Centerpiece Fish for 20-Gallon Tank: An In-depth Guide

Alison Page

Alison Page


Centerpiece Fish for 20-gallon tank

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There’s nothing I love more in an aquarium than a fish that draws you in and gives you endless hours of fascination from their gorgeous colors or intriguing behavior.

From my years of fishkeeping, I’m biased towards dwarf cichlids as centerpieces for small tanks, but there are other options, too! Here are some favorites.

Key Takeaways

  • Centerpiece fish are species of exceptional appearance or character that make your aquarium stand out.
  • Colorful species such as dwarf cichlids and smaller labyrinth fish are excellent for drawing attention to a freshwater aquarium.
  • Always be sure that your centerpiece fish are compatible with your existing tank mates, water parameters, and tank environment.

Centerpiece Fish for a 20-Gallon Tank

Five of our favorite fish to make a big impression in your 20-gallon fish tank.

Powder Blue Gourami (Trichogaster lalius)

Powder Blue Gourami

The Powder Blue gourami is one of the supermodels of the freshwater fish-keeping world!

These stunning centerpiece show fish are a type of Dwarf gourami. They’re relatively small, growing to only 3 to 4 inches in length, making Powder Blue gouramis ideal for a 20-gallon tank.

In addition, these labyrinth fish are relatively easy to care for and can survive for up to five years when given good water conditions and a high-quality diet.

Powder Blue gouramis are reputed to be one of the more peaceful gouramis, but I have still experienced males becoming aggressive. For this reason, it’s best to keep males away from one another and other delicate fish.

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher)


Kribensis are a fascinating West African dwarf cichlid species that make a wonderful feature fish for any community tank.

These popular aquarium fish are relatively small, with males growing to around 4 inches long and females somewhat smaller at 2.5 inches in length. Kribs come in various line-bred color morphs, although red and yellow are the most popular color combo.

Kribs are peaceful fish that can do well in a peaceful community tank. If you can get a mated pair, you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful display of parentship as the male and female work together to raise a brood of tiny fry.

You’ll need to fill your tank with plenty of lush planting to provide shelter for the fry and a cave or two that the fish can call their own.

Ram Cichlids

Ram Cichlids

Another colorful dwarf cichlid that’s perfect for a 20-gallon aquarium is the gorgeous ram cichlid.

Originally from South America, ram cichlids are a peaceful species that only grow to 2-3 inches in length. This means that a pair can usually live peacefully alongside other community species such as tetras, danios, and rasboras.

Rams will become more territorial when breeding, however, and if you wish to raise their fry, it’s best to offer them a 20-gallon breeding tank for that purpose.

Just like kribensis, ram cichlids need plenty of hiding places to feel safe and relaxed. I find it great fun to watch them making their homes in caves at the bottom of the tank!

Giant Betta Fish (Betta anabatoides)

Giant Betta Fish

Betta fish are renowned for their bright colors and flowing finnage. These fish are also relatively easy to care for and are often considered good beginner fish. They have peaceful temperaments and are perfect ideas for centerpiece fish.

Regular betta species don’t grow much more than a few inches in length. But the Giant betta can reach up to a whopping 5 inches long when mature!

These beautiful fish come in several colors: green, blue, red, and marble. The main downside to keeping Giant bettas is that these fish are extremely aggressive and will attack most tank mates.

However, you can keep a few snails and shrimp quite safely with these amazing fish, and the betta certainly makes an excellent centerpiece fish in a 20-gallon tank.

Cobra Guppies (Poecilia reticulata)

Poecilia reticulata

Cobra guppies are a wide variety of Fancy guppy that is extremely popular tropical freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby.

The Cobra guppy is so-named for the spotted, snakeskin pattern across its body. These fish come in many different color combinations, but did you know that each color and pattern is unique? So, like a fingerprint, no two guppies are the same!

Cobra guppies are readily available and relatively inexpensive fish. These adorable fish do well in various environments, and you can keep a large group of these tiny fish in a 20-gallon tank, making them an ideal centerpiece fish.

Although these active swimming fish are excellent for beginners, the main downside to keeping Fancy guppies is that they have a short lifespan of only a couple of years.

However, guppies are prolific livebearers, so if you keep a group of males and females, you’re sure to end up with plenty of free replacements!

How To Choose a Centerpiece Fish

Before you rush off to the fish store to choose the centerpiece fish for your 20-gallon tank, let’s discuss what qualities the fish should have.


Your chosen fish must be an absolute centerpiece showstopper fish!

That means you need a colorful or otherwise eye-catching fish that will stand out in your tank. That said, some centerpiece fish can be quite subdued in color, but instead exhibit extraordinary behavior.


Your tank will become so much more attractive and rewarding to watch if you include some intelligent fish exhibiting advanced behavioral traits.

A pair of dwarf cichlids such as kribensis and ram cichlids, for example, are endlessly fascinating to watch as they defend their homes from other fish and engage in complex courtship rituals.


A larger fish undoubtedly makes a feature in your tank. However, a school of fish can be just as effective centerpiece candidates.

Imagine a huge shoal of tiny Cobra guppies in various colors shimmering and fluttering through an imaginatively aquascaped tank. That’s sure to be breathtaking!

Of course, a modest-sized single specimen can be equally effective, such as a single male betta fish with extravagant finnage and marbled patterning.


It’s essential to ensure that any fish that you’re adding to the aquarium are compatible with your existing tank mates and tank setup.

If you already have a delicate species such as a betta fish in your tank, then you can rule out semi-aggressive species like gouramis and dwarf cichlids.

Additionally, make sure that your chosen centerpiece fish is compatible with your particular water parameters and tank environment before buying.

Final Thoughts

Did you enjoy our guide to choosing centerpiece fish for a 20-gallon fish tank? If you found inspiration in our article, please remember to share it!

Your centerpiece could be a single, large fish, a group of smaller specimens, or perhaps one mid-sized fish with something extra special.

You don’t need to have a community tank, either. You might want to make your 20-gallon aquarium a single-species habitat where the fish species is the centerpiece.

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