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The 20 Most Expensive Fish in the World

Humans just love pets. We feed them, we walk them, we play with them. There’s a special connection that takes place between us and our favorite animals.

But of all the pets in the world there is one kind that we can’t pet, we can’t walk, and we can’t play with, though somehow it still exerts a mesmerizing attraction. The fish.

We love them, and we keep them inside a small aquarium inside our homes. They don’t seem to do much, but when it comes to the price we pay to stare at them through the glass of the aquarium, some are incredibly expensive.

And when we say expensive, we mean hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands and even millions in some rare cases. Though most aquarium fish are sold for very little money, there are some unusual species with quirky features and extremely rare coloration that are sold for those incredible amounts.

Let’s find out which are the most expensive fish in the world.

20. Arapaima/Pirarucu – $200

Arapaima fish

The Arapaima, also known as Pirarucu, is one of the largest freshwater fish on the planet. They can grow up to 10 feet in length, and will require a tank of at least 1,000 gallons.

An interesting thing about this species is that they need to breathe surface air. When it comes to prices, an Arapaima will usually cost around $200, maybe less for a young one.

19. Zebra Plecostomus – $300

Zebra Plecostomus

The Zebra Plecostomus feature interesting color patters, similar to that of zebras, hence the name. They are a variety of Pleco fish, the smallest of them all, growing up to only 3 inch, so they won’t require a big tank. In general, 30 gallons is enough for them.

The acquisition cost reaches somewhere around $300 for one.

18. Izumo Nankin Goldfish – $500

Izumo Nankin Goldfish

The pretty looking Izumo Nankin Goldfish is a species of fish that’s rarely found outside Japan. They are a kind of goldfish, a more elegant one, which is also the reason why it’s extremely uncommon to find one in other parts of the country. There’s a strong desire to keep this fish species as pure as possible.

Regarding size, they can reach up to 12 inches in length. The price for one rises to around $500.

17. Zebra Shovelnose Catfish – $500

Zebra Shovelnose Catfish

Another zebra patterned fish is the Zebra Shovelnose Catfish. It comes with less common body features, such as an elongated and flat body, with shovel shaped snouts.

They need a lot more room, somewhere around 180 gallons at least, since at maturity they can reach up to 2 feet in length. The Zebra Shovelnose Catfish are found in the wild in Peru and they sell for up to $500.

16. Blue-Eyed Plecostomus – $600

Blue-Eyed Plecostomus

The Blue-Eyed Plecostomus is an oddity. Around 16 inch in size at maturity, they have an unusual body shape and features, with patterned armored scales and the bright blue eyes that give the fish its name.

Due to their size, the minimum tank requirement is 200 gallons of water. As for price, one typically sells for $600.

15. Clarion Angelfish – $2,500

Clarion Angelfish

The Clarion Angelfish is a real beauty thanks to its prominent color patterns of orange body with blue stripes. The sad part is that the Clarion Angelfish is marked as an endangered species, a fact that impacts its price, selling for around $2,500.

They can live very long lives, reaching up to 40 years. Due to their rarity and to reduce the disappearance of this species, there’s a captive breeding program in Bali. Despite that, the price of acquisition remains high.

14. Wrought Iron Butterflyfish – $4,000

Wrought Iron Butterflyfish

Costing around $4,000, the Wrought Iron Butterflyfish is getting into the very expensive fish category. It’s got some interesting patterns on its body, with metallic black and gray scales that remind of the chain mail that knights used to carry back in medieval times.

Though they don’t grow longer than 6 inch and don’t require much aquarium space, needing only at least 100 gallons, they prefer to live their lives in small groups or with a pair, so you might need to buy at least two.

13. Australian Flathead Perch – $5,000

Australian Flathead Perch

The Australian Flathead Perch reaches a maximum of six inches in length and they can be found on the Eastern Australian coast at great depths. Their living environment in deep ocean reefs makes them hard to find, which also adds to their price tag, making it around $5,000.

Regarding their appearance, they feature yellow and blue stripes, which makes them super attractive as aquarium fish.

12. Neptune Grouper – $6,000

Neptune Grouper

The Neptune Grouper is another fish that lives at great depths, which makes the process of finding them very costly. They’re found in the Pacific Ocean at 800 feet below the surface, and bringing them to the surface requires a special decompression technique that ensures the fish is kept alive throughout the entire process.

Because of that, the price for one rises to a good $6,000.

11. Golden Alligator Gar – $7,000

Golden Alligator Gar

The Golden Alligator Gar is a huge one, reaching lengths between 6 and 10 feet. They’re typically bred in Asia, and they require a big tank, one with at least 200 gallons of space.

They feature a nice bright golden or yellow orange coloration that makes them good looking. In an aquarium environment, they can live up to 50 years, but the cost of acquisition rises to a whooping $7,000.

10. Platinum Alligator Gar – $7,000

Platinum Alligator Gar

The Platinum Alligator Gar is the cousin of the Golden Alligator Gar above. They share the same price tag of $7,000, but this one is rarer thanks to its platinum color. As with its golden cousin, they are bred by color breeders in Asia, despite being native to the Southern United States.

They reach the same length of 6 to 10 feet and need 200 gallons of space in the tank. One particularity is that they are social fish, and tend to prefer living in groups of 3 to 6 fish. Given the $7,000 price for one, you can make the math and get an idea of how much more expensive having a few of these fish can get.

9. Golden Basslet – $8,000

Golden Basslet

The Golden Basslet or the Gramma dejongi is a tiny but beautiful fish with golden orange coloring with some purple or black spots here and there. They usually reach 2 inch in length, so they don’t require much space, but they’re very difficult to source.

