First Time Reefkeeper – A Few Easy Fish Species.
A Few Easy Fish Species for the Beginner.
When it comes to fish I’d encourage you to keep fish of a size proportionate to the size of your tank, preferably fish that remain small, and above all fish that are compatible with each other. Make sure you don’t pick fish that will be a danger to any other inhabitants of your reef or that have demanding dietary requirements, try to stick with planktivores and herbivores.
As this is probably your first reef tank I do urge you to make life as simple as possible for yourself and be conservative. Stick to nice easy to keep small, reef friendly fish at least for the first year of your reef’s life.
Best choices would be small planktivores and small herbivores. Try and avoid any animal that might look on a fellow tank mate as a possible snack. And, if at all possible, try and buy captive bred species. At the time of writing there aren’t that many captive bred species available, but as time goes by I hope to see more and more. The main advantage of captive bred isn’t necessarily to do with reef conservation, though in the case of clownfishes that may come into it, but rather that you get a fish that is used to aquarium conditions. These are fish that are acclimated to artificial salt, to prepared foods, and are more likely to be disease free than wild caught fish.
The perfect reef fish, never straying far from home in the wild, the ideal reef aquarium fish. Unless you have a compelling reason for choosing one of the larger or less common species I’d suggest sticking with Amphiprion ocellaris. This is the most commonly seen of the clownfishes and readily available as captive bred.
Many damsels can be more trouble than they’re worth in a mixed reef and can often come into conflict with clownfishes in smaller aquaria.
They can be good alternative to clowns but don’t think, “Oh, I’ll just keep them for a while then remove them before trying something else.” Remember it can be very difficult to extract unwanted fish from a heavily aquascaped tank; you may even have to strip the tank to remove them. Beware of retailers who suggest that you cycle your reef with a pair of clowns, this is outdated advice.
Recommended species – Chrysiptera cyanae, the Yellowtail Blue Damselfish or Pomacentrus alleni, Allen’s Damselfish; both of these species are among the most peaceful of the damselfishes and can be kept quite easily as pairs, or in a well aquascaped tank, in groups.
Nemateleotris magnifica, the Fire Goby or Firefish is a great choice for the peaceful community tank. A small planktivore, often timid on introduction, but when settled it’ll hover out in the open above its chosen hiding place. Keep singly or in pairs.
These fishes can be nervous until they’re settled in, often jumping out of the aquarium at night. For the first week I’d suggest putting a temporary cover over an open tank during the hours of darkness.
There are many species of goby especially suitable for the smaller tank, the majority of them are peaceful and remain small. My recommendations include: Amblygobius rainsfordi, Rainsford’s Goby; Elacatinus oceanops or its cousin Elacatinus evelynae, the Neon gobies which are cleaner species who’ll groom other fish, oceanops being bright blue, evelynae being gold or yellow.
Gramma loreto, the Royal Gramma. One of my favourites, this is a very striking fish with its half purple half yellow colouring. Keep as one large or medium fish with one or two smaller fish, do not confuse with the similarly coloured Pseudochromis paccagnellae, the Royal Dottyback, a very aggressive species from the Western Pacific.
These are small angelfishes from the genus Centropyge, mainly ranging from 6 cms to 15 cms in length. They can make a great choice of specimen fish for the smaller tank i.e. tanks too small to accommodate a Tang. May have a tendency to “nibble” at some corals, this may only be browsing on sugar or bacteria rich mucus or it may result in damage to certain corals. The potential for damage varies from fish to fish and from species to species but nevertheless many aquarists love them in a reef tank for their beauty. A personal favourite here would be Centropyge argi, the Cherub Angel. Other very popular species include Centropyge bispinosa, the Coral Beauty, and Centropyge loricula, the Flame Angel a stunningly bright red fish. Please think carefully before taking any of these on. They are beginner friendly but they may affect your reef in ways you might find undesirable.
As with the Gobies there are many species of peaceful, small fish to choose from. We can roughly split them into herbivores and planktivores.
Herbivores: include Escenius bicolor, the Bicolor Blenny and Salarius fasciatus, the Jewelled Rockskipper or common Algae blenny; both species used to keep algae under control in the reef. Note: don’t mix species of herbivorous blennies in the smaller aquarium; this can lead to fighting.
Planktivores: can be typified by Escenius midas, the Midas Blenny, an endearing colourful species.
I’d guess most aquarists hold affection for Zebrasoma flavescens, the Yellow Tang, and fortunately it’s a fish that does well in the aquarium, an alternative could be Zebrasoma scopas, the Brown or Scopas tang. These are two of the smallest tangs but I’d still urge you to ensure you don’t put them in anything less than a 250-litre tank. As they’re herbivores supplement their diet with greens of marine origin.
Serranus tortugarum, the Chalk Bass; a lovely, small, social species of seabass. Always keep in a small group, makes a great beginner’s fish.
I’ve looked at fewer than twenty species of fish here out of the many hundreds that are available in the aquarium hobby. These are fish that I’d recommend to you as good starter species, though not necessarily all together. It’s impossible to make an article like this exhaustive, so before you make your own choice do your own research and make sure that the fish you choose are compatible with each other and with the other animals you wish to keep.
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