15 Popular Saltwater Fish for Beginners

Some of the most beautiful aquariums are those that contain fish from the sea.  It has been said that keeping saltwater fish is a bit more difficult than freshwater fish; that is not really the case.

Maintaining a saltwater aquarium has gotten easier in recent years. Saltwater fish are more sensitive, whereas freshwater fish are hardy.   Just like freshwater, maintenance is the key to any fishkeeping situation.

Keeping a saltwater tank could present somewhat of a challenge; you don’t want to get fish that are hard to maintain, but you don’t want fish that are uninteresting. There are interesting and colorful species of fish that are easily cared for. Just like freshwater, maintenance is the key to any fishkeeping situation.

There are certain fish that are ideal for your aquarium if you are a beginning fish keeper. A beginner does not want a huge tank. So, you want fish that don’t require too much space; fish that stay below 5 or 6 inches.

You want fish that are hardy and easily adaptable to similar environments in the tank. Lastly, no one wants to have fish that are going to be overly aggressive.


Ocellarus Clown Fish

The Ocellaris Clownfish is one of the most popular and easiest for the saltwater aquarium.  These fish are also known as False Persicula or Common Clownfish. It was the very popular clownfish from, “Finding Nemo”.

This fish establishes and maintains its own territory within the tank. The Ocellarus Clown fish acclimates very well to the tank environment. They like to hang out with anemones. They will need at least a 30-gallon tank.

True Percula Clownfish

The True Percula Clownfish is also known as the Clown Anenome Fish. It is one of the most popular and easiest fish for your saltwater aquarium.

The true Percula Clownfish is a very hardy fish and highly recommended for beginners. It is an omnivore and will accept most foods.


There are many types of Angelfish. Some that are great for beginning saltwater aquarists and some for experts. They are hardy fish, an omnivore that eats both plant and animal foods.

Angelfish are known to be semi-aggressive in behavior. They’re not expensive and they are readily available. There are two Angelfish species that are especially ideal for beginners. Angelfish will need at least a 75-gallon tank.

Coral Beauty Angelfish

This fish is also known as the two-spined Angelfish.  A very colorful fish with a deep blue body color, with yellow highlights.  This is a dwarf Angelfish. The Coral Beauty Angelfish will not grow beyond 4 inches.

The Coral Beauty acclimates very well to the aquarium. Not a picky eater, it will graze on the algae in the tank. This is a hardy fish.  It is inexpensive and readily available.

This Angelfish is not as aggressive as many of the others. Some may become territorial in a small space. The Coral Beauty Angelfish is active but very peaceful.

Flame Angelfish

Is also known as the Japanese Pygmy Angelfish. This fish usually adapts well to captivity. It is best kept single or in a mating pair. The Flame angelfish is semi-aggressive.

This Angelfish is best with less aggressive fish. It can’t be trusted around invertebrates; they could be food. It accepts either plant or animal foods.

Lawn Mower Blenny

The Lawnmower Blenny is also known as the Jeweled Rockscipper. This fish is a great consumer of algae. So, it is very beneficial for the tank. It is a bottom dweller, having an excellent camo color and pattern. It is very peaceful.

The Lawnmower Blenny can grow up to 5 inches. It likes to have plenty of live rock around and of course an abundance of algae. This fish is an herbivore and is moderately easy to care for.


Butterflyfish are some of the prettiest in the sea. There are many different varieties. Not all of them are suitable for your fish tank. They can be considered moderate to difficult to take care of. They need to be in a large tank.

Kleins Butterfly Fish

The Kleins Butterfly Fish needs a tank that is at least 120-gallons. It can be kept with its own species if they are all introduced to the environment at the same time.

The maximum size of this fish is 6 inches.  They are easy to care for and they have a peaceful disposition. They are omnivores, not picky eaters.

Auriga Butterfly Fish

Also known as the Threadfin Butterfly, this fish is pretty easy to keep and care for. It needs plenty of places to hide.  Will settle in nicely with non-aggressive fish.

