Starting a reef aquarium doesn't have to be a daunting task. While most people do think "oh, keeping a saltwater aquarium must be difficult" with the right environment (water temps, filtration, lighting) and good food and companions, maintaining a reef aquarium can be an enjoyable hobby. We've included photos and links below to great starter fish for saltwater (reef) aquariums. For more information feel free to contact us!
1. Clownfish - Clownfish are a great addition to beginner reef aquariums, but be careful of which clownfish you choose. The "nemo" ocellaris Clownfish is a great option because it is bred in captivity, used to home aquarium conditions, and will get along well with other captive-bred clownfish.
2. Blennies and Gobies - These two are hardy, peaceful fish who will do well in community aquariums as long as they have plenty of hiding places. Broadleaf plants or even decorative rocks are good options. This bicolor blenny is a good option for beginners. Be careful with corals in small tanks though as blennies can sometimes pick at them.
3. Cardinal Fish - Cardinal fish are peaceful and beautiful. They'll add lots of color and interest to your aquarium. This flame cardinal will do well if he has a little food at night too!
4. Chalk Basslet - this fish is super hardy and tolerant. It'll even do ok in less-than-ideal water conditions, so it's a great one for newbies who are still struggling to get the aquarium environment just right. It, too, enjoys places to hide.
5. Finally, Wrasses are another good option. They're bottom dwellers who enjoy burrowing in the sand/gravel at the bottom of their tank. They're can be territorial, but are usually non-confrontational and will keep to themselves.
Another important consideration is where, in the tank environment, each type of fish lives. The chart on this page offers a good example of fish that live in the middle and bottom of the tank so that you can make sure your fish aren't all swimming right on top of each other. For instance: a tank might include clownfish (middle), blennies (middle/bottom) and wrasses (bottom). This way fish all have room to move about in their preferred areas of the tank. This is another great chart for fish compatibility.
Good luck with your new saltwater aquarium! We hope this post on starter fish for saltwater aquariums has helped you feel more confident in choosing the right fish for your new tank.