Week 15: Adding saltwater fish intelligently and safely | 52 Weeks of Reefing #BRS160
There are all kinds of things to consider when you are stocking the tank. You really need to consider the must haves and work your way back from there.
1. Diet - If an eel or lion fish are something you just have to have it is probably going to have to be a dwarf species of lion or dwarf golden moray so they don't eat your fish. Even then you are probably ruling out smaller fish, shrimp, or crabs since they will likely become eel or lionfish snacks. In fact if you really like shrimp and crabs there is a whole host of fish like many wrasses and hawkfish which are basically off the table. If you really want a mandarin at some point you need to skip fish like Coris wrasse which will likely out-compete it for food.
2. Size - As size is concerned most fish stores or online vendors will be able to tell you pretty easy if the size of the fish is appropriate for the tank. Keep in mind this advice is generally on the liberal side and should really be considered a maximum. There is one big exception to that rule. If you are willing to give the fish back to the store when it gets too big or trade it with someone you know there is no reason you can’t put a juvenile fish in a tank which is smaller than the adult version would live in. In fact within the couple years that it takes to outgrow the tank you might even upgrade to a larger tank. Make sure it isn't a species that doesn't grow disproportionately fast and try not to be reckless but you can bend the rules if it is part of a long term plan and the health of the fish is part of that plan.
3. How Many Fish - There are a ton of rules about how many fish which are decent guidelines but I have never met a single reefer who actively follows them religiously. Most of us want as many fish as possible but every fish you add generally increases the need for water changes, potential for nutrient issues like algae growth.
Too many fish, especially of the same type also reduces potential habitat and competition for food sources. When you are making your fish plan consider amount of available habitat. There are three basic areas in the tank. Sand dwellers like gobies, fish who like to perch on surfaces like hawk fish and fish that spend most of their time in open water like tangs, chromis and anthias. Try spreading the fish you select over the various habitats available in your aquascape.
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