What is the most expensive fish?
Rare and exotic fish can be found in both freshwater and saltwater, from the fast-flowing Yangtze River in China, to the coastlines of Northern New South Wales in Australia.
Collected by everyone from amateur enthusiasts to millionaire celebrities, the most expensive fish can fetch astronomical prices which match their beauty and scarcity.
Read on and discover the most sought-after fish in the world — and the high prices collectors are willing to pay to add them to their aquariums.
The 10 Most Expensive Fish
Our ranked lists are created by researching and rounding up information from the most reputable web sources.
Here’s our list of the 10 most expensive fish:
10. Wrought Iron Butterflyfish – $2,700
The wrought iron butterflyfish — otherwise known as Chaetodon daedalma — is a ray-finned fish native to the Pacific Ocean, most commonly found off the coasts of Japan.
With colors consisting primarily of black, with vibrant yellow stripes on the dorsal fin and caudal fin, this beautiful fish species is noted for its wonderful metallic sheen.
The wrought iron butterflyfish typically moves around in pairs in its native habitat. However, on occasion, they are known to come together to form a ball of hundreds of fish when congregating to graze.
Wrought iron butterflyfish are relatively small fish, growing a maximum of 15 centimeters, and prefer rocky reefs where they can feed on a combination of algae and invertebrates.
Fish breeders and collectors can expect to pay upwards of $2,700 if they want to own a wrought iron butterflyfish. Some medium-sized wrought iron butterflyfish fetch over $4,000 on aquarist supplier websites.
The price tag for the wrought iron butterflyfish is additionally inflated due to restrictions on distribution outside of Japan, with increased export costs due to its listing on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
9. Australian Flathead Perch – $5,000
Our next expensive fish is the Australian flathead perch, another smaller fish, this time indigenous to the waters of the Western Pacific Ocean, with a fondness for the crevices of the coral reefs.
The Australian flathead perch is mostly dark orange with lilac stripes marking its flank and yellow dorsal fins.
Through the aquarium fish trade, collectors can expect to pay around $5,000 per fish, which they can purchase from fish breeders such as TAFE’s Batavia Coast Maritime Institute in Australia.
Capturing the Australian flathead perch in the wild can be tricky since they are prone to disappearing back into caves before divers can spot them. Their slender shape makes escape even easier.
As with the wrought iron butterflyfish, the Australian flathead perch can grow to under 15 centimeters (just a few inches long), making it a viable option for collectors with relatively small aquariums.
There are only a handful of these expensive saltwater fish held in captivity, although the successful breeding in captivity carried out by the Batavia Coast Maritime Institute may see a reduction in prices over time.
8. Golden Alligator Gar – $7,000
There are a variety of alligator gar species found swimming in the world’s rivers, with the golden alligator gar being among the most expensive fish in the world.
While typically a freshwater fish with a preference for large rivers and lakes, golden alligator gars have been known to tolerate seawater conditions.
As the name implies, these fish are bright gold, with a long and sleek body that helps them to glide effortlessly through the water.
Despite the rows of razor-sharp teeth which help earn their name, golden alligator gars are not aggressive fish, so fish collectors don’t have to worry about getting bitten when maintaining their tanks.
With that said, prospective owners need to make sure their aquarium is suitable for these fish since the golden alligator gar can grow up to 10 feet in length, weighing an impressive 350 pounds.
With only one in 10,000 alligator gar sporting this color, they can fetch up to $7,000, with the large tank size required to maintain one making these even more expensive aquarium fish for collectors.
7. Platinum Alligator Gar -$7,000
Another expensive freshwater fish admired for its metal-colored scales, and long, slender appearance is the platinum alligator gar, which fetches the same price as its golden relative, $7,000.
With its somewhat prehistoric appearance, the platinum alligator gar is often referred to as a “living fossil,” with its torpedo-shaped eyes and sleek body.
The snout is short yet broad, and instead of the scales typically found on other fish, platinum alligator gars have hardened white enamel-like ganoid scales.
The result is an eye-popping white body that looks incredible swimming in its natural habitat or a suitably large tank, where it can live without treating other residents as food.
If looked after properly, the platinum alligator gar can live for up to 50 years, making it a long-term commitment best suited to serious fish collectors with the resources to keep them safe.
While these fish are opportunistic predators in the wild, when bred in captivity will be quite content eating a selection of frozen fish, prawns, and shrimp.
6. Neptune Grouper – $7,000
The Neptune grouper ranges across a variety of bodies of water in the wild, ranging from the Western Pacific Ocean waters off the coast of Japan to the oceans surrounding French Polynesia and Australia.
Its beautiful combinations of orange and white stripes, exaggerated by its deep body and spiking dorsal fin, make the Neptune grouper a stunning addition to any saltwater aquarium.
While owning one of these rare fish will set collectors back at least $7,000, these fish can struggle to adapt to the surface due to changes in water pressure.
This is because the Neptune grouper typically lives at a depth of approximately 200 meters, which accounts for the fact that very few of these fish have ever been caught alive.
The special decompression procedures required to keep them alive contribute to the high price, which is why most people caught their first glimpse at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan, where the fish made its debut in 2009.
If you’d prefer to eat, rather than own, a Neptune grouper, you’ll need considerably less than the $7,000 asking price for a live one; they typically sell for around $50 at food markets around Japan.
