How to choose the best marine pet for you and your tank – Part 2


In the first post of this 3 part article series I introduced the concept of what I call intelligent selection of new marine pets for your saltwater aquarium.

If 90% of ALL wild caught marine life dies somewhere between the reef and getting established into your saltwater tank, it makes sense to be able to choose the 10% who will survive and thrive right?

Easy tips to minimize tank mistakes and get your tank really thriving:

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The 2 keys to successful marine life selection are:

  1. Research to make sure this pet you have in mind is right for you and your tank. This will help you choose a good species.
  2. Using good strategies to choose the right specimen (individual) of the species you have researched and found to be appropriate.
Choosing marine fish

When you are spending hundreds on a fish you don’t want to choose wrong!



When you research a prospective list of new saltwater aquarium pets you need to look at the following points:

    • Care required (and how easy they are to care for, can you provide for them willingly?)
    • Size (at purchase and at maturity compared to the size of your tank and how many species you currently have)
    • Diet (food and feeding, fish with difficult to provide for diets like Mandarins should be thought through very carefully before purchasing)
    • Behaviour (shy fish cant be put with boisterous ones too easily, known bully species like Damsels should be shunned in a community tank)
    • Set-up/water conditions required (additives, water movement, light levels)
    • Compatibility with other marine life (will they get along?)
    • Degree of aggression/territoriality (if high will cause other species stress)
    • Can they be kept in pairs or groups?

This planning will allow you to make intelligent choices where every other relationship in the tank is taken into consideration. It may seem like a lot of work but it only needs to be done once and is well worth the effort made.


How to choose corals

Feel like a kid in a candy shop? Choose wisely young reefer! (photo credit: Adam Wimsatt)

Some tips on selecting the right species for your set-up

1. Water parameters: Obviously fish and corals that require cold-water temperatures can’t be placed with those that requires warm water temperatures and visa versa. Catalina Gobies and Strawberry anemones are good examples of the marine species often sold as warm water species, which will not live long in tropical tanks. Deep water corals need totally different lighting (colour temperature) than shallow species like soft corals. Many species also have different chemical level tolerances, can they all existing harmoniously in your environment?

2. Behavior: Timid species (unless they have plenty of hiding places) will be stressed out by more boisterous species. More boisterous fish species can harass corals causing polyps not too extend for example the Coral Beauty pygmy Angelfish which likes to eat coral slime.

3. Playing nicely: Territorial fish like Clownfish should not be kept in more than a pair and often different species of a fish type (family) should not be combined due to fighting. LPS corals are also territorial, you don’t want deadly sweeper tentacle deployment when they are placed too close to other corals.

4. Predators?: Some fish are aggressive/predatory and will eat other smaller less-aggressive fish species if they can fit in their mouth! Likewise larger anemones will happily eat smaller fish and motile invertebrates.

5. Physical differences: The more different your fish are in terms of size, shape, diet and colouring the more likely they will get along! Strange but true.

6. Numbers: Some fish should not be kept in groups or pairs because of aggression between them.


Aquarium fish selection

The beauty of a huge tank is you don’t have to choose, you can get them all! (photo credit: Rich Brooks)


So now you should know exactly how to go about choosing the species of marine organisms you want and how to refine that list so it works for you and your tank.

In my final installment of how to choose your ultimate saltwater aquarium pet I will give you some of my tips on what you should look for at your local fish store to avoid purchasing a lemon. Once a marine specimen dies, its pretty hard to take it back to the shop!

If you missed part 1 of the blog series on selecting a marine winner click here to read

To continue on to the 3rd and final part click here


Don’t forget, if you would like access to my free ebook “9 Saltwater Aquarium Success Tools” to minimize mistakes and get your tank thriving simply click the button below.

Saltwater aquarium advice