One of the most well-known and widely consumed saltwater fish. Clownfish are one of the toughest marine fish and are quite simple to maintain. Small individuals mingle with most other fish, but bigger examples may be aggressive, particularly towards one another and other clownfish. If you want to keep multiple clowns together, pick kinds that will all attain a similar adult size and obtain them all while they are tiny, and let them grow up together. Clownfish do not have a fixed sex; when they couple up, the dominant fish transforms into a female and typically gets bigger. If the female dies, the male may change into a female. Clownfish have been grown in captivity, and tank-bred specimens of a variety of species are becoming more widely accessible.
All clownfish are reef safe. They are well-known in the wild for their association with sea anemones. Unlike most other fish, clownfish can swim amid the tentacles of anemones without being injured, and they utilize the anemones for refuge. Various clownfish species are associated with various kinds of anemones. Some employ a variety of species, while others only use one. In the aquarium, however, clownfish do not need an anemone. Even when one of an appropriate sort is given, they tend to utilize it significantly less often than they would in the wild, presumably because they do not need the shelter since the tank is typically predator-free. It is generally advisable to include an anemone in a reef tank since its behavior is intriguing to see when it is employed. Clownfish may sometimes utilize corals, and coral may be damaged as a result. If this occurs, an anemone should be inserted to avoid further damage to the coral. An anemone is typically not advised in a fish-only aquarium. Anemones need highly precise conditions to survive, which are difficult to provide in a fish-only environment. More information may be found on the reef aquaria and invertebrates pages.
Although the so-called “common” clowns or clown anemone fish Amphiprion ocellaris & percula are readily recognized, they are not the most abundant species in Australian waters. Because the two species exist in separate places, they appear almost similar and can only be successfully differentiated by fin ray counts or knowing where they were taken. However, distinguishing them is seldom necessary since their maintenance and needs are similar. Both are presently being reared in captivity in Australia. The brown or Barrier reef clown A. akyndinos is by far the most abundant species in the wild. Tomato clowns (A. melanopus), orange-finned clowns (A. clarkii), pink skunk clowns (A. periadion), and maroon clowns are also available, both wild-caught and sometimes captive-bred (Premnas biaculeatus).
More information and images may be obtained in the ebook: Anemone fishes and their host anemones, as well as online at the Australian Museum.
These tiny to medium-sized, vividly colored fish are among the hardiest and most popular. They are excellent first fish since they are among the hardest marine fish and also among the cheapest. The biggest disadvantage of damsels is that they are territorial and may be violent. Most may be maintained with other fish as long as they have enough room and territory, and some are significantly less territorial than others. The chromis (Chromis species) are the most peaceful damsels, and they even go to school together. Chrysiptera species are generally less aggressive than Dascyllus species, which are in turn less aggressive than Pomacentrus and Abudefduf species. All of them are reef safe.
Green chromis (Chromis viridis), Humbugs (Dascyllus auranus), Dominos (D. trimaculatus), and blue damsels are all pretty prevalent (Pomacentrus pavo). Barrier reef chromis (Chromis nitida), Fiji damsels (Chrysiptera tapou), Orange-tail blue damsels (C. cyanea), Talbot damsels (C. talboti), Reticulate damsels (Dascyllus reticulatus), Neon damsels (Pomacentrus coelestis), Yellow damsels (Pomacentrus mollucensis), and (Abudefduf sexfasciatus).
Bannerfish and butterfly
Marines of medium to big size with a delicate look. Butterflies and bannerfish have a tall, flattened appearance and a thin “beak” for picking through coral crevices. They are neither territorial nor aggressive towards other fish in general, and some are rather cautious. Butterfly tankmates should not be raucous or aggressive in general. Aggression between butterflies of the same or similar species may occur in insufficiently sized tanks, although others will coexist peacefully. In general, butterflies are more demanding than much marine fish and should be placed in an established tank with excellent water quality. Butterfly survival is highly dependent on collection and handling, thus finding quality net-caught fish is critical. Captive breeding of butterflyfish has not occurred. Selection of species is also crucial since certain kinds need particularly specialized diets that cannot be accommodated in aquaria. Kleins butterflies and bannerfish are the hardiest butterflies.
