When looking at fish for beginners, you are usually going to see the same fish recommended repeatedly. This list is for the people who want to see the “non-traditional” options of beginner fish. All of these fish are very hardy and easy to feed and work great in beginner saltwater aquariums.
Always complete thorough research and planning out what you plan on stocking your tank with ahead of time can help prevent impulse purchases and stress later down the road. Setting up your first tank can cause tremendous stress. Still, this is supposed to be a fun and rewarding hobby, so completing research and asking questions ahead of time can take that future stress off of your shoulders so you can enjoy the whole process of starting and stocking your tank. Patience and consistency are the two key components to success in this hobby!
The number one underrated beginner fish is one of my favorites. The bicolor blenny offers a beautiful coloration along with a bright personality. Their bodies are half gray and half white and they love grazing on algae. They are herbivores and will thrive on an algae based diet. Bicolor blennies only reach 4 inches in size and a minimum of a 30 gallon tank is recommended. They will usually spend their time in the lower column of the aquarium resting on the substrate or lower portion of the rock structure. They can be very shy when first added to the aquarium, but once they become comfortable they will become one of the most animated fish in your tank. They are very peaceful towards other fish except for other blennies and gobies. It is important to ensure that you have plenty of space for separate territories if you plan on adding different types of gobies or blennies together in the same tank.
This next fish is usually one of the last fish you will want to add to your aquarium due to their territorial behavior. The falco hawkfish (sometimes called the dwarf hawkfish) has a silly personality and will be very personable when you approach the tank. They will reach up to 3 inches and a minimum of a 30 gallon tank is recommended. Hawkfish may be beginner fish, but are considered “reef safe with caution” because they can occasionally pick at invertebrates such as snails and shrimp. It is best to keep an eye on your hawkfish when first adding it to your aquarium to ensure that it is on its best behavior. Providing lots of rocks and caves for hiding is crucial for hawkfish to give them along with your other fish somewhere to take off to if they feel threatened. They are carnivores and will thrive on a meat based diet such as brine or mysis shrimp. Keeping them well-fed with also help prevent them from potentially picking at your invertebrates. Hawkfish are notorious for jumping out of aquariums so it is important to make sure you have a secure lid on your aquarium before adding one to your tank.
War paint clown gobies
The green war paint clown goby has very intricate markings, is a peaceful beginner fish, and a fine addition to any aquarium. They reach up to 3 inches in length and are recommended for a minimum of a 15 gallon aquarium. They spend most of their time perched on the rock structure or corals to “blend in.” They are carnivores and can be effortlessly trained on pellets and flakes. They are very bold and will be one of the first ones at the surface when it’s feeding time. It is best to make sure that you have a tight-fitting lid on your tank as these guys are known to jump out of the aquarium. Clown gobies have audacious personalities and will even perch on your hand if you place it in the tank. They are very curious about their surroundings and love exploring new additions to the tank. They will usually have a favorite spot in your aquarium that you can always see them perching on. A lot of the time it will actually be one of your corals that they spend their time nestled in order to blend in. Clown gobies can become territorial towards other gobies so it is best to make sure that you have enough space to house more than one goby to prevent fights.
This last beginner fish comes in every imaginable color combination. The fairy wrasse is one of the most vibrant fish in this hobby and is are also very docile. They reach up to 3-4 inches in size and a minimum of a 50 gallon tank is recommended. The fairy wrasse requires lots of open swimming space and also appreciates having plenty of caves and rocks to hide out and sleep in. They are carnivores and appreciate a meaty diet including live brine shrimp. They are extremely shy when first added to the aquarium and can be known to “sulk.” It can take 1-2 weeks for the wrasse to finally be confident in the aquarium. It may be best to spot feed them during the first few days to ensure that they are getting food as they won’t be confident enough to come out and eat. They are not the first fish you will want to add to your aquarium as they can be finicky in new tanks. However, once your tank has reached complete maturity, they can become one of your favorites.