5. Bladefin Basslet – $10,000
The bladefin basslet, related to another popular aquarium fish, the golden basslet, is one of the rarest fish in the world. It’s found primarily in the Caribbean Sea and parts of the Western Atlantic Ocean.
Since the bladefin basslet fish gather at depths deeper than 800 feet, they can only be retrieved from wild populations using a submarine — a process that contributes to its high price of $10,000.
It’s a small fish that typically grows to just 3cm in length, with vibrant white and red markings making it a much sought-after tropical marine fish for fish collection enthusiasts.
Indeed, its tiny size combined with the high asking prices makes the bladefin basslet one of the most expensive aquarium fish in the world when assessed on price per inch.
Other basslets can fetch impressive prices, with the golden basslet known to have sold for around $8,000 and the candy basslet costing fish lovers $1,000 to add to their collection.
The bladefin basslet is a docile fish, so if you’re lucky enough to have one in your aquarium, you won’t have to worry about it eating your other fish.
4. Masked Angelfish – $30,000
Prized by collectors for their beautiful snow-white bodies, the extremely rare masked angelfish can be found in its natural habitat around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
With a price tag of $30,000, masked angelfish are for serious collectors only, so if you can afford one of the world’s most expensive yachts, you might be able to afford to include one of these incredible fish in your aquarium.
Masked angelfish are commonly found around coral reefs and are protected from commercial fishing, with those featured in aquariums typically bred in captivity.
As protogynous hermaphrodites, masked angelfish begin life as females and eventually turn into males, with this transition affecting subtle changes in the coloration around their eyes.
Relatively small fish, they can grow to a few inches long, accentuated by the long streamers that develop on their caudal fin.
Spotting a masked angelfish in its natural environment is made more difficult because it prefers to live in deep waters at the limits of where divers can go.
3. Peppermint Angelfish – $30,000
As its name indicates, the peppermint angelfish is prized for its vibrant red and white stripes reminiscent of the candy, contributing to its status as the most expensive saltwater fish in the world.
Its deep oval-shaped body allows its beautiful stripes to stand out, framed by the bright white margins which outline the dorsal and anal fins.
Found in the South Pacific Ocean, the peppermint angelfish lives at depths of up to 120 meters in caves and reefs, feeding mostly on a diet of worms, sponges, and other detritus.
Only trained divers can reach their habitat since specialist rebreather equipment is required to reach these depths to avoid suffering from the bends.
For that reason, bringing a peppermint angelfish to the surface is a delicate process, since it also needs to be decompressed, so it can make the transition from deep waters safely.
Bearing a resemblance to clownfish, which were popularized in the Pixar animated movie “Finding Nemo,” peppermint angelfish are equally protected from the negative impact of commercial fishing.
In 2012, a peppermint angelfish was sold to Waikiki Aquarium for $30,000, which had been collected for research during a Smithsonian Institute research expedition.
2. Polka Dot Stingray – $100,000
The freshwater polka dot stingrays are among the most expensive freshwater fish and dwell in the sandbanks and slower moving tributaries in the Xingu River basin in Brazil, South America.
This white blotched river stingray measures around 46 centimeters in diameter, with a smooth dark brown body and a tail, that sports a venomous spine.
Hunting a freshwater polka dot stingray in the wild can be extremely difficult since these beautiful fish spend much of their time buried in sand, although collectors willing to pay the large price tag can purchase captive-bred rays.
Freshwater polka dot stingrays will set you back a cool $100,000, making it one of the most expensive captive-bred fish, and something only the richest athletes in the world can afford.
These elusive fish are classified as an endangered species, and their existence is further threatened by potential pollutants from industries in the region of their habitat.
Otherwise known as Potamotrygon leopoldi, the freshwater polka dot stingray is an incredibly rare fish.
It takes its name from King Leopold III of Belgium, who sponsored various studies through the royal institute of natural sciences.
1. Platinum Arowana – $400,000
The most expensive fish in the world, by a considerable margin, is the platinum Arowana, which sold for a staggering $400,000, the largest price tag.
Sometimes called the Asian Arowana on account of its habitat in Southeast Asia, the platinum Arowana can also be found off the coasts of Australia and South America.
With a long, slender body and scales resembling a dragon, the platinum Arowana has a metallic iridescence as it glides through the water.
They also have a voracious appetite, eating anything from other fish and crustaceans to birds and mice, and are known to jump out of the tank, earning the nickname of “monkey fish.”
As you might expect, the most expensive fish in the world is on the endangered species list, and only a handful of aquariums can be found with a captive platinum Arowana in their waters.
The reputation of this exceptional fish is such that the world’s most expensive dining room is named after one, with the Platinum Arowana Room in Scott’s restaurant featuring priceless art from Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Joan Miró.
The most expensive fish in the world come in various shapes and colors, but each shares a degree of scarcity and beauty that drive the demand and high prices.
We’ve covered fish from the coasts of each continent, as well as the depths of the oceans and rivers of the Amazon.
These exceptional fish are prized by fish lovers everywhere, from the wrought iron butterflyfish to the record-breaking platinum Arowana.
Here’s a quick recap of the 10 most expensive fish:
- Platinum Arowana
- Polka Dot Stingray
- Peppermint Angelfish
- Masked Angelfish
- Bladefin Basslet
- Neptune Grouper
- Platinum Alligator Gar
- Golden Alligator gar
- Australian Flathead Perch
- Wrought Iron Butterflyfish