Aquarists choose their preferred fish depending on a number of factors. There are those who like some fish due to their colors, shape, size, ability to live with other tank mates, size of the aquarium and many other factors.
Favorable conditions, right temperature, adequate space, enough hiding spots, a functional water filter just to mention a few, will ensure your fish is happy and healthy.
There are some fish that do well in smaller tanks, while others need a bigger tank for them to live comfortably.
In this article we are going to discuss 10 best fish that you can keep in a 55 gallon aquarium comfortably.
1. African Cichlids
African Cichlids are tropical fish originally found in Lake Tanganyika, Malawi and Victoria. Africa Cichlids belong to the Cichlidae family, which includes a diverse group of fish.
Many of the Cichlids are found in Africa, but they can also be found in Asia, and South America. African Cichlids are common among aquarists because they are active swimmers available in vibrant and different colors.
Each species of the African Cichlids has a different unique pattern and colors. They are also flexible and adapt easily to new environments, hence are capable of surviving any mistakes aquarist beginners make.
African Cichlids are active swimmers. They will follow movements that they sense outside the tank. They are also good feeders, and can eat beyond what they need.
They can be aggressive and very territorial, which can lead to fights that can cause death to the weaker fish especially when they are mating.
The size of the aquarium will depend with the size and species of the African Cichlids. However, 30 gallons of water tank are enough for most of the smaller species and 50 gallons for the larger species. The more African Cichlids you add to the tank, the larger the tank should be.
The water in the aquarium should be moving with a water temperature of around 75 to 85 degree Fahrenheit and PH level of 7.8 to 8.6.
Since African Cichlids love to dig, make sure you add fine substrate at the bottom of the tank, and a few hiding rocks.
There are two types of Angelfish, freshwater Angelfish belongs to the Cichlidae family and marine Angelfish that belong to the Pomacanthidae family.
Freshwater Angelfish are originally found in Brazil’s Amazon River. They are popular among aquarists due to their ornamental form, calm demeanour in comparison with other Cichlid and ease of care.
These types of fish are known as angelfish owing to their wing-like shaped fins. Their appearance and attractiveness earns them the label, ‘King of the Aquarium’ among many aquariums.
Angelfish live comfortably in aquariums with water temperatures between 78 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit and a PH level of 6.8 and 7.8.
They require a larger aquariums, of at least 55 gallons of water, since they can grow quite large.
Goldfish are originally found in East Asia. Over the years, the goldfish have been bred to produce many varieties of goldfish in different colors and sizes.
Goldfish are among the most common type of pet fish kept by both beginners and experienced aquarists.
They are commonly available at affordable prices in most pet stores, can adapt easily to new environments and their bright and shiny colors make them a perfect choice for aquariums of both hobbyists and breeders.
Common goldfish, which are among the largest species, require a minimum tank size of 40 gallons to 55 gallons tank for a pair.
However, other varieties of goldfish, such as fancy goldfish, can comfortably live alone in a 20 plus gallons tank, and 30 plus gallons tank if they are a pair.
The ideal temperature ranges for common goldfish is between 66 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and for fancy goldfish should be around 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
The water in a goldfish tank should be de-chlorinated or you should buy aquarium water from a pet store.
In the wild, goldfish eat aquatic plants, insect larvae, crustaceans, fish eggs and other smaller fish. On the other hand, at home you can feed them flaked fish food and pelleted fish food.
Ensure your goldfish’s diet is balanced for a healthy goldfish lifestyle.
Gourami are freshwater fishes and are members of the Osphronemidae family. They are naturally found in slow moving rivers, swamps and canals of Asia, from Pakistan, India to Korea.
Gourami are unique fish that can breathe at the surface of the water through the aid of a labyrinth organ, which acts as a lung.
This alteration has allowed Gourami to comfortably live in shallow, still and poor oxygenated water environments.
For most species of Gourami fish, a minimum size of 30 gallons of water is ideal, however, some species are large, for instance kissing Gouramis and require 55 gallons of water tank.
Gourami live comfortably in a water tank with a PH level of 6.8 to 7.7 and water temperatures ranging from 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Male Gouramis are highly territorial fish, therefore it is advisable to put them in different tanks, but female Gouramis can bear with each other in the same tank.
