Because of my freshwater fish photography hobby, I’m always on the lookout for a good shot, but I’d watch them anyway. I have spent countless hours watching my fish.

There is just something about the magic of the underwater world. The fish are beautiful, interesting, and full of life. And part of the thrill is they are totally dependent on me to provide them the ideal living environment.

Trying to share that beauty and amazement with other people is a big part of freshwater fish photography. But getting that perfect shot is a heck of a lot more difficult than it might seem to the casual observer. Glare, blurry focus, dark shadows, overexposure, and reflections are just a few of the obstacles every aquarium photographer has to deal with.

Overcoming the obstacles becomes easier with practice, but a helping hand goes a long way to speeding up the learning curve. That’s why I created this website. My purpose is to pass along tips and techniques which should help with YOUR freshwater fish photography.

We posted some general tips here and wrote a few articles covering specific freshwater fish in our Freshwater Fish section. Hopefully, you can find some information here that will help you with your freshwater fish photography.

Plan Your Shot

freshwater fish photography example showing discus fish

Are you trying to shoot the whole tank, or are you going for one particular fish? Is the picture going to be a closeup of the fish, or do you want to frame your fish in the leaves of plants?

Think about your picture before you set up the shot. Consider what you are trying to shoot. Depending on what you are trying to accomplish will dictate how you proceed. But, you can’t lose no matter which style of shot you choose.

Everyone loves a great aquarium photo no matter if it is a closeup of your Symphysodon aequifasciatus or an overall aquascape picture of gorgeous leafy plants in your discus tank.

Remove Background Distractions

Cover the back of the tank with cloth, cardboard, or foam board to eliminate distractions in the background. Depending on the color of your cover, you can enhance the colors of your aquarium as well as block the view of your kitchen! LOL

Stabilize the Camera

The best way to stabilize your camera is to use a tripod. This is the easiest way to eliminate camera shake, and if you shoot without a flash, a tripod is even more critical for a good shot. If you don’t have a tripod, you can improve your pictures by setting your camera on a table, or bracing it against something solid.

Frame Your Shot

Place your subject a little off-center and fill a substantial portion of the frame with it. Centering your subject doesn’t work as well as positioning a little off-center. Also, use the Rule of Thirds – split the image into 9 segments by using 3 vertical and 3 horizontal lines (like tic-tac-toe) then place key elements of your photo at the points where any of the lines intersect.


Adjust the lighting to avoid glare while illuminating your subject. Turn the camera flash off to prevent glare off the glass and avoid over-exposure of your subject with too much light. Fish scales reflect light, so even if your fish is not totally washed out from over-exposure, you can bet the color won’t be correct. You will have to edit your picture in Photoshop to compensate for the flash.

Reflection and Refraction

rubber lens hood for freshwater fish photography

Adjust your camera so that you are shooting square with the glass to prevent refraction.

Use black cardboard with a hole for the camera to eliminate reflections.

Or use a rubber lens hood pressed against the glass which will eliminate both reflection and refraction issues.

(for DSLR cameras.)

More Freshwater Fish Photography Articles