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The Best Saltwater Fish You Can Raise As A New Fishkeeper

Perhaps you’ve been raising fish for several years, or maybe you’ve just started to develop an interest in the hobby. Whichever situation applies to you, you might think that raising saltwater fish is definitely out of the question.

There is a common misperception that saltwater species are significantly more difficult to raise than freshwater fish. However, this is far from being the case. Although freshwater fish tend to be hardier than saltwater fish in most environments, there are countless saltwater fish that are resilient to changes and the minor mistakes you might make as a novice fishkeeper.

It all comes down to knowing the best species of fish that you can raise as a beginner. In general, you will want to acquire new fish species that are small and don’t require massive tanks – try to keep them smaller than four feet. You should look for hardy species that are not aggressive and don’t have ridiculously complex feeding needs, too.

Still not sure whether raising saltwater fish is the right choice for you? Consider our list of the top saltwater fish you can raise as a new fishkeeper.

Best Saltwater Fish

1 Firefish

Photo by Ricardo Kobe

The firefish has gorgeous color patterns, a uniquely shaped body, and a delightfully entertaining personality. Also known as the Fire Goby, the Firefish Goby, and the Fire Dartfish, this creature is shy in the wild. If you keep it in a saltwater tank, you will need to make sure it has at least twenty gallons in which to swim around. There should also be lots of hiding places, like rock outcroppings, in which this fish can hide when it is feeling overwhelmed.

It’s important to note that this fish can jump when startled or bored. Therefore, the tank in which you house it should include a tightly fitting lid. The firefish is a carnivorous fish that is incredibly easy to care for!

2 Klein Butterflyfish

Klein Butterflyfish
Photo by Klaus Stiefel

The Klein butterflyfish is perhaps one of the most attractive saltwater fish species you can keep. While most butterflyfish are difficult to keep because of their finicky diets, this fish is remarkably simple to raise. You will just need to make sure it has plenty of swimming space as well as rocks in which to hide. Don’t keep this in a tank with a reef, and instead keep it with fish only. It needs to be kept in a larger tank of around 120 gallons or more in size.

3 Raccoon Butterflyfish

Photo by Maestro Follow

Another popular variety of butterflyfish is the raccoon butterflyfish. This species is also known as the crescent masked butterflyfish. It is relatively easy to keep as long as it has places to hide, thriving even in a tank filled with more aggressive tank mates. This fish can be challenging in regards to its feeding behaviors. It often will only eat live foods, so you will need to consider whether you are ready to meet this demand if you keep this fish in your aquarium.

4 Bicolor Blenny

Bicolor Blenny
Photo by Anna pang

There are dozens of types of blennies, but one of the most popular is the bicolor blenny. You can find this fish in just about every fish store in the country. It has a vibrant personality and males of the species are generally larger than females. Like firefish, these creatures prefer to have lots of space in which to hide. They are peaceful by nature, but can occasionally show aggressive tendencies toward smaller species as well as those that are similar, like dartfish, gobies, and even other blennies.

5 Lawnmower Blenny

Lawnmower Blenny
Photo by Philippe BOISSEL

Another popular blenny on this list is the lawnmower blenny. It i also known as the algae and the sailfin blenny. This fish has a somewhat bizarre appearance with large eyes and a spotted tan pattern. It can grow up to five or six inches in size, but is relatively peaceful. Like other blennies, this fish will nip at other fish, so make sure you have lots of hiding places and plenty of room in your aquarium.

6 Coral Beauty Angelfish

Coral Beauty Angelfish
Photo by Zsispeo

This lovely fish is also known as the Twospined or the Dusky Angelfish. It is an easy to care for Angelfish, offering aquarium hobbyists myriad benefits for this various reason. It has a gorgeous electric blue body and head with yellow highlighting. As an active fish, the angelfish is nonetheless quite peaceful and will eat just about any kind of food that you choose to feed it. If you have lots of algae in your tank, this fish will even go after that! It can be semi-aggressive toward smaller fish and invertebrates, so keep that in mind if you are including it in a community tank.

