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20 Best Saltwater Fish For Beginners (With Pictures)

If you want to fill your aquarium with a stunning pet, try purchasing a saltwater fish for your tank. These aquatic animals are versatile and come in a variety of beautiful breeds. Many beginner fish owners gravitate towards freshwater fish, but saltwater fish are unlike any fish found in freshwater.

Each saltwater fish has its own unique colors, shapes, and behaviors. Still, some pet owners avoid getting saltwater fish. Many are worried about the care required of these animals.

It’s true that saltwater fish can be more difficult to look after. They require very specific water conditions that must be met. Beginners might have a hard time keeping up with the requirements of their ocean pets.

However, this does not mean that beginners can’t have fish from the ocean.

Endless Possibilities

In fact, there are plenty of saltwater fish that can be taken care of by new fish owners. People new to fish keeping just have to take the time to find the right fish for them.

There are many options out there, but not every fish will be the correct fit. Tanks can be filled with all kinds of saltwater fish, so the possibilities are endless. Still, you should try to narrow down your options.

As we mentioned, saltwater fish can be difficult for first-time fish owners. But, not all saltwater fish are high maintenance. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to some of these great fish.

We want to make this decision easier for you, so we have put together this fish guide.

We’ll show you the best saltwater fish for beginners. We will also provide you with some care tips, and tell you the positive points of these fish. The fish on this list are easy to take care of, full of personality, and perfect for beginners.

Best Saltwater Fish For Beginners

There are plenty of popular saltwater fish for aquariums, more than you would think. You won’t have as hard of a time keeping these pets in your home.

The fish on this list are ultra colorful and love to swim in large saltwater aquariums. They are the best saltwater fish for beginner aquarium setups.

Still, make sure to have a spacious tank, good equipment, and do the proper research on tank preparation. This will help make your saltwater tank a success.

Don’t skip out on getting the right products and information for your pet. In addition, we’ll give you some advice throughout the course of the post.

This way you can keep your saltwater fish swimming happily for many years!

Yellow Tangs (Surgeonfish)

Yellow tangs are a popular breed for new fish owners. These pets are robust and live in a wider range of temperatures than most saltwater fish. This makes them simple to care for.

If you get a Yellow Tang, you’ll want to keep them in water seventy-two to eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit. Tangs also need a lot of space to swim in. Some experts recommend a fifty-gallon tank, but tanks up to one-hundred gallons can work for your pet as well.

A lot of people are attracted to the bright yellow hues of these fish. So they really stand out in an aquarium. You might be tempted to get more than one Tang, but be careful.

Tangs are friendly fish, but they don’t do well with their own kind. You’ll need to get another breed of fish to have a full community in your tank. If you introduce multiple Tang to a tank together though, you can keep a few Tang in your tank.

Overall these are nice fish for people new to saltwater pets. They don’t cost a lot and they have a unique look to them. Tangs are one of the best saltwater fish for beginers.


Miller’s damselfish by Rickard Zerpe (CC BY 2.0)

Damselfish are great if you don’t want to purchase a massive saltwater tank. These fish are small and require only thirty gallons of water to roam around in. A lot of saltwater fish need upwards of up a hundred-gallon to swim in.

Damsels are a little more simple than most fish. Still, they have some specific needs that need to be taken care of. You’ll have to purchase coverage for your fish. Damsels like to hide.

They can get aggressive with other types of fish. But if you give them space and places to relax and hide they will be okay. Caves, plants, and other decorative items will keep your fish from acting out.

Really, it’s best to keep them with other Damsels. But if you have the right size tank or a bigger tank they can live with other pets.

Damsels come in all kinds of fun colors. They have an almost metallic sheen to them. For a low cost, these fish can be yours.


You might recognize this next orange, black, and white-colored fish. The Clownfish has seen a resurgence in popularity ever since the movie Finding Nemo came out. This fish isn’t great because of its recognizable looks though.

