The saltwater side of the aquarium hobby has all sorts of saltwater fish available to hobbyists these days. You can pay anywhere from $3 for a Green Chromis all the way up to $3000 for a Gem Tang. Saltwater fish come in all sorts of shape, sizes and colors and there will definitely be a species or several that catches your eye. It’s very important to research any and all species that you want to keep before you even consider setting up a saltwater aquarium.
There are several factors to consider when researching the saltwater fish you’re interested in keeping. Let’s start with the basics. Adult size, temperament (behavior) and diet. These are the three most important things to research before laying down that hard earned cash.
Adult size – many saltwater fish stay quite small (blennies, chromis, gobies, etc.) and some can get extremely large reaching almost a foot or two in size or larger as adults. Triggerfish, groupers and the large angelfish species are some of the first that come to mind that often outgrow aquariums.
Temperament – some species are somewhat docile and will do fine with many other species. Some saltwater fish will do fine other species but may have issues when they are kept in the same tank with conspecifics (fish from the same species) or even when kept with fish from the same family. Some fish only want a small territory to claim as their own and some need larger areas to claim territories and for swimming room.
Diet – since saltwater fish are not raised in captivity to the same degree as their freshwater counterparts, many are coming straight from the ocean and have developed a taste for live foods. Getting some species on prepared foods like pellets, flakes or even thawed foods can be challenging. Getting your saltwater fish eating is one of the most important first hurdles to jump over. Start by offering the pellets and flake foods. If they don’t accept these foods move on to thawed marine origin foods. If that doesn’t work move on to live foods. Once you get them eating you need to slowly wean them onto a primary diet rich in the nutrients they need. There are foods designed for different eaters, whether they are primarily carnivores, herbivores or omnivores. Read what other hobbyists have to say regarding how challenging it is to get the particular species eating. If you’re reading that people are having a really hard time don’t think that you’ll be any different. Maybe it’s best to leave that species in the ocean or until they become captive raised.
Once you have a good idea about the characteristics of the fish you want to keep you may find out that you can’t meet it’s needs. You may even uncover new species that you didn’t know about before you began your research. There are several saltwater fish species that I’d love to keep but refrain due to their track records in aquariums. Some saltwater species just do not make the transition all that well and until they can come up with more specialized foods I’m totally fine leaving them in the ocean.
To get you started on your research I’ll list some of the more popular groupings of saltwater fish and inverts below. This is just a quick fly by to hopefully help you narrow your search for finding species you might be interested in keeping.
The bigger the fish, the bigger the tank you are going to need and also the more money you will spend in the long run. With so many saltwater fish species available you should have no trouble narrowing down the species you want to keep. Make the research fun, read several sources, make stocking lists and enjoy planning your saltwater aquarium!