5 Prettiest Saltwater Reef Tank Fish

Saltwater aquarium fish are among the most beautiful, diverse, and fascinating creatures on earth. But deciding which saltwater fish to include in your tank can be tricky. In this list of the 5 prettiest saltwater reef fish you’ll ever see, we’ll explore the beauty of these creatures, as well as provide precious information about their habitat, diet, lifespan and care guide.

What is a saltwater reef tank?

Saltwater reef tank

A saltwater reef fish tank is the tank that contains water with high concentrations of salt. These tanks are typically used to keep corals and invertebrates. Mostly reef tanks can be divided into two categories: Fish only (FO) and Fish only with live rock (FOWLR). FO tanks contain no live rock or a substrate, while FOWLR contains some live rocks.

Water parameters for a reef tank

For your reef tank to thrive and not be filled with algae, you need a certain range of water parameters. In particular, the temperature needs to be in an acceptable range; lower than 74℉(23℃) or higher than 82℉ (28℃). Additionally, you need calcium levels greater than 400 ppm. Calcium is used by calcifying organisms like corals and anemones to grow their skeletons.

Essential aquarium accessories

A saltwater aquarium requires some specialized equipment, you’ll need more than tropical fish tank. The followings are the accessories you need to build a reef tank:

  • A fish tank/Aquarium
  • Aquarium light
  • Filter & Skimmer
  • Aquarium heater & Thermometer
  • Powerhead
  • Air pump/Air stone/Bubbler
  • Sea salt/Saltwater
  • Live rock
  • Water test kits

The 5 prettiest reef tank fish

There are various types of saltwater fish that can be kept in a reef tank. The most popular ones include clownfish, dottybacks, gobies, smaller pygmy or dwarf angelfish, surgeonfish and Tang. However, there are many other reef fish species that you may want to keep if you have enough space for them, which include triggerfish, rabbitfish, anthias and butterflyfish.

Here is the list of 5 prettiest reef fishes:

1. Clownfish


Saltwater fish are some of the most unique and fascinating creatures on the planet, but one of the most popular (and perhaps most difficult to care for) and prettiest specie is the clownfish, also known as anemonefish. These fun, colorful fish have captured the hearts of aquarium owners all over the world. With a tank of at least 10 gallon, you can provide a home for clownfish, but it can be challenging to keep them alive in captivity.

  • Lifespan

Clownfish can live up to 10 years or more in their natural habitat. In an aquarium, they usually live between three and five years. If you’re keeping clownfish in a saltwater tank with other saltwater fish, be aware that your clownfish will likely not survive for as long as it would if it were kept by itself.

  • Diet

A Clownfish likes to eat all kinds of larvae, fish eggs, copepods and small shrimp.

  • Water Temperature

Clownfish are tropical fish and need water around 73 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius) to thrive. As reef fish, clownfish requires a specific type of water that has higher concentrations of salt than freshwater. It’s generally recommended that you have a specific salt mix for your fish aquarium to keep it healthy.

  • Habitat

Clownfish are reef-safe and easy to care for; they thrive in reef aquariums, although they require an environment with a sandy bottom, plenty of live rock and live coral. They prefer warm water, ranging from 76°F to 86°F. The best way to determine if your clownfish is happy is by looking at its coloration: vibrant coloration means it’s happy.

2. Cardinal fish

Cardinal fish

The cardinal fish is probably one of the prettiest reef tank fish in a home aquarium. Its bright coloration and small size make it appealing to hobbyists and aquarists alike. The cardinal fish has a red body with blue streaks and black spots, giving it its name. Cardinals live in shallow coral reefs around rocky ocean bottoms from 30-50 feet below sea level. They hunt during the day for small invertebrates like shrimp and crabs. You can keep one single cardinal fish in a 5 gallon tank, but if you want more, you should buy a larger one.

  • Lifespan

The cardinal fish can live up to 15 years, but many never make it past their first year. They get their name from a red stripe on their side that looks like a Catholic cardinal’s robe.

  • Water Temperature

For this fish, the water temperature should be between 74-80 °F.

  • Diet

These creatures are omnivores and eat both plants and animals. Their diet consists of algae, worms, shrimp and small crustaceans. Some species have been known to eat small fish as well. They are not fussy eaters and will consume whatever they can find in the environment. They are also very territorial, so if another fish enters its territory, it will be attack until dead or be move away.

