List of marine aquarium fish species

The following is a list of marine aquarium fish species commonly available in the aquarium trade. It is not a completely comprehensive list; certain rare specimens may sometimes be available commercially yet not be listed here. A brief section on each, with additional links is provided.

Angelfish (Large)

These big beauties are considered to be quite hardy, but because of their size may present a significant challenge to the potential keeper. They need huge aquariums, up to 180 gallons to house one for its entire lifespan. Two angels might be kept in the same aquarium provided it is a large aquarium, they are properly acclimated as juveniles, and they are have very different colouring and body shape. 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.

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care level Description Max size
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 in)
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. 45 cm (18 in)
Cortez Angelfish Pomacanthus zonipectus No Moderate Darkly hued with yellow stripes. 46 cm (18 in)
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. 40 cm (16 in)
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 in)
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 (26 in)
Half-Moon Angelfish Pomacanthus maculosus No Easy Blue with yellow splotch-like marking on side. 50 cm (20 in)
Koran Angelfish Pomacanthus semicirculatus No Moderate Grey towards the face, becoming a navy blue towards the caudal fin with striking irridescent blue accents throughout. 40 cm (15 in)
Majestic Angelfish Pomacanthus navarchus No Difficult Yellow sides and back, transitioning to blue towards the base of the caudal fin and face, with a bright blue streak across the chin. 28 cm (11 in)
Passer (King) Angelfish Holacanthus passer No Moderate Very dark blue with yellow caudal fin and distinctive white stripe. 36 cm (14 in)
Queen Angelfish Holacanthus ciliaris No Moderate Tan coloured with bright orange caudal fin and neon blue outlined fins. 45 cm (17 in)
Royal Angelfish Pygoplites diacanthus No Expert Orange and blue striped with dark blue dorsal fin and lemon yellow caudal fin. 25 cm (10 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 in)

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. Their suitability for reef tanks is hotly debated, 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.

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care level Description Max size
Keyhole Angelfish Centropyge tibicens 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)
Coral beauty Angelfish Centropyge bispinosus With caution Easy to Moderate Reddish body with blue back and orange fins. A shy fish that prefers multiple hiding locations. 10 cm (4 in)
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 (6 in)
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 (6 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 in)
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 in)
Herald's Angelfish Centropyge heraldi With caution Moderate Completely lemon yellow, with a brown marking around the eye. 10 cm (4 in)
Lemonpeel Angelfish Centropyge flavissima With caution Moderate Bright yellow with distinctive dark semicircle by operculum. 14 cm (5 in)
Barred Angelfish Centropyge multifasciata With caution Difficult White fish with vertical black stripes. (Or is it a black fish with vertical white stripes?) 12 cm (4 in)
Potter's Angelfish Centropyge potteri With caution Difficult Similarly coloured to the Coral Beauty, but with a blue body and reddish fins. 10 cm (4 in)
Pygmy (Cherub) Angelfish Centropyge argi With caution Easy To Moderate Blue colored body with an orange yellow head. 8 cm (3 in)
Rusty Angelfish Centropyge ferrugata Yes Easy to Moderate Tan coloured body with dark spots and a reddish tint around the anal fin. 10 cm (4 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.

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max Size
Bartlett's anthias Pseudanthias bartlettorum Yes Difficult Back and face light yellow, underside pink with a swallowtail-shaped caudal fin. 9 cm (3 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 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 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 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 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 in)
Lyretail Anthias Pseudanthias squamipinnis Yes Difficult Also known as Sea Goldie. Orange with lyre-shaped caudal fin. 15 cm (6 in)
Squareback anthias Pseudanthias pleurotaenia Yes Difficult Red back and pink underside with distinctive blue square shaped marking and blue fins. 20 cm (7 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 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 in)

Bass & Groupers

In this exceedingly large group of fish, few are considered proper aquarium inhabitants, for various reasons including diet and size. Be aware that Basses vary greatly from species to species, and do appropriate research 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 don't have the resources to care for a meter-long that may cost hundreds of dollars a month to feed.

