6 Colorful Saltwater Fish That Will Brighten Up Your Tank

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Although caring for marine fish can be challenging, they are undoubtedly among the most colorful aquatic creatures you can keep as pets, turning your marine or reef tank into a vibrant underwater paradise.

Here are six stunning, reef-safe species guaranteed to make your tank pop!

Key Takeaways

  • Caring for marine fish like the Mandarinfish and Royal Gramma involves providing an environment with plenty of live rock and hiding spots and a diet suited to their carnivorous needs; they also display unique behaviors such as changing colors and complex mating dances.
  • Flame Angelfish and Moorish Idols are vibrant and active fish that need spacious tanks and a balanced diet but are territorial; Flame Angelfish are suitable for reef aquariums, while Moorish Idols are better for experienced aquarists.
  • Regal Angelfish and Powder Blue Tangs require meticulous care, especially regarding their diet and tank environment. They can be aggressive toward similar fish, so it’s recommended to introduce Powder Blue Tangs to the tank last to minimize aggression.

Summary Table

Here’s an at-a-glance overview of all the colorful fish species we’ve featured in this article!

Common Name Scientific Name Size Diet Water Parameters Minimum Tank Size Lifespan Average Cost
Mandarinfish Synchiropus splendidus 3-4 in Small crustaceans, copepods 72-78°F, sg 1.020-1.025, 8-12 dKH, pH 8.1-8.4 30 gallons 10-15 years $15-$50
Royal Gramma Gramma loreto 3 in Meaty foods, mysis, brine shrimp 72-78°F, sg 1.020-1.025, 8-12 dKH, pH 8.1-8.4 30 gallons 5+ years $20-$40
Flame Angelfish Centropyge loriculus 4 in Algae, frozen/live foods 72-78°F, sg 1.020-1.025, 8-12 dKH, pH 8.1-8.4 55 gallons 5-7 years $50-$80
Moorish Idol Zanclus cornutus 7 in Omnivorous, plant matter, invertebrates 72-78°F, sg 1.020-1.025, 8-12 dKH, pH 8.1-8.4 125 gallons 5+ years $50-$100
Regal Angelfish Pygoplites diacanthus 10 in Algae-based foods, meaty treats 72-78°F, sg 1.020-1.025, 8-12 dKH, pH 8.1-8.4 70 gallons Up to 20 years $100-$150
Powder Blue Tang Acanthurus leucosternon 10 in Algae and seaweed 72-78°F, sg 1.020-1.025, 8-12 dKH, pH 8.1-8.4 125 gallons 10+ years $60-$150

Please note that the water parameters provided are general ranges suitable for most marine fish. Specific care might require slight adjustments within these parameters. Lifespan and cost can vary based on several factors, such as the fish’s origin, size, and overall health when acquired.

Mandarinfish (Synchiropus splendidus)

Mandarinfish (Synchiropus splendidus)

The Mandarinfish, also known as the Mandarin dragonet, is one of the most beautiful and popular species of marine fish in the hobby.

These small, peaceful fish are native to the Pacific Ocean and are famous for their vibrant colors and unique patterns. They are a popular choice for reef aquariums and do best when kept in well-established tanks containing plenty of live rock and hiding spots, as they prefer to spend most of their time hiding out in crevices and caves.

Mandarinfish are carnivorous and feed primarily on small crustaceans and copepods, making them a perfect addition to a mature reef tank with an established population of these organisms. These fish need a well-balanced diet and need multiple daily feeds to keep them healthy.

Mandarinfish are not just pretty to look at; one of the most fascinating things about them is their mating behavior. During the breeding season, males perform an intricate courtship dance to attract a female, and the pair will then rise up into the water column to release their eggs and sperm.

However, breeding Mandarinfish in captivity can be extremely difficult and is usually only achieved by experienced hobbyists or commercial breeders. Overall, Mandarinfish are an excellent addition to any marine aquarium due to their mesmerizing appearance, peaceful nature, and fascinating behavior.

Royal Gramma (Gramma loreto)

Royal Gramma (Gramma loreto)

The Royal Gramma, also known as the Fairy Basslet, is a species of fish native to the Caribbean Sea and western Atlantic Ocean. Aquarists prize this fish for its striking purple and yellow coloration, which makes it stand out in any marine aquarium.

Despite their vibrant appearance, Royal Grammas are relatively hardy and adaptable, making them ideal for both beginner and experienced aquarists. These fish are naturally peaceful characters that can coexist with a variety of tankmates, including other small fish and invertebrates. This makes them an excellent choice for community reef aquariums.

Royal Grammas prefer aquariums with plenty of rocky caves, crevices, and overhangs where they can retreat when feeling threatened. These fish are known to be territorial and will defend their favorite hiding spots against other fish, so it’s important to provide ample hiding places for each individual fish in the tank.

In terms of diet, Royal Grammas are strict carnivores and will thrive on a diet of meaty foods, and are especially partial to mysis shrimp and brine shrimp. They should be fed small amounts several times a day, rather than one large portion, to prevent overeating and digestive problems that could result.

