What Are Some of the Most Interesting and Most Exotic Pets that Can Be Kept in Aquariums?

Maybe you are an experienced aquarist looking for something new, or a new fish keeper wondering what types of aquatic animals can be kept in aquariums.

In either case, this article aims to introduce you to some of the best exotic pets for aquariums and what is needed to properly care for them.

The animals listed below are fascinating and a true joy to keep if you educate yourself on their behavior and care.

Although this article is not a care guide, it is an introduction to some of the most amazing animals that can be kept in home aquariums.

Impulse buying any of these animals would be a mistake, so make sure you educate yourself on their specific needs before deciding to bring one home.

Alright, let’s get into it.

1. African Dwarf Frog

African Dwarf Frog in an aquarium.

One of the most goofy looking exotic pets you can keep in an aquarium is an aquatic frog commonly known as the African Dwarf Frog.

These frogs spend their entire lives underwater (no dry land required) and therefore can be kept in aquariums rather than paludariums.

One of the best things about African Dwarf Frogs is how ridiculously fun they are to watch, especially when eating or hunting worms.

If you are thinking about setting up an African Dwarf Frog aquarium, make sure you are fully prepared, and can provide these frogs with appropriate, and consistent meals.

The basic care requirements for African Dwarf Frogs are:

  • A 5+ gallon tank (maintaining water quality is important)
  • A temperature between 72-78 Fahrenheit
  • A pH level between 6.5-7.5

Things to keep in mind for keeping African Dwarf Frogs:

  1. Make sure your aquarium has a lid (these frogs can escape, and only survive for 15-20 mins outside of water).
  2. Live plants are ideal (avoid plastic plants and décor with sharp edges, which can injure the frog).
  3. Avoid a strong/loud filter (African Dwarf Frogs detect vibrations and a strong filter can stress the out.

2. Axolotl

Axolotl aquarium pet.

Axolotls are also one of the goofiest and most bizarre looking animals you can keep in an aquarium.

While they look otherwordly, Axolotls are fully aquatic salamanders from Mexico.

Unlike other salamanders, young Axolotls do not metamorphosize into an adult stage, but rather remain in the juvenile stage in a phenomenon known as neoteny.

One of the most interesting things about Axolotls is that they are able to grow back limbs, and even parts of their organs.

If you are considering keeping an Axolotl as a pet, make sure are fully prepared.

The basic requirements for keeping Axolotls include:

  • A 29+ Gallon Tank
  • A temperature between 60-64 Fahrenheit
  • A pH level between 6.5-7.5
  • Strong Filtration

Things to keep in mind if you want to get an Axolotl:

  1. Axolotls produce lots of waste (high bio load)
  2. Axolotls need cold/cool water (make sure you can maintain the right temperature)
  3. Axolotls are sedentary (don’t expect much movement or interaction)
  4. Axolotls will ingest substrate (bare bottoms tanks are recommended)
  5. Axolotls eat worms (make sure you have a source).

3. Cherry Shrimp

Cherry shrimp aquarium pet.

If you’ve read any of my articles on cherry shrimp, you’ll know that I consider cherry shrimp to be exceptional aquarium pets and highly underrated.

Out of all the exotic aquarium pets mentioned in this article, cherry shrimp may be the easiest to care for.

Water quality is the most important factor for successfully keeping cherry shrimp, and if you maintain that, cherry shrimp are easy to keep and breed.

If you are considering keeping cherry shrimp, check out my video on setting up a nano shrimp tank:

The basic care requirements for cherry shrimp are:

  • A 1+ gallon tank.
  • A temperature between 72-80 Fahreneheit
  • A pH betwen 6.5-8

If you want to learn more about cherry shrimp care, check out my article on how to keep cherry shrimp.

4. Mystery Snail (Pomacea bridgesii)

Mystery Snail aquarium pet.

Aquarium snails, especially the ones that hitchhike on newly purchased aquatic plants, can be a nuisance, filling your aquarium with hundreds of tiny snails in a matter of weeks.

But, Mystery Snails are not like that.

Unlike many of the “pest” snail species (like pond snails and bladder snails), Mystery Snails are not asexual, meaning that Mystery Snails require a male and female snail to breed.

The benefit of this for aquarists is that a single Mystery Snail can be kept in an aquarium without worrying about it producing hundreds of baby clones of itself.

Note: If you do plan on keeping multiple Mystery Snails together in an aquarium, but don’t want them to breed, keep your water level high; Mystery Snails lay their eggs above the water’s surface, but without an area to do so, Mystery Snails will forgo laying eggs.

As for being a great aquarium pet, Mystery Snails have a lot of personality for a gastropod.

Reaching a maximum size of about 2 inches, these snails are perfect for small tanks, and even large fish bowls (2.5+ gallons).

Mystery Snails are fun to watch as they slowly make their way around the aquarium looking for food, or a hiding place.

They are excellent scavengers and will help keep your tank clean.

Another added benefit is that Mystery Snails do not eat live plants, so consider keeping them in a planted tank.

