List of marine aquarium fish species

The following list of marine aquarium fish species commonly available in the aquarium trade is not a completely comprehensive list; certain rare specimens may available commercially yet not be listed here. A brief section on each, with a link to the page about the particular species is provided along with references for further information.

Angelfish (large)

These big beauties are considered to be quite hardy, but because of their size may present a significant challenge to the keeper. They need huge aquariums, up to 180 gallons to house one for its entire lifespan.[1] Two angels might be kept in the same aquarium provided it is a large aquarium, they are properly acclimated as juveniles, and they have very different colouring and body shape.[2] However, because all Angelfish have essentially the same diet, mixing them is a feat that should be left to only advanced keepers. None are reef safe, and a potential owner should be aware that they need to have plenty of vegetable matter in their diet. They undergo major changes in colouration while maturing, and unless specified given descriptions are for adult specimens.[3][4][5]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Blue ring angelfish, annularis angelfish
Pomacanthus annularis No Moderate 30 cm (11.8 in)
Arabian angelfish, Asfur angelfish
Pomacanthus asfur No Easy 40 cm (15.7 in)
Bellus angelfish
Genicanthus bellus Yes Moderate Light blue all over. Exhibits strong sexual dimorphism: females have wide black bands, males' bands are orange. 18 cm (7.1 in)[6]
Blue angelfish
Holacanthus bermudensis No Moderate Blue Angelfish has an overall aqua hue with a yellow shimmer and yellow edges on the fins and scales. The Blue Angelfish does not have the striking blue crown or other blue highlights of the Queen Angelfish. This species has been known to reproduce with the Queen Angelfish, making a half breed that looks like a mixture between the two species. 45 cm (17.7 in)[7]
Bluespotted angelfish
Chaetodontoplus caeruleopunctatus No Difficult 21 cm (8.3 in)
Blueface angelfish
Pomacanthus xanthometopon With Caution Moderate 40 cm (15.7 in)
Cortez angelfish
Pomacanthus zonipectus No Moderate Darkly hued with yellow stripes. 46 cm (18.1 in)[8]
Emperor angelfish
Pomacanthus imperator No Moderate Juveniles are black with blue-white spiraling; adults are blue with yellow stripes, accented with white and black and a blue mask. Will easily be the dominate angelfish if housed with other angels. 40 cm (15.7 in)[9]
French angelfish
Pomacanthus paru No Difficult Juveniles are black with 3 yellow vertically running stripes, may also display blue on pelvic fins. Adults lard black with white vertical stripes. 41 cm (16.1 in)[10]
Gray angelfish
Pomacanthus arcuatus No Easy to Moderate Light grey with dark spots and bluish/grey mask over face. Closely related to French Angelfish. 60 cm (23.6 in)[11]
Griffis angelfish Apolemichthys griffisi No Moderate An ashen white angel with thick black bands and spots, it is a rare find within the aquarium trade. 25 cm (9.8 in)
Half-moon angelfish, Yellow bar angelfish
Pomacanthus maculosus No Easy Blue with yellow splotch-like marking on side. 50 cm (19.7 in)[12]
Koran angelfish
Pomacanthus semicirculatus No Moderate Grey towards the face, becoming a navy blue towards the caudal fin with striking iridescent blue accents throughout. 40 cm (15.7 in)[13]
Majestic angelfish or blue girdled angelfish
Pomacanthus navarchus No Moderate Yellow dorsal and caudal fins connecting to "saddal" with dark blue dots. Dark blue underside and anal fin. Electric blue separating yellow and dark blue. 30 cm (11.8 in)[14]
Passer angelfish or King angelfish
Holacanthus passer No Moderate Very dark blue with yellow caudal fin and distinctive white stripe. 36 cm (14.2 in)[15]
Personifer angelfish or Queensland yellowtail angelfish
Chaetodontoplus meridithii No Moderate 37 cm (14.6 in)
Queen angelfish
Holacanthus ciliaris No Moderate Tan coloured with yellow caudal fin and neon blue outlined fins. This species has been known to reproduce with the Blue Angelfish, making a half breed that looks like a mixture between the two species. 45 cm (17.7 in)[16]
Rock beauty
Holacanthus tricolor No Difficult 25 cm (9.8 in)
Royal angelfish Pygoplites diacanthus No Expert Only Orange and blue striped with dark blue dorsal fin and lemon yellow caudal fin. 25 cm (9.8 in)[17]
Scribbled angelfish
Chaetodontoplus duboulayi No Moderate 25 cm (9.8 in)
Japanese swallow angelfish
Genicanthus semifasciatus Yes Moderate Black and tan striped back with yellow blaze beginning at the mouth and tapering off towards the centre of the side, with light blueish grey underside. Has distinctively shaped tail resembling that of a swallow. 21 cm (8.3 in)[18]
Yellowtail angelfish
Apolemichthys xanthurus No Easy 15 cm (5.9 in)[19]

Angelfish (dwarf)

Although Dwarf Angelfish are smaller and generally more manageable than their larger counterparts, they still have some specific care requirements. They are omnivores, but plenty of vegetable matter, preferably in the form of macroalgae, should be provided for their grazing pleasure.[20] Their suitability for reef tanks is hotly debated,[2] so add at your own risk. Specimens that have been successfully maintained in reef aquaria include the Flame and Coral Beauty angels. However, for obvious reasons they should not be put into tanks with expensive decorative macroalgae.[21][22]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Barred angelfish
Centropyge multifasciata With caution Difficult White fish with vertical black stripes that change to yellow at the belly 12 cm (4.7 in)[23]
Bicolor angelfish
Centropyge bicolor With caution Moderate 15 cm (5.9 in)
Brazilian flameback angelfish
Centropyge aurantonotus With caution Moderate 8 cm (3.1 in)
Coral beauty angelfish
Centropyge bispinosa With caution Easy to Moderate Reddish body with blue back and orange fins. A shy fish that prefers multiple hiding locations. 10 cm (3.9 in)[24]
Cherubfish or Pygmy angelfish
Centropyge argi With caution Easy To Moderate Blue colored body with an orange yellow head. 8 cm (3.1 in)[25]
Eibli angelfish
Centropyge eibli With caution Moderate Tan coloured body with vertical brown stripes and large distinctive black splotch covering the back of the fish, including the caudal fin. 15 cm (5.9 in)[26]
Flame angelfish
Centropyge loricula Yes Easy to Moderate Vivid orange-red with vertical black stripes and blue patches toward the end of the dorsal and anal fins. 15 cm (5.9 in)[27]
Half-black angelfish
Centropyge vroliki With caution Difficult Anterior is gray to pearly white with orange accent around eye, posterior is deep black. 12 cm (4.7 in)[28]
Herald's angelfish
Centropyge heraldi With caution Moderate Completely lemon yellow, with a brown marking around the eye. 10 cm (3.9 in)[29]
Keyhole angelfish
Centropyge tibicen No Easy Centropyge type species. Overall black with an elongate vertical black blotch on the middle of the upper sides. When small, mainly black with a white bar. Dorsal and anal fins with submarginal blue line; most of the pelvic and the anterior portion of the anal fin yellow. Caudal fin with submarginal blue line. 19 cm (7.5 in)
Lemonpeel angelfish
Centropyge flavissima With caution Moderate Bright yellow with distinctive dark semicircle by operculum. 14 cm (5.5 in)[30]
Multicolor angelfish Centropyge multicolor With caution Moderate 9 cm (3.5 in)
Orange-back angelfish
Centropyge acanthops With caution Moderate Dark blue with golden yellow blaze running from the face down the dorsal fin, with a colourless caudal fin. 8 cm (3.1 in)[31]
Pacific pygmy angelfish Centropyge flavicauda With caution Moderate 8 cm (3.1 in)[32]
Potter's angelfish
Centropyge potteri With caution Difficult Similarly coloured to the Coral Beauty, but with a blue body and reddish fins. 10 cm (3.9 in)[33]
Rusty angelfish
Centropyge ferrugata Yes Easy to Moderate Tan coloured body with dark spots and a reddish tint around the anal fin. 10 cm (3.9 in)[34]
Venustus angelfish Centropyge venustus With caution Moderate 12 cm

(4.7 in)


Although Anthias resemble damsels in shape and size, the two should never be confused. Where damsels are the goats of the Saltwater world, Anthias (also called "Fairy Basslets in) are finicky and many starve to death in captivity. In the wild, they eat zooplankton, and will not accept anything but in the aquarium. They also need to be fed nearly constantly, three times a day at least. The best way to ensure the health and longevity of an Anthias is to attach a refugium where you can grow copepods to "drip" into the display tank. Unlike many other saltwater aquarium inhabitants, they can be kept in groups.[35]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Bartlett's anthias
Pseudanthias bartlettorum Yes Moderate Back and face light yellow, underside pink with a swallowtail-shaped caudal fin. 9 cm (3.5 in)
Bicolor anthias
Pseudanthias bicolor Yes Difficult Similarly shaped and coloured to Bartlett's Anthias, but with a slightly more rounded back. 13 cm (5.1 in)
Cooper's anthias
Pseudanthias cooperi Yes Difficult Orange back and finnage with white patch below the mouth running down toward the anal fin with pink sides. 14 cm (5.5 in)
Diadem anthias
Pseudanthias parvirostris Yes Difficult Pink fish with yellow streak on top of head running along the lateral line. Caudal fin is red with yellow tips. 7 cm (2.8 in)
Orangehead anthias Pseudanthias heemstrai Yes Difficult Pink underside with orange back and mask, dark red splotch on caudal fin, along with iridescent blue anal and pelvic fins. 13 cm (5.1 in)
Redbar anthias Pseudanthias rubrizonatus Yes Difficult Tannish-pink with a single vertical red stripe and a dorsal fin with the skin between the rays pulled back like on a lionfish. 12 cm (4.7 in)
Lyretail anthias, Sea Goldie
Pseudanthias squamipinnis Yes Difficult Females are orange with lyre-shaped caudal fin. Males are fuchsia with red markings on fins 15 cm (5.9 in)
Squareback anthias
Pseudanthias pleurotaenia Yes Difficult Red back and pink underside with distinctive blue square shaped marking and blue fins. 20 cm (7.9 in)
Stocky anthias
Pseudanthias hypselosoma Yes Difficult Orange back with cream colored underside. As its name suggests, slightly stockier than other Anthias. 19 cm (7.5 in)
Threadfin anthias
Pseudanthias huchtii Yes Difficult Olive green with black caudal fin and red stripe running from the eye to the pectoral fin. 12 cm (4.7 in)

