You may have seen mollies and guppies countless times at your local fish store or pet shop but once you’ve been keeping tanks for a long time, you might reach out for something more exotic. Some so called “rare” fish that you may see for sale may cost fifty to one hundred dollars but if you’ve got the coin, there’s fish in the sea that cost beaucoup bucks.
Before telling you about the rarest of the rare aquarium fish, keep in mind that these fish are not rare in the wild, but they are very hard to come by. Some live far, far away. Some live very, very deep. Some live far, far away and very, very deep. In any case, here are the five rarest and most coveted fish for marine (saltwater) aquariums.
#5 The candy basslet is a beautiful yellow and blue fish from the Caribbean. It is found all over but they are mostly collected from Curacao. They are easy to keep, easy to feed and they look every bit as beautiful in pictures as they do in real life, and there has been some success in breeding them in captivity.
Dr. Seuss Fish
#4 The Dr. Seuss Fish is so named for its wild color pattern, strange body and equally bizarre looking face. Like our number five, the Dr. Seuss Fish is a basslet which lives at pretty decent depths of Palau and the Marshall Islands. These are also easy to keep and although there’s been a little bit of collection of this fish in recent past, we’re still talking around a dozen specimens carefully brought up from the depths each year.
#3 The Neptune Grouper is so rare that it is barely known about in the aquarium world at all. This deepwater denizen is a staple food fish in Japan and East Asia but it is almost never seen alive in an aquarium. The Neptune Grouper lives so deep that when they are fished for food they are brought up quickly, and they die from decompression. Only a handful of live juveniles have been found and collected in water shallow enough that they make suitable aquarium inhabitants.
#2 The Masked Angelfish is a mostly white fish that lives in the Hawaiian Islands. This fish is common along most of the Hawaiian Chain, if you know where to look. Most of the Hawaiian Islands is protected and where it is, the Masked Angelfish lives at the reasonable depths of 100-300 feet. But where the masked angelfish is legal to collect, divers must often dive to 300 to 400 feet deep, a very dangerous feat not accomplished by many and one collector has died from diving complications in his quest to collect a masked angelfish.
#1 Ask any saltwater aquarium lover what is the rarest fish in the world and they will invariably tell you the Peppermint Angelfish. Adorned in beautiful red and white stripes, this species is found in the South Pacific, in only a couple locales and at a very profound depth. If you should so happen to find yourself in the Cook Islands, and if you should so happen to get your dive rig safely down to 400 feet, you still have the daunting task of actually catching this fish which prefers to stay close to very convoluted reef rock. Due to its remoteness, complex habitat and extreme depth, the Peppermint Angelfish is the holy grail of rare reef fish.
Jake Adams is the managing editor of ReefBuilders.com where they cover everything there is to know about saltwater tanks and coral reef aquariums.