Explore 20 Fish That Start with C (Their Common Names)

Written by Kyler Matthews
Updated: November 7, 2023
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From the colorful and charismatic clownfish to the eerie and elusive cuttlefish, there are so many different types of fish with common names that start with the letter C! Common fish that start with the letter C include cowfish, comb wrasse, cookiecutter shark, cardinal fish, chocolate cichlid, cherry barb, channel catfish, collared carpetshark, and clown loach. Some, like the curious catfish, are large aquatic creatures that reside in freshwater streams and rivers, while others, like the cute clown loach, are smaller and are often kept as pets in freshwater aquariums. Here are 20 kinds of fish that start with C!

1. Clownfish (Amphiprion)

You’ll probably recognize this first fish that starts with C from Disney’s Finding Nemo movie. There are several species of clownfish and they come in many different colors, from orange to yellow and even blackish red, and many have white patches, spots, or stripes. Some species of clownfish are as small as 2.75 inches long, or as big as 6.5 inches. Clownfish only live in the warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and other nearby areas like the Great Barrier Reef. Clownfish and sea anemones have a symbiotic relationship. The sea anemone protects the clownfish from predators, offering it a cozy place to live and leftover food scraps. In return, the clownfish defends the sea anemone from predators and parasites.

Clownfish in a sea anemone.

There are at least 30 different types of clownfish species.

©Alex Stemmers/Shutterstock.com

2. Checkerboard Cichlid (Dicrossus filamentosus)

The checkerboard cichlid is a unique species of dwarf cichlid fish that lives in the Orinoco and Rio Negro basins of Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil. They prefer slow-moving rivers and streams that have muddy or sandy bottoms and can often be found swimming in groups of five to 10. They are beautiful and typically peaceful fish, as long as they are kept with other nonaggressive community fish as well. Like their name, these fish have a checkerboard-like pattern on their bodies with two rows of square-shaped black spots. However, depending on how the fish is feeling at the time, the lower row of spots can actually expand into a stripe that runs all the way from the tip of the snout to the base of the caudal fin, and the top row might disappear completely.

Dwarf Cichlid - Dicrossus Filamentosus (Pairs) - Freshwater Aquarium Fish

Checkerboard cichlids are omnivores.


3. Candycane Pygmy Goby (Trimma cana)

These tiny fish are not even a full inch long and look like little swimming candy canes! Candycane pygmy goby fish are found in the western Pacific Ocean, where they swim in areas around the Philippines and Palau. They love hanging out on steep slopes and on the outside edges of coral reefs. They prefer a sturdy foundation made of hard coral, and they can be found anywhere from 39 to 115 feet below the ocean surface. Candycane pygmy goby fish grow up to almost one inch long from snout to tail.

Candycane Dwarfgoby (Trimma cana) Anilao Philippines

The candycane pygmy goby prefers living near hard coral substrate on the outer side of reefs.


4. Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)

Although they are not more than 1.2 inches long, cardinal tetra are easy to spot due to the bold blue stripe shimmering down their sides and their vibrant, eye-catching red bodies. Their cousins, the neon tetra, are more common in aquariums because for a long time, they were much easier to breed. In the wild, cardinal tetras live in the Negro and the upper Orinoco Rivers of Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia. These cute fish that start with C eat tiny larvae and insect eggs that they find in shallow, slow-moving water.

Cardinal tetra

Cardinal tetra are larger than their neon tetra cousins.


5. Campbell’s Tigerfish (Datnioides campbelli)

Campbell’s tigerfish live in the freshwater and brackish waters of southern New Guinea. These fish are loners and prefer to keep to themselves, but sometimes younger fish hang out in groups of five or more. Campbell’s tigerfish have black and yellow stripes and can grow up to 18 inches long. They are carnivorous predators and mostly eat crustaceans and smaller fish.

6. Clown Loach (Chromobotia macracanthus)

Another really cool fish that starts with C is the charismatic clown loach. It is a super cool tropical fish from Indonesia but is also very popular in freshwater aquariums. Like their name, these fish are very colorful with eye-catching stripes and fun personalities. Clown loaches range from whitish orange to reddish-orange in color, with three thick black vertical stripes. Pet clown loaches often amuse their owners with weird tricks, like swimming upside down or pretending to be dead. 

