7 Best Nano Reef Fish Suggestions For Your Small Saltwater Aquarium

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With the increasing popularity of small saltwater aquariums, the demand for nano reef fish was never higher. Luckily for us, most of them are available in every local aquarium shop. 

Any tank that is between 5 gallons and 30 gallons is considered a nano tank. 

Whether you are a novice aquarist or more experienced, this guide will help you prepare for keeping healthy and happy fish. 

So if you’re having trouble finding which fish can be kept in small tanks, don’t worry. 

You are in the right place. 

These are our nano reef fish suggestions. 

Nano Reef Fish


Best Saltwater fish for 3 or 5-gallon tanks

Blue neon goby

The Neon Blue Goby (Elacatinus Oceanops) is a well-known nano reef fish recognized by their black bodies with electric neon blue horizontal lines.

These species are usually found in the warmer parts of Western Central Atlantic primarily in the region of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.

Neon Blue Gobies are small saltwater fish that grow up to 2 inches which makes them perfect for nano tanks. They are hardy fish and relatively easy to care for.

They are peaceful fish that would be a great addition to your community tank. However, be careful if you keep more than one from the same species.

They can be aggressive towards each other. It’s not unusual to see them chasing around the aquarium. I wouldn’t worry too much because most of the time are pretty harmless.

But for own peace of mind, make more territories and places for them to hide.

In the wild neon blue gobies have the reputation of a cleaner fish. In my opinion, these small fish have one of the most interesting and unique behaviors.

Which of course makes them an attractive choice for many saltwater aquarium hobbyists.

Their job is to clean the ectoparasites from the larger fish. In fact, is like they are providing a service. In return, the predatory fish usually leave them alone.

The benefits are mutual because that’s their primary source of food in the wild. However, in the home aquarium that’s not sufficient and a supplemented diet is required. Neon Gobies are carnivorous and would accept most of the foods available in the aquarium hobby.

As with any other saltwater fish, high water quality is mandatory. Neon gobies are captivity bred, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding them in your local fish store.

Yellow Clown goby

The Yellow Clown Goby (Gobiodon Okinawae) is one of the smallest saltwater fish that you can keep in a home aquarium.

Also known as Citron Goby or just Clown Goby, these fish have a bright yellow body with blue vertical lines around the eyes.

Their natural habitat extends all across the Indo Pacific through the Western Pacific. These fish mostly inhabit the shallow reefs, however, they are also found in waters as deep as 60 feet. The main reason for that is the availability of corals which they use as shelters.

In the wild, the Yellow Clown Goby lives among soft and hard polyp colonies. If you want to see the true nature of these miniature fish make sure your aquarium has colonies of polyp corals. These adorable little guys will often perch on the coral branches.

Be aware if you have SPS corals in your tank. Yellow Clown Gobies are notorious for their habit of nipping SPS polyps. Most people find out this the hard way.

Their size can reach up to maximum 2 inches which makes them perfect fish for smaller saltwater tanks.

Generally speaking Clown Gobies are peaceful fish, however, they tend to be aggressive towards each other. The best practice is to keep them as pairs, or one goby per tank.

The Yellow Clown Goby is a small and active fish with an interesting personality which makes them a popular choice with aquarists. 

They are carnivorous fish, and their diet mainly consists of a variety of live and frozen foods such as brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, and table shrimp.

It’s not uncommon to see them breeding in the tank. Great water quality, variety of foods and adequate tankmates will be enough to make these little guys healthy and happy.

Note: I would not recommend you to keep a fish in anything less than a 10-gallon aquarium. However, there will always be people who didn’t follow the rules and had success with it. If you are willing to take the risk, make sure that you have one fish only, and high water quality on a constant basis.

Best Saltwater fish for 10-gallon tank

Tailspot Blenny

The Tailspot Blenny (Ecsenius Stigmatura) is a very popular nano saltwater fish among many saltwater fishkeeping enthusiasts.

You will instantly recognize by its unique dark spot at the base of its tail. It also has a black and yellow band that runs below each eye.

These fish are categorized as a smaller type of blennies with very large eyes which make them perfect for smaller tanks.

The Tailspot Blenny is usually found in the Western Pacific mostly in shallow reefs. It’s captive-bred and you can easily find it in most aquatic shops.

With vibrant colors and unique personality, it’s easy to see why this fish is so popular. These types of blennies reach size up to 2.5 inches.

They are easy to care for, and fun to watch.

You will need at least a 10-gallon tank if you keep them individually. For pair is recommended more than 30 gallons.

