Awesome Beginner Fish for a Saltwater Aquarium

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    Awesome Beginner Fish

    Clown Fish In Water
    Caroline Schneider / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Populating your first saltwater tank can be quite a challenge. You don't want to buy a fish that will be too difficult to begin with and you sure don't want some ugly fish that will just hang around in your tank, taking up space and sucking up food.

    To help you populate your new tank with beautiful beginner fish which will make your new hobby an instant success, we have highlighted some easier fish that you can be proud of.

    The Saltwater Aquarium Fish Compatibility Chart will give you an...MORE idea of which fish can and can not "normally" exist together in a closed space. In many cases, it also indicates which will coexist with a certain amount of caution. Nothing is guaranteed. There will always be exceptions to any generalization, but the chart will give you a place to start when you are trying to figure out what will work in your aquarium.

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    Ocellaris (False Percula) Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)

    Close-Up Of Fish Swimming In Aquarium
    Paulo Poas / EyeEm / Getty Images

    The Ocellaris (False Percula) Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) is one of the most popular and arguably one of the easiest marine fish to have in an aquarium.

    One peculiarity of this Clownfish is that, even when placed in a large aquarium, once it has established its territory, it will seldom stray from that area. If it makes its home in one corner of a 4' wide tank, it will almost never be seen at the other end of the tank.

    Tank raised specimens (highly recommended) of this species are fairly...MORE easy to find and, if a young pair is purchased, they will easily become a mated pair, without much of the mating ritual abuse experienced with other species of Clownfish. Also, being tank raised, they are accustomed to eating hand fed foods and acclimate very well.

     

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    Coral Beauty Angelfish (Centropyge bispinosus)

    Yellow-Mask Angelfish and Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse
    Secret Sea Visions / Getty Images

    The colorful Coral Beauty Angelfish (Centropyge bispinosus) is a popular dwarf Angelfish which acclimate easily to aquarium life.

    The Coral Beauty Angelfish (Centropyge ​bispinosus) is a favorite Dwarf or Pygmy Angelfish species for aquariums due to its brilliant colors, hardiness, low price and ready availability. This fish is normally not as aggressive as many other Angelfishes, but some individual specimens may be territorial in smaller aquariums, particularly if they have been in the tank for...MORE a while.

     

     

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    Flame Angelfish (Centropyge loriculus)

    Close-up of a Flame Angelfish (Centropyge loriculus)
    Purestock / Getty Images

    The Flame Angelfish (Centropyge loriculus) is considered one of the best choices for aquariums because it usually adapts well to captivity. It is best kept singly or in mated pairs, and with other less-aggressive fishes.

    Although touted by aquarists to be a fairly good reef safe fish, it may nip at large polyped stony corals, zoanthids, Tridacnid clam mantles, and even some soft coral polyps. Therefore, this fish cannot be completely trusted if these invertebrates are present.

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    Lawnmower Blenny (Salarias fasciatus)

    Rock Blenny (Salarias fasciatus).. Also known as Lawnmower Blenny, Jeweled Rockskipper and Jeweled Blenny. Tropical marine reef fish found mostly perched on rock. Very popular algae eating blenny. Dist. Indo-Pacific Against white background.
    Martin Harvey / Getty Images

    The Lawnmower Blenny (Salarias fasciatus) is also known as: Algae Blenny, Jeweled Rockskipper Blenny, Sailfin Blenny, Jeweled Blenny and Rock Blenny. This Blenny is a great algae eater which is a benefit to any saltwater aquarium. New tanks have a tendency to grow a lot of algae as the nitrate levels rise. The Lawnmower Blenny helps keep the algae (particularly Green Hair Algae) in check as the tank matures.

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    Auriga Butterflyfish (Chaetodon auriga)

    Side view of a single threadfin butterflyfish (Chaetodon auriga)
    Fleetham Dave / Getty Images

    The Auriga Butterflyfish (Chaetodon auriga) is also called the Threadfin or Cross-Stripe Butterflyfish. This Butterflyfish is one of the easier ones to keep. Given plenty of places to hide, it will settle right into a non-aggressive tank.

    The major hurdle for this fish is to get it to eat tank fed foods, making it important to observe the fish eating before buying it. Offering the fish frozen Mysis Shrimp seems to help them get started. Also, if other fish in the tank are eating certain foods,...MORE the Auriga seems to pick up on the fact that the food is edible.

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    Raccoon Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunula)

    Racoon Butterflyfish (Chaetodon Lunula)
    Federica Grassi / Getty Images

    The Raccoon Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunula) is also called the Crescent-Masked or Lunule Butterflyfish. This Butterflyfish is one of the easier ones to keep. Given plenty of places to hide, it will settle right into a non-aggressive tank.