Butterflyfish are not considered reef-safe since many of them feed on coral polyps. Some, on the other hand, will only nip at certain little polyps and may therefore be maintained in tanks with a variety of soft corals and bigger polyp species. Some butterflies (most notably the copperband Chelmon rostratus) are even intentionally maintained in reef tanks to eliminate undesired invertebrates such as Aiptasia anemones. Determining if a certain butterfly is reef safe might be a trial-and-error process. Individuals within a species will vary in their proclivity to devour corals and other tiny invertebrates (for example, feather duster worms and shrimps), with some species being less prone to destroy corals than others. Some butterflies, on the other hand, are obligatory coral feeders and will not take other feeds in the aquarium. These species are difficult or impossible to maintain for an extended period of time and should be avoided.
Copperband and (rarer) margined butterflies (Chelmon rostratus & marginalis), pyramid butterflies (Hemitaurichthys polypesis), and long-nose butterflies are some of the available kinds that are less prone to harm corals (and may also be maintained in fish-only systems) (Forcipiger flavissimus). A handful of Chaetodon species are suitable for fish-only tanks and may (with care) be reef safe: Kleins butterly (C. kleini), citron (C. citrinellus), threadfin butterfly (C. auriga), saddleback (C. ephippium), blackback (C. melannotus), Mertens (C. mertensii), and double saddle (C. ulietensis). Tear-drop butterfly (C. unimaculatus), Rainfords (C. rainfordi), highfin coralfish (Coradion altivelis), and bannerfish are also feasible to maintain but are more prone to harm corals (Heniochus acumineatus). Chaetodon species that are difficult to raise and do not quickly adjust to captivity feeding include the blueblotch (C. plebius), vagabond (C. vagabundus), and golden (C. aureofasciatus).
Angelfish are among the most popular marine fish, and although some may be pricey, the majority are beautifully colored and resilient. Angelfish survival, like that of many other types of fish, is heavily determined by how they are harvested. Net-captured fish is far more expensive than drug-caught fish, but the long-term survival rate of drug-caught fish is zero, thus investing in net-caught fish is profitable! A few angelfish have been produced and kept in captivity, but none have been commercially farmed.
Angels are classified into three types. The miniature angels of the genus Centropyge are the first to be mentioned. These are among the most popular aquarium fish, growing to between 6cm and 15cm in length (depending on species). They may be hostile to other members of their own species or extremely similar species, but they are seldom antagonistic to other types of fish. While some people pick corals on occasion, the majority are deemed reef-friendly. In the wild, its food consists mostly of algae, supplemented by tiny invertebrates. Most are fairly tough, however, they are susceptible to high nitrate levels. The bicolor (C. bicolor), coral beauty (C. bisponosa), heraldi (C. heraldi), keyhole (C. tibicen), and pearlscale (C. vrolikii), which are a bit more demanding, and seldom the flame angelfish are available (C. loricula). Unfortunately, this latter fish is often imported into Australia from locations where drug-catching is still prevalent, making it difficult to locate high-quality specimens.
The second category consists of medium-sized angelfish such as Genicanthus, Apolemichthys, Chaetodontoplus, and Pygoplites. These species range in size from 15cm to 30cm and are not usually maintained in aquariums. Genicanthus species have comparable needs and temperaments to dwarf angelfish but are often more costly and less colorful. They are the smallest of the mid-sized angels, yet they are aggressive swimmers that need a lot of space. They, like miniature angels, spick at corals yet are often successfully maintained in reef aquariums. The blackspot angel (G. melanospilus) and Watanabe angel are the most frequent species in this genus (G. watanabei). Apolemichthys and Chaetodontoplus species are more sensitive in general, although they may be maintained in a well-established system. The three-spot angelfish (A. trimaculatus), yellowtail angelfish (C. meredithii), and scribbled angelfish (C. duboulayi) are the most common in this group. The single member of the genus Pygoplites is the regal angelfish (P. diacanthus). This is a difficult fish that should only be handled by experienced enthusiasts.