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max Size
Blue Dot Grouper Cephalopholis argus No Moderate Deep black to tan fish with blue spots throughout. 50 cm (20 in)
Blue Line Grouper Cephalopholis formosa No Moderate Dark tan with horizontal blue stripes that aren't 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 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 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 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 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 in)
Miniatus Grouper Cephalopholis miniatus No Moderate Orange to red with large blue spots throughout. 45 cm (18 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 (30 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 in)
Red Flag Grouper Cephalopholis urodeta No Moderate Very similar to C. miniatus, but the caudal fin is dark. 28 cm (11 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 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 in)

Basslets & 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.
Common name 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 in)
Blue Assesor Assessor macneilli Yes Easy to Moderate Entirely navy blue with white edging of the dorsal fin. 7 cm (3 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 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 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 (3 in)


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 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 (20 in)
Dusky Batfish Platax pinnatus No Difficult Dark black body completely edged by distinctive yellow and orange. 45 cm (17 in)
Teira Batfish Platax teira No Difficult Silver with black fins and a black stripe across the face. 70 cm (27 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 don't 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.

Common name 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 (.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)
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 (3.4 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 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)
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)
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 S. fasciatus but slightly darker and with a much larger dorsal fin. 5 cm (2 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)
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)
Convict Blenny Pholidichthys leucotaenia Yes Moderate 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 & Pufferfish

Members of the family Tetraodontidae, Boxfish, Puffers 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.

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max Size
Helmet Cowfish Tetrasomus gibbosus Caution Expert Tan with dark speckles and brown spots at the base of the caudal fin. 30 cm (11.8 in)
Longhorn Cowfish Lactoria cornuta Caution Expert Grayish tan with very distinctive "horns" near the eyes and under the caudal fin. 46 cm (18.1 in)
Yellow Boxfish Ostracion cubicus Caution Expert 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)
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 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)
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)


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.

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max Size
Copperbanded 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)
Bannerfish Heniochus diphreutes No Moderate Sometimes referred to as the "Poor Man's Moorish Idol" because of the resemblance. 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 Moderate 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 (5 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 (7.8 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 don't reach the underside. Overall more yellow coloring. 20 cm (7.9 in)
Threadfin Butterflyfish Chaetodon auriga No Moderate 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)


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. Watch the ammonia/nitrite, as they are particularly sensitive to these chemicals.

Common name Taxonomy Reef Care Level Description
Banggai Cardinal Pterapogon kauderni Yes Moderate Black and silver striped with very tall fins and many white spots. Max size 8 cm.
Flamefish 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. Max size 11 cm.
Orange-Striped Cardinalfish Apogon cyanosoma Yes Moderate Light yellow with iridescent yellow horizontal stripes. Max size 8 cm.
Pajama Cardinalfish Sphaeramia nematoptera Yes Moderate 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. Max size 8.5 cm.
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. Max size 14.5 cm.
Blackstripe Cardinalfish Apogon nigrofasciatus Yes Moderate Body completely covered in horizontal yellow and black stripes, with red fins. Max size 10 cm.
Ochre-Striped Cardinalfish Apogon compressus Yes Moderate Almost identical to A. nigrofasticus, but with blue eyes. Max size 12 cm.


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.

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
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. Max size 13 cm.
Half and Half Chromis Chromis iomelas Yes Moderate 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. Max size 8 cm.
Black bar Chromis Chromis retrofasciata Yes Moderate Yellowish with bright blue iridescent pelvic fins and a distinct black bar at the base of the caudal fin. Max size 4 cm.
Blue Chromis Chromis cyaneus Yes Moderate Bright blue all over, although lighter toward the front. Max size 15 cm.
Green Chromis Chromis viridis Yes Easy Generally bluish green, but some specimens may be spring green. Max size 8 cm.
Limbaughi Chromis Chromis limbaughi Yes Easy Dark navy blue with bright yellow spot that covers the dorsal fin and much of the posterior. Max size 10 cm.
Spiny Chromis Acanthochromis polyacanthus Yes Easy Dark chocolate brown, slightly lighter around the pectoral fins. Max size 14 cm.
Sunshine Chromis Chromis insolatus Yes Easy Rather drab tannish-orange throughout. Max size 16 cm.
Damselfish Chromis chromis Yes Easy Completely black. Despite the name, this is actually a chromis, in fact, it is the chromis. Max size 25 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.

