Best Saltwater Aquarium Fish for Beginners

This post may contain affiliate links. As an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchase. Learn more

Keeping saltwater fish can be a fulfilling and rewarding hobby. 

In the past, keeping marine fish was perceived as more difficult than freshwater fish. 

Since then, the saltwater aquarium hobby has come a long way. Today, with all the available information online we can easily start a saltwater aquarium and be successful with it.

Keeping saltwater fish shouldn’t be hard. 

If you want to increase your chances of success you need to choose beginner saltwater fish that is easy to care for. 

To make your life easier, I’ve made a list of saltwater aquarium fish for beginners. 

Let’s dive right in. 

saltwater fish for beginners


What makes a saltwater fish beginner friendly? 

The single most important key to success in this hobby is to have the proper knowledge. 

What do I mean by that? 

Researching and carefully planning out your livestock will make your life so much easier in the future. 

Take your time. 

Make a list of a good starter saltwater fish. 

Avoid the ones that you think are not for beginners. 

But, before we go to the list of best saltwater aquarium fish for beginners let us learn what makes a saltwater fish beginner-friendly. 


Every saltwater fish have their special requirements as water temperature, tank size, tankmates, chemical parameters and tolerance towards other fish. Studying every fish individually is of great importance to have a successful marine tank. Always research if the fish are compatible with each other when purchasing new ones. It will save you from big troubles in the future. 

Fish Size

Most of the saltwater fish in stores are sold as juveniles. Beginner-friendly saltwater fish is a fish that will not grow large even as an adult. 

Make sure that the fish you’ve bought won’t outgrow your tank quick enough. 

Price and availability 

Many hobbyists who are transiting from freshwater tanks to saltwater are often surprised by the price tag of saltwater fish. That’s because there are more captive-bred freshwater fish than saltwater fish. 

The prices and availability of fish are one of the many reasons why more people are not in this hobby. That’s why is so crucial to put the price as a factor in what makes a fish beginner-friendly. 

Tank Requirements 

People think that starting with a smaller tank is a good and reasonable idea. However, my recommendation for beginners is to always buy the biggest aquarium you can afford. That way you’ll have more room for errors if something goes wrong. In general, the budget plays a big role in the size of the aquarium you choose. That’s why most of the fish on this list are suitable for smaller tanks. 


Hardy saltwater fish does not equal beginner-friendly fish. Just because someone told you some fish is hardy, doesn’t mean is suitable for beginners. 

There are many fish which are hardy, but aggressive and not compatible with others.

Think about triggers and groupers.

However, the suggested beginner saltwater fish are hardy and least prone to diseases. 

Feeding Requirements 

Choosing picky eaters as a first fish is not a good idea. Always look for saltwater fish that will accept most of the commercially available foods. Most of the fish in this hobby comes as live caught and they are not used to prepared food. 

Best Saltwater Aquarium Fish for Beginners

1. Ocellaris Clownfish

Quick Overview 

  • Temperament: Peaceful 
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallons
  • Maximum size : 3 inches 
  • Care level: Easy 
  • Diet: Omnivore 

Ocellaris Clownfish, also known as the False Percula Clownfish or Anemonefish is a saltwater fish with a beautiful orange body and white bands. 

It’s the most popular saltwater fish all over the world. Clownfish are very hardy and great saltwater fish for beginners.

Everybody loves the clownfish, especially the kids. And it’s easy to see why. 

They have one of the best personalities among the fish. Clownfish are peaceful fish and get along great with other fish. Keep them at least a 20-gallon tank. 

Ocellaris Clownfish is an omnivore and will accept most of the foods you offer it. 

2. Royal Gramma

Quick Overview 

  • Temperament: Peaceful 
  • Minimum tank size: 30 gallon 
  • Maximum size : 3 inches 
  • Care level: Easy 
  • Diet: Carnivore 

The Royal Gramma (Gramma Loreto) commonly referred to as the Fairy Basslet is a saltwater fish easily recognizable by its unique colors. They have purple body starting from the head which fades mid-body to a golden yellow at the tail. 

They are usually found in the deep waters of the Caribbean and can reach sizes up to 3 inches. It’s recommended to keep them in 30 gallons tanks. The Royal Gramma is peaceful fish unless you keep with specimens from the same kind. 

The Royal Gramma is a carnivore and will accept different types of foods such as brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, and frozen foods. 

