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There are often fish purchases from members on the threads that could have been prevented. Many fish in this hobby are simply impossible to care for in captivity and despite the best efforts of the fishkeeper the fish will perish. This often happens slowly over the course of 3 to 4 months, as the fish slowly starves to death, or suffers from stress that occurred in capture and shipping, which ultimately leads to disease and death.

There are areas on this forum where you can research specific fish. There is a sticky which has run for some time, located here There is also the Tropical Fish Profiles area, located here Tropical Fish Profiles. While both of these areas provide a nice reference for many fish, there appears to be a need for more in depth information.

My goal with this article is to provide my opinion on most fish which you may find available at the LFS. What you are getting here is only my personal opinion, based on my personal care at home, my years at the LFS, several years in the aquarium maintenance industry, and nearly 20 years of internet forum and chat room discussions with hobbyists all over the world.

In every case below I will not be attempting to provide you with care information. If you are looking for information such as dietary requirements, tank size, growth rates, aggression, reef compatibility, etc, then this article will not provide that. To do so would require a book. This article will only attempt to describe how difficult the specific fish are to care for.

If you need help creating a stocking list for your particular aquarium size, I suggest reading this article:

If you have questions about a specific fish, post on the threads here:
Saltwater Fish

Lets get started. I will use these ratings: Easy, Average, Difficult, Very Difficult, Expert only, Believed to be impossible. I suggest in your first year of saltwater fish keeping, that you stick with Easy to Average to keep fish. Fish rated Difficult or higher will require some years of experience WITH MARINE FISH, in most cases. In every case, I make the assumption that you purchase a healthy fish and are placing it into a mature aquarium environment of appropriate size, after a quarantine period.


Dwarf / Centropyge Angelfish

There are many Centropyge Angelfish available to the hobby. In this genus, you can not generalize. Some are very easy to care for, while others are nearly impossible.

Flameback Angel - Easy.
Cherub Angel - Easy.
Golden Angel - Experts only.
BiColor Angel - Very difficult.
Coral Beauty Angel - Easy.
Eibli Angel - Average.
Rusty Angel - Average.
Lemon Peel - Difficult.
False Lemonpeel - Average.
Flame - Easy.
Multifasciatus - Believed to be impossible.
Midnight - Average.
Potters - Average.
Keyhole - Difficult.

Apolemichthys Genus of Angelfish

Bandit Angel - Difficult.
Flagfin - Difficult. (A. trimaculatus)
All others should be treated as Very Difficult.

Chaetodontoplus Genus of Angelfish

Conspicuous - Very Difficult.
Scribbled - Very Difficult.
All others should be treated as Expert only.

Genicanthus Genus of Angelfish

All should be treated as Difficult.

Holacanthus Genus of Angelfish

Queen - Average.
Blue - Average.
King / Passers - Average.
All others should be treated as Difficult.

Pomacanthus Genus of Angelfish

Asfur Angel - Difficult.
Annularis / Blue Ring - Difficult.
Gray - Easy.
Emperor - Difficult.
Majestic / Blue Girdled - Difficult.
French - Easy.
Koran - Average.
Blue Face - Difficult.
All others should be treated as Very Difficult.

Regal Angelfish (Red Sea) - Very Difficult.
Regal Angelfish (all others) - Believed to be impossible.


Ocellaris (Tank Raised) - Easy
Ocellaris (Wild Caught) - Average
Percula (Tank Raised) - Easy
Percula (Wild Caught) - Average
Clarkii (Tank Raised) - Easy
Clarkii (Wild Caught) - Average
Fire (Tank Raised) - Easy
Fire (Wild Caught) - Average
Tomato (Tank Raised) - Easy
Tomato (Wild Caught) - Average
Saddle (Tank Raised) - Easy
Saddle (Wild Caught) - Difficult
Skunk (Tank Raised) - Easy
Skunk (Wild Caught) - Difficult
Maroon (Tank Raised) - Easy
Maroon (Wild Caught) - Average


Blue Devil - Easy
Yellow Tail - Easy
Humbug - Easy
Brown Humbug - Easy
Domino - Easy
Garibaldi - Cold Water Fish should not be kept in the home aquarium.
Canary - Average
Sergeant Major - Easy
Bowtie - Easy

Pomacentrus genus
Allen's - Average
Neon - Average
Ocellated - Average


Green - Easy
Blue - Easy
All others - Average


Acanthurus Genus
Achilles - Expert only
Powder Brown - Very Difficult
Powder Blue - Very Difficult
Clown - Very Difficult
White Check - Very Difficult
Orange Shoulder - Difficult
Mimic - Difficult
Sohal - Average
Convict - Average
Hippo / Regal / Dori / Paracanthurus hepatus- Average

Ctenochaetus Genus
Chevron - Average to Easy
Kohl - Average to Easy
Tomini - Average to Easy

Naso Genus
Naso (Lipstick) - Average
Unicorn - Difficult
Vlamingi - Difficult

Zebrasoma Genus

Sailfin (Z. desjardini) - Easy
Sailfin (Z. veliferum) - Average
Purple - Average
Yellow - Average
Scopas - AVerage

Morish Idol - Expert only


Undulated - Easy - keep them wet, add a little salt, and you are set.
Clown - Average
Indian Black - Easy
Pink Tail - Average
Niger - Easy
Jigsaw - Average
Rhino - Easy
Picasso - Easy
Bursa - Easy
Crosshatch varieties (Xanthichthys genus) - Easy

Filefish - Expert only

Wrasses - the Wrasses are best considered by genus, with a wide range of difficulty of care from one genus to the next.

