There Are Over 15,000 Species of Freshwater Fish — We’ll Be Impressed If You Can Name 40!

ANIMALS

Ian Fortey

7 Min Quiz

These trophy fish are cannibals. What are they?

Northern pike are hefty fish that can exceed 60 pounds. Fishers prize them for their size and the challenge of catching one. Commercial fisheries have tried to farm like with no success since they won't eat artificial food. The pike just likes to hunt.

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This is the largest apex predator in the Mississippi River. Name it!

The alligator gar is an intimidating looking creature with a mouthful of teeth and a size that would make anyone think twice. The largest reported size of one of these monsters was about 10 feet, making it the sort of thing you want to avoid when you're swimming.

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Do you know the name of this little guy that's a favorite of recreational anglers?

Black crappies are fairly prominent throughout North America, and if there's water with fish in it, it's probably suitable for crappies to live in. The difference between a black crappie and a white crappie isn't so much the color as the dorsal spines. White crappies have six while black have seven or eight.

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These little guys are popular in aquariums. What are they called?

Neon tetras are often one of the beginner fish that people get when they start a home aquarium. They're so popular that over 1.5 million of these tiny fish are imported into the US every single month.

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This species shares a name with a kind of helicopter. Name it!

Chinook salmon are anadromous and will live in freshwater, saltwater and brackish at different points in time. During spawning, a chinook salmon will migrate upwards of 2,000 miles from the ocean to the Upper Yukon River.

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What do you call this popular fish among anglers that is also pretty common in supermarkets?

Ironically, a rainbow trout only has a red band of color down its side rather than a full rainbow of color. It's is pretty eye-catching, so the name stuck. There are species such as the golden rainbow trout which have bright yellow-gold coloration with red stripes and pink coloration as well.

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This endangered fish can be found in the Colorado River. Do you know what it's called?

The humpback chub gets its name from that curious lump above its head on its back. There are currently only six self-sustaining populations of the Chub in the Colorado River Basin.

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You can teach this fish to do tricks! What's it called?

Oscars are the kind of fish that don't do well with strangers, so if you have them, they can only live with other oscars. That said, they're considered to be rather smart for fish, and there are even videos of some that have been taught to do aquarium tricks. Fun!

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This fish also goes by the name Cisco. Do you know it?

Lake herring can be found in the Great Lakes of North America and are fished both recreationally and commercially. Their population had been in decline for some years, but they're now making a comeback up in Lake Superior.

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The recreational fishing industry for this species is literally worth billions. Do you know what it is?

Competitive largemouth bass fishing is a worldwide industry. The fish have been introduced around the globe, and competitions for fishing them can be found not just in North America but Japan, Australia, Korea, Italy and other countries as well.

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This fish is known for being a fighter. What's its name?

Muskellunge, better known as muskies, is the largest member of the pike family and are very popular with sports fishers as a result. If you're looking to pull in a big freshwater fish in North America that's going to be a challenge, this beast which can get up to six feet is what you want.

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These aquarium fish grow taller than they do long. What are they called?

Angelfish are fairly common in home aquariums thanks to how easy they are to keep. They're omnivorous, so feeding them is usually not difficult, and they tend to get along with other fish species so long as the aquarium doesn't get too crowded.

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This fish is considered critically endangered. Do you know what it is?

The moapa dace comes from the Moapa River in Nevada. Their habitat is currently limited to 10 square kilometers, which is why the species is considered at risk. In 1979, the Moapa Valley Refuge was established as the first refuge ever to help conserve an endangered fish species.

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Do you recognize this species that starts male and then will eventually become female?

The barramundi gets its name from an aboriginal Australian word that means "large-scale river fish." The fish can be found throughout Northern Australia and Southeast Asia. They are what is known as sequentially hermaphroditic, so after one spawning males may become females. That means older larger specimens are likely female.

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This Eurasian species is considered invasive in North America. Do you know it?

