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Have You Overlooked These Fish?

Discussion in 'Marine and Reef Chit Chat' started by Lynden, Apr 6, 2007.

  1. Lynden

    Lynden a "fish hater"

    Sep 19, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Northern BC, Canada
    Most people have the idea that if a fish is branded as "non-reef-safe" that it will kill
    everything in a reef tank. This is not true and most of these fish can be kept in a
    reef system if one avoids stocking the natural prey of this fish, and generally this is
    limited to a few families or genera. I know I like to try to have a unique set-up and
    a fish that most others would not consider is a great way of doing it. So this article
    explains exactly what and what not these fish will eat in a reef setting, so one can
    worrilessly stock "un-reef-safe" fish.

    My article carries the title of another article by Gregory Schiemer, from which many of
    my ideas are based. However, much of the material in this article is researched (from
    sources stated at bottom; some originally) or concluded by me; if I am borrowing a fact or report,
    I will let you all know. Remember that it is always a good idea to research the care of a fish from many different sources,
    so make sure you do this for the fish on this list as a few of them can be difficult to
    care for or even dangerous to the caretaker! Just take their comments on "reef safeness"
    with a degree of skepticism as many retail sites are simply not well informed, or just don't care,
    enough to give good info on this regard; they post blanket statements instead. Hence the creation of this list.

    I do not understand why certain groups of fishes have been ruled as "non-reef safe",
    as many or most of their members are in fact unlikely to attack ornamental invertebrates. Even
    still, fishes can be unpredictable, and a psycho situation such as a tang chomping away a coral are
    not unheard of. Furthermore, my article is not necessarily showing fishes that will be safe with
    every different type of invertebrate; but it will show what and what not they will eat in a reef

    Angel fish
    Angels are highly unpredictable, and although the Centropyge species feed mainly on
    algae on the wild, they can occasionally attack corals (as many an aquarist has disgustedly
    reported). Why is this? The reason, surprisingly, may be from lack of food. All angels are grazers
    in the wild, and for them, eating intermittently is like eating once every three days for you and
    me. For them, eating something that tastes poorly is better than starving. Thus, the angel cannot
    be blamed for consuming corals in aquaria. The solution may arise from either dripping food in
    to the tank steadily throughout the day, or by having copious supplies of edible algal matter in the
    tank (such as nori sheets).

    Greg states that the best dwarf angels for the reef aquarium are those in the "argi"
    complex, including C. resplendens, C. argi, C. acanthops, and C. aurantonotus.
    I would like to add that C. resplendens is currently largely unavailable. These fish
    should not be purchased right now, to give them some time to rebound.

    Larger angels tend to be even riskier, especially with large polyped stony corals. Greg
    states that Regal Angels (Pygoplites dicanthus), in his experience, do not disturb corals very
    often. He also states that the corals consumed will be limited to one or two species; and both he
    and I think that the Regal Angel is much more of a pet than any coral could hope to be. Simply
    remove the particular coral that the angel eats.

    However, do not despair; there is one genus of angels that should prove to be entirely
    reef-safe. This is the genus Genicanthus, and all members of it are entirely planktonivorous or
    herbivorous (like a tang). Even the retail sites agree with me on that point.

    Butterfly fish
    My research is somewhat lacking on the family Chaetodontidae, but I can tell you that
    many species, such as the Copper band (Chelmon rostratus) the Long nose (Forcipiger sp.),
    two Banners (Heniochus diphreutes and H. singularis) and the Pyramid
    (Hemitaurichthys sp.) are not true cnidarian eaters, and thus safe with corals and anemones unless
    underfed. Search Fishbase for more details on reef-safe butterfly fish; the reef safe varieties do
    not feed on polyps, but most still eat tubeworms.

    Trigger fish
    As I have stated millions of times before, there are many reef-safe trigger fishes. The
    genera Melichthys, Xanthichthys, and Odonus are all planktonivorous fishes and do not attack
    invertebrates or most fish. They may attempt to eat small fish or invertebrates when they are first
    introduced (especially if they are dumped into the aquarium as if they were food items),
    therefore, make all new introductions at night.

    The genus Sufflamen contains many fishes that are very docile, but I have no experience
    or relevant reports regarding the genus' suitability for reef aquaria. My advice would be to avoid
    feather duster worms and small shrimp with these animals.

    The genus Rhinecanthus contains some medium-aggression fishes. They are suitable for
    some reef aquaria, but will consume small snails and most shrimp (but probably not cleaner
    shrimp established before the trigger). Corals will not be consumed, but the tips of Acropora are
    used as tooth-grinders by the fishes (have seen this behaviour in the wild). They will also
    consume some algae.