The Clownfish is a perfect fish for new saltwater tank owners. Clownfish can be put in a tank with almost any type of saltwater fish. They are friendly, have lots of energy, and don’t require a lot from owners.

Clownfish have a pretty simple diet consisting of pellets and snacks. You won’t have to spend much on this fish, just give them a big enough tank. You can put these fish in smaller tanks but we recommend at least a thirty-gallon tank.

Clownfish are tropical pets, so make sure to get a heater too. Nothing too high powered, but a product that will keep your tank at the right climate.

Clownfish are one of the best saltwater fish for beginers.


Firefish by Clay vanSchalkwijk (CC BY 2.0)

If you want a saltwater fish with a little flare, the Firefish is a good choice for you. These fish have slim long bodies with sword-like fins.

The colors on the Firefish are vivid as well. They start out with a stark white and blend into a brilliant orange color. They almost look flame-like in the water. Some firefish can also be purchased in red or magenta colors.

Regardless of which color fish you get, they will look good in the water and inhabit it peacefully. Firefish are even-tempered fish that can swim along with all types of ocean creatures.

They can survive in a twenty-gallon tank, but as always we recommend a bigger tank. This way your Firefish has plenty of space to swim.

Butterfly Fish

Butterfly Fish boasts a wide array of different species. As such, you can find these aquatic pets in almost any kind of color and design.

They all share a common shape, that is graceful and refined. But some research will need to be done to tailor your care to your specific Butterfly Fish. Overall, though these are not hard fish to have as pets.

Butterfly Fish are calm tropical fish. Get a heater for this fish so its in the right water conditions. They can get a little pricy depending on the type you get. Still, these fish are worth the investment of your money and time.

Watchman Goby

Yellow Watchman Goby by Clay vanSchalkwijk (CC BY 2.0)

Watchman Gobies are another ideal fish for beginners. These fish look a little strange. But if you can get used to their looks,

Gobies are great additions to saltwater tanks. Gobies get along with all manner of fish. They will eat whatever you put in their tank and require minimal care.

Gobbies do well in coral tanks since this is apart of their natural environment. But they will thrive in whatever setup you decide to settle on in your aquarium. In addition,

Gobies are pretty common in pet stores. So you can acquire them with ease at a good price.

Blenny Fish

Lawnmower Blenny

If you like the alien look of the Gobies you’ll love Blenny Fish. Blenny Fish have long bodies and come in several different colors and shapes. They like to dwell at the bottom of your aquarium floor. They also tend to hideaway and be cautious at first. But you will grow to love these special fish.

They have a few different forms, but a popular option is a Horned Blenny. These types of Blenny add something extra to your tank and look quite cute. They really don’t look like other fish. So they are nice if you want to diversify the aesthetic of your tank.

Blenny, on the whole, are calm fish that like to live in communities. Usually, though, you should only have one Blenny per tank.


Magenta dottyback by Rickard Zerpe (CC BY 2.0)

Dottybacks are vibrantly hued fish that come in several fun shades. You can get a Dottyback in bright yellow, dark blues, and purple. Double colored Dotty’s are also an option. They usually have two colors and look the best in yellow and purple.

These fish are small, but they enjoy tanks thirty-gallons and higher. You can put them in with other fish, but they might get agitated. They won’t harm other fish, but they might hideaway.

Dottybacks are fans of shrimp, plankton, and frozen food, so keep this in mind. You want to give them plenty of protein.

Chalk Bass

Chalk bass (Serranus tortugarum) by Emőke Dénes (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Chalk Bass are one of the best saltwater fish for beginners. A lot of beginners have trouble keeping to the right water conditions in saltwater tanks.

With Chalk Bass, you don’t have to worry about that as much. If you get this fish, you can make some mistakes. Your fish won’t die right away like other species.

Chalk Bass are tropical fish, but they can adapt to the conditions of your tank if they need to. The water can be a little off their norm. You don’t want to deliberately put them in the wrong type of environment.

