The worst mistake you can make with your first saltwater aquarium is to buy expensive, or difficult to maintain fish. You are already facing the new challenges of more carefully maintaining water temperature, nitrates, salt levels, and then adding the right coral, sand, and plants. By choosing easy to take care of tropical saltwater fish you can make your first attempt enjoyable, not a disaster.
Start off by talking to your provider of tropical saltwater fish and ask them which fish they recommend as the easiest to care for. The following fish are the ones you are most likely to hear and are great candidates for getting started.
Damsels – The Damsel is very easy to care for saltwater fish but does come with one negative side. The Damsels can become very aggressive and should be limited to one or two fish per tank. The only way to keep these fish is to pair them up with other aggressive, or semi-aggressive fish which can defend themselves.
Tangs/Surgeonfish – Another very hardy variety of saltwater fish. These fish are algae eaters, not meat eaters. They are easy to keep with almost any kind of fish. They usually need to be added after your tank starts to develop algae. If your tank is kept very clean and is relatively algae free you will need to supplement their diet with lettuce.
Gobies – A small fish often used to help control algae is another great addition to your tropical saltwater collection. They are very easy to maintain and are very resistant to disease.
Clownfish – While many people believe they must add anemone at the same time, it is not true. The Clownfish does great without anemone, and will thrive. They are very territorial so limit the number you add to your tank. They are rarely aggressive towards other fish, only towards other Clownfish.
Mollies – While you can add mollies to your tank and have great luck if your other fish are non-aggressive, adding them to a tank with Damsels, or other aggressive fish, is a surefire recipe for trouble. The Mollies are a great fish to raise due to their ease of care, but they are extremely docile and will be constantly chased and attacked by the more aggressive fish in your tank.
One reason people often introduce Mollies to start off with is due to their very low cost. They are a great fish to break in a tank and help the proper bacteria balance get started. They then remove the fish once the tank has matured.
As you get a little more experience with fish you can start introducing the popular fish, like the Lionfish, Angels, Triggerfish, and other exotic tropical saltwater fish. Always make your mistakes with a new saltwater aquarium with lower priced and very hardy fish. It will save you money, and help to protect the natural resources of our oceans. With a little planning, your first try at a saltwater aquarium will be a big success.