Creating your own ‘school of fish’ in a medium-sized or small fish tank is a fun and rewarding experience. It’s made even more fun by introducing a showpiece fish to serve as your aquatic pride and joy. A centerpiece fish draws attention, stands out through either color or size, and also gets along with the other swimmers in the community tank. Which one should you get, though? It’s a tricky question to answer since we don’t want a larger fish to gobble up the others!
What to Look for in a Centerpiece Fish?
Before you go fish shopping for that perfect species, let’s go through the highlighted traits you’ll need to keep in mind. For your centerpiece showstopper fish, it’s got to stand out and be noticed! This is where two key factors come into play:
The five fish we’ve picked below each feature color and pattern variations that would catch your eye as soon as you look in the tank. Also, these fish normally grow a bit larger than other community fish. So, even in a smaller tank, you can have a fish that really stands out.
In this article, we’ll go through our personal favorite and top 5 centerpiece fish. These species will all live happily in a 29-gallon tank or smaller – and not eat anyone else!
Our Top 5 Picks:
So, whether you have a 10 gallon, 20 gallons, 25 gallons, or 29-gallon tank, here’s that one special fish that will grow a bit larger and really provide a focal point for the rest of the community.
With their beautiful shape, distinctive fins, and lovely striped pattern, the striking angelfish certainly lives up to its name. These little beauties aren’t for 10-gallon tanks, but if you have upwards of 20 or 25 gallons (especially a vertically tall tank), they’ll fit right in and enjoy the space. They can be aggressive, but if you only have one – and we do encourage just one – then they’ll be much more easygoing and docile.
If you thought gouramis looked similar to bettas, you’d be correct – they’re both part of the Siamese fighting fish family. The honey gourami is an ideal centerpiece fish, only growing to about 2” to 2.5” in length, with a distinctive warm yellow color. Another choice? The female powder blue gourami – such a pretty shimmery color and slightly larger than the honey variety. Only get one to prevent aggression. If you have shrimp, it depends on the fish whether they want to eat it or not! There is always a risk when you add fish that can fit shrimp in their mouth. While 5 gallons is a bit of a squeeze, we recommend at least 10 gallons and up as an ideal habitat size.
3. Apistogramma / Dwarf Cichlid
Our number three recommendation is this striped fish with its flaming orange and black fins. Choose a male for the best color. You could also choose the Agassizii color variety, and the double red is particularly striking. The mostly orange Japanese Fire Red is another variety. If you’d prefer a yellow color, go with the Apistogramma Borellii (yellow dwarf cichlid), and you don’t even need a heated tank. These cichlids grow to about 3” in length, they can handle a relatively low pH in the water and are adaptable enough to go with many smaller fish species. Again, a 10 gallon might be tight, but if you have a 20 gallon at least, you’re good to go.
2. Bolivian Ram
Not as many bright colors on this species, with its muted striped palette, but they do have the 3” size and make a great centerpiece fish. Their tails have long pretty trailer fins. Plus, they’re also easy to care for and have a remarkably peaceful demeanor. They won’t harass other species. Living as a single fish is just fine.
1. Betta Fish
The betta fish is our number one pick! The stunning half-moon or crown tails with their huge flowy fins might get pecked at by other fish, so we recommend the Plakat Betta or Betta Pugnax, with much shorter fins. The Koi ones resemble actual koi and are very pretty. Male bettas can be aggressive but as long as only one is kept and given enough space in a 20-gallon tank, they’ll do just fine. Bettas all have their own unique personality so it depends on the fish! We’d still recommend it for your centerpiece.