    Certain other triggers can fare well in reef aquaria. Clown Triggers can be docile until
    they reach lengths of about 8'', at which point they can become terrors. Search Fishbase for more

    Lastly, it is important to remember that trigger fishes (as with all Tetraodonts) are very
    intelligent animals, and they will soon figure out that it is easier to pick food out of the water
    column with the other fish than it is to dig it up. Also they have differing personalities.

    File fish
    Filefishes are similar to triggers in shape and anatomy, but filefish have much more
    variable sizes (from about 2-3'' to almost 4' as opposed to the 8'' to almost 3' of triggers) and
    diets. Filefishes are also physically weaker and in many cases more difficult to keep, and their
    spines do not like upright like the triggers' do. It is also more difficult to find a reef-safe
    filefish than it is to find a reef safe trigger. On the bright side, filefishes are much more docile
    toward other fishes than many triggers are.

    Many filefishes will consume corals, and a few (Oxymonacanthus sp.) feed on nothing
    but; avoid those. However, many of the more commonly available filefishes can be included in a reef tank,
    namely the Prickly Leatherjacket (Chaetoderma pencilligera), which is also a very 'cool' fish
    and easy to feed. Cnidarians and most benthic inverts do not form a significant part of this particular fishes' diet.

    The genus Pervagor contains fishes that may consume small amounts of hard coral, but
    generally feed on algae. If the animal is well-fed, it will probably leave most other animals alone.

    Large Arothron puffers are best left out of the reef aquarium, since their powerful jaws
    are capable of crunching smaller snails, crabs, shrimps, lobsters, and hard corals. I have no
    relevant reports of these animals living harmoniously in reef aquaria, but I plan to try it with the
    aid of a couple of different "tricks" (such as copious feeding or only buying tiny puffers).

    There are numerous reports of Canthigaster puffers living in harmony with reef animals
    (Greg's article contains two of them with C. solandri). Much of this genus feeds on algae, and
    though there are exceptions, many Canthigaster are well suited for a reef aquarium. Search
    Fishbase for more info. In any case, try to avoid keeping them with tiny snails and shrimp.

    The above also depends heavily on the fish's individual personality. Many C. valentini, for instance,
    do not hurt a fly in reef tanks, but others can be real a$$ holes. Perhaps if one specimen becomes
    a nuisance, but you are still determined to keep this species (is beautiful and intelligent), try trading
    it for another one.

    Porcupine fish
    fishes can generally be kept in some reef aquaria, and as long as they are well fed
    they often will not attack most ornamental animals; small crustaceans, small echinoderms, and
    small snails will often be consumed when the fish gets hungry (cleaner shrimp are utilized by the
    porcupine fish and will not be eaten). Fish with long fins such as Zebrasoma can (very rarely) be at risk from the
    porcupine fishes' "games", but fast fish are almost always more trouble than they are worth for the
    porcupine fish. Corals, too, will not be eaten by a satiated Diodon. Buy the fish young, and introduce
    newcomers at night for best results.

    Box fish
    Boxfish are well suited to the reef aquarium, though if an individual is underfed (very
    easy to do as the fish are slow moving and poor competitors) it may turn to chomping soft corals
    such as Xenia. Tubeworms are also happily eaten by boxfish.

    Be warned when purchasing, moving, and keeping boxfish that they can exude an
    extremely toxic substance when severely stressed or dead that can annihilate an entire tank. This
    is a rare occurrence, but worth considering. Carbon filtration, protein skimming may help to
    alleviate these effects, but usually a fast 100% water change will be necessary.

    There are numerous choices in reef safe eels, as the invertebrates they consume are
    limited to crustaceans and cephalopods. The Echidna and Gymnomuraena
    genera generally are also safe with fish, but most other morays will happily consume small fishes.
    Even still, a well fed moray is a very lazy fish; they will not make a kill unless they need to.

    One fact to consider is that morays very commonly grow to enormous dimensions and are
    a large "bio-load", so a powerful skimmer and frequent water changes will be necessary to keep
    your reef in top condition if it houses a moray.

    Ribbon Morays (Rhinomuraena and Pseudechidna) are generally
    very good reef fishes, especially when well fed. They are much smaller and put out
    less bio load than other morays as well. Keep in mind that blue ribbon eels are VERY difficult to feed.
    I believe we have on aquarist's story of them on this forum; try searching it's database.

    Gymnothorax favagineus is one fish that can be extremely voracious.
    Use caution when choosing tank mates for this animal; even then keep the
    animal very well fed. The Green Moray (Gymnothorax funebris) can
    be even worse. Both can grow to lengths of nearly 10'; but they are both awfully cute.

