30 Best Cold Water Fish For Your Home Aquarium

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

Can pet fishes thrive in cold water? Many aquarists assume that all pet fish originate from temperate regions and, as such, require expensive water heaters to thrive in captivity.

But what if I told you that there’s a special category of freshwater fish that don’t need a heater when kept at home?

That group represents the cold water aquarium fish, unique species that can easily light up your tank with their colorful bodies, and the kind of resilience that’s as good as priceless.  

This guide gives vital information about the 30 best fish for cold water aquariums. And after going through it, you shouldn’t have any challenges choosing the best fish species for your aquarium.

1. White Cloud Mountain Minnow

White Cloud Mountain Minnow is a peculiar-looking freshwater fish of the Cyprinidae family. They are one of the cutest looking fish species of this family that can thrive in cold water and freshwater environments, provided their needs are fully met.

White Cloud Mountain Minnow

While they haven’t attracted as much attention as you would expect, the White Cloud Mountain Minnows are easy to care for, only comparable to the typical Neon Tetra varieties.

Their compatibility inside the tank is quite impressive, ready to mingle with equally peaceful and similar-sized tank mates like the Bloodfin Tetras, Zebra Danios, and Guppies.

What’s more, White Cloud Mountain Minnows are top and middle-dwelling fish that thrives with plenty of vegetation, some pieces of rocks, and more subdued lighting.

Size: 2 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 10-15 gallons

Water Temperature: 64°F-72°F

2. Bloodfin Tetra

Hailing from South America, Bloodfin Tetra is a visually striking member of the Characin family that amazes aquarists with its beautiful silvery body coloration and blood-red fins.

Bloodfin tetra swimming in tank.

They are easy to maintain and coexist with most tank mates if the aquarium is large enough.

Their unique appearance gives a striking display, even more so when kept in small groups inside the tank. There’s plenty to enjoy when it comes to general tank setup, given the Bloodfin Tetras are a hardy species accustomed to all kinds of living conditions in the wild.

They can flourish in cold water environments, with a suitable temperature range and enough decorative elements. As for the substrate choice, stick to the standard dark sand, and you’ll have nothing more to worry about.

Size: 2 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons

Water Temperature: 64°F-82°F

3. Gold Barb

Gold Barb is another beautiful freshwater fish that we constantly recommend to anyone who prioritizes visual appeal.

Gold Barb swimming in tank.

They are a popular and ever-present fish in the aquarium hobby and an even better option if you need a favorite pet fish that thrives in cold environments.

They are known for their brightly colored bodies, but with an added advantage of natural hardiness, there’s quite a little to worry about Gold Barb care.

They can accentuate any tank no matter the size, with their easygoing personality and peaceful temperament readily increasing their compatibility inside the aquarium.

Gold Barbs are more secure in a school, and that’s precisely why you need a sizable aquarium to maintain a happy, healthy, and active community.

Size: 3 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons

Water Temperature: 64°F-75°F

4. Rainbow Goodeid

Rainbow Goodeid might not be a popular selection in the aquarium community, but they are excellent for cold water tanks.

Rainbow Goodeid swimming in tank.

Their endangered status makes them a highly sought-after species in the fishkeeping community, and you may have to perform proper research before making the right selection.

Typically, the Rainbow Goodeids are tolerant of different conditions inside the tank. Their ease of maintenance alone means you will always have the much-needed peace of mind if you introduce them to captivity life.

If you are ready to introduce a beautiful, rare member of the Goodeidae family to your home, ensure you set up a perfect tank and provide a constant supply of a balanced diet to maintain their spotless appearance.

Size: 2 inches

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Minimum Tank Size: 20-30 gallons

Water Temperature: 67°F-76°F

5. Least Killifish

Least Killifish, scientifically called Heterandria formosa, is a live-bearing fish of the broader Poeciliidae family that has earned deserved attention from fish lovers around the world.

Least killifish swimming in an aquarium.

