9 Beautiful Beginner-Friendly Reef Safe Fish! (With Pictures)

Diving into the world of reef aquariums can be an exciting yet daunting experience for beginners. One crucial aspect of creating a thriving and aesthetically pleasing environment is selecting the right fish that are both easy to care for and compatible with corals.

Fortunately, there is an array of beautiful beginner-friendly reef-safe fish that can help transform any novice tank into a vibrant marine haven.

In this article, we will explore the following nine stunning reef-safe fish species that are perfect for those starting their journey in reef keeping:

  1. Clownfish
  2. Tang
  3. Wrasse
  4. Goby
  5. Blenny
  6. Firefish
  7. Flame Angelfish
  8. Royal Gramma
  9. Orchid Dottyback

These fish are not only visually appealing but also known for their hardiness, compatibility with coral environments, and ease of maintenance. Understanding the unique characteristics and requirements of each species will help aspiring reef hobbyists make the best decisions for their underwater ecosystems.

From colorful clownfish and peaceful royal gramma basslets to the lively yellow tang and the dazzling flasher wrasse, the options for beginner-friendly reef safe fish are abundant. With the right selection and care, even novice reef keepers can create a thriving and mesmerizing marine display that will captivate both themselves and their guests.

Clownfish

Three clownfish hosting an anemone in their aquarium
Three Clownfish Hosting An Anemone In Their Reef-Tank

Clownfish are not only beautiful, but they are also ideal for beginners because they are reef safe and relatively easy to care for. Many beginners make the mistake of thinking there is only one type of clownfish but there are a wide range within the species that all have their own unique look.

Here are some of the more commonly kept reef-safe, beginner-friendly clownfish that you may want to add to your tank:

  1. Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris): Also known as the False Percula Clownfish, it’s one of the most popular and beginner-friendly clownfish species.
  2. Saddleback Clownfish (Amphiprion polymnus): Named for the saddle-like white patch on its back, the Saddleback Clownfish is another hardy species suitable for beginners.
  3. Orange Skunk Clownfish (Amphiprion sandaracinos): Similar to the Pink Skunk Clownfish, this species is named for its orange stripe and is a suitable option for beginners.
  4. Maroon Clownfish (Premnas biaculeatus): While a hardy species, it may be slightly more aggressive than other clownfish, so care must be taken with tank mates.
  5. Tomato Clownfish (Amphiprion frenatus): Known for its bold red coloration, the Tomato Clownfish is a hardy and beginner-friendly species.
  6. Clarkii Clownfish (Amphiprion clarkii): This species is very adaptable and comes in various color patterns, making it an appealing choice.
  7. Pink Skunk Clownfish (Amphiprion perideraion): Recognized for the pink stripe down its back, this species is more peaceful than some other clownfish and is suitable for a reef tank.
  8. Sebae Clownfish (Amphiprion sebae): Although a bit more challenging to keep, the Sebae Clownfish can be suitable for a beginner with some experience in maintaining saltwater aquariums.
Different types of beginner-friendly reef safe clownfish for a reef tank

These fish are beginner-friendly as far as marine fish go due to their ability to tolerate a wide range of water conditions and adapt to different types of food. A common trait among clownfish species is their durability, which is particularly important for beginners who may not have experience in maintaining a marine tank environment yet.

Captive-bred clownfish are usually hardy making them a perfect addition for beginners with Ocellaris Clownfish usually being cheap and easy to find in fish stores.

One potential downside of keeping clownfish in your reef tank is that they prefer to host an anemone and may suck on certain corals if no anemone is in their tank. Our article going over the best anemone for different clownfish can help you pair your clownfish with the perfect anemone to avoid this problem.

A clownfish hosting an anemone
A Clownfish Hosting An Anemone

When it comes to tank requirements, clownfish are relatively low maintenance. A minimum tank size of 30 gallons is recommended for these small fish, which usually do not grow larger than 3-7 inches.

