10 Beautiful Centerpiece Fish For A 40 Gallon Tank! (With Pictures)

Pearl Gourami, peaceful Apistograma, Bolivian Rams, and certain Angelfish are all excellent options as centerpiece fish for a 40-gallon tank.

With the 40-gallon tank size increasing in popularity, I have noticed more people reaching out to ask for stocking options for their aquariums.

After seeing people reaching out for advice, I decided to publish this article on my favorites to try and help my readers.

Pearl Gourami

Pearl Gourami
Pearl Gourami

Pearl Gourami are the best centerpiece fish for 40-gallon tanks due to their peaceful nature, beautiful pattern, and interesting behavior.

Unlike most gourami, Pearl Gourami are generally peaceful and won’t be aggressive towards their tank mates.

The spotted pattern of Peal Gourami catches the eye and looks beautiful under aquarium lighting making them a great-looking centerpiece fish for your aquarium.

Adult Pearl Gourami max out at 5 inches (12cm) ensuring they are large enough to stand out in your 40-gallon aquascape. You can usually keep 1-4 Peal Gourami in a standard 40-gallon tank while keeping plenty of other fish in the tank.

Male and female Pearl Gourami can work well as a single centerpiece fish in the tank but I recommend you keep a single male with females if you want to keep more than one in your tank.

This helps to prevent species-specific aggression between the male Pearl Gourami when establishing their hierarchy.



Apistogramma can make a great centerpiece fish for most 40-gallon tank setups and there are plenty of different types of Apistogramma to choose from.

Choosing the right Apistogramma for your aquarium is important as certain types can be more aggressive than others. Here are some recommendations for you to consider:

  • Apistogramma Borellii
  • Apistogramma Macmasteri
  • Apistogramma Agasizzii
  • Apistogramma Caetei

Apistogramma Borellii are probably the most peaceful option for community tank setups but most Apistogramma can work well.

Each Apistogramma species has its unique appearance with males being far more colorful than females. Apistogramma Agasizzii are my favorite when it comes to looks and are generally peaceful.

Most Apistogramma species usually max out at 2-3 inches (5-8cm) so they are smaller than Pearl Gourami covered above but their beauty makes up for it.

Keeping a male and female breeding pair will usually be the best option for a 40-gallon community tank as it helps keep the Apistogramma happy while offering plenty of space for your other fish.

Female Apistogramma will chase other fish away from their breeding area but the other fish in your tank usually start avoiding that area once they are used to being chased.

German Blue Rams

German Blue RamsĀ§
German Blue Rams

German Blue Rams are an excellent option for species-specific tanks and look great in 40-gallon tanks.

Unlike most other fish in this article, German Blue Rams usually do best in a species-specific tank that only contains German Blue Rams.

This helps to minimize aggression and ensure you can provide the warmer water and perfect water parameters that German Blue Rams require.

German Blue Rams are more challenging than some other fish so I wouldn’t recommend them for first-time fish keepers but they are great fish if you have experience in maintaining safe and stable water parameters.

Their appearance more than makes up for the more challenging requirements with the blue and yellow hues looking beautiful under aquarium lights.

Adult German Blue Rams max out at around 1.6 inches (4cm) so you can usually add plenty of them to a 40-gallon tank to make up for their smaller size.

Provided you lightly stock your tank, a small number of German Blue Rams can work in community tank setups making them a beautiful centerpiece fish.

Electric Blue Acara

Electric Blue Acara
Electric Blue Acara

Electric Blue Acara look amazing in the right lighting and are usually peaceful making them an excellent option for a 40-gallon tank.

The main issue with Electric Blue Acara is the grading system used to sell them. The better they look, the higher the price tag so I only recommend people get Electric Blue Acara they can see before purchasing them.

Even a low-grade Electric Blue Acara can look beautiful and with breeding lines improving, a modern low-grade looks considerably better than a low-grade from ten years ago.

One of the best things about Electric Blue Acara is their peaceful nature. Most fish that look as good as these are aggressive but the vast majority of Electric Blue Acara are peaceful and keep themselves to themselves.

This makes them the perfect centerpiece fish for 40-gallon community tanks and puts them up there with Pearl Gourami.

The main downside of Electric Blue Acaras is their price tag as they cost 3-6 times more than a Pearl Gourami in my area.

Other than that, they are a great fish for most 40-gallon tank setups and their bright blue color looks geat in planted tanks.

Pale Blue Dwarf Gourami

Pale Blue Dwarf Gourami
Pale Blue Dwarf Gourami

Pale Blue Dwarf Gourami are underrated fish that can work well as centerpiece fish for 40-gallon tanks.

A few different terms are used to describe these fish but they all refer to the same thing. A female Dwarf Gourami that has been bred to have a solid pale blue color.