The process to catch them is similar to the one for the Neptune Grouper above, involving a decompression technique to keep the fish alive during its bringing to surface. That of course rises the price so much that the Golden Basslet sells for $8,000.

8. Bladefin Basslet – $10,000

Bladefin Basslet

The Bladefin Basslet is a tiny fish that only reaches 1.5 inches in length. Despite that, its price hits the $10k mark. If you’re wondering why so much, it’s because they’re hard to catch, living in deep ocean reefs. Capturing Bladefin Basslets requires using submersibles and expensive techniques. Their environment is the Atlantic Ocean around the Carrbbean.

It’s got a nice orange coloring with white stripes, which, combined with its very small size, makes it very appealing as an aquarium fish.

7. Masked Angelfish – $20,000

Masked Angelfish

Doubling in price, we’ve got the Masked Angelfish which sells for up to $20,000. This is a fish that lives in the waters around Hawaii, primarily the Midway and Kure Atolls.

It reaches up to 8 inches in length, and usually features a white colored body with a black “mask” on the head and the fins, hence its name. Some have a blackish blue mask, and others come with yellow fins.

The Masked Angelfish is another hard to catch fish species, but this time the cause is the commercial fishing laws that make the process difficult, which, in turn, make the fish very desired.

6. Peppermint Angelfish – $30,000

Peppermint Angelfish

The Peppermint Angelfish is part of the same species like the Masked Angelfish, only that it differs a lot in coloration. It typically features a very striking and astonishing red colored body with vertical white stripes, making it a favorite of aquarium enthusiasts all over the world.

Like its cousin, the Masked Angelfish, it grows up to 1.5 inches in length and is also difficult to catch in its natural environment, which is the Southern Pacific Ocean at depths of around 300 feet.

There’s also no successful large scale breeding, which means its price tag is very high, at $30,000.

5. Freshwater Polka Dot Stingray – $100,000

Freshwater Polka Dot Stingray

The Freshwater Polka Dot Stingray is a very special kind of fish. It’s got a mesmerizing aesthetic, with a round body of dark brown or black color and white dots of various sizes covering it. It reaches up to 18 inches in diameter, which is around the size of a dinner plate, therefore it needs a tank of at least 180 gallons of volume.

Freshwater Polka Dot Stingrays come from the Xingu River Basin in Brazil, and since it’s the only place in the world where they’re found, there are some very harsh restrictions for it. They’re also illegal to own in some US states.

Because of that, the price tag for one soars to around $100,000. Also important to know is that they will eat other fish, so it’s better to keep them in a separate tank.

4. Platinum Arowana – $400,000

Platinum Arowana

The Platinum Arowana, sometimes referred to as Asian Arowana, is a lovely looking fish, one of the rarest and most expensive type of Arowana due to its platinum coloration.

They are predatory fish and can be found in Asia, but unfortunately it’s also an endangered species and it’s illegal to trade it internationally. That has given birth to mafia trade, but also has made it illegal to own in the United States and several other countries.

In Asia, it’s said that the Platinum Arowana chases away bad luck, making this fish a very prized one. A full grown adult often reaches more than 4 feet in length, thus a 250 gallon minimum tank is required.

But before you think of looking for a tank, make sure you’ve got the budget, because the Platinum Arowana sells for $400,000, which is no small sum at all.

3. Flowerhorn Cichlid – $600,000

Flowerhorn Cichlid

Though not commonly selling for those sums, one Flowerhorn Cichlid has been sold at an auction for a jaw-dropping $600k in 2009.

The regular prices can be as low as $150, but the more special individuals and the better looking ones often score way higher price tags, which makes sense when you think of the incredible amount one specific individual has fetched at the auction.

The Flowerhorn is a hybrid species of Cichlid, with an intriguing head shape, hence the name.

2. Koi Fish – $1.8 million

Koi fish, white red koi fish isolated on black background

Koi fish are very special. They’re a variety of carp that have been bred to have a specific appearance. Some, the less special ones, can sell for affordable prices, but the very impressive ones can sell for over $1 million, a price that puts Koi on the second spot of the most expensive aquarium fish in the world.

Typically, there’s an auction for koi fish once a year in Japan. And one of them even sold for $1.8 million a few years ago.

There are a few key factors about the Koi that can make it special or not, and thus fetch unbelievable sums. The most important factor is a combination of bloodline and coloration, which can make it more or less valuable.

The colors they can have are white, black, red, orange, and gold. As a rule of thumb, the more koi fish in a specific line have a certain set of colors, the more valuable they are.

1. Bluefin Tuna – $3.1 million

Bluefin Tuna

With an incredible and record-setting $3.1 million selling price, the Bluefin Tuna is the most expensive fish in the world. The price was obtained at an auction in Japan in 2019.

The Bluefin Tuna is typically used for making sushi and it’s illegal to own for private use in most countries, which eliminates the possibility of having your very own in an aquarium. On the other hand though, they can be found in commercial aquariums or bred in captivity in Japan and South Korea.

Though not your typical aquarium fish, it is indeed the most expensive fish in the world.

Final thoughts

There are all kinds of aquarium fish in the world, but some of them are simply much more special than others. Unique characteristics and scarcity are the driving factors behind the incredibly high prices some of these fish can sell for.

From something like the relatively cheap Arapaima to a rare Platinum Arowana is a very long way, especially when you think of the budget required, so mind the gap in your wallet.

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