10 Stunning Yellow Colored Fish (Freshwater And Saltwater!)

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: April 30, 2023
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The animal world is full of vibrant colors, including stunningly colorful scarlet macaws and iridescent peacocks. When it comes to yellow animals, you may immediately think of honeybees, canaries or fuzzy baby chicks. Rainbow-colored fish sport some of the most beautiful colors in the fish world. But both saltwater and freshwater fish can get a bit flashy, and there is a wide range of stunning yellow-colored fish.

Rainbow-colored fish sport some of the most beautiful colors in the fish world.

Read on to find out about some of the most stunning yellow fish in fresh and saltwater!

1)  Yellow Tang (Saltwater)

yellow tang

The yellow tang.

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We have to start with the yellow tang, a classic yellow saltwater fish. Yellow tang is one of the most popular types of aquarium fish because of its striking yellow color. The largest ones in the wild are about hand-sized, with the maximum length reaching around 8 inches, but the aquarium-sized ones start out closer to 2-4 inches. Yellow tangs have an oval shape with a fan-like dorsal and anal fin. The triangle tail is fan-like, and its mouth forms a small point. The coral reefs around Hawaii host large populations of yellow tang sometimes called the yellow Hawaiian tang. Other names it goes by are the yellow sailfish or yellow surgeonfish.

One fun fact about yellow tang is that they change color at night! During the day, they are the brightest yellow, but at night, they fade to a duller yellow, almost brown, and a white horizontal stripe appears on their side. Almost like they have a built-in night light!

2) Bluecheek Butterflyfish (Saltwater)

The Bluecheek butterflyfish looks similar to the yellow tang but has thin, wavy reddish vertical stripes and a blue-gray patch behind the eye.


Another stunning yellow fish is the blue cheek butterflyfish. These saltwater fish look similar to the yellow tang but have thin, wavy reddish vertical stripes and a blue-gray patch behind the eye. They are sometimes called redlined butterflyfish or golden butterflyfish. The largest ones can be 9 inches long, but 6-inch ones are more common. Bluecheek butterfly fish live in the super salty Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Oman. The coral reefs in the Red Sea have some of the most diverse collections of fish, sea anemones, coral and sea stars. Bluecheek butterflyfish fit right in!

3) Lemonpeel Angelfish (Saltwater)

The beautiful lemonpeel angelfish in marine aquarium. Centropyge flavissima is a marine angelfish of the family Pomacanthidae, a popular fish in the aquarium trade.

The beautiful lemonpeel angelfish in a marine aquarium.

©Arunee Rodloy/Shutterstock.com

Lemonpeel angelfish are typically smaller than Bluecheek butterflyfish and yellow tang. They are considered a “dwarf” angelfish and only get up to 5 inches long. These brightly colored fish look like they are wearing neon glasses. Their eyes have blue circles around them, matching the blue edges of their dorsal and anal fins. The rest of their bodies are a deep yellow with a few white markings on their face and below their mouths. Lemonpeel angelfish live in the Indo-Pacific region, including the massive Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system in the world!

4) Leafy Sea Dragon (Saltwater)

Leafy Seadragons have leaf-like fins and appendages that creat incredible camouflage.


The leafy sea dragon looks like a mix between a seahorse and seaweed! These unique-looking fish (yes, they are fish) have leaf-like fins and appendages that float through the water creating an incredible camouflage. They really are difficult to see, especially since they live in habitats with plenty of seaweed and seagrass. They can grow to nearly 20 inches but are more commonly in the 11-13 inch range. Their bodies are yellowish-orange, and their fins and appendages mimic seaweed with a mix of yellows and greens. Leafy sea dragons live off the coast of Australia but not in the Great Barrier Reef; they are off the south and western coast.

5) Canary Wrasse (Saltwater)

Canary wrasse in Bali sea, Indonesia

When Canary wrasse are young, they have several large black spots on their dorsal and tail fins.


The canary wrasse is not a canary-eating fish (although some fish eat bids). The canary wrasse gets its name from its canary-like coloration. Their bodies are bright yellow, but when they are young, they have several large black spots on their dorsal and tail fins. As adults, these spots fade away with only one remaining. Males also have a dark spot right behind their eyes. Canary wrasse are around 3-4 ½ inches long and have elliptical bodies and fan-like tails. They are native to the eastern Indian Ocean living in small schools.

