Interested in awesome exotic pets for aquariums? This guide is for you!
The world of aquatic animals is broad. There’s always something new for everyone – from seasoned pet keepers to newbies.
Exotic pets are some of the most extraordinary animals you can have in your home or office aquarium. These include the Koi Betta, Mystery Snail, African Dwarf Frog, Sulawesi Shrimp, and Bichir, just to mention but a few. However, if you intend to keep these pets, you should understand what is needed to care for them properly.
You’ll find true joy in the company of these animals if you keep educating yourself about their behavior and various needs.
Read on to have an introduction to some of the most amazing animals you can keep in your aquarium.
Quick Tips on Choosing an Aquarium Animal
- The pet’s health, happiness, and wellbeing should take top priority.
- Most exotic pets are not complicated; they have straightforward needs you can easily meet.
- Depending on the animal’s needs, you need to have the right aquarium size.
- Install all the equipment required to make the aquarium comfortable and habitable (lighting, filtration, heating, etc.)
- Decide on the plants, décor, and other materials that need to go into the aquarium.
- Consider whether the pet will keep growing and will require additional space.
14 Awesome Exotic Pets for Aquariums
#1 – Mystery Snail (Pomacea bridgesii)
Most aquarium snails are regarded as a bother by keepers, because they have a way of multiplying very fast.
However, Mystery Snails don’t fall into this category. Because these snails are asexual, they don’t proliferate as fast as others, such as bladder and pond snails.
The males and female Mystery Snail must come together to breed. As such, if you can keep the two apart, you won’t have uncontrolled breeding of snails in the aquarium.
It’s possible to keep multiple snails together without breeding them. To achieve this, keep the water level in the aquarium high so that the snails don’t get the opportunity to lay eggs.
Ordinarily, these snails lay their eggs at the water’s surface, but can’t do so if the water level is high.
Mystery Snails have a strong personalities that many keepers find appealing. And the good thing is that they don’t need ample space to thrive.
They can fit perfectly in a 2.5 gallons fishbowl or a relatively small tank. You’ll be fascinated to watch this gastropod as it navigates through the tank scavenging for food.
These snails are excellent tank cleaners because they eliminate any food leftovers and algae that could cause trouble.
You can keep Mystery Snails in a planted tank because they don’t eat plants.
The ideal temperature of Mystery Snail is 200 C to 270 C (680 F to 800 F) and a pH of 7.5 to 8.5.
#2 – Bichir (Polypterus senegalus/Polyterus delhezi)
These nocturnal carnivores are much beloved for their easy demeanor and peaceful temperaments.
However, they can turn against each other under certain circumstances, especially when fighting for mating rights.
Being an active swimmer, Bichir requires about a 100-gallon tank to move around in. However, these species are easy to care for because of their hardy nature.
Also, they need such a long tank because of their long size, which can go up to 20 inches.
The Bichir species is originally from the muddy marshes and rivers of Africa. This puts them in a unique position to tolerate diverse kinds of conditions.
Bichir species enjoy breathing on the surface occasionally. However, they are good jumpers, and you should have a tight lid on the tank to prevent their escape.
#3 – Sulawesi Shrimp (Caridian dennerli)
This peaceful herbivore needs at least a 5-gallon tank for comfort. As the name suggests, the Sulawesi Shrimp originated from the Sulawesi region of Indonesia.
This shrimp may be difficult to care for if the keeper cannot meet its special needs. For example, you need to establish and maintain the proper water parameters.
Although they grow to only an inch long, they need a reasonably sized tank because they are an active species.
All the same, their small size means they can’t share a tank with larger tank mates. So you should keep them in a single-species aquarium.
The Sulawesi Shrimp requires warm water and a relatively high pH level. This is another set of special needs you should meet to make this shrimp happy in your aquarium.
#4 – African Dwarf Frog (Hymenochirus)
This exotic pet spends most of its time underwater. This means it will fit very well in your aquarium because it does not need any dry space.
The African Dwarf Frog looks and acts goofy. You’ll enjoy watching this pet perform various antics as it hunts and feeds.
This pet is fond of eating worms. Therefore, this is a meal you should be prepared to provide if you intend to keep the African Dwarf Frog in your aquarium.
To keep your African Dwarf Frog happy and healthy, provide him with at least a 5-gallon tank. This is important as you’ll be able to maintain the water quality and chemistry with ease.
This frog does well in temperatures between 220 C and 260 C (720 F and 780 F) and a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5.
African Dwarf Frogs are good jumpers. As such, ensure the aquarium has a tight lead to prevent this pet from escaping.