We are long-time admirers of these beautiful fish, and even though they aren’t as popular as other members of this family (guppies and mollies), they are an absolute gem if you understand their cravings.

Being one of the smallest yet colorful freshwater fish, the Least Killifish can readily elevate the look of your tank when kept in groups. And now the best news? They are hardy fish that are easy to maintain and tolerate low temperatures inside the tank.

Size: 0.75-1.5 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 5 gallons

Water Temperature: 66°F-75°F

6. Rosy Barb

Oh! The beautiful Rosy Barb. Loved for much more than just their stunning appearance. These attractive freshwater fish have built a loyal following in the aquarium community because of their vivid body coloration and peaceful temperament.

Rosy barb swimming in tank.

And now, to add to such impressive traits, they are even more appealing if you consider their hardiness in captivity. Unlike most fish, the Rosy Barbs can tolerate low temperatures, giving you much-needed flexibility when setting up the habitat.

They are one species that don’t need an expensive water heater to thrive at home. And if you are fond of the bright red coloring, you will fall in love with the Rosy Barbs at first sight.

Size: 6 inches

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons

Water Temperature: 64°F-72°F

7. Dojo Loach

If you are a fan of the Cobitiidae family of fish, you might have heard about the outstanding Dojo Loaches. They are a one-of-a-kind species native to East Asia and one of the many species we’ve constantly recommended to aquarium enthusiasts.

A Dojo loach or the weather loach swimming in a fish tank.

They have unique-looking bodies and are sometimes called the Weather Loaches or the Pond Loaches.

Also, they are active, friendly, and just so addictive to watch at home. But one aspect that stands out in the Dojo Loach family is their hardiness. It’s worth mentioning that the Dojo Loaches have a natural ability to thrive under low temperatures, going as low as 50°F.

Size: 6 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons

Water Temperature: 50°F-82°F

8. Celestial Pearl Danio

Who knew the attractive Celestial Pearl Danios could tolerate cold water conditions? The Galaxy Rasboras, have been many aquarists’ go-to species if they need a gorgeous-looking freshwater fish to add a visually striking display to their tanks.

Celestial Pearl Danio

Their galaxy-like appearance makes them a good choice for small tanks. But their resilience and ease of care make them an even better option for beginner-level aquarists.

Galaxy Rasboras thrive in well-planted tanks and will benefit from enough vegetation that lets them display their intense body coloration effortlessly. 

There’s so much to learn about Galaxy Rasbora care, but as long as all the conditions are satisfactory, they should readily flourish with suitable tank mates.

Size: 1 inch

Difficulty: Moderate

Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons

Water Temperature: 73°F-79°F

9. Pygmy Sunfish

Pygmy Sunfish is another common choice for cold water tanks. They are a colorful North American species that can be an interesting inclusion to community tanks.

Pygmy Sunfish swimming in an aquarium.

Despite their small, shy fish status, Pygmy Sunfishes are pretty hardy and attractive when kept as part of a peaceful community.  

Despite their ease of care and natural hardiness, many aquarists aren’t aware of the Pygmy Sunfish. And even individuals looking for beautiful coldwater fish never consider them for their aquariums.

Don’t follow the same path, seeing as these striking fish can easily transform your tank if you provide the best conditions at all times. You won’t find many fish species that can tolerate water temperatures as low as 45°F unless its name is the Pygmy Sunfish.

Size: 1.25 inches

Difficulty: Moderate

Minimum Tank Size: 5-10 gallons

Water Temperature: 45°F-80°F

10. Rosy Red Minnow

Unlike the above-mentioned Pygmy Sunfish, the Rosy Red Minnow is an ever-popular freshwater aquarium fish that lives up to the hype. They are one of the best options for community tanks and can readily survive under extreme cold water conditions.

Rosy Red Minnows swimming in tank.

Some aquarists have used them as feeder fish, but they will always endure multiple conditions within their habitats, no matter your preferences.