    The major hurdle for this fish is to get it to eat tank fed foods, making it important to observe the fish eating before buying it. Offering the fish frozen Mysis Shrimp seems to help them get started. Also, if other fish in the tank are eating certain foods,...MORE the Auriga seems to pick up on the fact that the food is edible.

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    True Percula Clownfish (Amphiprion percula)

    Close-Up Of Clown Fish Swimming In Sea
    Iulian Apostolie / EyeEm / Getty Images

    The True Percula Clownfish (Amphiprion percula) is one of the most popular and arguably one of the easiest marine fish to keep in an aquarium. The 2 Perc's in this photo is the "Darwin variation" of the Percula Clownfish are found in the wild only in the waters near Darwin, Australia.

    One peculiarity of this Clownfish is that, even when placed in a large aquarium, once it has established its territory, it will seldom stray from that area. If it makes its home in one corner of a 4'...MORE wide tank, it will almost never be seen at the other end of the tank.

    Tank raised specimens (highly recommended) of this species are fairly easy to find and, if a young pair is purchased, they will easily become a mated pair, without much of the mating ritual abuse experienced with other species of Clownfish. Also, being tank raised, they are accustomed to eating hand fed foods and acclimate very well.

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    Blue/Green Reef Chromis (Chromis viridis)

    Blue/Green Reef Chromis (Chromis viridis)
    Blue/Green Reef Chromis (Chromis viridis). Dillman

    Even though the Blue/Green Reef Chromis (Chromis viridis) is classified as a Damsel, it seems to get along with almost any non-aggressive fish. It also doesn't bother corals or other invertebrates.

    The Blue/Green Chromis readily eats tank fed foods and adapts to tank life very well.

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    Yellowtail Damselfish (Chrysiptera parasema)

    Yellowtail Damsel
    Yellowtail Damsel. Francis Gorrez

    Unlike many Damsels, the Yellowtail Damselfish (Chrysiptera parasema) seems to get along with almost any non-aggressive fish. It also doesn't bother corals or other invertebrates.

    The Yellowtail Damselfish readily eats tank fed foods and adapts to tank life very well.

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    Firefish (Nemateleotris magnifica)

    Fire Dartfish, Indonesia
    Daniela Dirscherl / Getty Images

    The Firefish (Nemateleotris magnifica) is a very docile fish. It should be kept singly unless the tank is very large, or in mated pairs. This fish is very timid and will not come out of hiding unless it feels secure. The Firefish is also known to leap from a tank when startled, so a covered tank is best.

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    Orange Spotted Goby (Amblyeleotris guttata)

    Coral goby Andaman Sea, Myanmar
    Auscape / UIG / Getty Images

    The Orange Spotted Goby (Amblyeleotris guttata) spends its time gobbling sand and spitting it out through its gills, sifting food as it goes. This is a great little sand sifter which will keep your substrate free of uneaten food and other debris. Its diet should be supplemented with a variety of live and frozen brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, live black worms, and prepared foods for carnivores.

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    Sleeper Banded Goby (Amblygobius phalaena)

    Sleeper Banded Goby (Amblygobius phalaena)
    Sleeper Banded Goby (Amblygobius phalaena). Darryl Craig

    The Sleeper Banded Goby (Amblygobius phalaena) uses shallow burrows in the substrate as a refuge, keeping the substrate well oxygenated. It is rarely aggressive towards other fish, however, it is territorial, and will fight with others of the same species unless they are a mated pair. Like most all Gobies, this fish is known to jump out of uncovered aquariums.

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    Diamond Watchman Goby (Valenciennea puellaris)

    Diamond or Orangespotted Sleeper Goby
    Diamond or Orangespotted Sleeper Goby. Debbie and Stan Hauter

    The Diamond Watchman Goby (Valenciennea puellaris) or Watchman Goby stirs the sand as it sifts through it, straining out food. Its diet should include a variety of live and frozen brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, live black worms, and prepared foods for carnivores.

    This Goby digs shallow burrows in the substrate for refuge, which keeps the substrate well oxygenated. Although a goby that is rarely aggressive towards other fishes, it may fight with other same and similar species gobies. Best kept singly...MORE or as a mated pair.

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    Pink Spotted Watchman Goby (Cryptocentrus leptocephalus)

    Pinkspotted Shrimp Goby
    Pinkspotted Shrimp Goby. Larry Jordan

    The Pink Spotted Watchman Goby (Cryptocentrus leptocephalus) spends its time sifting sand to remove small food particles. Its diet should be supplemented to include a variety of live and frozen brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, live black worms, and prepared foods for carnivores.