7 Yellow Prawn Watchman Goby

Yellow Prawn Watchman Goby
Photo by Sushi_Girl1995

This fish is known by many names, including the yellow prawn and the yellow shrimp goby. This brightly colored fish has a vibrant personality to match its appearance, which consists of a yellowish orange body with bright blue spots.

The watchman goby has a unique behavior, burrowing in the substrate and, occasionally, jumping. Due to these unique behaviors, you should make sure that your aquarium has a tightly fitting lid and a light, sandy substrate. Watchman gobies can be aggressive among members of their own species, so make sure you keep them in mated pairs to avoid confrontation.

8 Chalk Bass

Chalk Bass
Photo by Kevin Bryant

Hailing from the Serranidae family, the Chalk Bass is a hardy, peaceful fish that appreciates lots of places in which to hide. You can keep this fish with multiple types of other community fish, as well as many members of its own kind. They can be somewhat shy and are known to jump, so make sure you keep a lid on your tank. As carnivores, these fish only grow to about three inches in length.

9 Pajama Cardinalfish

Pajama Cardinalfish
Photo by Toshihiro Gamo

The Pajama Cardinalfish is a cute little fish with a motley array of colors. It has a green face, prominent orange eyes, and a speckled back. It has a calm, peaceful demeanor and gets along well with most other species of fish.

This fish should be housed with others of a similar temperament. As a slow swimmer, it will need lots of hiding places to get away from more aggressive species. These fish are known to shoal and will form schools with their own unique hierarchies.

10 Ocellaris Clownfish

Ocellaris Clownfish
Photo by Marc Crowther

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Finding Nemo,” you’ve likely heard of the Ocellaris Clownfish. This gorgeous fish has a bright orange body with sharp white bands and black lines. A hardy fish, this species will eat just about anything you give it. Females tend to be larger than males, and it’s actually pretty easy to breed clownfish in your home aquarium.

11 Six Line Wrasse

Six Line Wrasse
Photo by Charlene-SJ Follow

These fish are some of the most gorgeous species found within the Labridae family. They have vivid colors that are the most intensely represented in the male when he is in the process of courting the female. These fish need lots of hiding places as well as a solid diet. They will feed on both live foods as well as pests in the tank. They can occasionally be aggressive to small, peaceful fish – including other wrasses.

12 Black Molly

Black Mollies
Photo by Wahyu Prasetyo

Mollies are one of the easiest fish you can raise, and are unique in that they can be kept in saltwater or freshwater aquariums – they are truly adaptable! These all-black fish have short fins and prefer well-planted tanks. They produce a considerable amount of waste, so you should try to make sure you have a reliable filtration system in place. These fish are livebearers and give birth every sixty days. They are great community fish and can be housed in tanks as small as thirty gallons in volume.

13 Blue-Green Chromis

Blue-Green Chromis
Photo by Horner.andrew

The Blue-Green Chromis is a popular choice for aquarium hobbyists with reef aquariums. This species has a gorgeous color pattern with baby blue dorsal fins that fade into green. It can be kept with just about any community fish, invertebrate, plant, or coral reef. It is peaceful and will not disturb anything else in your tank. It thrives in a school and should be kept in a tank of around thirty gallons in volume.

14 Royal Gramma

Royal Gramma
Photo by Frode

The Royal Gramma has an electric appearance – as well as an electric personality. This fish is small and prefers lots of rocks and caves in the tank in which to hide. Though peaceful to fish of their own shape and size, they can be aggressive toward smaller fish or even those of their own species. You should keep Royal Grammas in tanks of around 30 gallons, but they will only grow to about three inches in length.

15 Flame Hawkfish

Flame  Hawkfish
Photo by zsispeo

Known synonymously as the Red Hawkfish, this fish tends to hang out toward the bottom of the tank and has a gorgeous deep red color. You should not keep this fish is you have small shrimp or other bottom dwellers, like gobies. They will spend most of their day lying in wait for prey and can thrive in tanks of around 30 gallons or so.

16 Yellowtail Damselfish

Yellowtail Damselfish
Photo by Visciglia

This fish gets along well with most community fish. It is altogether a hardy fish species and has a gorgeous color pattern that makes it a favorite of many beginning fish keepers. It is unlike other damselfish in that it typically ignores corals and other invertebrates. It will eat tank foods and adapts to tank life easily.