Like most fish species on our list, the Rosy Red Minnows can comfortably tolerate water temperatures of 50°F or even less as long as the tank is large enough to accommodate every member.

Besides, they don’t need fanciful designs when kept at home, meaning you will have plenty of flexibility when designing the rest of the aquarium.

Size: 2-3 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons

Water Temperature: 50°F-78°F

11. Bristlenose Pleco

Ever since they were introduced to the aquarium hobby, Bristlenose Plecos have become one of the most popular freshwater fish for the aquarium hobby.

Bristlenose Pleco swimming at the bottom of a fish tank.

They are a great option as a favorite cold water fish for an aquarium with a natural resilience that’s only matched by a few species in the aquatic scene.

A typical Bristlenose Pleco is impossible to ignore, starting with the eye-catching bristles all over its gray, brown, or green body.

On top of that, you will also spot multiple appendages bulging in different directions. Not to mention the protective bony plates that have only increased their popularity in the aquarium community.

If you need a picture-perfect cold-water fish to jumpstart your fishkeeping hobby as soon as tomorrow, here’s the best option.

Size: 3-5 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 25 gallons

Water Temperature: 60°F-80°F

12. Fancy Goldfish

As their name suggests, Fancy Goldfish are fanciful freshwater fish with a visually striking appearance. They are a special group of fish with similar behavior and striking body patterns that make them stand out inside the tank.

And now the best part? These Goldfish varieties can survive under cold water conditions, known to thrive with water temperatures as low as 50°F.

While we constantly praise them for their ease of care, Fancy Goldfish continue to surprise us even more with their easygoing temperament in captivity.

They are happy to get along with other peaceful fish like the Hillstream Loaches, Rosy Barbs, and Platy fish.

Size: 6 inches

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons

Water Temperature: 42°F-82°F

13. Odessa Barb

In our opinion, Odessa Barbs are an incredibly underrated species that never seem to receive enough attention as much as the Gold Barb and Rosy Barb varieties. And that’s despite being one of the best freshwater fish for the aquarium hobby.

Odessa Barb swimming in tank.

Like most species on this guide, Odessa Barbs are best kept in a schooling community, given a fully grown adult will only measure about 3 inches in total length.

Their friendly temperament allows them to coexist with many species inside the same tank, such as the Cherry Barbs, Chili Rasboras, and Neon Tetras. Of course, they need stable conditions with an ideal tank setup to live their best lives inside the aquarium.

Size: 3 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons

Water Temperature: 70°F-79°F

14. Endler’s Livebearer

Poecilia wingei, commonly called the Endler’s livebearers, are a small cold-water fish originating from the Paria Peninsula in South America. They are beautiful aquarium fish that will capture your attention regardless of the tank mates.

Endler’s livebearers swimming in the tank

As a small 1.8-inch long fish, Endler’s Livebearers need a modest aquarium to survive, with a standard 20-gallon tank always doing the trick from the onset. That should be enough to keep a maximum of 4 or 5 species at a time.

As for the ideal tank setup, always match your Endler’s bearers to ideal living standards. That entails a suitable temperature range of 64°F-82°F, an acceptable pH level of 5.5-8.0, and fine layering of moderately sized gravel or soft sand. 

Size: 2 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons

Water Temperature: 64°F-82°F

15. Panda Corydoras

You can always bet on the Panda Corydoras to appear on any list of the most sought-after cool water fish because of their hardiness and undemanding nature. They are all over the aquarium community these days, and that’s down to their matchless durability.

Panda Corydoras swimming in tank.

As an ideal aquarium fish, you never have to worry about Panda Corydoras because they have straightforward requirements in captivity.

Their peaceful disposition also means they have many compatible partners like the Rasboras, Danios, and Tetras. If your community tank craves the sight of a beautiful off-white to pinkish fish with attractive black markings, Panda Corydoras would be an excellent option.

