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5 Unique Predatory Fish for Saltwater Aquariums

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harlequin tusk showing teeth

Predatory fish tanks are both fun and rewarding without the hassle of attempting to keep coral alive. Most saltwater fish have vibrant colors with remarkable personalities that will keep you entertained for years! This guide will showcase 5 unique and interesting saltwater fish that may do well in a predatory aquarium.

1. Harlequin Tuskfish

The Harlequin Tusk comes from two different bodies of water. One can be found in the Indian Ocean and the other in Australia. Regardless, it is one of the most beautifully colored fish available to purchase in this hobby. The Australian’s coloration is just a tad more vibrant and pronounced.

This fish will become around 10″ when it is fully sized. It requires an aquarium that is 125 gallons or larger. Provide a lot of rock so it has places to hide and to allow it to set up its territory. It has very similar water parameter needs to most other saltwater fish which are:

  • Water Temperature between 72 – 78 degrees Fahrenheit
  • dKH levels between 8 and 12
  • pH levels between 8.1 and 8.4
  • salinity levels between 1.020 and 1.025 sg

When first introduced into a fish tank, the Harlequin Tusk may be very shy and hide in rock work. Once it becomes acclimated into the aquarium it will begin to show their true character. Harlequin Tusks are wonderful fish to have in a FOWLR (Fish only with live rock) aquariums with similarly sized fish. They do very well with Large angelfish, tangs, foxfaces, small triggers and larger wrasses. Only one Harlequin Tusk should be kept in an aquarium!

The Harlequin Tusk will not bother coral but invertebrates such as shrimp, snails, crabs, and many others will become lunch. Small fish may also become lunch for this fish due to its carnivorous tastes. Check out the Harlequin Tusk Complete Care Guide for more information on this fish!

2. Porcupine Pufferfish

Have you ever seen a fish with colored eyes? If you haven’t, check out the Porcupine Puffer! This fish is unique because it doesn’t have pelvic fins so its body shape is much different from other fish. It also takes on the characteristics of a curious toddler and playful puppy. The highly curious, intelligent and gorgeous Porcupine Pufferfish is a fantastic predator fish to keep in a FOWLR aquarium.

When it is fully grown it will be roughly one foot in length. It should be housed in a 180 gallon aquarium when it becomes this size with a well running protein skimmer. Its water parameters are nearly identical to the Harlequin Tusk.

  • Water Temperature between 72 – 78 degrees Fahrenheit
  • dKH levels between 8 and 12
  • pH levels between 8.1 and 8.4
  • salinity levels between 1.020 and 1.025 sg

The Porcupine Puffer does well with many other predators in an aquarium. Similar to the Harlequin Tusk, the Porcupine Pufferfish will do well with large tangs, foxface, large angelfish, triggers, large wrasses and eels! They may nip on tank mates, so be prepared to see round holes in other fish’s fins. I personally would not recommend a pufferfish in a reef tank because crustaceans like shrimp, crabs, clams and snails are their natural prey and they will spend their time foraging for them. The Porcupine Puffers beak constantly grows so they may nip on coral and live rock to try to grind down their beaks.

Food such as snails, crabs, shrimp and clams will help help grind down this fish’s teeth. It will also happily feed on krill, mysis shrimp, and possibly silversides. For more information, check out the Porcupine Puffer Complete Care Guide.

3. Volitan Lionfish

The Volitan Lionfish may seem like a decile and elegant fish but they are incredible predators that will consume just about any fish that will fit into its mouth. Also known as the Turkeyfish, this animal has many very pronounced fins all over its body that gives it a very unique appearance. Its very powerful colorations make it a visual spectacle! First they’re very shy and hide in aquariums but once acclimated, they become more active and swim in the open.

The Volitan Lionfish grows to be over a foot in length and it will require a fish tank that is a minimum of 120 gallons in size with plenty of hiding spots to keep it happy. They have similar water parameter requirements as the Harlequin Tusk and Porcupine Pufferfish with the exception being that they prefer salinity ranging between 1.021 and 1.023.

