Top 7 Smartest Freshwater Fish You Might Not Know!

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If you are to name an intelligent animal, chances are you will call it a dog, monkey, etc. You most likely would not name any fishes.

Ever seen a fish do something surprising that showed they’re smarter than you think? Even though many do not know or acknowledge it, fishes are intelligent creatures too. (*)

This guide will examine freshwater fishes in particular and find out which is the smartest among them all.

Check out some of the most intelligent freshwater fish pets below and check the fish with the most personality.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

What is the most intelligent freshwater aquarium fish?

#1 – Crowntail Betta

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Apart from being one of the most beautiful fish, they’re also a very intelligent species. You will find that these fishes are happy and playful in small aquariums, and we would recommend a minimum requirement of nano tanks.

If you observe bettas, you will see that they’re naturally curious and like to explore the aquarium.

If you fill your tank with plenty of ornaments, caves, and plants, these fishes are going to have a swell time exploring all these areas.

Curiosity is one of the best markers of intelligence, and this fish shows it in no small amount. This makes this fish learn advanced fish tricks and carry themselves better than other fish in the tank.

#2 – Goldfish

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Many people like to attribute a low memory span to goldfish, but they’ll be surprised to find out that they are one of the most intelligent fishes.

They also have other qualities, including being funny, silly, friendly, and clumsy.

One of the main attributes that make them brilliant is their ability to see the same color spectrum as humans, including infrared and ultraviolet light.

Even though these fishes do not have ears, they perceive vibrations through the water, interpret it and react appropriately.

That’s not all:

Research has also shown that they can keep details for up to 3 months and distinguish time intervals impressively well.

#3 – Neon Tetras

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Neon tetras are called the jewels of fishkeeping because of their stunning iridescent blue coloring and bright red tail that make them stand out from other fishes.

Apart from their looks, neon tetras have also shown impressive smartness.

They understand the need for a private space for living and typically protect their territory. (*)

They also define their regions in the sea; however, this can be difficult in aquariums because of space limitations.

Nonetheless, they still create unique sheltered areas that are unique to them and chase away any tank mates that try to wander into their space.

Do not confuse this territorialism for aggressiveness because if they’re in a tank with enough space, they are generally mild-tempered and will live well with other peaceful tankmates.

#4 – Galaxias

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This is a unique fish that shows an impressive ability to learn. They excel in a field called associative learning, which involves making intelligent connections.

It describes when and in which area something happens. These fishes use it to distinguish when and which ends of the aquarium feeding occur so they can position themselves to feed.

These fishes showed an impressive ability to learn in just 14 days, while rats, another intelligent animal, need 19 days to know this.

#5 – Guppy Fish

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Guppy fish is another aquarium organism that displays immense intelligence in tanks. This smart fish are commonly kept as a pet and is one of the most popular tropical fishes.

They are small, easy to keep and have a wide variety of colors making them suitable for community tanks.

If you’re a newbie to aquariums, this is one of the recommended fishes you should start with as you will not encounter any problems keeping it.

An aspect that their intelligence shines is in their ability to adapt. If you keep the temperature of your aquarium constant, they can survive in a large range between 50OF and 80OF.

Current Biology published a study that proves this pet fish has rudimentary counting skills making them extremely smart above many other fishes. Other research has done further work in investigating whether their brain size affected their intelligence.

Research has shown that female guppies with a large brain showed more intelligence than their male and other smaller-brained female counterparts.

What fish is the smartest?

We can pick no single fish as the smartest because each fish exhibits a different kind of smartness.

Just like studies show that Guppies can count, Galaxias can learn, and Oscar fish can recognize their owners and know the difference between people.

Bonus: What pet fish have the most personality?

Contrary to popular opinion, fishes are not dull, and some seem to have many personalities. Check some of these out:

#6 – Puffer Fish Varieties

image of Puffer Fish Varieties

These fishes display some exciting actions, such as recognizing their owner and even begging for food when they enter the room.

The wider pufferfish varieties are hard to keep, and you will need to gather all your details about them before purchase.

If you want a safe choice, go for the dwarf puffers. These are easy to keep, small, and also have similar personalities to the other species.

#7 – Betta Splendens

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They are curious and active fishes you will notice in aquariums. They always want to get their owners’ attention whenever they’re in the room and beg for food to eat.

You will often see them swimming in excitement when their owner is around or early in the morning.




If you want to learn more about fishes and see them exhibit some interesting behavior, the best way is to get them as pets and watch them swim. This could also calm down anxiety and be cathartic for some people.

Fishes react differently in various situations, so there is no way to say one fish is the smartest of them all conclusively.

However, any of the fishes mentioned above are some of the smartest pets, and any one of them will show intelligent behaviors.

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Up Next: Do Fish Have Brains? (Yes BUT You Should Know These…)

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