Size: 2 inches

Difficulty: Moderate

Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons

Water Temperature: 68°F-77°F

16. Mosquitofish

Mosquitofish are in no way related to the actual mosquitoes. But as ideal pet fish, they are gorgeous looking freshwater fish that can readily breathe new life into a boring tank.

mosquitofish swimming in tank.

Whether a pond or a home aquarium, Mosquitofish doesn’t seem to have any preferences at home. And that’s even more accurate if you maintain everything within the acceptable levels.

Perhaps the closest a Mosquitofish will ever get to the typical mosquito is their penchant for eating insect larvae.

While they can show spontaneous aggression depending on the nature of their habitats, the Mosquitofish are an excellent choice where an aquarist prioritizes low maintenance and durability.

Size: 3 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons

Water Temperature: 65°F-75°F

17. Asian Stone Catfish

Asian Stone Catfishes are yet another eye-catching freshwater fish perfect for cold tanks. We can’t stress enough just how exciting they can be as part of a spotless aquarium.

Asian Stone Catfish swimming in tank.

And whenever you think about a resilient, active, and peaceful freshwater fish, there’s no reason to ignore the beautiful Asian Stone Catfishes.

See, a significant aspect of freshwater fish care always involves tank size. And that must take the fish’s size, behavior, and activity levels into consideration.

For the peaceful, small-sized, active Asian Stone Catfishes, a modest community tank should be enough to promote healthy living.

Whether you need the perfect cold water aquarium catfish to fit your tank or blend in with the existing members of a community, you won’t find many better options than the Asian Stone Catfishes.

Size: 1.25 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 5-10 gallons

Water Temperature: 64°F-75°F

18. Axolotl

Axolotl is a unique type of salamander that behaves like a pet fish, and there’s no harm in including them as part of a cold water tank. Like their name, they are a distinct-looking species that can be beautiful and scary at the same time.

Axolotl swimming in tank.

But the biggest upside of having them at home is their ease of care and a natural ability to add variety inside the tank. Whenever you want to drift away from the ordinary by including an exceptional animal in your tank, you don’t have to look any further.

Axolotls are perfect for newbie aquarists, given their simple care requirements at home. Keep them in a small 20-gallon tank alone or with a few suitable tank mates and wait for the results.

Size: 8-18 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons

Water Temperature: 57°F-68°F

19. Hillstream Loach

Hillstream Loaches compare favorably to some of the most beautiful freshwater aquarium fish, given their flat, distinctive bodies that almost always stand out in any aquarium.

Hillstream loach on a rock.

They are also one of the readily available cold-water fish that spend their time at the bottom of the creeks and rivers when surveying their natural habitat.

The perfect habitat for the Hillstream Loaches should mirror the natural environment. Usually, that entails fast-flowing water current, well-aerated waters, and plenty of smooth rocks.

Everything else follows the ideal temperature range, usually between 68°F-75°F, with the pH levels reaching 6.5-7.5.  

Other decorative elements like plants and driftwood can add an esthetically pleasing taste to the aquarium.

Size: 2-3 inches

Difficulty: Moderate-Advanced

Minimum Tank Size: 50 gallons

Water Temperature: 68°F-75°F

20. Zebra Danio

In all honesty, Zebra Danios should never miss inside a peaceful community tank. And that’s down to their natural beauty in any environment and less demanding nature.

Zebra Danio swimming in tank.

Zebra Danios are so-named because of the beautiful black and white bands all over their bodies that are just as eye-catching as their cute name suggests.

When kept in groups, they are one of the most colorful species, giving a stunning display that’s never seen in many species. At only 2 inches, you will have no excuse not to create an all alluring aquarium with the beautiful Zebra Danios at the center of everything.

Size: 2 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons

Water Temperature: 64°F-74°F

21. Clown Killifish

Clown Killifish ranks highly among the most colorful freshwater fish adored for their matchless appearance in any environment.

Clown Killifish swimming in fish tank.

