To sustain this free service, we receive affiliate commissions via some of our links. This doesn’t affect rankings. Our review process.
Saltwater aquariums are a beautiful way to bring wildlife in to the home or office; however, unlike fresh water aquariums they require slightly more effort to maintain a balanced ecosystem. Most people choose to have high-end aquarium equipment while also maintaining hired help to check on the pH balance in the tank at least once a month. The amount of work that is required to maintain a healthy saltwater aquarium though, allows the additional benefit of keeping much more tropical and oftentimes beautiful fish.
One of the biggest reasons that individuals choose to maintain a saltwater aquarium rather than a freshwater aquarium is the selection of exotic fish that are available to populate the tank. It should be noted though that simply because a fish is a saltwater fish, that does not mean that inhabitants of a saltwater tank should not be selected with care. As with any aquarium the ecosystem of a saltwater tank is extremely delicate and certain varieties of fish have different requirements than others so it is important to research the fish that will inhabit the tank beforehand.
The Selection of Saltwater Aquarium Fish
There is a considerable selection available when it comes to saltwater aquarium fish and the first step in choosing which fish you would like to populate your aquarium is to do a little research. There are some people who would prefer to go with the more exotic fish; however, it is worth noting that if you have little to no experience with a saltwater aquarium you should consider beginning with fish that are recommended for beginners. Beginner fish are fish that require little and are particularly hardy so they make the perfect start for an inexperienced aquarium owner. Even with beginner fish; however, it is important to note that not all fish in this category are compatible.
The ocellaris clownfish is the fish that is typically referred to as simply a clownfish and this peaceful fish grows to a size of 3 ½ inches. The fully grown clownfish requires an aquarium of around 20 gallons and it is completely compatible with tanks that feature reefs. This easy to care for fish feeds on an omnivorous diet and requires a tank temperature of between 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
The blue tang fish is a particularly popular fish for many salt water aquarium owners due to its bright blue coloring and exotic appearance. The blue tang is a peaceful fish and it grows to a full size of 1 inch, yet it requires a minimum tank size of 180 gallons. These beginner fish are easy to care for and feed on an herbivorous diet. The blue tang requires an aquarium that has a temperature of between 72 and 78 degrees and a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
The clown goby is just one breed of goby that can live in a saltwater aquarium and most goby’s are easy to care for. When fully grown, clown goby’s measure around 2 inches long and can survive in a 10 gallon tank. Clown goby fish are peaceful fish and should be placed with other peaceful fish in a tank with water between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. These fish also require a pH of 8.1 to 8.4 and feed on a carnivorous diet.
Firefish are a relatively small fish with a maximum size of 3” when fully grown and like the other beginner fish listed here they are easy to care for. A firefish can survive in a 10 gallon aquarium when fully grown and is compatible with reef tanks. The firefish is not an aggressive fish and should be placed in a tank with other peaceful fish that thrive in a water temperature of 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal pH for firefish is from 81 to 8.4 and they feed on a carnivorous diet.
Coral Beauty Angelfish
The coral beauty angelfish is an omnivorous fish that requires a saltwater tank of at least 30 gallons to thrive. When fully grown this fish will measure four inches long and is particularly easy to care for. The coral beauty angelfish is a semi-aggressive fish like most angelfish and caution should be used when placing it in a tank with other fish as well as in a tank with a reef. The ideal water temperature for this beginner’s fish is from 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and they require a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
Raccoon Butterfly Fish
The raccoon butterfly fish is a brightly colored and peaceful fish that should not be placed with any aggressive breeds of fish. When fully grown this beautiful fish requires a tank that is at least 70 gallons large and it feeds on an omnivorous diet. The ideal water temperature for the raccoon butterfly fish is between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit with a pH between 8.1 and 8.4.
The snowflake eel is a great addition to a saltwater tank for those who wish to have something a little different inhabiting their aquarium. When fully grown this eel requires a minimum tank size of 50 gallons and while they are easy to care for these eels are also semi-aggressive so care should be used when placing other creatures in the tank. When fully grown the snowflake eel measures approximately two feet long and is requires a carnivorous diet. The ideal water temperature for this saltwater inhabitant is between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit and the ideal pH is from 8.1 to 8.4.
