Top Saltwater Fishes For Advanced Hobbyists


Most beginners to the marine hobby cut their teeth on easy to keep, relatively cheap species such as Clownfish and blennies. 

When it comes to choice, compared to freshwater tanks, there are oceans full of absolutely stunning fishes out there for the advanced saltwater hobbyist to enjoy. But with so much choice, where do you start?

Well, to give you a few ideas, here’s our magnificent seven cool marine fish for only the experienced saltwater enthusiast!

Queen Angelfish (Hlacanthus ciliaris)

The Queen Angelfish is a truly beautiful fish that’s found in the tropical waters around the Bahamas, Brazil, off the Florida coast, and in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Queen Angels are a startling electric blue with yellow scales and a brilliant yellow caudal. On the fish’s forehead is a distinctive black disc, bordered with blue. Juvenile specimens look totally different, having a blue body with bright blue vertical stripes, which helps to camouflage the fish against the reef environment.

This species of angelfish can grow up to 17 inches in length and have a long lifespan of up to 15 years.

Because of their large size and aggressive temperament, these gorgeous fish are recommended for advanced hobbyists only.

Blue Spot Jawfish (Opistognathus rosenblatti)

The Blue Spot Jawfish is found in the Gulf of California, living in slightly cooler waters than most other popular marine species.

These gorgeous fish are a graduated orange-yellow, becoming darker along the length of the fish’s body, which is decorated with lines of fluorescent blue spots.

Like most of these types of saltwater fish in the Jawfish family, the Blue Spot Jawfish spends much of its time hiding in its burrow in the sand with just its head slightly exposed. When an item of prey or another fish passes by, the fish opens its mouth wide as a threat.

The Blue Spot Jawfish is amusing to watch with its warning display and its obsession with tidying its burrow, which often results in the fish moving and rearranging the surrounding sand.

Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum)

Triggerfish are extremely intelligent and rather comical fish that develop individual personalities once they are settled in their home tank.

Clown Triggerfish are also known as Big Spotted Triggerfish. Each fish is unique, with a black or slate-gray body adorned with beautiful, contrasting bright white spots. In common with all species of triggerfish, these animals have a dorsal spine. The Clown Triggerfish can erect the spine to prevent predators from dragging the fish out of its rocky crevice hiding place on the reef. The spine is also used to intimidate and frighten off competitors.

These are large fish that can grow up to 20 inches long. Triggerfish have extremely sharp teeth and will take inverts and small fish, so these spectacular pet fish are really only suited to a predator tank and an experienced owner.

Harlequin Tusk (Choerodon fasciatus)

The Harlequin Tusk fish comes from the warm waters of the Western Pacific Ocean and is not commonly seen in the trade.

These fish can grow to reach a length of around 12 inches and generally live for up to ten years. The fish’s body is bright scarlet with contrasting, broad white bands, making this fish an eye-catching addition to the marine tank. The Harleaquin Tush fish gets its common name from its protruding “tusks” or teeth.

Harlequin Tusk fish are quite aggressive characters that aren’t suitable for life in a general community marine setup and do best when kept with other semi-aggressive species. These impressive creatures need a tank of at least 185 gallons to be happy, and they prefer an environment with plenty of rocky outcrops and overhangs where they can hide.

Wreckfish (Pseudanthias squamipinnis)


Photo Credit: Live Aquaria

The Wreckfish has several common names, including:

  • Lyretail Coralfish
  • Lyretail Anthias
  • Sea Goldie
  • Scalefin Anthias

These sexually dimorphic fish are found in the tropical West Indian Ocean where they live in schools. In the aquarium, the Wreckfish needs to be kept in a shoal of three to six individuals, with only one male to prevent territorial behavior.

Female Wreckfish are bright orange/yellow, sporting a pale mauve stripe underneath each eye and reaching a size of up to 3 inches. In comparison, males are just as colorful, being midnight purple in color with a tall dorsal fin and can grow to reach around 6 inches in length.

Interestingly, if no males are present in a shoal, female fish will morph into males so that reproduction can occur.

Antennata Lionfish (Pterois antennata)

Antennata Lionfish are also commonly called Ragged Firefish or Spotfin Lionfish. These spectacular animals are found in the tropical waters of the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. In some regions, the successful lionfish is regarded as a threat to other sea life since the species has no natural predators and can reproduce all year around.

Identification of the Antennata Lionfish is easy. The fish are red with black and white vertical stripes running along the body and the characteristic fanned finnage and venomous spines of all members of the lionfish family. These fish can grow up to 7 inches in length in the aquarium.

Like all lionfish species, the Antennata is a predator fish that must only be housed with other species of a similar disposition and not with invertebrates or fish that will fit into the lionfish’s mouth. For that reason, these imposing fish should only be kept by very experienced, advanced hobbyists. 

Achilles Tang (Acanthurus Achilles)

The Achilles Tang or surgeonfish is found throughout the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. 

These striking fish can grow to reach 10 inches in length at maturity. This species is especially sought-after for its intense black color and gorgeous orange spot that bleeds into the Achille’s Tang’s signature caudal blade.

These amazingly good-looking fish are somewhat more difficult to keep healthy than other species because of their complex diet. For that reason, we recommend the Achilles Tang for only experienced, advanced hobbyists.

In Conclusion

Experienced marine aquarists can enjoy a diverse and beautiful array of saltwater fishes, such as those included in this list.

Although these fish are more demanding in their care and feeding requirements than the more run-of-the-mill species that you see in the trade, the pay-off is definitely worth the effort.

David Girard

Managing Editor

David has been a fishkeeping addict since his childhood when he got his very first fish, a beautiful red Crowntail betta called King. Since then, David has kept many different reef and freshwater tropical fish species, but bettas will always be his first love.

When not busy working on developing content for Tankarium, David spends much of his time breeding bettas in a specially converted garage at his home.


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