They will thrive in well-established tanks with algae. However, if there are not enough algae on the rocks supplementary diet is required.

A diverse diet of Spirulina, frozen food, and plant-based fish flakes will make them happy and healthy. They shouldn’t be kept with more aggressive species.

Note: I would not recommend you to keep a fish in anything less than a 10-gallon aquarium. However, there will always be people who didn’t follow the rules and had success with it. If you are willing to take the risk, make sure that you have one fish only, and high water quality on a constant basis.

Percula Clownfish

Percula Clownfish (Amphiprion percula) also known by the names of Orange Clownfish, Eastern Clownfish, and Percula anemonefish is one of the most popular fish in the saltwater aquarium hobby.

These fish are primarily found in the shallow and warmer waters of the Indo Pacific ocean and the Great Barrier Reef. They are captive bred and easy to find in most aquatic shops.

The Orange Clownfish reach size up to 3 inches. They are the smallest type of Clownfish which makes them perfect fish for smaller aquariums. The minimum size tank for one clownfish should be at least 10 gallons.

As any other fish high water quality is mandatory. They are hardy and easy to care for which makes them a great nano reef fish for beginners.

One of the most interesting and unique behaviors of these fish is their relationship with sea anemone. In the wild, the anemone is a shelter for the clownfish to hide from predators, and in return, they provide food for these corals.

Percula Clownfish are omnivores and will accept most of the foods available in the hobby.

They are often mistaken with the Ocellaris Clownfish because of their similarities. It’s very difficult to tell the difference if you are not experienced. They both belong in the Percula Complex.

Catalina goby

The Catalina Goby (Lythrypnus Dalli) also known as Blue-banded goby is an extremely attractive small fish. They are easily recognized by their orange body with patches of blue on the head and face, and blue lines on the front half of the body.

The Bluebanded goby comes from Catalina Island, as its name suggests. Unlike other fish commonly available in the saltwater aquarium hobby the Catalina Goby lives in colder waters where the temperatures range from mid 60’s F to 71 F. It’s primarily found in waters as deep as 60 meters.

This fish is pretty hardy and easy to care for if the right conditions are provided. However, this is not the practice because they live in waters colder than the norm for a typical saltwater aquarium. Keeping them in warmer waters will shorten their lives. They do best when kept with species that have similar requirements.

The Catalina Goby can reach size up to 1 inch. Due to their small size, they are perfect for nano tanks. Keep them in at least 10-gallon tank as singles or in 30 gallons plus if you want more. They get along with other tank mates but can be aggressive towards each other.

When firstly introduced in a new tank, these little guys require more frequent feeding. They will accept most of the foods available in the hobby.

Best Saltwater fish for 20-gallon aquarium

Six Line Wrasse 

The Six Line Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus Hexataenia) also known as Six Stripe Wrasse is a small and attractive fish with a unique personality. They are easily recognized by their purple body with six horizontal orange lines. Males display a more vibrant and prominent color when they want to attract the females for spawning. 

These species are found in the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific Ocean where they inhabit waters at depths from 3 to 114 feet. They can reach sizes up to 3 inches which makes them perfect addition for smaller tanks. 

The Six Line Wrasse has a reputation of an active and energetic fish. It seems that it can’t keep to a single spot in the tank. It’s very enjoyable to watch it swimming all across the tank. 

In general, they are peaceful fish but be careful. They tend to pick up smaller tank mates or fish from the same kind. The best practice is to keep them as an individual or with bigger fish. 

They are pretty hardy fish and an excellent choice for novice or intermediate experienced aquarist. 20 gallons tanks should be enough if you keep them as single specimens. 

Feeding Sixline Wrasses is not hard because they accept most of the foods available in the hobby. However, a diverse diet including vitamins is recommended. 

Best Saltwater fish for 30-gallon tank

Flame Hawkfish 

The Flame Hawkish (Neocirrhites Armatus) also known as Fire Hawkish is a small fish with a bright red body and dark markings around the eyes. 

They are found in the Pacific region mostly in shallow waters. The minimum tank size for this beautiful and attractive fish is 30 gallons. 

It’s easy to see why this fish is so loveable. Tons of personality, easy to care for, and vibrant red colors make the flame Hawkish a nice addition to every reef tank. 

In the wild, Flame Hawkish eats mostly crustaceans. In home aquariums, their diet should include a variety of foods, including live shrimps. 


Keeping nano reef fish can be a demanding task, but sure is rewarding.

Which of the small saltwater fish on this list do you like the most?

Do you have one of them in your tank or you’re planning to get one?

Either way, let me know in the comments.

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