Fish for 55 Gallon Tank (Community, Centerpiece, Cleaner, Predatory & More)

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The 55-gallon aquarium is one of the most popular tank sizes among beginners because it can hold a wide variety of fishes, giving the owner many new experiences within the world of cichlids.

Whether you are a seasoned fish keeper or just getting started with a cichlid tank, there are countless colorful and interesting fish to choose from.

Not sure where to begin with all these possibilities? I have compiled a list of freshwater fish that will liven up your 55 gallon fish tank with their vibrant colors and interesting behaviors.

How Many Fish Can I Put in a 55 Gallon Tank?

A standard 55-gallon aquarium can hold various fish, from small tetras to larger Mbunas. But how many fish can be safely housed in a 55 gallons tank? As is often the case with fishkeeping, the answer is “it depends.” Water quality, filtration, and tank size all play a role in determining the maximum number of fish that can be kept in an aquarium.

Lucky, a 55-gallon is much roomier and opens the door to many possibilities within the world of cichlids. But with all those extra gallons comes the responsibility of stocking the tank correctly.

Here are some things to consider when stocking your fish tank:

  • The type of fish you want to keep
  • The size of the fish
  • The water parameters required by the fish
  • The temperament of the fish
  • The number of fish you want to keep

With a 55-gallon aquarium, you have the option of keeping either freshwater or saltwater fish. But before you make your decision, it’s important to research the type of fish you’re interested in owning. Certain species require specific water conditions and may not be compatible with other fish.

Additionally, numerous stocking calculators available online can help you get the hard and fast numbers. AqAdvisor.com is a great resource that allows you to input the type and number of fish you want to keep and gives you an estimate of how many fish your aquarium can safely accommodate.

Below you will read about some stocking ideas for your 55 gallons aquarium. These suggestions are by no means exhaustive, but they should give you a good starting point.

Community Fish for 55 Gallon Tank

community fish for 55 gallon tank

55-gallon tanks are large aquariums with a thrilling length of 48″ (L) and a height of 21″ (H), which allows you to stock large numbers of fish in a single space. This is ideal for community aquariums where different species of fish can interact and coexist in different water levels.

If you’re looking for some community fish to add to your 55-gallon aquarium, check out this list of popular options that are suitable for different preferred levels:

Preferred Level: All Levels

Let’s start with some fish that enjoy swimming within the full tank, and these small fish are low maintenance and much easier to start out.

  • Giant Danio (Devario aequipinnatus)
  • Pearl Danio (Danio albolineatus)
  • Zebra Danio (Danio rerio)
  • Rosy Barb (Pethia conchonius)
  • Two spot barb (Puntius cumingii)   
  • Upside Down Catfish (Synodontis spp.)
  • White Cloud Minnow (Tanichthys albonubes)

Preferred Level: Top to Mid

 Gourami

These fish enjoy swimming in the upper levels of your 55-gallon aquarium and may even jump out of the tank, so it’s best to keep a lid.

  • Boeseman’s rainbow (Melanotaenia boesemani)
  • Neon Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia praecox)
  • Axelrod’s rainbowfish (Chilatherina axelrodi)
  • Banded Rainbow (Melanotaenia trifasciata)
  • Papuan Rainbowfish(Melanotaenia papuae)
  • Red Rainbowfish (Glossolepis incises)
  • Honey Gourami (Trichogaster chuna)
  • Blue Gourami (Trichopodus trichopterus)
  • Dwarf Gourami (Trichogaster lalius)
  • Pearl Gourami (trichopodus leerii)
  • Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus)
  • Pencil Fish (Nannostomus spp.)
  • Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)
  • Molly (Poecilia spp.)
  • Swordtail Fish (Xiphophorus helleri)
  • Rasboras (Rasbora spp.)

Preferred Level: Mid

Angelfish

This large list of freshwater fish prefer swimming in the middle levels of the 55 gallon fish tanks, and some will do best with some plants or décor to provide hiding spots.

