By Peter B. Cunningham
Once all the research, planning and waiting is complete and the aquarium is full of water and has finally finished cycling you will finally be ready to introduce your first fish.
It is important to ensure that you make the right choice though as there are some fish which are suitable to be added at this stage and there are fish which are not.
Do you know what you are looking for in the selection of your first fish?
Firstly and foremost the fish you choose must be relatively hardy. The reason for this is that the saltwater aquarium is new and the water will not be completely stable. Another reason is that as aquarists we all make mistakes at one time or another and with having a hardy fish they are more forgiving to these mistakes.
You will probably have an idea as to the type of fish you would like to keep in your aquarium therefore it is imperative that this fish you choose now will be compatible with future tank mates. If you added an aggressive fish for example at the start then whenever you decided to add a new fish there would be fighting in the aquarium. Not what you really want at this stage, is it?
Which fish are good fish to start with?
Below is a list of what I believe to be good starter fish for a saltwater aquarium. They are all relatively hardy, peaceful and none of them have special feeding requirements.
* Orchid Dottyback
* Royal Gramma
Lets have a look at each of these in a little more detail :
The clownfish to me is a fantastic little fish. The way it swims, the way it lives in corals etc and especially the colours – a great addition to any aquarium. They are also one of the most popular starter fish. They are quite hardy and are very well suited to captive life in an aquarium.
You can keep these singularly or you can keep them in pairs. When kept in pairs the most dominant fish sometimes will turn into a female and the two may even end up breeding.
There is a mis-belief that clown fish must be kept with an anemone. This simply is not the case. Clownfish will be more than happy in an aquarium without one. Anenomes are quite hard to keep and at this stage of the aquariums life the aquarium is not yet ready for one, possibly neither are you.
There are various species of clownfish, however the best ones to start with are :
* Common clown (Amphiprion ocellaris)
* Black and white clown (Amphiprion ocellaris)
* Percula clown (Amphiprion percula)
Clownfish can be purchased tank bred and if this is an available option it is recommended that you follow this option.
The orchid dottyback (Fridmani pseudochromis) is a relatively peaceful fish which grows to around 3-4 inches in length. The good thing about the orchid dottyback is that they can be purchased tank bred.
One thing to be noted is that you should not mix this fish with other fish of the same shape (ie the royal gramma below) or with other dottybacks.
Once the fish has become accustomed to life in your aquarium it will become quite bold and swim happily around the aquarium.
Royal grammas (Gramma Loreto) are a peaceful fish with the exception of their own kind and are very colourful fish with the colours changing from purple to yellow along the fish’s body.
There are other fish which can easily be confused with the Royal Gramma as they look very similar so ensure that it actually is a Royal Gramma prior to purchasing it.
There are a couple of blennies which in my opinion make good additions to the aquarium as starter fish and there are the Midas Blenny (Ecsenius midas) and the Bicolour Blenny (Ecsenius bicolor).
These are both fantastic to watch. They both like to either rest on a ledge or find a hole and simply watch the world go by.
Chromis (Chromis viridis) are great to add to an aquarium. They are relatively hardy and if you have a larger aquarium then you can add a small group. They normally come in two colours (blue and green).
One of the good things about chromis is that they do not grow to be that large. They normally do not grow larger than 2 inches in length.
The normal firefish (Nemateleotris magnifica) and then purple firefish (Nemateleotris decora) are great starter fish to add to the aquarium. Both of these are very colourful fish which grow to a maximum size of about 4 inches.
The firefish has a large dorsal fin which it uses to lock itself into a hole in the rocks which is normally down at the bottom. This hole is where the fish retires to when the lights go out but it also uses it when it becomes startled. These fish are prone to jumping when startled therefore you need to take care to prevent this.
Unless you can locate an established pair I would recommend that these are kept singularly.
Peter Cunningham and John Cunningham between them have been keeping saltwater aquariums for over 35 years. Check out their Aquarists Online website if you are interested in learning more about the saltwater aquarium hobby.