The recommended water parameters for clownfish include a temperature range of 78-82°F, pH levels between 8.0-8.4, and a specific gravity between 1.020-1.025. Furthermore, the water dKH should be maintained between 7 to 12 dKH. These moderate parameters allow for easier management of the tank environment.

In conclusion, clownfish are not only stunning but also an excellent choice for beginners due to their hardiness, adaptability, and reef safety. With only a few minimal requirements, these fish can be successfully introduced to a new hobbyist’s saltwater aquarium, providing both beauty and interest to their aquatic environment.

Tang

A yellow tang in a reef tank
A Yellow Tang In A Reef Tank

Tangs are considered beginner-friendly due to their hardiness and adaptability to various saltwater environments. They are reef safe, as they generally will not harm corals or invertebrates in a saltwater aquarium.

Tangs come in various types, with each boasting a unique appearance and coloration with these being some of our favourite tang to keep in reef tanks:

  1. Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens): Known for its bright yellow color, this is one of the more beginner-friendly tangs and is often found in reef aquariums.
  2. Sailfin Tang (Zebrasoma veliferum): Recognizable by its large dorsal fin, this tang is relatively hardy but requires a large tank and a proper diet of algae and seaweed.
  3. Kole Tang (Ctenochaetus strigosus): Known for its bristle-like teeth used for grazing algae, the Kole Tang is considered one of the more manageable tangs for beginners.
  4. Convict Tang (Acanthurus triostegus): Named for its black and white stripes, this is another hardy species that is well-suited for a beginner’s reef tank.
  5. Powder Blue Tang (Acanthurus leucosternon): Although stunning in appearance, the Powder Blue Tang can be more challenging to care for, so it’s best suited for those with some experience in maintaining saltwater aquariums.
  6. Scopas Tang (Zebrasoma scopas): A hardy species known for its unique coloration, the Scopas Tang can be a good addition to a beginner’s reef tank with proper care.
Beginner-Friendly, Reef-safe tang that can work well in a reef tank
Beginner-Friendly, Reef-Safe Tang

Please note that Powder Blue Tang (recommended for beginners) and Blue Tang (not recommended) are different fish with very different personalities so check that you are getting the right fish for your reef tank!

One of the main downsides of keeping tang in your reef-tank is their minimum size requirements with small tang usually requiring a 75-gallon tank as an absolute minimum! Larger species of tang often require tanks far larger than this pushing your budget and space requirement higher than some of the other options in our article.

These fish thrive in tanks with ample room for swimming, as well as rockwork that provides hiding places. Different types of tang can have surprisingly different water parameter requirements so always research the needs of the specific type of tang you add to your tank!

A Powder Blue tang in a reef-tank
A Powder Blue Tang in A Reef Tank

To ensure a harmonious home for the Tangs, it is important to provide them with varied diet. Most types of tang are herbivores, so offering a combination of marine seaweed, spirulina, and high-quality pellets or flakes will ensure proper nutrition.

In conclusion, some tangs are an excellent addition to beginner reef tanks, as they are both reef safe and relatively easy to care for. Their unique appearance and vibrant colors will undoubtedly make them a beautiful addition to any saltwater aquarium.

Wrasse

A Melanurus Wrasse
A Melanurus Wrasse

Wrasse fish are known for their stunning coloration and patterns, making them an attractive addition to any reef tank. They are generally reef safe, meaning they can live in a reef tank without causing significant harm to its inhabitants, including corals and invertebrates.

Some wrasse can be difficult to keep in captivity, especially for beginners but all of the wrasse featured below can work in reef tanks maintained by people new to the hobby.

