13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (2023)

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (1)
Here's a scenario for you: you've invested in a good LED light that's growing some coral, and you don't want to endanger everything with the wrong aquarium creatures.

For such occasions I have compiled a list of attractive, reef safe fish that you can reliably keep in your tank without endangering your coral colonies.

You'll learn about peaceful and beginner-friendly saltwater fish, with occasional species for the more advanced aquarist.

In a reef aquarium, a truly safe fish would be considered one that is known to never eat coral. In my top picks, I used this rule to weed out different types and offer only the best options.

I will also mention popular species to add to a reef tank with caution.

So let's start.

13 Really Reef Safe Fish That Won't Harm Your Corals

There are many exotic looking fish that don'tDamagethe corals in your reef tank. The list below includes the best peaceful or outgoing species and some others that may turn out to be solitary.

I've pointed out what's what while also adding some specific guidance for beginners.

Make sure to bookmark this post as you will see many additional recommendations.

Here are some saltwater aquarium fish ideas that are truly reef safe:

1. Flasher-Lippfisch –Paracheilinus spp.

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (2)

By OrionN

Minimum Tank Capacity:50 gallons
Key Features:Peaceful; active; colorful; pullover
Suitable for beginners:Yes, and I recommend trying it

Most Blink, Fairy, and Striped Wrasses are not only suitable, they are actually one of themthe best aquarium species for beginners.

All Flasher Wrasses are extremely colorful and worth checking out if you want some beautiful fish for your reef tank.

Many kinds ofParacheilinusGenus stay small and peaceful, making them one of the best choices if you're not starting out with a large tank.

The one you see in the picture above is known as the Eightline Flasher Wrasse and remains under 4.5 inches in adulthood.

Author's note:Wrasses are active swimmers and have short digestive systems. That means they need to eat a few times a day to stay energized.

Anyway, there are quite a few wrasse species aside from the flasher species that won't nibble on your coral and leave invertebrates alone.
13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (3)

Von Spideybry

Here are a few wrasse species that won't harm coral in a reef tank:

  • Tamarin-Lippfische –Anampses sp.;
  • pygmy wrasse –Cirrhilabrus sp.;
  • cleaner fish –Labroides sp.;
  • Fed Wrasses –Pseudoheilinus sp., can be more aggressive;
  • Possum-Lippfische –Wetmorella sp.;
  • Leopard Fish –Macropharyngodon sp.;
  • Pencil Wrasses –Pseudojuloides sp.;
  • Pink Stripe Wrasses –Pseudocheilinops sp.;
  • Halichoeres Lippfische –Halichoeres sp., larger specimens can eat ornamental shrimp.

2. Clownfish –Amphiprion spp.

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (4)

By ObviousGreen285

Minimum Tank Capacity:20 gallons
Key Features:hardy; has a big personality and is not shy; eats almost everything; colorful
Suitable for beginners:Yes, especially the Ocellaris clownfish, as it stays small and is relatively peaceful

The Clownfish guy inspired Finding Nemowhich in turn boosted the fish's popularity among novice reef aquarium owners.

In essence, this type of the well-knownAmphiprionGenus comes closest to a reef safe fish.

This is due to the unique way of life of the clown fish:

Clownfish have a symbiotic relationship with anemones.

Simply put, the anemone protects the clownfish with its stinging tentacles, and the clownfish provides nutrients to the anemone in the form of waste.

There are 6Main species of clown fishavailable in marine aquarium stores. Visit the link to see them and also discover more than 20 designer corssbreeds. Almost all are beginner-friendly:

  • Ocellaris;
  • maroon;
  • Tomato;
  • Percula;
  • Clarkii;
  • Skunk.

Of these, I would recommend avoiding the Maroon Clownfish if you are a beginner who dislikes dealing with extremely aggressive fish.

Maroon clowns have been known to become very territorial in the presence of an anemone.

Also because of herenormous service life of over 20 years, Clownfish are a long-term commitment.