If you plan on keeping a Mystery Snails or multiple Mystery Snails, consider whether you can provide the following basic care requirements:

  • A 2.5+ gallon tank
  • A temperature between 68-80 Fahrenheit.
  • A pH of 7.5-8.5

5. Dwarf Crayfish

Dwarf crayfish in an aquarium.

Dwarf crayfish are personable creatures and make excellent aquarium pets.

One of the most commonly kept dwarf crayfish is the Mexican Dwarf Crayfish, but other varieties/types of dwarf crayfish exist.

Dwarf crayfish reach a maximum size of about 2 inches, which is significantly smaller than other commonly kept crayfish, like the electric blue crayfish, which can reach 4-6 inches in length.

This means that dwarf crayfish are well suited for aquariums ranging from 7-20 gallons.

If you are considering getting a dwarf crayfish for your aquarium, make sure you have the right setup.

At a basic level, dwarf crayfish require:

  • A 7-20 gallon tank
  • A temperatures between 65-80 Fahrenheit
  • Sufficient calcium in their diet
  • Hiding places

Things to keep in mind if you want to keep a dwarf crayfish:

  1. They can be kept together with non-aggressive fish, but will attack slower tank mates (snails and aquarium shrimp).
  2. Having alkaline or hard water (pH above 7) is recommended for molting and shell health.
  3. A varied diet (proteins and vegetables) is ideal.
  4. Your aquarium needs a secure lid (Dwarf Crayfish are escape artists).

6. Mudskippers

Mudskipper aquarium pet.

Mudskippers are incredible fish, with incredible care requirements.

These fish spend a significant amount of time out of water, perched on a stick, or on land, and can breathe through their skin.

There are about 5 species of Mudskippers available in the aquarium hobby, but only one species, the Indian Dwarf Mudskipper, stands out to me because it reaches a reasonable size of about 2 inches.

Unless you want to devote significant space to keeping Mudskippers, the Indian Dwarf Mudskipper offers the average aquarists the best chance of keeping these magnificent fish in a reasonably sized aquarium.

If the idea of keeping a fish that crawls and hops around on land excited you, then a Mudskipper might be the perfect exotic pet fish for you.

But, make sure you can provide them with what they need to survive and thrive; out of all the exotic aquarium pets on this list, Mudskippers require the most specialized, and attentive care, so don’t impulse buy these fish.

I will outline what makes these fish amazing, and some basic care requirements, but I encourage you to do extensive research, planning, and tank set up before bringing home mudskippers (that also applies to any animal mentioned in this article).

Things to keep in mind when planning a Mudskipper tank:

  1. A sufficiently large tank.
  2. The tank should have about 50% land, and 50% water.
  3. A slope leading from land to deeper water.
  4. Brackish water (specific gravity between 1.005-1.015).
  5. Mudskippers are aggressive, often toward each other.
  6. A temperature between 72-80 Fahrenheit.
  7. A pH between 7.5-8.5

7. Thai Micro Crab (Limnopilos naiyanetri)

Thai micro crab in an aquarium.

Freshwater crabs that can easily be kept in a small aquarium? Yes please.

Thai Micro Crabs, as their name suggests, are native to Thailand.

They are fully aquatic (no dry or land space needed) and grayish white in color, having a semi-transparent appearance.

Thai Micro Crabs are a relative newcomer to the aquarium hobby, becoming widely available around 2008.

They also have surprisingly long legs for their size.

With bodies measuring no more than .4 inches (2 cm) in diameter, these crabs are difficult to spot in larger aquariums.

If you want to see your Thai Micro Crabs with some frequency, consider putting them in a 2 or 3 gallon tank with a few live plants.

As with other animals on this list, Thai Micro Crabs require a cycled tank with excellent water quality.

Given how small Thai Micro Crabs are, I recommend using a sponge filter, or setting up a no filter tank.

If you want to learn more about no filter tanks, and low maintenance small tanks, check out my video on setting up a betta bowl (which would also work well for Thai Micro crabs—minus the betta).

If Thai Micro Crabs sound like the ideal exotic aquarium pet for you, consider whether you can provide the following basic care requirements:

  • A temperature between 72-80 Fahrenheit
  • A pH between 6.5-8.5
  • A proper diet (this is overlooked due to the crab’s tendency to hide)

Note: Thai Micro Crabs do best in tanks by themselves, but they can be kept with aquarium shrimp, or small, peaceful fish.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed my overview of some of the best exotic pets for aquariums.

Of course there are many other animals out there that would also qualify as an excellent exotic aquarium pet, but the ones listed in this article are my top picks, and the ones I believe dedicated aquarists can have the most success keeping.

If you are considering setting up a small aquarium, and want to learn about which fish do best in nano tanks, check out my article on the best fish for a 5 gallon tank.

Or if you want to learn about the small, exotic creatures that can be kept in an ecosphere, check out my article on creating your own ecosphere.

As always, stay zen.