Banana Wrasse varieties - Average
Bird Wrasses - Very difficult
Cleaner - Believed to be impossible
Coris - Difficult (wild caught)
Coris - Easy (aquacultured)
Fairy varieties - Average
Flasher varieties - Average
Leopard varieties - Difficult
Six Line & Four Line- Easy
Mystery Wrasse - Average
Possum - Difficult
Dragon - Very difficult
Tamarin varieites (Anampses genus) - Average
Halichoeres genus - Difficult


Pseudanthias genus - Difficult (Most Anthias for sale at the LFS will be from this genus)
Holanthias genus - Difficult
Luzonichthys - Very Difficult


Royal Gramma - Average
BlackCap - Average
Candy Basslets - Average
Chalk Bass - Average


BiColor - Average
Midas - Average
Yellow Tail Black - Average
Sailfin / Lawnmower - Average
Forktail Fang - Average
Striped Fang - Average
Red Spot (Istiblennius chrysospilos) - Difficult
Convict Blenny - Average

Boxfish - Expert only

Cowfish - Expert only


Black Vegabond (Chaetodon decussatus) - Difficult
Vegabond (Chaetondon vegabundus) - Expert Only
Threadfin (C. augiga) - Average
Kleins (C. kleini) - Average - by far the best Butterfly for the home aquarium.
Racoon - Average
Dot Dash (C. pelewensis) - Difficult
Copperband - Difficult
Longnose - Difficult
Heniochus - Difficult
Pearlscale Butterfly / Red Sea Pearlscale (C. paucifasciatus) - Average
Cheveron / Madagascar / "Pearscale" (C. madagascariensis) - Very Difficult
Most all other species - Expert Only to Impossible


Pyjama - Easy
Kaudern / Banggai (captive bred) - Easy
Kaudern / Banggai (wild caught) - Very Difficult
Red Stripe - Average

Squirrelfish - Average

Mandarins / Dragonets

Green Mandarin - Very Difficult
Spotted Mandarin - Very Difficult
Scooter Blenny - Very Difficult

Eels - remember folks, this assumes you have the correct tank size!!!

Snowflake - Easy
Blue Ribbon - Believed to be Impossible
Green Moray - Average
Zebra Moray - Average

Goatfish - Average

Gobies - care difficulty primarily based on genus

Amblyeleotris genus (Shrimp Gobies) - Difficult
Amblygobius genus (includes the Rainfords Goby) - Average
Cryptocentrus genus (Watchford varieties) - Average
Neon Gobies - Difficult

Groupers - Again, watch your tank size!

Marine Betta - Difficult
Panther Grouper - Easy
Lantern Bass - Easy


Scarlet / Red - Easy
Falco / Coral - Easy
Longnose - Average
Red Barred - Easy
Arc Eye - Easy

Hog Fish

Cuban - Easy
Spanish - Easy
Lyretail - Average
Diana - Average
Candy Cane - Average

Jawfish - Average

Sand Perch - Average

Lion Fish - Assuming you can get it to eat dried foods, which requires patience.

Dwarf Lion - Average
Zebra Lion - Average
FuManchu - Difficult
Volitan - Easy
Radiata - Easy
Antennata - Easy

Scorpion Fish - Extremely toxic, often deadly, and not suitable for an aquarium. See Frogfish as an alternative.

Frog Fish / Anglers - Average, assuming you get them to eat prepared foods.

Dottybacks / Pseudochromis

BiColor / False Gramma - Easy
Neon (tank raised) - Easy - just keep it wet.
Neon (wild caught) - Average
PurpleBack - Easy
Orchid / Fridmani - Easy

Pufferfish - Please be aware that Pufferfish which are fed Freeze Dried Krill are far more difficult to sustain in captivity. Do not purchase a Puffer which has been eating Freeze Dried Krill at the LFS unless you are prepared to hand feed the fish to ween it on to other foods.

Porcupine - Average to Difficult
Spiney Box - Expert only
Sharpnose varieties - Easy
Arothron genus (Dogface sp.) - Difficult due to long term dental needs. Very hardy.


Foxface - Average
Orange Spotted Foxface - Difficult
Doliatus - Average

Sea Horses - Expert only, considered impossible to keep long term by many experts.

Pipefish - Expert only.

Snappers - Average (appropriate tank size needed!)

Batfish - Average (Appropriate tank size needed! As in, public aquarium tank size!!)

Sweet Lips - Expert only.

Striped Catfish (Plotosus lineatus) - Average

I believe this to be a complete list of all fish which I've seen offered at the LFS over the years. If I'm forgetting anything, just shoot me a message and I'll add it to the list. Happy fishkeeping!
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