Top-Water Fishes

Just because it's called a top-water fish doesn't mean it's not going to swim around the tank. The top-water fishes are not restricted to the upper levels of the tank, but are more likely to be seen there. In particular, feeding and spawning occurs at or near the surface of your aquarium.

Guppy Poecilia reticulata

Origin: Central America to Brazil

Size: Males 1.5 inches, females 2.5 inches

Food: Omnivorous

Temperature: 64–81°F

This guppy is one of the most popular single species in the world. It is a definite favorite among beginners because it is a very hardy fish. They tend to spawn easily and may give birth to live young every month. The males are very colorful with ornate finnage and a gonopodium; females are dull in coloration. Selective breeding has resulted in the production of over 100 varieties. These fish are vigorous swimmers, preferring small groups of four to six members. Provide plenty of cover and floating plants and you may be able to successfully raise the fry (offspring).

Green Swordtail Xiphophorus helleri

Origin: Central America

Size: Males 4 inches, females 4.5 inches

Food: Omnivorous

Temperature: 68-79° F

The green swordtail is another popular community fish because it breeds readily in captivity. The males possess a long sword-like extension on the lower part of their tail, which has given the species its common name. This trait is not so obvious when they are young, but develops as the fish matures. The males can be temperamental and will harass the females, chasing them relentlessly. It is best to have many females and one male. Males tend to fight as they compete for breeding rights. These fish breed every 28 days at 74°F. Like the guppy, dense vegetation will provide cover for developing fry. Another benefit of this species is its tendency to consume algae.

Black Molly Poecilia sphenops

Origin: Mexico to Colombia

Size: 2.5 inches

Food: Omnivorous

Temperature: 64-82° F

The black molly is also known as the Mexican molly. The many varieties prefer temperatures on the upper end of the range indicated above. Other varieties include the green, marbled, albino, and lyretail mollies. This species is another live-bearer that is gentle, and it's basically a vegetable eater. Like the swordtail, the molly will consume aquarium algae, keeping it in check. This species is lively and prefers small groups of four to six members. Although not as hardy as other live-bearers, the molly will prosper if aquarium conditions are kept constant.

Platy Xiphophorus maculatus

Origin: Mexico and Guatemala to Honduras

Size: Males 4 inches, females 4.5 inches

Food: Omnivorous

Temperature: 72-79°F

Some aquarists believe that the platy is the ideal community fish. The platy belongs to the same genus as the swordtail and is therefore a very close relative. As with most live-bearers, many color varieties have been commercially bred for the home aquarium. Plenty of cover in dense vegetation will lead to successful breeding and the survival of the fry in a community tank. The platy will consume algae and prefers to live in small groups of five to seven fish.


Zebra Danio Brachydanio rerio

Origin: India

Size: 2.5 inches

Food: Omnivorous

Temperature: 64-75°F

These are fish that like to school. Torpedo-shaped danios are very active fish. Their schools should be kept in groups of at least seven or eight fish. This egg-laying cyprinid has been commercially bred to both albino and long-finned strains. Males are generally slimmer than females and usually remain loyal to one female once they have spawned. This species likes to spend time at the surface where it is open and bright.


White Cloud Mountain Minnow Tanichthys aibonubes

Origin: Southern China

Size: 1.5 inches

Food: Omnivorous

Temperature: 64-72°F

This minnow is another schooling fish. As a very undemanding, active cyprinid fish, it should be kept in a group of eight or more. Males are slimmer and have more intense coloration than females. These are peaceful fish. They prefer cooler water and should only be kept in temperatures less than 72°F! That's pretty cool for tropical fish.

Common Hatchetfish Gasteropelecus sternicla

Origin: Brazil, Guyana, Surinam

Size: 2.5 inches

Food: Carnivorous

Temperature: 73–79°F

These hatchetfish are surface dwellers. They are a close relative of the marbled hatchetfish. They need to be kept in schools of at least six fish. The unusually deep body of these species make them an interesting addition to any community aquarium. All hatchets are excellent jumpers so be sure to keep the hood in place on the tank. A few floating plants will provide adequate cover for these gentle fish.

Siamese Fighting Fish Betta splendens

Origin: Cambodia, Thailand

Size: 3 inches

Food: Carnivorous

Temperature: 75–84°F

Siamese fighting fish are more commonly known as bettas. This beautiful labyrinth fish is a popular addition to the community aquarium. Selective breeding over the years has enhanced the brilliant ornate finnage of the males. However, only one male may be kept per aquarium, otherwise vicious fighting will occur; duels between males can result in the death of one. This is why bettas are kept in separate bowls on shelves unseparated by dividers in pet stores. They are kept close to one another so that they will display their finnage, as if they were ready to fight. That's because they are. Males are generally peaceful with other species unless they have similar fin veils. The smaller, shorter-finned females are more drab but may be kept together in a community tank. This egg-laying species builds a bubble nest at the surface of the aquarium where the eggs are guarded by the males.

  1. Home
  2. Tropical Fish
  3. Freshwater Tropical Fish
  4. Top-Water Fishes
Visit other sites: