A piece of advice for you: one of the best things you can do to ensure your long-term success is learning how to select the best and healthiest marine life possible.

This is the 3rd and final part of my “How to choose the best marine life series”. After reading all 3 posts you should be armed with the knowledge to NEVER, EVER buy a lemon again!


But, before I begin I would like to give you the opportunity to:

(a). Do something awesome that helps people
(b). Get a complimentary copy of my new top selling Saltwater Aquarium Advice eBook that will help you keep a kick-ass tank

As most of you know I support a training restaurant in the 3rd world country of Laos,that employs, up-skills and empowers local Lao people  in poverty . Bamboo Lounge is going through some tough times at the moment because of the recent political upheaval in Thailand putting off travelers to the region. With not many customers coming in, Bamboo Lounge is struggling to keep on their large number of staff who we teach English and hospitality/tourism skills to.

Would you be willing to help out this amazing cause?

If you can find it within yourself to donate $10 to Bamboo Lounge’s crowd funding campaign you will also earn yourself my eBook ; 292 pages of awesome saltwater aquarium advice and currently retails for $37 on Amazon.

Check out what my project is all about here:

I am willing to give my eBook away free if you can help me to make a difference in the poverty-stricken, 3rd world country of Laos and contribute US$10 or more to our crowd funding campaign

Thanks for helping out and doing something awesome, now back to the main feature:

So intelligent selection of marine life involves both adequate research on your prospective marine life and physically going to your local fish store and being able to choose the best specimen there.

The first 2 parts of this blog series tell you how to do adequate research, you can read them here if you missed them: Part 1 and Part 2

Thriving saltwater tank

Owning thriving marine life living in harmony is no accident

So, the research you have done (Parts 1 and 2) will have told you what species you should choose for your saltwater aquarium. This final chapter will tell you about how to go about choosing the right specimen at your LFS.

An important note: Where possible ALWAYS choose captive bred species, these species are sustainable, will be in better health, are much more hardy, more tolerant to adverse water conditions and are much more likely to eat whatever you give them. Most importantly if you purchase captive bred species you can be 100% sure that you are not inadvertently funding illegal, reef destroying and cruel capture methods somewhere in the world.

If you can’t purchase the particular species you want as captive bred, then you will need to find a reputable fish stockist. They must be professional, have a good reputation and most importantly have all their marine life collected from sustainable sources. Ask them where they got their fish and if their answer sounds sketchy do not buy from them. The should be raving about how good they are.

saltwater aquarium store

Looks professional, but make sure you ask some questions! (photo credit: weatherson.com)


Now you need to select a healthy specimen.

  • Start by looking at the size; it needs to be not too small or scrawny and not too big as these sizes are less likely to adapt to your aquarium conditions and more likely to be in worse shape after capture and shipping. Large specimens are also less likely to adapt to the change of diet and be more ensconced in their “wild” behaviour.
  • A key indicator to a fish’s health as you probably know is how well it is eating. You will definitely want to observe this at the fish store at least once by asking the staff to feed or come back at feeding time. The fish should eat actively and should be alert and competitive with the other fish in getting food. It should eat heartily and have a good appetite.
  • Another key indicator of health is to observe the fish itself; watch how it swims, breathes and behaves looking for anything abnormal. A healthy fish is active, alert and looks healthy with vibrant colours.
  • Study its eyes; both should be bright and clear and not sunken or bulging out. Study the body for evidence of physical damage and external parasites, Ich and velvet will show up as white spots or dust especially at eyes, mouth and where the fins join the body. The fish will also be breathing rapidly too.
  • Shallow breathing, inactivity, looking dazed and confused and sunken or too small looking eyes are a good indicator of cyanide capture; avoid this fish as it may die!

A healthy fish will be interactively swimming around its tank mates and be curious about its surroundings and you.

Choose the wrong Powder Blue and it will probably have Ich

Choose the wrong Powder Blue and it will probably have Ich

Now that you have selected your healthy fish you need to ask how long it has been at the store, never buy a brand new fish, give it a few days to adjust and destress this will give you time to see whether it survives and/or has a disease.

What you can do is ask the store to put it on hold, put down a deposit if you must and wait around a week or so to ensure that it remains in good condition.

When you get your new purchase home remember to quarantine it and acclimatise it correctly to maximise its chance of success in your aquarium and to avoid spreading any potential diseases to your existing marine life.

There you have the final installment of my “Choosing a winner” series, you can read them here if you missed them: Part 1 and Part 2

If you have found this article helpful and want a great saltwater aquarium education, please consider checking out my best selling ebook or consider my complete saltwater training solution the VIP club training course.

Andrej Brummer
Saltwater Aquarium Advice Scientist