Bass and groupers

In this exceedingly large group of fish, few are considered proper aquarium inhabitants, for various reasons including diet and size. Basses vary greatly from species to species. Appropriate research should be done before purchasing a specimen. Many unsuspecting hobbyists bring home cute little specimens of popular aquarium fish such as the lyretail grouper, only to realize several months later that they do not have the resources to care for a meter-long that may cost hundreds of dollars a month to feed.[36][37][38][39][40]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
African grouper Cephalopholis taeniops No Easy 69 cm (27.2 in)
Vermillion seabass
Cephalopholis miniata 50 cm (19.7 in)
Blacktip grouper
Epinephelus fasciatus No easy The tips of the spines of the dorsal fin are black, and it may have a dark red cap above the eyes. There is a variant with a uniformly pale body except for the frontal part. 40 cm (15.7 in)
Blue and Yellow grouper
Epinephelus flavocaeruleus No Moderate 90.0 cm (35.4 in)
Blue dot grouper
Cephalopholis argus No Moderate Deep black to tan fish with blue spots throughout. 50 cm (19.7 in)
Blue line grouper
Cephalopholis formosa No Moderate Dark tan with horizontal blue stripes that are not particularly straight. The caudal fin has more of these stripes, and they radiate from the base of the fin out to the tips. 34 cm (13.4 in)
Chalk bass
Serranus tortugarum Yes Easy to Moderate Blue iridescent body with distinctive black topside that is interrupted by small vertical blue stripes. 8 cm (3.1 in)
Coney grouper
Cephalopholis fulva No Moderate 41 cm (16.1 in)
Golden grouper Mycteroperca rosacea No Moderate 86 cm (33.9 in)
Golden stripe soapfish
Grammistes sexlineatus No Moderate Chocolate brown with light yellow horizontal stripes. Similar in patterning to C. argus (with exception to the coloration). 30 cm (11.8 in)
Harlequin bass
Serranus tigrinus Yes Easy to Moderate Very striking black and white checkerboard pattern all over, with very long tapering nose. 29 cm (11.4 in)
Leaflip grouper
Pogonoperca punctata No Moderate Sports a large, hinged mouth and is tan with little spots. Has brown triangle shaped markings down the spine. 35 cm (13.8 in)
Marine beta
Calloplesiops altivelis Yes Easy 15 cm (5.9 in)[41][42]
Miniatus grouper or Vermillion seabass
Cephalopholis miniatus No Moderate Orange to red with large blue spots throughout. 45 cm (17.7 in)
Orange spot grouper Cephalopholis panamensis No Easy 30 cm (11.8 in)
Panther grouper
Cromileptes altivelis No Difficult Gorgeous pure white fish with black spots and a distinctive "hump" on the head, leading to a popular common name, "Humpback Grouper". 75 cm (29.5 in)
Painted comber
Serranus scriba No Easy to Moderate Large fish with classic Bass body, Silvery in colour with vertical tan stripes and a blue underside. 36 cm (14.2 in)
Polleni grouper Cephalopholis polleni No Moderate 43 cm (16.9 in)
Red flag grouper
Cephalopholis urodeta No Moderate Very similar to C. miniatus, but the caudal fin is dark. 28 cm (11.0 in)
Lyretail grouper
Variola louti No Moderate Silver back changing to red around the underside, darkening toward the caudal fin, which is lyre-shaped with neon green edging. 80 cm (31.5 in)
Saddle grouper
Plectropomus laevis No Easy 125 cm (49.2 in)
Spotted grouper
Epinephelus summana No Moderate Dark black fish with many light green spots all over body, increasing in number toward the posterior. 52 cm (20.5 in)
Strawberry grouper Cephalopholis spiloparaea No Moderate 30 cm (11.8 in)
V tail grouper Cephalopholis urodelus No Easy-Moderate 28 cm (11.0 in)

Basslets and assessors

Basslets and Assessors are small, long bodied fish strongly resembling Anthias. Their care requirements, however, are closer to those of damsels. They should be kept individually, and generally not with other fish of similar shape and colour. Feeding is easy: they will generally eat any meaty foods offered. Good water quality should be maintained at all times.[43]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Black cap gramma
Gramma melacara Yes Moderate Purple with a black mask beginning at the mouth and ending at the base of the dorsal fin. 6 cm (2.4 in)
Blue assesor Assessor macneilli Yes Easy to Moderate Entirely navy blue with white edging of the dorsal fin. 7 cm (2.8 in)
Royal gramma
Gramma loreto Yes Easy to Moderate Purple head and anterior, abruptly changing to yellow about halfway down the body. Has black marking through eye and another on the dorsal fin. Do not confuse with the Brazilian Gramma or the Bicolor Dottyback. 5 cm (2.0 in)
Brazilian gramma Gramma brasiliensis Yes Easy to Moderate Very similar to the royal gramma, however the change from purple to yellow occurs farther down the body and the black markings are absent. 6 cm (2.4 in)
Yellow assessor Assessor flavissimus Yes Easy to Moderate Bright lemon yellow with peach fringing of the dorsal fin and around the eye. 7 cm (2.8 in)[44]


Batfish are gorgeous and striking fish that are not common in aquaria for one major reason: they get huge. A two or three hundred gallon tank is needed for one, minimum, and larger is better. They start out as tiny, manageable-looking cuties, which often fools aquarists into purchasing them for their small aquariums. However they quickly grow to gargantuan proportions, and require large amounts of food as well as space, so beware. They are not reef safe and should be fed plenty of large meaty foods. Batfish change greatly as they grow, however the potential aquarist is most likely to see them in their juvenile form, so that is the description of the colouration here. They all have generally the same body shape: disk-like with tall dorsal and anal fins, similar to a Freshwater Angelfish.

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Orbiculate batfish
Platax orbicularis No Difficult Brown with generally random black markings resembling a rotting leaf. 50 cm (19.7 in)
Dusky batfish
Platax pinnatus No Difficult Dark black body completely edged by distinctive yellow and orange. 45 cm (17.7 in)
Teira batfish
Platax teira No Difficult Silver with black fins and a black stripe across the face. 70 cm (27.6 in)


Blennies are popular aquarium fish, and for good reason. They are peaceful, colorful, and many are downright helpful. For example, the aptly named Lawnmower Blenny will keep your green algae well trimmed and presentable. With the exception of Fang Blennies, Blennies are totally reef safe- in fact a reef environment is really best for them because they can be shy and the intricate rockwork of a reef provides ample hiding spaces. They are omnivores and should be fed a varied diet of frozen or live foods and plant matter. Blennies do not have teeth or functional jaw, so food must be small enough for them to swallow whole.
Blennies are often confused with Gobies, but there is an easy way to tell the difference. Gobies have two distinct dorsal fins, Blennies have a single dorsal fin that runs the length of their body. Also, Gobies' pelvic fins are fused to form a sucker, similar to Remoras.[45]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Spinyhead blenny
Acanthemblemaria spinosa Yes Moderate Brown checkered body with distinctive yellow frills on head. 2 cm (0.8 in)
Bicolor blenny
Ecsenius bicolor Yes Easy to moderate Characterized by the striking contrast of a blue head and upper torso followed by a yellow orange lower torso. 11 cm (4.3 in)
Black combtooth blenny
Ecsenius namiyei Yes Easy 10 cm (3.9 in)
Blackline fang blenny Meiacanthus nigrolineatus No Easy to moderate Yellow bodied with bright blue mask and dark black line running from the eye to the caudal fin. 9 cm (3.5 in)
Black sailfin blenny Atrosalarias fuscus Yes Moderate 10 cm (3.9 in)
Blue & gold blenny Enchelyurus flavipes Yes Easy 5 cm (2.0 in)
Bundoon blenny Meiacanthus bundoon No Easy to moderate Black with lighter patch over caudal fin. Very distinctive swallowtail caudal fin. 8 cm (3.1 in)
Canary fang blenny
Meiacanthus oualanensis No Easy to moderate Similarly shaped to M. bundoon, but canary yellow. 5 cm (2.0 in)
Diamond blenny
Malacoctenus boehlkei Yes Moderate Gray with black splotches, and a yellow mask. Shaped more like hawkfish than a blenny. 6.5 cm (2.6 in)
Ember blenny
Cirripectes stigmaticus No Moderate 12 cm (4.7 in)
Lawnmower blenny
Salarias fasciatus Yes Moderate to difficult Tan and brown striped and spotted with iridescence. Requires Mature Tank. 14 cm (5.5 in)
Linear blenny
Ecsenius lineatus No Easy 9 cm (3.5 in)
Midas blenny
Ecsenius midas Yes Easy to moderate Although often seen yellow, this fish has the ability to change its color to match the surroundings. It has a very distinctive swallowtail shaped caudal fin. 13 cm (5.1 in)
Molly Miller blenny
Scartella cristata Yes Easy to moderate Mottled tan, white, and black covering the body and fins. 12 cm (4.7 in)
One spot blenny Crossosalarias macrospilus No Easy 10 cm (3.9 in)
Red lip blenny
Ophioblennius atlanticus Yes Easy to moderate Black to grayish yellow with red patch over mouth. 19 cm (7.5 in)
Red Sea mimic blenny
Ecsenius gravieri Moderate Sky blue anterior fading to yellow towards the tail, with a black stripe running the eye to the base of the caudal fin. 8 cm (3.1 in)
Sailfin blenny
Emblemaria pandionis Yes Moderate Very similar to Salarias fasciatus but slightly darker and with a much larger dorsal fin. 5 cm (2.0 in)
Segmented sailfin blenny Salarias segmentatus Yes Easy 10 cm (3.9 in)
Starry blenny
Salarias ramosus Yes Easy 14 cm (5.5 in)
Striped blenny
Meiacanthus grammistes Yes Moderate 12 cm (4.7 in)
Tail spot blenny
Ecsenius stigmatura Yes Moderate Drab tan all over with dark spot at the base of the caudal fin and a light yellow line through eye. 6 cm (2.4 in)
Two-spot blenny Ecsenius bimaculatus Yes Moderate The top half of this fish is black towards the front and fades to white closer to the tail. The bottom half is white with two distinctive black spots right under the pectoral fins. 4.5 cm (1.8 in)
Convict blenny
Pholidichthys leucotaenia Yes Moderate Not actually a blenny but from closely related family Pholidichthys. Juvenile has black eel-shaped body with a distinctive white stripe running down the body. Adults are yellow and black striped. 34 cm (13.4 in)

