Best Reef-Safe Fish for Your Saltwater Aquarium

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You’ve purchased all the required equipment and followed your guide to setting up a reef tank, but the process is still far from complete. After all, no reef tank is fully assembled until you introduce fish and invertebrate marine life. However, you can’t just add any types of fish to your tank. Doing so can result in a deteriorating environment for everything living in it. Before you take this step, make sure you learn about the right reef-safe fish for your saltwater aquarium.


Colorful, sleek, and vibrant, angelfish are wonderful additions to any saltwater aquarium. As beautiful as they are, not all of them are cut out for coexisting with coral life. In fact, only the smaller species of angelfish can live alongside corals without harming them. Larger species such as the emperor angelfish tend to eat corals and cause fatal damage to growing colonies. As such, if you want an angelfish in your aquarium, look for other kinds such as the Japanese swallowtail, coral beauty, and flame angelfish.


Tangs, or surgeonfish, are a great beginner saltwater species, as they won’t eat other fish and will generally leave the rest of your tank life alone. Aquarium owners commonly characterize these fish as being dark blue with yellow and black striping, but each different species of tang has its own unique set of colors and patterns. Make sure you have a larger tank if you want to purchase tangs, as they can quickly grow out of smaller environments.


Clownfish are another reef-safe type of fish that prefers the security of the reef over swimming in open waters, where they can be hunted. They typically live in anemones, but they also greatly enjoy living near certain species of coral that release enough algae and zooplankton for them to feed on. Their bright orange, black, and white coloring makes them an eye-catching and interesting addition to a saltwater tank.


Gobies are long, cylindrical fish that fall into three base categories—sand-sifting gobies, shrimp gobies, and small gobies. Each type is nonaggressive and won’t harm other fish in your tank, nor will they damage your corals. However, when they’re running low on algae to feed on, they may also eat small shellfish to survive.

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