5 Unique Aquatic Creatures for your Aquarium

Not all aquarium pets provide the same entertainment value. Here are 5 aquatic creatures guaranteed to bring an interesting dynamic to your tank.

Mar 16, 2023By Emily Weigel, Veterinary assistant
unique aquatic fish creatures for your aquarium

Aquariums can be a chill, visually attractive decoration in your home. The animals on this list are not your run-of-the-mill, everyday big-box pet store fish. Most of them need to be purchased at a specialty pet store. Some may even need to be specially ordered. These squishy little friends aren’t terribly hard to care for but will each have a few specific needs. Aquarium lovers, read on!

5. Ghost Shrimp

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Ghost shrimp, also known as glass shrimp, use tiny claws to grab food from all surfaces of the aquarium. Ghost shrimp add a unique, stealthy dimension to aquariums because they are great at hiding. They eat plants and algae, and clean detritus from substrate. They will even burrow into your substrate if it’s soft and deep enough.

Especially plucky ghost shrimp wave and snap their claws to scare fish away from their food. If aquarium conditions are good enough, they will reproduce. The females hold their clutches of eggs in their abdomen, where they can easily be observed by the curious. It’s an interesting sight to behold.

4. Jack Dempsey cichlid

large blue jack dempsey

The Jack Dempsey is one of the most colorful, yet affordable, cichlids. Their colors brighten and fade depending on their moods and stress levels. Male Jack Dempseys can grow to be 12 in. long! Any fish of that size, with such vibrant colors, is quite a conversation piece.

If an aquarium has more than one of these fish, it’s likely that you’ll see the reason this cichlid is named after a famous boxer from the 1920s. This is a great species if you only want a few fish in the tank, because they can be aggressive.

Cichlids do well in aquariums that have lots of shelter and defined habitat areas because they like to have something to protect. If you like being artistic or creative with your aquarium, it’s a good idea to design rock caves they can use for hiding.

3. Freshwater Angelfish

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Freshwater angelfish breed readily if you get a group of them. Angelfish are substrate spawners, so they attach their sticky eggs to a smooth substrate. Once fry grow to be free-swimming, parent fish protect their young from other fish by sucking the little ones into their mouths.

When angelfish have laid their eggs, it’s fun to get a 5- or 10-gal tank ready for the fry. Ensure that the small tank has the same water quality as the parent tank.

Order brine shrimp eggs online for the fry to eat. Brine shrimp can be grown easily in a large vase or glass of water. A couple of angelfish can multiply quickly under the right conditions!

2. Rabbit Snails

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Rabbit snails are adorable! They have antennae that look like floppy bunny ears (they are also called elephant snails; you can see a resemblance to both) and they can grow to around 5 inches. One interesting facet of rabbit snail ownership is that while they will move about during the day, rabbit snails are especially active at night.

If you have young children and keep rabbit snails, a fun nightly routine can be bringing the child to the tank to see where the snail is, then making predictions about where the snail may be in the morning. Turn the light off, and then when you wake up in the morning, turn on the light. Who knows where it will have gone?!

If you have a rabbit snail, keep an eye on your aquarium plants, because if a rabbit snail isn’t being kept properly, it will eat plants. It’s very similar to a garden snail in this way.

1. Pea Puffer

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The dwarf puffer or pea puffer has incredible eyesight and will swim right up to your face! It loves interacting with humans and will begin to recognize its keepers. Its eyes can move independently and will follow if you’re nearby. You'll fall in love and won't be able to watch its antics without cooing.

This tiny fish has a big attitude and will chase other fish around the tank. They're gregarious, and therefore, great aquatic pets. They can be picky eaters and have a few specific care needs. Pea puffers should generally be the stars of the show and kept as the only species in an aquarium.

A few plants and some big rocks are all they need for decor! Puffers also aren’t terribly strong swimmers and can get stuck in aquarium crevices. I kept 5 in a 55-gal aquarium, and they did well. Using bio load to judge, I could have kept a few more, but since pea puffers can show increased aggression when they’re cramped, it's best to build your community over time.

Make sure you also give your puffers funny names, like Marshmallow for the one who eats a lot, or Derp for the one that has silly mannerisms.

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We have so many choices to make when choosing new pets for our aquariums. While aquariums are usually quiet, calming areas, these are a few pets that up the entertainment level. Nobody can label the pets from this list boring!

Emily Weigel
By Emily WeigelVeterinary assistant

Emily has a master’s degree in marine sciences, and if you know a remarkable aquatic fact or story, she wants you to share it! She’s enjoyed her jobs as an aquarist at Bass Pro Shops, educator and caretaker at several aquatic science centers around the U.S., and veterinary assistant and client services coordinator at her local pet hospital. Her pets are Alyeska, a watchful bull boxer pit; Miki, a squat-jumping Chihuahua-Jack Russell; Coral, a tortie with a ‘tude; and Bonnie, a calico gymnast. She doesn’t have enough space to tell you about her many fish, but she loves them too!