As you become more and more immersed in the aquarium hobby, you quickly learn that a wide variety of marine animals are actually made available to the general public. Albeit tempting, some of these animals are simply not suitable to be thrown into your mixed reef aquarium for a number of reasons.

Aggression towards tank-mates, insufficient food sources, competition for space, environmental needs, and even stress levels are all good reasons you may not want to introduce that funky-looking fish from your local fish store into your tank.

We are going to step outside the realm of reef-keeping and talk about setting up a species-specific aquarium, which is a great way to successfully keep some of the not-so-common aquarium animals.

What Is A Species-Specific Aquarium?

A species-specific aquarium is basically a tank that is set up to meet the specific needs of a unique animal that, in most cases, will not house a large variety of organisms like you might find in a mixed reef aquarium. Some examples of aquarium animals that will benefit from a tank catered to their needs are Seahorses, Pipefish, Jellyfish, Angler or Frogfish, Scorpionfish, and even Octopuses. All of these animals have specific needs and providing them with the right environment will help ensure a long healthy life in captivity.


This aquarium meme never gets old.

Choosing The Right Aquarium

First things first, choose the right tank. Look at the maximum size and life expectancy of the fish or animal you plan to keep. Choose a tank that is large enough to house them through their entire life.

You must also consider their capabilities and preferences. Octopuses, for example, are well-known escape artists. They can fit through even the tiniest of holes, so a tank with a secure lid is important. Jellyfish can easily get stuck in the filtration and overflows. That is why you now find aquariums (sometimes called a "Kreisel") specifically made to house them and eliminate these risks. Some animals prefer shallow, bright environments; others prefer something deep and dark. All these factors must be considered when choosing a tank.

Detailed research about your desired pet will prove to be beneficial on a variety of fronts. If you're having trouble finding relevant information about the particular animal as a pet, focus on their natural habitat and behaviors in the wild because this information alone can help you create an ideal environment at home. 

In the accompanying video, we highlight the Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus). Frogfish are commonly called angler fish as their first dorsal spine is modified to be used as a fishing rod. It even has a lure at the end to attract prey. Similar to chameleons, frogfish are masters of disguise because they are able to change color and blend in perfectly with their surroundings.


Frogfish eating
The Frogfish in our web designer's aquarium gobbled up his Cleaner Shimp!


These ambush predators lie in wait using their lures to attract curious fish and shrimp. Once an unsuspecting animal gets close enough, the angler launches and engulfs its prey using its ginormous mouth. Remarkably, Frogfish are capable of eating animals close to their own size. For this reason, they do not make good tank mates with most reef fish and are best kept in species-specific aquariums. Additionally, being in a dedicated aquarium allows you to more-easily target feed the frogfish to make sure it gets enough food.

Tank Decor & Aquascape

Frogfish like to perch and use camouflage to blend in with their surroundings. A tank aquascaped with plenty of rocks and a variety of brightly colored soft corals, sponges, sea fans, and macroalgae will allow the Frogfish to exhibit natural behavior and coloration. Since they do not move around all that much, a really large tank is not necessary. Plus it makes it easier to observe them and also allows them to catch prey with minimal effort.

This brings us back to a key point when setting up a species-specific aquarium: be sure to research and fully understand the animal's natural behaviors and capabilities. This will make it much easier for you to provide them with the right environment.

Filtration & Flow

Because of their large appetites and taste for meaty foods, solid biological filtration is required to help break down waste. An oversized canister filter, sump, or wet/dry filter are all great choices. A protein skimmer, although not 100% mandatory, can be very helpful in keeping waste and nutrients low. Regular and larger than usual 25-50% water changes will also help to keep the water parameters at optimal levels.

Water circulation is also important. Sufficient water flow keeps the water well oxygenated—which is especially important if you are not using a protein skimmer. Well-oxygenated water allows bacteria to more quickly break down harmful ammonia into less harmful nitrate.

A species-specific aquarium is a great way to expand your fish collection and is surprisingly affordable. Simple equipment like canister filters, low output lighting, and small tanks are often all you need to make the perfect home. It also gives you the opportunity to keep and collect some of the most unique and captivating animals found in earth's oceans.