Boxfish and blowfish

Members of the family Tetraodontidae, Boxfish, Blowfish or Pufferfish and their cousins Cowfishes and Porcupinefishes can be very personable and quirky pets, for the prepared.
They are not thought of as an ordinary aquarium tank mate, but are quickly gaining popularity. They do pose a hazard in the community tank however. They are capable of releasing a very powerful toxin which can kill other fish and in some cases, the boxfish itself. They generally only use it when threatened or dying, but can become disturbed easily with aggressive tank mates or overcrowded aquarium. Generally they are reef safe, though they will pick at invertebrates if not fed well enough.
Many people think puffed up Pufferfish, like in the picture, are cute, but an owner should never subject their pet to this as they are often unable to expel the air should they be out of the water. To prevent this, never remove a puffer from the water.[46]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Golden puffer
Arothron meleagris No Easy 48 cm (18.9 in)
Hawaiian blue puffer
Canthigaster papua No Easy 10 cm (3.9 in)
Hawaiian saddle puffer
Canthigaster coronata No Easy 14.0 cm (5.5 in)
Hawaiian spotted puffer
Canthigaster jactator No Easy 9 cm (3.5 in)
Helmet cowfish
Tetrasomus gibbosus Caution Expert Only Tan with dark speckles and brown spots at the base of the caudal fin. 30 cm (11.8 in)
Immaculate puffer
Arothron immaculatus No Moderate 28 cm (11.0 in)
Longhorn cowfish
Lactoria cornuta Caution Expert Only Grayish tan with very distinctive "horns" near the eyes and under the caudal fin. 46 cm (18.1 in)
Scribbled boxfish Ostracion solorensis Caution Moderate Dark navy blue with iridescent "scribbling" and spots. 12 cm (4.7 in)
Dogface pufferfish
Arothron nigropunctatus Caution Moderate Tan with a brown mask over eyes and other over mouth. Also has yellow markings on the pectoral and dorsal fins. 33 cm (13.0 in)
Map puffer
Arothron mappa No Moderate 65 cm (25.6 in)
Porcupine pufferfish
Diodon holocanthus No Moderate Tan with slightly darker spots throughout and very conspicuous spines that lay flat against the body. When puffed up, the spikes stand up and make the fish completely inedible. 50 cm (19.7 in)
Spotfin porcupinefish
Diodon hystrix No Moderate White and covered in small black spots. 91 cm (35.8 in)
Sharpnose pufferfish
Canthigaster rostrata Caution Difficult Cream, with reddish purple topside and underside, and yellow on the caudal fin. 12 cm (4.7 in)
Star puffer
Arothron stellatus No Easy 120 cm (47.2 in)
Stars and stripes puffer
Arothron hispidus No Moderate 50 cm (19.7 in)
Striped dogface puffer
Arothron manilensis No Moderate 31 cm (12.2 in)
Valentini pufferfish
Canthigaster valentini Caution Moderate Tan with giraffe-like spots and dark brown markings that resemble saddles over the back. Has distinctive bright green eyes. 11 cm (4.3 in)
Whitebelly puffer
Canthigaster bennetti No Moderate 10 cm (3.9 in)
Yellow boxfish
Ostracion cubicus Caution Expert Only Usually seen as a juvenile, bright yellow with little black spots. When it reaches maturity it is gray with yellow lines and pink lips. 45 cm (17.7 in)


Butterflyfish, when properly cared for, can make beautiful and distinctive additions to fish only marine aquariums. Often large and usually not suited for those with smaller aquariums, nor those of the faint of heart. Nevertheless, when fed a varied diet and kept in pristine conditions, Butterflyfish will usually thrive. That is, if you choose the right species. With Butterflyfish, usually a fish is going to survive, or it's not. Many species simply cannot be kept in captivity, and potential keepers must take care to only purchase those species that have a fighting chance. Also, be very picky about which specimen you choose- any sign of mishandling should be taken as a red flag.
The following species are relatively hardy and an experienced aquarist should have no trouble with them, so long as they are diligent.[47]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Copperband butterflyfish
Chelmon rostratus Caution Difficult Silver with black edged gold stripes, a long nose, and a black eyespot on the dorsal fin. 20 cm (7.9 in)
Schooling bannerfish
Heniochus diphreutes No Easy Sometimes referred to as the "Poor Man's Moorish Idol" because of the resemblance to one. White and black striped with yellow caudal fin and a dorsal fin that forms a long, thin banner. 21 cm (8.3 in)
Longnose butterflyfish
Forcipiger flavissimus No Moderate From the pectoral fins forward, black above the eye and silver below, with an exceptionally mouth. Past the pectoral fins, bright yellow with an eyespot on the anal fin. 22 cm (8.7 in)
Raccoon butterflyfish
Chaetodon lunula No Easy Very distinctive and complexly colored. Is mostly yellow with a darker saddle and a black and white mask. 20 cm (7.9 in)
Redback butterflyfish
Chaetodon paucifasciatus No Moderate White with black stripes that form chevrons on the side and a bright red patch on the posterior. 14 cm (5.5 in)
Merten's butterflyfish
Chaetodon mertensii No Moderate White with fuzzy black stripes and a yellow posterior. Also has a black line through the eye. 12.5 cm (4.9 in)
Teardrop butterflyfish
Chaetodon unimaculatus No Moderate Completely yellow with the exception of black stripes at the base of the caudal fin and through the eye, and an eyespot directly below the dorsal fin. 20 cm (7.9 in)
Latticed butterflyfish
Chaetodon rafflesii No Moderate Very similar to C. unimaculatus, but with scales that are brighter than the body, forming a lattice-like pattern, and lacking the eyespot. 18 cm (7.1 in)
Pacific double saddle butterflyfish
Chaetodon ulietensis No Moderate Silver with two dark saddles over the body (plus a dark mask) and yellow dorsal and caudal fins. 15 cm (5.9 in)
Sickle butterflyfish
Chaetodon falcula No Moderate Often confused with C. ulietensis, but easily distinguished. The saddles are wedge shaped rather than stripes and do not reach the underside. Overall more yellow coloring. 20 cm (7.9 in)
Auriga butterflyfish
Chaetodon auriga No Easy White anterior with thin black stripes at 45 and 120 degree angles from the head. Posterior is yellow, but with a black wedge shape where the stripes meet the yellow coloring. 23 cm (9.1 in)
Tinker's butterflyfish
Chaetodon tinkeri No Moderate White with small black spots, a yellow mask, and a black dorsal fin. 15 cm (5.9 in)
Masked butterflyfish
Chaetodon semilarvatus No Moderate Bright lemon yellow with subtle vertical orange stripes and a black splotch behind the eye. 23 cm (9.1 in)
Reef butterflyfish
Chaetodon sedentarius Yes Moderate 15 cm

(5.9 in)

Four-eyed butterflyfish
Chaetodon capistratus No Moderate 15 cm

(5.9 in)

Banded butterflyfish
Chaetodon striatus No Moderate 16 cm

(6.3 in)

Saddleback butterflyfish
Chaetodon ephippium Caution Moderate 30 cm

(11.8 in)


One of the few groups of shoaling fish commonly available to marine aquarists, Cardinalfish are nocturnal and tend to be quite shy. They require meaty foods and will often not take prepared foods such as flakes and tablets. For the best chance of success, keep a wide variety of frozen foods on hand. In the event of a hunger strike, they will almost always take adult brine shrimp. As far as other care requirements they are similar to damsels: not picky. So long as they are properly acclimated, they tolerate a wide range of parameters. A marine aqaurist should watch the ammonia/nitrite levels of the environment, as cardinalfish are particularly sensitive to these chemicals.[48]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Fragile cardinalfish Apogon fragilis Yes[49]:133 Moderate[49]:133 5 cm (2.0 in)
Banggai cardinal
Pterapogon kauderni Yes Moderate Black and silver striped with very tall fins and many white spots. Wild populations have been decimated, consider captive bred specimens. Banggai Cardinalfish are mouthbrooders. 8 cm (3.1 in)
Blackstripe cardinalfish
Apogon nigrofasciatus Yes Moderate Body completely covered in horizontal yellow and black stripes, with red fins. 10 cm (3.9 in)
Bluebarred cardinalfish Apogon flores Yes[49]:133 Moderate[49]:133 5 cm (2.0 in)
Bluestreak cardinalfish
Apogon leptacanthus Yes[49]:133 Moderate[49]:133 6.5 cm (2.6 in)
Apogon maculatus Yes Moderate Bright red with black spots at the base of the caudal fin, under the second dorsal fin, and on the operculum. 11 cm (4.3 in)
Frostfin cardinalfish Apogon hoeveni Yes[49]:133 Moderate[49]:133 5 cm (2.0 in)
Gilbert's cardinalfish Apogon gilberti Yes[49]:133 Moderate[49]:133 5 cm (2.0 in)
Girdled cardinalfish Archamia zosterophora Yes[49]:133 Moderate[49]:133 8 cm (3.1 in)
Orange-striped cardinalfish
Apogon cyanosoma Yes Moderate Light yellow with iridescent yellow horizontal stripes. 8 cm (3.1 in)
Orbic cardinalfish
Sphaeramia orbicularis Yes Easy A thin, dark vertical 'waistband' with scattered dark spots toward the tail. 10 cm (3.9 in)
Pajama cardinalfish
Sphaeramia nematoptera Yes, caution with small shrimp[49]:132 Easy[49]:132 This fish displays three distinct color bands: the first, stretching from the nose to base of the first dorsal fin, is a tannish peach. The second, a thin band which runs down the center of the fish, is chocolate brown, and the posterior of the fish is white with brown spots. 8.5 cm (3.3 in)
Ochre-striped cardinalfish Apogon compressus Yes Moderate Almost identical to A. nigrofasticus, but with blue eyes. 12 cm (4.7 in)
Ringtailed cardinalfish
Apogon aureus Yes Moderate Yellow body with a black stripe (ring) at the base of the caudal fin and iridescent blue streaks across the eye. 14.5 cm (5.7 in)


Chromis are perhaps the ultimate reef fish. Generally peaceful, most species are easy to take care of and quite colorful. Like anthias, they will school, but in many cases this tendency disappears as they age. They are, nevertheless, at least ambivalent with their own species, as well as completely reef safe. Like Damsels and Anemonefish, their close cousins, Chromis are omnivores and will accept most foods offered. A flake staple is usually sufficient, but for best color and health supplement with frozen and live foods when possible.[50]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Ambon chromis Chromis amboinensis Yes[49]:192 Moderate[49]:192 8 cm (3.1 in)
Barrier reef chromis
Chromis nitida Yes Easy 10 cm (3.9 in)
Black and gold chromis
Neoglyphidodon nigroris Yes Difficult Mostly silver, but with a large patch of yellow around the caudal fin and a distinct black line on the operculum. 13 cm (5.1 in)
Black bar chromis Chromis retrofasciata Yes[49]:191 Easy[49]:191 Yellowish with bright blue iridescent pelvic fins and a distinct black bar at the base of the caudal fin. 5 cm (2.0 in).
Blue chromis
Chromis cyanea Yes[49]:188 Moderate[49]:188 Bright blue all over, although lighter toward the front. 13 cm (5.1 in)
Chromis chromis Yes Easy Completely black. Despite the name, this is actually a chromis, in fact, it is the chromis. 25 cm (9.8 in)
Green chromis
Chromis viridis Yes Easy Generally bluish green, but some specimens may be spring green. 8 cm (3.1 in)
Half and half chromis
Chromis iomelas Yes[49]:190 Moderate[49]:190 Completely black from the middle of the dorsal fin to the nose, completely white from the middle of the dorsal fin to the end of the caudal fin. 9 cm (3.5 in)
Limbaughi chromis Chromis limbaughi Yes Moderate Dark navy blue with bright yellow spot that covers the dorsal fin and much of the posterior. 10 cm (3.9 in)
Lined chromis Chromis lineata Yes[49]:192 Moderate[49]:192 5 cm (2.0 in)
Paletail chromis Chromis xanthura Yes[49]:192 Moderate[49]:192 15 cm (5.9 in)
Black-axil chromis
Chromis atripectoralis Yes Easy 12 cm

(14.7 in)

Spiny chromis
Acanthochromis polyacanthus Yes Easy Dark chocolate brown, slightly lighter around the pectoral fins. 14 cm (5.5 in)
Sunshine chromis Chromis insolatus Yes[49]:189 Moderate[49]:189 Rather drab tannish-orange throughout. 16 cm (6.3 in)
Yellowspotted chromis
Chromis flavomaculata Yes[49]:192 Moderate[49]:192 15 cm (5.9 in)
Black and white chromis
Chromis margaritifer Yes Easy Similar to half and half chromis, but there is more black. 3 in (7.6 cm)


