Caring for Predators

While there are many beautiful fish for reefs, there are also an abundance of predatory fish that you can own.

When you set up your tank, you still need to follow all the proper procedures and let it cycle. When placing rock however, creating a system of caves a small “mountains” is essential. Many predators, such as triggerfish and eels, like to hide in these caves, and lionfish love to perch on tall rocks. Since most predators eat coral, lightning a tank set up can be less costly since you are not trying to create a living reef. Invertebrates will quickly be eaten, so do not add any to your tank. If you do add inverts to your tank when first setting it up, keep in mind that they will become a food source later on.

Due to this lack of a “cleaning crew” you will need to filter your sand once a week with your water changes. A strong filter is essential, predators have a higher amount of waste because of their diet and without a good filtration system, the tank can become very dirty. Since most predators get very large, you will need to get a tank that is over 100 gallons.

It is possible to do a small predator tank, but there are some basic restrictions. The first is that small is going to be 30-50 gallons, anything smaller will not be adequate. The second is that you will have to limit your number of fish to the size of the tank. At 50 gallons, four small predators will do fine together.

Feeding a predator tank can be either very easy, or very hard. Most predators will take to frozen krill and shrimp with ease, but some will only eat live food (lionfish are notorious for this). Some can be enticed by using a feeding stick to give the food the appearance that it is alive. If your fish will not take to frozen food, live feeders can be bought at your local retailer. Squid and Silversides are also great food sources for larger predators. Add a few drops of Selcon to the mix to keep the fish healthy.

Types of Predators

There are a wide variety of different predatory fish that can be owned, and most will get along just fine if they are all roughly the same size and added at the same time.

Triggerfish are one of the more common predators for a tank and should not be grouped together. They are territorial and can be quite aggressive. Triggers are a predator that should be added last, or with a group of other fish. When frightened or tired, triggers like to hide in caves and under rocks, using the “trigger” are their head to anchor themselves in. Notorious coral eaters, there are very few species that do well in a reef tank. Tiggers will eat anything from frozen krill to live fish. Most triggers get well over a foot long, but there are some such as the Blue Jaw Trigger that stay small enough for a smaller tank.

Lionfish are beautiful fish, but venomous. Their long fins are tipped with spines that are used to sting prey in self defense. While not particularly deadly, if stung run the wound under hot water, the hotter the better. If you experience extreme dizziness, pain, or nausea,seek medical help. Lionfish like to perch on all sorts of objects, and usually ad odd angels. Because of this, it is good to have some very tall rocks for them to perch on. While they do not eat coral, lionfish will eat anything they can fit into their mouth, so adding them to a reef tank is not recommended. Lionfish are notoriously picky eaters and getting them trained to eat frozen food can be a hassle, but it can be done. There are a variety of different lionfish that come in all shapes and sizes for tanks both big and small, dwarf lions make great additions to smaller predator tanks.

Pufferfish are smart and energetic fish that love to swim and eat. Keeping room at the top of the tank for puffers to swim is highly recommended, but they will hide in rocks to sleep or to escape. Notorious for eating coral, puffers are not something you want to add to your reef. Probably one of the least pickiest eaters, puffers will eat practically anything they can and are easy to feed because of it. There are a variety of puffers for both large and small tanks and sharpnose puffers are great for smaller tanks.

Eels are by far the most aggressive of the predators, but do not eat coral. Eels love to hide in caves and will eat any fish or invertebrate that they can fit in their mouth. The best fish to keep with an eel are lionfish, large triggers, and puffers. Eels will hide in caves with their heads sticking out for most of their time, only coming out when hungry. They can be taught to eat frozen food or live food. Most eels get very large, but there are some that can be kept in small tanks such as the Snowflake Moray.

Sharks are the largest and most sought after animal for a predator tank. While small, these sharks can get up to five feet long, so having a very large (300+ gallons) is highly recommended. All sharks that can be kept in an aquarium are bottom feeders, so frozen whole shrimp will do fine for feeding. These types of sharks are also quite peaceful and a large aggressive trigger can pose a threat if it is territorial.