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Imagine spending time and a lot of money on making your dream saltwater tank. Everything is great, fish are healthy and corals are finally starting to make progress.
And then one day you make an impulse purchase on a fish that you didn’t make the research for.
You could probably get away with it if the fish is reef safe. If not, some problems may occur.
What makes a Fish or Invertebrates Reef Safe?
By definition, every fish or Invertebrate that can be safely put in a reef aquarium without causing damage to the corals or other organisms is considered reef safe. However, keep in mind that no fish or Invertebrate is completely 100 percent reef safe.
List of The Most Beautiful Reef Safe Fish
The Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma Flavescens) is one of the most iconic fish in the saltwater aquarium hobby. I would say that no reef tank is complete until you have a yellow tang in it.
These species are primarily found in the shallow reefs of the Pacific Ocean, west of Hawaii and east of Japan. They are active swimmers and can grow up to 8 inches. Due to their size, 100-gallon tank is the bare minimum.
Yellow Tangs are one of the most common saltwater fish you’ll see in aquarium stores. If you provide them the right conditions and enough space for swimming, they are fairly easy to care for. As with any other tangs, they can be aggressive towards fish from the same kind.
The Yellow Tang will accept most of the foods you offer them. However, make sure that you include plenty of Algae-based foods in their diet.
Everybody knows who is Dory from the animated movie Finding Nemo. But, not everyone knows that Dory is a very popular fish among saltwater aquarium hobbyists.
These fish are known by many names such as the Blue Tang, Blue Surgeonfish, Regal Tang or Hippo Tang.
The Blue Hippo Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus) is one of the most beautiful reef safe fish that you can have in your aquarium.
However, it’s not recommended for beginners. They can reach sizes up to 12 inches and believe me, they grow fast.
If you have a desire to keep a Blue Tang the bare minimum is a 100 gallon. These species are active swimmers and will thrive in longer tanks. They are very delicate fish and hard to keep them long-term disease free. To prevent this kind of situations a quarantine tank always comes in handy.
Hippo Tang is a herbivore and primarily feeds on marine algae. You need to provide them a varied diet, including marine seaweed.
Purple Tangs (Zebrasoma xanthurum) are famous for their vibrant purple color body and yellow tail. They are one of the most popular Tangs in the saltwater aquarium hobby.
The Purple Tang is usually found in coral reef ecosystems in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden and Sri Lanka as well.
They are one of the most pricier fish in the hobby. The Purple Tang is a reef safe fish that will be a great addition to your reef aquarium.
While not the easiest saltwater fish to care for, the purple tang is attractive and beautiful fish, making them worthwhile to take care of.
They are active swimmers and can grow up to 10 inches making them not suitable for tanks under 100 gallons. If you want to see your Purple Tang thrive in the new environment, I would recommend to keep them in at least 180 gallons tanks.
In the wild, they graze the reef for filamentous algae. In your aquarium, they will eat meaty foods as your other fish. However, it’s very important to provide them a varied diet including marine based seaweed and algae.
4. Tomato Clownfish
The Tomato Clownfish (Amphiprion frenatus) is a reef safe saltwater fish commonly referred to as the Bridled Clownfish or Red Clownfish. These types of Clownfish are usually found in the Pacific Ocean and can grow up to 5 inches.
Tomato Clownfish is a small fish with a big character. They are hardy, easy to care for, fun to watch, and excellent saltwater fish for beginners. They are captive bred, so you can usually find them in most pet stores.
Like the other types of Clownfish, they are omnivorous. They will accept most of the foods available in the aquarium trade.
If you are a fan of saltwater tangs then the Chevron Tang (Ctenochaetus hawaiiensis) might be a nice addition to your reef tank.
In the aquarium trade, they are known by many names such as Hawaiian bristletooth, Black Surgeonfish or Hawaiian Surgeonfish.
As with any other Tangs, the Chevron Tang needs plenty of swimming space. They reach sizes up to 11 inches. Keep them in 180 gallons tanks or more.
Be careful, because they can be aggressive towards other Tangs. For optimal health, you should feed them different kinds of foods, including seaweed and Algae.
Reef Safe Saltwater Aquarium Invertebrates
1. Flame Scallop
The Flame Scallop (Ctenoides scaber) also known as the Red Flame Scallop or Red File Shell Clam is a species of saltwater clam, primarily found in the Caribbean Sea.
If you ask me the Flame Scallop is one of the most beautiful and exotic reef safe invertebrates that you can have in your aquarium. However, it’s not suitable for beginners.
They are very hard to keep alive. One of the main reasons for that is their diet. Their primary diet consists of phytoplankton, supplementing by zooplankton.
If you want to have a Flame Scallop in your aquarium make sure that you target feed it. Otherwise, without enough food, will probably die in 6 to 10 months.
The Flame Scallop needs a lot of live rock and hiding places to feel safe in the aquarium.
2. Serpent Starfish
The Serpent Sea Star (Ophiolepsis superba) is common saltwater aquarium starfish native to the reefs all around the world.
They are a popular choice of starfish among saltwater aquarium enthusiasts because of their exotic colors.
The Serpent Starfish is a nocturnal animal, meaning that they will be active mostly at night. They are opportunistic scavengers and will eat almost everything they find.
They are reef safe and will be a great addition to your tank if you are into something other than fish.
3. Blue Coral Banded Shrimp
The Blue Coral Banded Shrimp (Stenopus tenuirostris) commonly referred to as the Blue Boxing Shrimp is a popular marine invertebrate among saltwater aquarium hobbyists.
They are native to the Indo Pacific Ocean and reach sizes up to 1 inch which makes them suitable for nano tanks.
These shrimps are famous for their cleaning abilities. They are great at picking parasites and dead tissue from fish. But, they will accept other commonly available foods as well.
Researching before you purchase a new fish is a vital part of keeping a thriving and successful reef tank.
All of the fish I’ve mentioned in this article are reef safe and shouldn’t cause you any problems. However, keep in mind that nothing is set in stone when it comes to living organisms.
Now, I’d like to hear from you.
What’s the most beautiful reef safe fish you have ever kept?
Drop me a note in the comment section!