  • Angelfish (Pterophyllum spp.)
  • Black Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon megalopterus)
  • Black Widow Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi)
  • Bleeding Heart Tetra (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma)
  • Buenos Aires Tetra (Hyphessobrycon anisitsi)
  • Diamond Tetra (Moenkhausia pittieri)
  • Glowlight Tetra (Hemigrammus erythrozonus)
  • Flame Tetra (Hyphessobrycon flammeus)
  • Mexican tetra (Astyanax mexicanus)
  • Rummy Nose Tetra (Hemigrammus bleheri)
  • Red Eye Tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae)
  • Serpae Tetra (Hyphessobrycon eques)
  • X-Ray Tetra (Pristella maxillaris)
  • Silver-Tipped Tetra (Hasemania nana)
  • Emperor Tetra (Nematobrycon palmeri)
  • Glass fish (Parambassis spp.)
  • Goldfish
  • HorseFace Loach (Acantopsis dialuzona)
  • Platy Fish (Xiphophorus spp.)
  • Silver Dollar (metynnis argenteus)
  • Tiger Barb (Puntigrus tetrazona)

Preferred Level: Mid to Bottom

Electric Blue Acara

Most of the cichlids and barbs enjoy swimming in the lower to middle levels of an aquarium, and some may dig through your gravel.

  • Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher)
  • Rams (Mikrogeophagus spp.)
  • Festivum Cichlid (Mesonauta festivus)
  • Discus (Symphysodon spp.)
  • Parrot Cichlid (Cichlasoma sp.)
  • Cupid Cichlid (Geophagus cupido)
  • Red Head Tapajos (Geophagus tapajos)
  • Chocolate Gourami (Sphaerichthys osphromenoides)
  • Snakeskin Gourami (Trichopodus pectoralis)
  • Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)
  • Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya)
  • Gold Barb (Barbodes semifasciolatus)
  • Green Barb (Puntius tetrazona)
  • Spanner Barb (Barbodes lateristriga)
  • Tinfoil Barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii)
  • Clown Loach (Chromobotia macracantha)
  • Dwarf Loach (Ambastaia sidthimunki)
  • Twig Catfish (Farlowella spp.)
  • Flying Fox Fish (Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus)
  • Headstander fish (Anostomus anostomus)
  • Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)
  • Otos (Otocinclus spp.)
  • Paradise Fish (Macropodus opercularis)
  • Red-Tailed Shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor)
  • Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri)

Preferred Level: Bottom

Cory fish

Corys, algae eaters, and plecos are the best cleaning fish that spend most of their time close to the bottom of your aquarium.

  • Albino Cory
  • Adolfo’s Cory (Corydoras adolfoi)
  • Amapa corydoras (Corydoras amapaensis)
  • Bandit Cory (Corydoras melini)
  • Blackfin Cory (Corydoras leucomelas)
  • Black-top corydoras(Corydoras acutus)
  • Bronze Cory (Corydoras aeneus)
  • Duplicate corydoras(Corydoras duplicareus)
  • Julii Cory (Corydoras julii)
  • Panda Cory (Corydoras panda)
  • Peppered Cory (Corydoras paleatus)
  • Sterba’s corydoras (Corydoras sterbai)
  • Spotted corydoras (Corydoras ambiacus)
  • Skunk corydoras(Corydoras arcuatus)
  • Tail-spot corydoras (Corydoras caudimaculatus)
  • Bristlenose Catfish (Ancistrus spp.)
  • Red Shoulder Dwarf Cichlid (Apistogramma Macmasteri)
  • Kribensis Cichlid (Pelvicachromis pulcher)
  • Kuhli Loach(Pangio kuhlii)
  • Pictus Catfish (pimelodus pictus)
  • Weather Loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus)
  • Cobalt Blue Goby(Stiphodon semoni)
  • Pleco

Centerpiece Fish for 55 Gallon Community Tank

A centerpiece fish is brightly colored or larger than the others in the tank, and it should also be a peaceful species that get along with its small tank mates.

If you’re looking for some standout centerpiece fish to fill up your 55-gallon tank, then look no further. Here are my top picks that are sure to add some pizzazz to your aquatic community.

South American Centerpiece Cichlids Cookie Cutter Setups

south american centerpiece cichlids

New World Cichlids, often referred to as South or Central American Cichlids, are some of the most popular fish in the aquarium hobby. They are semi aggressive, more adaptable, and individualistic than African Cichlids. 

South American cichlids like Angelfish, Discus, Geos, and Acaras make excellent additions to aquariums if you want to avoid aggression issues. They typically coexist peacefully with other fish in a community setting.

