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Saltwater Aquarium Fish for Beginners

I've always had an interest in aquariums, aquaponics, and interconnected farming systems. I'd love to share what I've learned with you.


Best Aquarium Saltwater Fish for Beginners

An aquarium can completely transform a room. Everyone likes seeing pretty, colorful fish swimming around in a beautiful aquarium decorated with underwater plants and other fixtures. Saltwater fish are trendy because of the many species and colors available.

They are also far more challenging to maintain, but that’s exactly the point for many people. With the challenge comes an unprecedented sense of accomplishment. Of course, it’d behoove you to know about the species that are a bit easier to look after than others. You will find more details about the best saltwater aquarium fish below, assembled with all the beginners in mind.



Firefish are found in many aquariums all over the US for the many fantastic colors and their uniquely shaped body. The fish are also fun to play with and are a great addition to any saltwater tank. The firefish is also known as the fire dartfish, fire goby, firefish goby, and its scientific name, Nemateleotris magnifica.

This species doesn't need a lot of care, and it's a peaceful fish that likes to hide from sight. It grows up to 3 inches and requires a tank of at least 20 gallons.


You've probably seen tangs in most saltwater aquariums everywhere. These are bright yellow fish with an attitude. Tangs are very aggressive towards other tangs, and they tend to fight each other until only one is left. However, they’re effortless to manage and friendly to other fish species.

They need a 100-gallon tank to have enough room to swim around. Even though most tangs are yellow, they come in many different sizes and colors. No matter your choice, they will look fantastic in your saltwater aquarium.

Watchman Goby

The watchman goby should be high on your list of species. To begin with, it eats pretty much any kind of food and is easy to find in any pet store. They are popular because they do well with other species of fish, and they look pretty cool too. If you want to get more than one, make sure to keep them in separate tanks, or they will fight each other to death.

Chalk Bass

Chalk bass is a small, peaceful fish species from the Serranidae family. It likes to hide in caves and under large rocks, but it's not aggressive toward other fish, including their own kind, as long as you add them to the aquarium at the same time. However, they are known to jump out of the aquarium in the beginning, so you'll need to keep a tight lid on until they get accustomed to their new home.

Klein's Butterflyfish

Butterflyfish are usually hard to look after because they need extra care, but Klein's butterflyfish is an exception to the rule. You will need a tank of at least 120 gallons because the fish needs space to thrive. It grows up to 6 inches, and it likes to hide under rocks and growth. It's a peaceful fish that gets along even with its own species, but only if you put them in the tank at the same time.


The damselfish is another species that can live in smaller 30-gallon tanks. They are a little aggressive, but they won't attack other fish if you provide them with enough hiding spots. They like to do their own thing and run to cover for safety. Damselfish come in many different colors, most of which can keep you glued to the aquarium for hours.

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A Flame Angelfish

A Flame Angelfish

Coral Beauty or Flame Angelfish

There are many angelfish species, but the coral beauty and the flame angel are tied as one of the easiest to care for. The colors of these fish are amazing. The coral beauty has a deep blue body and head and yellow highlights that can sometimes appear orange. The flame angel has an orange body that seems to glow at times with dark stripes.

They are beautiful fish for any tank, and it's also peaceful species and doesn't attack other fish. These fish eat algae, and they need at least 70 gallons of water to be happy.


You might know the clownfish from the animated movie Finding Nemo. It's a very recognizable species with black, red, yellow or white striping on its body. It not only looks amazing, but this fish is also straightforward to care for, though they can be a little expensive. However, the clownfish is a fantastic addition to any aquarium. You can feed it with pellets or frozen brine shrimp, so you won't have to spend extra money on food.

Black Molly

Mollies are a species with rare capabilities. Namely, they can survive in both fresh and saltwater. Black mollies are entirely black and have short fins. Males have a pointy anal fin and bigger dorsal fins while females have a pregnancy spot. They need a smaller 30-gallon tank with plants and a good filtration system to survive because they produce a lot of waste. Female fish give birth every 60 to 70 days on average, and the species is very peaceful.


Blue/Green Chromis

Also known as Chromis viridis, Chromis is a very popular species of fish amongst reef aquarists. It's a pretty fish with beautiful colors and a distinctive dorsal fin that turns from blue to green on the underside. It has a very peaceful nature and perfectly complements other fish. In the wild, Chromis lives in small schools so they will look great in your aquarium.

Flame Hawkfish

You need a flame hawkfish if you want a species that really stands out in the crowd. It has a red body with dark combinations around the eyes and dorsal fin. It's not aggressive toward most saltwater fish, but it doesn't like bottom-dwelling fish like gobies. They spend most of the time waiting for prey, so you'll need plenty of cover in the tank.

Make Your First Tank Special

It doesn't take much effort to set up your first saltwater aquarium, but only if you know which fish species to put together. There are thousands of saltwater tank fish to choose from, so it's easy to get things mixed up, especially if you’re a beginner. Most of the species listed above are beautiful and peaceful so they can live in harmony and give you a colorful tank that will impress your friends and family.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Ben Martin


Muhammad Abdullah on August 27, 2019:

It is really helpful for the newbies like myself. Thank you.

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