Types of Long Living Pet Fish - Clown Loach

The clown loach is a tropical freshwater fish that lives in Indonesia’s inland waters.

©Grigorii Pisotsckii/Shutterstock.com

7. Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

If you’re an avid angler, you may have heard of the channel catfish. These fish that start with C are super popular for game fishing in North America. You can find them in freshwater habitats like lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. They’re bottom-feeders and scavengers, so they eat small animals like worms, insects, snails, and crayfish, as well as dead fish and other organic matter. Channel catfish grow really fast; they can reach up to 3 feet long and weigh up to 50 pounds! They can also live up to 20 years in the wild.

Channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus, freshwater predator in European biotope fish aquarium

The channel catfish may look intimidating, but their long whisker-like barbels don’t sting.

©Aleron Val/Shutterstock.com

8. Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya)

The cherry barb, also called the fire barb, is a tiny freshwater fish from Sri Lanka that is also very popular among aquarium enthusiasts. In their natural habitat, these fish live in clear, flowing rivers and streams with sandy or gravel bottoms. They hang out in groups of six to 10 and eat little insects, crustaceans, and plants. Cherry barbs are typically friendly towards other fish that are similar in size and they don’t get territorial. Male fish are much brighter red than females and have more decorative fins. The male cherry barb also has a sharp black stripe running down each side. Female cherry barbs are a bit bigger and have a pinkish-red tone.

Cherry Barbus fish swims in an aquarium. (Puntius titteya, Barbus Titteya)

The cherry barb is a tropical freshwater fish that is endemic to Sri Lanka.


9. Candiru (Vandellia cirrhosa)

The candiru is a small, freshwater catfish native to the Amazon Basin. It is a parasitic fish with a taste for blood and feeds off of other fish. While some candirus can grow up to a whopping 16 inches long, others are much smaller, measuring around 7 inches. Some people claim these little guys have a creepy habit of swimming up the human urethra. There are stories of these little fish terrorizing humans that date back to the late 1800s, but it is likely an urban myth. The first recorded case of a candiru being removed from a human urethra didn’t happen until 1997 and even that event is still up for debate.

10. Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri)

The Chinese algae eater is a freshwater fish that’s originally from Southeast Asia. You can find these fish in shallow, flowing water with a sandy or rocky bottom. They aren’t picky eaters — they’ll munch on all sorts of things like algae, plants, and even insects. Chinese algae eaters have a mouth that’s shaped like a suction cup, which helps them scrape algae off surfaces. They also have tiny teeth that help them scrape away at the algae too. These fish are peaceful and don’t get too aggressive, which makes them easy to take care of in a fish tank. They help to control algae growth and keep things clean. 

Macro close up of a Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri) in fish tank with blurred background

Many people with aquariums like keeping Chinese algae eaters since they help to keep the tank clean.

©Joan Carles Juarez/Shutterstock.com

11. Chocolate Cichlid (Hypselecara temporalis)

The chocolate cichlid is a freshwater fish that lives in the Amazon River Basin in South America. These fish love to swim in blackwater rivers and streams that have soft acidic water. They are social creatures and usually hang out in groups of five to 10 fish. Chocolate cichlids are omnivores and have a pretty diverse diet. In general, they enjoy the company of other peaceful fish around their same size, but they can be territorial with other chocolate cichlids. It’s best to keep just one male in an aquarium with other fish. Chocolate cichlids can grow up to 12 inches long and live for 10 years or more. Male fish are larger than the females and have more prominent fins.

Closeup of a Chocolate Cichlid in its habitat

The chocolate cichlid is also called the emerald cichlid. It is native to South America.


12. Cowfish (Ostraciidae)

There are many different species of cowfish, and they come in a variety of different colors. Their skin is covered with unique hexagonal or honeycomb-like patterns that make them stand out from other types of fish. They have square-shaped bodies covered in plate-like scales that are fused together like armor. Although these scales protect them, they’re also heavy and make it hard to move quickly. Cowfish live in the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans, usually in middle latitudes.

longhorn cowfish

The longhorn cowfish has horns on its head that make it harder for predators to swallow it.


