Choosing Your Fish

There are so many different saltwater fish available that choosing which fish to include in your tank can be an overwhelming task. The easiest way to get over this hurdle is to educate yourself on the wide variety of saltwater fish and begin narrowing down your choices. First, learn which species are not recommended for beginner hobbyists. Then, narrow down your options even more by learning which fish are highly recommended for those that are new to the hobby. From there, learn more about those fish and their care requirements, and decide which fish will inhabit your tank.

Recommended Fish

Damsels are beautiful, small fish that come in a rainbow of colors and are an excellent selection for beginner aquarists. They are very adaptable to the different tank environments and can tolerate many of the ups and downs that often accompany a new tank. They are also good eaters, readily consuming a wide variety of flake, freeze dried, frozen, and live foods.

Clownfish are closely related to damsels and also make an excellent fish for novice saltwater aquarists. Their playful disposition and brilliant coloring make them appealing to the majority of saltwater hobbyists, novice and experienced. They do not need an anemone to survive, so just about any marine aquarium will make a good home for them. Species that are especially delightful include the maroon clownfish, Clark's clownfish, and the tomato clownfish.

While large angelfish are not suitable residents for the tank of a novice aquarist, dwarf angelfish will flourish in just about any saltwater setup, due to their small size (about 5 inches) and adaptability. To make sure your dwarf angel feels a sense of security, provide some snug corners and hiding spots in your tank for this shy, beautiful creature. Dwarf angelfish will accept a variety of plant foods in all different forms. Some suggested species for the beginner include the coral beauty, the lemonpeel angelfish, and the flame angelfish.

More on Recommended Fish

Not Recommended

There are many, many saltwater fish available in the pet trade, but not all are suitable for beginner hobbyists, and some are not suitable for any tank at all. Many people are tempted to choose which species to include in their saltwater tank based solely on the appearance of the fish, but this is a dangerous method. There are a great many saltwater fish that are breathtakingly beautiful but not appropriate or safe for life in captivity, particularly in the tank of a novice aquarist. The fish listed below are just a few examples.

Venomous species

There are quite a few species of venomous saltwater fish that are commonly offered for sale. Venomous species are fish that are able to inflict a painful toxic sting by means of sharp spines on their bodies. As is true of most animals, venomous fish can be some of the most beautiful species, but they should not be kept by beginners. One venomous fish that is commonly seen for sale is the lionfish. Although lionfish are generally not aggressive, their sting is quite painful. Several species of lionfish can do well under the care of an advanced hobbyist, but a few species of lionfish (one being the stonefish) are dangerous for all aquarists, regardless of their experience level. The venom of these fish can cause paralysis or death.


While not recommended for the beginner aquarist, butterflyfish are amazingly beautiful creatures. Some species can be kept by advanced hobbyists, but other species rarely do well in any captive environment, including the four-eyes butterflyfish, the ornate butterflyfish, and the chevron butterflyfish. These fish have very specific dietary requirements that are virtually impossible for the average aquarist to provide.

Moorish Idol

The Moorish idol is the only species in its genus and has a very unique appearance to match. It is black, white, and yellow with a distinctly pointed snout. Unfortunately, these beautiful fish are not recommended for captive aquariums, particularly those of novice hobbyists. Their natural environment is in the Pacific and Indian oceans, so they will take quite a long and stressful journey before arriving at your local fish store. This is thought to be a major part of the reason that they rarely survive for long in captivity.

Consult Our Marine Experts

As always, we urge you to consult the marine experts at Bob's Tropical Fish for assistance in selecting your fish and the kind of tank you plan to keep.