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6 Easy Saltwater Aquarium Fish for Beginners

6 easy saltwater aquarium fish for beginners

Just getting started on your first marine aquarium? Finding the right fish for your tank and combining them in a way that avoids territorial quarrels can be a challenge. There are so many different species out there. Which do you choose?!

Why not go for a hardy species that will forgive the occasional beginner mistake? This list contains 6 easy saltwater aquarium fish for beginners.

Lawnmower blenny (Salarias fasciatus)

The small lawnmower blenny reaches a maximum size of only about 5”, making it a great choice for smaller aquariums of 30 gallons and up.

This species derived its name from its diet: if you leave algae in the aquarium for it to eat, it’ll happily keep this “lawn” well-mowed. Although you shouldn’t rely on a fish to do your aquarium cleaning work for you, these guys can definitely help keep the amount of work down!

You can learn more about this fun blenny in the lawnmower blenny care guide.

Temperament: Peaceful except towards other blennies.

Diet: Herbivore foods and algae.

Reef safe: Can be somewhat nippy.

Ocellaris clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)

There are many different clownfish out there, all of them slightly different. The ocellaris clownfish is probably the ‘classic’, though, and it was the inspiration for the hit animated movie Finding Nemo.

So can you keep Nemo in your own aquarium if you’re a beginner? Actually, yes! Ocellaris clownfish are quite hardy and as long as you provide an aquarium of at least 20 gallons with stable water values, yours should do just fine.

Did you know that clownfish don’t actually need an anemone to survive? If you want to see your clown’s natural behavior but are not excited about a stinging anemone in your tank, you could try providing a coral with fingery polyps, like the large polyp stony genus of Euphyllia. Luckily, these corals are suitable for beginners too!

Temperament: Peaceful except to other clownfish. Defensive of its host anemone or coral.

Diet: Small critters. Offer frozen and live mysis, brine shrimp, etc.

Reef safe: Yup!

Firefish goby (Nemateleotris magnifica)

If you’re interested in keeping saltwater gobies, the firefish goby might be a great species for you to start with. This beautiful little fish steals the show with its white-orange gradient body and tall dorsal fin. It grows to a maximum size of only around 3”, making it suitable for aquariums of 20 gallons and up.

Firefish gobies are a peaceful species; in fact, they’re almost timid. Avoid keeping them with large fish that might try to eat them or feisty species that will outcompete them for food. Always be sure to offer plenty of hiding places and never introduce these fish into an aquarium without a lid: they jump when spooked.

Temperament: Peaceful. Sometimes bothersome towards other gobies in small tanks.

Diet: Omnivorous; algae and zooplankton.

Reef safe: Yes.

Coral beauty angelfish (Centropyge bispinosa)

If you’d like to keep angelfish but don’t feel like setting up a large aquarium at this time, why not go for the coral beauty angel? This dwarf species only reaches about 4” in length but doesn’t compromise on looks, sporting an orange belly on a purplish-blue body.

Coral beauty angelfish will do well in aquariums of 40 gallons and up. A slightly smaller aquarium, such as a 30 gallon, will also work although you’ll have to keep the tank matestankmates to a minimum to prevent the coral beauty from becoming territorial.

Temperament: Can pick on its tankmates. Try introducing it into the tank last.

Diet: Mainly algae, though it will also accept frozen and live foods.

Reef safe: Might pick on corals.

Blue green chromis (Chromis viridis)

We can’t imagine any marine aquarists not appreciating the lovely blue green chromis. These super peaceful damselfish look amazing when kept in small schools, as their silvery blue-green bodies shimmer when they move.

Blue green chromis play nice with their neighbors of both the fish and coral variety. They are very hardy and can adapt to a wide range of water values as long as the aquarium is kept stable, making them a great choice for beginners and more experienced aquarists alike.

Temperament: Peaceful

Diet: Omnivorous

Reef safe: Yes

Pajama cardinalfish (Sphaeramia nematoptera)

The multi-patterned pajama cardinalfish is a diminutive (3.5”) species that can be kept in small schools in aquariums of 30 gallons and up. They make a great choice for community tanks due to their peaceful nature, although they’re not the fastest and can be intimidated or outcompeted for food by more rowdy species.

Pajama cardinalfish are hardy and won’t bother your corals, although as is to be expected given their carnivorous diet, they might prey on the smaller invertebrate species.

Temperament: Peaceful.

Diet: Small critters; feed live and frozen food.

Reef safe: Yes


Finding fish that are suitable for beginners, such as the ones on this list, makes maintaining your first aquarium a lot easier. Still, there is a lot involved with running a saltwater tank; if you feel you lack the time or knowledge to design, set up and maintain your aquarium, let FantaSEA handle it for you. Contact us!

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Marijke Puts

Hey! I'm Marijke, FantaSEA's resident blog writer. I'm a full-time pop science author, part-time PADI diver and snorkeler, and have been keeping fish since I was a kid. When I'm not writing fish care guides, you can usually find me underwater or trying to figure out how to fit more tanks into my house.

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