The Volitan lionfish is a much more tropical looking fish than many other beginner fish for the saltwater aquarium. It should be noted that these fish are venomous, carnivorous and semi-aggressive so caution should be used when placing other fish in a tank with a Volitan lionfish. The Volitan lionfish requires a larger tank of 120 gallons minimum size and care should be utilized when placing reefs in the tank with this fish. The lionfish grows to around 15 inches long when full-grown. The ideal water temperature for this saltwater inhabitant is from 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and the ideal pH is from 8.1 to 8.4.
Other Popular Saltwater Aquarium Fish
Not everyone who starts a saltwater aquarium is looking to work with beginner fish and while many of the other popular saltwater aquarium fish can be difficult to care for, doing so is particularly rewarding. Some of the more advanced fish that people choose to populate their aquariums are listed below.
The Mombasa lionfish is a semi-aggressive fish that takes a moderate skill level to care adequately for it. When fully grown this fish measures around 6 ¼ inches long and it feeds on a carnivorous diet. As a fully grown fish, the Mombasa lionfish requires a minimum tank size of 50 gallons and care should be used if placing this fish in a tank with a reef. The ideal water temperature for the Mombasa lionfish is between 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
Blue Spotted Puffer
Many saltwater aquarium owners like the idea of having a puffer fish in their aquarium and the blue spotted puffer is one of the prettier puffer fish available. This semi-aggressive fish should never be placed in an aquarium with peaceful fish. The blue spotted puffer grows to a maximum size of 5 inches and caution should be used when placing this fish in to an aquarium that includes a reef. This unique fish thrives in water between 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit with a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
Black Cap Jawfish
The black cap jawfish is a fish that requires moderate experience to care for it, yet it is a peaceful fish and will thrive in a saltwater aquarium with other peaceful fish. This fish grows to a length of around 4 inches and is happy in a 30 gallon aquarium with or without reefs. The black cap jawfish requires water that is between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit and has a pH of between 8.1 and 8.4. While this is a peaceful fish it does require a carnivorous diet.
The hi-hat is another peaceful fish that requires a moderately experienced owner to care for it. These fish are not fish that are compatible with reef tanks and they are carnivorous. At their largest, these fish can grow to 9 inches long and require a tank of at least 70 gallons to thrive. The hi-hat is most comfortable in water that is between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit with a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
The wartskin angler may not be one of the prettiest fish in the saltwater aquarium, but it is certainly unique. This fish does require a moderate level of experience from its owner since it is not a particularly easy fish to care for. The wartskin angler is a peaceful fish and does best with other peaceful fish in a 20 gallon or larger aquarium. This fish grows to approximately 4 inches long and can thrive in a reef based tank that maintains a temperature between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
Spotted Mandarin Dragonet
The spotted Mandarin dragonet is a beautiful fish to include in any aquarium; however, it is one of the more difficult fish to keep happy and it is not recommended for the first time aquarium starter. This fish grows to a full length of approximately 4 inches and it can thrive in a tank of 30 gallons or more. The spotted Mandarin dragonet is a peaceful fish and requires other peaceful fish to survive; however, it is able to survive in a reef based tank. This uniquely patterned fish thrives in a tank that maintains a temperature of 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
The spotted grouper is an aggressive fish that must not be placed in a saltwater aquarium with any peaceful fish since this carnivore will consume them. This grouper can grow as long as a foot and so they do require a larger tank of a minimum size of 180 gallons. It should be noted that these fish are not particularly compatible with reef based aquariums and require a moderately experienced owner to care for them. Spotted grouper require a tank that maintains a temperature of 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit with a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
The spotted sweetlips is a peaceful fish that requires only expert owners due to the fact that they are particularly difficult to care for. These are carnivorous fish that grow to a maximum size of 2 feet and 5 inches and require a tank of a minimum of 300 gallons. The spotted sweetlips fish does not always do well with a salt water aquarium with a reef and it requires water of a temperature between 72 to 78 degrees and a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
Zebra Moray Eel