Use live plants in the tank, as plastic plants easily injure this frog.
#5 – Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)
Although many think the Axolotl looks weird, it is one of the most exciting pets to keep in your aquarium.
Despite its bizarre look, this animal is an aquatic salamander with roots in Mexico. However, unlike other salamanders, the Axolotl does not metamorphose into adulthood.
It remains in the juvenile stage, one reason it spends most of its time in the water. While other salamanders become adults and take to the land, the Axolotl remains aquatic.
You’ll be doing nature a favor by keeping this species because it is endangered; it needs protecting. An interesting thing about this pet is that it can regrow limbs and organs if it loses them.
To keep this pet safe and comfortable, you should house him in at least a 29-gallon tank. The water temperature should be between 160 C and 180 C (600 F and 640 F), with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5.
It’s noteworthy that the Axolotl has a high bio-load. As such, you need to install a powerful filtration system to keep the tank clean.
Also, have a steady supply of worms to feed this pet.
#6 – Koi Bettas Variety (Betta splendens)
Koi Bettas are renowned for their beautiful red, white, and black colors that add life to any aquarium.
Koi Bettas are as easy to care for as all the other members of the betta family. Also, they grow to almost the same length of 3 inches.
Another thing you’ll like about the Koi Betta is its flowing, eye-catching fins that always seem to steal the show.
You can’t keep two or more male Koi Bettas together because they tend to be aggressive toward each other.
Actually, members of the male betta family are known to fight to the death when they find themselves in the same space.
However, it’s possible to house one male with a group of up to five females, and they will co-exist peacefully.
Bettas can also accommodate other species if these species are docile and prefer to live at the bottom of the tank.
Since bettas are very sensitive to changes in the water environment, you need to closely monitor water parameters.
Koi Bettas prefer live prey to anything else. So instead of feeding this pet frozen or freeze-dried meals, look for live diets such as brine shrimp.
#7 – Thai Micro Crap (Limnopilos naiyanetri)
The Thai Micro Crab is a small crab with origins in Thailand. Since they are entirely aquatic, they will fit right into your aquarium.
It is a late entrant if you have not heard of this pet in the aquarium hobby. Hobbyists started taking Thai Micro Crabs seriously just slightly over a decade ago.
Since then, however, more and more keepers are appreciating the value of introducing this beauty to their home or office aquariums.
As the name suggests, these crabs are tiny – measuring only 0.4 inches. You may not spot them quickly in an oversized tank because they are white and translucent.
The best home for them is a 2’5-gallon tank. Include a few live plants and some decorations to make this home livelier.
Thai Micro Crabs are pretty sensitive to changes in water parameters.
You must remain on guard to ensure the temperature range stays between 220 C and 270 C (720 F and 800 F) with a pH of 6.5 to 8.5.
Although Thai Micro Crabs are best left alone in the tank, they can accommodate some tank mates if need be. These include small, docile fish and aquarium shrimp.
#8 – Black Ghost Knife Fish (Apteronotus albifrons)
It’s neither complicated nor too easy to care for this fish. However, he has some special needs that need to be addressed to make him happy and complete.
This pet is a semi-aggressive carnivore that prefers live diets. Because of his large size of about 20 inches, he is best housed in a tank of not less than 75 gallons.
This is more so considering that he is an active swimmer that slices through water like a knife. This imagery is borne out of the fact that this fish has no caudal or dorsal fins.
In the wild, Black Ghost Knife Fish thrive in murky waters. They do well in this environment because they rely on electrical impulses to navigate their world.
However, because of this ability, it may be hard to keep two species in the same tank. Their electrical impulses are likely to interlope, causing stress to both fish.
The Black Ghost Knife Fish thrives on live insects and insect larvae. Therefore, it would help to have an ample source of these delicacies for this pet.
#9 – Indian Dwarf Mudskipper (Oxudercinae gobiiformes)
This is a special fish with special needs. It can stay out of water for significant periods, either on land or perched on a rock.
The Mudskipper manages this incredible feat because it can breathe through its skin.
Most members of the mudskipper family are relatively large and may not be suitable for an aquarium setup.
However, the Indian Dwarf mudskipper is the right fit for your home tank since it grows to about 2 inches.
If you fancy keeping a pet fish that crawls, hops, and perches on sticks, this Mudskipper is your best choice. First, however, you must be ready to give it the specialized care it needs.
This is not the kind of pet fish you buy on impulse. Instead, you must first acquaint yourself with its needs and plan adequately to accommodate them.
For example, you should plan for a large tank with 50% water and 50% land. Also, the fall from the land to the water should be sloppy.
