Selecting Your Saltwater Tank’s First Fish

What do you need to know about selecting your saltwater tank’s first fish?

There are so many different types of fish to pick for your aquarium, but first you need to decide what type of aquarium you want to have. Do you want a tank with many small, complacent, colorful fishes, or a tank with only a few big fishes? What about a tank with only a single species? For us, we want a tank with a variety of docile, colorful fish that can coexist without too much aggression. We do not want to see our fish in constant battle with each other resulting in stressed out fish and torn fins.

The key to picking compatible tank mates is to not mix extreme personalities. You do not want to place a very aggressive fish with a very docile fish. But how do you what what fish are aggressive and what fish are docile? We have been reading “The New Marine Aquarium” by Michael S. Paletta, who does a great job at listing different types of fish and categorizing them based on their temperament. This helps to pick and choose what fish will coexist well with other fish.

Selecting your saltwater tank's first fish

Asking at your local fish store as well as looking at forums about what other aquarist have in their tank or what they recommend based on their stocking experience is also helpful.

The first fish we chose for our aquarium, now that our tank is cycled and the ammonia and nitrate levels are zero, is the clownfish.

Selecting your saltwater tank's first fish     Selecting your saltwater tank's first fish

For me, clownfish are the ideal fish to have in a saltwater aquarium. I love to watch them play in the tentacles of a sea anemone, and that is the image that comes to mind when I think of a saltwater aquarium. They are hardy, easy to keep and can live in an aquarium for many years. These clownfish are captive bred, but in nature live in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Clownfish are from the family Pomacentridae and the Genus Amphiprion or Premnas. They range in colors from yellow, orange, red, and even black. Our clownfish, also known as anemonefish, are Amphiprion Ocellaris. They live well in pairs and all start as males but then change their sex depending on the size of the fish they are paired with. The larger of our clownfish will become the female, more dominant and aggressive. The smaller clownfish will remain male, be less aggressive, and serve the female.

Clownfish get their name from their bright orange, white, and black markings, which are clown-like. Some aquarists say they also have a wobble-like swim which is fitting for their name. We have had them for a couple of days now and their personalities are starting to come out. The little guy likes to swim in and out of the the current the powerheads make, like he is playing around. The larger clown is less active during the day and retreats every evening when the lights turn off to a corner of the tank where she stirs up the sand with convulsive like movements and creates a crater where they both settle for the night.

They have been fun to watch and we find ourselves pulling up a chair and just watching them. They seem to be very curious and come close to the glass when we walk up to it. Over the next few weeks they should settle in more and become more acquainted with their tank. They do not explore the rocks very much yet and stay in one corner or the other at the very front of the tank. They have been a great first choice fish for our tank and we enjoy them very much.

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