Top Ten Marine Aquarium Fish

Copperband Butterfly (Chelmon rostratus)

  • Grows to 8 inches
  • Needs 50-gallon+ aquarium
  • Comes from the Indo-Pacific and Australia

You thought Peppermint Shrimp were the best Aiptaisia-eaters (Aiptaisia is a pest anemone that can easily take over the tank)? Well, think again. Say hello to the Copperband Butterfly, a miracle worker on helping rid Aiptaisia from aquaria. This (largely) reef-safe butterflyfish is a beauty to behold but is a finicky eater in captivity. As a result, the Copperband Butterfly is generally not considered a hardy species and is not an appropriate beginner fish. Plan to spend between $20 and $90 depending on size.

Six Line Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus hexataenia)

  • Grows to 4 inches
  • Needs a 30-gallon+ aquarium
  • Comes from Indo-Pacific, Red Sea and Australia

Like the Copperband Butterfly, the Six Line Wrasse also serves a very utilitarian purpose in the marine aquarium insofar as it is a virtual pyramidellid snail and red flatworm hunter. A highly attractive fish, the Six Line Wrasse may grow up to be a bit of a bully. This is a hardy fish appropriate for the beginning aquarist and can be obtained for around $15.

Neon Goby (Gobiosoma oceanops)

  • Grows to 2 inches
  • Needs a 10-gallon+ aquarium
  • Comes from Western Atlantic

Yet another fish that earns its keep, the Neon Goby is a cleaner fish that will remove parasites from your other fish. Reef safe and hardy, it’s hard to think of why you would not want a neon goby in your tank. A pair will spawn in captivity, so you may only spend $50 ever for this personable fish. The neon goby is generally obtainable for around $25 each.


Lawnmower Blenny (Salarias fasciatus)

  • Grows to 5 ½ inches
  • Needs a 24-gallon+ aquarium
  • Comes from Indo-Pacific

Got filamentous algae? Get a Lawnmower Blenny. As the name suggests, this fish will mow through fields of algae and then personable perch on the rock work looking fat, dumb and happy. This fish needs its algae and may require supplemental feedings in a tank that is not mature enough or has insufficient quantities of filamentous algae. The Lawnmower Blenny can become a bit of a bruiser toward sessile invertebrates when it grows up. Get yours for between $10 and $25 depending on size.

True Percula Clownfish (Amphriprion percula)

  • Grows to 4 ½ inches
  • Needs a 24-gallon+ aquarium
  • Comes from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands

You knew a clownfish would show up somewhere on the top ten, right? Well it’s the True Percula Clownfish that comes in at number six. This is one of the most recognizable and hardiest marine fishes commonly available to the hobbyist. This is NOT (although commonly mistaken as such) an Ocellaris Clownfish, which has less distinct black bands around its white barring. This fish, famous for hosting in anemones, does not need an anemone, but, best hosts in Heteractis magnifica, Stichodactyla gigantea, and S. mertensii in the wild. In captivity, the True Percula Clownfish will also readily host in Entacmaea quadricolor. This fish will cost you between $10 and $30 depending on size (more if you are purchasing a matched pair).

Flame Angel (Centropyge loricula)

  • Grows to 6 inches
  • Needs a 30-gallon+ aquarium
  • Comes from Christmas Island, Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Tahiti, and Hawaii

Want some bling for your tank? This flashy little guy comes in as the number five favorite for marine aquarists. The Flame Angelfish is one of the most popular of all the Centropyge Angelfish with good reason. It is hardy enough for beginners and attractive enough for the seasoned aquarist. If underfed, the flame angel may nip at corals, and it will aggressively go after members of its own species. The Flame Angel will cost you between $40 and $75 depending on size.

Green Chromis (Chromis viridis)

  • Grows to 3 inches
  • Needs a 30-gallon+ aquarium
  • Comes from Coral Sea, Indo-Pacific, Tahiti

This small shoaling fish is a favorite with marine hobbyists, as its number four ranking attests. In addition to its cool coloration, the Green Chromis acts as a ‘dithering’ fish and will draw out shy and retiring fish that would otherwise be reclusive and stay hidden in the rockwork or behind decorations.

Keep a shoal of Green Chromis in a fish only or reef tank, but be sure the shoal has an uneven number of fish. Prices for the Green Chromis range from $2 to $4 each depending on how many you buy.

Number 3 – Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flaviscens)

  • Grows to 8 inches
  • Needs a 75-gallon+ aquarium
  • Comes from Hawaii

This ubiquitous marine aquarium fish comes in (not surprisingly) at number three. A hardy marine fish that will earn its keep by keeping algae in check, the Yellow Tang is a favorite in the hobby. It’s best to keep one per tank, unless the tank is very large. Your Yellow Tang will cost you somewhere between $25 and $80 depending on size.

Blue Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus)

  • Grows to 12 inches
  • Needs a 75-gallon+ aquarium
  • Comes from Fiji, Indo-Pacific, Solomon Islands, and Hawaii

While it should surprise no one that Nemo’s buddy shows up at number two on the top ten list, the Blue Tang is NOT a beginners’ fish. While very colorful and personable, the Blue Tang gets big and will fight with others of the same species. This beauty will set you back $25 to $115 depending upon size.

Ocellaris Clown

  • Grows to 4 ½ inches
  • Needs a 30-gallon+ aquarium
  • Comes from the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean

The Ocellaris Clownfish has to be the single most recognized marine fish in the industry. This clownfish is relatively hardy and highly personable. Many aquarists can’t resist the symbiotic relationship it shares with a host anemone, which is why, perhaps, this is currently one of the most popular marine fish. You too can have your very own Ocellaris Clown for between $10 and $25 depending on size.


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