Choosing Your Marine(Saltwater) Fish

 


Adventure Pets takes pride in the large selection of high quality fresh and saltwater fish. We also have a nice selection of hard to find large to show size fish.We bring in regular shipments direct from Asia, bypassing the wholesalers, offering a higher quality specimen at a much lower cost.

Click Here to see some of our In Stock Marine Fish

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In Stock Marine Fish

Sea Goldie by Joi, on Flickr
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The marine ecosystems especially a reef tend to have a much more diverse web of life than the typical freshwater environment. This means that besides having a wider range of colors and unique shapes marine fish also tend to occupy more specialized ecological niches than their freshwater cousins.

This higher degree of specialization means researching the needs of each fish you plan to keep plays a bigger role in your overall success than in the typical freshwater aquarium. You not only need to meet the needs of an individual fish but also balance them with the needs of other tank inhabitants.

Types of Saltwater Fish

Moving from a tropical reef with familiar food and a fairly stable water chemistry to a comparably tiny box of water with environmental conditions that are always less then optimal and trying to figure out just what is good to eat is very stressful to the wild caught fish. Coming from the wild they have probably just gone through a rough ride from a distant tropical locale. Together these help to explain the usually higher mortality found with wild caught fish than with captive bred specimens or freshwater species from a pond in Florida that grew up eating prepared fish foods.

Ocellaris Clownfish by edanley, on Flickr
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There are a number of marine species that are commercially captive bred today like Clownfish, Angelfish, Dottybacks, and Gobies. These don't deplete wild stocks and have the added benefit of already being acclimated to a captive environment and diet. Captive bred specimens cost a little more than a wild caught specimen of the same species but not having to deal with as drastic a lifestyle change they also tend to be more hardy and healthy. The extra cost is usually more than worth your time and money.

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Just like freshwater fish some marine species are more demanding than others due to sensitivity to water conditions or specialized diets. As luck would have it these are some of the species that attract new aquarist to the hobby.

These include the butterfly fish, angelfish, seahorses and their straight relatives the pipefish, filefish, non-moray eels, Moorish Idols and the Mandarinfish. These fish are best avoided when first establishing a tank and until the aquarist gets a little experience.

orange spotted goby by scot63us, on Flickr
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Fortunately there are some species that are hardy enough to withstand the unstable chemistry of a new tank, attractive, easy to feed, interesting to watch and relatively inexpensive for the newcomer to the hobby. These include the damsels and clownfish along with the blennies, gobies and even freshwater mollies that have been acclimated to salt water. These all offer a good chance of success when starting up a marine tank although some of the blennies and gobies are tougher to feed especially if live rock and sand are not included.

During the first couple of months a marine tank is going through a process called cycling. This normally takes about 6 weeks give or take a few while bacteria that naturally convert the toxic byproducts of decomposing waste and uneaten food into less noxious chemicals multiply. Before this chemical concentration can reach deadly levels especially for the more sensitive species. Patience during this time is much more critical than in a freshwater tank as the remedy normally used there, water changes, is less convenient, more expensive and tougher on the fish in a marine tank.

These points having been made setting up a marine tank is very doable for just about anyone that does a little homework and takes advantage of the products and technologies designed to make the job easier. Below are some of the main groups of saltwater fish commonly kept in the aquarium.

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Angels & Butterflyfish

Angelfish

All Angelfish are omnivorous and will feast on macroalgae and small inverts so they are not usually considered reef-safe but a few dwarf varieties like the Flame and Coral Beauty angels can sometimes be added to the reef tank. Full size angelfish get large and require a 125 gallon or larger tank while the dwarf varieties can be kept in a tank less than half this size.

Butterflyfish

Copperband Butterflyfish by Ed Townend, on Flickr
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The Butterflyfish have a pointier snout than the angelfish and usually range in size somewhere between the dwarf and full sized angelfish. They tend to be more finicky eaters than the angels and a number of species feed exclusively on coral polyps in the wild so they are not considered to be reef-safe.

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Damsels & Clownfish

Ocellaris Clownfish by edanley, on Flickr
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Damsels & Chromis

Most damsel & Chromis species kept in the aquarium are small 3-4 inch brightly colored or distinctively patterned fish but some species in this family can reach more than a foot. The damsels have rounder bodies and fins and live closer to the reef. Chromis are more oval shaped with distinctively forked tails and spend most of their time schooling further from the surface of the reef making them less territorial. They both belong to the Pomacentridae family, which also includes the anemonefish.

Damsels normally establish a territory and are intolerant of invaders especially other damsels. Both age and species play a roll in determining how aggressive a damsel may be. Some Chromis species like the blue, green and yellow-tailed damsels are less aggressive than others like the three-spot and three-striped damsels but all damsels tend to get more aggressive with age. The damsels are probably the most common species used to cycle a new tank but may need to be removed if more timid species like butterfly fish or dwarf angelfish are going to be added after the tank stabilizes. All Damselfish can be considered reef-safe.

