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Premium Member
319 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Fish To Be Avoided: (fish that have incredibly low survivability in aquaria or are totally unsuitable for home aquaria)

Moorish Idol (a few success stories but miniscule amounts live long, difficult feeder, mystery deaths, and even when accepting prepared foods often slowly starves)

Holacanthus tricolor [Rock Beauty] (nearly impossible to meet the dietary needs in home aquaria)

Centropyge heraldi (almost always caught using drugs)
Centropyge multifasciatus (this and the venusta are very similar, they don't adapt to aquarium life well, and both seem particularly prone to Lymphocystis)
Centropyge venusta

Clown tang (VERY ich prone and a finicky eater, horrible survival rates, when they do live they can be quite mean)

Clown Sweetlips(difficult feeders and get quite large)
Oriental Sweetlips

Platax pinnatus [Pinnatus Batfish] (gorgeous fish when young, very very few success stories, diet and disease are big issues)
Platax batavianus [Tiger Tiera Batfish] (see above)

Orange Spotted Filefish (specialized coral polyp feeder)

Most Butterlyfish (except those listed below)

Ribbon Eels (rarely eat in captivity)
Snake Eels
Garden Eels

Cleaner Wrasses (specialized parasite feeders, leave them in the ocean where they can do their job)
Anampses sp. Wrasses (VERY poor shippers and need tanks with their special needs in mind, even then they often perish)
Leopard (Macropharyngodon) Wrasses (see above but there are more success stories, must be kept in reef aquariums)
Pseodojuloides Wrasses (very sensitive, they almost always die in transit so you don't see them very often if ever)


Tilefish (VERY timid and difficult to get to eat, also excellent at carpet surfing)








Remoras (unless you have a large Shark or Whale in your backyard oceanarium probably not a good idea)

Chambered Nautilus ( a plethora of reasons to leave them in the ocean, not a single good reason to add one to an aquarium)

Fish Best Left For Experienced Or Knowledgable Hobbyists:
(finicky nature, parasite prone, specialty feeders, require specialty tanks, or threatened species)

Anthias (require a good amount of swimming room, peaceful tankmates, and frequent feedings, often unhealthy and starving by the time they make it to dealers tanks, some almost require special tanks with their needs in mind)
Twinspot Anthias (one of the more difficult standouts of the Anthias)
Square Anthias (collection methods, stress, and starvation after collection seem to be especially problematic here)

Platax tiera (can very hardy once acclimated but there can be problems feeding, they stress easily, and are disease prone)

Regal Angelfish (Red Sea Specimens tend to be hardier and more willing to accept prepared foods and the more recent trend to keep this fish in reef aquariums helps with survivability)
Bicolor Angelfish (concerns with drugs used in collection and frequent unwillingness to accept prepared foods)
Genicanthus sp. angelfish (hardy once acclimated, but lots of problem specimens due to the depths they are collected at, take extra special care in examining and observing them before purchase)

Garibaldi (cold water species and protected)

Trunkfish [Boxfish and Cowfish] (most are rather sensitive and can release toxins when stresed or dying)

Clown and Gumdrop gobies (poor shipper, once established a good surviver with less boisterous fish)
Catalina gobies (coldwater species that will not do well longterm in tropical temps)
Mandarin Dragonettte (requires large amounts of live food typically which can be provided naturally in 50+ gal. tanks with a good amount of live rock, will only rarely accept prepared foods)

Radiata Lionfish
Fu manchu Lionfish (All the dwarf Lions require tanks with their needs in mind, the later two are also very sensitive, very shy, and poor shippers)
Dwarf Zebra Lionfish

Anglerfish (most get very large and can consume fish nearly their own size)

Acanthurus sp. tangs (ich prone and fairly sensitive to water conditions, Achilles, Powder Blue, Powder Brown, and Goldrim can be rather difficult and beginners should be especially leary)