Common name 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 (4.72 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)
False Percula 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)
Percula Clown 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 (5.1 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 (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. 1 or sometimes 2 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.

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
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.
Blue 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.
Blue and gold damsel Pomacentrus coelestis Yes
Blue velvet damsel Paraglyphidodon oxyodon Yes
Bluefin damsel Neoglyphidodon melas Yes Easy
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.
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.
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.
Garibaldi damsel Hypsypops rubicunda Yes Easy to Moderate These are temperate fish and require cooler water. They are much larger than most other damsels.
Honey head damsel Dischistodus prosopotaenia Yes Difficult
Jewel damsel Microspathodon chrysurus Yes Easy
Lemon / yellow damsel Pomacentrus moluccensis Yes Easy
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.
Neon damsel Pomacentrus alleni Yes
Orangetail damsel Chrysipetra cyanea Yes Easy
Pink smith damsel Pomacentrus smithi Yes Easy
Sergeant major damsel Abudefduf saxatilis Yes Easy
Springer's damsel Chrysiptera springeri Yes Easy
Stark's damsel Chrysiptera starcki Yes Easy
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.
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.
Tuxedo damsel Chrysiptera tricincta Yes
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.
Yellow damsel Amblyglyphidodon aureus Yes
Yellowtail dascyllus Dascyllus flavicauda Yes
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 that some other damsel species.


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.
Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
Mandarinfish 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
Red Scooter Blenny Synchiropus stellatus Yes Moderate; attach a refugium to the tank Not a true blenny. Often only eats live copepods and amphipods.
Scooter Blenny Synchiropus ocellatus Yes Moderate; attach a refugium to the tank Not a true blenny. Often only eats live copepods and amphipods.


Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
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.
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 invetebrates.
Green moray eel Gymnothorax funebris No Difficult Requires a 180 gallon tank with tight fitting lid. Compatible with rays, sharks, and other large fish.


Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
Fantail orange filefish Pervagor spilosoma No Easy
Colored filefish Pervagor melanocephalus Caution Easy
Tassle filefish Chaetoderma pencilligera Caution Easy
Clown filefish Cantherhines dumerili Caution Easy


See Rabbitfish


Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
Diamond goby Valencienna puellaris Yes Easy "sleeper gobies"; borrow and sift sand constantly; very good algea eaters; 6-8"
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
Citron clown goby Gobiodon citrinus Mostly; can destroy unhealthy acropora by laying its eggs in the coral's tissue Moderate Can grow to up tp 3 inches in length
Engineer goby Pholidichthys leucotaenia Yes Easy to Moderate small burrowing goby/ but they can get large.
Green banded goby Gobiosoma multifasciatum Yes Moderate small burrowing goby with green vertical stripes
Red headed goby Gobiosoma puncticulatus Yes Moderate 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.
Neon goby Gobiosoma oceanops Yes Easy A Caribbean cleaner species that sometimes eats larger parasites from other fish.
Yellow Watchman goby Cryptocentrus cinctus Yes Moderate A species of "watchman" or "shrimp" goby that can form a symbiotic relationship with pistol shrimp
Yashia 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.
Yellow clown goby Gobiodon okinawae Yes Moderate small yellow fish that likes branching corals


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 invertabrates (usually leaving sessile invertabrates 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 gregonians. 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.

