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The Best Saltwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners:

  • Brennen Lahn
  • Dec 4, 2020
Saltwater Aquarium Fish for Beginners
Saltwater Aquarium Fish for Beginners

With many activities currently on hold, there is no better time to get started in the saltwater aquarium hobby. Maybe you have seen those extravagant tanks at your public aquarium. However, if you are just starting out, it doesn’t take much to create a stunning aquarium that you can be proud of. It is possible to invest in all of the aquarium equipment your heart desires but, at the end of the day, what causes you to take the saltwater aquarium leap is the beautiful species we wish to keep under our own roof. At Marine Depot, we want to set up our customers for success in their saltwater fish keeping adventure regardless of what species they find beautiful. That being said, within this article we want to highlight some of the best saltwater aquarium fish for beginners.

With the thousands of saltwater fish varieties in the trade, our goal is to present just a few that our loyal customers may find interesting. We will first make recommendations for a beginner saltwater fish for a nano aquarium and a beginner friendly surgeonfish. Then, we will discuss a very cool schooling species as well as one that will work to eradicate hair algae in your aquarium. We will continue by mentioning a sand sifting phenom and a dynamic duo that will keep you staring at your glass box for hours on end. Finally, we will touch on one of the most colorful species, and one that will take care of potential pests. While we will mention some of our favorite beginner aquarium species, there are hundreds of other fish varieties that may find their way into your tank. If you have any questions about how best to keep a species or if your aquarium would be a good fit for a particular variety, our customer care team would be happy to assist you. 

Summary: 

The Best Beginner Saltwater Fish For a Nano Aquarium: Ocellaris Clownfish: “With all of the clownfish color variations out there, you are certain to find a variety that you would like to add to your own nano reef”

An Ideal Beginner Choice For a Surgeonfish: Yellow Tang: “Yellow tangs in addition to being vibrant in color can also be semi aggressive, therefore, keeping them properly fed, and provided with plenty of space for hiding will be crucial”

The Choice For a Schooling Species: Blue-Green Chromis: “Chromis can be kept with most other reef safe aquarium species without issue”

The Top Selection For Hair Algae Annihilation: Algae Blenny: “You can often find these fish jumping from perch to perch looking for something to snack on”

The Beginner Sand-Sifter: Diamond Watchman Goby: “the Diamond Watchman Goby will work alongside you to keep your sand bed pristine”

The Dynamic Duo: Pistol Shrimp and Watchman Goby Pair: “The Watchman Goby and Pistol Shrimp relationship is built on the shrimp providing a habitat for the goby and the goby providing food for the shrimp”

The King of Color: Royal Gramma Basslet: “This species creates unmatched contrast that allows them to really stand out even in their native Caribbean deep-water habitat”

The Pest Patrol: Six Line Wrasse: “The six line is a great choice for anyone who is having a pest problem as they will pick your rock work clean”

The Best Beginner Saltwater Fish For a Nano: Ocellaris Clownfish
How to Care For a Clownfish

Of all the fish in the sea, few are more iconic than the clownfish. The ocellaris clownfish is the standard variety with orange and white barring. These fish make a great choice for nano aquariums as small as 10 gallons. We prefer to recommend a tank bred variety as they will not impact the wild population and are more suited to life in an aquarium. When these fish are paired with a variety of anemone species, a truly incredible symbiotic relationship will be put on full display. With all of the clownfish color variations out there, you are certain to find a variety that you would like to add to your own nano reef. In terms of adding more than one, it is crucial to add all the clownfish you plan on putting into your aquarium at the same time and they should all be around the same size to prevent fighting. Eventually one of the fish will cement themselves as the leader and will then start the process of turning from a male into a female. In terms of feeding, clownfish are not picky, any flake, pellet, or frozen food will work well and feeding them a balanced variety will make sure they are happy and healthy. Clownfish are a very sociable species that loves to hang out at the top of an aquarium. Therefore, having a top that prevents the fish from jumping is recommended. For all of the amazing personality and beauty that clownfish bring, they are our choice for the best saltwater aquarium fish for beginners in the nano reef world. 