Non-Cichlid Starter Centerpiece Fish

Honey Gourami

You’re not limited to keeping just Cichlids as the primary focus of your 55-gallon community fish tank. In fact, there are many other options for Non-Cichlid fish. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Boesemani rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani)
  • Neon Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia praecox)
  • Axelrod’s rainbowfish (Chilatherina axelrodi)
  • Banded Rainbow (Melanotaenia trifasciata)
  • Papuan Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia papuae)
  • Red Rainbowfish (Glossolepis incises)
  • Thick Lipped Gourami (Trichogaster labiosa)
  • Chocolate Gourami (Sphaerichthys osphromenoides)
  • Snakeskin Gourami (Trichopodus pectoralis)
  • Honey Gourami (Trichogaster chuna)
  • Blue Gourami (Trichopodus trichopterus)
  • Dwarf Gourami (Trichogaster lalius)
  • Pearl Gourami (trichopodus leerii)

Cookie Cutter Setups for 55 Gallon Specie-only Tank

There are many different routes you can take when stocking a 55 gallon aquarium. You could go with the traditional community fish tank, or you might prefer something a little more focused, like a Central American Cichlid setup or an African Cichlid tank.

African Cichlids

Electric-Yellow-Cichlid

If you want a display that will really make people do a double-take, then consider filling your 55 gallon aquarium with these Mbunas or Lake Tanganyika Cichlids.

They come in sparkling colors and patterns, so you can mix and match to create your own little piece of underwater paradise.

African Cichlids do best in groups in a species-only tank as they are simply very aggressive. If you decide to go this route, I recommend the following stocking setups:

Types Species Quantity Note
Peaceful Mbuna aquarium Red Top Hongi Cichlid (Labidochromis sp. “Hongi”) 5/15 These Mbunas are smaller and relatively peaceful. You could choose any three species of 5 individuals (15 fish in total) in a 55-gallon aquarium, but don’t mix any Labidochromis species to avoid hybridization.
Electric yellow cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus) 5/15
Perlmutt Cichlid (Labidochromis sp. “Perlmutt”) 5/15
Rusty Cichlid (Iodotropheus sprengerae) 5/15
Acei Cichlid (Pseudotropheus sp. “acei”) 5/15
Pearl of Likoma (Pseudotropheus joanjohnsonae) 5/15
Aggressive Mbuna Aquarium Kenyi Cichlid (Maylandia lombardoi) 5/10 Most species from Maylandia, Labeotropheus, Pseudotropheus, Chindongo, and Tropheops are aggressive and should not be kept with peaceful Mbunas. If you want to create an aggressive Mbuna aquarium, I recommend choosing two groups of up to five from the list above.
Cobalt Blue Zebra (Maylandia callainos) 5/10
Red zebra cichlid (Maylandia Estherae) 5/10
William’s mbuna (Maylandia greshakei) 5/10
Red Top Albino Zebra (Metriaclima pyrsonotos) 5/10
Fuelleborn’s Cichlid ( Labeotropheus fuelleborni) 5/10
Trewavas’ Cichlid (Labeotropheus trewavasae) 5/10
Ochre Chilumba (Labeotropheus trewavasae) 5/10
Maingano Cichlid (Pseudotropheus cyaneorhabdos) 5/10
Elongate mbuna (Pseudotropheus elongatus) 5/10
Demasoni Cichlid (Pseudotropheus demasoni) 5/10
Johanni Cichlid (Pseudotropheus johannii) 5/10
Socolofi Cichlid (Chindongo Socolofi 5/10
Saulosi Cichlid (Chindongo saulosi) 5/10
Bluegray mbuna (Melanochromis johanni) 5/10
Tropheops tropheops 5/10
Lake Tanganyika Aquariums Sardine Cichlid (Cyprichromis leptosoma) 12 – 16 These wonderful Lake Tanganyika cichlids make a great addition to any Lake Tanganyika aquarium. They are relatively peaceful and can be kept in groups of 12-16 fish or two pairs in a 55-gallon fish tank.
Calvus Cichlid (Altolamprologus calvus) 2 Pairs
Altolamprologus compressiceps 2 Pairs
Caudopunctatus Cichlid (Neolamprologus Caudopunctatus) 2 Pairs
Lemon Cichlid (Neolamprologus leleupi) 2 Pairs
Marlieri Cichlid (Julidochromis Marlieri) 2 Pairs
Convict Julie (Julidochromis regani) 2 Pairs
Golden Julie(Julidochromis ornatus) 2 Pairs
Neolamprologus buescheri (Striped Lamprologus) 2 Pairs
Telmatochromis sp 2 Pairs
West African Aquarium Nanochromis transvestitus 2 Pairs West Africa has some beautiful and peaceful fish that are perfect for a mixed-species tank, including my favorite African dwarf cichlids and Upside-down catfish.
Kribs (Pelvicachrmis pulcher) 2 Pairs
Nichols’ Dwarf Mouthbrooder (Pseudocrenilabrus nicholsi) 2 Pairs
African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi) 2 Pairs
Lionhead Cichlid (Steatocranus casuarius) 2 Pairs
Synodontis sp. (Cuckoo Catfish | Dwarf Petricola | Lace catfish) 2 Pairs