3. Swallowtail Angelfish –Genicanthus spp.

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (5)

Von Fadi Abu Tahoun Kostenloser Mp3-Download

Minimum Tank Capacity:125 gallons
Key Features:Very peaceful; medium level of care; can be expensive; hardy
Suitable for beginners:No, most of these fish require some experience in marine aquarium keeping

The Spotbreast Swallowtail Angelfish is a graceful fish with delicate features that requires a 125 gallon tank to swim comfortably.

That being said, the best thing about fish from theGenicanthusgenus is that they are one of the few saltwater angelfish species that are guaranteed NOT to eat coral in your reef tank.

Author's note:The Genicanthus angelfish species is collected from the deep and adult specimens may not adapt well to aquarium life and are put on displaybuoyancy problems. For this reason, if you want long-term success with these fish, you should try to get a captive-bred juvenile.

However, some more popular Angelfish like the Coral Beauty and Flame Angelfish have hit-or-miss status when it comes to reef safety.

These fish may or may not develop a fondness for coral, and there are many reports of reef keepers observing both situations. It's not fun to invest time and resources in itreef tank lightsthat would grow expensive coral just for your coral beauty to take a bite out of production.

The swallowtails are the only angelfish species that are truly reef safe.

4. Fang Blenny –Meiacanthus spp.

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (6)

Von Bongobasher

Minimum Tank Capacity:30 gallons
Key Features:Has poisonous fangs but never uses them; not aggressive; prefers meaty foods unlike other blennies; cannot be certain in some invertebrates; needs a substrate; stays outdoors
Suitable for beginners:Absolutely, but make sure you get a captive bred specimen

Although blennies are hit or miss when it comes to disturbing SPS corals, catching blenny seems to be one of the few exceptions.

The Fang Blenny is part of a genus calledMeiacanthus, native to the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Unlike other herbivorous blennys, the Fang blenny prefers a main diet of meat supplemented with very little nori seaweed.

Contrary to what you might imagine, this fish is quite peaceful and will not use its venomous fangs on anything in the reef aquarium.

Anyway, another reef friendly blenny would be the Midas blenny because it also leans towards the carnivorous side.

However, the Midas blenny can be very aggressive towards other fish and does not make a good addition to a reef tank with shy fish and invertebrates.

5. Atlantic Chalk Bass –Serranus of the Turtles

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (7)

By BebopFlow

Minimum Tank Capacity:30 gallons for a single specimen
Key Features:Aggressive feeder; Jumper; peaceful and minding his own business
Suitable for beginners:And

The Atlantic Chalk Bass is a saltwater fish that has the cool demeanor of a perch but is also reef safe and will not bother corals.

This kind from theSerranusThe genus remains relatively small, with the normal being 3 inches and a maximum size of 4.5 inches.

If the tank is large enough, a group of these fish can form a small school.

Most likely, the Chalk Bass will not be aggressive towards its tankmates, preferring smaller shrimp.

Also, it may not get along with certain damsels and the Royal Gramma, which is also a basslet species.

Anyway, it's a beautiful fish that should become more popular in the reef aquarium hobby.

Author's note:The chalk bass fish is an aggressive surface feeder. It's really amusing to watch him rush to his food in a split second. However, this means that you should feed small portions so that the fish has a chance to eat everything. Food that sinks to the bottom is overlooked by the chalk bass.

Anyway, the chalk basslet isn't the only basslet that wouldn't hurt corals.

Here are a few popular basslets that are safe to keep in a reef aquarium:

  • Royal Gramma –Gramma Loreto;
  • Blackcap Basslet –Gramma melacara;
  • Captive Bred Dottyback Orchid –Pseudochromis fridmani;
  • Gold Assessor Basslet - this one is very peaceful -A very yellow reviewer;
  • Randalls Assessor Basslet –Reviewer Randalli;
  • Macneills Assessor Basslet –reviewer macneilli;
  • Swissguard Basslet –Liopropoma rubre.