Most Gouramis are omnivorous. You can feed them tropical flakes, shrimp pellets, tropical granules and color flakes. However, other types such as kissing Gouramis are herbivores, and can thrive on food such as algae rounds.
Tetras originally come from freshwater bodies in Africa, Central America and South America. Tetra is a common name of many small fish that belong to the Characidae biological families.
They have a small adipose fin between the dorsal and caudal fins, which differentiates them from other small freshwater fish species.
Many tetras such as neon tetra have vibrant colors and are easy to keep in an aquarium.
Tetras are social types of fish. They love to live in groups, either of the same species or different species. While living alone, they can get stressed and lead an unhealthy life.
Tetras can comfortably live in a water tank of at least 30 gallons of water. The water should be acidic with temperatures of about 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the wild, most tetras are omnivorous. They feed on algae, insect larvae and other small invertebrates in water. In an aquarium, you can feed your tetras fresh flake foods.
Barbs are colorful, active swimmers and hardy fish. They are social fish that thrive well in small groups of at least five fishes.
While choosing a tank mate for your barb, consider fish that are active as well and can tolerate the energetic barbs.
Long finned fish, are subject to bullying from the barb fish, therefore they should not be kept together with the barb.
There are a variety of barb fish species such as, Black Ruby Barb, Denison Barb, Gold Barb, Rosy Barb, Tiger Barb, Tinfoil Barb, Zebra Barb, and among others.
Barbs can live in a tank size of 55 gallons of water or less depending on the species size and the number of tank mates. Most barbs prefer soft acidic water that is cool and well oxygenated.
Rainbowfish are naturally found in the lakes, streams, rivers and swamps of Australia, some parts of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
They thrive in an aquarium of water temperature ranging from 74 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a PH level of 7.0 and 8.0.
Rainbowfish are active swimmers, therefore, they require a water tank of at least 50 gallons to allow them have enough space to swim freely.
There are different species of rainbowfish.
8. Ram Cichlids
Ram cichlid is a species of freshwater fish. It is originally found in the savannahs South America, Columbia and Venezuela.
Ram cichlids has been used widely in the studies of fish behaviour.
These species, is a member of the Cichlidae Family and a common species in aquarium trade. The common variety of Ram cichlids kept by most aquarists include; ram, German blue ram, blue ram, butterfly cichlid, dwarf butterfly cichlid, Ramirezi, Ramirezi’s dwarf cichlid and Asian ram.
In their natural habitat, ram cichlids live in shallow waters with a low current. Therefore when setting up a tank, you should replicate this to ensure they are healthy and comfortable.
The best temperature range for ram cichlids is 78 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and a PH level of between 6.0 and 7.5.
Depending with the ram cichlids species, a minimum tank of 10 gallons aquarium is suitable. To add more ram, add 10 gallons of water for each ram. Ram cichlids are suitable for community aquariums.
9. Discus Fish
Discus fish are found in the lakes and forests of the Amazon River basin. These places mostly experience flooding, therefore, Discus Fish have the capability to adapt to extreme water changes.
Discus fish thrive in warm water with a PH level of 6.0 and 7.0 and temperatures ranges of 82 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Discus fish can grow large, therefore they require a bigger water tank of at least 55 gallons.
Discus fish can be hard to rear especially for new aquarists. They require constant care, very high water quality, and regular water changes.
10. Oscar Fish
Oscar fish are also part of the Cichlidae Family. They are found along the Amazon River in Brazil, Peru, French Guiana, Columbia and Ecuador.
There are a variety of Oscar fish and many more have been created through the process of selective breeding.
The Oscar fish, although they are colorful, they are infamous among aquarists. This is because they are highly territorial and very aggressive.
The ideal water tank for Oscar fish has a PH level of 6 to 8 with water temperatures ranging from 74 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
Oscars like to dig, therefore, you can add soft substrate at the bottom of the tank. Oscars can be stressed out if kept in small tanks.
An ideal water tank for Oscars should be at least 55 gallons.
Stocking Ideas for 55 Gallon Fish Tank
When you stock any size aquarium, you need to take in consideration the types of fish you want to put together.
