Please note that marine or saltwater fish are not well equipped for changing conditions, and that also applies to change their environment, whether wild or breeder and our home aquarium.
Most of us will get our fish from a vendor, and therefore the fish we choose have already had to survive the stress of changing a home (at the breeder) to one at the seller. These fish are used to living in captivity and are robust and resistant.
We rarely get our fish from the wild, and frankly, I don’t recommend it.
Watch the fish you want to get from the vendor for quite some time. I recommend that you speak to the vendor when you receive fish deliveries so that you can observe them on the day of your arrival. But, I recommend that you delay the purchase until a couple of days later, once again observing them for quite some time.
Any fish that were overly stressed by the transfer from the breeder to the vendor have either died or are showing signs that something is wrong. What we want and need for our aquarium are healthy and strong fish.
We can limit our selection of fish for our aquarium with just a few considerations:
- Feeding issues
- The health of the specimens
- Compatibility with other fish selections.
The health of any individual fish is easily determined by its behavior and appearance. This is another reason why we observed the desired fish on two different days before obtaining them, and by allowing time to pass between observations.
If the specimen’s appearance and behavior are still normal and adequate on our second visit, then it is a good specimen to obtain.
Considerations Before Choosing Saltwater Fish
We need to know a little about the normal behavior of our choice of saltwater fish. If the fish we desire is normally found feeding from the bottom, then when we look at our specimen at the vendor, it should actively search for food at the bottom. If the fish likes to be in a school, then we should find the specimen in and among a school of similar fish. If the desired fish does not behave normally, then we do not want to select that fish.
Any fish that appears to be ‘breathing heavily‘ is not okay, and we avoid getting that specimen. Similarly, if it is floating on top or lying on the bottom, then we avoid getting that specimen. Be on the lookout for any damage to the fish (part of fin missing, etc.), if so, once again we avoid getting that specimen.
The fish we select should not be drab, pale or ‘gray‘. It should have a strong color with sharp, clean borders. The fish are covered in mucus, and there should be no lack of mucus anywhere, and it should not have so much mucus to make it appear monotonous. Too much, too little, or a lack of mucus are signs of infection or a parasite; we did not select that fish.
Now that we know how to choose a great fish specimen for our saltwater aquarium, we need to know which fish get along with each other. We know that we will have a good and healthy fish, but the last thing we want is for another good and healthy fish to intimidate another, or just as bad: consider another fish as food!
It is a fact that many saltwater fish are not very social. Part of this is because the oceans and seas are so vast that they have often never interacted with each other. What is even more peculiar is that they are often not very sociable with their own species. Many fish are very territorial, and that’s fine in open oceans, but not so well in an aquarium.
Because we want great success and happiness in our aquarium, let’s look at some very popular and common fish that we can consider for our saltwater aquarium. (There are many other fishes that we can conserve but that may need a very specific environment, food, etc.)
These fish tend to be very sociable with each other, like to be in a group, and are very hardy. They are inexpensive too! Many damselfish as adults can be quite large, 36 cm (14 inches), but most samples available through vendors only reach approximately 5 cm (2 inches).
They are known to be aggressive towards other fish, including other Damselfishes species, and this is especially true for Chrysiptera cyanea (Blue Devil) and Neoglyphidodon oxyodon (Velvet Devil). They are usually quite territorial. But in a group of the same species, a school, they do very well in a saltwater aquarium. It is recommended to keep these fish as a Damselfishes aquarium.
These fish, also called clownfish, are quite social with their own species (the same species), social with other fish, but generally not with other anemonefish species, and they don’t require an anemone to be happy. But, be careful, if you add an anemone, then one (or a pair) will become very territorial and protective of the anemonefish, and then aggressive towards others of its own kind.
They are very hardy and moderately priced (although there are some exotic species that are expensive). There are 30 species of anemonefish, and they vary in size as adults from about 10 cm (4 inches) to 18 cm (7 inches).
All but one of these 30 species belong to the genus – Amphiprion, the other belongs to the genus – Premnas. They are all good choices for our aquarium, so choosing which specimens really comes down to adulthood size and color.
They should be obtained as a group and added to the aquarium at the same time because adding more specimens of the same species later will not do well with new additions that are generally intimidated by injury and death.
Some of the less expensive species are:
- Amphiprion Barberi (Fiji Barberi)
- Amphiprion clarkii (Clarkii)
- Amphiprion frenatus (tomato)
- Amphiprion melanopus (cinnamon)
- Amphiprion ocellaris (false clown)
- Amphiprion percula (clown).
The ‘False Clown’ is the most common and popular saltwater aquarium fish.
These fish can be easily divided into 2 categories:
- Those that are peaceful, friendly to reefs (they don’t eat corals and most invertebrates) and swim openly in the aquarium.
- Those who are peaceful, eat crabs, corals, snails, and worms, and need plenty of hiding places.