One interesting behavior of Royal Grammas is their ability to change color depending on their mood. When feeling stressed or threatened, they often darken their coloration to blend in with their surroundings and avoid attracting attention. But when feeling relaxed and comfortable, they display their vibrant colors to full effect. That can be a handy barometer for their owners, enabling them to tell whether the conditions in the tank are correct for these fish.

Flame Angelfish (Centropyge loriculus)

Flame Angelfish (Centropyge loriculus)

Flame Angelfish are tropical marine fish native to the Indo-Pacific region, including the Red Sea and the Great Barrier Reef. These fish are popular among aquarium hobbyists for their stunning orange-red coloration and unique markings, which make them stand out in any marine aquarium.

In addition, these glorious marine fish are relatively easy to care for and can adapt to a wide range of water conditions. Ideally, you need a tank with a minimum capacity of 55 gallons for Flame Angelfish. They are reef-safe, coexisting peacefully with corals and other invertebrates without causing any damage.

When it comes to diet, Flame Angelfish are primarily herbivores, requiring a diet rich in algae for optimal health. They also appreciate a variety of frozen and live foods, such as brine shrimp, krill, and mysis shrimp, which gives them all the nutrients they need.

Flame Angelfish are quite lively and active and can be pretty territorial, especially towards other fish of the same species or similar appearance. Therefore, it’s best to keep them in a species-specific tank or with other peaceful fish that won’t compete for resources.

Moorish Idol (Zanclus cornutus)

Moorish Idol (Zanclus cornutus)

Moorish Idols are striking fish found in the Indo-Pacific region. They are instantly recognizable by their amazing black, white, and yellow coloration, which makes them extremely popular among marine aquarium enthusiasts.

Despite their delicate appearance, Moorish Idols are relatively hardy and can adapt well to aquarium life. However, they require a large tank with plenty of swimming space and hiding spots.

These fish are known for their unique body shape and elongated dorsal fin, which can be up to two-thirds the length of the creature’s whole body. This fin is used for communication and display, making it an important part of the Moorish Idol’s courtship behavior. In the wild environment, you generally see these fish in pairs, so it’s best to replicate that in the aquarium if you can find a mated pair. Although not particularly aggressive, these fish can be territorial and feisty toward their tank mates.

Moorish Idols are omnivores and feed on a variety of plant matter, algae, and small invertebrates in the wild. In an aquarium setting, they should be fed a diet that includes both plant matter and protein-rich foods like brine shrimp and krill. It is important to ensure they receive a balanced diet to maintain their health and vitality.

These elegant fish make a fabulous addition to a large marine tank. However, they are unsuitable for novice aquarists and require significant care and attention to thrive in captivity.

Regal Angelfish (Pygoplites diacanthus)

Regal Angelfish (Pygoplites diacanthus)

Regal Angelfish are native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, where they inhabit coral reefs and lagoons.

They are popular and highly sought-after fish with stunning blue and yellow coloration, which makes them an exquisite addition to any aquarium. However, the Regal Angelfish is not recommended for beginners because of its very specific care needs.

These fish need a well-established marine aquarium with lots of live rock and hiding places where they can feel safe and protected. This is because Regal Angelfish are naturally shy and prefer to spend much of their days hiding in rocky overhangs, crevices, and caves.

The Regal Angelfish eats both algae-based foods and meaty treats. One thing that makes these fish tricky to keep in captivity is their picky eating habits, and they often take a while to adjust to their new surroundings and food. It’s typically best to offer a few small feeds throughout the day rather than one large feed.

Regal Angelfish can be aggressive towards their tank mates, especially if they are of a similar size or color. Therefore, we recommend keeping them with other peaceful species that won’t compete for food or territory.

Powder Blue Tang (Acanthurus leucosternon)

Powder Blue Tang (Acanthurus leucosternon)

The Powder Blue Tang is a fascinating fish species from the Indo-Pacific region’s warm waters.

These fish are known for their stunning powder blue coloration and distinctive yellow dorsal fin, making them a favorite among many marine enthusiasts. Powder Blue Tangs are best suited for large, well-established reef aquariums with plenty of swimming space.

These fish are herbivores and require a diet rich in algae and seaweed. They should be fed at least three times a day to ensure that they receive all the nutrients they need to thrive. When it comes to water conditions,

It is important to note that Powder Blue Tangs can be aggressive towards other tangs, so they are recommended to be kept as the only tang in the aquarium. However, they are generally peaceful towards other tankmates and can be kept with a variety of other fish species as long as they are not aggressive towards them.

Powder Blue Tangs are active swimmers and require plenty of open swimming space unobstructed by hardscape and decorations. If you are considering adding a Powder Blue Tang to your aquarium, it is important to bear in mind that these fish can grow up to 10 inches in length. Therefore, you must provide them with a large enough tank to accommodate their size. Additionally, most experienced keepers recommend that you introduce this species to the aquarium last to reduce the risk of aggression towards other tankmates.

Final Thoughts

Adding any of these spectacular saltwater fish to your aquarium is sure to impress and delight your friends when they call around to view your tank.

However, many of these fish species have very specific care requirements, which makes them unsuitable for novice hobbyists. In addition, most of these fish are super-expensive to buy, so you must be confident you can provide your chosen species with everything it needs to thrive before you part with your cash.

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