6) Golden Discus (Freshwater)

yellow discus fish in freshwater aquarium

The golden discus is found in floodplain lakes and river basins around the Amazon.

©Gayleen Froese/Shutterstock.com

Now on to some stunning freshwater fish! You may think that tropical saltwater fish are the only brightly colored fish, but there is plenty of fish in the…lake…that are also brightly colored. The bright yellow golden discus is a perfect example. Golden discus is shaped like a yellow tang, disc-shaped, and has beautifully fanned dorsal and anal fins. They can get to be around 4 ½ -6 inches long. While you won’t see golden discus swimming in your local lake in the United States, they are found in floodplain lakes and river basins around the Amazon.

7) 24K Gold Arowana (Freshwater)

Golden Dagon arowana in water

The golden Arowana can reach nearly 3 feet long.


These Arowana are not actually coated in 24k gold, but they look like they are! Their shiny golden hue makes them a popular fish for fish hobbyists. Asian Arowana comes in various colors like green, blue, Malayan Arowana and super red Arowana. Golden Arowana is a good-sized fish reaching a maximum length of 35 inches (90 cm), nearly 3 feet long! They have an upturned mouth and large distinct scales. Asian Arowana lives in freshwater in Southeast Asia and is considered a good luck symbol by many.

8) Yellow Betta Fish (Freshwater)

Dumbo ear fighter fish, elephant ear

Yellow betta fish have a universal yellow color and long flowing fins.


Betta fish are a popular freshwater fish often kept as pets. They can survive in a simple fish bowl or aquarium and are fascinating to watch due to their beautiful flowing fins. In the wild, these fish have more subdued colorations in shades of green and brown, but they have been bred to have a wide range of colors from brilliant blue to bright yellow. Betta fish are commonly called Siamese fighting fish and are known to be quite aggressive. In the pet trade, it is advised not to put two males in the same tank as they are territorial and will fight with each other.

Yellow betta fish have a universal yellow color and long flowing fins. Some betta are bred to have blueish bodies and yellow fins, while others have yellow bodies with blue fins. Betta are around 2-3 inches long and live in Southeast Asia in countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

9) Yellow Perch (Freshwater)

Yellow Perch

The Yellow Perch is a favorite of anglers for its level of fight and its great taste.

©Maximilliam cabinet/Shutterstock.com

The next fish on our list will not typically be seen in your neighbor’s aquarium, but it might be served as dinner! Yellow perch are commonly fished both commercially and recreationally. They are not entirely yellow like some of the fish we’ve mentioned, but instead have large, vertical, black icicle-shaped stripes with a yellowish background. Their mouths are full of tiny teeth, which aid them in catching and eating smaller fish, leeches, crayfish and other invertebrates. Yellow perch are common in lakes, rivers and streams and live in the United States and Canada. They are typically in the 6-8 inch range but can get larger.

10) Panda Dwarf Cichlid (Freshwater)

This cichlid is is kept in aquariums and is more of a specialist fish.

©Sascha Biedermann, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons – License

The female panda dwarf cichlid is yellow with black patches behind their eyes (similar to a panda bear). They also have black markings on their sides, dorsal, pectoral and tail fins. Panda dwarf cichlids are kept in aquariums, although they are more of a specialist fish. According to the IUCN, they are listed as “Data Deficient”; there is just not enough information about their population or distribution to determine if they are threatened, but they mention these fish are native to a small range in Peru. While the largest cichlid, the Giant cichlid (Boulengerochromis microlepis), can be 3 feet long, the panda dwarf cichlid usually doesn’t get larger than 3 inches! 

Summary Of The Stunning Yellow Colored Fish

RankFishPreferred Water Type
1Yellow TangSaltwater
2Bluecheek ButterflyfishSaltwater
3Lemonpeel AngelfishSaltwater
4Leafy SeadragonSaltwater
5Canary WrasseSaltwater
6Golden DiscusFreshwater
724K Gold ArowanaFreshwater
8Yellow Betta FishFreshwater
9Yellow PerchFreshwater
10Panda Dwarf CichlidFreshwater

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

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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