Finally, there are enormous angelfish: Pomacanthus and Holocanthus species, albeit only Pomacanthus members are found in Australian waters. As adults, these fish may grow to be between 20 and 50cm long, with Pomacanthus species commonly being between 30 and 40cm long. Pomacanthus species feature a juvenile stage that is considerably different from the adult coloration: a deep blue foundation covered with oval, semicircular, or scribbled white and light blue lines. Most species’ youngsters seem similar but may be differentiated by their slightly differing line patterns. These fish are all coral and invertebrate eaters that will completely deplete a reef aquarium. Most, thankfully, adapt to different meals and may be maintained in fish-only aquariums. While they do not fare well in fresh tanks, the majority of these huge angels may be effectively retained in old systems. They are territorial, particularly towards other angels, however, individuals of various kinds and sizes may cohabit in big enough aquaria if introduced together. Small or shy fish should not be mingled with large angels. The moderately resilient varieties include the Emporer angelfish (P. imperator), Koran or Semicircle angelfish (P. semicircularis), and sixbar angelfish (P. sexstriatus). The more demanding blueface angel (P. xanthometapon), which does not usually respond to feeding in the aquarium, is also available on occasion.
Wrasse, hogfish, and parrotfish
Wrasses are one of the most diverse families of marine fish, with a wide variety of sizes and species. While some are incredibly robust, others do not do well in aquariums. Furthermore, although some are extremely calm, others are loud, and others are rather aggressive. It’s difficult to make broad statements regarding wrasses! They can be classified by size in general, although even within these classifications, there is considerable diversity. Many wrasses change color as they mature and mate. Only the most dominating individuals turn masculine after almost all begin life as a female. Most wrasses like to burrow at night or when threatened, so a deep gravel bed is ideal. They are energetic swimmers that need enough space and may leap out of unprotected aquariums.
Anampses, Haliocheres, Paracheilinus, Cirrhilabrus, Pseudocheilinus, Labroides, and Macrophayngodon are examples of small kinds. These wrasses are normally calm, although they may be territorial towards other members of their own species or extremely similar wrasses. They are typically reef-safe and will not harm corals, however certain shrimp species may see them as food. Anampses species, sometimes known as tamarins, are among the most delicate wrasses. They need highly clean water with minimal nitrate levels and are sensitive to transportation stress. They do well in reef tanks with naturally occurring invertebrate species for foraging. These are uncommon, however, the china wrasse (A. neoguinaicus) is sometimes encountered. There are around 60 species in the genus Haliocheres, but only a few are accessible as aquarium fish, most notably the blue-tail wrasse (H. melanurus) and the somewhat bigger but still extremely placid two-tone wrasse (H. proserpion). Both are quite hardy. The genera Parachelinus, Pseudocheilinus, and Cirrhilabrus are together known as the fairy wrasses. Some are more resilient than others, but the most common varieties include: magenta wrasse (C. laboutei), lined fairy wrasse (C. lineatus), spotted fairy wrasse (C. punctatus), and scotts fairy wrasse (C. scottorum). The cleanest wrasses are the Labroides, with L. dimidiatus being the most frequent species. Although maintained to reduce whitespot, which is not a part of their normal diet, these fish often do not adjust to eating other things. The Macropharygodon species are often referred to as leopard wrasses, with M. meleagris, or the red leopard wrasse, being the most common. These do not often adapt well to captivity, but having accustomed, they may be effectively kept as long as water quality is maintained.
