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Malawi sandsifters have long, trailing fins on their backs and bellies.

Freshwater Fishes

More than 15,000 species of freshwater fishes are part of healthy rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands around the world. Cichlids are among the most numerous, from tasty tilapia to a hobbyist favorite, discus. The African rift lakes alone have more than 300 cichlid species, with names like Malawi eye-biter and eartheater. Each has specialized to find food and shelter in the many microhabitats of these great lakes.

Freshwater lake sturgeon have long, scaleless bodies with ridges along their spines.

Spotlight on sturgeon

Unbelievable lives in your backyard! The lake sturgeon is a Great Lakes native—and a living fossil, first appearing in the fossil record some 136 million years ago.

We’re still learning about this big, bottom-feeding species. Shedd's research team and partners at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently used satellite tags to track lake sturgeon in the Niagara River! Among the findings, the data confirmed that these large Great Lakes residents are nocturnal.

Whitenose suckers have a long, tapered body with a small, pointed fin on their spine.

Studying the "wildebeest of the Great Lakes"

When you hear the word "migration," you probably think of birds, but fish migrate too. Since 2017, Shedd research biologist Karen Murchie has been studying the migration patterns of suckers, which she fondly refers to as the "wildebeests of the Great Lakes."

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“There are so many amazing fish that live in fresh waters. I’ve always been happy to share so many fish species that rely on these environments to sustain life.”

Erica Hornbrook, director, fishes
Tambaqui are a very large fish with a strong jaw capable of breaking nuts that fall from the trees lining the rivers they live in.


Clouded archerfish have narrow, lemon-shaped bodies with upturned mouths.

Clouded Archerfish

When viewed sidelong, a paddlefish's long, paddle-like nose is almost as long as its body


A violet-line piranha among river grass at Shedd Aquarium.

Violet-Line Piranha

Moonlight gourami have almond-shaped pale bodies with delicate, many-veined fins.

Moonlight gourami

Australian lungfish fondly referred to as Granddad.


A Cichlid, a football shaped fish, swims above a rock.


Arapaima can grow to prodigious size; some of the arapaima at Shedd are up to five feet long.


The red bellied piranha has sharp teeth and a strong jaw for preying on other fish.

Red-bellied Piranha