Coral Reef and Tropical Fish

Saltwater Aquarium Fish

Saltwater fish are those that prefer to live in a saltwater habitat like the sea or salt lake, which has a salinity level of more than 0.05%. These saltwater habitats like seas and oceans have more than 14,000 species of fish. These little creatures are very fascinating with a wide array of exotic colors, forms, and behavior. Having such a diverse collection of fish at home in your own fish tank is indeed an exciting proposition.


Keeping saltwater fish at home has been mentioned in ancient records. The marine invertebrates were bred during the 18th century, but the introduction of saltwater fishes in the aquarium world took time. The successful keeping and breeding of saltwater aquarium fish were done by William E. Damon in the year 1870. But still, the keeping of saltwater fish started getting popular only after a century after its first introduction. Around 1980, many new developments were made in aquarium husbandry. During this period, the science of maintaining an oceanic environment for saltwater fish in the tanks was introduced, which is now termed as nitrification cycle. This new development led to the popularity of these fishes. Thus, keeping saltwater fish became a very common habit in the later years.


About 3/5th of the known species of the fish live in the ocean habitat. These fish are seen in a variety of habitats found in the ocean environment. Most fishes can only survive in a typical environment; a slight difference in the composition of temperature or pH level can completely eradicate the species. The main factor in deciding the suitable habitat is the temperature. Different varieties of fish prefer living in different temperatures. Some can be found in the waters of the Polar region having freezing temperatures, whereas the others prefer living in the warm waters of tropical regions. Many prefer warmer water habitat which is found in the shallow waters of tropical region or around the coral reefs. One third of the saltwater fish population is found around the coral reef on the Pacific and the Indian oceans. Many other species prefers habitats that have not too warm or not too cold water. Such habitats are found in the temperate zone that falls in the north and south of the tropical regions. In the Antarctic and Arctic oceans, not many types of fish and fish species are found.

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The Salt water fish can reproduce by fertilizing internally or externally. Different species display different breeding behavior. Most of the female fish lay eggs, whereas there are some species that brood their young ones inside the body. Mating or spawning in fish takes place only once in a year and that too only at a particular time. During that period, some species build nests, some migrate, some settle in shallow water and some settle down in the deep water. If the pair selects a site, then they will start to mate. In some species the mating is a big process, whereas in others, it is merely the releasing of eggs from the female body and fertilizing by the sperms released from the male body externally. Thus the eggs fertilize and it takes around 24 hours to hatch, depending on the humidity, salinity, sunlight and temperature of the water.

How to Breed in Aquariums


Different species have different tastes. Before deciding what to provide for your pet fish, you should know what kind of diet is preferred by these fish in their natural habitat. Every saltwater fish belongs to any one of the following groups,

  • Herbivore
  • Carnivore
  • Omnivore

But every fish can be provided with staple food, which gives all the nutrients required by these creatures to stay healthy. But giving varieties of food is also important for their well being. You should also provide them with supplementary food along with the staple food to fill any lack of nutrition in their staple diet, and to experience the different taste and variety in the food apart from the regular staple diet.

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Keeping a saltwater tank or aquarium is a very hectic job. It requires strict maintenance and caring for the healthy life of your pet fishes. A small change in the environment of the aquarium from their original habitat can lead to their death. The water conditions need regular monitoring. It should have essential minerals and chemical balances for the fish to stay healthy. A certain level of salinity is required for the saltwater fishes; hence this level should also be confirmed regularly. The other aspects like the nitrogen cycle, the humidity and the temperature of the water should be regularly checked.

Some of the Exotic Saltwater Fishes Suitable for Aquariums

Algae Blenny

Algae Blenny
Algae Blenny. Photo: Dirk Godlinski

This fish is biologically termed as Salarias Faciatus. It is available in a 2 inch size, and the required tank size for this species is about 30 gallons. Usually these kinds of fish are herbivores, and the care level required is moderately easy. Hence it can be considered as a good pet fish for the beginners.

Bicolor Goatfish

Goat Fish
Goat Fish. Photo: Barry Peters

This fish is also referred as Half Goat Fish, and it belongs to Mullidae family. It has originated from Fiji. This fish attains a body length of around 10 inches, and it requires a tank size of 125 gallons. The care level required is moderate.

Bluestripe Snapper

Also termed as Blue Line Sea Perch, it is a type of schooling fish. It requires a minimum tank size of 300 gallons, and it should be kept with more than 3 mates in the tank. The care level required is easy. It grows up to 10 inches in size.

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Jackknife Fish

Jackknife Fish
Jackknife Fish. Photo: NURC/UNCW and NOAA/FGBNMS.

This fish has a unique body structure with caudal fins and a long dorsal. It has originated from the Caribbean waters, and it grows about 9 inch in size. The care level required is moderate, and the tank size should be at least 125 gallons. It belongs to Sciaenidae family. This fish is basically a carnivore by nature.

Two-line Monocle Bream

Two-line Monocle Bream
Two-line Monocle Bream. Photo: Bernard DUPONT

It is a beautiful fish with white body and black edges. It also has dorsal fins that are shaded in yellow. It belongs to Nemipteridae family, and it is an inhabitant of the Fiji region.  It grows up to 8 inches, and the tank size required is around 180 gallons. The care level required is easy so it can be preferred for the beginners to breed. It is a carnivore.

Moorish Idol

Moorish Idol
Moorish Idol. Photo: Derek Keats

This fish belongs to Zanclidae family, and it is also termed as Hawaii. It is an attractive fish with black, white and yellow hues over the body. It can be cared only under an expert’s supervision. It grows about 7 inches in size, and the tank size required is minimum 125 gallons. It is widely distributed in the Indian Ocean, Tropical Pacific and the Red Sea.


High Hat
High Hat- Photo: Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Belonging to the Sciaenidae family, this fish has originated in the Caribbean Waters. It requires a 70 gallon size tank, and the average length it attains is around 9 inch. The care level required for this species is moderate. It requires tank mates with peaceful behavior. It has a silver body with black horizontal stripes.

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