Clownfish

The clownfish also known as anemonefish have always been popular because of their bright colors, easy care and the mutually beneficial relationship they form with anemones. However since the release of the Disney-Pixar films starring Nemo, a clownfish, these guys have probably inspired more marine tanks than any other kind of fish. There are about 30 species of anemonefish. Many species are a combination of orange, black and white like the one that most closely resembles Nemo, the percula clown.

Clownfish are hardy, omnivorous fish that feed on small invertebrates and algae in the wild in captivity they appreciate treats of these natural foods but do quite well on a diet of prepared fish foods. The clownfish will protect the area around their anemone against all intruders but are otherwise usually peaceful with the particular exception of the Maroon Clownfish.

While Clownfish will claim a suitable anemone as their own they do just fine without one. They come from the Pacific and Indian Oceans and most anemonefish will only inhabit a particular type of anemone from that same area ignoring the more common and less expensive anemones from the coastal waters of North America and the Caribbean. Anemonefish can be considered reef-safe.

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Parrotfish, Wrasses & Hogfish

’awela - christmas wrasse by randychiu, on Flickr
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Wrasses & Hogfish

While the parrotfish are contained in their own family all of these are closely related. There are hundreds of species of wrasses and while most available in the hobby are small less than 8-inch fish the largest wrasse can grow to more than 8 feet! The wrasses are opportunistic carnivores that normally feed on small invertebrates while the larger hogfish feeds primarily on crustaceans rooted from the sand with its sensitive snout.

Parrotfish

Parrotfish on the other hand have more beak-like teeth that they use to scrape algae from coral and rocks. The coral skeletons are ingested and expelled as sand. Their size and feeding habits make the parrotfish unsuitable for the home aquarium.

Smaller species and juvenile wrasses readily accept prepared foods while larger individuals prefer meaty frozen foods. Wrasses are a very diverse group of fish and while the larger species are not considered reef-safe because of their taste for shrimp and crustaceans many of the smaller fairy, flasher and cleaner wrasse species are.

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Sharks & Rays

Wobbegong Shark 1 by DiveKarma, on Flickr
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Blue spotted stingray by prilfish, on Flickr
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Sharks and rays are more closely related than their general appearance would indicate. They are both cartilaginous fish meaning that their skeleton is composed of cartilage rather than bone. The sharks are sometimes grouped by where they swim there are the free swimmers that are usually ravenous carnivores because of the energy they expend constantly swimming. This along with their generally larger size makes them unsuitable for the home aquarium.

Then there are the species that spend their time close to the bottom these will eat fish if offered but are usually happy scavenging and feeding on mollusk, crustaceans and inverts. This diet is similar to those of the rays. As well as swimming room these species also need some open bottom area with a suitable substrate for resting or burying.

The sharks that are most common in the aquarium are the horn sharks, catsharks and bamboo sharks. Their taste for inverts leaves them off the reef-safe list. Tongs or a feeding stick should be used when feeding and care needs to be taken as all of these are capable of either biting or stinging the aquarist.

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Anthiases, Basslets & Dottybacks

Anthias

fairy basslet by Just chaos, on Flickr
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Sea Goldie by Joi, on Flickr
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Anthias are also known as Fairy Basslets. They are small colorful fish that are a little stockier than the Basslets. They do well in groups but tend to be hard to feed in the home aquarium. In nature they feed on zooplankton. The surest way to maintain a steady supply of acceptable food at home is to culture copepods in a refugium. Anthias are known to commonly waste away if appropriate food is not available. The Anthias are considered reef-safe.

Basslets & Dottybacks

This group of colorful small fish includes the popular purple and yellow Royal Gramma and the Purple and Black Cap Gramma. They eat a meaty diet and care is similar to the damselfish. They are considered reef-safe but the Dottybacks are known to eat small shrimp.

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Eels

Snowflake Moray, Kona, Hawaii by SteveD., on Flickr
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eelation by jurvetson, on Flickr
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The extremely Eelselongate shape of the eels makes them unmistakable. The most common types in the hobby are various species of morays. They are bottom dwellers that will take over a secluded nook in the tank and spend most of their time there quietly surveying the surroundings.

Many species eat both fish and inverts while the two more common species the Zebra moray and Snowflake moray have specialized teeth designed for crushing inverts. This doesn't mean that they won't eat fish just that they prefer inverts. Others have teeth that are considerable sharper for grabbing and holding fish. This makes the use of a stick or tongs necessary when feeding.

Besides their diet the morays can also dislodge rocks as they wind their way though tight cracks and crevices. This makes them unsuitable for a reef tank. That being said many aquarist feel that the trade off is worth it at least until something happens

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Puffers, Boxfish & Porcupinefish

Porcupinefish #1 by poplinre, on Flickr
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This group of fish can all inflate themselves to some degree by taking in water. While this behavior is amusing enough to some keepers that they threaten the fish to see it occur it is extremely stressful to the fish and will shorten its life.