Clownfish, more technically known as Anemonefish, are the classic aquarium fish. Both hardy and attractive, they are perhaps best known for their symbiotic relationship with Sea Anemones, a relative of coral. In the wild, Anemonefish are always found with a host, leading many potential keepers to believe that an anemone is necessary to keep them. Anemonefish are easy to keep, but their cnidarian counterparts are inordinately finicky and need high light levels, and luckily Anemonefish will thrive without them. Aquarists often find that Anemonefish will host in other things, from corals and Feather Duster Worms to powerheads and other equipment. Anemonefish care is identical to that of Damselfish, as they are actually very closely related.[51][52]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Cinnamon anemonefish
Amphiprion melanopus Yes Easy to moderate Dark orange body becoming black towards the caudal fin, with a bright white stripe running from the front of the dorsal fin to the pectoral fins and golden colored fins. 12 cm (4.7 in)
Clarkii anemonefish
Amphiprion clarkii Yes Easy to moderate Black or dark brown with bright yellow finnage and two thick white stripes running perpendicular to the body. 15 cm (5.9 in)
Amphiprion ocellaris Yes Easy Bright orange or yellow body with white stripes. Fins are orange, rimmed with black. A. ocellaris from northern Australia are black. 11 cm (4.3 in)
Maroon clownfish
Premnas biaculeatus Yes but aggressive Easy Maroon to bright red with three very thin white stripes. 17 cm (6.7 in)
True Percula
Amphiprion percula Yes Easy Nearly identical to A. ocellaris, but the white stripes are edged with black. 11 cm (4.3 in)
Pink skunk anemonefish
Amphiprion perideraion Yes Moderate Pink to orange body with one white stripe over the operculum and another running from the tip of the snout, along the back to the dorsal fin. All fins are white. 10 cm (3.9 in)
Tomato clownfish
Amphiprion frenatus Yes Easy Bright red with a single white stripe running from the front of the dorsal fin to the bottom of the head. 14 cm (5.5 in)
Saddleback anemonefish
Amphiprion polymnus Yes Moderate Similar to A. ocellaris and percula, but the second stripe does not extend the full with of the body and instead resembles a saddle. 13 cm (5.1 in)
Sebae anemonefish
Amphiprion sebae Yes Moderate Black or dark brown body from above the pectoral fin, yellow below. Has two white stripes, the second resembling that of A. polymnus. 16 cm (6.3 in)


All Damselfish can be considered reef-safe, sometimes excluding larger, more aggressive Dascyllus varieties. Some Damselfish will host in anemones like clownfish. Most Damselfish are aggressive and difficult to catch once you put them in an aquarium.

Damselfish change gender as they grow larger and older. Small damselfish are ungendered. Eventually, they become males if no males prevent them from doing so. One or sometimes two males live with a female and guard over the eggs. Females are the largest fish and dominant over the males and juveniles. They will not allow other females into an area they have claimed as their territory without a fight. They may not allow new males or juveniles, either. Aggression increases with each change.[51][53][54]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Ambon damsel
Pomacentrus amboinensis Yes[49]:216 Easy[49]:216 10 cm (3.9 in)
Azure damsel
Chrysiptera hemicyanea Yes Easy A beautiful fish with neon blue on its body and a gold underside and caudal fin. Easy to care for and does best on a good diet. Fairly aggressive so choose tankmates carefully. 10 cm (3.9 in)
Black and gold damsel
Neoglyphidodon nigroris Yes Easy 13 cm (5.1 in)
Blackmargined damsel Pomacentrus nigromarginatus Yes[49]:216 Easy[49]:216 9 cm (3.5 in)
Blue damsel, Orangetail damsel
Chrysiptera cyanea Yes Easy An orange tail indicates breeding success. The males have orange on their tails while the females do not. This fish is hardy and aggressive. 8.5 cm (3.3 in)
Blue and gold damsel
Pomacentrus coelestis Yes[49]:215 Easy[49]:215 9 cm (3.5 in)
Blue velvet damsel
Paraglyphidodon oxyodon Yes 15 cm (5.9 in)
Blueback damsel Pomacentrus simsiang Yes[49]:216 Easy[49]:216 9 cm (3.5 in)
Blueline demoiselle, Yellowfin demoiselle Chrysiptera caeruleolineata Yes[49]:202 Easy[49]:202 6 cm (2.4 in)
Bluefin damsel
Neoglyphidodon melas Yes Easy 18 cm (7.1 in)
Caerulean damsel
Pomacentrus caeruleus Yes[49]:215 Easy[49]:215 8 cm (3.1 in)
Canary deep water damsel Chrysiptera galba Yes Easy 9 cm (3.5 in)
Cloudy damsel
Dascyllus carneus Yes Easy 7 cm (2.8 in)
Cross' damsel Neoglyphidodon crossi Yes[49]:202 Easy[49]:202 13 cm (5.1 in)
Domino damsel
Dascyllus trimaculatus Yes Easy also known as the three spot damsel, this fish is easy to care for, but is also very aggressive. The fish is black except for three distinct white spots that fade as the fish ages. 14 cm (5.5 in)
Fiji blue devil damsel
Chrysiptera taupou Yes Easy This striking blue damsel is one of the most popular beginner fish. Like other damsels, it is very hardy, and very aggressive when mature. 8 cm (3.1 in)
Four stripe damsel
Dascyllus melanurus Yes Easy The four stripe damsel is a perfect beginner marine fish as it is very hardy. This fish is highly territorial and is best suited for a semi-aggressive to aggressive tank. 10 cm (3.9 in)
Garibaldi damsel
Hypsypops rubicunda Yes Easy to Moderate These are temperate fish and require cooler water. They are much larger than most other damsels. 30 cm (11.8 in)
Honey head damsel Dischistodus prosopotaenia Yes Difficult 17 cm (6.7 in)
Hawaiian Dascyllus
Dascyllus albisella Yes Easy 12.5 cm (4.9 in)
Jewel damsel
Microspathodon chrysurus Yes Easy Among the largest and most aggressive Damsels 20 cm (7.9 in)
King demoiselle
Chrysiptera rex Yes[49]:198 Easy[49]:198 7 cm (2.8 in)
Lemon damsel
Pomacentrus moluccensis Yes Easy 9 cm (3.5 in)
Longfin gregory
Stegastes diencaeus Caution[49]:216 Easy[49]:216 Turns brown, and becomes highly territorial as it ages 12.5 cm (4.9 in)
Marginated damsel
Dascyllus marginatus Yes Easy The marginated damsel is noted for blue fins as well as the yellow head and white body. This fish is hardy like most damsels and is also highly aggressive when mature. 6 cm (2.4 in)
Neon damsel Pomacentrus alleni Yes 6 cm (2.4 in)
Ocellate damsel
Pomacentrus vaiuli Yes Easy 9 cm (3.5 in)
Pavo damsel
Pomacentrus pavo Yes[49]:215 Easy[49]:215 11 cm (4.3 in)
Pink Smith damsel
Pomacentrus smithi Yes Easy 7 cm (2.8 in)
Rolland's demoiselle Chrysiptera rollandi Yes[49]:202 Easy[49]:202 6 cm (2.4 in)
Sergeant major damsel
Abudefduf saxatilis Yes Easy 15 cm (5.9 in)
Speckled damsel
Pomacentrus bankanensis Yes[49]:216 Easy[49]:216 9 cm (3.5 in)
Springer's damsel
Chrysiptera springeri Yes Easy 5.5 cm (2.2 in)
Stark's damsel
Chrysiptera starcki Yes Easy 7 cm (2.8 in)
Talbots damsel
Chrysiptera talboti Yes Moderate This damselfish is somewhat a little more delicate than other. It does best in small groups in large tanks with good water quality and an SG of 1.026. Feed on a good diet for best results. Fairly peaceful. 8 cm (3.1 in)
Three stripe damsel
Dascyllus aruanus Yes Easy Highly aggressive and territorial. Will harass fish many times its size. Best kept in an aggressive/semi-aggressive tank. 10 cm (3.9 in)
Three Spot damsel
Stegastes planifrons Yes Easy 13 cm (5.1 in)
Tuxedo damsel
Chrysiptera tricincta Yes 6 cm (2.4 in)
Two stripe damsel
Dascyllus reticulatus Yes Easy the two stripe damsel is a very hardy fish. This fish is perfect for the beginner marine aquarist, as it can tolerate substandard water quality. This fish is highly aggressive, and requires many hiding places. 10 cm (3.9 in)
Yellow damsel
Amblyglyphidodon aureus Yes 13 cm (5.1 in)
Yellow threespot Dascyllus
Dascyllus auripinnis Yes[49]:205 Easy[49]:205 14.5 cm (5.7 in)
Yellowbelly damsel
Pomacentrus auriventris Yes Easy 5.5 cm (2.2 in)
Yellowtail Dascyllus
Dascyllus flavicaudus Yes 12 cm (4.7 in)
Yellowtail damsel
Chrysiptera parasema Yes Easy The yellowtail damsel possess an all blue body with a striking yellow tail. This damsel is a good beginner fish as it is very hardy and can tolerate substandard water quality. This damsel is also less aggressive than some other damsel species. 8 cm (3.1 in)
Yellowtail demoiselle
Neopomacentrus azysron Yes Easy 7.5 cm (3.0 in)


Most should be kept as pairs or small groups where all individuals are added at once.[55][56]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Blue gudgeon dartfish
Ptereleotris hanae Yes Easy 13 cm (5.1 in)
Fire fish
Nemateleotris magnifica Yes Easy 9 cm (3.5 in)
Purple fire fish
Nemateleotris decora Yes Easy 9 cm (3.5 in)
Scissortail dartfish
Ptereleotris evides Yes Easy 14 cm (5.5 in)
Zebra barred dartfish
Ptereleotris zebra Yes Easy 10 cm (3.9 in)


Dragonets are often mis-categorized as gobies or blennies by fish sellers. They are bottom-dwelling fish that constantly hunt tiny invertebrates for food. Most starve to death in a marine aquarium unless you provide a refugium or place for the invertebrates to reproduce safely without any fish being able to reach them.[57][58]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Synchiropus splendidus Yes Difficult; attach a refugium to the tank A brightly colored member of the dragonet family. Eats only copepods and will die in captivity without an adequate supply, which can only be had in very large, well established reef tanks 6 cm (2.4 in)[59]
Starry dragonet Synchiropus stellatus Yes Moderate; attach a refugium to the tank Also known as red scooter blenny though not a true blenny. Will often only eat live copepods and amphipods. 12 cm (4.7 in)
Ocellated dragonet
Synchiropus ocellatus Yes Moderate; attach a refugium to the tank Also known as scooter blenny though not a true blenny. Will often only eat live copepods and amphipods. 8 cm (3.1 in)
Spotted mandarin
Synchiropus picturatus Yes Difficult; attach a refugium to the tank Often only eats live copepods and amphipods. 10 cm (3.9 in)


