Unique freshwater animals you had no idea existed

Have you ever stopped and really thought about the earth underneath your feet? If you have, you’ll know you soon get sucked into a dark hole of questions and wonderment. After all, the world is a weird and wonderful place that doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. To think that we are currently suspended in space alongside even bigger planets is beyond reason, and it’s even more amazing to think that we’ve managed to pack over 7.6 billion people onto our planet. We know what you’re thinking, it must be easy to put that many people on a planet that has a radius of 6,371km, right? Well, not quite. This is because a whopping 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, which leaves just 29% left for humans. Of that 71%, 96.5% of that water fills the five oceans of the world. Yes, most of us are so used to the concept of the sea and have no problems telling each other all of the amazing creatures that live beneath the deep.

There are sharks, dolphins, turtles, schools of fish, whales, and more, and many of us have been able to see these with our very eyes. But what about the creatures who live in freshwater? Although humans and animals need freshwater to survive, very few of us have actually surrounded ourselves with the lakes and rivers that make up our world. This is often because these lakes and rivers are in secluded corners of the country that make it almost impossible for humans to get to. Couple this with the fact that these waters are often murky and uninviting for people, we rarely get the chance to dip our toes into these freshwater areas and really take a glimpse as to what lies beneath. In fact, much of the information we know today has come from fishermen who have tried to grab their catch of the day in these rivers and lakes, and many of these animals are unlike any others in the world. Don’t believe us? Check out these unique fish you can find in freshwater…


The more you look at this creature, the cuter it becomes. Yes, the axolotl is one of the most unique creatures in the world because there is genuinely nothing else like it! It’s like a cross between an alien and a mythical creature – but it can actually be found in the wild. This freshwater creature is normally found in rivers and waterways around Mexico City and has been given the nickname of the Mexican salamander. With its adorable little face, its squiggly horns and tiny little feet, these guys normally live their lives on rocks and sand at the bottom of the water and feed on the likes of feeder fish, insects, and worms. Have you ever seen anything like this little guy before? Because we haven’t!

Freshwater Stingray

When you think of stingrays, you probably think of weird little things that reside in the depths of the ocean, or you might even think of the singing teacher in the awesome animation film, Finding Nemo. However, stingrays don’t always have the most soulful voices or even live in the sea – because there is a species of freshwater stingray that survives in rivers across Borneo, Thailand, and Malaysia. As you can probably tell, these guys are not exactly identical to those you might see on nature programs. For starters, they are absolutely huge! Freshwater stingrays can weigh up to a whopping 1,300 pounds, so it’s no wonder there’s a whole team of people involved in this one.

Diving Bell Spider

Let’s be honest, none of us really like spiders, but we have to admit that this one is kinda cool. As the only creature like it in the world, the diving bell spider has a unique ability that reminds us of the Bubble-Head Charm in Harry Potter. Although this spider lives under water, it requires fresh air to survive – so it creates its own little bubble of air to ensure that it can stay underwater for as long as possible. Of course, there is one little aspect of this spider that isn’t as cool, because they have a history of biting humans…


The more you look at the sawfish, the more you’ll understand just why it’s called that! Just like how the famous swordfish has a sword-like spike coming out of its face, the sawfish has a unique and intriguing saw coming out of its face that are actually its teeth! These guys belong to the ray family and can be found in oceans around the world, as well as freshwater lakes and rivers. Although they have been hunted in the past, their saws get tangled in the nets, so most fishermen now leave them be.

Julimes Pupfish

The julimes pupfish not only looks like one of the most beautiful and most colorful fish to ever grace this earth, but it’s also one of the toughest. This little dude actually thrives in the scorching heat and is known to live in some of the warmest waters on the planet – specifically a famously hot spring in Mexico. It’s one of the only fish in the wild to be able to cope with temperatures that can reach up to around 114 degrees Fahrenheit, which means it’s kind of a big deal.

Mangrove Rivulus

Okay, so the mangrove rivulus may sound like some kind of sickness virus, but it’s fair to say that this little guy is one of the most unique freshwater creatures in the world. This fish will normally be found off the coast of Florida and in some parts of the Caribbean, and normally resides where the ocean and freshwater meet. Although these guys are impressive because they can survive outside of the water, they are also unique because they fertilize themselves! Yes, it creates a clone copy of itself to create the next generation…

Longnose Gar

The longnose gar is so-called because of its extremely long nose, filled with sharp teeth that have been known to chomp down large fish. This fish is unique because it can survive in rivers and lakes that have very poor oxygen. This is because this fish takes itself to the surface and gulps down large amounts of air, which it is able to preserve and utilize sporadically as it swims through the water. Because of this, this fish can be found where many other fish daren’t even visit.

Mata Mata

If you ever find yourself in the Amazon basin, keep your eyes peeled for this freshwater turtle. While they may look like they’re wearing a suit of armor, this unusual shell and coloring is actually beneficial to their survival. This is because these freshwater turtles love to reside in stagnant waters that are rarely inhabited by larger animals. They can easily blend into the muddy water but have to make sure the water isn’t too deep as they often make their way up to the surface to breathe. The more we look at this turtle, the weirder it looks!