Most species take on a beautiful black and yellow body coloring with blue and red striped tails.  

Their hardiness alone will impress you if you keep them as part of a broader community. But that’s not the end.

Not many freshwater fish of the Nothobranchiidae family can withstand cold water conditions. But that’s not the case with Clown Killifish, a gorgeous species that can tolerate low temperatures of up to 68°F in captivity.

Size: 1.5 inches

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Minimum Tank Size: 5 gallons

Water Temperature: 68°F-79°F

22. Rainbow Shiner

Rainbow Shiner is a ray-finned North American fish with a pinkish to golden body coloration and attractive silver black bands along the edges.

rainbow shiner swimming in tank.

They are among the best options for aquarium enthusiasts, given their relative ease of care and attractive coloring.

Rainbow Shiners are opportunistic feeders that will readily accept a variety of foods inside the tank. They are happy with high-quality pellets, flakes, and other frozen foods in addition to tubifex worms and bloodworms.

They are one of the few species that can tolerate a wide range of temperatures from 50°F-72°F, deservedly ranking them among the best options for cold water environments.

Size: 3 inches

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons

Water Temperature: 55°F-75°F

23. Weather Loach

Weather Loach, sometimes called the Pond Loach, is one of the best outdoor pond fish hailing from the shallow East Asian rivers and paddies.

Weather loach swimming in tank.

They have an eel-like appearance with a natural ability to predict fast-approaching storms. 

Well, as surprising as that may sound, the Pond Loaches have been regarded as experts in predicting bad weather, showing an erratic swimming pattern when storms approach. 

Whether that gives them an edge over most freshwater fish remains to be seen, but the Weather Loaches are the picture-perfect species for cold water ponds. 

Anyone who owns these distinctive species is sure to get endless entertainment, thanks to the Pond Loaches’ exciting personalities and less demanding nature. 

Size: 12 inches 

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate 

Minimum Tank Size: 40 gallons

Water Temperature: 40°F-77°F

24. Sunset Variatus Platy

The Variable Platyfish, commonly called the Sunset Variatus Platy is a live-bearing fish of the Poeciliidae family that deserves as much attention from global fish lovers. 

 Sunset Variatus Platy swimming in tank.

As a beginner-friendly fish, Sunset Variatus’ ease of maintenance will readily match your fishkeeping hobby, with many species known to tolerate a wide temperature range from 61°F-77°F.

They readily survive inside unheated aquariums when kept at home and won’t have any special requirements when it comes to lighting.

Moreover, Sunset Variatus Platies dwell in densely forested canals, springs, and ditches in the wild. And that means they will benefit from having plenty of vegetation inside the tank.

Size: 2.5 inches

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons

Water Temperature: 72°F-82°F

25. Rosy Red Minnow

If it’s strictly all about tolerating cold water conditions, only a few species can match the resilience of the Rosy Red Minnows.

Rosy Red Minnows swimming in tank.

Hailing from the temperate freshwaters of North America, these eye-catching members of the Cyprinidae family have everything it takes to become your favorite pet fish.

They have special characteristics that make them worth every penny and, just to set the record straight, can easily survive with water temperatures as low as 50°F.

On top of that, an ideal aquarium setting for the beautiful Rosy Red Minnows involves the right floating plants like the water wisteria in addition to rocks, caves, driftwood, and fine gravel substrate.

Whether you want to introduce them to your home aquarium or are more interested in the pond option, the Rosy Red Minnows won’t pose any challenges.

Size: 2-3 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons

Water Temperature: 50°F-78°F

26. Paradise Fish

Paradise fish is another visually appealing cold water species with free-flowing tails. Thanks to the undemanding nature in any environment, they have the edge over most species.

Paradise Fish swimming in tank.

Paradise fish are beginner-friendly fish that anyone can maintain at home. And with the bonus of tolerating cold water environments, there’s no harm in making them the center of attention when designing your aquarium.