    Rarely aggressive towards other fish, however, it is territorial, and will fight with others of the same species unless they are a mated pair. This Goby will also jump out of a tank, so a tight-fitting lid is recommended.

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    Yellow Watchman Goby (Cryptocentrus cinctus)

    Yellow Watchman Goby (Cryptocentrus cinctus)
    Yellow Watchman Goby (Cryptocentrus cinctus). Sarah Penhollow

    The Yellow Watchman Goby (Cryptocentrus cinctus) or Yellow Shrimp Goby is the most often purchased Shrimp Goby for aquariums. This species adapts well to aquarium life and has even spawned in reef aquariums. Only male-female Yellow Shrimp Goby pairs should be put in the same (especially small) tank as these Gobies will attack other Shrimp Gobies.

    This fish should be fed a variety of foods, including fresh or frozen mysid shrimp, enriched brine shrimp, finely chopped table shrimp and frozen foods...MORE for carnivores. Should be fed at least 2 times per day.

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    Flame Hawkfish (Neocirrhitus armatus)

    Flame Hawkfish (Neocirrhitus armatus)
    Flame Hawkfish (Neocirrhitus armatus). D. Craig

    This Flame Hawkfish's (Neocirrhitus armatus) vibrant red color, personable nature, and small size makes it a highly sought after specimen by aquarists. However, like most Hawkfishes, it is predatory bottom-dweller. It likes to sit on top of rocks or corals to keep watch, ready to pounce on any unsuspecting prey that swims too close.In a reef tank, this fish will most likely take up residence in a hard coral head, perching on top when at ease, and darting down inside the coral head when...MORE threatened. It may also take up refuge next to the base or under the tentacles of a large Magnificent/Ritteri Anemone (Heteractis magnifica, previously known as Radianthus ritteri).The Flame Hawk gets along fairly well with other fishes but may act aggressively towards other bottom-dwelling species. In a small aquarium this may present a problem, so either avoid other bottom-dwellers or provide this fish with plenty of room and hiding places to ease territorial conflicts.

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    Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus)

    Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus)
    Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus). R. Tebben

    While the Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus) is a great mini aquarium candidate, it will occasionally eat ornamental shrimps and may attack other fish with elongated bodies like Firefish and Dart Gobies. It will also eat just about any other fish that will fit in its mouth.

    The Longnose Hawkfish can be kept in male/female pairs but should be introduced to the tank at the same time. This fish is well known for jumping out of uncovered tanks, so cover your tank with a canopy or egg crate.

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    Volitan Lionfish (Pterois volitans)

    Volitan Lionfish (Pterois volitans
    Volitan Lionfish (Pterois volitans. Carol Figueredo

    The Volitan Lionfish (Pterois volitans) prefers to spend most of its time in the open. It is quite long-lived and grows large (to 15"), so it should have a large tank. This fish will consume small fish and shrimp (whatever it can fit in its mouth), so tankmates should be on the large size if they expect to survive for long.

    The spines of the Volitans contain a powerful toxin which can cause a very painful (or even fatal, if you are allergic) sting. Handle this fish with great caution. It...MORE should be noted that if the Volitans does sting something in its tank, the poison released in the water can be fatal to other fish and invertebrates.

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    Blue Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus)

    Pacific Blue Tang
    Pacific Blue Tang. John Di Genua

    Mostly known as the fish named "Dory" in the movie "Finding Nemo", the Blue Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus) is not overly aggressive towards other tank mates but may become boisterous in the community. Juveniles can be kept together in groups, but adults will fight unless ample shelter and swimming room are provided. Prone to contracting ich, and susceptible to head and lateral line erosion (HLLE), like most Surgeonfishes are.

    Unlike most tangs or surgeonfishes that require a steady...MORE diet of algae, the Pacific Blue Tang should also be fed meaty fares to satisfy its zooplankton dietary needs. Finely chopped fresh or frozen shrimp, mysid shrimp, brine shrimp, and preparations for herbivores are suitable foods, as well as nori (dried seaweed) is accepted. To help with healing of HLLE problems, foods can be soaked in a liquid vitamin supplement, such as Selcon, and Kent Marine Zoecon.

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    Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

    Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)
    Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens). Ken Bauer

    The Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) is one of the most popular fish for a saltwater aquarium. In general, this fish does get along well with other fishes in an aquarium, but it can be aggressive towards other Yellows and Surgeonfshes if they are not introduced into the aquarium at the same time. If your tank size will allow you to include several of these fish, you will be entertained by their lazy "follow the leader" patterns in and through live rock arrangements.