We want those wrasses that are reef friendly; Plus, they’re pretty sturdy and moderately priced. The most common cleaner fish on a reef is the Bluestreak cleaner fish (Labroides dimidiatus), and they are also a good selection of aquariums.
Other very colorful fish that are peaceful, reef-friendly, swim openly, and are great choices for our aquarium are the various species in these genera: Cirrhilabrus, Macropharyngodon, Paracheilinus, Pseudocheilinus, and Wetmorella.
With a few exceptions, most wrasses range in size from less than about 10 cm (4 inches). Really large wrasses are generally not available from the supplier, with the largest wrasse being the Humphead (Cheilinus ripples) which can grow to over 2.5 m (8 ft).
These fish are very aggressive towards their own species (the same species), but keeping a single specimen of different species in the aquarium can add color and variety.
Some angelfish become quite large, and many measures approximately 20 cm (8 inches) to approximately 40 cm (16 inches) in adulthood.
Dwarf angelfish grow only up to about 10 cm (4 inches), are quite hardy in an aquarium, and are much less aggressive.
These fish are generally small in an aquarium and only reach about 8 cm (3 inches) in adulthood. They are very suitable for life in an aquarium, and generally, live at the bottom of the aquarium.
However, they like to jump out of the water, so a hood is required because they will jump out of an open aquarium.
Some species are cheap, others are moderately priced, with some exotics being expensive. Many species like to dig in the sand, and most like to dig in the sand, therefore a sandy carbonate substrate is recommended. Gobies also like some rocks to hang around too.
These fish generally only reach about 8 cm (3 inches) in adulthood and live at the bottom. They can be territorial, and only one species must be present in the aquarium.
They like many rocks and scour the rocks and substrate for their favorite food: microalgae. Most will happily eat flaked (dried) seaweed as well, which can be part of typical mixed flake food. Most will need a plentiful supply of algae on the rocks in the aquarium to survive. They are moderately priced.
These fish are reasonably priced and average about 5 cm (2 inches). They adapt well to an aquarium, they are resistant and they are very suitable for a community aquarium.
They like lots of rocks and decorations so they can hide from their tank mates from time to time. They are reserved and shy and do not do well with noisy fish.
Recommendations For About 30 Gallons Of Saltwater Aquarium
I recommend not exceeding 8 fish, and 6 is preferable. Initially, to establish the nitrogen cycle, 4 anemonefish are recommended; Amphiprion ocellaris and Amphiprion percula are very resistant and are commonly used to establish the nitrogen cycle. These 4 anemonefish can be from 2 different species, therefore 2 + 2.
Then, once the nitrogen cycle is established, add several (4-8) Nassarius snails and 1-2 Lysmata wurdemanni (mint shrimp) or 1 Lysmata debelius (fire shrimp). Snails and shrimp will eat food that has fallen on the substrate.
The Fire Shrimp is not very compatible with others of its own kind; otherwise, it is a peaceful shrimp and compatible with other fish. Snails and shrimp are not included in the fish count. I suggest sticking with Anemonefishes; add 2 more when adding the snails and shrimp.
They should be similar in size to each other, and similar in size to the 4 anemone fish already in the aquarium. Amphiprion ocellaris and Amphiprion percula are commonly bred in captivity and color variants are abundant – choose the colors you want.
If a large amount of algae begins to grow in the aquarium, then add 1 Salarias fasciatus (Rock / Sailfin / Algae Blenny). This mixture eats a lot of algae and will help keep algae growth under control.
It is not very compatible with others of its own kind, especially when the other Salarias fasciatus is the same size; otherwise it is a compatible and peaceful fish and should be included in the fish count.
Recommendations For About 50-60 Gallons Of Saltwater Aquarium
I recommend not to exceed 13 fish, and 10 is preferable. Like the 29L, 4 anemonefish are recommended to establish the nitrogen cycle; Amphiprion ocellaris and Amphiprion percula are very resistant and are commonly used to establish the nitrogen cycle. These 4 anemone fish can be of 2 different species, therefore 2 + 2.
Then, once the nitrogen cycle is established, add enough (10-15) Nassarius snails and 2-4 Lysmata wurdemanni (mint shrimp). Snails and shrimp will eat food that has fallen on the substrate. Snails and shrimp are not included in the fish count ‘.
Add 6 additional fish when adding the snails and shrimp, keeping in mind that they must be at least the size of the 4 anemone fish already in the aquarium. These 6 fish can be selected from those described above, with the exception of Damselfishes.
If a large amount of algae begins to grow in the aquarium, then add 1 Salarias fasciatus (Rock / Sailfin / Algae Blenny). This blenny eats a lot of algae and will help control algae growth. It is not very compatible with others of its own kind, especially when the other Salarias fasciatus is the same size; otherwise, it is a compatible and peaceful fish and should be included in the fish count.