If you’ve watched any nature documentary ever, you’ll know that piranhas are some of the smallest but devastating fish in the ocean. Most people believe that piranhas only reside in the ocean, but it seems as though these fish can also survive in freshwater and can be found in rivers and lakes across the globe. These fish are so populous in our waters that experts actually can’t determine how many species of piranha they are, but they do know they often resort to cannibalism when they can’t get their hunger fix…

Peacock Cichlid

I mean, how amazing is this fish? It’s no wonder it’s called the peacock cichlid! This fish is a species of Malawi Cichlids, which are all found in Lake Malawi in Africa. Their bright colors of all shades make them stand out from the crowd, and what makes them so unique is that they can only be found in one place! These fish cannot be found outside of the ninth largest lake in the world, but have been taken from their habitat for people across the world to have as aquarium fish.

Mekong Giant Catfish

We knew it. We knew that you’d been wondering which fish was the largest in the wild! It’s a good thing we have the answer then, isn’t it? Yes, the Mekong Giant Catfish takes the bait as the biggest fish in the wild, and that is definitely an incredible achievement. These fish grow at an unbelievable rate in the wild, and many of them have surpassed a whopping 600 pounds and have grown to lengths bigger than 10 feet! Considering these fish are so unusual, it’s a shame to hear that they are struggling to maintain their numbers in the wild.

Goliath Tiger Fish

You just know that if a fish has the name “Goliath” in it that it’s gonna be ma-hoosive, and the Goliath Tiger Fish is no different. This fish is normally found in the river basin of the Congo, but it’s not the kind of creature you’d want to find yourself swimming next to when you’re doing your lengths. That’s because this tiger fish has a whopping 32 teeth that aren’t exactly baby teeth. In fact, these fish have been known to chomp down on crocodiles in the past, so you might not want to risk it.

Air-Breathing Catfish

The clue is kinda in the name, but the air-breathing catfish is a catfish… who breathes air! Who would have thought it?! Although us humans and fish are fairly similar in that we need oxygen to survive, most fish grab their oxygen through the water. However, the air-breathing catfish is a little different and has special gills that allow them to obtain oxygen out in the open like us. As if that wasn’t cool enough, these guys also have human-like arms to help them walk on land as well as swim. I mean, these guys have it all.


Snakeheads are some of the weirdest fish in the freshwater ecosystem because from one angle these guys look like snakes – but then you look at the gills and fins and realize it just can’t be a real-life snake. Instead, this snakehead is like a conglomeration of the two animals, and can survive on land for around 4 days, but spends most of its time underwater. The snakehead was first discovered in Maryland but has since been spotted elsewhere. While it doesn’t prey on large animals, they can get pretty ruthless when they are mating.

Beluga Sturgeon

Have you ever heard of a euryhaline species? Well, this is the name given to any fish that can survive in both freshwater and sea water – and the beluga sturgeon has this little title under his gills. These huge creatures can be found lurking in the waters of Russia, and are recognized by their long noses and little feelers that make their way down. Whether you think they’re cool or a little creepy, there’s no denying the fact that they can live up to 100 years old or more is pretty darn impressive.

Freshwater Drum

The freshwater drum may look like your average kind of fish, but this freshwater creature actually does something that is both extraordinary and unique. Instead of floating seamlessly and silently through the water, these guys actually make unusual noises underneath the water. Those who have come into contact with these fish have noted that it’s almost like the noise of a boiling kettle, and is like a continuous stream of grunts. In fact, they are so loud they can be heard from above the surface. This makes them easy to spot… even if you can’t see them!


We probably don’t need to tell you why the lamprey is a unique fish; just look at it! These fish are actually some of the oldest creatures to ever roam this earth, but there is some debate as to whether they can really be classified as fish at all. This is because they do not have a jaw or a backbone, or even that much to them. They are more like eels in their appearance and can be recognized by their gruesome looking sucker on their face. This sucker is paramount to how they feed, as they suck on the blood of other fish.

Japanese Giant Salamander

When you think of salamanders, you probably think of being down in Hagrid’s hut in Harry Potter, but these animals actually exist in real life! However, they are fairly rare in the wild and have only been spotted by a few people over the course of history. Native to Japan, there is one other salamander larger than this one in the wild, but these guys are still pretty massive. In the past, experts have come into contact with a Japanese giant salamander that had grown up to a whopping five feet long!

Fire-Bellied Toad

The more you look at this photo, the more you’ll realize just why it’s called the fire-bellied toad. I mean, just look at the color on that stomach! Although you might think that this coloring is to look nice in front of all of the other toads, it seems as though it is actually for the complete opposite reason. This color is actually meant to warn potential predators about the fact that this species of toad really doesn’t taste very nice – so the predators don’t try and eat them! If this toad feels as though it is being threatened, it will stand up straight and show off his belly to the world.

Jack Dempsey Cichlid

One of the greatest things about this species of fish is that it was named after the boxer! In fact, this fish was so-called because many believe its strident face looks just like the man who rose to fame during the 1920s. This amazing fish can be found in around both North and Central America, and actually thrives in shallow and muddy water. What’s pretty darn unique about this fish is that parents will often eat their eggs if they feel as though they are being threatened, to stop them being eaten by another creature.