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5 Great Saltwater Fish for a Nano Reef!

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A nano reef is typically considered to be 30 gallons or less. The smaller the aquarium the larger the possibility of swinging water parameters. It is not recommended to add large fish or too many fish in a nano aquarium. Nano reef systems are a challenge but a rewarding experience. This guide will list 5 fish species that will do great in small reef aquariums.

1. Hector’s Goby

The Hector’s Goby is a fantastic addition to any reef system. It is a very peaceful fish and it will not bother any fish or invertebrate. It will graze on hair algae that grow in the aquarium and also feast on small worms in the fish tank.

This goby maxes out at about 3″ in length and it will be perfectly happy living in an aquarium that is a minimum of 10 gallons. They do require a fair amount of live rock with plenty of crevices and hiding spots. They will seamlessly weave in and out of rock looking for food and algae to graze on.

Image by Rob on Wikimedia

Their pattern work and coloration are beautiful! They have alternating red/black and yellow stripes running down from head to tail, they have round blotches of black along their dorsal fins and hints of orange around their fins as well.

They are omnivorous so providing a variation of algae based food and meaty food such as mysis shrimp is important. They will spend much of their time looking for food in rocks and sand. As a final note, Hector’s Gobies are completely reef safe!

2. Ocellaris Clownfish

Everyone knows about the clownfish due to the movie Finding Nemo. Since the release of the movie, clownfish were ferociously taken out of the oceans because many parents wanted “Nemo” at home for their kids. Luckily, the reef-keeping community has successfully found ways to breed clownfish and they are tank-bred to help prevent plucking them out of the ocean.

Ocellaris clowns, like the Hector’s Goby, max out at around 3″ in length. Having a pair of clownfish is great! The female clownfish (dominant) will be a bit larger than the male. Ocellaris clownfish are perfect for nano reefs because they happily live in aquariums of 20 gallons or larger.

Besides the common orange clownfish, there are many different variations of ocellaris clownfish due to the extensive breeding that has exploded in the hobby. There are now black & white, snowflake, platnium, and many other clownfish that can be picked up from retailers and online breeders. Also, many captive bred clowns will not willingly host in anemones but can be trained to do so. Check out this guide for tips on how to get a clownfish in an anemone.

Like many marine fish, the clownfish is omnivorous and will happily take any food provided. A rounded diet of veggies and meaty foods is recommended. They will happily take pellet, flakes, and frozen meat foods. These are incredibly hardy fish and excellent for a new marine hobbyist.

3. Yellow Clown Goby

Yellow Clown Gobies are oddly shaped but very enjoyable fish. They always seem to perch themselves in weird positions on rocks, glass, and corals. They’re a very fun and unique fish but great for a nano reef tank. Although they are small, their yellow vibrant bodies makes them pop in any reef system.

These fish are small, and they stay small. They max out at about 1.5 inches and are content with calling an aquarium that is 10 gallons or larger home. Clown Gobies are reef safe with most polyp corals but be mindful with keeping them SPS corals because there is a possibility of them nipping at them. They should not bother any other fish except other clown gobies in small enclosures.

Yellow Clown Gobies are carnivorous fish. It is important to provide them with a variation of mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, and other meaty foods. Learn more about this fish by checking out the Yellow Clown Goby – Complete Care Guide.

4. Firefish

The Firefish is a fantastic fish to add to a reef aquarium. Their vibrant white, red, and purple coloration is gorgeous! They have an enlarged dorsal fin which looks like a sabre which adds to their awesomeness!

The Firefish will be around 3″ when they are fully grown. They are perfectly content with living in an aquarium that is 20 gallons or larger. They are completely reef-safe and will spend a good portion of the day hovering above the live rock waiting for food. It is recommended to provide them with a nice porous rock because they will dart into the holes when startled. They are known to be jumpers so a lid over the tank is also a good idea to have.

Firefish are carnivorous. So providing a mixture of different types of meaty food is recommended. They will love brine shrimp (live or frozen) and mysis shrimp. Providing frozen food is much easier for fish but feeding them live brine shrimp is always a fun activity.

5. Two Spot Goby

This isn’t a very common goby that is kept in a reef aquarium but I believe this is a great fish to own. Two Spot Gobies have a very unique coloration and body shape. They are primarily white with blotches of brown, black, and yellow to help camouflage into sand. They have an incredibly large jaw and do a fantastic job sifting through sand.

These fish get to be about 3″ in length when they are fully grown. They do well in aquariums 10 gallons or larger. It is very important to provide them with a nice deep sand bed because they will burrow into it. They also require lots of sand to sift through.

The Two Spot Goby is carnivorous so like many other fish on this list, it’s important to feed them meaty food. It is also a good idea to supplement your aquarium with live copepods to help give them more options if they are picky eaters. Take a look at the Two Spot Goby – Complete Care Guide for more information on this fish.

Final Thoughts

All of these are fantastic for a reef aquarium. Some are more common than others and there are plenty more that will do great that aren’t listed. Keep in mind that these fish should not all be crammed together into a nano aquarium. It is recommended to pick one or two depending on the appropriate aquarium size. Adding too many fish will cause water parameters to swing more often and aggression may be seen due to the lack of space. Hopefully, this guide has provided to insight into great nano fish for small reefs.