Owning a saltwater or marine aquarium can be a daunting prospect for many potential fish owners. So many of the fish are large and have challenging dietary requirements that many beginning marine aquarists can quickly become discouraged and give up their dream of owning a bright and colorful tank full of spectacular saltwater fish. All is not lost, however, as there are some marine fish that are easy to care for, have few dietary needs, and still provide the tank with the same vibrant color and excitement as some of the pickier species.
Gobies – Gobies are extremely hardy and very long-lived. Though they are quite small, they bring personality to the tank. They are a bottom dwelling fish with a special organ on their pelvic fins that acts as a suction cup, allowing them to stick themselves on a piece of rock and bob with the currents. They are quite shy, have no special water needs, and have simple dietary needs.
Damselfish – Damselfish are excellent fish for first time marine aquarists. They can handle a variety of water conditions while you are getting your tank set up, and though some species may be aggressive towards other Damselfish, they tend to get along quite well in a community tank. It is best to keep one Damselfish per tank. They are not fussy eaters and are happy to exist on flake food with the occasional treat of chopped shrimp and vegetation.
Basslets – Basslets cover a wide range of potential fish such as dottybacks, groupers and Anthias. Though they tend to be predatory and territorial like most saltwater fish, when provided with enough space they are quite well-behaved, incredibly hardy, and excellent to own. Most Basslets are small, growing no more than six inches, and are ideal for smaller reef tanks with a low population. They enjoy schooling and will generally leave other fish alone. Their greatest need is places to hide; caves and crevices fill this need easily. Basslets are easy to feed; they are carnivores and do best with brine shrimp but will also eat frozen, chopped shrimp or fish meat.
Squirrelfish – For the new marine aquarists looking to create a “themed” aquarium, the Squirrelfish is an excellent first addition. Though they are somewhat plain in the light of day, this hardy and easy to care for fish shines in the light of a night-time aquarium. They need places to hide during the day, but have no other requirements. They are not aggressive towards other fish, have a simple high-protein diet, and are an excellent fish for beginning marine aquarists.
Blennies – Blennies are quite hardy, and though they can be quite territorial and aggressive, their small size makes them ideal for the beginning tank. Their lack of color is quickly made up for in extraordinary personality. Though Blennies are shy, they are also territorial and may duck into their den to hide before darting right back out again to investigate a potential intruder. They are a bottom dwelling fish that uses their pectoral fins to prop themselves up on a perch so they can survey their kingdom, much like a seal.