You may have a difficult time trying to coax this fish into eating prepared food

Raccoon Butterfly Fish

This fish is also called the Crescent Masked fish. It is one of the easier ones to keep and care for. The Raccoon Butterfly fish needs plenty of spaces to hide. It prefers to be with non-aggressive fish. The Raccoon Butterfly fish is not suited for a reef tank.

Blue-Green Reef Chromis

The Blue Green Chromis has beautiful colorings, a baby blue dorsal fin which fades into green as it reaches the fish’s side. Its maximum size is 4 inches and they need a 30-gallon tank.

This fish goes along nicely with most any non-aggressive fish.  It adapts well to tank life. The reef Chromis will not bother coral or the other invertebrates. The Chromis is a schooling fish and has a very peaceful demeanor.

Yellow Damselfish

The Yellow Damselfish is a favorite for the aquarium. It is known to be aggressive at times. The Yellow Damsel Fish gets along well with any other non-aggressive fish. It is very hardy with gorgeous colors.

The Yellow Damselfish will usually leave coral and other invertebrates alone as it adapts to the tank. This fish needs at least a 30-gallon tank. The Yellow Damsel is mostly a carnivore.

Goby Fish

Gobies are a popular community fish. They are quite peaceful but can be territorial. There are many varieties of Gobies. They can either swim near the surface of the water or down close to the sand.

They are great together as a bonded pair, otherwise they should be kept with a different variety. They are small and playful; growing only to 2 inches. Gobies are very easy to care for. Gobies will need at least a 30-gallon tank.

Firefish Goby

This fish is very docile. It can be kept singly or as a mated pair. The Firefish Goby is rather shy and timid. He will most likely hide until he feels secure.

Then when comfortable in its surroundings the Firefish Goby has a delightful personality and is peaceful. He might leap from the tank when startled, if there is no lid.

The Firefish Goby is easy to care for. It will grow up to 3 inches. These fish are carnivores.

Orange Spotted Goby

The Orange Spotted Goby is a cute addition to the tank. He will spend his time sifting through the substrate, filtering the sand for uneaten food. So, it will definitely keep the substrate clean. His diet should be supplemented with small live and frozen shrimp and prepared foods for carnivores.

Sleeper Banded Goby

This is another Goby that will keep the substrate clean. He likes to burrow. The Sleeper Banded Goby is rarely aggressive, but he will fight for his territory. He may jump out of the tank if it is uncovered.

The sleeper Banded Goby has an interesting body composition and is cool to watch. It will keep the tank glass and rocks clean, as well as the substrate.

Flame Hawk fish

This is a beautiful fish with a deep red coloring around the eyes and dorsal fin and a fiery red body. It is a bottom dweller and should not be housed with other bottom dwellers. So, it will not do well with Gobies or Blennies.

The Flame Hawk fish can grow to be 4 inches in length. This fish needs plenty of space, at least a 30-gallon tank. There should be numerous live rocks within the aquarium. This is a hardy and tolerable fish. It can withstand changes in water parameters.

The Flame Hawk fish may be aggressive towards smaller fish. This fish will attack small invertebrates but is peaceful toward other reef fish. The Flaming Hawk fish is a carnivore but will accept any kind of prepared food. It is not a picky eater.

Black Molly

Black mollies are hardy fish that can adapt to either fresh or saltwater tanks. These fish are black all over with short fins that are highlighted around the edges. They can grow to 3 inches in length.

Black mollies are very peaceful. They travel in small groups. You should have 2-3 females per male. The female is larger than the male and has a pregnancy spot. The male has a pointed anal fin and a larger dorsal fin.

Mollies appreciate a spacious, planted tank; at least 30-gallons. They are omnivores. They need a good filtration system, as they do produce a lot of waste.

It is not that difficult to fill a saltwater aquarium, even as a beginner. There are plenty of suggestions as to the type of fish the beginning fish keeper should get.

There are some important guidelines as to how to maintain your saltwater tank, to get the most out of your fish. You want them to remain healthy and vibrant. If you’re going to introduce different species in one aquarium, make sure you put them all in at once.

You want a thriving community of fish. Make sure that you don’t put aggressive fish with the more docile type. Pay attention to what level of the water column they like to swim in. Before you shop for fish, do your research and always plan.

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