Top 5 Colorful Killifish That Every Fish Keeper Should Try
Killifish are one of the most colorful fish in the freshwater aquarium hobby, but with such an amazing array of hues and patterns, why aren’t they as popular as livebearers or African cichlids? Many veteran fishkeepers will tell you that they are top-dwelling fish that love to jump out of the water, so you must have a close-fitting lid and cover even the smallest hole to prevent their escape. Annual killifish are more difficult to keep as they live only a few months after hatching their eggs. We are happy to share our top picks for killifish that have short lives.
1. Clown Killifish
Coming in at a mere 1.4 inches (3.5 cm), the clown killi is the most petite killifish on our list and can live in nano tanks as small as 5 gallons. They are known as the “banded panchax” because of their distinct, vertical bands of dark brown and tannish-yellow, and they are also called the “rocket killifish” because the male has a striking, flame-like tail. As with most of the killifish in this article, they enjoy slightly cooler waters between 67-79degF (19-26degC) and may forgo an aquarium heater, depending on your room temperature.
We like to get a group of six clown killies – ideally two males and four females – so that we can breed them. Install a DIY spawning mat in your aquarium. Then, condition the fish for spawning using tiny food like nano pellets, baby brine shrimp, frozen cyclops, and live baby brine shrimp. Once you spot eggs in the mop, place the eggs in a breeding box or separate grow-out tank to prevent the adults from eating them. For more details, read our full care guide.
2. Orange Australe Killifish
This color variation of the lyretail panchax is recognized for its bold orange body, red spotting, and tail with extended tips. They grow up to 2.5 inches (6 cm) long, which means a pair of them can live in a 10- to 20-gallon aquarium. You can keep multiple trios or pairs together in a larger tank. They are able to eat Vibrabites, bloodworms, and frozen brine shrimps because their mouths are larger.
To hatch your eggs, you can use a spawning mop if you intend to keep your killies together in a community tank. If you want to keep a colony of them together in a single species aquarium, add dense aquarium plants (e.g. Pogostemon.stellatus octopus or floating water sprite) to conceal the eggs. Their numbers will naturally increase as they mature.
3. Gardneri Killifish
It’s difficult to describe the kaleidoscope of colors embodied in this 2.5-inch (6 cm) fish because the males can range from a pale pink to blue-green to purple sheen with prominent red dots all over. These fish are easy to breed, as long as they are kept cool, protected by a lid and fed meaty food. They have bigger mouths than you think and may even eat tiny fish, so don’t put them with smaller nano species. Males can be a bit feisty, so use lots of aquarium plants and taller decorations to break up line of sight and minimize aggression. Extra shelter will help your babies survive. To ensure healthy growth, give your fry plenty of baby brine shrimp. You should be able sell these delicious killies to your local fish market or other hobbyists.
4. Blue Gularis Killifish
The longest killi on our roster grows to approximately 4-5 inches (10-13cm), and comes with an ornery personality. The males are predominantly bluish with dense clusters and vertical stripes of red dots. The tails have an attractive orange band that runs down the middle. A pair of these males should be kept in a 29-gallon aquarium with enough ornaments and aquatic plants to provide cover. This species, like the garderni killerfish, is a meat-loving fish and will happily eat bloodworms, brine shrimp, or even nano fish. They may be a little harder to find, so trying sourcing them from fish stores, your local aquarium society, online retailers, and online auction sites like AquaBid.
5. Golden Wonder Killifish
This beautiful, golden-yellow fish is also a bigger killifish that reaches 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) in size. They are very active, not too expensive, and can live with medium-sized tank mates like bala sharks and blood parrot cichlids. Because of their toughness and ability to adapt to a variety of water conditions, many pet stores sell them. As with the other larger killies, they enjoy a mostly carnivorous diet and will go after your nano fish and dwarf shrimp if they fit in their mouths.
Killifish can be as colorful as saltwater fish and are very vibrant. They live approximately 2-5 years depending on the species. Keep them at a lower temperature to extend their lifespan and keep them bred passively to ensure they are as happy as possible. You can view our preferred online retailers list to see what fish they have in stock, even though we don’t ship live fish.