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max Size
Arc eye hawkfish Paracirrhites arcatus Caution; may eat small shrimp Moderate Brown to yellow body with reddish dorsal fin, distinctive white caudal fin, and small semi-circle marking behind eye. 20 cm (7.9 in)
Flame hawkfish Neocirrhites armatus Caution; may eat small shrimp Easy to Moderate Striking red body with black on fin tips and yellow lips. 9 cm (3.5 in)
Longnose hawkfish Oxycirrhites typus Caution; may eat small shrimp Moderate 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)
Spotted hawkfish Cirrhitichthys aprinus Caution; may eat small shrimp Easy to Moderate Bright red with distinctive diamond shaped markings down back, becoming darker towards the topside of body. 12.5 cm (5 in)



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

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
Black cap jawfish Opistognathus lonchurus Almost always Moderate Requires a 30 gallon tank and 3 inch substrate. Tank should remain tightly lidded. May eat small shrimp.
Dusky jawfish Opistognathus whitehurstii Yes Moderate Requires a 30 gallon tank and 3 inch sand substrate. Tank should remain tightly lidded.
Yellowhead jawfish Opistognathus aurifrons Yes Moderate Requires a 30 gallon tank and 5 to 7 inch soft substrate. Tank should remain tightly lidded.


Lionfish have venomous spines and should be treated With caution.

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
Russell's lionfish Pterois russelli Easy to Moderate
Fuzzy dwarf lion Dendrochirus brachypterus Monitor closely and feed regularly Moderate Carnivore; 8" max. Males 6< stripes on pectoral fin femals >6
Volitan lionfish Pterois volitans Caution Easy to Moderate Semi-aggressive; carnivore; Can grow up to 38 cm in length in captivity


Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
Australian multicolor pseudochromis Ogilbyina novaehollandiae May eat shrimps Moderate
Blue flavivertex pseudochromis Pseudochromis flavivertex May eat shrimps Moderate
Neon pseudochromis, Arabian dottyback or neon dottyback Pseudochromis aldabraensis May eat shrimps Moderate
Bicolor pseudochromis Pseudochromis paccagnallae 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.
Purple stripe pseudochromis or diadema basslet Pseudochromis diadema May eat shrimps Easy to Moderate
Indigo dottyback Pseudochromis sankeyi May eat shrimps Moderate
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.
Sailfin pseudochromis Pseudochromis veliferus May eat shrimps Moderate
Splendid pseudochromis Pseudochromis splendens May eat shrimps Moderate
Springeri pseudochromis Pseudochromis springeri May eat shrimps Moderate
Strawberry pseudochromis or purple psuedochromis Pseudochromis porphyreu May eat shrimps Easy to Moderate


Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
Foxface Siganus vulpinus Easy to Moderate
Magnificent foxface Siganus magnificus Easy to Moderate
Rabbitfish Siganus spp. Easy to Moderate


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

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
Fiddler stingray Trygonorhina fasciata No Expert 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 Requires a minimum 180 gallon aquarium and a fine grained substrate. Coarse substrates may damage the underside of this animal, causing infection.
Spotted Caribbean stingray Urolophus spp. No Expert 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 Requires a minimum 360 gallon aquarium with a 1 meter width


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 isn't 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 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 main upshots of Seahorses is that many species stay small and can (in fact, some should) be kept in smaller tanks, making them idea for aquarists who are pressed for space or money.
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 Taxonomy Reef safe Temp. Care Level Description
Brazilian Seahorse H. reidi Caution ST Difficult Usually bright yellow, with a particularly long snout. Max size 17 cm.
Spotted Seahorse H. kuda Caution TR Difficult Generally yellow, but can also range from tan to dark black. Max size 30 cm.
Great Seahorse H.kelloggi Caution ST Difficult Light tan, with some darker specimens. Max size 28 cm.
Pot-Bellied Seahorse H.abdominalis Caution TM Difficult Light colored with dark spots and a large abdomen. Max size 35 cm.
Pygmy Seahorse H. bargibanti Caution TR Difficult White with pink (occasionally yellow) knobby protrusions. Max size 2.4 cm.
Short-Snouted Seahorse H. breviceps Caution TM Difficult Grayish to tan with short snout and a spiny head. Max size 15 cm.
Tiger Tail Seahorse H. comes Caution TR Difficult Varying colors with dark striped tail. Max size 18 cm.
Lined Seahorse H. erectus Caution ST Difficult Dark colored with ligher belly and white ridges. Max size 19 cm.
White's Seahorse H. whitei Caution TM Difficult Fuller bodied with a comparatively larger head. Max size 13 cm.
Dwarf Seahorse H. zosterae Caution ST Difficult Similar to H. reidi but much smaller. Max size 5 cm.
Thorny Seahorse H. histrix Caution TR Difficult Varying colors with distinctive spines all over body. Max size 17 cm.