Coris, Gomphosus, Hemigymnus, Cheilinus/Oxycheilinus, Thalassoma, Novaculichthys/Xyrichthys, and Stethojulius are some of the larger kinds. Most of them are not reef-friendly since they eat a broad variety of invertebrates and are rather dirty fish, creating more waste than is ideal in a reef environment. Most are also fairly loud; even if they do not demonstrate violence, their incessant swimming may irritate other fish, especially shy species. Larger specimens may see little tankmates as prey, whereas smaller specimens may be hostile towards individuals of their same or very similar species. Coris is another vast genus, although there aren’t many available for aquariums. Some may grow to be over two feet long. The flame wrasse (C. gaimard – to 40cm) and the comb wrasse are both popular aquarium fish (C. picta – to 24cm). These are resilient and not very aggressive; they are not reef friendly in general, but they may be maintained with certain invertebrates. The birdnose wrasse is Gomphosus varius. An very huge species, resilient and generally tranquil while being highly active, it requires lots of space. It may be maintained with certain invertebrates since it has a smaller mouth than other giant wrasses. The thicklip wrasses are Hemigymnus: the half and half thicklip (H. melapterus) and the fivebar thicklip (H. fasciatus). Both grow to reach approximately 80cm in the wild, and although they do not grow quickly in the aquarium, they should not be kept in tiny tanks. They are quite sturdy once acclimated, although they may be rowdy and should be maintained alongside strong fish. Some Maori wrasses (Cheilinus and Oxycheilinus) can grow to be quite large, but the more commonly available floral maori (C. chlorourus), banded maori (C. fasciatus), and twospot maori (O. bimaculatus) is small enough for suitable aquaria, with the first two reaching around 40cm and the last reaching around 15cm. All are hardy, although the bigger varieties may be rowdy. Thalassoma species are among the most well-known and hardy wrasses, with lunar and lutescens wrasses being the most widely accessible. These are quite active, seldom hiding or burrowing, and may be rather loud. Razorfish, also known as rock-mover wrasses (Novaculichthys and Xyrichthys species), are among the most aggressive and territorial wrasses. They are not reef friendly since they will overturn rockwork and consume numerous invertebrates. The most frequent of these species is the dragon wrasse (N. taeniourus). Finally, the bluelined wrasse Stethojulius bandanensis may be seen on occasion. These are more sensitive species, and they do not usually adapt well to aquaria.
The hogfish, tuskfish, and parrotfish are all related to wrasses. Hogfish (genus Bodianus) are sturdy and gentle, however, they may be rowdy. They are often not reef friendly since they are untidy and devour a variety of invertebrates. Diana’s hogfish (B. diana), axilspot hogfish (B. axillaris), blackfin hogfish (B. loxozonus), and splitlevel hogfish are among the species available (B. mesothorax). Tuskfish (Choerodon species) are likewise hardy, but they feed a broader variety of invertebrates. The harlequin tuskfish is the most widely accessible (C. fasciatus). Except for other wrasses, it is not normally aggressive, but it is a hungry and rapid eater that may irritate shy species. Scarus species parrotfish are in short supply. They are coral eaters (literally consuming coral to produce algae!) and grow to enormous proportions, making them unsuitable for most aquaria.
Tang and rabbitfish
Tangs, sometimes known as surgeonfish, are medium to big fish that consume algae in saltwater. Their caudal penduncles all have sharp spines. They, like wrasses, swim primarily using their pectoral fins. Tangs are susceptible to whitespot and diseases induced by improper nutrition or handling, although they are generally rather resilient. Most are territorial and may be extremely hostile against other members of their species, as well as other tangs, although other fish are seldom harassed. Tangs demand a lot of swimming space. They may be filthy and need adequate filtration as well as enough oxygen. Due to the vast quantity of waste generated and their thirst for algae and certain invertebrates, larger individuals are often not reef-friendly. Smaller species may be kept in suitably filtered reef tanks if desired macroalgae are not present. Tangs need a varied diet that includes high-quality vegetable matter as well as other meals.
