Not all marine aquarium fish are "reef safe." Many saltwater fish will tear up corals, consume fish and otherwise destroy other tank inhabitants. The marine fish species listed below are some (not all by any means) generally considered by experienced reef tank keepers to be safe for reef tanks. Keep in mind that nothing is "foolproof" when it comes to saltwater aquariums and live animals. There are renegades in any species, so if your new tank critter doesn't work out, remove... it before it can do serious damage.
01 of 09
The smaller Angelfish species work well in larger reef tanks. However, larger species such as the Emperor Angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator) will eat corals and shrimp and should be avoided. Even the smaller (Dwarf) Angels will occasionally pick at corals in a small tank unless they are well fed. The beautiful Japanese Swallowtail Angelfish is one of the few truly reef tank safe Angelfish which does not bother corals or other invertebrates. See Angelfish Profiles for more information. You can... click on the links below to see individual Angelfish species photos and profiles.
02 of 09
- Japanese Swallowtail Angelfish (Genicanthus melanospilos)
- Coral Beauty Angelfish (Centropyge bispinosus)
- Fisher's Angelfish (Centropyge fisheri)
- Flame Angelfish (Centropyge loriculus)
- Lemonpeel Angelfish (Centropyge flavissimus)
- Masked Angelfish (Genicanthus personatus)
- Multicolor Angelfish (Centropyge multicolor)
- Orange-lined or Eibl's Angelfish (Centropyge eibli)
03 of 09
These colorful, gentle, amusing little fish are a favorite reef safe fish. The Maroon Clown is a possible exception, due to its aggressive behavior and larger size at maturity. See Clownfish Profiles for more information on these beautiful fish. You can click on the links below to see individual Clownfish species photos and profiles.
- False Percula Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)
- True Percula Clownfish (Amphiprion percula)
- Tomato Clownfish (Amphiprion frenatus)
- Clarkii Clownfish (Amphirion clarkii)
- Fi...re, Red & Black or Cinnamon Clownfish (Amphiprion melanopus)
- Pink Skunk Clownfish (Amphiprion perideraion)
- Saddleback Clownfish (Amphiprion polymnus)
04 of 09
These docile fish can be difficult to keep in an aquarium, due to their specific diet requirements. However, given an ample supply of Amphipods and Copepods, these fish can do quite well. See Mandarinfish Profiles for more information on these beautiful fish.
Continue to 5 of 9 below.
- Green Mandarinfish (Pterosynchiropis splendidus)
- Psychedelic Mandarinfish (Synchiropus picturatus)
05 of 09
Most Gobies are great little reef safe fish, however, some species may eat small ornamental crustaceans. Not aggressive in nature, they will consume algae, Amphipods, and Copepods. Blennies fall into 3 basic categories: Sand Sifting Gobies, Shrimp Gobies, and Small Gobies. See Blenny & Goby Fish Profiles for more information.
06 of 09
Sand Sifting Gobies plow through the tank substrate, sifting/straining algae, detritus and uneaten food from the sand. This not only removes unwanted nitrate producing substances, it also stirs and aerates the sand (very important for Deep Sand Beds), releasing toxic gasses.
- Diamond Watchman Goby (Valencienna puellaris)
- Engineer Goby (Pholidichthys leucotaenia)
- Orangemarked Goby (Amblygobius decussatus)
- Sleeper Banded Goby (Amblygobius phalaena)
- Sleeper Blue Dot Goby (Valenciennea sexguttata)
- Sleeper... Railway Glider Goby (Valenciennea helsdingeni)
- Sleeper Striped Goby (Valenciennea longipinnis)
- Tiger Watchman Goby (Valencienna wardii)
- Two Spot Goby (Signigobius biocellatus)
07 of 09
Shrimp Gobies get their name from their behavior of sharing their burrows in the sand with small shrimp, such as the Pistol Shrimp. These Gobies warn their shrimp roommates (which have poorer eyesight) of approaching danger in time for them both to retreat into their burrow. In return, they share their food with the Gobies.
- Diagonal Bar Prawn Goby (Amblyeleotris diagonalis)
- Blackray Shrimp Goby (Stonogobiops nematodes)
- Orange Spotted Goby (Amblyeleotris guttata)
- Orange Stripe Prawn Goby (Amblyeleotri...s randalli)
- Pinkbar Goby (Cryptocentrus aurora)
- Pink Spotted Watchman Goby (Cryptocentrus leptocephals)
- Steinitz Goby (Amblyeleotris steinitzi)
- Wheeler's Watchman Goby (Amblyeleotris wheeleri)
- Yellow Watchman Goby (Cryptocentrus cinctus)
08 of 09
Small Gobies are some of the most colorful, entertaining fish in an aquarium. These Gobies adapt well to aquarium life and remain small (2" and under) even as adults.
Continue to 9 of 9 below.
- Gold Line Goby (Elacatinus horsti)
- Yellow Clown Goby (Gobiodon okinawae)
- Panda Clown Goby (Paragobius lacunicolus)
- Green Clown Goby (Gobiodon atrangulatus)
- Citrinis Clown Goby (Gobiodon citrinus)
- Brown Clown Goby (Gobiodon spp.)
- Black Clown Goby (Gobiodon strangulatus)
- Cave Transparent Goby (Coryphopterus glaucofrenum)
- Black Barred... Convict Goby (Priolepis nocturnus)
- Firefish Goby (Nemateleotris magnifica)
- Purple Coral Goby (Gobiodon unicolor)
09 of 09
Surgeonfish make great reef tank occupants. Being herbivores, they eat only algae, leaving your invertebrates and corals alone. The size to which some tangs grow may cause a problem in smaller tanks in the future.
- Achilles Tang (Acanthurus achilles)
- Pacific Blue Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus)
- Blonde Naso Tang (Naso lituratus)
- Red Sea Sailfin Tang (Zebrasoma desjardinii)
- Clown Surgeonfish (Acanthurus lineatus)
- Purple Tang (Zebrasoma xanthurum)
- Chevron Tang (Ctenochaetus hawaiiensis)
- Convict Tang (Acanthurus... triostegus)
- Kole Tang (Ctenochaetus strigosus)
- Goldrim Tang (Acanthurus nigricans)
- Orangebar Tang (Acanthurus olivaceus)
- Powder Blue Tang (Acanthurus leucosternon)
- Sailfin Tang (Zebrasoma veliferum)
- Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)