Zander are known as pike-perch and European walleye and have been intentionally introduced to many lakes and rivers throughout Europe as a sports fish. They are pretty robust fish and will compete with native species as well as interbreed with them, so the fear is that they could essentially dominate any native population where they're introduced.

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If you're fishing in Finland you might hook one of these. Name it!

Ide fish are a member of the carp family found in lakes and rivers. They're large for carp, getting up to around 10 or 12 pounds, which makes them a fairly common target for sports fishing. Everyone likes a big fish, after all.

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This fish is sometimes called a goggle-eye. What other name does it go by?

Rock bass look like a smaller version of their cousins, the largemouth bass. They're not particularly large fish, as the record was only about three pounds, but they can be fished all year and make for a pretty easy catch even for new anglers and kids, which is why they're popular.

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You can find this fish in the Colorado River. What is it called?

The razorback sucker has been listed as an endangered species since 1991. They can also live for upwards of 40 years, which seems pretty impressive for a fish. Most of the current populations of Razorbacks are supplemented by farm-raised fish, and only one population in Lake Mead is still wild.

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This fish shares its name with a very different looking ocean fish. Do you know it?

Sunfish, including the green sunfish, shouldn't be mistaken with ocean sunfish, which are quite different looking creatures. Freshwater green sunfish are easily mistaken for perch or bass as they're in the same family. They're actually considered a nuisance fish in states like Florida and New Jersey.

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Name this little aquarium fish that is a bottom feeder and seems happy with most other kinds of fish.

The golden dojo loach fits in well with most fish in an aquarium, and they lend themselves well to the overall environment by feeding on the sludge that falls to the bottom. Loaches lack scales, which also means that you shouldn't add any chemicals to a tank with loaches in it unless it's specifically designed for scaleless fish.

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This fish can be found from the Arctic down to the Gulf of Mexico. What is it?

Walleye are one of the most popular fish in North America for sports fishers. Walleye also have remarkable eyesight, which is exceptional even in low-light conditions. Thanks to that, they're known for being a good hunter at both dusk and dawn.

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What is this fish that is prized as being one of the most delicious you can catch in North America?

Yellow perch are farmed commercially and are also a popular sport fish thanks to the fact they're easy to manage, don't put up much of a fight and are pretty tasty as far as fish go.

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Females of this species can live to be 150 years old! What is it?

Lake sturgeon are some of the biggest fish you can catch throughout North America. At six feet long and in the neighborhood of 200 pounds, it's not hard to see why fishers prize them. Oddly enough, they were once considered nuisance fish because they destroyed fishing gear.

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You can find this fish throughout the Mississippi River, the Rio Grande and more. Do you recognize it?

Blue catfish can grow to be 150 pounds and are pervasive throughout lakes and rivers from Canada all the way down to Guatemala. In some places, they're actually considered invasive nuisance fish. They're also able to manage brackish waters, so they have a lot of places to choose from.

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There are over 700 species of this little aquarium fish. What's it called?

Killifish are brightly colored, hardy little aquarium fish that do well in communities with most other fish so long as they aren't violent. That's a weird caveat to put on a fish, though, because what fish would do well with violent fish?

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What's the name of this fish you'll see at just about any pet store in a little cup by itself?

Betta fish are some of the most popular aquarium fish in the world. Their bright colors and flashy-looking fins make them a striking addition to any home set up. The only downside is the reason they're sold in individual cups — bettas have rage issues and will actively try to kill other bettas.

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This little fish can be found in freshwater, brackish water, and salt water. Name it.

The fourspine stickleback is a menacing looking little guy that only grows to four or five centimeters in length and has some impressive spikes sticking out all over its body, which is where it gets its name.

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You can find this fish in an aquarium or fried with sweet and sour sauce. What is it?

Giant gourami are from Southeast Asia and can get to be over two feet in length. They're useful in garden ponds to keep weed growth down as they eat a lot of plant life, and they're also farmed as food because they don't have all those annoying, tiny bones that some fish have.

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You can find this fish at altitudes up to 9,000 feet. What's it called?

