Reef safe fish are fish that do not eat coral and the invertebrates – snails, clams, shrimp, crabs – that live among them. There are many fish in the coral reef, and there are certain species that like to dine on the pretty corals, sponges, and critters. These are not “Reef-Safe” fish. It’s pretty easy to determine which fish are safe for your reef aquarium, thanks to the combined experience of other aquarists who share their stories and experiments.
The main fish to avoid are large Angelfish, Butterflyfish, and Filefish (coral and sponge eaters), Triggerfish (small invert and fish predators), and any predator (lionfish, moray eel) that’s big enough to catch and eat your small reef fish (gobies and blennies).
Finding reef safe fish in your retailer can be easy. Look for tags that easy “Reef Safe” or have a color code for whether or not the fish eats coral or small animals. Some say “with caution”- this means the fish may or may not eat coral, but have been known to in the wild. Many beautiful fish can be considered reef safe if acclimated and fed properly. Dward and Pygmy Angelfish, for example, don’t exhibit the ravenous appetite for your corals that their large cousins do. If you want to take home such a fish, watch it for a few days to see if it nips at your corals. There are predators like certain species of triggerfish that can be kept in a reef, but you must follow some basic rules: First, get them as small/young as possible. Second, never, ever feed them live foods; and finally, it helps to have a larger, bossy established fish in the tank like a Tang.
There are wide variety of reef safe fish for sale. Chromis and Damsels are not only reef safe, but great starter fish for the new aquarist. Tangs are among the most popular reef safe fish. They come in a variety of sizes and colors and also have energetic personalities. Wrasses stand out in a reef tank with sharp colors that make any tank spring to life.
Be sure to discuss what types of fish you have in your tank when you come to purchase a new fish from us. If you’re starting a new aquarium, let us know what fish you consider special, and we can build a reef that will accommodate your desires.