An Ideal Beginner Choice For a Surgeonfish: Yellow Tang
Yellow Tang Courtesy of Felicia McCaulley

Surgeonfish have long been one of the most popular and beautiful fish that find their way into saltwater aquariums. That being said however, the Tang family is known to be quite finicky and prone to diseases such as Ich and Marine Velvet. While most tangs are considered to be for intermediate level hobbyists the yellow tang is on the easier side. We have seen Yellow Tangs kept in aquariums as small as 40 gallons but, we recommend a tank that is a minimum of 75 gallons to ensure an environment that is conducive to success. Yellow tangs in addition to being vibrant in color can also be semi aggressive, therefore, keeping them properly fed, and provided with plenty of space for hiding will be crucial. When it comes to food, most yellow tangs will take pretty well to brine and mysis shrimp. Additionally, we recommend feeding different types of seaweed as it is an important part of their natural diet. While yellow tangs are usually a bit easier to keep than most other tangs, it is still important to keep them in a non-stressful environment in order to prevent sickness that could infect the rest of your aquarium. While there are some challenges in keeping a yellow tang, they are still our choice for the best beginner aquarium fish in the “surgeon” family. 

How to Care for Tangs
The Choice For a Schooling Species: Blue-Green Chromis
Green Chromis Courtesy of Felicia McCaulley

Who doesn’t like to watch a school of fish glide around a beautiful reef aquarium? While schooling fish options for a beginner saltwater aquarium are limited, the blue-green Reef Chromis are a hardy choice that will group together nicely. While their simple blue and green shimmer pales in comparison to some of the most vibrantly colored saltwater aquarium fish, these Chromis still look pretty amazing when they are all grouped up. The Chromis are also excellent scavenger fish who will gobble up most anything that is thrown into the water column. Their diet can include any sort of flake, pellet, or frozen food and again a variety of these choices is ideal for overall health. In order to really have a good sized school of these Chromis, we recommend an aquarium that is at least 75 gallons. These Chromis are related to the Damsel family but they are not nearly as aggressive. This means that Chromis can be kept with most other reef safe aquarium species without issue. For their unique swimming formations and ability to school, the blue-green Chromis is our selection for the best saltwater beginner schooling fish. 

The Top Selection For Hair Algae Annihilation: Lawnmower Blenny 
Algae Blenny Courtesy of Felicia McCaulley

Fish are not only something to look at in your saltwater aquarium, they can also serve a purpose in maintaining your tank. The Lawnmower Blenny personifies this very trait with its ability to eat up many types of algaes. These fish are also quite versatile as they can be kept in aquariums as small as 20 gallons and as large as 500 gallons. While these Blenny’s do serve an important purpose in keeping your aquarium algae in check, they also have a fun and curious personality. You can often find these fish hopping from perch to perch looking for something to snack on. While Lawnmower Blennies will do a number on many types of tank algae’s, they will still need to have a supplemented diet with anything you may be feeding the rest of the tank. In terms of their disposition, this fish will get along with almost all potential tank inhabitants. The only types of species that you may run into issues with would be anything else in the Blenny family that would occupy a similar space as the lawnmower. These fish will also leave corals alone as they are considered to be completely reef safe. Due to their ability to keep algae in check, the Lawnmower Blenny is our choice for the best saltwater aquarium fish for beginners that performs tank maintenance. 

The Beginner Sand-Sifter: Diamond Watchman Goby    
Diamond Watchman Goby Courtesy of Felicia McCaulley

Keeping your sand bed clean and free of algae can turn into a major challenge. Luckily, the Diamond Watchman Goby will work alongside you to keep your sand bed pristine. Diamond Gobies are a very unique species that will filter sand through their gills and create little burrows under rockwork. Through filtering the sand, these gobies will keep your substrate oxygenated. Like many other goby species, these guys are scavengers who will eat pretty much any food that will make it to the sand bed in addition to whatever nutrients they will get from filtering the sand. These fish will grow up to six inches and therefore, we recommend an aquarium that is at least 40 gallons. The orange dots and fluorescent facial features make this one of the cooler gobies in the aquarium trade. As far as their temperament, they are reef safe and can be kept with most other reef safe species. We would not recommend keeping them with other goby varieties as they can be territorial. If you are looking to keep multiple Diamond Gobies, you would want to be sure that there is ample space for each of them. Due to their ability to clean up your sand bed, the Diamond Watchman Goby is our pick for the best saltwater aquarium fish for beginners in need of a sand bed manager.  