But know they are hardy enough to survive a change in water quality. They are also pretty resilient to ich and other fish diseases. So that is one less thing you have to worry about.

Overall, these fish look great, are sturdy, and are one of the best saltwater fish beginners.

Coral Beauties

Two-spined Angelfish by zsispeo (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Coral Beauties hail from the Angelfish family. They are not as big as Angelfish, but they do cost you less. In fact, these fish have a lower price tag than most ocean fish. Just because they cost less, doesn’t mean they have less value though.

Coral Beauties are one of the best-looking aquatic pets on this list. They are strong fish with beautiful rich hues that attract attention. You won’t want to look away from your tank if you get this fish.

On the whole, the Beauties are easy to care for. But, you’ll want to get your pet a larger tank. Coral Beauties do get along with other fish.

But if they are squished in a small space they can get testy with other fish. Rocks and other coverage should help with this as well. If your fish has a place to hide they won’t start trouble.

Food is also something to think about. Beauties don’t like a lot of food. You’ll have to try out different foods to see which one is to their liking.


Molly fish are another great priced ocean fish. They come in a lot of different variations, you can even get them in larger sizes up to a foot long.

Molly fish are one of the easiest fish to care for. They adapt to saltwater but also freshwater too. They take well to a lot of different water conditions which is rare for ocean fish. This trait is ideal for beginner fish owners though.

Overall, care is not demanding at all for Mollies. You just want to make sure to clean your tank often and feed them leafy foods.

Mollies are one of the best saltwater fish for beginners.

Green Chromis

Green Chromis can be bought if you want to form a fish community in your aquarium. These fish love to be among their own kind. They are simple to care for and just require some basic needs. Rocks and other structures should be added in with your fish.

Green Chromis like to have spots to relax and hide in. So coverage is important for them. Also, buy a heater for this fish, it likes specific tropical temperatures near eighty-two degrees.

Chromis are fun luminescent fish that look amazing in a tank, especially if you get a group of them.

We highly recommend this fish to beginners with tanks that are thirty gallons and over. This is another contender for best saltwater fish for beginners.

Royal Gramma Basslet

Royal Gramma Bassleys only like to stay with fish of the same breed. So if you want a tank with a single species this is one breed to go with. They are calm fish with vivid coloring. Most of them come in purple shades, but some of them can be found in yellow.

The Basslet likes warm waters so a heater will need to be purchased for your fish. A good size tank should also be considered for the Basslet. These fish need around thirty gallons of water to roam around in. Put some nice decorations and rocks in to make your tank welcoming for your fish.

Lastly when you get food for your fish make sure it has plenty of protein. Basslet like meaty foods like shrimp, zooplankton, and other critters. Frozen food can work as well, just don’t get flakes or pellets.

Auriga Butterfly Fish

Chaetodon auriga by zsispeo (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Coral Beauties look great, but Auriga Butterfly Fish definitely wins as the best-looking fish on the list. Auriga has a delicate and beautiful form that creates a wonderful aesthetic in saltwater tanks.

This variety of Butterflyfish comes with stripes and most of them are multi-colored. You can’t go wrong with choosing this Butterfly Fish really.

The Butterflies are not demanding pets, they just need warm water and enough room to swim around in their tanks. Consider this fish is you want a beginner aquatic pet that stands out in your tank.


Cortez Rainbow Wrasse by Javontaevious (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Wrasses are not energetic fish, but they look great in large-sized tanks. These fish tend to hang out at the bottom of your Aquarium. They won’t interact much with other fish as they are shy pets. But they warm up to your tank in no time.

For Wrasses, since they dwell at the bottom of your tank, you’ll want to have sand substrate. Rocky gravel can harm your fish when they dig into the tank floor. Other rock decoration should be fine for your fish though.