The zebra moray eel is another salt water aquarium creature that adds a little something different to the aquarium. This eel requires an owner with moderate experience since it can be difficult to handle. The zebra moray eel is an aggressive creature and caution should be used when placing other creatures in the tank alongside this eel. The zebra moray eel may or may not do well in an aquarium with a reef but it requires a minimum of 125 gallons of water in its aquarium and will grow to a maximum of 5 feet long. This creature thrives in water from 72 to 78 degrees and requires a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
The fiddler stingray is another creature that gives a different look to a salt water aquarium; however, it requires an expert aquarium owner only since it is a particularly difficult creature to handle. This ray is also a very aggressive creature and caution should be used when placing it in an aquarium with other creatures. The fiddler stingray should not be placed in an aquarium with a reef and with a maximum size of 3 feet when fully grown it demands an aquarium of at least 360 gallons. These rays are carnivorous and require a tank temperature of between 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
Marbled Bamboo Cat Shark
The marbled bamboo cat shark is a shark which is one reason that many people desire this creature in their aquarium. This shark is not an easy creature to care for; however, and should not be kept by anyone with less than expert experience in keeping a saltwater aquarium. The marbled bamboo cat shark is an aggressive creature and caution should be used when placing this shark in a tank with any other creature. This shark should not be placed in an aquarium with a reef and it does require a carnivorous diet. This creature grows to around 3 feet 3 inches and requires a minimum tank size of 180 gallons with a tank temperature of 72 to 78 degrees and a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
The harlequin tusk fish is a semi-aggressive fish that requires a moderately experienced owner to handle it. This fish grows to a full size of approximately 10 inches long and as such it requires a minimum tank size of 125 gallons. The harlequin tusk may or may not do well in a tank with a reef and it requires a tank temperature of 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
Dragon Sea Moth
The dragon sea moth is a rather unique looking creature that captures the attention of anyone who notices this unusual creature in a salt water aquarium. This Cuban fish is a very peaceful creature; however, it requires an owner with expert knowledge of salt water aquarium life since it is not a particularly hardy fish. The dragon sea moth grows to around 7 inches long and requires an aquarium of at least 50 gallons but it can life happily in a reef based aquarium. This fish requires a water temperature of 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
Popeye Catalufa Soldierfish
The popeye catalufa soldierfish is a particularly peaceful fish and its bright orange color attracts many salt water aquarium owners to it; however, this fish is rather difficult to handle. The popeye catalufa soldierfish is a venomous fish which is why it is recommended that only experienced aquarium owners take on this fish. This is a carnivorous fish that grows to approximately 7 inches long and requires a minimum aquarium size of 70 gallons with a water temperature of 65 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 8.1 to 8.4.
Which Fish is for you?
Choosing fish for your salt water aquarium is a process that should take a couple of things in to consideration. The first thing that you should take in to consideration when choosing your fish is your experience level. Choosing a fish that requires expert knowledge when you are a beginner at aquarium ownership can result in a quick death for your fish and a lot of frustration for you. Even when picking fish that are “beginner” level fish, there is plenty of choice in regards to the appearance of the fish that you can choose from. After you have selected whether or not you should go with a more advanced type of fish you can begin looking in to whether you prefer more peaceful or more aggressive fish. You should keep in mind that if you choose even one aggressive fish for your aquarium, you should not choose more peaceful fish because the aggressive fish will attack and likely eat the more peaceful fish if they are carnivorous by nature. It is best to cater your aquarium to a certain type of fish or fish that have been proven to live well together. Adding a little diversity to your aquarium can be fun as long as the fish species can successfully live together, so have fun building your underwater paradise!
There are Many Beginner Saltwater Aquarium Fish to Choose From
We have received a number of requests to cover more saltwater aquarium fish suitable for beginners. There are quite a number of saltwater aquarium fish out there that make great beginning fish to aquariums in addition to fish that make good additions to existing aquariums. Below we will cover a few more saltwater aquarium fish that you can consider adding to your tank, these fish are dependent upon your current tank environment but they are all suitable fish for beginners in salt water tank keeping.