The royal or blue tang is maybe the most well-known tang (Paracanthurus hepatus). These may grow to exceed 30cm in the wild, but in the aquarium, a size of 15 to 20cm is more normal, and they do not develop fast. They do, however, need a lot of swimming space. They can be maintained together, unlike other tangs, particularly if introduced while they are little and at the same time. They have a tendency to lie sideways or even “play dead,” although this is not an indication of anxiety. Blue tangs may be maintained in appropriately sized and filtered reef aquariums, however, they may mistake certain tiny invertebrates for food. Sailfin tangs are also suited for many (but not all) reef aquariums (Zebrasoma). These are tough fish that are antagonistic towards other tangs and their own type unless when they have grown up together since they were very little, but they do not disturb other fish. They are one of the greatest fish for algae management and are often maintained for this reason. In reef aquariums, they may also consume attractive macroalgae and tiny invertebrates. The scopas tang (Z. scopas) is the most common and matures to roughly 20cm. The bigger (to 40cm) yet magnificent sailfin tang is also sometimes observed (Z. veliferum). Yellow tangs (Z. flavescens) are a popular fish in America because they are readily available. Unfortunately, they do not exist in Australian waters, and the majority of specimens acquired abroad in the Indo-Pacific are badly handled and do not fare well in aquaria. Many come from drug-infested regions as well. High-quality specimens are sometimes available, although they are expensive. The bristletooth tangs have a temperament similar to sailfin tangs (Ctenochaetus species). These are strong algae eaters and are reef-safe in general. They may be more demanding than sailfins and more prone to handling stress. Unicorn tangs (Naso species) are large yet tough tangs. Territorial towards other fish of their own or similar species, but do not disturb other fish in general. They need a lot of swimming space. Bluespine (N. unicornis to 70cm in the wild, but smaller in aquaria and a sluggish growth) and lipstick tang are two available varieties (N. lituratus to 50cm). Other accessible tangs are from the Acanthurus genus. In general, these tangs are more delicate than the others discussed so far, and some are rather demanding. Chocolate tang (A. nigrofuscus) and mimic tang are two available kinds that are not difficult to maintain once acclimated (A. pyroferus). These are not hostile against other fish but do not tolerate their own kind. The olive tang (A. olivaceous) and the lined tang are more territorial to other species and more demanding of water quality (A. lineatus).
The rabbitfish is related to tangs but lacks the caudal spine (Siganus). These are not defenseless, since their dorsal spines may administer a painful sting. They have the same needs as tangs: plenty of room, adequate filtration, and a diet high in vegetable matter. Most are quite hardy if given these conditions. They seldom disturb other fish, but they are aggressive against other rabbitfish. They may consume numerous invertebrates, therefore they are not always reef safe, and they, like tangs, may be untidy. The most well-known is the brilliantly coloured foxface (S. vulpinis). Blue-spotted rabbitfish (S. corallinus) and barred rabbitfish are also available on a regular basis (S. doliatus).
Box fish and puffers
These unusual-looking but always popular marine fish are clever and, in particular, pufferfish may grow fairly tame. These fish are generally hardy and adaptable to a variety of water conditions, but some are susceptible to parasite infections such as whitespot and velvet. They are not picky eaters and will eat a variety of foods, including corals and other invertebrates, excluding most types from reef tanks. There are many types of pufferfish, but the most frequent are dwarf puffers, sometimes known as tobies, and bigger “true” puffers.