The mountain sucker has quite a wide range across America, but it can also be found around the Rocky Mountains, including in rivers up at altitude. It gets its name because it can live in the mountains and it also sucks up its food from the bottom of the river.

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This fish has a skeleton made of cartilage, not bone. What's it called?

The paddlefish is a weird looking beast that can live for over 50 years. The eggs of the paddlefish have been used as a stand-in for sturgeon caviar if you're looking for a cheaper alternative that tastes more or less the same.

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These fish are often sold in red and green varieties. What are they?

Swordtails are a popular aquarium fish thanks to their bright colors and their unique, pointy tail. They're native to Central and North America and in the wild tend to be a little less spectacularly colored. The captive-bred fish are bred specifically to get bright colors, though.

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This little fish is an invasive species that was introduced in Michigan and invaded the Great Lakes from there. Name it.

Rainbow smelt traditionally moved into freshwater to spawn before heading back to saltwater to live out their fishy lives. When they were introduced to the Great Lakes they adapted a little too well, and now they actually can't go back to the ocean.

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You can find this fish around Honshu, Japan. Name it!

Dark sleeper is both the name of a bass lure and a fish you'll find in Japan. The fish is a crafty little thing that can control light reflecting scales on its body to either reflect or absorb light, making it incredibly hard to see on the bottom of a river or stream.

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This is one of the rarest fish in the entire world. What is it?

The Devils Hole pupfish doesn't just have a fantastic name, it has kind of an amazing story. The fish lives in one spot, appropriately called Devils Hole in Nevada. It's a limestone pool, and there are only about 200 of the fish in a 20 square meter area. That's the world's entire population.

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Some people call this fish a strawberry perch. Do you know it by another name?

Warmouth bass are a fairly aggressive species of bass, hence the name. When the female lays eggs, the males will guard them against any other fish for up to several days after they hatch. After that, the little guys are on their own.

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This fish is remarkably similar to the northern pike. Name it!

Chain pickerel are a close relative of the northern pike and are one of the larger sports fish you can find in North America. They're also popular for eating, but only if you have the patience to debone one since they're chock full of little bones.

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This fish can be found in Nepal and Myanmar. What is it?

The Indian flying barb can be found across India and various parts of Asia. It gets the flying part of its name thanks to a remarkable talent it has for jumping. If you keep them as an aquarium fish, make sure you have a lid.

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Do you know the name of this fish, which is the state fish of Nevada?

Lahontan cutthroat trout have one of the best names in fish history, and they also have a sad history. They were once so abundant in the Tahoe-Truckee Watershed that people fished them up by the bucketful assuming the supply would last forever. They were added to the endangered species list in 1970.

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This unfortunate fish dies after spawning. Do you know its name?

The American eel is one of those fish that splits its time between freshwater and saltwater. Unlike most species, it seems to work in reverse. It lives most of its life in freshwater and heads out to sea to spawn.

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This is sometimes called the whale catfish. What other name does it go by?

Rita rita is actually the scientific name for the whale catfish found throughout India, Nepal, Pakistan and other regions of Asia. It can grow up to 48 inches or so in length and is heavily fished for food.

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Image: ArtBoyMB / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Even though the Earth looks like a big, watery sphere from space, over 99 percent of all the water on Earth is actually unusable to us. Whether it's salt water, frozen water, polluted water or water that's hidden away underground, the portion that gets left over for us and the freshwater fish of the world is incredibly low.  In fact, only 0.3 percent of the freshwater in the world is found in surface lakes, swamps, and rivers. That's what makes it all the more amazing that there are thousands and thousands of species of freshwater fish out there when really they don't have a ton of real estate to work with.

Since we as humans have always lived closed to sources of freshwater out of necessity, it's no surprise that we have a long history of fishing for the critters that live in that same water. Freshwater fish have been a part of the survival of the human race since the beginning. Surely with all that history, you must be able to identify at least a few of the little guys (and not-so-little guys) that share our water with us, right?  If you think you know your freshwater friends, there's one sure way to prove it — take this quiz and see how many you can identify!

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