6. Dispar Anthias – Pseudanthian dispar

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (8)


Minimum Tank Capacity:125 gallons
Key Features:Clearly; outgoing personality; hardy; Training; requires a lot of swimming space; relatively peaceful
Suitable for beginners:And

The Dispar Anthias are the less aggressive cousins ​​of the Lyretail Anthias but have the same boldness paired with an outgoing personality.

These species are of the largestPseudanthiangenus in its subfamilyAnthinae.

The cool demeanor of the Dispar Anthias fish makes them a desirable addition to any large reef aquarium.

These colorful fish like to be the center of attention and can sometimes even be seen in a school.

Another schooling anthias fish that is more popular for less aggressive reef aquariums is Randall's anthias.

Be sure to research how aggressive your chosen Anthias species can be.

Some, like the Dispar Anthias, are peaceful, but Bartlett's Anthias, for example, can tear apart members of their own kind in just a few days.

Here are some Anthias fish for large reef aquariums:

  • Lyretail Anthias –Pseudanthias squamipinnis;
  • Randalls Anthias –Pseudanthias randalli;
  • Ignitus Anthias –Pseudanthia in flames;
  • Evansi Anthias –Pseudanthias evansi;
  • Carberryi Anthias – Nemanthias carberryi;
  • Sunset Anthias – Pseudanthias parvirostris.

7. Teal Chromis –Chromis viridis

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (9)

From rsav

Minimum Tank Capacity:125 gallons for a group of 8 members
Key Features:Extremely social fish; must be in a group; very energetic and therefore needs a lot of food; can be aggressive towards each other if not in a large enough group
Suitable for beginners:Yes, but the aquarist should find out about the fish beforehand

Due to its schooling behavior and active lifestyle, the bluegreen chromis fish is often a coveted choice among beginners with large reef tanks.

This species is a member of theChromisGenus that includes most of the fish known as damselfish.

Not colorful enough to distract the viewer, these fish will still add plenty of movement to the tank.

Because blue-green chromis are so active that you have to feed them several times a day or they start dying one by one.

These are sensitive fish that are prone to aggression and conditions such asMe and other evil diseasesif not in a large enough group.

And a riff-safe at thatTreatment of ego is possible, you don't want this type of disease in your show tank, nor do you want aggressive Chromis fish.

Author's note:It is relatively difficult to achieve long-term success with these fish, especially if you are a beginner in the hobby. What helps in my experience:

  • hold a party of 8 or more;
  • with increased flow in the central upper part of the water column;
  • Feed the Chromis fish 3 or more times a day.

All of this reduces potential aggression to manageable levels, keeping the school safe and healthy. make sure thatHer reef tank is equipped with strong powerheadsand stick to the feeding schedule.

Here are some more Chromis fish that will make great additions to your new reef tank:

  • Barrier Reef Chromis –Chromis nitida;
  • Blue Reef Chromis –Chromis cyaneus;
  • Black and white chromis –Chromis margaritifer;
  • Black Bar Chromis –Chromis retrofasciata;
  • Sunshine Chromis –Chromis insolata.

8. Hawkfish –Cirrhitichthys falco

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (10)

By Murrel

Minimum Tank Capacity:30 gallons
Key Features:predator and eats shrimp; hardy; semi-aggressive; interesting behavior and personality; jumper
Suitable for beginners:And

The extraordinarily beautifulFalco Hawkfish is a predatory saltwater fish that can be a very entertaining member of a reef aquarium.

Typical for the members ofZirrhitichthysGenus Falco Hawkfish use the "sit and wait" technique to ambush their prey.

These fish are generally peaceful but can sometimes bully Basslets or Clownfish, although this is not the norm with them.

That being said, Hawkfish are truly predatory and will likely eat any shrimp and nanofish small enough to be considered prey.

This includes cleaner shrimp and other members of the Clean Up Crew.

