Best Saltwater Fish for Beginners

yellow tailed blue damsel
Yellow-tailed Blue Damsel

If you are just beginning your journey into saltwater fish keeping you should know that some marine fish are easier to keep in captivity than others. The following saltwater fish are good choices for the beginner:


golden damsel
Yellow-tailed Blue Damsel

These are great saltwater fish for beginners. They come in several different colors. They tolerate changes in water fluctuations better than most other saltwater fish and they will eat a variety of aquarium foods, such as flakes, frozen, freeze-dried, and live food. They are also relatively small about 3-4 inches at most.

The yellow-tailed blue damsel (Chrysiptera parasema) and the blue damsel (Chrysiptera cyanea) in particular are beautiful and peaceful fish that will even spawn in captivity. You can usually purchase them for around 4 to 5 dollars each.



Clownfish (also known as anemonefish due to their symbiotic relationship with anemomes) are also good beginner fish. They are from the genus Amphiprion and there are several different species.

Despite the ability of clownfish to exist among anemones without getting stung by their tentacles, it is possible to keep clownfish without anemones. Clownfish are relatively easy to keep, but keeping anemones is more difficult and so if you are a beginner you may want to wait until you are more experienced at marine fishkeeping before you acquire one. Because clownfish like to hide among anemones they may feel safer with one present however.

Also, note that clownfish tend to be somewhat territorial toward members of their own species. Depending on the species of clownfish you are interested in they can be acquired for around 10 to 50 dollars each.


red spotted hawkfish
Red Spotted Hawkfish

Hawkfish are small fish that lack swim bladders. They can't swim well and so they spend most of their time resting on the bottom of the aquarium. They get around by hopping from one place to another. They are relatively peaceful fish and there are several different kinds. They are meat eating fish and generally don't eat plants. They will eat live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods, and possibly flakes (but not always). In the wild they prefer shallow water and they feed on small fish and crustaceans.

One interesting aspect of hawkfishes is that they seem to have a bit of a personality in that they seem to be more aware of what is going on both in and outside of their tank. They generally cost between 20 to 60 dollars each depending on the species.

Yellow Tang

yellow tang
Yellow Tang

The yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) is better able to tolerate fluctuating water conditions than other tangs. It is an herbivore like the other tangs and likes to feed on algae. In the wild it is commonly found around the Hawaiian Islands. Unlike a lot of marine fish, small groups of them can be kept together in an aquarium without fighting. They generally cost around 25 dollars each.

Flame Angelfish

flame angelfish
Flame Angelfish
Photo by Andreas März

The flame angelfish (Centropyge loricula) is another good choice for the beginning saltwater aquarist. In the wild it is found in the western, southern, and central Pacific. It reaches a length of about 4 inches. It eats a varied diet of plants and meaty fare. It can be aggressive toward other members of the same species. They can be acquired for around 40 dollars each.

This is by no means a complete list of all of the saltwater fish that a beginner may keep, however, the fish described above are known to be some of the easiest fish to keep in the saltwater aquarium, and so you may want to begin with these.