The 6 Most Expensive Saltwater Fish You Can Buy in 2024

The Peppermint Angelfish's unique colors make it look like the candy for which it is named.
© Vojce/

Written by Katie Melynn Wood

Published: January 7, 2024

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Today’s aquarium doesn’t just need to contain a simple goldfish from your local pet shop. While these classic aquarium setups are charming, you can go big with an exotic (and pricey) saltwater fish to really make a statement. Some of these species will set you back as much as the cost of a car (or two) due to their rarity and how difficult and expensive it is to find them in the wild.

Keep in mind that the cost of maintaining a healthy aquarium only grows after you’ve bought the fish. You need to provide a suitable habitat that includes plenty of space, stimulation, temperature control, food, and regular cleaning and maintenance. Don’t get a pet fish unless you are willing and able to keep up with the costs. While even some species of saltwater fish can be good low-cost pets, exotic varieties like these often have specialized habitat requirements that can be more expensive.

But if you want to give them a try and have the budget to get started, here are some of the most expensive saltwater fish you can find.

1. Peppermint Angelfish

Peppermint Angelfish will hide from predators around the caves and coral reefs near the bottom of the ocean.

Peppermint angelfish will hide from predators around the caves and coral reefs near the bottom of the ocean, making them much harder for divers to collect.

©vojce/ via Getty Images

The elusive peppermint angelfish is considered one of the most expensive saltwater fish you can buy. One fish sells for around $30,000! Why is this fish so expensive? Like many on our list, it comes down to collecting them in the wild. These fish are not bred in captivity so every one of them must be safely captured in their natural environment. They happen to live 400 feet below the surface. Divers have to use special equipment to reach them, then find the fish and bring them safely back to the surface. Due to the depth, special considerations must be made on the way down and the way back up to avoid decompression sickness. All of this requires time and money, which is passed onto the consumer in the hefty price tag.

These fish are named for their red and white stripes, which resemble peppermint. Angelfish in general are some of the more expensive fish and this species tops the list. When you prepare your tank for this fish, make sure to include plenty of places for them to hide. In the wild, they live near rock and coral deep in the ocean. This means limited light and enclosed spaces, which you should replicate in their tank.

2. Masked Angelfish

Head shot of a masked angelfish

Only female masked angelfish have the distinctive black mask.

©sanches812/ via Getty Images

Another angelfish, the masked angelfish has a slightly lower price tag than its peppermint-striped relative. One fish sells for around $15,000 to $20,000. They live in deep water off the coast of Hawaii, most commonly found around 300 feet deep. But only a few are collected each year and finding one is a really big deal. However, now they are able to be bred in captivity, which may bring the price down over time as the supply increases. They still require quite a bit of care and a specialized environment to thrive.

These saltwater fish have a striking appearance. Females are all white with dark black markings on their face that looks like a mask. Males have white bodies, yellow faces, a yellow stripe along their bodies, and black markings on their tails. When they are born, they are female and eventually develop into males later in life.

3. Peacekeeper Maroon Clownfish

Spinecheek Anemonefish, Gold Stripe Maroon Clownfish, Llghtning Maroon Clownfish, Mataking, Malaysia,  indo pacific marine,  underwater world

The peacekeeper maroon clownfish is a strain of gold stripe maroon clownfish with special color patterns.


This amazing fish really makes a statement in your aquarium. With its orange and white coloring, this clownfish sure looks special. So it’s easy to see why it would command a price of $9,000 up to $12,000. They are only bred in captivity and are the result of selective breeding between other kinds of clownfish. There is only one pair of parents that produce these interesting fish, which is why they are so expensive. As the population increases, it’s likely that the price tag will go down but that could take many, many generations. Even among the current breeding conditions, not all babies produced have this coloring or pattern.

These fish are closely related to other types of maroon clownfish, which are less expensive. They are a specific strain of gold stripe maroon clownfish. Standard colored gold stripe maroon clownfish sell for around $150. Other varieties that are closely related include the gold nugget maroon clownfish (around $180) and the gold lightning maroon clownfish (around $80).

4. Dr. Seuss Soapfish

Giant Gorgonian Sea Fan Soft Corals Underwater. Coral Reef Life under Tropical Indo-Pacific Ocean.

Dr. Seuss soapfish live in reefs in the Indo-Pacific region.


This little soapfish has whimsical red spots, which may have inspired its name after the children’s book author Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. They cost between $7,500 and $8,500. The cost comes from the special steps needed to collect Dr. Seuss soapfish in the wild. They live around 150 feet deep in coral reefs in the Pacific. Divers have to use special equipment and take their time while going down and bringing the fish back up after collection.

Keep in mind that this fish has more specific tank requirements than some others. They live deeper in the ocean so need low lighting and temperatures. Ideally, the tank will be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Adopt a bonded pair and seriously consider keeping them in a separate tank from your other fish. When soapfish are stressed out or if they die, their bodies release a toxin that creates soap-like bubbles, which is where their name comes from. This substance can cause serious harm or death to other fish in the tank. So when deciding on this fish, add in the cost of a separate tank and all of the equipment that it takes to maintain their environment.

5. Wrought Iron Butterflyfish

Wrought Iron Butterflyfish (Chaetodon daedalma) in display tank Tokyo, Japan. The reason that this species of butterfly fish has its name is the metallic black color of its body.

The reason that this species of

butterfly fish

has its name is the metallic black color of its body.

©chonlasub woravichan/

The wrought iron butterflyfish is one of the rarest butterflyfish in the world, which is why it can cost as much as $4,000. Unlike many of their brightly-colored relatives, these butterflyfish are metallic gray-black with yellow markings on their tails. They are a bit more subdued in coloring but the metallic shimmer makes them a fascinating addition to your aquarium. Their native habitat is in the water around certain Japanese islands.

They tend to be easier to care for than some other exotic saltwater fish. These saltwater fish live alone, in pairs, or in schools. You can keep them in a tank with other fish or as a bonded pair, although try to avoid keeping them with other species of butterflyfish. They can grow up to 9 inches long. One of the biggest requirements for keeping butterflyfish successfully is a big enough tank.

6. Australian Flathead Perch

An Australian flathead perch peeking out from a hiding place

Australian flathead perch are dark orange in color and have a slender body with white or lavender horizontal stripes.

©Jokuyken15, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

This sleek orange and blue fish is a fun addition to your saltwater aquarium. They cost around $1,000 but can go for much more, depending on availability. Wild-caught Australian flathead perch are as much as $5,000 to $8,000. They are bred in captivity, which significantly reduces the cost. They can be difficult to hatch and raise, however. So some years, the available population is smaller, which can increase the cost and lower the availability. Don’t be surprised if you have to go on a waitlist to get one of these fish.

They eat other fish, so make sure to consider that when selecting tankmates for the Australian flathead perch. As juvenile fish, they do best on small shrimp species and pellets. Adult fish have large, wide mouths which makes it easier for them to eat other fish and shrimp. Look for tankmates that are larger than the Australian flathead perch, which tends to get up to 5 to 7 inches long.

Summary of Most Expensive Saltwater Fish

NumberFishEstimated Cost
1Peppermint Angelfish$30,000
2Masked Angelfish$15,000-$20,000
3Peacekeeper Maroon Clownfish$9,000-$12,000
4Dr. Seuss Soapfish$7,500-$8,500
5Wrought Iron Butterflyfish$4,000
6Australian Flathead Perch$1,000-$8,000

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About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine, PEOPLE, and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie teaches creative writing with the Apex Arts Magnet Program in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. You can follow Katie @katiemelynnwriter.

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