Saltwater fish are often incredibly colorful and beautiful, but the choices can be overwhelming. If you're looking to populate your saltwater fish tank, it's important to choose not only species that you find aesthetically pleasing, but also those that get along and don't fight.
Angelfish come in both saltwater and freshwater varieties, but it's the saltwater species that have the most vibrant colors. In the wild, angelfish live on shallow tropical reefs in the western Pacific, southern Atlantic and Indian oceans.
Large marine angelfish grow to be 8 to 12 inches long, and do very well in captivity. These fish are the most popular inhabitants of saltwater aquariums. Don't put more than one angel from the same genus in one tank, however, or you risk having fights break out. Some species include the queen angelfish, emperor angelfish, regal angelfish, blue girdled angelfish, blueface angelfish, flagfin angelfish, scribbled angelfish, French angelfish and Singapore angelfish.
Dwarf angelfish are often even more colorful than their larger cousins. They're gentle, get along well with lots of other fish species, and only grow to be 4 inches long. Species include the coral beauty angelfish, rusty angelfish, flame angelfish, flameback angelfish, lemonpeel angelfish, yellow angelfish and Potter's angelfish.
Made even more popular by Disney's Finding Nemo, the cute little clownfish is a favorite for many saltwater enthusiasts. Growing to just 3 inches long, most of them are bright orange with white stripes, although some are black and white. Clownfish are hardy and thrive in aquariums. They are also called anemonefish since they like to live in sea anemones in the wild, but an aquarium-raised clownfish is fine without this symbiotic partner. They like to live in small groups of a single subspecies, and do best when added to the tank at the same time.
Species include the ocellaris clownfish, true percula clownfish, maroon clownfish, tomato clownfish, cinnamon clownfish, red saddle clownfish and saddleback clownfish.
A cousin of the clownfish that's found around the world, the damselfish is a feisty little guy that does a great job of breaking in a new aquarium since he can withstand harsh conditions. Growing to just 2 to 3 inches long, this fish is extremely territorial and aggressive towards other types of fish but does well in a group of his same species. Species include the yellow damselfish, blue damselfish, azure damselfish, blue and gold damselfish, two stripe damselfish, three stripe damselfish, four stripe damselfish and tuxedo damselfish.
Be careful -- lionfish look pretty cool with their striped bodies and long spines, but they're also venomous, so never touch them. They're native to the tropical Pacific, Caribbean Sea and coral regions of the eastern Atlantic, but these hardy fish also do well in aquariums. Reaching an average of 7 inches long in captivity, they need a larger aquarium than smaller fish and plenty of places to hide. Species include fuzzy dwarf lionfish, zebra lionfish, miles lionfish, Mombasa lionfish and Russell's lionfish.
Pufferfish belong to the same family of fish as balloonfish, blowfish, swellfish, bubblefish, globefish and toadfish. Some of the puffer species inflate like a balloon when they feel threatened -- but they're not blowing up with air; they're swallowing water. These hardy fish grow to about 8 inches long and thrive well in aquariums. However, they need a lot of room to swim as well as several places to hide. Species include the porcupine puffer, saddle puffer, spotted puffer, blue spotted puffer, leopard puffer and saddle box puffer.
Tangs are also called surgeonfish or doctorfish. Often seen in seawater aquariums, these fish have flat bodies and a pair of sharp spines on either side of their tails. It's best not to keep more than one species together, since they might fight, but introducing more than one species in different sizes at the same time can lessen this aggressive tendency. Species include the yellow tang, purple tang, blue tang, powder brown tang, clown tang, chevron tang, sailfin tang, convict tang and Achilles tang.
Triggerfish are large, brightly colored fish that can grow up to 2 1/2 feet long in the wild -- although they average 6 to 10 inches in an aquarium. They can be aggressive and belligerent towards other fish, sometimes even with those in their own species, so they shouldn't be mixed with other fish. If they're introduced into the tank when small, though, they usually grow up to be more docile than their wild cousins. Species include clown triggerfish, blue throat triggerfish, white tip triggerfish, red tail triggerfish, pinktail triggerfish, Niger triggerfish and humu Picasso triggerfish.