13. Collared Carpetshark (Parascyllium collare)

Scientists still don’t know a lot about the collared carpetshark, but they do know that it lives in the waters off of eastern Australia and likes to hang out near rocky reefs on the ocean floor. These sharks typically swim about 180 to 420 feet below the surface, but they can go as shallow as 66 feet and as deep as 755 feet. Collared carpetsharks only grow up to 2.8 feet long and are not a threat to humans. Like their name, these unique carpetsharks have dark brown skin flaps around their gills that look like decorative collars. They also have dark spots and splotches on their fins and along their bodies. 

Collar carper shark in Australia

Scientists still don’t know a lot about the collared carpetshark.

©Roser Gari Perez/Shutterstock.com

14. Comb Wrasse (Coris picta)

Also known as the combfish, the comb wrasse is a little fish that lives in the western Pacific Ocean near Australia and New Zealand. Comb wrasse fish grow up to 9.8 inches long, with long white bodies with a thick black stripe. They get their name from this stripe, as it also has a cool comb-like pattern at the bottom. During mating season, the tail fin section of the fish’s stripe turns yellow. There is also a thin red stripe that runs along the top of the fish’s body. Comb wrasses are cleaning fish, and their bright contrasting colors act as a signal to other reef fish that it’s time for cleaning. Groups of reef fish will gather around a comb wrasse and wait for their turn to be cleaned.

15. Chimaera (Chimaeriformes)

One of the most mysterious fish that start with C is the chimaera. These fish are similar to sharks but they have their own unique characteristics. Chimaeras have big heads and long skinny tails, which can grow up to nearly 5 feet in length. Unlike sharks, chimaeras don’t have any bones in their body. Instead, their whole skeleton is made up of cartilage. Their skin is soft smooth and doesn’t have any of the tiny tooth-like scales that sharks and rays have. Chimaeras also have gills that form a pouch-like structure under their skin, and they have only one opening for breathing in front of their large pectoral fins. When they swim, they flap their large fins and look like they are flying through the water.

chimaera side profile

The chimaera goes by many different names, such as the rabbit fish, spookfish, rat fish, and ghost shark.

©Vladimir Wrangel/Shutterstock.com

16. Cookiecutter Shark (Isistius brasiliensis)

The cookiecutter shark is a very unusual shark that lives all over the world in warm waters near islands. It’s not a very big shark and only grows about 16.5 to 22 inches long, but it has some really interesting features. Its long body is shaped like a cylinder, which is why sometimes it is also called the cigar shark. The cookiecutter shark got its name from the weird way the shark eats. This shark bites out round pieces of other animals, kind of like a cookiecutter. This leaves cookiecutter shaped marks on all types of animals, from fish to marine mammals and even whales. 

Cookie cutter shark bites on dolphin skin.

The cookiecutter shark leaves rounded holes behind on its victims.


17. Cornetfish (Fistularia)

There are four different species of cornetfish that live in coastal waters and on coral reefs. These fascinating creatures can grow over 6 feet long and look a lot like eels, but they have their own unique features that set them apart. For example, they have very long snouts, distinctive dorsal and anal fins, and a caudal fin with center rays that form a long, delicate tail. Cornetfish eat things like crustaceans and small fish. They are not very popular with fishermen, although you might see them in some local markets in their range.

Cornetfish, Also Known as Rough Flutemough

Cornetfish are sometimes also called flutemouths.

©Albert Saiz Tezanos/Shutterstock.com

18. Combtooth Blenny (Blenniidae)

There are over 400 different kinds of combtooth blennies that live in the ocean. You can find them in warm water all around the world, from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Sometimes they even live in freshwater. Combtooth blennies have long and skinny bodies without any scales on them, with big heads and big eyes. They get their name from their many comb-like teeth. Some people even like to keep combtooth blennies as pets because they’re very active and colorful. These fish like to stay near the bottom of the ocean, hiding in rocks or shells. Sometimes they can come out of the water for a little while when the tide is low, and they can use their front fins like little feet to move around on land!