Wrasse species come in various shapes, sizes, and colors with there being over 600 different types of wrasse to choose from. Here are some of our recommended species of wrasse to keep in a reef tank if you are a beginner:

  1. Six Line Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus hexataenia): Known for its striking blue and orange lines, this wrasse is relatively hardy and considered beginner-friendly.
  2. Mystery Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus ocellatus): Although somewhat shy, this wrasse is usually peaceful and can make an attractive addition to a reef aquarium.
  3. Christmas Wrasse (Halichoeres claudia): With its festive coloration, the Christmas Wrasse is typically reef safe and adaptable to various aquarium conditions.
  4. Yellow Coris Wrasse (Halichoeres chrysus): A great choice for beginners, this wrasse is peaceful and is useful in controlling pests like pyramid snails.
  5. Melanurus Wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus): This wrasse can adapt well to captivity and is known for its vibrant coloration.
  6. Lubbock’s Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus lubbocki): A beautiful and peaceful wrasse that tends to do well in reef aquariums.
Beginner-Friendly, Reef-Safe Wrasse
Beginner-Friendly, Reef-Safe Wrasse

Smaller wrasses require a minimum tank size of at least 50 gallons, which is a manageable size for someone just starting with a reef tank. This space will provide them with enough room to swim, explore, and establish their territory. A larger tank would be advisable if more than one wrasse is being kept with some of the larger species of wrasse requiring a tank well over 100 gallons.

Water parameters are essential for the health and well-being of any fish, and wrasses are no exception. The problem is, with there being so many different types of wrasse out there, there really are a huge range of water parameters required so always research the specific type of wrasse you want to keep.

A Six Line Wrasse
A Six Line Wrasse

In conclusion, wrasses are an excellent option for beginners because of their reef safe nature, dazzling appearance, manageable size, and relatively straightforward care requirements. By selecting a suitable wrasse species and providing the ideal tank conditions and water parameters, even a novice aquarist can enjoy the beauty these fish bring to a reef tank.

Goby

A Court Jester Goby
A Court Jester Goby

Gobies are a popular and diverse group of reef safe fish that work well for beginners in the saltwater aquarium hobby. They are generally hardy, peaceful, and adapt well to life in a community reef tank, making them a fantastic choice for newcomers.

There are several types of goby fish that can be found in various sizes and vibrant colors. Some popular goby fish for a saltwater tank include:

  1. Most Types Of Watchman Goby (Cryptocentrus cinctus): Known for their burrowing behavior and partnership with pistol shrimp, this goby is a popular choice for beginners.
  2. Neon Goby (Elacatinus spp.): Many species of Neon Goby are suitable for reef tanks and are known for their cleaning behavior, where they remove parasites from other fish.
  3. Hi Fin Red Banded Goby (Stonogobiops nematodes): A peaceful goby that’s well-suited to reef tanks and often forms a symbiotic relationship with pistol shrimp.
  4. Court Jester Goby (Koumansetta rainfordi): A hardy and attractive species, suitable for beginners with proper care.
  5. Catalina Goby (Lythrypnus dalli): Although beautiful, it prefers cooler water temperatures, so it’s best suited for aquariums that can meet this requirement.
  6. Green Clown Goby (Gobiodon atrangulatus): A small, colorful species that’s generally peaceful and suitable for a reef tank.
Beginner-Friendly, Reef-Safe Goby
Beginner-Friendly, Reef-Safe Goby

A significant advantage for beginners is that many goby species are suitable for smaller tanks. The minimum tank size for most gobies is around 20 to 30 gallons, depending on the specific species.

This makes them an excellent option for those starting with nano reefs or smaller aquarium setups as it requires less space and helps to keep your budget low.

A Hi Fin Red Banded Goby
A Hi Fin Red Banded Goby

To ensure the well-being of goby fish, it’s essential to maintain specific water parameters. The recommended water parameters for various gobies can change due to where they are naturally found in the oceans. Due to this, we highly recommend you choose the type of goby you like and then research its specific needs.

In conclusion, goby fish are a fantastic option for beginner aquarists due to their reef safe nature, adaptability, stunning appearance, and suitability for smaller tank setups. By understanding and maintaining the recommended water parameters, beginners can enjoy the beauty and charm of these fascinating reef safe fish.

Blenny

A Tailspot Blenny
A Tailspot Blenny

Blennies are a popular choice for beginner saltwater aquarists due to their hardiness, unique appearance, and reef-safe nature. These small, elongated fish have large, expressive eyes and distinctive personalities.