This species of lionfish becomes incredibly large so finding tank mates that will do well with it may be a bit more challenging. Fish that are at least 75% of the lionfish’s size are recommended. The Volitan Lionfish will try to eat anything and everything that can fit into its mouth. Tangs, butterflyfish, eels, groupers and triggers are all candidates that will usually do well with a lionfish. Unfortunately, most crustaceans become food for a lionfish.

Lionfish can be fed an assortment of live and frozen foods. The goal is to feed your Lionfish frozen food and occasionally feed something live. Many hobbyists feed Volitan Lionfish silversides, frozen squid, uncooked shrimp and pre-made frozen foods found at pet stores.

A lionfish has spines that are quite venomous and are far more painful than a bee sting. The venom is not normally lethal but precaution should be taken especially if you are sensitive to stings from animals. If stung, remove any spines that have broken into your skin, and place the affected body part into hot but tolerable water. Keep your appendage in this water for roughly 30 to 45 minutes. We recommend seeing medical attention for extra precaution.

4. Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse

The Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse is not your normal predator. This one does not get insanely large like many others but it is an excellent fish for a predator aquarium. This fish does not have a big appetite, it does not swallow prey whole, but it does enjoy removing parasites off fish!

This fish reaches roughly 5.5 inches in length when full size. It also has a very active personality so should be kept in aquariums that are 90 gallons or larger to provide adequate swimming space. This wrasse’s water parameters are the same as the Porcupine Puffer and Harlequin Tusk. We encourage using a tightly sealed lid because of this fish’s jumping tendency. Unlike the rest of the fish on this list, the Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse is reef safe!

A big fish tank with large fish are great for the Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse because it can be a finicky eater at times and only consume what can be found in the fish tank. Its primary diet consists of parasites that attach to fish’s mouths, gills and scales but it can also eat meaty foods such as:

  • Mysis Shrimp
  • Brine Shrimp
  • Small Pellet Food
  • Flake Food

If your fish is being a finicky eater try feeding with garlic or garlic extract. Be sure to check out this article for information on garlic and feeding fish!

The Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse will do perfectly well with fish such as tangs, angels, groupers, foxface, eels, triggers and pufferfish! Be careful because the cleaner wrasse may fight with other wrasses and they are a hit or miss with lionfish.

5. Blue Throat Triggerfish

The Blue Throat Trigger is a gorgeous fish that finds a home in many predator tanks. It has a couple of unique features that differ from all the other fish on this list. First, the Blue Throat Trigger has different color patterns depending on whether it is male or female! The male will be a darker color with a blue throat and a female will normally be much lighter in color without the blue coloration. This fish also has the capability to grunt under water which is quite a funny thing to listen for.

The Blue Throat Trigger will grow to around 9 inches in length and requires a minimum of 125 gallons of water. The fish tank should provide quite a bit of live rock so the trigger can hide. Live rock needs to be very large or placed securely because Blue Throat Triggers move them. The water parameters of a Blue Throat Trigger are identical to the Porcupine Puffer, Harlequin Tusk and Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse.

Like many other triggers, the Blue Throat’s teeth continuously grow and it will require foods that help grind down the teeth. Snails, hard shelled shrimp, and clams are all excellent foods to give your trigger to help grind down its teeth. It can also be fed squid, krill and mysis if it is incredibly small. The Blue Throat is considered to not be 100% reef safe because it will most likely destroy a clean up crew population. Although less common, it has the potential to nip on coral and knock things over when it decides to break rocks and move things around to find prey.

This fish does well with eels, squirrelfish, lionfish, groupers, hawkfish, large angels, tangs and pufferfish. They have incredibly sharp teeth and can provide a nasty bite when threatened but overall they are a fantastic fish to have in a predator aquarium!

Final Notes

There are so many different predatory fish available on the market but these 5 have some unique features. They are all gorgeous and may be fantastic additions to an already established fish tank! If you do not know your fish tanks size but want to figure out the volume of water before adding any of these fish be sure to check out the aquarium volume calculator here!

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