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    Naso Tang (Naso lituratus)

    Naso Tang (Naso lituratus)
    Naso Tang (Naso lituratus). Art Whitkanack

    The Naso Tang (Naso lituratus) is a fish which, once adjusted to aquarium life, has a great personality. It can be trained to eat food right out of your hands. It is one of the more aggressive Surgeonfish species when it comes to territorial disputes with other Surgeonfishes, especially of its own kind, but generally will get along with other fish tank mates and invertebrates. It is an interesting trait that they will attack each other, considering that they do congregate in small groups or...MORE schools in the wild.

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    Kole Yellow Eye Tang (Ctenochaetus strigosus)

    Kole Yellow Eye Tang (Ctenochaetus strigosus)
    Kole Yellow Eye Tang (Ctenochaetus strigosus). Sammi Baker

    The Kole Yellow Eye Tang (Ctenochaetus strigosus) spends it day constantly grazing and eating, so providing it with an environment with plenty of algae growth is best. However, beware not to put one in a small reef tank, as it can do a lot of damage if you have delicate plants and algae growth that you want to keep. In a very large reef tank, the plant growth can recover, as the Kole has so much to pick from. The Kole Tang adapts to tank fed foods very well. It likes nori (dried seaweed), flake...MORE foods made from dried marine algae, and will even nibble on some meaty foods like dried shrimp and blood worms.

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    Niger Triggerfish (Odonus niger)

    Niger Trigger
    Niger Trigger. Paul Reis

    In the wild, each Niger Triggerfish (Odonus niger) has its own house to live in amongst the coral and rock formations just outside the reef, but they will emerge and congregate above near the surface of the water in large schools to feed on current drifting zooplankton and algae. However, when you catch this fish and put it in a closed environment with other ones, they will bite and attack each another. This is a fish that can be aggressive towards more docile fish and tank inhabitants.

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    Bird Wrasse (Gomphosus varius)

    Male Green Bird Wrasse
    Male Green Bird Wrasse. Keoki Stender

    The Bird Wrasse (Gomphosus varius) is a hardy wrasse that adapts rather well to aquarium life. Only one male should be kept in an aquarium. A male-female pair should be added to the aquarium at the same time, introducing the female first.

    This Wrasse can become aggressive towards other tank mates, especially smaller fishes, and in particular avoid housing with small elongate shaped species, as in all likelihood they will be eaten.

    This wrasse does not bury in the sand to sleep at night but will...MORE lay on top of the substrate or take refuge in rocks. It is a flighty fish that will leap out of an open aquarium, is constantly on the move, and needs lots of swimming room.

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    Eightline Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus octotaenia)

    Eightline Wrasse
    Eightline Wrasse. Keoki Stender

    The Eightline Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus octotaenia) is a shy at first, but once it gets used to being in an aquarium it becomes bolder and will take food out of your hand. The Eight-Lined Wrasse likes to hide, so be sure to give it plenty of covers.

    Like most Wrasses, the Eight-Lined Wrasse likes to burrow under the sand or substrate in your tank as a means of sleeping and protection. Be sure to keep the substrate clean for them. It is a fish that can pick up bacterial diseases both internal and...MORE external easily.

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    Four Lined Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus tetrataenia)

    Four-Line Wrasse
    Four-Line Wrasse. Keoki Stender

    The Four Lined Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus tetrataenia) is a smaller species which do better in a less belligerent tank but may act aggressively toward towards more peaceful wrasses and other small fish. Given the right cover, it will spend a lot of its time hiding and foraging for small snails, worms, and crustaceans in live rock.

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    Elegant Wrasse (Coris venusta)

    Female Elegant Wrasse (Coris venusta)
    Female Elegant Wrasse (Coris venusta). Keoki Stender

    The Elegant Wrasse (Coris venusta) is a shy at first, but once it gets used to being in an aquarium it becomes more bold and will take food out of your hand. The Eight-Lined Wrasse likes to hide, so be sure to give it plenty of cover.

    Like most Wrasses, the Elegant Wrasse likes to burrow under the sand or substrate in your tank as a means of sleeping and protection. Be sure to keep the substrate clean for them. It is a fish that can pick up bacterial diseases both internal and external easily.

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    Ornate Wrasse (Halichoeres ornatissimus)

    Male Ornate Wrasse (Halichoeres ornatissimus)
    Male Ornate Wrasse (Halichoeres ornatissimus). Keoki Stender

    As with most Wrasses, the Ornate Wrasse (Halichoeres ornatissimus) buries itself in the sand when frightened or while sleeping at night for protection. When keeping this Wrasse, or any others that bury themselves, it is important to keep the substrate cleaned and maintained regularly, as this fish can easily pick up internal and external bacterial and fungal infections from detritus build up in the sand or gravel. Is a non-aggressive species that is compatible with other fishes and is safe with...MORE corals, but may be a threat to fan worms, small hermit crabs, snails, and ornamental shrimps.