Being bred solely in captivity to be ornamental fish, it is uncertain if the tolerance for a wide range of water parameters has been passed on to these unique clownfish.

  • Diet

The peacekeeper maroon clownfish should eat a diet that consists of zooplankton (copepods), phytoplankton, algae, marine worms, and crustaceans.

Feeding them 2 times per day is recommended.

  • Tank mates

Their territorial instincts will push them to harass small peaceful fish (clownfish included!), so they should be kept with other similarly tempered fish species.

Tank mate options include: 

Angelfish

Wrasses

Tangs

Triggers

 

  • What makes the Peacekeeper Maroon Clownfish so expensive?

The peacekeeper maroon clownfish is an outstanding new variation of the Premnas biaculeatus, put on the market by an Israel-based ornamental fish-breeding company.

The unique aesthetic features of the peacekeeper are the result of laboratory crafted breeding strategies. Thousands of juveniles will only yield a few fish that share the sought-after looks of the peacekeeper maroon clownfish.

It’s expected that the price would be up to par with the efforts that go into making this ornamental species available.

See a pair of Peacekeeper Maroon Clownfish here:

Most Expensive Freshwater Aquarium Fish

Why would someone want to own the most expensive freshwater aquarium fish?
Mainly because they come from a culture where the signs of exorbitant wealth can be found in a home’s aquarium, of all places.

Rare exotic fish have become a sought-after status symbol among the Asian elite in particular.

With traditional symbolic value and a promise of wealth and good luck, Arowanas, for example, have been driven to near-extinction status.

The Asian Arowana is illegal to own/trade in the USA. 

Platinum Arowana (Osteoglossum Bicirrhosum)

Platinum Arowana

Platinum Arowana (Osteoglossum Bicirrhosum)

Care levelHard
SizeUp to 3 foot
Lifespan10 to 15 years
pH range6.5-7.5
Temperature75-82°F
Temperament/BehaviorAggressive
Price online $400,000

 

  • Family

Osteoglossidae

  • Appearance

The ghostly striking appearance of the platinum arowana is quite a sight to behold. It is one of the most expensive Asian arowanas, along with the Albino Asian Arowana, and the Red Dragon Arowana.

The platinum arowana has a slender, long, and glossy figure, with distinct dragon-like scales. The metallic shine of its scales is the reason why some fish collectors consider it a luxury status symbol that denotes wealth and good fortune.

  • Natural habitat

Platinum arowanas are native to Southeast Asia but can be found in South America and Australia.

With most specimens now being bred in captivity, their price ranges depend on how many breeders have success at the same time. When breeders flood the market, the price for a platinum arowana can drop under 6 figures.

  • Behavior

Predators by nature, platinum arowanas are extremely aggressive fish. Their volatile temperament makes it impossible for fishkeepers to make them share a tank.

They need very large tanks, due to their size alone. Being active swimmers also means they need large open swimming areas. A costly arrangement, but for their price tag, it’s to be expected.

Platinum arowanas are fast and powerful swimmers, catching prey at astonishing speeds.

  • Tank conditions

Growing up to 3 feet in length, the platinum arowana needs a huge tank to thrive. A 300-gallon freshwater aquarium is not something any aquarist can fit into their budget. And that’s the requirement for just one individual of this species!

You’ll need a specialty tank lid as well, as the platinum arowana will jump out of a tank with ease, just like it would when preying on any animal swimming near the water’s surface in the wild.

  • Diet

A devout carnivore, the platinum arowana has been known to eat birds, mice, and snakes in the wild, along with any small fish swimming at surface level.

In captivity, they need a meat-rich diet, which can include: snails, insects, small fish, and crustaceans.

It will get expensive fast, with several meals per day. So, it’s not just the platinum arowana’s cost that’s expensive; its upkeep is pricey as well.

  • Tank mates

It’s highly recommended that a platinum arowana be kept as a single species by itself in a tank.

Their aggressive and energetic behavior will make it harder for any freshwater fish to cope with the constant threat of getting eaten.

But some aquarists have managed to keep some large species in the same tank as the platinum arowana.

See an example here:

Tank mate options include: 

Large Catfish

Jaguar Cichlids

Large Plecos

Parrotfish

 

  • What makes the Platinum Arowana so expensive?

The availability of platinum arowanas is so low that juveniles of the species will often get a micro-ID chip implanted to help identify it, and authenticate it when sold.

They are extremely hard to breed in captivity and a striking presence in any tank. Both of these aspects add to its steep market value.

The belief that platinum arowanas neutralize negative forces and attract good wealth, luck and prosperity, is the over-the-top reason why a buyer will spend $300,000 on this trophy pet fish.

Polka Dot Stingray (Potamotrygon leopoldi)

polka dot stingray

Polka Dot Stingray (Potamotrygon leopoldi)

Care levelHard
Size18 inches in diameter
Lifespan14 years
pH range6.0-7.5
Temperature68-84°F
Temperament/BehaviorAggressive
Price online $100,000

 

  • Family

Potamotrygonidae

  • Appearance

The polka dot stingray is as uncommon as it is expensive due to the rare genetic mutation that causes its head to have a U-shape, unlike the typical round-shaped head of more common stingrays.

Polka dot stingrays have a pitch-black body with white polka dots, making them look absolutely hypnotic when swimming along the bottom of any tank.

  • Natural habitat

Native to the Xingu River basin in Brazil and also spotted in Rio Fresco in Brazil, the polka dot stingray’s scarcity in the wild contributes to its exorbitant market value.

Like other members of its genus (Potamotrygon), the polka dot stingray lives in the shallow areas of great rivers, along sandbanks, and where slow-moving waters facilitate the muddy/sandy substrate it likes.

  • Behavior

The rare genetic mutation that the polka dot stingray is famous for among hobbyists and fish collectors is ironically also the reason why its ability to survive in the wild is limited.

Their U-shaped head makes it almost impossible for them to hunt prey efficiently. This also means that polka dot stingrays have to be hand-fed in captivity.

Feeding comes with a risk, as this Xingu river stingray has a venomous dentine spine in its tail. The toxicity of its venom thankfully decreases as the polka dot stingray ages.

  • Tank conditions

Like the platinum arowana, the polka dot stingray needs a massive aquarium to live a stress-free life.
Growing up to 18-inches in diameter, a 500-gallon aquarium is a minimum requirement for this very active freshwater fish.

The sheer cost of a tank fit for a mature polka dot stingray is not something the average fishkeeper can afford.

In addition, a tight-fitting lid is required, as this 18-inch stingray will feed at the water’s surface level and not hesitate to topple over the edge of the tank.

  • Diet

Fast calorie burners, with a high metabolic rate, polka dot stingrays need to be fed at least 2 times per day. Variety is key when feeding this black and white beauty.

Meaty, protein-rich foods are preferred. Earthworms, mussels, prawns, crustaceans, fresh fish for bait or squid are all on the menu!

  • Tank mates

Stingrays are considered top predators in the wild, and genetic mutation aside, the polka dot stingray follows those predatory instincts even when in captivity.

They are unsafe to keep with other species, especially due to their venomous sting.

  • What makes the Polka Dot Stingray so expensive?

The difficult upkeep of the polka dot stingray (hand-feeding included!), and its extremely scarce availability in the wild, makes it a high-ticket value pet fish.

The fact that they have yet to be successfully bred in captivity also influences its price.

Conclusion – Most Expensive Aquarium Fish

As high-priced as they are, the most expensive aquarium fish can find themselves on any fishkeeper’s wish list. And who knows?

If you somehow unexpectedly win the lottery, now you know how to care for these status-symbol pet fish!


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