The Porcupinefish have spines that are forced erect when they inflate while the puffers are smaller with smooth scales. The boxfish are unwieldy slow swimmers with bony plates that cover their body.

All are omnivores feeding on inverts like crabs, shrimp, snails and worms as well as algae. Tobies and Sharpnosed Puffers need more vegetable matter in their diet than the others. Individual Porcupinefish and puffers can get aggressive in the aquarium taking chunks out of other fish with their fused teeth. Since the major part of their diet is inverts none are considered reef-safe.

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Tangs (Surgeonfishes) & Rabbitfishes

IMG_9339 by benpopik, on Flickr
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Foxface Lo by Just chaos, on Flickr
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Tangs are more herbivorous than the angelfish making them safe with most corals. Tangs can also do well in a smaller tank than the angelfish. They tend to be less than tolerant of other tangs especially those of the same species or of similar appearance.

Tangs, surgeons and unicornfish have sharp spines at the base of their tails while Rabbitfishes have venomous spines on the dorsal and anal fins that can injure other fish and the careless aquarist.

The most commonly recognized tang species is the Yellow Tang. In the wild tangs graze on caulerpa and gracilias macroalgae. These can be cultivated in a sump or refugium for feeding in the home aquarium. This can help reduce feeding cost while at the same time benefiting water quality by helping to reduce nitrate levels.

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Blennies, Gobies and Dragonets

2009 07 24_2874 by David Robb, on Flickr
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orange spotted goby by scot63us, on Flickr
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The blennies, gobies and dragonets (Mandarinfish) are similar in habit and care. They are small elongate carnivorous fish that tend to spend most of their time on or near the bottom, especially the gobies which lack a gas bladder to help lift them higher in the tank.

They like access to tight hiding places usually staying close by ready to take refuge if they feel threatened. The dragonets sift the substrate to capture small invertebrates and can be tough to keep in a fish only tank. All are considered to be reef-safe.

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Groupers

Groupers are a very large and diverse family that includes the small basslets and anthiases as well as the giant and goliath groupers that can weigh as much as a half a ton. The panther grouper also called the polka-dot grouper because of its bright white skin covered in round black dots is a popular species for the home aquarium as a juvenile but can reach nearly 2 feet when grown.

The groupers are certainly not picky eaters and always seem to have a ravenous appetite. They will leave corals and anemones alone but the other inverts in a reef tank are considered fair game.

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Scorpionfish

Zebra Dwarf Lionfish by prilfish, on Flickr
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lionfish by jayhem, on Flickr
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The most common type of scorpionfish in the hobby are the various species of lionfish. The scorpionfish are ambush predators that typically lie in wait near the bottom for just about any fish that will fit in their disproportionately large mouths. Many have either elaborate finnage or skin growths designed to either confuse or camouflage them from their prey.

Just about all scorpionfish acclimate easily to meaty frozen foods. They will ignore coral and most inverts so they are often considered to be reef-safe but the smaller fish normally kept in a reef tank are their standard fare in the wild.

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Triggers & Filefish

Triggers and filefish are known for having two separate dorsal fins with a single dorsal spine, no pelvic fin, rough or spiny skin and jaw bones that are fused into a beak-like structure for breaking through the shells of inverts.

The filefish tend to be more elongate than the triggers as well as smaller and shyer. Some species of triggers on the other hand can be down right terrors in the tank. A few filefish are said to be reef-safe but they still have a tendency to nibble on polyps until they acclimate to prepared and frozen foods. As a general rule these are not considered reef-safe and even the few filefish that are sometimes recommended are a risk at least at first.

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Cardinalfish

Banggai Cardinalfish 2 by ahisgett, on Flickr
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The Cardinalfish are small 4-inch nocturnal fish with relatively large eyes and long erect fins found in the tropical waters of the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific. Many have an attractive mix of stripes and spots in their pattern overlaying a reddish toned base color.

In nature they feed on plankton and small crustaceans. Wild caught specimens are sometimes tricky to acclimate to prepared and frozen food. This is usually made easier by starting off with live copepods or brine shrimp and gradually mixing in more prepared food over time. The Cardinalfish are considered to be reef-safe.

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Hawkfish

Longnose Hawkfish by prilfish, on Flickr
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Hawkfish are bottom dwellers that lack a swim bladder so they spend the majority of their time perching. They feed on zooplankton and small shrimps and crabs. They don't tend to bother the bigger stationary inverts found in the reef-tank but because of their natural diet small shrimps and crabs are potentially at risk.

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Sea horses, Pipefish & Dragons

Seahorse_8803 by sgsprzem, on Flickr
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Ringed Pipefish - Doryrhamphus Dactyliop by prilfish, on Flickr
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These are another of the most recognizable groups of marine fish. They are all planktavors requiring small food to fit their small mouths. They are considered reef safe but are often intimidated or driven off their food by the more active reef inhabitants.

Wild caught species will usually only accept live food but with a little patience and coaxing the majority will learn to accept appropriately sized frozen fare like brine-shrimp.