Beginner Fish for Saltwater Aquariums
Auriga Butterfly Fish
There are a number of variations when it comes to the Auriga butterfly fish, these variations are both in size and the native habitat of these fish. Currently from many tropical fish stores you will be able to purchase a small, medium or large Auriga butterfly fish from Indonesia; Hawaii, Fiji and Tonga; Papua New Guinea or Sri Lanka. In addition you can occasionally find an extra-large Auriga butterfly fish from Indonesia. Depending upon the size of your tank and existing fish in the community you will need to select the best of these fish for your needs.The Auriga butterfly is a hardy fish species but they are particularly shy and require a tank that provides a number of hiding places to help the fish to feel comfortable. These fish prefer to feed on plankton and frozen, freeze-dried, fresh or flaked food. Many people choose to supplement these fish with vitamin additions in order to boost the fish’s overall health. The average size of the Auriga butterfly fish is as follows: Small: 1-1/2″ to 2-1/4″; Medium: 2-1/2″ to 3 1/2″; Large: 3 1/2″ to 4 1/2″ X Large 4 1/2″ to 6″ This is a peaceful fish species that requires a minimal tank size of 50 gallons and they do not thrive in reef tanks. These omnivorous fish require water temperatures of between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit with a pH between 8.2 and 8.4.
Carpenters Flasher Wrasse
Many people are attracted to the Carpenters Flasher Wrasse because of its beautiful markings and bright colors. These bright and colorful fish are primarily orange with thin blue stripes down the body and a yellow underbelly. The dorsal fins of these fish are spiked and brightly colored also. These fish are particularly easy to care for making them ideal for beginners. The Carpenters Flasher Wrasse is a peaceful fish that is compatible with a reef based tank. These fish prefer water temperatures between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of between 8.1 and 8.4. The minimum recommended tank size for these fish is 50 gallons. This fish that is native to Africa and Indonesia is carnivorous and should have a diet that consists of vitamin enriched frozen mysis shrimp, vitamin enriched frozen brine shrimp in addition to a marine based food such as pellets or flakes.
The Foxface Lo
Many salt water tank hobbyists prefer to keep fish that are brightly colored which leads many of them to pick the foxface lo. This bright yellow fish features a long extended face similar to that of a fox (hence the name) that is white with black markings. This unique looking fish is native to Indonesia and Vanuatu and is a particularly peaceful and easy to care for fish. With that said however, it is important to know that this fish can be difficult to keep in a reef based tank. The foxface lo can grow as large as 9” long and is a venomous fish so care should be taken when deciding to keep this species in particular. This brightly colored fish prefers to live in tanks with a temperature of 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of between 8.1 and 8.4. The foxface lo is a herbivore and prefers to feed upon fresh vegetables and some more undesirable species of algae. These fish have also been known to feed on hard coral polyps. When pairing the foxface lo with any other species caution must be exercised and it is recommended that they be kept with only a few species with which compatibility has been proven to be successful. The minimum recommended tank size for this fish is 70 gallons.
Kaudern’s cardinal is something of an unusual looking saltwater aquarium fish which is what leads many aquarium keepers to venture in to keeping them. This unique looking fish has rather slender and spiky looking fins and is a brilliant white color with black stripes and bright white spots. This fish is native to Indonesia and grows to a maximum length of approximately 3” long. The Kaudern’s cardinal is a semi-aggressive fish although it is easy to care for and caution must be exercised when introducing any other fish to a tank with the Kaudern’s cardinal in it. This fish prefers a tank temperature of between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of between 8.1 and 8.4. This is a carnivorous fish and it requires a diet that is rich in meaty foods such as bloodworms and shrimp. The minimum recommended tank size for this fish is 30 gallons.
There are Many More Beginning Salt Water Fish to Choose From
The flame angelfish is a favorite of many saltwater aquarium owners because of their brilliant orange color. This is actually a dwarf angelfish species and has vertical black stripes that run down the body and horizontal black stripes on the dorsal and anal fins. Like all angelfish, the flame angelfish is a semi-aggressive species and requires someone with an experienced hand to care for them. These fish require a moderate level of care and a minimum tank size of 30 gallons. These fish should be placed with caution if they are being put in to a reef tank as they may or may not be compatible. The flame angelfish grows to around four inches long and prefers warmer waters between 72 and 78° F and a pH of 8.1 to 8.4. These are omnivorous fish and feed on marine algae, frozen shrimp, Spirulina and angelfish specialty food. The average price of this large and colorful fish is between $30 to $40 USD.
