Selecting fish for your saltwater aquarium

How to stock a saltwater aquarium for beginners

Selecting fish for your saltwater aquarium

Whether you are new to the hobby or have salty thumbs saltwater aquarium fish are the first love and the biggest reason why most people get into the hobby.  I’ve been keeping aquariums since I was a boy but only made the jump to saltwater aquariums 8 years ago.

The reason I fell in love with saltwater aquariums was due to my background in environmental science. A saltwater aquarium is not just a glass box with some fish in it, it’s a living breathing miniature ecosystem. If the ecosystem within the tank is not balanced it will not thrive and possibly even cease to exist.

This makes it incredibly important if you decide to start a saltwater aquarium to find a natural balance with your selection of fish.  Habitat requirements, stocking density, size as adult, compatibility and aggression levels will play a major role in your success.

Selecting fish for your saltwater aquarium video

Selecting fish for your saltwater aquarium with a wish list.

Most people interested in getting a new puppy spend countless hours researching breeds of dogs to find the perfect match. Qualities such as the size of the breed, activity level, temperament and overall care needs are all considered before purchase. After would be dog owner creates their wish list of potential candidates, they make their decision based on the best fit breed for them.

This isn’t always the case when it comes to the aquarium industry and I never been able to understand why? Too often fish are bought on a whim without any consideration, only leading to disappointment.

If you’re thinking about starting a new saltwater aquarium the first step would be making a wish list of marine fish you would be interested in keeping. Ideally, this would be done before you purchased the aquarium because the needs of the fish you wish to keep, will dictate the size of the aquarium, equipment need and habitat requirements.

Some great place to get ideas for your wish list is www.liveaquaria.com and www.saltwaterfish.com. I never done any business with either of these online vendors but they can help you generate ideas and they have great information on specific species of fish.

Once you have your wish list it’s time to do some research (the sites listed above can also help you with this step).  Below you will find a list of considerations as you begin to compose your wish list

 Fish wish list considerations:

  • Aquarium size needed.
  • Size as adult.
  • Habitat requirements.
  • Care level.
  • Temperament.
  • Compatibility.
  • Diet.
  • Reef safe.
  • Invertebrate safe.

Below you will find a FREE downlaodable Fish Wish List that you can use at home:

Fish wish list (PDF download)


How to use your fish wish list when selecting fish

Below is an example of a wish list using the PDF download I provided above. As you put your fish wish list together you will find a pattern starts to become clear. More than likely you will not be able to get every fish on your wish list but there is a good chance you get most of them.

Saltwater Aquarium fish wish list

Besides the fish on this list the hobbyist wants an aquarium around 90 to 125 gallons and most of all they want it to be a coral reef aquarium. Using this information the hobbyist need to be objective and see which fish are not going to work with their overall goal.

With these goal in mind the hobbyist will need to remove the Augriga Butterflyfish (not reef safe) and the Clown Tigger (requires over 300 gallon aquariums).

Turning a fish wish list into a stocking plan.

Turning a wish list into a saltwater aquarium stock plan is not very difficult once you have done your research and have an idea as to which fish you want. The Most peaceful fish should be added first working your way up from smallest to largest. Then Your semi-aggressive fish should be added the same way smallest to largest and so on.

The total time it should take for your stocking plan to come to fruition is 6 to 9 months. You need to keep in mind slow and steady wins the race. Every time you add a new fish to your saltwater aquarium it changes the bio-load and it takes time your the biological filtration to catch up. Remember… Too much, too fast can make your tank crash.

If at any point you have a question feel free to contact me at: Jeff@madhattersreef.com

Save a reef, grow your own.

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