You should avoid housing aggressive with peaceful fish. The peaceful species might get bullied or even eaten by the aggressive ones.
So here are few ideas on how I would stock a 55 gallon or bigger aquarium. I’ve also included some fish that are not in the above list, but can be housed in a big tank:
African Cichlids Tank Only
- in a 55 gallon tank you can add 10 middle size cichlids
- don’t keep African cichlids with other fish types if possible
- a good filtration is necessary because of high waste production
Angels and Tetras
- angelfish might be aggressive towards smaller tetra fish types, though if you keep a large school of tetras they will be safe.
- you can add 4-6 angelfish and a school of 12 neon tetras in a 55 gallon aquarium – you can add aquarium plants and drift wood too
- 6-8 angelfish with a big school of 15-20 ember tetras might also work well
Discus and Tetras
- discus and neon tetras are a really good combination for a beautiful planted aquarium
- in a 55 gallon fish tank you can house up 6 discus and as school of 10-12 neon tetras
- or 6 discus fish and 6-8 diamon tetras
- or 6 discus with a school of 30-40 ember tetras
- make sure you don’t keep aggressive tetras with your discus
- also consider a good filter, because discus fish are very picky to water quality
Barbs and Rainbows
- you can do a combination of barbs and rainbowfish. Although barbs are aggressive, they will get along with rainbowfish.
- you can keep a school of 6 tiger barbs and 6 rainbowfish a 55 gallon tank
- or you can add 6 rainbowfish and 10 cherry barbs
Oscars Only Tank
- in a 55 gallon tank you can house one oscar fish – I wouldn’t recommend adding any other fish or another oscar because it might not work out very well
Goldfish Only Tank
- you can house up to 6 goldfish in a 55 gallon tank
- would not recommend keeping other fish with them, because they are very messy and have special water requirements
- a very good filtration and frequent water change is required to keep water parameters under control
- you can setup a 55 gallon community tank with following fish species:
- 2 angelfish, 10 rummy nose tetras, 6 swordtails, 6 mollies
- or 6 angelfish, 10 guppies, 6 corydoras, 1 bristlenose pleco
- in 55 gallon you can house only live bearing fish – make sure you cull the population time to time to avoid overcrowding
- 10 guppies, 6 swordtails, 8 balloon mollies, 6 platies
Rams in a Community Tank
- ram cichlids get along with guppies really well – just make sure your rams will get the food they need
- in a 55 gallon aquarium you can add a pair or ram cichlids and 10-15 guppies
- or a pair of rams with 10-15 neon tetras
- or a pair of ram cichlids with 6-8 angels
I could go on with the list, but there are endless variations of how to stock a 55 gallon aquarium.
Equipment for 55 Gallon Aquarium
While stocking your 55 gallon fish tank, there are equipment that you will need to maintain it and keep it a healthy and safe environment for your fish.
Different species of fish will require different amount of light depending on their native areas. Lighting is not only important for the fish, but more so for the plants.
Aquatic plants will need different light wavelengths and intensity to facilitate the process of photosynthesis.
Filter is the most critical equipment of any aquarium. Filters provide mechanical filtration and biological filtration to ensure the water in the tank is clean and healthy for your fish.
There are different types of filters, HOB, sponge, undergravel and gravel filters. To ensure your filter is not burdened, make sure you do not overstock the tank with many fish.
A heater will regulate and maintain ideal temperature levels for your aquarium. When buying a water heater, make sure it is suitable for a 55 gallons aquarium.
Set the temperature to meet the needs of your fish. However, you will not need a heater if the surrounding temperatures are warm enough for your fish, or if your fish require cold water temperatures
There are many other equipment that you can add to your aquarium. Most of them are optional. For instance you can add water pumps, UV sterilizers and automatic fish feeders in your aquarium.
Other equipment that you can add include, a lid for the aquarium, a stand to support the tank, decorations and substrate.
55 gallon fish tank is a large fish tank that will allow you to get creative and to keep a large variety of species of fresh water Cichlids.
A larger fish tank, such as 55 gallons aquarium, is easier to maintain compared to a smaller fish tank.
This is because there is more water in the aquarium which means it is harder for pollutants to build up. However, it will take longer to clean its surfaces and its decorations.