Most eels are easily kept in a large aquarium, although several species such as the blue ribbon eel should usually be avoided. With any moray eel care must be taken to secure the lid as one of the most common causes of death is escaping from the tank, and onto the floor.[60][61]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Banded snake eel
Myrichthys colubrinus No Easy 97 cm (38.2 in)
Banded eel
Echidna polyzona No Intermediate 69 cm (27.2 in)
Black edge moray eel
Gymnothorax saxicola No Moderate 60 cm (23.6 in)
Blue ribbon eel, black ribbon eel Rhinomuraena quaesita No Difficult 130 cm (51.2 in)
Chainlink moray eel
Echidna catenata No Easy Can be kept with fish too small to swallow 165 cm (65.0 in)
Dragon moray eel
Enchelycore pardalis No Easy A fish eater that will eat anything it can fit in its mouth. When available is typically quite expensive[62] 92 cm (36.2 in)
Golden dwarf eel Gymnothorax melatremus Yes Moderate Rarely available, among the smallest of the moray eels 26 cm (10.2 in)
Golden moray eel
Gymnothorax miliaris May eat fish and shrimp Easy to moderate These fish should only be kept in fish-only tanks as any small invertebrates will be looked on as food. Keep with fish large enough not to be eaten. Feed on a diet of whitefish, cockles, cod roe, haddock and frozen foods. 70.0 cm (27.6 in)
Green moray eel
Gymnothorax funebris No Difficult Requires a 180-gallon tank with tight fitting lid. Compatible with rays, sharks, and other large fish. 250 cm (98.4 in)
Jeweled moray eel
Muraena lentiginosa No Easy 61 cm (24.0 in)
Kidako moray eel
Gymnothorax kidako No Easy 91 cm (35.8 in)
Peppered moray
Gymnothorax picta No Moderate 135 cm (53.1 in)
Snowflake eel
Echidna nebulosa May eat shrimp if underfed Easy A pebble-tooth moray that generally eats crustaceans and similar. Safer in reef aquariums than other species but be prepared to remove it in case it starts to eat desired invertebrates. 100 cm (39.4 in)
Spotted garden-eel
Taenioconger hassi With Caution Difficult Rarely available, best avoided by inexperienced aquarists 40 cm (15.7 in)
Spotted Snake eel
Myrichthys maculosus No Moderate Requires at least six in of substrate 100 cm (39.4 in)
Tessalata eel, or laced moray
Gymnothorax favagineus No Easy 300 cm (118.1 in)
Yellowhead moray eel
Gymnothorax fimbriatus No Easy 80 cm (31.5 in)
Yellow mouth moray eel
Gymnothorax nudivomer No Intermediate 178 cm (70.1 in)
Whitemouth moray eel
Gymnothorax meleagris With Caution Intermediate 120 cm (47.2 in)
Carpet eel-blenny
Congrogadus subducens No Easy Actually a Dottyback, but has the body shape of an eel. 45 cm (17.7 in)
Zebra moray
Gymnomuraena zebra No Easy One of the easier moray eels to keep, is usually safe with most fish but will eat most invertebrates. 150 cm (59.1 in)


Less often kept than their relatives the triggerfish and puffers, there are many filefish that make good aquarium residents, and a few that require specialized diets, making it hard to sustain them in an aquarium.[63][64]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Clown filefish
Cantherhines dumerili Caution Easy 38 cm (15.0 in)
Colored filefish Pervagor melanocephalus Caution Easy 15 cm (5.9 in)
Fantail orange filefish Pervagor spilosoma No Easy 18 cm (7.1 in)
Horseshoe filefish
Meuschenia hippocrepis No Intermediate 51 cm (20.1 in)
Japanese filefish
Paramonacanthus japonicus No Intermediate 13 cm (5.1 in)
Mimic filefish
Paraluteres prionurus No Intermediate 11 cm (4.3 in)
Orangespotted filefish
Oxymonacanthus longirostris No Expert Only 13 cm (5.1 in)
Tassle filefish
Chaetodermis penicilligerus Caution Easy 30 cm (11.8 in)


See Rabbitfish


Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Peacock flounder
Bothus lunatus No Moderate 46 cm (18.1 in)
Flowery (Indo-Pacific peacock) flounder
Bothus mancus with caution Moderate 45 cm (17.7 in)
Banded sole
Soleichthys heterorhinos Will eat shrimp and other invertebrates, will not harm coral[49]:413 Moderate[49]:413 18 cm (7.1 in)


A type of Anglerfish, Frogfish are ambush predators with huge mouths. They are capable of eating fish up to twice their length so care should be taken in choosing tank mates.[65]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Longlure frogfish
Antennarius multiocellatus No Difficult 20 cm

(7.9 in)

Giant anglerfish
Antennarius commerson No Intermediate 38 cm (15.0 in)
Sargassum frogfish
Histrio histrio No Difficult 20 cm (7.9 in)
Striated frogfish
Antennarius striatus No Moderate 15 cm (5.9 in)
Wartskin frogfish
Antennarius maculatus No Moderate Has the ability to change color to match its surrounding. 10 cm (3.9 in)


While not as common a choice for aquariums as many other species, they are typically hardy and brightly colored[66]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Bicolor goatfish
Parupeneus barberinoides With Caution Moderate 25 cm (9.8 in)
Goldsaddle goatfish
Parupeneus cyclostomus With Caution Difficult 51 cm (20.1 in)
Manybar goatfish
Parupeneus multifasciatus With Caution Moderate 30 cm (11.8 in)
Yellow back goatfish
Parupeneus barberinus With Caution Easy 41 cm (16.1 in)


Typically are hardy and do not harm invertebrates which makes them a good choice of fish for a reef tank.[67][68]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Black barred convict goby Priolepis nocturna Yes Easy 4 cm (1.6 in)
Black clown goby Gobiodon acicularis Mostly; can destroy unhealthy Acropora by laying its eggs in the coral's tissue Moderate Similar to Yellow clown goby, but black
Bluespotted watchman goby Cryptocentrus pavoninoides Yes Easy 12 cm (4.7 in)
Catalina goby
Lythrypnus dalli Yes Moderate A cold water species 5 cm (2.0 in)
Cave transparent goby
Coryphopterus glaucofraenum Yes Easy 8 cm (3.1 in)
Citron clown goby
Gobiodon citrinus Mostly; can destroy unhealthy Acropora by laying its eggs in the coral's tissue Moderate 8 cm (3.1 in)
Court jester goby
Amblygobius rainfordi Easy 6 cm (2.4 in)
Diagonal bar prawn goby
Amblyeleotris diagonalis Yes Easy 8 cm (3.1 in)
Diamond watchman goby
Valenciennea puellaris Yes Easy "Sleeper gobies"; burrow and sift sand constantly; very good algae eaters 20 cm (7.9 in)
Dracula goby Stonogobiops dracula Yes Moderate 8 cm (3.1 in)
Engineer goby
Pholidichthys leucotaenia Yes Easy to Moderate Not actually a goby but from closely related family Pholidichthys. Small burrowing goby but they can get large.
Gold neon eviota goby Eviota pellucida Yes Easy 3 cm (1.2 in)
Green banded goby
Elacatinus multifasciatus Yes Moderate Small burrowing goby with green vertical stripes 3.5 cm (1.4 in)
Green clown goby Gobiodon atrangulatus Yes Easy 4 cm (1.6 in)
Hector's goby
Amblygobius hectori Yes Easy 8 cm (3.1 in)
Hi fin red banded goby
Stonogobiops nematodes Yes Easy 5 cm (2.0 in)
Neon goby
Elacatinus oceanops Yes Easy A Caribbean cleaner species that sometimes eats larger parasites from other fish.
Orange marked goby Amblygobius decussatus Yes Easy 8 cm (3.1 in)
Orange spotted goby
Amblyeleotris guttata Yes Easy 9 cm (3.5 in)
Orange stripe prawn goby
Amblyeleotris randalli Yes Easy 9 cm (3.5 in)
Pinkspotted shrimp goby
Gobius melanopus May eat ornamental shrimp Easy White fish with pink bands around the body and pink spots on face and fins. One of the most handsome members of the group. 15 cm (5.9 in)
Pinkbar goby Cryptocentrus aurora Yes Easy 10 cm (3.9 in)
Red head goby
Elacatinus puncticulatus Yes Easy A small goby that can clean like the neon goby but is easily frightened. Often said to 'disappear' in a larger tank, as it never swims out into view. 5 cm (2.0 in)
Red striped goby
Trimma cana Yes Easy 3 cm (1.2 in)
Sleeper banded goby
Amblygobius phalaena Yes Easy 15 cm (5.9 in)
Sleeper blue dot goby
Valenciennea sexguttata Yes Easy 13 cm (5.1 in)
Sleeper gold head goby
Valenciennea strigata Yes Moderate 13 cm (5.1 in)
Sleeper railway glider goby Valenciennea helsdingeni Yes Easy 15 cm (5.9 in)
Sleeper striped goby Valenciennea longipinnis Yes Easy 15 cm (5.9 in)
Steinitz goby
Amblyeleotris steinitzi Yes Easy 8 cm (3.1 in)
Tangaroa goby
Ctenogobiops tangaroai Yes Easy 5 cm (2.0 in)
Tiger watchman goby
Valenciennea wardii Yes Easy 12 cm (4.7 in)
Two spot goby
Signigobius biocellatus Yes Easy 8 cm (3.1 in)
Violet goby
Gobioides broussonnetii No Moderate Also a freshwater and brackish water fish and often sold as Dragon Fish or Dragon Goby 21"
Wheeler's watchman goby
Amblyeleotris wheeleri Yes Easy 8 cm (3.1 in)
Yellow watchman goby
Cryptocentrus cinctus Yes Moderate A species of "watchman" or "shrimp" goby that can form a symbiotic relationship with pistol shrimp 7 cm (2.8 in)
Yasha goby
Stonogobiops yasha Yes A species of "watchman" or "shrimp" goby that will form a symbiotic relationship with the red and white banded pistol shrimp, Alpheus randalli. 6 cm (2.4 in)
Yellow clown goby
Gobiodon okinawae Yes Moderate Small yellow fish that likes branching corals 3.5 cm (1.4 in)
Yellow priolepis goby Priolepis aureoviridis Yes Easy 6 cm (2.4 in)
Yellow stripe clingfish
Diademichthys lineatus Yes Easy 5 cm (2.0 in)


Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Crescent banded grunt
Terapon jarbua No Easy
Dogfish prientalis
Plectorhinchus lineatus No Expert Only 86 cm (33.9 in)
Oriental sweetlips
Plectorhinchus orientalis No Expert Only 84 cm (33.1 in)
Painted sweetlips
Plectorhinchus picus No Expert Only 84 cm (33.1 in)
Anisotremus virginicus No Intermediate 41 cm (16.1 in)
Spotted sweetlips
Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides No Expert Only 74 cm (29.1 in)
Striped sweetlips Plectorhinchus diagrammus No Expert Only 51 cm (20.1 in)
Twostriped sweetlips Plectorhinchus albovittatus No Intermediate 99 cm (39.0 in)


Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Barred hamlet
Hypoplectrus puella No Easy 15 cm (5.9 in)
Black hamlet
Hypoplectrus nigricans No Easy 15 cm (5.9 in)
Blue hamlet
Hypoplectrus gemma Not with shrimp Moderate 13 cm (5.1 in)
Butter hamlet
Hypoplectrus unicolor Not with shrimp Easy 13 cm (5.1 in)
Golden hamlet Hypoplectrus gummigutta Not with shrimp Easy
Indigo hamlet
Hypoplectrus indigo 14 cm (5.5 in)
Shy hamlet
Hypoplectrus guttavarius Not with shrimp Moderate 13 cm (5.1 in)