Female Dwarf Gourami are far less aggressive than the males making them work well in community tank setups with the pale blue coloring making them stand out and catch the eye.

They max out at around 3.5 inches (9cm) so they are smaller than their Pearl Gourami cousins covered earlier in the article but a small 1-4 group can work well.

I wouldn’t recommend you add a male Dwarf Gourami to a community tank setup as they can be unpredictable and suddenly become aggressive.

Most pet stores should easily be able to provide you with female Pale Blue Dwarf Gourami and the best thing about them is their low price tag.

Bolivian Rams

Bolivian Rams
Bolivian Rams

Bolivian Rams can be a great centerpiece fish for beginners as they are easy to care for and work well in most 40-gallon setups.

Most Bolivian Rams are calm and relaxed and shouldn’t display aggression toward their tank mates making them a great option for community tanks.

Unlike German Blue Rams covered earlier in the article, Bolivian Rams have a blander appearance but their yellow hues can still look great in the right tank.

I view the two species as a trade-off. You have the more striking appearance of German Blue Rams which are more difficult to care for or the blander appearance of Bolivian Rams which are easier to care for.



Angelfish can work in the right 40-gallon tank setup and their unique look makes them great for a centerpiece fish.

Aggression levels can be unpredictable with Angelfish and I know multiple fishkeepers who have kept Angelfish in their tanks for years without issue then one day they decide to start attacking their tank mates.

This scores them down when compared to something like Pearl Gourami, Apistogrammas, or Electric Blue Acara but Angelfish have a huge, passionate fan base who love them.

There are multiple types of Angelfish in the hobby offering some variation in their color and pattern with most Angelfish fish cheap and easy to find these days.

Some people like to heavily stock their tanks to try and reduce the chances of their Angelfish being aggressive while others like to lightly stock their tank and add plenty of hiding spots and sight breaks.

I think the personality of your Angelfish plays more of a role in how aggressive it will be than anything else though so I usually only recommend a species-specific 40-gallon tank for them rather than a community tank setup.

Cardinal Tetras

Cardinal Tetras
Cardinal Tetras

A large shoal of Cardinal Tetras can work as a beautiful centerpiece for a 40-gallon tank.

Rather than focusing on a small number of larger fish, Cardinal Tetras focuses on a large number of smaller fish.

20+ Cardinal Tetras in a 40-gallon tank stand out, especially if it’s a planted tank as the blue and red on the fish contrast well with the green of the plants.

The Cardinal Tetras in my 40-gallon tank keep themselves to themselves and I have never seen any type of aggression from them. This makes it easy to keep them in a community tank setup with several other species of fish.



Guppies are an underrated centerpiece fish for 40-gallon aquariums when kept in large groups.

Male guppies will chase and tail-fan each other when establishing their hierarchy but they won’t be aggressive towards their tank mates.

This makes guppies a great option for species-specific and community tank setups with their color and movement catching the eye.

There is a huge range of guppy colors, patterns, and tail shapes on the market but my article on different guppy types covers some of my favorites.

Keeping a 40-gallon species-specific guppy tank is a great option with breeding tank setups and male-only setups working well.

Breeding setups will have a mixture of male and female guppies often kept at a ratio of 1 male per 2-3 females. Guppies breed quickly so I don’t recommend breeding tanks for beginners as their populations can quickly get out of control.

Male-only setups keep male guppies in the tank to prevent population issues and add as much color as possible as male guppies tend to be far more colorful than females.

The male-only setup is usually the best option for people new to keeping guppies and they work well in most tanks.

Betta Fish

Betta Fish
Betta Fish

Betta fish often do best in smaller tanks but a non-aggressive betta fish can work well in the right 40-gallon tank setup.

Many people recommend female betta fish for community tank setups but I know people who have relaxed males that aren’t aggressive and keep themselves to themselves while others have highly aggressive females.

This is why I usually advise against keeping bettas in community tanks as you won’t know how your betta will react to its tank mates until you actually add it to the tank.

If you are going to keep a betta fish as the centerpiece fish for your 40-gallon tank, try to add as many plants, rocks, and driftwood pieces as possible to serve as hiding spots and sightbreaks to minimize aggression.

The number of people keeping bettas in community tanks is higher than ever so I wanted to include them in this list but I would highly recommend one of the other options over them if possible.

Betta fish have one of the largest range of colors, patterns, and tail shapes on the market making it easy to find the perfect betta fish for your tank.

The main downside of using betta fish as centerpiece fish is their smaller size and they can get lost in a large 40-gallon tank.

One common trick to prevent this is to keep a red betta and heavily plant the background of the tank as the red of the betta will contrast with the plants and make it stand out and easy to see.