May outgrow most home aquariums.
Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
Black banded cat shark Chiloscyllium punctatum No Difficult Requires a 180 gallon tank.
Whitespotted Bambooshark Chiloscyllium plagiosum No Difficult Requires a 180 gallon tank.
Western Wobbygong Shark Orectolobus sp. No Expert Requires a 300 gallon tank.
Port Jackson Shark Heterodontus portusjacksoni No Expert Requires a 1000 gallon tank.


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'.

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
Achilles tang Acanthurus achilles Yes Difficult
Atlantic blue tang Acanthurus coeruleus Yes Moderate
Blonde naso tang Naso lituratus Yes Easy to Moderate
Bristletooth tang Ctenochaetus striatus Yes Easy to Moderate
Chocolate tang Acanthurus pyroferus Yes Easy to Moderate
Desjardini tang Zebrasoma desjardinii Yes Moderate
Eibli mimic tang Acanthurus tristis Yes Moderate
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
Mimic tang Acanthurus pyroferus Yes Easy to Moderate
Naso tang Naso lituratus Yes Easy to Moderate
Powder blue tang Acanthurus leucosternon 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.
Yellow tang Zebrasoma flavescens Yes Easy to Moderate The yellow tang requires ample swimming room and plenty of algae to graze on. The tang will not tolerate another of its kind unless there is ample space for each tang to have their own terriotry. The tang requires high oxygen levels. Can be kept in shoals when a tank of at least 5' is provided.


Though often categorized as Gobies, Tilefish are a separate species.

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
Blue-headed tilefish Hoplolatilus starki Easy to Moderate
Purple tilefish Hoplolatilus purpureus Easy to Moderate
Skunk tilefish Hoplolatilus marcosi Easy to Moderate


While they are generally considered monsters that will chomp invertebrates, many will actually make great reef fish.

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
Blue jaw trigger / Blue throat trigger Xanthichthys auromarginatus Widely regarded as the only reef safe trigger. Moderate
Blue line trigger Pseudobalistes fuscus No Moderate
Clown trigger Balistoides conspicillum No Easy
Crosshatch trigger Xanthicthys 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
Goldenback trigger Xanthicthys caeruleolineatus No Easy Rarely available
Hawaiian black trigger Melichthys niger No Moderate
Indian black trigger Melichthys indicus No Moderate
Niger trigger Odonus niger No Easy
Picasso trigger Rhinecanthus aculeatus No Easy to Moderate
Pinktail trigger Melichthys vidua Non Moderate
Sargassum trigger Xanthicthys 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


Some wrasse species are aggressive towards small fish and invertebrates.

Common name Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description
Carpenter's fairy wrasse Paracheilinus carpenteri Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Moderate
Eight line wrasse Pseudocheilinus octotaenia Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Easy to Moderate
Exquisite fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus exquisitus Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Difficult
Fine-spotted fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus punctatus Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Difficult
Four line wrasse Pseudocheilinus tetrataenia Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Easy to Moderate
Greenback fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus scottorum Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Difficult
Harlequin tusk Choerodon fasciata Generally, yes, but may eat shrimps Moderate
Multicolor velvet wrasse Cirrhilabrus cyanopleura Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Moderate
Potter's wrasse Macropharyngodon geoffroyi Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Difficult
Red-head fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus solorensis Yes; feeds on tiny organisms Difficult
Six line wrasse Pseudocheilinus hexataenia Yes Easy to Moderate small pink fish with six purple horizontal lines
Rhomboid Fairy Wrasse Cirrhilabrus rhomboidalis Yes Moderate Medium sized (~5" max) Golden body with purple horizontal stripes on head

See also

External links



Picasso Triggerfish

Crosshatch Triggerfish

Bluethroat Triggerfish


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