Attractive and relatively small, Hawkfish make excellent additions to fish only or FOWLR aquariums. With extreme caution taken, they could be kept in reef aquariums, but because of their propensity to eat small ornamental shrimps and other mobile invertebrates (usually leaving sessile invertebrates alone) they are not considered reef safe. Lacking a swim bladder, Hawkfish can often be found resting in crevices of rocks or among the branches of corals or gorgonians. Hawkfish are easy to care for and not picky at all about water quality. A varied diet, including spirulina and small meaty foods like Mysis is recommended.[69]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Arc eye hawkfish
Paracirrhites arcatus Caution; will eat shrimp[49]:127 Easy[49]:127 Brown to yellow body with reddish dorsal fin, distinctive white caudal fin, and small semicircular marking behind eye. 20 cm (7.9 in)
Blood red hawkfish Cirrhitichthys fasciatus Caution; will eat shrimp[49]:123 Easy[49]:123 12.7 cm (5.0 in)
Coral hawkfish
Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus Caution; may eat small shrimp[49]:122 Easy[49]:122 8.5 cm (3.3 in)
Falco's hawkfish
Cirrhitichthys falco Caution; may eat small shrimp[49]:122 Easy[49]:122 7 cm (2.8 in)
Flame hawkfish
Neocirrhitus armatus Caution; may eat small shrimp[49]:125 Easy[49]:125 Striking red body with black on fin tips and yellow lips. 9 cm (3.5 in)
Freckled hawkfish
Paracirrhites forsteri Caution; will eat shrimp[49]:128 Easy[49]:128 22.5 cm (8.9 in)
Golden hawkfish Paracirrhites xanthus Caution; will eat shrimp[49]:128 Easy[49]:128 12 cm (4.7 in)
Longnose hawkfish
Oxycirrhites typus Caution; may eat small shrimp[49]:126 Easy[49]:126 White with red lattice-like markings resembling a grid. Nose is elongated and tissue between the spines of the dorsal fin is missing. 13 cm (5.1 in)
Lyretail hawkfish Cirrhitichthys polyactis Caution; may eat small shrimp[49]:124 Easy[49]:124 14 cm (5.5 in)
Redspotted hawkfish
Amblycirrhitus pinos Caution; may eat small shrimp[49]:120 Easy[49]:120 9.5 cm (3.7 in)
Spotted hawkfish
Cirrhitichthys aprinus Caution; may eat small shrimp[49]:122 Easy[49]:122 Bright red with distinctive diamond shaped markings down back, becoming darker towards the topside of body. 12.5 cm (4.9 in)
Whitespot hawkfish Paracirrhites hemistictus Caution; will eat shrimp[49]:128 Easy[49]:128 29 cm (11.4 in)
Yellow hawkfish
Cirrhitichthys aureus Caution; may eat small shrimp[49]:122 Easy[49]:122 7 cm (2.8 in)


Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Coral hogfish
Bodianus mesothorax No Moderate 20 cm (7.9 in)
Cuban hogfish
Bodianus pulchellus Caution Easy 28.5 cm (11.2 in)
Hawaiian hogfish
Bodianus bilunulatus Caution Easy 55 cm (21.7 in)
Red diana hogfish
Bodianus diana No Moderate 60 cm (23.6 in)
Spanish hogfish
Bodianus rufus No Moderate 40 cm (15.7 in)
Twin spot hogfish
Bodianus bimaculatus No Easy 10 cm (3.9 in)


Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Moorish idol Zanclus cornutus With Caution Expert Only 23 cm (9.1 in)


Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Golden pilotfish
Gnathanodon speciosus No Difficult
Indian threadfin
Alectis indicus No Difficult 165 cm (65.0 in)
Threadfin lookdown
Selene vomer No Difficult 48 cm (18.9 in)


Jawfish are burrowers and require a sandy substrate of sufficient depth.[70]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Black cap jawfish
Opistognathus lonchurus Almost always Moderate Requires a 30 gallon tank and 3 inches (7.6 cm) substrate. Tank should remain tightly lidded. May eat small shrimp. 10 cm (3.9 in)
Blue dot jawfish Opistognathus rosenblatti Yes Moderate 9 cm (3.5 in)
Dusky jawfish
Opistognathus whitehurstii Yes Moderate Requires a 30 gallon tank and 3 inches (7.6 cm) sand substrate. Tank should remain tightly lidded. 14 cm (5.5 in)
Yellowhead jawfish
Opistognathus aurifrons Yes Moderate Requires a 30 gallon tank and 5–7 inches (13–18 cm) soft substrate. Tank should remain tightly lidded. 10 cm (3.9 in)


"Lionfish" specifically refer to the genus Pterois within the family Scorpaenidae. They have venomous spines and should be treated with caution.[71] Other species within Scorpaenidae but outside Pterois may also have "lionfish" in their common names. Feeder goldfish are not the proper nutrition for a lion fish.

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Antenneta lionfish
Pterois antennata Caution Moderate 20 cm (7.9 in)
Blackfoot lionfish
Parapterois heterura Caution Easy 23.0 cm (9.1 in)
Devil lionfish
Pterois mombasae Caution Moderate 20 cm (7.9 in)
Fu Man Chu lionfish
Dendrochirus biocellatus Caution Difficult 13.0 cm (5.1 in)[72]
Fuzzy dwarf lionfish
Dendrochirus brachypterus Caution Moderate Carnivore; Males 6< stripes on pectoral fin femals >6 18 cm (7.1 in)
Green lionfish
Dendrochirus barberi Caution Easy 16.5 cm (6.5 in)
Radiata lionfish
Pterois radiata Moderate 24 cm (9.4 in)
Russell's lionfish Pterois russelli Easy to moderate 30 cm (11.8 in)
Volitan lionfish
Pterois volitans Caution Easy to moderate Semi-aggressive; carnivore 43 cm (16.9 in)
Zebra lionfish
Dendrochirus zebra Caution Moderate 25 cm (9.8 in)


Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Bicolor parrotfish
Cetoscarus bicolor Yes Expert Only 76 cm (29.9 in)
Princess parrotfish
Scarus taeniopterus Yes Expert Only 25 cm (9.8 in)


Pipefish are relatives of seahorses and require a similar level of care. They should only be bought by experienced aquarium owners. Captive bred specimens are sometimes available, and are significantly more likely to survive.[73]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Banded pipefish
Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus Yes Expert Only 20 cm (7.9 in)
Dragonface pipefish
Corythoichthys haematopterus Yes Difficult align="center" 18 cm (7.1 in)
Janss' pipefish Doryrhamphus janssi Yes Expert Only 20 cm (7.9 in)
Yellow multibanded pipefish
Doryrhamphus pessuliferus Yes Expert Only 18 cm (7.1 in)


Usually only a single specimen can be kept in an aquarium. Sometimes multiple specimens can be kept in larger aquariums, but usually this requires them to be added at the same time or they will be too territorial.[74]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Allen's dottyback Manonichthys alleni May eat shrimps[49]:106 Easy[49]:106 12 cm (4.7 in)
Australian multicolor pseudochromis Ogilbyina novaehollandiae May eat shrimps Moderate 10 cm (3.9 in)
Bicolor pseudochromis
Pseudochromis paccagnellae May eat shrimps Easy to moderate Resembles royal gramma in coloration. The bicolor pseudochromis is semi-aggressive and will defend its territory against fish several times its size. This fish is fairly hardy, and is a good beginner fish. 6 cm (2.4 in)
Blue flavivertex pseudochromis
Pseudochromis flavivertex May eat shrimps Moderate Captive bred specimens are sometimes available 8 cm (3.1 in)
Bluelined dottyback
Pseudochromis cyanotaenia May eat shrimps[49]:106 Easy[49]:106 6.1 cm (2.4 in)
Brown dottyback or yellow pseudochromis Pseudochromis aureus May eat shrimps Moderate 10 cm (3.9 in)
Cherry dottyback Pholidochromis cerasina May eat shrimps[49]:96 Easy[49]:96 7.9 cm (3.1 in)
Dilectus dottyback Pseudochromis dilectus May eat shrimps Moderate
Dusky dottyback
Pseudochromis fuscus May eat shrimps Moderate 10 cm (3.9 in)
Elongate dottyback Pseudochromis elongatus May eat shrimps[49]:107 Easy[49]:107 6.4 cm (2.5 in)
Firetail dottyback Pseudochromis flammicauda May eat shrimps[49]:107 Easy[49]:107 5.6 cm (2.2 in)
Fridmani pseudochromis or orchid dottyback
Pseudochromis fridmani May eat shrimps Easy to moderate Community fish does well in most aquariums. is not nearly as aggressive as other dottybacks. 8 cm (3.1 in)
Longfin dottyback Manonichthys polynemus May eat shrimps[49]:106 Easy[49]:106 12 cm (4.7 in)
Lyretail dottyback Pseudochromis steenei May eat shrimps Moderate 12 cm (4.7 in)
Neon pseudochromis, Arabian dottyback or neon dottyback
Pseudochromis aldabraensis May eat shrimps Moderate Captive bred specimens are sometimes available 10 cm (3.9 in)
Oblique-lined dottyback
Cypho purpurascens May eat shrimps[49]:91 Easy[49]:91 7.4 cm (2.9 in)
Orangetail dottyback Pseudochromis coccinicauda May eat shrimps[49]:102 Easy[49]:102 5.8 cm (2.3 in)
Purple stripe pseudochromis or diadema basslet
Pseudochromis diadema May eat shrimps Easy to moderate 6 cm (2.4 in)
Red dottyback
Labracinus cyclophthalmus With Caution Easy Large and aggressive for a dottyback 22 cm (8.7 in)
Sailfin pseudochromis Pseudochromis veliferus May eat shrimps Moderate 12 cm (4.7 in)
Splendid pseudochromis
Pseudochromis splendens May eat shrimps Moderate 13 cm (5.1 in)
Springeri pseudochromis
Pseudochromis springeri May eat shrimps Moderate Captive bred species are sometimes available 5 cm (2.0 in)
Striped dottyback
Pseudochromis sankeyi May eat shrimps Moderate Captive bred specimens are sometimes available 8 cm (3.1 in)
Strawberry pseudochromis or purple pseudochromis
Pseudochromis porphyreus May eat shrimps Easy to moderate 6 cm (2.4 in)
Twolined dottyback Pseudochromis bitaeniatus May eat shrimps[49]:101 Easy[49]:101 6.9 cm (2.7 in)


Less commonly kept than some other species, many still make hardy and colorful aquarium residents.[75][76]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Bicolor Foxface
Siganus uspi With Caution Moderate 24 cm (9.4 in)
Blue-Lined Rabbitfish
Siganus doliatus With Caution Moderate 25 cm (9.8 in)[77]
Siganus vulpinus Easy to Moderate 23 cm (9.1 in)
Magnificent foxface
Siganus magnificus Easy to Moderate 24 cm (9.4 in)
One Spot Foxface
Siganus unimaculatus With Caution Moderate 18 cm (7.1 in)
Yellow Blotch Rabbitfish
Siganus guttatus With Caution Moderate 42 cm (16.5 in)


All rays have a venomous spine near the base of the tail. Care must be taken to avoid this animal when performing tank maintenance and during capture.