    Remember that morays will knock things over in their daily routines, and kick up dust.

    Lion fish
    Lionfishes are safe with any fish that cannot fit into their mouths easily. However,
    judging the full size of their enormous protrusile jaws can be very difficult, in particular
    for Pterois species. P. volitans especially is a very voracious fish, often recorded
    consuming the smaller dwarf fuzzy lion Dendrochirus brachypterus. Thus, any
    fish under 6'' is potentially at risk with the Volitans.

    A few Pterois and all Dendrochirus eat nothing but crustaceans in the wild; therefore,
    they should probably be safer with fishes than the larger species P. volitans, P. miles,
    P. lunulata, et cetera. It is safe to say that all lionfishes will be perfectly fine in a reef tank with
    bigger fish and no shrimps or crabs (not counting hermit crabs, which will also be safe; lionfishes
    will not purposely consume mollusc shells).

    I have seen certain wrasses get a bad rap, as well. That is a shame, as these often
    comprise some of the most beautiful, cool, and interesting animals an aquarist can get!

    Fishes in the genus Coris can be kept in some reef tanks, but they will often attack small, motile
    invertebrates, including small snails (Nassarius spring to mind). My recommendation to someone
    that wanted one of these is to buy it small, and place it with animals bigger than it; will help to curb
    aggression and, if it is fed often, it may never turn to eating snails, echinoderms, or hermit crabs.
    These animals, like many wrasses, are probably very good at ridding an aquarium of bristleworms.

    The biggest problem with Coris is size. Many can reach 2'. Coris gaimard is probably
    the best for aquaria.

    Harlequin Tusks (Choerodon fasciatus) are a psychadelically coloured and ferocious-looking fish.
    They are docile and well suited to a reef tank, but they may consume true crabs, especially if underfed.
    Introduce newcomers at night for best results. A word of caution; only purchase Australian specimens.
    They are superior for several reasons, including better colour and higher health level.

    Dragon Wrasses (Novaculichthys) and other razorfish are magnificent fishes and easy to keep,
    but unfortunately are powerful and intelligent predators. Your best bet would be to keep it with firmly
    attached corals, larger hermit crabs (Calcinus, Dardanus, Pagurus), and large, well
    armoured snails, such as cowries, astreas, and conches. Buy the fish young, and feed them very well.
    Capable of consuming small to medium sized fishes when large, and also not above bullying fishes too
    big to eat whole. Won't eat corals, and one can consider a tank with one of these a "jewel case with a little dragon".
    Be aware that poorly or newly attached corals can be threatened by this fish's rock moving tendencies.
    Is a heavy sand sifter, and as in nature, may build little piles of rocks. This shouldn't do much damage
    unless corals are strewn about unattached; but substrate living corals can be flipped, so avoid keeping
    small substrate living corals with a razorfish.

    Thalassoma are another that has a very bad rep, and unfortunately this is probably for a reason.
    Keep with big, strong urchins, hermit crabs, corals, anemones, and any invertebrate too big or strong to
    crunch. Usually docile towards fishes, but this is a big genus (second largest in labrid family; Halichoeres
    is largest) and variation can be expected.

    A few others
    Smaller hawkfish generally make great reef dwellers and are very easy to feed, but they
    may attack small shrimp.

    The marine betta (Calloplesiops altivelis), according to Greg, bothers nothing, and rarely
    does anything bother it, except for lighting. They usually get used to it.

    Groupers also are generally safe with larger fishes, but they may consume shrimps.

    Many fishes that are commonly thought as undesirable for a reef do deserve a second
    look. If ever you are looking at a fish on Live Aquaria or what ever, do not make your final decision
    until you look in a scientific database such as Fishbase. Or preferably, look in fishbase, wetwebmedia,
    or aquahobby before consulting the retail sites.

    Written by Lynden Beattie (with some input from Andy, Enjoiskater, Tommy Gun and everyone else that posted), 2007
    Rest in peace Greg, you will be missed.

    -Marine Fish and Reef 2006
    Have You Overlooked These Fish? by Gregory Schiemer
    -Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2007. FishBase.
    World Wide Web electronic publication.
    www.fishbase.org, version (08/2007).
    (re: piscine diet)
    -Wet web media (various contributors but especially the writing of R. Fenner), wetwebmedia.com
    -aquahobby.com (various contributors)

    I give permission for anyone to copy this article for any reason, on the condition that the sources are credited.

