10 of the Most Expensive Tropical Fish

The beauty and grace of an aquarium full of brilliantly colored fish can be enjoyed by everyone but there are those rare few that get bit by the collector bug. These individuals have both the time and pocketbook to support the collection of rare and valuable fish as additions to their tanks. Depending on the rarity of the specimen and its uniqueness, prices range from $1,000 - $400,000. The prices depend on methods of collection also with many specimens having to be harvested from deep waters using submersibles.

Some specimens require special government permits for collection as well. While these collectors get to enjoy the real thing up close the rest of us have to be content with pictures and video but it’s nice to know there is such an abundance of beauty in the underwater world. It’s not hard to see why many people become infatuated with the tropical fish hobby.  There is something infinitely rewarding about recreating a riverbed or tropical reef in one’s home and stocking it with those that usually inhabit it. It gives us a unique perspective into a world we would otherwise never know.

Aquariums can be wonderful teaching aids for children to learn lessons on nature and the environment and they have proven medical benefits for adults such as helping to lower blood pressure for those that watch the fish swimming regularly. There is something soothing and relaxing about it and that obviously acts as a stress valve to let steam off. The majority of us will never own the fish listed here, but it’s fun to see just how much some collectors are willing to pay.

10 Candy Basslet: $1,000

This beautiful fish has to be one of the most colorful of all marine fishes. It’s found in the Caribbean, mostly off the coast of Curacao. Although not the easiest fish to acquire, once in captivity they do very well and are easy to feed and care for. It’s encouraging that there has been some success with breeding them in captivity, which means eventually the price tag may come down enough for the average home aquarist to own one.

9 Clarion Angelfish: $2,500

The Clarion Angelfish is named for one of the most beautiful islands off the Pacific coast of Mexico, part of the Revillagigedo Islands. It can be found there and often around the more remote island of Clipperton. These fish are brilliantly colored and highly sought after. They have been kept in captivity for about 40 years, but they are rarely found on the market. This is due in part to the fact that you must have a special permit from the Mexican Government to collect them.

8 Wrought Iron Butterflyfish: $2,700

Found off the waters of Japan this little beauty reaches an average size of approximately 6 inches. It is one of the hardiest of the Butterflyfish family, but also one of the least owned due to its price tag. The average home aquarist doesn’t usually spend over $2,000 for one fish. There are very few of them found in North American collections as the majority of them are bought by Asian collectors. They are very active swimmers, which make them fun to watch in an aquarium as they zip from one side to the other. They are named after their coloring, a dusky greyish black with bright yellow accents.

7 Australian Flathead Perch: $5,000

This super rare fish goes for as high as $5,000 when available. Found in the waters of Australia, it’s very difficult to catch darting out of the shelter of rocks only for food and quickly darting back. The first one was offered up for sale in the United States in 2011 and they have been in high demand by collectors since then. They prefer live food like ghost shrimp and plenty of rocks to hide under, but if given proper conditions, it will display itself adequately for onlookers. Its vivid stripes and colors make it a gorgeous addition to any aquarium.

6 Neptune Grouper: $6,000

This stunning fish is almost never available for purchase, so when it is, collectors clamor for it paying upwards of $6,000. It’s a deep water fish, presenting many challenges in collecting it, including the need for the divers to rise slowly to allow decompression not only for themselves but for the specimens they collected. Very few are found in shallow enough waters that allow them to be caught. Juvenile groupers coloration tends to differ drastically from that of full grown adults. The juvenile Neptune Grouper displays brilliant shades of yellow and orange, while the adult displays a brilliant pink coloration with bright yellow bands. If you are ever lucky enough to own this fish it will definitely elicit “oohs and ahhs” from all that are treated to a peek.

5 Golden Basslet: $8,000

One of the smallest members of the grouper family, these fish are found in both the Pacific and Atlantic. Although hardy, and able to adapt to captivity, it’s rare to see this fish for sale. They have to be collected using a deep-sea submersible craft, which accounts for the exorbitant price tag. This little fish is very shy in captivity as well as in the wild so even though you may shell out some hefty clams for this golden beauty, you may not see it all that often in your tank.

4 Bladefin Basslet: $10,000

This cute little guy goes for as much as $10,000. Its name comes from the funny blade-like dorsal fin. Found mostly in the Caribbean with coloring ranges from vivid orange to white. Quirky with a good deal of personality, this fish is definitely on collector’s lists due to its rarity. It only reaches a size of approximately 1.5 inches and is considered a deep water reef fish, which accounts for the difficulty in collecting specimens. Imagine finding something so tiny, so deep down and then having to catch it?  It’s no surprise that seeing these fish for sale is a rare occurrence.

3 Peppermint Angelfish: $30,000

Collectors have offered as much as $30,000 for this very exotic fish. In 2012, there was only one available for public viewing. It was found at the Waikiki Aquarium having been captured by a Smithsonian Institute research expedition. It’s a deep water fish, which accounts for the rareness of encountering these beautiful fish. The average diver does not go to those depths. The fish is striking with stripes of red and white hence its name. Since 2012 they have been in high demand by private collectors wishing to add something rare and exotic to their aquariums.

2 Freshwater Polka Dot Stingray: $100,000

This particular fish was recently on display in Taiwan. It has a unique genetic mutation on the front of its head causing it to look u-shaped instead of round, which is normal for rays. Currently it’s one of the most expensive aquarium fish in Taiwan with a price tag of $100,000. Interestingly enough this particular stingray would never be able to survive in the wild as it can’t hunt the shellfish it eats with its misshapen head. In captivity, it must be fed from hand to survive.

1 Platinum Arowana: $400,000

Number one on the list is the Platinum or White Arowana. This fish has a value of approximately $400,000. It is so valuable that a micro ID chip is implanted into it before it reaches sexual maturity to help identify and authenticate it. The color is the result of a very rare genetic mutation. More common types of Arowana include: the Red Arowana, Green Arowana, Yellow-Tail Arowana, Silver Arowana, Black Arowana and Australian Pearl Arowana. They are found in nature in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa.  In captivity they require at least a 300 gallon tank with plenty of live food such as crickets and worms. They can reach a size of about 35 inches and they can live for more than 50 years. They are intelligent with the ability to recognize individuals and they can be trained to be hand-fed. Although they are a fabulous fish, they are not necessarily the perfect pet for the average home aquarist for some of the reasons listed above.

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