The Mudskipper thrives in brackish water with gravity between 1.005 and 1.015. It does well in temperatures between 220 C and 270 C (720 F and 800 F) and has a pH of 7.5 and 8.5.
Mudskippers can be quite aggressive and should be kept away from each other.
#10 – Elephant Nose Fish (Gnathonemus petersii)
This fish is generally docile but can be mildly aggressive if provoked. As such, it’s best to keep him with fellow peaceful fish that won’t cause any ruckus in the tank.
The Elephant Nose Fish is a carnivore that prefers live insects and insect larvae. However, he is not averse to frozen and freeze-dried meals in the absence of live diets.
To make this pet comfortable, house him in a 50-gallon tank. This will not only contain his 9-inch body, but will give him all the space he needs to swim and somersault all he wants.
Such a large tank also lessens the chances of conflict between members of this species.
An interesting feature of this pet is its Schnauzenorgan. This sensitive organ communicates with the nose to perceive what’s happening in the environment.
This remarkable organ allows the Elephant Nose Fish to emit electrical impulses through the nose. It also interprets the data collected from the environment.
For this reason, this animal is one of the best navigators in the aquarium.
#11 –Mexican Dwarf Crayfish ( Cambarellus patzcuarensis)
Although there are wide varieties of dwarf crayfish one can keep as pets, the Mexican Dwarf Crayfish dominates the market.
This small fish is personable, friendly, and docile. Like most dwarf crayfish, it grows to about 2 inches. You can keep this pet with other members of his species in a 10-gallon tank.
However, if you want to nurture more than 7 of them, a 20-gallon tank is more appropriate. These little fish will need adequate hiding places in the tank.
They also need the adequate provision of calcium in their food. These fish’s main diet consists of protein and vegetables.
Also, ensure that the water temperatures are maintained between 180 C and 270 C (650 F and 800 F), with a pH level of 7.0 and above.
Because these little fellows are good escape artists, you need to cover the aquarium well.
#12 – Ropefish (Erpetoichths calabaricus)
This peaceful, easy-to-care-for carnivore does best in a 50-gallon tank. It requires this kind of space to accommodate its long, snake-like, 2ft body structure.
As the name suggests, this animal looks more like a rope than a fish. But, looks can be deceiving. This fish is highly adaptable and can survive a variety of conditions.
In the wild, the Ropefish blends very well with the thick vegetation of his native lands. If you can replicate this kind of environment in the aquarium, you’d make this fish one happy animal.
An exciting feature of this fish is that they have both gills and lungs. This works to their advantage when they find themselves in tough water conditions.
With a life expectancy of about 20 years, the Ropefish is one companion you can expect to be around for a long time.
However, you should be dedicated and committed to providing this fish pet with the proper care to achieve this.
#13 – Marbled Hatchet Fish (Carnegiella strigata)
This peaceful carnivore does well in a 20-gallon tank. It gets its name from the shape of its belly – which extends downwards like the keel of a sheep.
The Marbled Hatchet Fish lives at the top of the tank. Considering that he has very powerful pectoral muscles, he could jump out of the tank at any time if it does have a lid.
A fully grown member of this species reaches 1.8 from snout to fin.
He can be pretty nervous when he’s new. So don’t be surprised if he goes into hiding the first time you bring him home.
He will remain away from sight until he’s confident enough to venture out, looking for food.
Being top-dwellers, Marbled Hatchet Fish are best paired with docile bottom-dwellers. Ensure the tank has thick vegetation to provide safe havens for all the members of that tank.
For the sake of the top-dwelling Marbled Hatchet Fish, include a good number of floating plants.
#14 – Samurai Gourami (Sphaerichthys vaillanti)
This peaceful omnivore is best housed in a 20-gallon tank. But, like most members of the Gourami family, the Samurai Gourami has gills as well as a labyrinth.
This gives him an added advantage if he finds himself in oxygen-depleted waters. The labyrinth is a special organ that allows some fish to draw oxygen from surface air.
Not all fish have this organ; those that do can either use their gills to trap oxygen in the water, or use the labyrinth to get it from the surface.
This native grows to around 2 inches.
Finding a suitable partner for this fish can be difficult because they can be bullies. If you must introduce a tank mate, it should be a bottom-dwelling species.
This way, you separate it from the top-dwelling Samurai Gourami.
We hope this overview helps if you’re looking to keep exotic pets for your aquarium. Although there are many exotic aquarium pets out there, this post provides our top picks.
Most of the pets here are held in high regard by aquarists worldwide. So, go ahead and take your pick to get started.
Good luck with this noble endeavor!