Fishkeeping is a popular, albeit expensive, hobby. Depending on your preferences, you can end up spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on the aquarium, materials, medicine, and feed. All of these expenses come even before investing in the actual fish! With that in mind, there are some species of fish that are not only hard to find, but they are a sizable investment. Among the most expensive fish are the Asian Arowana, polka dot stingray, peppermint angelfish, masked angelfish, and the bladefin basslet.
(Looking for edible fish? See our list of the most expensive fish you can eat.)
The 5 Most Expensive Fish for Aquariums
Without a doubt, tropical varieties of fish are more expensive than those you can find domestically, in fresh water ponds and lakes. In addition to requiring very stringent environmental conditions to survive, many of them are almost impossible to obtain due to their size, behaviors, or locale. The following fish are the priciest to keep as pets.
1. Asian Arowana ($20,000 – $400,000)
Without a doubt, the Asian Arowana is the most expensive fish in the world. While it is being increasingly more available in Asian countries through domestic farm breeding and sales, it is currently not allowed to be imported into the U.S. It is seen as a symbol of luck and fortune, perhaps for its resemblance to the Chinese Dragons used in traditional practices in Asia. Getting ahold of one is very difficult, especially for those in the Western world. Fish breeders have sold them for around $20,000 to qualified buyers, but there are reports of those coming from the wild to have a $300,000 price tag.
As if that isn’t expensive enough, a very rare “platinum Arowana” was found. It is so rare that it has a microchip embedded in it to help track it and its offspring. $400,000 has been offered for this fish – making it the single most expensive fish around!
2. Polka Dot Stingray ($100,000)
This fish, also known as the Leopoldi Stingray, isn’t just expensive; it’s dangerous, too! In fact, the poison from the spine of the stingray can cause great harm, making stingrays more dangerous than even the man-eating fish we hear so much about. This beautiful, black ray with brilliant, white spots is a rare find that many collectors would love to have in their home aquariums. Exporting from their native Brazil are illegal, due to their status as endangered. Captive breeding, however, is still allowed. The polka dot ray can bring sales of tens of thousands of dollars for just one creature!
3. Peppermint Angelfish ($30,000)
This tiny beauty measures a mere 7 cm, and is difficult to find among the tight crevices of the reef cliffs of the eastern-central Pacific. Because it lives to deep down (approximately 120 meters or more), humans rarely enter the waters where it is most plentiful. Centropyge boylei (its scientific name) has been found on occasion, however, and has commanded quite the price. Most recently a scientific expedition of the Smithsonian resulted in one being brought back to the Waikiki Aquarium. Collectors were reported to have offered $30,000 for the brightly-colored little creature. They were turned down.
4. Masked Angelfish ($15,000)
These fish are rarely for sale, as they are native to the waters of Hawaii, and regulations strictly prohibit the collection of wild fish for aquarium sales. In fact, the only pair that has made news for being sold outside of the islands were sent to a collector in Japan. The couple fetched a total of $30,000. This beautiful breed of angelfish is still in very high demand and is likely the most expensive fish to come from this part of the world.
5. Bladefin Basslet ($10,000)
This striking little fish from the Caribbean measures a mere 4 cm. It features a bold, red color pattern on silver scales. As it lives well below 150 meters, it is very difficult to get to with typical diving equipment and is only accessible with specialized underwater apparatus. It is currently being sold on consignment, and has had offers of $10,000 or more.
Looking for something a bit more affordable? For a mere $8,000 the cousin to the Bladefin Basslet can be yours! The Golden Basslet has been priced at $2,000 less. Its beautiful golden color makes it a striking addition to collections. It is always in high demand due to its difficulty in acquiring.
The Most Expensive Fish for Hobbyists
As you can see from the list of most expensive fish, you’ll need more than just money to get your hands of many of these species. Most are illegal to buy or sell, or they only come up from under the water every few years or so. Here’s a list of expensive fish that collectors can more easily buy for their home aquariums:
Bali Aquarich Captive-Bred Clarion Angelfish ($3,999.99)
Another angelfish, this one is captive-bred and grows to be 8 inches. You’ll need at least 180 gallons of tank to hold him!
Gem Tang ($2,699.99)
A striking black fish with brilliant white spots, this fish is moderately aggressive and needs expert care to raise.
Bluestripe Tamarin Wrasse ($1900.00)
Beginning fishkeepers need not apply to purchase this amazing fish. The wrasse requires a very large aquarium. It also must have access to a particular environment with marine algae and special water conditioning to stay alive. It is recommended for institutions, zoos, and schools – not hobbyists.
Tigerpyge Hybrid Angelfish ($1,299.99)
This beautiful angelfish is hard to find, but comes up for sale often. It’s a product of Indonesia, is docile, and grows to just 6 inches in length.
Weedy Scorpionfish ($450)
Take caution with this beautiful creature! The scorpionfish is peaceful but has a venomous sting. This guy grows to be 6 inches and has an amazing orange and yellow hue.