3.Watchman Goby

Quick Overview 

  • Temperament: Peaceful 
  • Minimum tank size: 30 gallon 
  • Maximum size: 4 inches 
  • Care level: Easy 
  • Diet: Carnivore 

The Watchman Goby also are known as the Yellow Prawn Goby or Yellow Shrimp Goby is a saltwater fish with a yellow body with blue spots on the head. 

They are peaceful fish and easy to care for. Keep them in 30-gallon tanks as a single specimen. They tend to be aggressive towards each other. 

The Watchman Goby is a carnivore and should be fed with a variety of foods. 

4. Firefish Goby

Quick Overview 

  • Temperament: Peaceful 
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallons
  • Maximum size : 3 inches 
  • Care level: Easy 
  • Diet: Carnivore 

The Firefish (Nemateleotris Magnifica) also known as the Fire Goby, Fire Dartfish or Red Fire Goby is commonly referred to as one of the best saltwater aquarium fish for beginners. 

If you want to mimic their natural environment make sure that you set up a 20-gallon tank or larger with moderate lighting conditions and a moderate current passing over the rocks. 

Feed them a variety of foods such as Mysis shrimp, brine shrimp or other saltwater fish food. 

How to choose the right fish for your saltwater aquarium? 

Choosing your first saltwater fish can sometimes be an overwhelming task.

However, at the same time is one of the most exciting things to do for novice saltwater hobbyists. Learning about new species, different types of saltwater fish and their natural behaviors is always a fun thing to do. 

Choosing a suitable fish is a big part of having a successful saltwater aquarium. Many people discourage fast when some of their fish dies. 

There are a lot of reasons why that may happen. Some of them are:

  • buying a fish that is not a beginner-friendly 
  • Fish that are not compatible with each other 
  • populating the tank with too many fish in the beginning stages 
  • selecting a fish with poor health 
  • and many other different reasons that can cause problems 

Whether you are a skilled aquarist, or just a novice hobbyist, to keep saltwater fish successful you need to provide them the proper conditions. 

More people are leaving this hobby, than getting into. That’s because they are moving too fast and not doing enough research. In that case, the failure is inevitable. However, I am confident that you will not be one of them.

The first thing you should do is to make a livestock stocking plan. Find a fish that you like and check if it is suitable for your needs. Start with more hardy fish that are labeled as beginner-friendly first. 

Avoid aggressive saltwater fish at any cost. 

Always look for healthy specimens. When you are at the store ask when the fish have arrived. Never buy a brand new fish. Wait at least a week to see if it adjusted well to captivity. 

The final thing you should do is to check if the fish has an appetite. Good appetite and active movements are great signs of a healthy fish. 

How to acclimate saltwater fish? 

Acclimating new fish to your reef tank is a very important step that many novice hobbyists often overlook. 

New specimens should be acclimated by few major parameters such as water temperature, salinity, and the PH of the water. 

There are several acclimation methods:

  • The Floating Bag Method 
  • The Bucket Method
  • The Drip Method 

The Floating Bag Method 

This method of acclimation is the most common way and used by many aquarists. 

However, is not the most efficient way. 

This method is perfect only if you are acclimating for temperature. Put the bag in the tank and let it flow for 15 to 20 minutes. The temperature in the bag will slowly adjust to the temperature of the tank. After that is safe to release the fish in the aquarium. 

The Bucket Method

The Bucket Method is actually the same as the method I mentioned before. In this case, the bag is in a bucket, not in the aquarium. 

The Drip Method 

The Drip acclimation is the safest and most efficient method. With this approach, you are acclimating the fish for salinity, PH and other water chemistry parameters. 

To acclimate for salinity as well other water parameters slowly add water from the tank to the bag. 

Acclimating new fish is one thing you should take very seriously if you want to ensure your success in this fantastic hobby. 

Are saltwater fish hard to keep? 

Keeping saltwater fish is not harder than keeping freshwater fish. 

However, there are some things to consider before you buy your first fish. 

Saltwater fish are more delicate than freshwater fish. They have different water quality requirements, different aquarium setups and bigger price ranges. And there is a learning curve in the saltwater aquarium hobby. 

You may encounter some difficulties in the initial setup. Once you’ve done that, keeping saltwater fish is as easy as keeping other living organisms. 


I hope you like my list of saltwater fish for beginners. Whichever fish you pick, I am sure you will have fun watching and take care of it. 

And now, I want you to tell me. 

What’s your favorite beginner marine fish? 

I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comment section. 

Leave a Comment