You can put other breeds in the tank with the Wrass, but don’t put other types of aquatic creatures in. Snails, shrimps, any other pets will get eaten by Wrasses.

Longnose Hawkfish

Longnose hawkfish by Kenneth Lu (CC BY 2.0)

Longnose Hawkfish have fun patterns and take on the shape of a swordfish. These fish are cute, miniature and perfect to put in with any other fish. But don’t put them in with pets that look like them or they could end up fighting.

The Longnose are best kept in tanks thirty gallons and above. The tank water should be kept warm with a heater in the same temperatures corals enjoy. Most beginners won’t have corals in their tank, but if you do get one, these fish love to live in coral tanks.

Blue Tang

The next fish is another fish from the Tang family. Blue Tangs probably look familiar to you, like the Clown Fish, they were also featured in Finding Nemo. These fish have brilliant blue and yellow hues and add an exotic look to your tank. You might even want to put them in with Clown Fish for a more picturesque tank community.

Blue Tangs like to eat algae, so your tank will stay clean with them. In terms of other foods in their diet, give them meaty foods. Frozen or live food will work well for them.

Overall, the look and energy of this fish make it one of the best saltwater fish for beginners.

Flame Hawkfish

Flame Hawkfish by Brian Gratwicke (CC BY 2.0)

The Flame Hawkfish is another bottom dweller that is ideal for new fish owners. They are larger than the Longnose Hawkfish and have a wider body than most other Hawkfish. Like the Longnose though, they will need soft substrate to dig around in.

Flame Hawkfish have the colors of flames and look dazzling in a tank. But be careful of what saltwater fish you put in a tank with them.

They do good with a lot of different fish, but they could attack other bottom-dwelling fish. Rocks and other structures can be useful for the Hawkfish, sometimes they like to rest on them.

Talbot Damsel

Talbots damsel (Chrysiptera talboti) by Rickard Zerpe (CC BY 2.0)

Talbot Damsels have the most peaceful temperament out of any fish in this guide. Sometimes, these fish can even be prone to bully because they are so calm. You want to put other non-aggressive fish in with your Talbot. This way they can live in the best tank community possible.

Talbot’s like to feel safe and secure, so put in other structures to give them places to hide. In addition, you will need to use sand to cover the bottom of your tank. Sometimes, Talbot’s like to lounge at the bottom of the tank and gravel is not a great material for that.

Feed your Talbot plenty of protein and keep your water warm with a heater. Other than that, you won’t have to do much to care for this pet. This is a friendly and great looking fish for saltwater tanks!

Pajama Cardinalfish

Pajama cardinalfish by Rickard Zerpe (CC BY 2.0)

The last fish on our saltwater pet list is the Pajama Cardinalfish. The Pajama Cardinalfish wins for most wacky design on a fish. If you want a unique fish with multiple eye-catching patterns this is a pet you should buy.

Pajama Cardinalfish have varied looks all on one fish. You have stripes, dots, and solid regions all on one body. Pajama look attention-grabbing, but they are timid fish. They like tanks that are smaller, around twenty gallons. But if you get more than one of these fish you’ll have to buy at least a thirty-gallon tank.

Pajama don’t swim much in the daytime and prefer to be nocturnal. So keep this in mind.


The ocean is full of all kinds of beautiful and strange fish. Many of these amazing fish can even be brought into your home and kept as pets.

As a beginner fish owner, you might shy away from ocean fish because of the care required. But you don’t have to miss out on having them as pets. Saltwater fish aren’t always easy to take care of. But if you get the right fish even a beginner can have saltwater fish.

In this guide, we showed you some of the best saltwater fish for beginners. We even provided you with detailed care and characteristics of these fish. Hopefully, you were able to find the right fish for your saltwater aquarium!

Aaron Boyd
Aaron Boyd

Hello, I’m Aaron Boyd, the proud owner and author behind Aqua Movement. I hope my article was able to answer your questions. If you want to learn more about me, click the home icon above.

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