The golden angelfish is another dwarf angelfish species that is coveted for its bright colors. The body of this fish is a deep orange color with thing yellow stripes that run vertically down the body. These fish are exceptionally difficult to find which is why they are so expensive when purchased from an aquarium specialty shop. The golden angelfish can grow to a maximum size of around four inches long but requires a minimum tank size of 50 gallons in order to thrive. Unlike other angel species, the golden is a peaceful fish but is extremely difficult to care for. These tropical fish thrive in water temperatures between 72 to 78° F and prefer a pH of between 8.1 and 8.4. These are omnivorous fish and are happiest feeding on sponges, angelfish preparations and meaty foods. This fish species retails from anywhere from $100 to $150 USD.
The lemonpeel angelfish is yet another brightly colored angelfish with a bright yellow body and light blue highlights around the eyes, on the tips of its fins and on its lips. This is a semi aggressive fish and caution should be used when placing it with other fish or in a reef based tank. Lemonpeel angelfish are moderately difficult to care for and require a skilled hand. These large fish grow to a maximum size of six inches long and require a minimum tank size of thirty gallons. The ideal temperature for these tropical fish is between 72-78° F with a pH of 8.1 to 8.4. The lemonpeel angelfish is omnivorous and is happiest feeding on Spirulina, marine algae, seaweed, frozen shrimp and angelfish preparations. The retail price of this fish varies from around $20 to $30 USD.
Red Velvet Fairy Wrasse
The red velvet fairy wrasse is a beautifully colored fish with a bright red coloration at the front of the body and the rest being a bright yellow. The brightly colored scales of this peaceful fish have been noted to change colors depending upon the fish’s mood as well as whether or not it is mating season. During mating season the male red velvet fairy wrasse will appear white in color. This is an easy to care for fish that grows to a maximum size of four inches long. The minimum tank size for this species is fifty gallons. This Sumatran fish is reef compatible and prefers water temperatures of between 72 to 78° F and a pH of 8.1 to 8.4. This is a carnivorous fish that is happiest when fed frozen shrimp, marine pellet or flake food and frozen brine shrimp. The average retail price of this fish is between $70 to $100 USD – males are generally more expensive than females.
Black Cap Basslet
The black cap basslet is a deep water fish species that has a bright purple colored body with a black marking on its head that resembles a cap. These semi-aggressive fish thrive in reef based aquariums and are relatively easy to care for. Native to the Caribbean, these fish prefer warmer waters between 72-78° F. The ideal pH for this fish is between 8.1 and 8.4. The black cap basslet grows to a maximum of four inches long and requires a minimum tank size of thirty gallons. This fish species is carnivorous and thrives on a diet made up of mysis shrimp, marine fish and frozen fish food preparations. The average retail price for the black cap basslet is around $50 USD.
The longnose batfish is a unique looking fish with a flat horizontal body and reddish-brown coloration with a mottled appearance. This fish has an antennae structure on its nose that it uses to lure in live fish which it feeds upon. This fish is not so much of a swimmer as it is a crawler as it uses its fins to crawl along the aquarium floor. When threatened, this fish will bury itself under the sandy bottom of the aquarium. This is a large fish that can grow to a maximum size of nine and a half inches and as such it requires a minimum tank size of one hundred gallons. The longnose batfish is a slow and peaceful fish but it does require an aquarium owner with moderate knowledge of fish keeping. The ideal water temperature for this fish is between 72-78° F with a pH of between 8.1 and 8.4. These carnivores require living food to survive and do best with saltwater feeder shrimp in the beginning and polychaete worms and feeder fish after it has adjusted to aquarium life. The average retail price of this fish varies from $70 to $90 USD.
The panther grouper is also called the polka-dot grouper and has a bright white body with black polka-dots all over its body. These fish can reach an incredible one foot, eight inches long and require a tank that is at minimum three hundred gallons. While beautiful, these fish are aggressive and require a moderate level of experience in their aquarium owner to thrive. Panther grouper can be placed in a reef based tank but caution should be taken to monitor their progress. This tropical fish requires warm water temperatures of 72-78° F and a pH of between 8.1 and 8.4. This carnivorous fish feeds on prawns, squid, freeze-dried krill, fresh fish and silversides. The retail price of this fish is between $25 to $30 USD.
Disclaimer: This website contains reviews, opinions and information regarding products and services manufactured or provided by third parties. We are not responsible in any way for such products and services, and nothing contained here should be construed as a guarantee of the functionality, utility, safety or reliability of any product or services reviewed or discussed. Please follow the directions provided by the manufacturer or service provider when using any product or service reviewed or discussed on this website.