Two-Spot Combtooth Blenny Ecsenius bimaculatus

The two-spot blenny prefer coral reefs or rocky areas for shelter as well as a sandy substrate for burrowing during nighttime.


19. Cardinalfish (Apogonidae)

There are many different species of cardinalfish, but most of them are pretty small, only about 4 inches long. They are very colorful and have big mouths, and their back fin is split into two parts instead of just one. Cardinalfish live in coral reefs and lagoons where it’s warm and sunny. During the day, they hide in dark spots to rest for when the sun goes down. Male cardinalfish have bigger mouths than females, and sometimes take care of their babies by keeping them safely protected inside their large mouths.

The Banggai Cardinalfish, Pterapogon kauderni, is a small reef fish endemic to the Banggai Islands of Indonesia. It is a popular ornamental fish in the aquarium trade due to its distinctive silver body and black stripes. This species is a livebearer and mouthbrooder, which means the males carry the eggs in their mouths until they hatch. The Banggai Cardinalfish can be found in brackish water and is vulnerable due to habitat loss and overfishing for the aquarium trade. However, there are sustainable breeding programs in place to promote the conservation of this threatened species.

The Banggai cardinalfish lives in brackish water. It is vulnerable due to habitat loss and overfishing for the aquarium trade.

©iStock.com/Francesco Ricciardi

20. Canary Rockfish (Sebastes pinniger)

The canary rockfish is found in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of North America. It is also called the orange rockfish because of its bright and vibrant appearance. Its body is a mix of orange and yellow, with a unique blotchy pattern. The canary rockfish has three stripes on its head, and it has pretty large fins. Young canary rockfish live in shallow water, and they move to deeper water as they get older. Adult fish are mostly found at depths between 262 to 656 feet. Canary rockfish tend to congregate and group around rock formations and pinnacles, especially where there is a strong current. They can also travel for very long distances. One canary rockfish that was tagged by biologists covered almost 435 miles in just four years!

Single Canary rockfish - fish from the northeast region of Pacific Ocean

The largest canary rockfish ever recorded was over 29 inches long.

©iStock.com/Bernard Bialorucki

The Largest Fish That Starts with the Letter “C”

The largest fish that starts with the letter “C” is the Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius). These freshwater fish lived in China and Russia, but sadly, they were recently declared to be extinct in 2020. 

Chinese paddlefish can grow up to 21.7 feet long and weigh over 1,100 pounds! Their bodies are flat and long, and they’ve got a snout that’s shaped like a paddle. Their backs are usually dark green or brown, and their sides are shiny and silver. They are filter feeders, which means they swim around with their mouths open, catching tiny organisms like plankton and small fish with their gill rakers. 

The Chinese paddlefish suffered from habitat destruction and pollution. In addition, people hunted them for their caviar (fancy fish eggs) and their meat. The Chinese government made it illegal to fish for Chinese paddlefish in 2010, but it wasn’t enough. In 2020, the species was declared extinct. 

Chinese paddlefish

The Chinese paddlefish lived in the Yellow and

Yangtze River

basins in China.


Common NameScientific Name
2Checkerboard CichlidDicrossus filamentosus
3Candycane Pygmy GobyTrimma cana
4Cardinal TetraParacheirodon axelrodi
5Campbell’s TigerfishDatnioides campbelli
6Clown LoachChromobotia macracanthus
7Channel CatfishIctalurus punctatus
8Cherry BarbPuntius titteya
9Candiru Vandellia cirrhosa
10Chinese Algae EaterGyrinocheilus aymonieri
11Chocolate CichlidHypselecara temporalis
12Cowfish Ostraciidae
13Collared CarpetsharkParascyllium collare
14Comb WrasseCoris picta
15Chimaera Chimaeriformes
16Cookiecutter SharkIsistius brasiliensis
17Cornetfish Fistularia
18Combtooth BlennyBlenniidae
19Cardinalfish Apogonidae
20Chinese paddlefishPsephurus gladius

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Kurit afshen/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

My education is in psychology and social anthropology, and I love watching nature documentaries. I have an overall passion for learning about wildlife wherever I can — both human and animal cultures alike.

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