Your corals, on the other hand, are safe as this fish is strictly carnivorous.

The only possible damage to hard corals would be the Hawkfish perching on them to patrol its hunting grounds.

However, there would be no long-term damage.

That being said, here are some species of hawkfish that would surely fit in a reef tank:

  • Flame Hawkfish –Neozirrhites armed;
  • Longnose Hawkfish –Oxycirrhites type;
  • Pixy Hawkfish –Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus;
  • Sommersprossiger Hawkfish –Paracirrhites forsteri;
  • Arc Eye Hawkfish –Paracirrhitis arcuateus.

9. Red Lionfish Goby –Nemateleotris magnifica

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (11)

By TurboMP

Minimum Tank Capacity:20 gallons
Key Features:Peaceful but brave; uniquely colored; stays small
Suitable for beginners:And

The lionfish goby is oneNano-Rifffischwhich has a unique look and is really safe around coral.

This kind within theNemateleotrisGenus inhabits the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Most lionfish gobies remain small andhave contrasting bright colorsthis could definitely make them the best centerpiece fish in your nano aquarium.

In any case, the temperament of the red fire goby is peaceful towards other species.

However, lionfish gobies can show aggression unless in a mated pair.

The lionfish goby needs plenty of hiding places throughout the aquarium which would give it more confidence.

Although this species is less shy than its cousins, you could always opt for a different species of lionfish as most of them are very pretty.

Here are some lionfish you can try keeping in a nano reef tank:

  • Helfrichi Firefish Grundel –Nemateleotris helfrichi;
  • Purple Lionfish Goby –Nemateleotris decora;
  • Exquisite Lionfish Goby –Nemateleotris sought.

10. Pajama Cardinalfish –Sphaeramia nematoptera

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (12)

Minimum Tank Capacity:30 gallons
Key Features:Certain species can school together; looks a bit surrealistic; calm swimmer; peacefully with his tankmates
Suitable for beginners:And

The Pajama Cardinalfish is a good choice for reef keepers looking for a more exotic looking fish that might swarm together.

This sea fish is one of themspheramiaGenus whose species are distributed in shallow tropical reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Although all cardinalfish are reef friendly, it should be noted that there are species that are less likely to get along, such as B. the Banggai Cardinal.
13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (13)

To the reef

Pajama Cardinalfish are less aggressive overall and still look good in a reef tank.

If you're a beginner and want schooling fish that aren't aggressive towards each other, I recommend the Longspined Cardinalfish (Zoramia leptacantha).

Long spines are less attractive per se, but are very friendly and keep a group at all times, which can be desirable for a show aquarium.

Author's note:It's easier to get captive-bred cardinalfish to eat.

Here are some cardinalfish to check out that are safe around reef corals:

  • Circular Cardinalfish –Circular balls;
  • Proud Cardinalfish –Pterapogon kauderni;
  • Flame Cardinalfish –Apogon discovered;
  • Redspot Cardinalfish –Apogon klein;
  • Ringtail Cardinalfish –Ostorhinchus aureus;
  • Ocher Striped Cardinalfish –Ostorhinchus compressed.

11. Quoyi Parrotfish –Scarus quoyi

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (14)

By tkiry1

Minimum Tank Capacity:150 gallons
Key Features:In my opinion one of the most beautiful saltwater fish; eats all kinds of seaweed; can be messy; needs peaceful tankmates
Suitable for beginners:NO

The Quoyi Parrotfish, of which very numerousScarusgenus, is one of the very few large parrotfish species that will not nibble at hard corals in your aquarium.

It's an insatiablesaltwater algae eaterand it produces a lot of waste in a closed system like a reef aquarium.

This sizeable fish eats algae by almost constantly scraping it off your rocks.

When that is over, the Quoyi parrotfish will need to eat seaweed sheets or waffles to stay healthy.

Needless to say, this fish species is not ideal for dedicated fishplanted seawater aquariums.