There are plenty of blennies that can work in reef tanks if you are a beginner but many of them have a bland appearance to them. Here are some blennies that can work for this type of setup while also looking great or having unique features:

  1. Bicolor Blenny (Ecsenius bicolor): Known for its striking two-tone coloration, this species is generally peaceful and suitable for reef aquariums.
  2. Tailspot Blenny (Ecsenius stigmatura): This small and peaceful blenny features a dark spot on its tail and is known to be reef-safe and beginner-friendly.
  3. Starry Blenny (Salarias ramosus): Another great algae eater, the Starry Blenny is typically peaceful and can be a good choice for a beginner’s reef tank.
  4. Forktail Blenny (Meiacanthus atrodorsalis): Unlike some other blennies, Forktail Blennies are known to be more active swimmers, making them a lively addition to the tank.
  5. Linear Blenny (Ecsenius lineatus): Recognized for its distinct horizontal lines, the Linear Blenny is a colorful addition that’s suitable for reef environments.
  6. Horned Blenny (Parablennius spp.): These unique-looking blennies are generally peaceful and can make interesting additions to a reef tank.
Beginner-Friendly, Reef-Safe Blenny Fish
Beginner-Friendly, Reef-Safe Blenny Fish

These fish are beginner-friendly as they are easy to care for and generally peaceful towards other tank inhabitants. They are ideal for a mixed reef aquarium, coexisting well with corals and invertebrates. Being bottom-dwelling fish, blennies provide a unique display of activity as they perch on rocks and sift through substrate in search of detritus and small invertebrates to eat.

As for the minimum tank size requirement, it is recommended to have a 20 to 30-gallon tank for housing a single Blenny. This allows ample space and hiding spots for these shy creatures to thrive. You may be able to guess but different blennies have different water parameter requirements so always check the specific needs of the type of blenny you plant to keep in your reef tank.

Firefish

A Firefish
A Firefish

Firefish are not only beginner-friendly, but also reef safe, making them an excellent addition to your reef tank. Their peaceful nature and compatibility with coral significantly reduce the risk of conflict within your aquarium.

There are several types of firefish to choose from, including the Red Firefish (Nemateleotris magnifica), which exhibits a bold red to white coloration, and the slightly more expensive Purple Firefish (Nemateleotris decora), showcasing a beautiful purple hue. Both species are visually striking and certain to add a touch of vibrant color to your tank.

A red firefish and a purple firefish
A Red Firefish And A Purple Firefish

When it comes to the minimum tank size suitable for housing firefish, it is advisable to opt for a 20-gallon tank or larger. This will provide them with enough space to swim and hide as needed. It is essential to have plenty of hiding spots and a secure lid on the tank, as they are known to be jumpers.

In terms of water parameters, firefish thrive in the following conditions:

  • Water Temperature: 75-80°F
  • pH: 8.1-8.2
  • General Hardness: 8-12 dGH
  • Specific Gravity: 1.020-1.025

Maintaining these conditions is relatively easy and can be accomplished with regular water changes and proper equipment like heaters and filtration systems.

A red firefish
A Red Firefish

In conclusion, firefish are an ideal choice for beginner aquarists looking to create a beautiful and harmonious reef tank. Their reef safety, eye-catching appearance, and manageable care requirements make them a popular and rewarding species to include in your saltwater aquarium.

Flame Angelfish

A Flame Angelfish
A Flame Angelfish

The Flame Angelfish (Centropyge loriculus) is a striking fish that draws attention due to its vivid orange/red color, vertical black stripes, and blue-tipped fins. This dwarf angelfish is not only visually appealing but also beginner-friendly, making it an excellent addition to a saltwater aquarium.

Flame Angelfish are considered reef safe with caution. They sometimes develop a taste for soft corals and clam mantles in reef tanks. However, with proper feeding and care, they may leave these organisms alone.

Observing and managing their behavior is crucial to ensure compatibility with a reef tank.