Central American Cichlids

Central American cichlids usually grow to be large and aggressive, which are best suited to a cichlid-only tank. This can be a fun and rewarding challenge, allowing you to show off the natural beauty and behaviors of a particular fish.

Here are a few of my favorite Central American cichlid species:

Centerpiece Quantity
Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus) A pair
Yellow Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nanoluteus) 2 pairs
Nandopsis salvini (Salvini Cichlid) A pair
Jack Dempsey (Rocio octofasciata) A pair
Herotilapia Multispinosa (Rainbow Cichlid) A pair
Thorichthys meeki (Firemouth Cichlid) A pair
T Bar Cichlid (Amatitlania Sajica) A pair
Blood Parrot Cichlid (Hybrid) A pair
Poor Man’s Tropheus (Neetroplus nematopus) 4-6
Honduran red point Cichlid (Amatitlania sp. “Honduran Red Point”) 4-6
Blue and Red Flash Cichlid (Thorichthys aureus) 4

No-Cichlid

Also, here’s one no-cichlid special fish that definitely earns a spot on my list of best centerpiece fish for a specie-only 55 gallon tank.

Type Species Quantity
Species-only Green spotted puffer (Dichotomyctere nigroviridis) A pair

Cleaner Fish for 55 gallon Fish Tanks

The dimensions of a 55 gallon fish tank give you many different options when it comes to adding some cleaning fish. Here are some well-known fish species that you should try.

  • Otos (Otocinclus spp.): The best algae eaters for a live planted tank
  • Bristlenose Catfish (Ancistrus spp.)
  • Corydoras
  • Kuhli Loach(Pangio kuhlii)
  • Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri)
  • Red-Tailed Shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor)

Exotic & Unique Freshwater Fish for 55 Gallon Aquariums

Want to add something a little more unusual to your 55 gallon fish tank, then consider some of these exotic freshwater fish:

  • Humphead glassfish (Parambassis pulcinella)
  • Red Banded Leporinus (Synaptolaemus latofasciatus)
  • Fancy Goldfish
  • African Leaf Fish (Polycentropsis abbreviata)

Predatory Fish for 55 gallon Tank

Last but not least on my list of best fish for 55 gallon tanks are these meat-eating predators. These fish are not for the faint of heart and should only be kept by experienced fish keepers.

  • Leopard Bushfish (Ctenopoma acutirostre)
  • Red Wolf Fish (Erythrinus erythrinus)
  • Dwarf Pike Cichlids (Crenicichla compressiceps)
  • African Butterflyfish (Pantodon buchholzi)
  • Pike Killifish (Belonesox belizanus)
  • Golden Puffer (Auriglobus modestus)

Now It’s Time To Pick Your Favorite!

So, there you have it – my roundup of the best fish for 55 gallon tanks. Hope you enjoyed it and found some inspiration for your next aquarium project.

Do you have a favorite fish that didn’t make my list? Let me know in the comments below!

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Ivan Yeoh
Ivan Yeoh

I’ve been working with fish for the past 12 years, and I can honestly say that it has never been a dull day. In my time, I’ve worked at the largest fish farm in Singapore – so you could say I know a thing or two about keeping things running smoothly in watery environments.

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