The very first fish you decide to put into your tank is typically considered as a starter fish. You have to be cautious when deciding what starter fish you want to use. Most fish get "New Tank Syndrome", which is caused by ammonia toxicity and fluctuation in water parameters. This means that fish often don’t survive being put into a new tank.
Good examples of fish you could use as starter fish are:
- “cool” fish,
- hardy fish,
- colourful fish,
- fish that can resist parasites,
- compatible fish and
- inexpensive fish.
Hardy fish, in other words fish that have high tolerance to diseases and are able to live in a disagreeable environment, are also a great choice if you have just stared.
Invest in colourful fish to make your living art look more interesting. You have a limited amount of fish that you can put into your tank, depending of the size of the tank. Don’t fiddle about with dull and uninteresting fish.
Having fish that is resistant to parasites such as white spot disease and marine-velvet, will give you a boost in the population of your tank, because they will not starve that easily.
Starter fish should be compatible to the environment and other fish in the tank. It shouldn’t be aggressive or territorial, these fish must be peaceful and at ease with the maintenance of the tank.
Another good example of a fish to start out with is the Watchman Goby. These fish come in various colours and patterns, which makes them enjoyable to view. Although they like to bully other species of gobies in the same tank, they get along very easily with other fish species.
Most people believe the Watchman Goby to be one of the best beginner fish, because of their amusing appearance (blunt snout and large mouth) and great personality.
Finally, you shouldn’t spend thousands of Rands on starter fish. Try to get something less expensive to start your tank off with, for you cannot predict if it will get "New Tank Disease" or any other disease. When getting an inexpensive fish to start with, you will not lose that much money when if something goes wrong and you're still figuring out your tank.
Unfortunately, not all fish are starter fish, there are a few fish that should be avoided at all costs when you are a beginner with seawater tanks, such as Damselfish, Mandarin fish, Guppies, BlueStreak Cleaner Fish and Groupers.
Damselfish are the most common seawater fish and they also meet good starter fish criteria. They are inexpensive and more often than not, have vibrant colours. Just because they meet good starter fish criteria, doesn’t mean that they are good starter fish. They are not peaceful at all, they are very aggressive and territorial. It is highly encouraged to avoid these fish when looking for starter fish. They are hard to get out of your tank once you realise how vicious they are towards other fish, especially clown fish.
Although mandarin fish are some of the prettiest and are resistant to parasites and diseases, they can be a pain in the neck. They are very picky eaters, they will only eat Copepods and if that is not available in their environment, they will starve themselves to death.
Yes, guppies are inexpensive, and they are one of the rare species of fish that can give birth to live babies, but they are raised in an environment that is salty but not quite seawater. Although they can easily adapt to a new environment, these fish are not recommended to be a starter fish.
BlueStreak Wrasse are like the lightning bolts of seawater fish, they are always on the move and they move quite fast. These fish are not recommended to be starter fish, because of their strange behaviour. They will clean other fish in the tank, and that will be their main source of food. If you don’t have enough parasites in your tank for them to feed off, they will starve.
Then we get the Groupers. Now if you think you’ve seen strange behaviour from fish, hold on to your feet, because this one will blow your socks off. They are usually small and interesting, but the strange thing is that they will eat just about any living thing that they can fit into their mouths. If you absolutely must put one of these in your tank, make sure that you have a bigger more aggressive fish to soothe this one’s temper.
All of these fish can be added to your tank if you have taken the correct pre-cautions, but one fish that is certainly not recommended to be a starter fish at all, is the Canary Yellow Blenny. These fish are extremely venomous, in order to protect themselves from predators. When caught by a predator, they bite the inside of its mouth and release venom that can lead to the predator’s death. They are also semi-aggressive and will not do well in a tank with other aggressive fish.
The thing about seawater hobbies is that you must do lots of research in order to avoid losing alot of money. The secret about this is to not make spontaneous purchases, plan carefully what you want to do and get a second opinion. You have to know what your fish will be like when they are fully grown.
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