Best Fish for Reef Tank

What are ‘reef safe’ fish? Do you know any example of a ‘reef-safe’ fish? Not all marine fish can be considered reef safe. A fish is reef safe if it doesn’t do the following. First, the fish should not consume the other fish in the tank. Second, it should not in any way destroy other tank inhabitants. Lastly, the fish should not tear up the corals. Are there any fish of this kind? There are a lot of categories of fish that may be considered reef safe. That is where the emphasis of this article lies. We look at the various types of fish that are generally considered by experienced aquarists to be best for reef tanks.

Best Saltwater Fish for a Reef Tank

The following are the best reef safe fish that are best suited for virtually any community and reef setup:

Royal Gramma

This fish requires a minimum tank size of 30 gallons. It has a striking blend of colors and personality that makes it a beautiful saltwater aquarium fish. Although the Royal Gramma tries very hard to boss the tank, it is always kept in check by the likes of angelfish, tangs, and the clownfish. The Royal gramma species of fish tend to be aggressive to species with similar bodies and their kin too. Another important fact with the Royal Gramma is that it can’t be put in the same tank with the dottyback. You should pick one from the two. The Royal gramma is milder mannered than the orchid. These two are, however, both safe for your reef as they don’t bother with the reef.

Tank Raised Clownfish (Ocellaris or Percula Species)

The clownfish requires a minimum tank size of 20 gallons. Temperament ranges from peaceful to semi-aggressive. The clownfish is the industry’s widely known aquarium fish. All sorts of designer clownfish are now available with the explosion of the tank raised fish industry. To raise the tank raised clownfish in pairs, you ought to buy two when young or purchase one large clownfish and a smaller one. Clownfish are known to spawn in captivity, and you will thus bet on them to host corals. Apart from being 100 percent reef safe fish, tank raised clownfish are also hardy.

Orchid Dottyback

Dottybacks can be kept in a minimum tank size of 30 gallons. They have a semi-aggressive temperament. Most dottybacks’ nature of channeling their damsel to cause havoc in the tank gives them a bad reputation. The Orchid Dottyback is, however, not one of those known to cause havoc in the tank. They portray a mild temper in the community reef tank and are one of the best tank mates any other fish will have. Unless you purchase the orchid dottybacks in a mated pair, it is not advisable to keep them in pairs. Distinguishing a male from a female in these species of fish is very difficult.

Unlike the clownfish, the orchid dottyback do not change their gender. The dottybacks are nevertheless great saltwater aquarium and help the aquarist in eliminating bristle worms present in the aquarium. The orchid dottybacks are completely reef-safe and thus do not interfere with the reefs in any way.

Watchman Goby 

The Watchman Goby requires a minimum tank size of 30 gallons. It has a peaceful temperament and thus may get along very well with any other fish. It is one of the best saltwater aquarium fish for beginners and can be paired with the pistol shrimp. To form a formidable pair with the pistol shrimp, you should ensure that you have at 2-inches sand bed available. Purchase a small shrimp, for instance, candy cane shrimp, and pair it with the watchman goby. The interaction between is the two is fun to watch. The goby keeps the other shrimp safe. The shrimp’s work hard on the sand to gather food. On the other hand, the goby can live on their own if you prefer so. The fish also feeds on any made food.

Azure Damselfish

The Azure Damselfish is also known as Kupang Damsel. It requires a minimum tank size of 30 gallons but has a semi-aggressive temperament. The article on damselfish provides all the essential information you need to know about the damselfish fish. In the article, you get to understand that not all damselfish are horrible. Of all the damselfish available, Azure Damselfish stands out as the best fish for reef tanks. There should, however, be a keen consideration when dealing with their aggressive nature. You should not place more than one of Azure Damselfish per 18 inches of the reef tank. The fish bully each other to death! Azure Damselfish can contrast many reef aquarium fishes with their blue color. The color makes them great additions to your fish tank. Under actinic reef lighting, you will be shocked by the unique appearance of the Azure Damselfish.

Banggai Cardinalfish

The Banggai cardinalfish requires a minimum tank size of 30 gallons. Their temperament ranges from peaceful to semi-aggressive. The Banggai Cardinalfish is an iconic saltwater aquarium fish with attributes such as striking black lines, community tank mates, and a great personality. They can also be spawn in captivity, are very hardy, and can also be kept in pairs. The Banggai fish is an excellent fish for reef tanks. They can’t bother the corals or any tank inhabitants.


This relatively small fish requires a minimum tank size of 10 gallons. The firefish has a community temperament and is the best saltwater fish for nano tanks. Its other features are; very hardy, quiet, striking colors, and peaceful. As an aquarist, you can decide to keep these fish in pairs. Mating when grown-up may be a bit difficult. That is why it is recommended you buy and pair them when young. The fish requires proper care, as they are timid fish susceptible to attacks by the aggressive tank mates. The firefish won’t fish on your invertebrates, and they are safe to corals. Invertebrates require inclusion in them. To know more about invertebrates, read on the best Saltwater Invertebrates.

Blue-Green Chromis

The Blue-Green Chromis requires a minimum tank size of 30 gallons. It is a long-lived saltwater fish that schools together. They are the neon-tetra of saltwater aquarium fish and have a peaceful temperament. The Blue-Green Chromis doesn’t interfere with the reefs or corals, which makes it an ideal addition to your reef tank.

Six Line Wrasse

The Sixline Wrasse requires a minimum tank size of 30 gallons. It has a semi-aggressive temperament, and it’s a very active fish just like other wrasses are. The fish isn’t bothered with the reefs at all and is very hardy. Mixing this fish with intimidated fish is not recommended. The Six Line Wrasse is aggressive and will thereby harass the intimidated fish. The fish is a very notable downside of this fish. The Six Line Wrasse is better paired with other aggressive fish like the clownfish. However, you should ensure you add them last to avoid any drama. The Six Line Wrasse is a better fish to care for and maintain the corals in the fish tank. This species of fish is reef safe and also helps to remove numerous pests from the corals.

Midas Blenny

The Midas Blenny is the perfect Blenny that requires a minimum tank size of 30 gallons. It has a peaceful temperament: it is colorful, completely reef safe, and portrays a great personality. The Blenny is the best saltwater fish in the tank, according to past knowledgeable aquarists that have bred it. Midas Blenny lacks the bladder, and you will always find them moving consistently. When swimming, this species of fish portrays an eel-like look.

McCosker’s Wrasse

The McCoosker’s Wrasse requires a minimum tank size of 55 gallons and a tank of 3 feet. That’s extra huge! These fish have a peaceful temperament, and like the clownfish, they do change their gender. Since the male species of these fish are known to perform colorful displays to the females in the tank, it is then advisable to keep them in groups. The female should be introduced first and not the male. The other alternative is to introduce both of them together as a group. The breed of fish should be introduced first into the fish tank when breeding. The matter is because they are lesser aggressive tank mates. You should also make sure you cover your aquarium as these fish are jumpers.

Tangs (Surgeonfish)

Surgeonfish make great reef tank occupants. They are herbivores, which means they will eat only algae leaving your corals and invertebrates intact. You should, however, be aware of the problems the tangs may pose with their sizes in the future.


Although larger Angelfish feed on corals, the smaller Angelfish will thrive very well in larger reef tanks. The beautiful Japanese swallowtail angelfish is one of the few reef tank safe angelfish which do feed on invertebrates and corals.

Final Thoughts

There are very many varieties of fish that are best for reef tanks. A fish breed that doesn’t tear up corals, don’t consume fish, and destroy other tank inhabitants are considered the best fish for a reef tank.