  2. Lynden

    Lynden a "fish hater"

    Sep 19, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Northern BC, Canada
    Feedback, disagreements, inputs? Anyone?
  3. Danno

    Danno Member

    Aug 7, 2004
    Likes Received:
    Upstate NY
    Post revoked
  4. steelhealr

    steelhealr Hug a mod Nano Reef Moderator
    Retired Moderator

    Dec 27, 2004
    Likes Received:
    Long Island, NY
    OK Lynden...I have to do this as a joke. Not in a nano tank.

    Good job.

  5. Betta5

    Betta5 Member

    Jul 26, 2006
    Likes Received:
    London, England
    Not bad, but dont people who want to keep such fish stick to FO or FOWLR. Lots of fish on your list get large and to do a massive reef setup big enough for them were talking mega £££. So people stick to the small peaceful fish, clowns (well some species) chromis etc. Dont lots of people keep small reef tanks, so the bigger fish would be unsuitable anyway? Well its a well written thread and im sure will be useful to have around. And i realise i have missed the point completely.
  6. Lynden

    Lynden a "fish hater"

    Sep 19, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Northern BC, Canada
    Most of the fishes featured are peaceful, easy to keep and have suffered from a mistaken bad reputation at the hands of the "blanket statements" I keep mentioning. I do not advocate keeping powerful predators in a full reef setting; most of the fishes featured will do very well with 'Nemo' and not eat (or beat) him at all. If they will eat him, I made it very clear in my article. ;) Perhaps you should take another look?

    Thank you. ^_^ I just got my nano going smoothly... hows about a dogface puffer for it? :lol:

    Mmm... sort of. See above. :lol:

  7. enjoiskater158

    Oct 9, 2006
    Likes Received:
    near philly PA
    I totally agree with everything stated except i would add the schooling bannerfish to the "reef safe" Butterfly list. and just and FYI, if your planning to add them make sure they are either the Heniochus Diphreutes or Heniochus singularis which are the reef safe ones :good:

    Good Job Lynden

    to: Betta5 Many people like these fish and put them into reef tanks. I have seen many people with triggers, large and small angels, butterflys, eels, and lionfish in reef tanks. But yes many people just stick to small peaceful fish. I personally have a VERY hard time not adding a lionfish to my new reef tank soon to be set up :blush:
  8. Lynden

    Lynden a "fish hater"

    Sep 19, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Northern BC, Canada
    Done. Thank you. ^_^
  9. andywg

    andywg Bored into leaving

    Aug 16, 2004
    Likes Received:
    Somewhere else, as I am banned...
    With the eels, it might be worth adding that the tess has this horrible habit of getting to 10 feet long, and needing a tank in the region of 1,000 gallons.

    Also, the Green moray is generally regarded as even nastier (consider the video on the internet of a SCUBA diving idiot feeding a green moray hot dogs and was surprised when the fish bit his thumb clean off for him).

    Impressive list though. It's always nice to be able to have your tank that little bit special, and having a fish most wouldn't have thought you can have is a great way of doing it.
  10. Lynden

    Lynden a "fish hater"

    Sep 19, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Northern BC, Canada
    Done. And I agree. :nod: Thank you. :)
  11. Navarre

    Navarre Marine Moderator

    Jun 11, 2004
    Likes Received:
    Im pinning this

    I dont agree with the "blanket statement" on species either.

    Although i dont quite agree on all comments in the post and i agree we can add alot mroe to this. I do think that by pinning this it will help create healthy discussion among members. Whilst i dont want people to read this thread and suddenly g out and get fish simply because it says angels dont usually eat corals etc.. what i want people to do is read this and ask more questions.. open new threads and do research on the possibility of keeping them
  12. Lynden

    Lynden a "fish hater"

    Sep 19, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Northern BC, Canada
    Thanks Navarre. :)

    Anyone got anything to add?
  13. Lynden

    Lynden a "fish hater"

    Sep 19, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Northern BC, Canada
    Section on wrasses.

  14. FLcracker94

    FLcracker94 Member

    Jul 4, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Theres one trigger that is reletively reef safe.

    The Niger Trigger (Odonus niger) is pretty good in reef aquariums if you keep it well fed. Feed it at least three times a week with meaty foods, and keep it held over on days that you don't feed it, by giving it nori. Nori is seaweed, but I have seen Niger Triggers eat this. I've heard of these triggers eating ornamental shrimp and small invertebrets, but just keep it well fed and full, and it shouldn't eat them.

    Niger Triggers are the least aggressive fish, shouldn't really be handeled by beginners, and should be well fed. Be sure that when you have you hand in the tank to watch out for it, becuase it can pack a nasty bite! When fully grown, these triggers have HUGE, blood red teeth.
  15. Lynden

    Lynden a "fish hater"

    Sep 19, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Northern BC, Canada

    It's too bad more people don't realize that; they are sweet fish.

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