All fish require your time and dedication to survive in an aquarium. While there are certainly some fish that are easier to care for, it doesn't mean they don't require your attention. We chose our favorites based on a typical beginner, with an aquarium that is about 40 gallons or less and working within a particular budget.  After all, everyone's situation is unique, and choosing the right fish should be specific to you and your tank.

To start things out, here are some broad strokes you might want to remember when shopping for fish. While this is not a strict list, it will help you to at least start looking in the right categories when it comes time to make your own stocking list. 

Hardy Fish To Consider For Beginners

  • Gobies
  • Cardinalfish
  • Blennies
  • Firefish
  • Clownfish - maited pair

Fish To Avoid For Beginners

  • Damsels
  • Anthias
  • Butterflyfish
  • Angelfish
  • Dragonets
  • Seahorses and Pipefish

Top 10 Saltwater Aquarium Fish Episode 31b

While Matt broke things up into two videos, this is the complete list of our Top 10 Recommended Fish For Beginners. This is just a suggestion, there really is a variety out there and it's not something in which you can only choose from this list. That said, if you do stick to the species on this list, you are likely going to end up with hardy fish that will easily endure the first 12 months and beyond while you learn how to maintain your saltwater aquarium like a pro. 

1. Benggai or Pajama Cardinalfish

2. Blue or Green Chromis

3. Ocellaris Clownfish

4. Clown Goby

5. Hawkfish

6. Dottyback

7. Firefish or Dart Fish

8. Royal Gramma Basslet

9. Sixline Wrasse

10. Shrimp Goby & Pistol Shrimp Symbiotic Pair

Suggested Stocking Lists

These are split up based on tank size so you can get an idea of exactly how many fish, and what kind you should consider. Notice how the fish fill different niches in your tank and we are sticking with hardy fish, that are community or semi-aggressive in temperament. Remember to stock your tank slowly, adding no more than just a few fish at a time, no less than two weeks apart. This gives your biofilter time to acclimate and adjust to the fish's waste levels.  

20 Gallon Starter Stocking List

  • Two Clownfish - mated pair
  • Purple Firefish
  • Royal Gramma 
  • Shrimp Goby & Pistol Shrimp Pair

30 Gallon Starter Stocking List

  • Two Clownfish - mated pair
  • 2-3 Cardinalfish
  • Longnose Hawkfish
  • Orchid Dottyback
  • Shrimp Goby & Pistol Shrimp

40 Gallon Starter Stocking List

  • Two Clownfish - mater pair
  • 3-4 Chromis
  • Royal Gramma
  • Clown Goby
  • Shrimp Goby & Pistol Shrimp
  • Hawkfish
  • Sixline Wrasse
  • Purple Firefish