In any case, keep in mind that these fish can be difficult to keep long-term.

Do your research before heading to the big quoyi parrotfish.

12. Marine Betta –Calloplesiops altivelis

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (15)

Von squarepusher6

Minimum Tank Capacity:55 gallons because this fish swims very little
Key Features:Needs caves in his aquarium; prefers to eat more, but only a few times a week; peaceful; may try to hunt smaller shrimp, but doesn't have to
Suitable for beginners:And

The Marine Betta is a fantastic reef-safe fish that needs to become more popular.

Comes from theCalloplesiopsGenus is native to the Indo-Pacific region.

A reef aquarium will be truly peaceful and will stay away from conflict.

The Marine Betta needs its own shelter in the aquarium to which it can withdraw from time to time.

It is not an active fish and will generally prefer to stay in the same spot in your tank.

Care should be taken with dwarf shrimp as these fish are predatory fish.

However, the Marine Betta is not guaranteed to show interest in the invertebrates.

13. Dwarf Lionfish –Dendrochirus biocellatus

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (16)

From najer

Minimum Tank Capacity:50 gallons
Key Features:Needs lots of hiding spots; is predatory and will eat anything that fits in its mouth; has a poisonous sting and should therefore be handled with care
Suitable for beginners:Some experience dealing with aggressive marine fish is required

When it comes to life in a reef aquarium, the unique looking pygmy lionfish are totally coral safe as they have a carnivorous diet.

The dwarf lionfish are part of theDendrochirusGenus native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

They are also known as turkeyfish or dwarf lionfish.

Still, their diet is what you may be concerned about when deciding whether to have one in your aquarium.

They are predatory fish that will definitely eat anything that fits in their mouths.

The dwarf lionfish is a good addition to a predatory reef aquarium with well thought out tankmates.

The best approach is to choose a small lionfish species like the Fu Manchu lionfish.

Here are other relatively small lionfish to choose from for your marine aquarium:

  • Fuzzy Dwarf Lionfish –Dendrochirus brachypterus;
  • Pygmy Zebra Lionfish –Dendrochirus-Zebra;
  • Hawaiian Lionfish –Dendrochirus barbari;
  • Antennata lionfish –Pterois antennae.

Popular saltwater fish that may or may not eat coral

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (17)

From Greekspec2

Apparently there are some saltwater fish that are too interesting to pass on. These species can be fine for a week or 2 years before deciding to bite off large chunks of your coral.

That being said, you can find many reports from reef aquarium owners keeping these fish for years without any problems.

The fish I'm about to list should be considered hit or miss when it comes to eating coral.

Also the following entries should be kept in large tanks with enough mature corals to keep the damage relatively low and allow it to recover over time.

Coral Frag Tanks may or may not be destroyed by these dwellers.

Here are some fish to add to a reef tank with caution:

  • Adult tangs may be interested in eating zoanthids, acans, and sometimes xenia.
  • Not entirely safe for a reef aquarium, the Aiptasia-eating filefish will sometimes nibble on clams or zoanthids, but some users have reported success with them;
  • The pyramidal butterflyfish is the best choice for a reef-safe butterflyfish, but it is not guaranteed to leave corals alone;
  • The tailspot grinderfish and other blennies sometimes eat SPS coral;
  • Triggerfish are known for their aggressiveness and tendency to wreak havoc in a reef aquarium, but if you want to try one you should probably go for the crosshatch triggerfish (Xanthichthys mento);
  • Puffers are all considered unsafe for reef aquariums, but once you've settled on one you can try the Valentini Buffer and expect minimal SPS coral and shell losses;
  • Popular angelfish like the flame angel will eventually bite at your coral or shell, but can likely be managed with a strict feeding schedule.
  • The Foxface and other rabbitfish may turn to munching on your LPS and soft corals when malnourished.

13 Reef-Safe Saltwater Fish (That Won't Harm Coral) | water answers (18)

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