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Fiddler stingray
Trygonorrhina fasciata No Expert Only Requires a minimum 360 gallon aquarium with a 1-meter width and a fine grained substrate. Coarse substrates may damage the underside of this animal, causing infection.
Round stingray
Urobatis halleri No Expert Only Requires a minimum 180 gallon aquarium and a fine grained substrate. Coarse substrates may damage the underside of this animal, causing infection. 31 cm (12.2 in)
Spotted caribbean stingray Urolophus spp. No Expert Only Requires a minimum 180 gallon aquarium and a fine grained substrate. Coarse substrates may damage the underside of this animal, causing infection.
Thornback stingray
Platyrhinoidis triseriata No Expert Only Requires a minimum 360 gallon aquarium with a 1-meter width


Because they are relatively inactive fish, most species can be kept in smaller aquariums than other equally large fish, and 30 gallon tanks are not unusual. Because they are capable of eating fish that are surprisingly large, but will often be picked at by fish that eat invertebrates a species tank is often set up for them. Some fish will never accept anything but live food, typically these specimens are fed on gut packed guppies, mollies, or ghost shrimp. Similarly to the lionfish, care should be taken when handling these fish as they are also venomous.[78][79]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Ambon scorpionfish
Pteroidichthys amboinensis Not with shrimp or small fish Moderate 12 cm (4.7 in)[49]:46
Decoy scorpionfish Iracundus signifer Not with shrimp or small fish Moderate 13 cm (5.1 in)[49]:48
Eschmeyer's scorpionfish
Rhinopias eschmeyeri Not with shrimp or small fish Moderate 19 cm (7.5 in)[49]:46
Flasher scorpionfish Scorpaenopsis macrochir Not with shrimp or small fish Moderate 13 cm (5.1 in)[49]:48
Lacey scorpionfish
Rhinopias aphanes Not with shrimp or small fish Moderate 24 cm (9.4 in)[49]:46
Leaf scorpionfish
Taenianotus triacanthus With Caution Moderate 10 cm (3.9 in)[80]
Mozambique scorpionfish Parascorpaena mossambica Not with shrimp or small fish Moderate 10 cm (3.9 in)[49]:48
Papuan scorpionfish
Scorpaenopsis papuensis Not with shrimp or small fish Moderate 20 cm (7.9 in)[49]:48
Poss's scorpionfish Scorpaenopsis possi Not with shrimp or small fish Moderate 19.3 cm (7.6 in)[49]:48
Rogue scorpion Amblyapistus taenionotus With Caution Moderate 10 cm (3.9 in)
Sea goblin
Inimicus didactylus Not with shrimp or small fish Moderate 18 cm (7.1 in)[81]
Stone fish
Synanceja verrucosa No Difficult Highly venomous! Have caused human deaths 40 cm (15.7 in)
Weedy scorpionfish
Rhinopias frondosa Not with shrimp or small fish Moderate 23 cm (9.1 in)[49]:46
Yellowspotted scorpionfish Sebastapistes cyanostigma Not with shrimp or small fish Moderate 8 cm (3.1 in)[49]:48


It takes a special aquarist to maintain these delicate beauties. A potential keeper must be dedicated and willing to throw artistic creativity to the winds- as what seahorses need is not always beautiful. They require taller tanks, live/frozen food, and many hitching posts, as well as very peaceful tankmates. In fact, beginners would be well-advised not to mix seahorses with any other species until they have more experience.
Seahorses found in stores are generally Captive Bred, but occasionally one might find a wild caught (WC) specimen. WC Seahorses should only be purchased by seahorse experts who are going to breed them, as they tend to be finicky and most are endangered in the wild.
One of the advantages of Seahorses is that many species stay small and can (in fact, some should) be kept in smaller tanks, making them ideal for aquarists who are pressed for space or money.[82][83]

Seahorses are among the few popular marine aquarium species that can be temperate. Species vary in their temperature requirement, so here an extra category has been added.
TR=Tropical ST=Sub-Tropical TM=Temperate

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Temp. Care Level Description Max size
Brazilian seahorse
Hippocampus reidi Caution ST Difficult Usually bright yellow, with a particularly long snout. 17 cm (6.7 in)
Spotted seahorse
Hippocampus kuda Caution TR Difficult Generally yellow, but can also range from tan to dark black. 30 cm (11.8 in)
Great seahorse
Hippocampus kelloggi Caution ST Difficult Light tan, with some darker specimens. 28 cm (11.0 in)
Pot-bellied seahorse
Hippocampus abdominalis Caution TM Difficult Light colored with dark spots and a large abdomen. 25 cm (9.8 in)
Pygmy seahorse
Hippocampus bargibanti Caution TR Difficult White with pink (occasionally yellow) knobby protrusions. 2.4 cm (0.9 in)
Short-snouted seahorse
Hippocampus breviceps Caution TM Difficult Grayish to tan with short snout and a spiny head. 15 cm (5.9 in)
Tiger tail seahorse Hippocampus comes Caution TR Difficult Varying colors with dark striped tail. 18 cm (7.1 in)
Lined Seahorse
Hippocampus erectus Caution ST Difficult Dark colored with ligher belly and white ridges. 19 cm (7.5 in)
White's Seahorse
Hippocampus whitei Caution TM Difficult Fuller bodied with a comparatively larger head. 13 cm (5.1 in)
Dwarf Seahorse
Hippocampus zosterae Caution ST Difficult Similar to H. reidi but much smaller. 5 cm (2.0 in)
Thorny Seahorse
Hippocampus histrix Caution TR Difficult Varying colors with distinctive spines all over body. 17 cm (6.7 in)


Typically are hardy fish that can be kept with a wide variety of tankmates.[84][85]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Big eye soldierfish
Myripristis vittata With Caution Easy 25 cm (9.8 in)
Blackbar soldierfish
Myripristis jacobus With Caution Easy 25 cm (9.8 in)
Glass eye squirrelfish
Heteropriacanthus cruentatus With Caution Moderate 30 cm (11.8 in)
Popeye catalufa soldierfish
Pristigenys serrula With Caution Moderate 34 cm (13.4 in)
Scarlet squirrelfish Sargocentron tiere With Caution Easy 33 cm (13.0 in)
Striped squirrelfish
Sargocentron xantherythrum With Caution Moderate 18 cm (7.1 in)


Main article: Sharks in captivity

Will outgrow most home aquariums.[86][87]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Black banded cat shark
Chiloscyllium punctatum No Difficult Requires a 180+ gallon tank. 104 cm (40.9 in)
Coral cat shark
Atelomycterus marmoratus No Difficult Requires a 180+ gallon tank. 24 in
Epaulette shark
Hemiscyllium ocellatum No Difficult Requires a 180+ gallon tank.[88]
Northern wobbegong shark
Orectolobus wardi No Expert Only Requires 300+ gallon tank
Nurse shark
Ginglymostoma cirratum No Expert Only Grows to over 14 feet and will outgrow any home aquarium
Ornate wobbegong shark
Orectolobus ornatus No Expert Only Grows to near nine feet and will outgrow a home aquarium
Port Jackson shark
Heterodontus portusjacksoni No Expert Only Requires a 1000-gallon tank. 1.67 m (5.5 ft)
Spotted wobbegong shark
Orectolobus maculatus No Expert Only Grows to near nine feet and will outgrow a home aquarium
Whitespotted bambooshark
Chiloscyllium plagiosum No Difficult Requires a 180-gallon tank. 93 cm (36.6 in)


Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Black snapper, black and white snapper
Macolor niger No Expert Only 76 cm (29.9 in)
Emperor snapper
Lutjanus sebae No Expert Only 114 cm (44.9 in)
Threadfin snapper
Symphorichthys spilurus No Expert Only 58 cm (22.8 in)
Yellowback fusilier
Caesio xanthonota No Intermediate 38 cm (15.0 in)
Yellow-Banded Snapper, Hussar Emperor Snapper
Lutjanus adetii No Expert Only 50 cm (19.7 in)


Tangs generally feed on algae, though there are a few carnivorous species. Most tangs will not tolerate other fish the same color and/or shape as them. They have a spine on their tails that can cut open other fish and unprotected hands. All tangs should be given plenty of swimming room; try to have at least a 4' tank. Contrary to popular belief they will tolerate smaller (4' to 5') tanks just fine but tend to live better in larger tanks, over 5'.[89]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Achilles tang
Acanthurus achilles Yes Expert Only Passive aggressive. This fish is native to the waters of Hawaii and the South Pacific and therefore requires substantial turbulent flow and circulation to be kept in an aquarium. This fish should only be kept in a six-foot or large aquarium as it requires a large amount of swim room. Very prone to Cryptocaryon irritans 28 cm (11.0 in)
Atlantic blue tang
Acanthurus coeruleus Yes Moderate Less aggressive than Achilles or Powder Blue 16 in
Blue eyed tang
Ctenochaetus binotatus Yes Easy
Blue lined surgeonfish
Acanthurus nigroris Yes Easy
Bristletooth tang
Ctenochaetus striatus Yes Easy to moderate
Chevron tang
Ctenochaetus hawaiiensis Yes Easy to moderate Bright orange when young and dark olive green when transitioned fully to juvenile.
Clown tang
Acanthurus lineatus Yes Difficult One of the most aggressive tangs 15 inches
Convict tang
Acanthurus triostegus Yes Easy
Desjardini tang
Zebrasoma desjardinii Yes Moderate
Acanthurus chirurgus Yes Easy
Dussumieri tang
Acanthurus dussumieri Yes Difficult 53 cm (20.9 in)[90]
Eibli mimic tang Acanthurus tristis Yes Moderate
Gold rim tang
Acanthurus nigricans Yes Difficult
Regal / Hippo tang
Paracanthurus hepatus Yes Moderate Very prone to Cryptocaryon irritans. More tolerant of other tangs than most other species.
Kole tang
Ctenochaetus strigosus Yes Easy to moderate
Lavender tang
Acanthurus nigrofuscus Yes Moderate
Lopezi tang Naso lopezi Yes Easy
Mimic tang, Chocolate tang
Acanthurus pyroferus Yes Easy to moderate
Naso tang, blonde naso tang
Naso lituratus Yes Easy to moderate
Orange shoulder tang
Acanthurus olivaceus Yes Moderate
Powder blue tang
Acanthurus leucosternon Yes Moderate to Difficult Very prone to Cryptocaryon irritans.
Powder brown tang
Acanthurus japonicus Yes Moderate
Purple tang
Zebrasoma xanthurus Yes Easy to moderate
Sailfin tang
Zebrasoma veliferum Yes Easy to moderate
Scopas tang
Zebrasoma scopas Yes Easy to moderate Similar to the yellow tang in shape and feeding.[91]
Sohal tang
Acanthurus sohal Yes Difficult One of the larger more aggressive tangs 40 cm (15.7 in)
Tennent tang
Acanthurus tennenti Yes Easy
Thompson's surgeonfish
Acanthurus thompsoni Yes Moderate 28 cm (11.0 in)
Tomini tang
Ctenocheatus tominiensis Yes Easy
Unicorn tang
Naso unicornis Yes Moderate
Vlamingi tang
Naso vlamingii Yes Easy
White freckled surgeon Acanthurus maculiceps Yes Easy
Yellow tang
Zebrasoma flavescens Yes Easy The yellow tangs require ample swimming room and plenty of algae to graze on. A single tang will not tolerate another of its kind unless there is ample space for each tang to have their own territory. They require high oxygen levels. Can be kept in shoals when a tank of at least 5 ft is provided.
Yellowfin surgeon
Acanthurus xanthopterus Yes Moderate