One of the many reasons why Flame Angelfish are beginner-friendly is their hardy nature and adaptability to aquarium life. These fish are known to be peaceful, but they can get territorial with tank mates of the same genus or other dwarf angelfish. To minimize aggression, it’s recommended to introduce them last when setting up a reef tank.

A Flame Angelfish In A Reef Tank
A Flame Angelfish In A Reef Tank

Flame angelfish can live in a 30-40 gallon tank but if you are planning to keep them in a reef tank with corals a minimum tank size of 100 gallons is recommended. This gives the fish plenty of space to keep itself busy and not pay any unwanted attention to your corals.

When it comes to water parameters, the Flame Angelfish thrives in the following conditions:

  • Water Temperature: 75-80° F
  • pH: 8.1-8.4
  • Specific Gravity: 1.020-1.025
  • General Hardness: 8-12 dKH

Feeding Flame Angelfish a varied diet of both meaty and plant-based foods is essential for their health and vibrancy. Offer them frozen mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, spirulina, and high-quality pellets or flakes. It is crucial to maintain a balanced diet to prevent them from nibbling on reef tank organisms.

Royal Gramma

A Royal Gramma
A Royal Gramma

The Royal Gramma is a stunning, beginner-friendly reef safe fish known for its vibrant purple and yellow body. It adds incredible color to any reef aquarium it inhabits. This fish is particularly popular among aquarists due to its low maintenance, peaceful demeanor, and compatibility with most reef environments.

Royal Grammas flourish when housed in a minimum tank size of 30 gallons, providing them ample swimming space to thrive. They adapt well to live in saltwater tanks and do not cause harm to corals, clams, and other invertebrates. This makes them not only visually appealing but also a practical choice for a reef tank.

In terms of water parameters, Royal Grammas require a stable temperature of 72-80°F, a pH between 8.1-8.4, and specific gravity between 1.020-1.025. Maintaining these ideal water conditions will contribute to their overall health and longevity.

A Royal Gramma In A Reef Tank
A Royal Gramma In A Reef Tank

What makes Royal Grammas beginner-friendly is their undemanding care requirements, adaptability, and peaceful nature. They can live harmoniously with a variety of tank mates, including other docile species of fish, such as dottybacks and wrasses.

Royal Grammas are known to be shy when initially introduced into their new environment, but they gradually venture out of their hiding spots as they become more comfortable in their surroundings.

In conclusion, a Royal Gramma is a striking and low-maintenance addition to any reef tank, suitable for both beginners and experienced aquarists alike. By providing them with the appropriate tank size, water parameters, and peaceful tank mates, Royal Grammas will undoubtedly enhance the beauty and diversity of any reef aquarium.

Orchid Dottyback

A Orchid Dottyback
An Orchid Dottyback

The Orchid Dottyback is a beautiful beginner-friendly reef safe fish. With its vibrant purple color and distinctive sheen, this fish catches the eye, making it a visually stunning addition to any saltwater aquarium.

They have a long lifespan of 5 to 7 years and adapt well to a variety of tank environments. Their size reaches up to 3 inches and has a narrow body, resembling a torpedo shape. A minimum tank size of 30 gallons is recommended for this fish.

To maintain the water parameters suitable for the Orchid Dottyback, the pH should be kept within the range of 8.1 to 8.4, while the temperature should range from 72-78°F. Orchid Dottybacks are comfortable at any tank level and require hiding places to thrive and feel secure.

An Orchid Dottyback In A Reef Tank
An Orchid Dottyback In A Reef Tank

Being reef safe, Orchid Dottybacks are compatible with most coral species and invertebrates. However, it is essential to be cautious when choosing tank mates as they can be aggressive towards other small fishes.

Feeding Orchid Dottybacks is relatively straightforward. They are carnivorous, and their preferred diet consists of polychaete worms or small meaty foods. This fish will accept a variety of meaty and flaked foods, making it easy to provide them with proper nutrition.

By maintaining the appropriate environment and feeding regime, the captivating Orchid Dottyback can make an enticing and beginner-friendly addition to any reef tank while staying true to its reef safe status.

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