  • Habitat

In an aquarium setting, keep one cardinal fish per 10 gallon of water. If you want to keep more than one cardinal together, make sure that each has its hiding place where it can feel safe from predators. Cardinals need places to hide because they’re shy fish who don’t like being seen by humans or other fish. They spend most of time swimming at mid-level depths near rocks and coral reefs, hunting for food.

3. Flame Angelfish

Flame Angelfish

The Flame Angelfish (Centropyge loculus) belongs to the family Pomacanthidae. It’s a saltwater fish and can be found in the waters of the Indo-Pacific region from Fiji to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and eastward to Tonga and Samoa. This kind of saltwater fish may need a larger space to live in, which should be at least 30 gallons.

  • Lifespan

This fish reaches up to 10 inches long and has been observed to live as long as 5 years.

  • Water Temperature

For Flame angelfish the temperature of aquarium water should be between 72- 78 °F.

  • Diet

In nature, they can eat small benthic invertebrates like shrimp, crabs, molluscs and plankton. But unlike most marine fish, they will not eat flake or pellet food. They require a varied diet for optimal health. They like live feeder fish that are similar to their natural prey (brine shrimp, mosquito larvae) if you’re going to keep them with other fish.

  • Habitat

You can keep these fish in a community tank if they’re provided with plenty of covers, live rock and other hiding places, as well as a few inches of sand or fine gravel on which to rest. Keep them away from fast-moving fish (like wrasses) that may try to nip at their feathery fins. They do best with other, similarly-sized fishes that aren’t overly aggressive.

4. Hawkfish


This Hawkfish comes at number 4 when we talk about the 5 prettiest reef fish. They are one of the most unique saltwater fish species around, and they are also some of the most beautiful. They have very specific care requirements, so it’s important to read up on them before you make any decisions about bringing one home. A 40 gallon fish tank is needed if you want to keep Hawkfish, but a tank of 60 gallons may be better.

  • Lifespan

The Hawkfish’s lifespan can vary based on environmental factors and diet. Most of them reach full adult size between 12 months and 18 months, at which point they live anywhere from two to three years. There are reports of captive Hawkfish living up to 10 years, however, those individuals were fed a steady diet of live food. On average, Hawkfish are 4-6 inches long.

  • Water Temperature

These saltwater fish live in warm waters, generally between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Diet

The diet of Hawkfish should consist of meats, frozen foods and live feeder shrimp.

  • Habitat

They’re also extremely adaptable, so even if you don’t live near an ocean, these exotic fish will be able to thrive in freshwater tank. What matters most is that you create an environment that resembles their natural habitat – Hawks are notorious for refusing to eat and for constantly swimming around in tank that isn’t properly set up.

5. Royal Gramma fish

Royal Gramma fish

The Royal Gramma has been a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts for some time. This fish is characterized by its royal purple coloring and beautiful appearance. These colorful fish are peaceful and relatively easy to care for; many consider them suitable for beginning hobbyists. With a tank of 20 gallon or 30 gallon at least, you can easily keep them in your home or workplace.

  • Lifespan

Royal Gramma (Gramma Loreto) fish are a popular reef aquarium species that have been in the hobby for quite some time now. These fish come from South East Asia, and are relatively small growing to only about 4 inches in length as adults, and are generally considered to be hardy and long-lived, being able to live up to 20 years or more with proper care and tank conditions.

  • Water Temperature

The ideal water temperature for royal grammas is 70 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Diet

The diet for this fish should be brine shrimp, crustacean, mysid and plankton.

  • Habitat

Although royal gamma can survive in a variety of environments, you’ll want to make sure the aquarium mimics their natural habitat. As with most fish, royal grammas prefer soft, acidic water and will not do well in hard or alkaline conditions. They should also be kept in groups of three or more individuals, as they are quite social and enjoy interacting with other members of their species.


You can choose above mentioned 5 prettiest reef tank fish when creating a saltwater tank. Some are peaceful and some are aggressive, but it’s important to do your research and pick fish that will work well together. While you want the tank’s inhabitants to look beautiful, it’s also important that they can thrive in a tank environment. Once again, there is no one best way for setting up a reef tank – but starting with these five stunning saltwater reef fish will give you great results.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.