10 Best Saltwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners 1

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SaltwaterAquariumFishWhen you hear home aquarium, you will automatically picture your standard fresh water tank full of goldfish and other familiar fish. This is a great start for anyone wanting to get into owning an aquarium, but what about a saltwater aquarium?

Have you hesitated because people have told you that saltwater aquariums are burdensome and more trouble than their worth?

Don’t let the naysayers scare you off the thought of putting together a saltwater aquarium. Yes, maintaining a saltwater aquarium takes a bit more effort because saltwater fish are more sensitive to changes in the water and their environmental surroundings. Plus, you’ll have to pay closer attention to the ph levels to ensure a stable and comfortable environment for all the fish. It should be noted that some species are hardier than others when it comes to changes in the water.

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Once you’re up and running with a saltwater aquarium the next obvious question is what are the best saltwater aquarium fish to put in the tank? Everyone has their preferences, but listed below are my favorite types when I was a salt water aquarium fish beginner.

Please note that this list is set in no particular order and is only meant to serve as a general guide to new hobbyists. Remember to always do your due diligence before purchasing your saltwater aquarium fish. I’ve included some tips on doing your due diligence at the end of this post.

10 Best Saltwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners

1. Coral Beauties

1coralbeautyLooking to add some great color to your tank? Then a Coral Beauty Angelfish would make a fine addition to your aquarium. But don’t let the name fool you.

Despite it’s name, these fish are not coral fans. However, it’s recommended to provide some live rock in the tank to act as hiding places. They also strive in larger tanks, preferably 70 gallons or more.

For it’s diet, the Coral Beauty should be fed Spirulina, marine algae, high-quality angelfish preparations, and other quality meaty foods.

For more information, check out our Coral Beauty Profile Here.

(Picture source: Ben Henderson)

2. Butterfly Fish

Saltwater Aquarium Fish - Butterfly FishOver one hundred Butterfly Fish species can be found in the world’s oceans. You will encounter dotted, striped and even ones splashed with color like the universe just threw a paint bucket at them.

They are really mesmerizing to watch swimming around the tank.

Depending on the species, the diets will vary so be sure to check the requirements when buying your fish.

(Picture source: Michelle Bender)

3. Watchman Goby

Watchman GobbyYou’ll find this species in a few different patterns and colors. The two commons ones are the Bluespotted or Pink Spotted Watchman Goby.

Be aware that this fish likes to bully other gobies like itself in the tank, unless mated. However, they’ll live happily with most other species.

Some consider the Watchman Goby to be one of the best beginner species for a saltwater aquarium. This may be because this species is readily available.

The diet for the Bluespotted Watchman Goby can include mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, and table shrimp.

For more information, read our full profile of the Yellow Watchman Goby Here.

(Picture source: dafrog418)

4. Tangs

4tangsLooking for a species that comes in many colors of the rainbow? Then look no further than the Tang.

These are beautiful fish, but can be aggressive towards other Tangs. Along with many color varieties there are many different temperaments and eating habits for this species.

Also, this species is better suited for larger tanks (100+ gallons) thanks to its swimming style.

(Picture source: Ehsan)

5. Talbot’s Damsel

5damselfishThis is a hardy fish that, assuming no fights, illnesses or tank issues, is long lived and does not get too big as it grows.

Very vibrant in color, with a distinctive spot on its back, the Talbot’s Damsel is considered somewhat aggressive to other fish species especially as they age.

They become the “cranky old person” of the tank. Just keep this in mind when adding a Talbot’s Damsel toy your aquarium population.

(Picture source: OpenCage)

6. Firefish

6firefishThese small fish are colorful and graceful tank denizens. Their diet is varied and they like to dart in and out of small spaces.

They are pretty easygoing and get along well with other species. For those times when another fish pursues them, the Firefish can usually get away from the chase.

The Firefish likes to eat the zooplankton and algae found in the tank, plus brine fish (live or frozen), mysis shrimp and prepared foods.

(Picture source: Klaus Stiefel)

7. Chalk Bass

7chalkbassA small fish that is great for smaller aquariums and very resistant to illness and changes in water quality. These elements make the fish great for the beginner.

They usually don’t grow larger than 3 inches during their life spans.

Should you want multiple Chalk Bass in the aquarium, you should add them in together at the same time to avoid any aggressiveness issues.

(Picture source: Kevin Bryant)

8. Wrasses

8WrasseWrasses are a brightly colored species that enjoy burying themselves in the sand and hiding amongst the rock. So be sure to have a quantity of live rock for these fish to enjoy.

They get along well with most other fishes so you should not encounter too much trouble.

Depending on the type of Wrasse you want in the tank, the size of your take should be considered in your choice. Naturally, a larger tank is required for larger fish.

(Picture source: Wiki)

9. Dottyback

9dottybackYou’ll know a Dottyback from the way they swim. A snake-like slithering motion carries them through the water. When buying a Dottyback make sure to buy a tank bred fish. They are particularly hardy when tank bred.

The Dottyback diet should include types of meaty foods including brine shrimp and prepared frozen foods.

As with some other species if you want to add another Dottyback to the tank, you should add them at the same time to prevent any territorial or aggressiveness issues.

(Picture source: Flickker)

10. Blennys

10blennysSeveral types of fish fall under the Blenny name. The nice thing about Blennys is that they have a great personality, often taking on the role of tank observer when squeezed into a hiding space.

They alo have a serene, peaceful trait that makes them get along great with other species.

However, Blennys do not get along with other Blennys so keep it to one type in the aquarium.

(Picture source: Richard Ling)

Avoiding Issues 

These ten types of fish are listed in no particular order. It must be said that all hobbyists will find something to like or dislike about a particular species. From aggressiveness levels to what it takes to feed the fish, there is a wide diversity in the ten species listed above. Before purchasing your fish there are certain things you will need to review.

Saltwater Fish Compatibility

When you are planning out your tank population, be aware that some species will not get along with other species or even members of their own species. Do some research before spending the money on any type of fish.

There is nothing more horrifying that spending a large sum of money on a beautiful fish, placing it in the tank and soon discovering it has been ripped to shreds or eaten by one of its aquarium neighbors. You can find compatibility charts on the web and in pet stores that will provide great guidance to avoid trouble.

Tip: There’s a great saltwater/marine aquarium fish compatibility tool that lets you key in your tank size, your preferred care level and temperament of fish. It will than generate a list of compatible marine fish that is best suited for your tank. You can find the tool here.

Dietary Requirements

It’s also important to consider the diets of the fish species you want to purchase. Some diet requirements are more extensive than others. The more extensive the dietary requirements usually means it would be more expensive to care for.

What’s Your Favorite Hardy Saltwater Fish?

What saltwater fish do you think makes a good start for the saltwater aquarium newbies?

Share it with us in the comments section below. I’m sure a lot of new hobbyists would love to hear your recommendations too.

About Dennis Hanson

Dennis is an experienced aquarist with many years of knowledge and experience in keeping successful tanks. He also has no relations to the pop group Hanson.

One comment on “10 Best Saltwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners

  1. Reply Scott Sep 1,2016 1:56 am

    Fix the picture of the Butterfly Fish.

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