17 Sleeper-Banded Goby

Sleeper-Banded Goby
Photo by Bill & Mark Bell

Another popular goby for saltwater tank owners is the sleeper-banded goby. It produces shallow tunnels in the substrate, digging as a way to conceal itself. This can help keep your substrate clean and well-oxygenated, a must for aquariums. This fish can be territorial when kept with members of the same species, but keeping it in mated pairs can help.

18 Pink Spotted Watchman Goby

Pink Spotted Watchman Goby
Photo by Lordhowensis

Also known as the Singapore Shrimp, this fish tends to hang out at the bottom of the tank most of the time. It needs to be housed in a tank that is thirty gallons or larger and is comprised of lots of coral rubble. It should have plenty of room for the fish to swim along with a sandy bottom for burrowing purposes. It is not usually aggressive toward other fish, but i can be territorial and fight with members of the same species if it is not part of a mated pair. You should also include a tight-fitting lid atop the tank for this one, as it also likes to jump.

19 Longnose Hawkfish

Longnose Hawkfish
Photo by Che Schneider

The longnose hawkfish has a unique appearance and while it will fit well in most small community aquariums, you need to be careful about keeping it with small invertebrates. It is known to sometimes eat ornamental shrimp and will also occasionally attack fish with long bodies, like dart gobies. Also known for jumping out of open tanks, this fish should be kept in pairs of males and females to avoid any issues.

20 Volitan Lionfish

Volitan Lionfish
Photo by Lordhowensis

The volitan lionfish has one of the most shocking appearances out of all of the fish on this list. Also known as the common lionfish and the butterfly cod, this fish enjoys swimming around in open water. A long-lived, fast-growing fish, this species can grow up to fifteen inches in length and requires a large tank in order to be happy. It will eat plenty of small shrimp and fish, so make sure you keep this in mind as you are choosing other inhabitants for the aquarium.

Handling this fish requires some care, as the toxin encased in the fish’s spines can be painful or even toxic. Be careful when you are transporting the fish, and remember too, that if the volitan stings something in its tank, the poison that is released can be fatal to the tankmates.

21 Blue Tang

Photo by Riley Yerkovich

Another fish that rose to fame as a result of the Disney Pixar film “Finding Nemo,” the blue tang is a popular fish that can be somewhat boisterous. It is not usually aggressive toward other tank mates, but they can fight with members of the same species if not enough swimming space and hiding spots are provided. While this fish will eat a varied diet, it should be noted that it is prone to contracting certain fish diseases like ich and head and lateral line erosion.

22 Niger Triggerfish

Niger Triggerfish
Photo by Zsispeo

The Niger triggerfish is a unique species that should have a place in any saltwater aquarium. This fish maintains its own house in the coral when living in the wild, and will emerge to feed on algae and zooplankton. Because of this fish’s solitary nature, it should not be kept in a  contained environment with other Niger triggerfish. They are generally aggressive towards docile tank mates, too.

23 Talbot’s Damsel

Talbot’s Damsel
Photo by Zsispeo

This fish is a bright, gorgeously colored fish that is remarkably easy to care for. Playing a major role in algae control, this fish will also consume meaty foods. It is hardy in most settings and available all around the world. They are popular prey species in the wild, so you should try to house them with tank mates that aren’t terribly predatory or aggressive. They prefer sandy bottoms and plenty of spaces to hide. Beyond those requirements, the Talbot’s damsel makes an excellent candidate for a community tank.

How Do I Know Which Saltwater Fish Is Right For Me?

Most of these species will make an excellent choice for your saltwater community tank. While you will be satisfied with any decision, you should think about your current tank setup and whether the environment you already have can support the fish you’d like to add.

Will your new fish be compatible with your other species? Can it handle a reef environment, or will it damage the reef in the tank? Will it grow too large for the aquarium you already have?

Asking yourself these questions and doing some research in this saltwater fishkeeping hobby will help you be successful as you get started. Although saltwater fish can be a bit more difficult to raise, you’ll likely enjoy the hobby once you figure out that it’s right for you.

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