The Dynamic Duo: Pistol Shrimp and Watchman Goby Pair
Goby and Shrimp Pairing Courtesy of Felicia McCaulley

Symbiotic relationships in nature are some of the most fascinating phenomena on the globe. We are truly lucky to be able to keep one of these “dynamic duo’s” in our own aquariums. The Watchman Goby and Pistol Shrimp bond is built on the shrimp providing a habitat for the goby and the goby providing food for the shrimp. These are a pretty hardy pairing that can be kept in aquariums as small as 20 gallons. They also make a really cool species specific nano tank where you can keep a goby and shrimp pairing exclusively in a tank as small as 10 gallons. In terms of feeding, frozen mysis or brine shrimp is ideal and the goby will grab a few pieces and bring it back to the borough to share with the shrimp. For tankmates, it is crucial to be selective when picking what types of species can be kept with this small duo. Anything that is very aggressive or has been known to snack on shrimp should be avoided. This pairing is completely reef safe and will allow you to add some incredible livestock to your aquarium. For all of the amazing characteristics, we are confident that the Pistol Shrimp and Watchman Goby would make an incredible addition to your aquarium.   

 

The King of Color: Royal Gramma Basslet: 
Royal Gramma Courtesy of Felicia McCaulley

There are some fish species that just glow no matter what else inhabits the aquarium. Oftentimes, these vibrant species can be on the more difficult side to keep. However, the Royal Gramma Basslet is a welcome exception to this common theme. The appearance of this basslet is unmatched with its bold purple front half fading rapidly into a bright yellow in the second half of the body. This species creates unmatched contrast that allows them to really stand out even in their native Caribbean deep-water habitat. Royal Gramma’s have the attitude to match their distinct coloring. It is important to make sure that this variety is not kept with smaller fish that can be easily bullied. In terms of size, this basslet will max out around three inches. With that in mind, we recommend keeping the Royal Gramma’s in a tank that is at least 30 gallons. Additionally, we would not recommend keeping more than one in an aquarium as they can be quite territorial. For food, these guys will go crazy for most frozen food varieties. Overall, the Royal Gramma is an amazing choice for a beginner fish that grades high on the color scale.  

The Pest Patrol: Six Line Wrasse  
Six Line Wrasse Courtesy of Felicia McCaulley

Anyone who has ever dealt with flatworms knows that they can be a real headache to get rid of. One of our favorite solutions to recommend is simply to deploy a Six Line Wrasse to hunt them all down. While this wrasse will serve a particular purpose in your aquarium, it is still a quite beautiful species that will glide throughout your aquarium. The six line is a great choice for anyone who is having a pest problem as they will pick your rock work clean. Additionally the fact that they are reef safe, is a bonus that allows them to be added to even the most coral heavy aquariums. Like the clownfish, this species has a surplus of personality and it is important to keep a lid on the tank to prevent them from jumping. This wrasse species will grow to a maximum of three inches and they are very active swimmers that need a minimum of 30 gallons to be able to stretch their fins. These fish are some of the least picky eaters, any sort of basic frozen food should do the trick. The six line can become aggressive and territorial so anything that is smaller than them could become a potential target. Even with this concern, the Six Line Wrasse can be a helpful addition to any aquarium with a pest issue.         

Final Thoughts: 
Acclimating Fish and Corals

I hope this article has given a small glimpse into the beauty and magic that lives within our worlds reefs. What may be native to water thousands of miles from your home can now live a happy life in the comforts of your own living room. While the visual beauty is not to be ignored, there are many important lessons that can be taught about the importance of preserving all of these ocean species as well as their habitats they rely on to survive. Therefore, these aquariums are not just ornamental displays, they are an amazing way to learn about the ocean and educate individuals about the incredibly diverse species that call it home. Additionally, aquariums have been found to be a welcomed calming presence to any environment. If you need assistance in creating your own piece of the reef, our customer care team would be happy to assist you.         

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