However, you should never forget that the Paradise fish can display spontaneous aggression to the wrong tank mates even with their small bodies. That’s even more pronounced in small aquariums or when the water parameters fail to match their needs.

Size: 2.5 inches

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons

Water Temperature: 68°F-82°F

27. Medaka Ricefish

The Japanese Rice fish, commonly called the Medaka, is an East Asian freshwater fish endemic to slow-moving streams, marshes, and rice paddies.

Medaka (japanese rice fish) swimming in an aquarium

They are excellent in saltwater and freshwater conditions, bearing the slightest advantage over most species you will want to keep at home.

Admittedly, they are quite rare in the aquarium hobby these days, and any species you will stumble upon is certain to be hardy, adaptable, and cold water-loving.

Whenever you need an attractive cold water fish with an endless list of tank mates, you won’t find better options than the Japanese Rice fish. And at only 1.5 inches, you will never get bored of these fish’s striking display as part of an active community.

Size: 1.5 inches

Difficulty: Moderate

Minimum Tank Size: 15-20 gallons

Water Temperature: 64°F-75°F

28. Empire Gudgeon

Empire Gudgeon is another incredible tropical coldwater fish hailing from the free-flowing streams and rivers of Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Empire Gudgeon swimming in tank.

While juvenile fish typically inhabit brackish waters for the better of their lives, adult Empire Gudgeons will need freshwater during breeding. Many believe that saltwater is an important element of the spawning cycle.

Furthermore, these fish tolerate favorable water temperatures, and anything ranging from 59°F-78°F could easily become their new home.

Despite having a low-maintenance tag, these fish have a minor element of aggression you will have to contend with if you keep them at home.

Size: 4.5 inches

Difficulty: Moderate

Minimum Tank Size: 45 gallons

Water Temperature: 59°F-78°F

29. Rubber Lip Plecostomus

Rubber Lip Pleco is an exceptional Pleco fish that’s hardy, peaceful, and mellow at the same time, and we’re surprised they haven’t gained enough attention from fish lovers just yet.

Rubber lip pleco swimming in aquarium

They are comfortable with a temperature range of 70°F-78°F and originate from regions with fluctuating water conditions.

An adult Rubber Lip Pleco grows up to 7 inches in captivity and will need at least 30 gallons to live their best lives at home.

Like most suckermouth fish, the Rubber Lip Plecos have a typical pleco-like appearance, with their bodies appearing to taper down towards the caudal fin. They are excellent predators spending a lot of time surveying the tank bottom to find any edible food.

Size: Up to 7 inches

Difficulty: Moderate

Minimum Tank Size: 25-30 gallons

Water Temperature: 72°F-80°F

30. Buenos Aires Tetra

The last cold water tropical fish on our list is a beautiful fish that many aquarists understand a little about. They are too large for a Tetra fish but beautiful enough to compliment your fishkeeping hobby.

Buenos Aires tetras swimming in tank.

Buenos Tetras have glittery scales and beautiful red and black color markings to complement their look.

They grow up to 3 inches in full length and can tolerate a temperature range between 65°F-82°F. Their peaceful nature allows them to stay together in shoals and can easily brighten your aquarium when introduced to the right habitat.

If you keep Buenos Aires Tetras at home, be ready to set up a separate mating tank if the ultimate goal involves successful breeding.

Size: 2.75 inches

Difficulty: Easy

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons

Water Temperature: 65°F-82°F

Final Thoughts

A cold water fish in a cold water tank looks like the perfect combination. And creating one doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Tropical freshwater fish are the famous cuties of the aquarium hobby. But a beautiful cold water fish could be all you need to bring any boring aquarium to life. And it doesn’t have to be challenging.

With any of the 30 species on our list, you never have to worry about creating a dream cold water aquarium again. Just stick to the recommended guidelines, and everything else will flow smoothly.

Tired of investing in expensive water heaters? How about bringing your aquarium to life with colorful fish species that don’t need heaters and other sophisticated equipment at home?