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Are saltwater fish hard to keep?
Just as in freshwater, there are some species that are usually quite sturdy and some that challenge even the experts. The Compatibility Chart is meant to help the hobbyist choose fish and invertebrates appropriate for his level of expertise. Sometimes an individual or group of even the most hardy variety will have been subjected to just one too many changes, and will become weak or sickly or will refuse to eat. We will try to help in choosing healthy specimens as much as possible.
What size tank is needed?
Almost any size aquarium can be used, but generally a larger tank will be easier to keep chemically balanced and has a lot more options when it comes to fish compatibility. On the other hand, assuming the household budget is a factor, it is better to set up a medium-sized tank with good equipment than to attempt a larger tank with inadequate equipment. Many of the most popular saltwater sizes are in the 30 to 55 gallon range.
Which fish get along?
The Compatibility Chart will help with selecting fish that are likely to get along. In addition, the three following rules will usually apply: 1. Any fish that will fit into another fish's mouth usually ends up there. 2. The less related any two fish are, the more likely they will get along. 3. The less two fish resemble one another, the more likely they will get along.
Fish and Invertebrates Together?
Many hobbyists desire to keep a mixed collection - with both fish and invertebrates in the same aquarium. While such a display can certainly be very beautiful (especially with symbiotic species like anemones and clown fish), there can be problems involved. The most effective treatments for saltwater "ich" also kill invertebrates. Apparently, the cell structures are similar enough between parasites and invertebrates that the reactions to chemicals are quite the same.
Since the treatment/removal time for "ich" medications is at least four weeks the unfortunate hobbyist is often forced to sacrifice either the invertebrates by moving them to another tank or the fish by risking ineffective treatment.
To further complicate matters, salt water invetebrates are suspected of being "carriers" of "ich", and since a suitable treatment has yet to be utilized, suppliers cannot guarantee that invertebrates are free of these parasites.
The novice saltwater hobbyist is advised to weigh the risks of the mixed collection against the obvious benefits and to make plans accordingly. Freshwater dips and quarantine tanks can reduce the chances of newly acquired specimens introducing disease to an established aquarium. Low fish population density (few fish in a large tank as in the currently popular "reef" type aquariums) may reduce epidemic outbreaks and allow fish to deal with parasites in their natural manner.
The best beginner fish for a marine tank are damsels. These fish are very hardy, being able to withstand worse water conditions than most other marine fish, they are not picky eaters, and they are fairly inexpensive.
Clownfish are related to damsels, and are fairly hardy. However, they are more difficult to acclimate to a new tank. Clowns, in general, are very territorial, but are not otherwise aggressive except to other clowns.
These small fish are somewhat hardy and are unlikely to cause trouble for the other fish in your tank. Some of them show a lot of personality, though they will get lost in a large tank. Many of these fish are excellent additions to a tank to help control algae.
Tangs are fairly hardy, though they are very susceptible to marine ich. Being algae eaters, they are useful to introduce when your tank starts growing algae. They must be fed leafy greens if there is no suitable algae growing in the tank (green algae).
If you are setting up a tank for large aggressive fish, you can start with triggers and/or lionfish, as they are hardy.
Some of the more popular shrimps are Cleaner Shrimp, Blood Shrimp, Candycane or Peppermint Shrimp, and Coral Banded Shrimp. The cleaner shrimp is denoted by a white on red stripe down the middle of its back. They are fairly easy to keep. The Blood shrimp is intensely red with some white spots. The Coral Banded shrimp is very popular with reef keepers, but must be watched around small fish. This shrimp has been known to eat small fish without thinking twice.
There are many different type of crabs, but the most commonly seen varieties are anemone crabs, arrow crabs, and hermit crabs. Crabs are generally omnivorous and readily accept the same foods as your fish. Like shrimp, crabs can only eat food which has made it to the bottom of the tank. Thus, ensure some food is in reach of your crabs.
Sea Urchins and Starfishes
Most sea urchins and Starfishes are suitable for beginners who have a few months experience. Once again they vary greatly in size, shape, and color. Beware, some sea urchins are poisonous. Most sea urchins and starfish feed on detritus and algae, and small particles of food that have fallen within their reach.