Though often categorized as gobies, tilefish are a separate species.[92][93]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Blue-headed tilefish
Hoplolatilus starcki Moderate 10 cm (3.9 in)
Purple tilefish Hoplolatilus purpureus Moderate 15 cm (5.9 in)
Yellow tilefish Hoplolatilus luteus Moderate 15 cm (5.9 in)
Redlined tilefish Hoplolatilus marcosi Moderate


While they are generally considered monsters that will chomp invertebrates, a few species can make great reef fish. Other more aggressive species such as the Undulated Trigger, and Clown Trigger will sometimes be so aggressive that it is necessary to keep as the sole inhabitant of the aquarium. All will require large tanks, with good filtration.[94][95][96]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Assasi trigger
Rhinecanthus assasi No Easy 30 cm (11.8 in)
Blue jaw trigger / blue throat trigger
Xanthichthys auromarginatus Widely regarded as the only reef safe trigger. Moderate 30 cm (11.8 in)
Blue line trigger
Pseudobalistes fuscus No Moderate 55 cm (21.7 in)
Bursa trigger
Rhinecanthus verrucosus No easy 23 cm (9.1 in)
Clown trigger
Balistoides conspicillum No Easy 50 cm (19.7 in)
Crosshatch trigger Xanthichthys mento No Easy A shy reserved fish when first added to the aquarium, comes into its own when it associates itself with the aquarist. Infrequently available[97] 29 cm (11.4 in)
Goldenback trigger Xanthichthys caeruleolineatus No Easy Rarely available 35 cm (13.8 in)
Golden heart trigger
Balistes punctatus No Intermediate 61 cm (24.0 in)
Halfmoon trigger
Sufflamen chrysopterum No Easy 30 cm (11.8 in)
Hawaiian black trigger
Melichthys niger No Moderate 50 cm (19.7 in)
Lei trigger
Sufflamen bursa No Moderate 25 cm (9.8 in)
Indian black trigger
Melichthys indicus No Moderate 25 cm (9.8 in)
Niger trigger
Odonus niger No Easy Among the more peaceful of triggers, can usually be kept in a community tank 50 cm (19.7 in)
Picasso trigger
Rhinecanthus aculeatus No Easy to Moderate 30 cm (11.8 in)
Pinktail trigger
Melichthys vidua No Moderate 40 cm (15.7 in)
Queen trigger
Balistes vetula No Moderate A large fish that should only be kept in very large aquariums. 60 cm (23.6 in)
Rectangular trigger
Rhinecanthus rectangulus No Easy 30 cm (11.8 in)
Sargassum trigger
Xanthichthys ringens No Easy A shy reserved fish when first added to the aquarium, comes into its own when it associates itself with the aquarist. Infrequently available 25 cm (9.8 in)
Starry trigger
Abalistes stellatus No Easy 60 cm (23.6 in)
Titan trigger
Balistoides viridescens No Moderate Can only be housed in the largest of marine aquariums 75 cm (29.5 in)
Undulated trigger
Balistapus undulatus No Easy Probably the most aggressive fish kept in marine aquariums. Older specimens should be housed alone. 30 cm (11.8 in)
Whitetail trigger
Sufflamen albicaudatum With Caution Easy 22 cm (8.7 in)


A diverse group of fish with an equally wide range of characteristics. Some wrasse species are aggressive towards small fish and invertebrates, others are reef safe. Some are quite hardy, some typically die within weeks.[98][99]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Banana wrasse
Thalassoma lutescens No Easy 30 cm (11.8 in)
Bird wrasse
Gomphosus varius No Easy 28 cm (11.0 in)
Bluehead wrasse
Thalassoma bifasciatum With Caution Easy-moderate 28 cm (11.0 in)
Carpenter's flasher wrasse
Paracheilinus carpenteri Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Moderate 8 cm (3.1 in)
Cheeklined maori wrasse Cheilinus diagrammus No Moderate 36 cm (14.2 in)[100]
Christmas wrasse
Thalassoma trilobatum No 15 cm (5.9 in)
Cortez rainbow wrasse
Thalassoma lucasanum No Moderate 15 cm (5.9 in)
Dragon wrasse
Novaculichthys taeniourus No Moderate 30 cm (11.8 in)
Eight line wrasse
Pseudocheilinus octotaenia Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Easy to moderate
Exquisite fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus exquisitus Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Difficult 10 cm (3.9 in)
Fine-spotted fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus punctatus Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Difficult 10 cm (3.9 in)
Flame wrasse
Cirrhilabrus jordani Yes Moderate 10 cm (3.9 in)
Formosa wrasse
Coris formosa No Moderate 61 cm (24.0 in)
Four line wrasse
Pseudocheilinus tetrataenia Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Easy to moderate
Goldbar wrasse
Thalassoma hebraicum With Caution Moderate 23 cm (9.1 in)
Pastel-green wrasse
Halichoeres chloropterus With Caution Moderate 20 cm (7.9 in)
Greenback fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus scottorum Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Difficult 15 cm (5.9 in)
Harlequin tusk
Choerodon fasciatus Generally, yes, but may eat shrimps Moderate
Hoeven's wrasse
Halichoeres melanurus With Caution Easy 13 cm (5.1 in)
Jansen saddle wrasse
Thalassoma jansenii No Easy 20 cm (7.9 in)
Labout's fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus laboutei Yes Easy 8 cm (3.1 in)
Leopard wrasse
Macropharyngodon meleagris Yes Expert Only 15 cm (5.9 in)[101]
Lineatus fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus lineatus Yes Easy 13 cm (5.1 in)
Longfin fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus rubriventralis Yes Easy 8 cm (3.1 in)
Lyretail wrasse/Moon wrasse
Thalassoma lunare No Moderate 25 cm (9.8 in)
Marble wrasse
Halichoeres hortulanus No Easy-moderate 28 cm (11.0 in)
McCosker's flasher wrasse Paracheilinus mccoskeri Yes Easy 15 cm (5.9 in)
Multicolor lubbock's wrasse
Cirrhilabrus lubbocki Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Easy 8 cm (3.1 in)
Multicolor velvet wrasse
Cirrhilabrus cyanopleura Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Moderate
Mystery wrasse
Pseudocheilinus ocellatus Yes Easy
Orange-back fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus aurantidorsalis Yes Easy 13 cm (5.1 in)
Pinkface wrasse
Thalassoma quinquevittatum With Caution Easy 15 cm (5.9 in)
Potter's wrasse
Macropharyngodon geoffroyi Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Difficult
Red coris wrasse
Coris gaimard No Easy 36 cm (14.2 in)
Red-head fairy wrasse
Cirrhilabrus solorensis Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Difficult 13 cm (5.1 in)
Red velvet wrasse Cirrhilabrus rubrisquamis Yes Easy 8 cm (3.1 in)
Scarlet pin stripe wrasse
Pseudocheilinus evanidus Yes Moderate 8 cm (3.1 in)
Six line wrasse
Pseudocheilinus hexataenia Yes Easy to moderate Small pink fish with six purple horizontal lines. 8 cm (3.1 in)
Radiant wrasse
Halichoeres iridis Yes Easy 15 cm (5.9 in)
Rhomboid fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus rhomboidalis Yes Moderate Golden body with purple horizontal stripes on head. 13 cm (5.1 in)
Whip fin fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus filamentosus Yes Easy 9 cm (3.5 in)
Yellow wrasse
Halichoeres chrysus Yes With Caution Yellow body with three or occasionally four black dots on dorsal fins. Require sand bed for sleeping. 13 cm (5.1 in)
Yellow & purple wrasse Halichoeres trispilus Yes With Caution 13 cm (5.1 in)
Yellowband wrasse Cirrhilabrus luteovittatus Yes Moderate 13 cm (5.1 in)
Yellow fin fairy wrasse
Cirrhilabrus flavidorsalis Yes Moderate 8 cm (3.1 in)
Yellow-flanked fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus lyukyuensis Yes Moderate 10 cm (3.9 in)

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Marine aquarium fish.


  1. Michael, Scott (December 2003). "Beautiful Holocanthus Angels". Aquarium Fish Magazine. pp. 58–64.
  2. 1 2 Fenner, Robert (2001). The Conscientious Marine Aquarist: A Commonsense Handbook for Successful Saltwater Hobbyists. Neptune City, NJ: THF Publications. ISBN 978-1-890087-02-9.
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  4. "Aquarium Fish: Large Angels in the Home Aquarium, Part II". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
  5. "Marine Angelfishes, Family Pomacanthidae". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
  6. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Genicanthus bellus" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  7. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Holocanthus bermudensis" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  8. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Pomacanthus zonipectus" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  9. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Pomacanthus imperator" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  10. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Pomacanthus paru" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  11. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Pomacanthus arcuatus" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  12. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Pomacanthus maculosus" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  13. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Pomacanthus semicirculatus" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
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  15. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Holocanthus passer" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
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  17. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Pygoplites diacanthus" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  18. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Genicanthus semifasciatus" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  19. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2011). "Apolemichthys xanthurus" in FishBase. November 2011 version.
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  21. "What a Darling Little Angel: The Genus Centropyge". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
  22. "The Pygmy Angelfishes". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
  23. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Centropyge multifasciata" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  24. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Centropyge bispinosus" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  25. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Centropyge argi" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  26. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Centropyge eibli" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  27. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Centropyge loricula" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  28. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Centropyge vroliki" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  29. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Centropyge heraldi" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  30. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Centropyge flavissima" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  31. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Centropyge acanthops" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  32. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Centropyge flavicauda" in FishBase. December 2008 version.
  33. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Centropyge potteri" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
  34. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2008). "Centropyge ferrugata" in FishBase. July 2008 version.
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  37. "The Basses, Family Serranidae". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
  38. "The Basses Called Hinds, Genus Cephalopholis". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
  39. "The Soapfishes, Family Grammistidae, or Tribe Grammistini of the Serranidae, in part, or...". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
  40. "Some Guys Like 'em Big:The Genus Plectropomus". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
  41. "The Comet (Calloplesiops altivelis)". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
  42. "The Roundhead Called the Marine Betta, Calloplesiops altivelis, Family Plesiopsidae". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
  43. "Grammas". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
  44. "Yellow Assessor, Assessor flavissimus". Retrieved 2008-12-19.
  45. "Blennioids: Blennies and Blenny-Like Fishes". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
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  54. "Small-Man's Complex: The Genus Stegastes". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
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  56. "Worms Not Found in the Sandbed: The Genus Ptereleotris". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
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  58. "...I'd like to buy a Mandarin!". Retrieved 2008-12-19.
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  98. "The Wrasses, Family Labridae". Retrieved 2008-12-18.
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