Dwarf puffers (Canthigaster species) may be mixed with most other fish except predatory or aggressive fish, and often with each other, however aggression between individuals of the same or similar species can occur on occasion. They may nibble at tiny polyp corals and consume shrimp and other small invertebrates, but they normally leave soft and bigger polyp corals alone and may therefore be maintained in various reef setups. The saddled puffer (C. valentini), green-spotted puffer (C. solandri & C. papua), and crowned puffer are all types that are sometimes accessible (C. coronata). The bigger “genuine” puffers should be housed with larger fish rather than with timid varieties. They are not suitable for reef tanks because they consider almost any invertebrate to be food. The most frequent species are the stars and stripes puffer (Arothron hispidus) and the dog-faced puffer (Arothron hispidus) (A. nigropunctatus). Some boxfish grow to be huge, yet they are not aggressive and may even be frightened. These fish love the company of their own kind and may be bashful and lonely if kept alone. They cannot inflate themselves, unlike puffers, but are protected by a “casing” of bone plates. They require a varied diet that includes some vegetables as well as shrimp or meaty foods (eg squid, shellfish). While they are very water quality resistant, they are prone to whitespot and velvet. They consume invertebrates and certain coral, like dwarf puffers, but may be appropriate for some reef aquariums. The spotted cube is the most widely accessible species (Ostacion cubicus). Cowfish (Lactoria species), a form of boxfish, are sometimes found. When agitated, they may produce a poisonous slime that can be lethal to themselves and their tankmates in the confines of a bag or aquarium. All puffers and boxfish are toxic if eaten, but the main risk from touching other types is the chance of a bite from their very sharp teeth.
Filefish & triggerfish
Filefish and Triggerfish arerelated to the puffers. They cannot inflate themselves but swim in a similar manner using undulations of the dorsal and anal fin. Like puffers, they also have a fused beek-like set of very sharp teeth. Filefish and triggerfish have lockable dorsal spines that they can use to anchor themselves in rockwork or to enlarge their size to discourage predation. Triggerfish are among the most aggressive marine fish, with most types regarding other fish, as well as all invertebrates, as a part of their diet. Even fish too large to be easily eaten can be given nasty bites by these fish. Filefish, which are also known as leatherjackets, on the other hand, are relatively placid towards other fish, but do regard most invertebrates as food so are not reef-safe. Both these types of fish in general are quite hardy. They are tolerant of a range of water conditions, and while sometimes susceptible to parasites, usually respond well to treatment.
Probably the best-known triggerfish is the clown trigger (Balistoides conspicillum), a spectacular fish, but best kept alone. A couple of less aggressive species are the half-moon trigger (Sufflamen chrysopterum) and the red-tooth trigger (Odonus niger), both of which can be kept with other fish so long as these are fairly robust and faster species. The filefishes usually offered for aquariums are the smaller members of the family, rather than the larger leatherjackets which may be familiar to divers or anglers. Types that are sometimes available include the mimic filefish (Paraluteres prionurus) which mimics the saddled puffer, the redtailed file (Pervagor janthinosoma), and the fan-belly leatherjacket (Monacanthus chinensis). Also, sometimes seen is the orange-spotted or longnose filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris). Unfortunately, this species feeds almost exclusively on coral polyps (predominantly Acropora) are rarely adapts to other foods in aquaria. However, the other species are usually not problematic.
Grammas, dottybacks & relatives
Small, hardy, and relatively peaceful reef-friendly fishes. Can be territorial and aggressive towards others of the same species, but can be mixed with most other fish. A little care should be taken with larger specimens, eg Blue devils, as these may regard very small tank mates as food.
Blennies & gobies
Smallish often bottom-dwelling fish. usually quite hardy and peaceful, a number are good algae-eaters. Generally reef-friendly.
Although they have a reputation for being agressive, they are not overly so. Small tankmates should be avoided, but other fish are not bothered. Eels are hardy and can become quite tame. The tank must be well-covered. Although they do not eat corals, they produce too much waste to be considered good fish for reef tanks.
Showy and predatory fish, but not overly aggressive. They have large mouths, so take care to get tankmates of a suitably large size. Lionfish are very hardy and become very tame. Common sense and care should be taken when cleaning their aquarium. Their spines are venomous – not lethally so except where allergies exist, but the sting is very painful! However, the spines are a defensive measure, and a careful aquarist should never be stung.
Some other types that are available are groupers: large predatory fish not suitable for most aquaria, Anthias, schooling fish that show dramatic sexual differences and sex changes, Squirellfish, snappers, cardinalfish, breams, and perches.