Ctenochaetus tangs (ich prone, some of the hardier tangs once established, the Chevron is probably the least hardy of the genus)

All Butterflyfish (except Vagabond, Longnose, Heniochus, Golden, Pebbled, Klein's, Lemon, Auriga, and Racoon, which need large tanks)

Seahorses (need quiet species tanks and large quantities of nutritious live food)
Seadragons (very rare and I'm unaware of any longterm success)
Pipefish (see Seahorses)

Longnose Hawkfish (hardy fish but they are notorious jumpers and be careful with ornamental shrimp with all Hawkfish)

Porcupine Pufferfish (can be hardy but also seem very disease prone)

Fairy wrasses [Paracheilinus and Cirrilabrus sp.] (require peaceful tanks and do best in reef aquariums, they stress easily and the first few weeks in captivity will often make or break their longevity)

Leopard Blenny [Exallias brevis] (specialized coral feeders)
Scooter Blenny (see Mandarin Dragonettes)
Lawnmower Blenny (will sometimes not accept prepared foods and will starve to death in tanks without a natural algae food source)


Sleeper Gobys (Valenciennea sp.) (sometimes starve to death even when accepting prepared foods, tanks with large sandbeds containing lots of food will help as will frequent feedings when they will eat, mated pairs may help as well)
Rainford's Goby (often will not accept prepared foods, need established tanks with peaceful fish a sandbed full of life)
Twinspot Goby (combine the suggestions above for this one)

Cephalopods (not fish, but including them here because of their intelligence compared to the dumb lumps of goo that are most invertebrates, the Nautilus from above is in this group as well)
Octopi (must have species tanks, lots of swimming room, and should probably be on the above list)
Cuttlefish (similar care to Octopi, but slightly higher success rates)

Fish That Require Huge Aquariums (200 gallons or more):

Sharks/Rays/Skates (require much larger than 200 gal. and should just be left out of home aquaria, Nurse sharks can grow to 14ft. long!, repeating this one so it sinks in)

Most Groupers (especially take note of the cute little Panther Groupers)

Snappers (those cute little Red Emperor Snappers get big)

Naso sp. Tangs (Many will even outgrow common sizes like 125 gal. aquariums)

Moray Eels (large species)


Orbi and Spade Batfish

Twinspot wrasse (Coris aygula) (beginners take special note of these three as they're often offered as cute juveniles, they get very large and very mean)
Red coris wrasse
Dragon wrasse


Tassled filefish (often offerer when cute and tiny but grow large)

Many Large Angels (when purchasing any angelfish that isn't Centropyge be sure to check their ultimate size: take special note of the French, Gray, Blue, and Queen whcih are often offered as cute little juvenilles)

Venomous and/or Toxic Species:

Stonefish (can be deadly)




Coral Catfish (these also get up to a foot long and no longer school once larger)

Bluering Octopus (can be deadly)


Canary Blenny (venomous bites that can be painful but little else)

Flower Urchins (can be deadly but rarely encountered in the aquarium trade)

Black Longspine Sea Urchin (can inflict painful wounds, some debate exists whether or not they are really venomous)

Cone Shells (rarely encountered in the aquarium trade, can be deadly)

Stingrays (many have venom associated with the spike on the tail which they use in self defense, don't get stung in the chest and you should live to tell about it)

Sea Snakes (I know of no one attempting to keep them in captivity, but included for good measure)

Box Jellyfish (quite deadly but of no concern to aquarists)

Hell's Fire Anemonen (while all anemones are capable of stinging, this is the one of the few to be concerned about, very painful stings)

Hydroids (usually just cause skin irritation if anything)

Fire Coral (see above)

Zoanthids (some of these can contain Palytoxin which can be quite dangerous and make you very ill, they're quite frequently harmless but if you want to err on the side of caution rubber gloves are a good idea when handling them, as are goggles when fragging them)

Extremely Aggressive Species:

Undulated Triggerfish (the meanest auqarium fish available in all likelyhood)
Queen Triggerfish (not quite as bad as the Undulated, but pretty close and they get very large)
Clown Triggerfish (pretty similar in demeanor to the above two)
Blueline Triggerfish (not so bad when young but a beast once it grows, perhaps the least aggressive of the four)

Passer Angelfish (probably the meanest of all Angelfish, I've seen them take over tanks)

Damselfish (they're not all bad, but ounce for ounce some of them are the meanest fish around, think twice about adding them as some of your first specimens)

Maroon Clownfish (females get quite large and they can get quite mean and bully any tankmates that dare come close, they're also probably the least tolerant of other clown species)

Sohal Tang (hardier than the Clown Tang but just about as mean, probably best to keep them as the lone Tang and if you must keep one in a community reef tank make it your last fish addition)

Premium Member
319 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Inverts To Be Avoided Or Better Left To Experts:

Non-photosynyhetic Corals and Gorgonids [Sun polyps, Carnation, Devils Hand, Chili Coral, etc.] (if it's a soft coral and not green or brown in part and is very vividly colored odds are it's non-photosynthetic and requires more small particles of food than most aquarists are willing to provide, the only non photosynthetic stoney corals frequently seen are Tubastrea sp., regular feedings of meatier foots can lead to success with these)

Christmas Tree Worms (filters feeders that rarely live long in home aquaria)

Coco Worms (see above)

Goniopora sp. (some strides have been made but still miserably low survival rates, stokesi is the most common and seems to be the least hardy in the genus)

Feather Starfish (require huge amounts of flow and large amounts of tiny planktonic organisms)
Basket Starfish
Crown of Thorns Starfish (duh!)
Linkia Starfish (disease issues and poor acclimation to aquarium life, problem feeders as well)

Wild SPS Corals (small-polyped scleractinian) that are not frags (wild colonies can be particularly adapted to flow and light from their natural environment and often do poorly once in aquaria, see out hardy aquacultered specimens)

Sea Apples (often slowly waste away in starve to death if not offered large amounts of food appropriate for filter feeders, also chances of toxins being released and possibly killing other organisms)

Sea Pens (still offered in the aquarium trade but chances of survival are very poor with this filter feeder)

Giant Xenia (this one rarely does well once established and like most other xenia does not ship well)

Sea Slugs and Nudibranchs (very specialized feeders, a couple can be useful to elimate pests but it is very difficult to sustain a food source for even those, they're also very prone to damage by overflows and pumps)

Flame Scallop (filter feeders that usually waste away in home aquaria, the same goes for other Scallops which are les frequently encountered in the trade)

Anemones (most anemones should be placed in specialty tanks and also have very poor survival rates, beginners should not attempt Anemones without extensive research)
Bright Yellow Anemones (dyed; and done most commonly with Sebae, but also seen less frequently with Long Tentacle and Carpet anemones)

Harlequin/Clown Shrimp (must have live feeder starfish to survive)
Camel/Mechanical shrimp (Not reef safe but often sold as as such)

Elegance Coral (recent poor survival possibly due to a disease, other factors might relate to them coming from higher nutrient environments)

Red Serpent Starfish (often disolve and waste away and can be very fragile)

Pipe Organ Coral [Tubipora Musica] (often hacked off from a larger colony, recent survival seems better than in the past)

Large Sponges (often hacked off from large colonies of their rock base, also exposed to air for too long which leads to their demose, bright orange and yellow colors are common)

Special Notes:

Clownfish [Amphiprion sp.] (various species often acclimate poorly to aquarium life and suffer greatly from collection stress, I've seen estimates that as little as five percent of those collected live to be in home aquaria, when possible buy tank raised specimens)

Bangaii/Borneo Cardinals [Pterapogon kauderrni] (rather limited in range and rumors of an unsustainable population if the current rate of collection continues, there are also stories of poor survival after collection, buy tank raised when possible)

Tangs (should have larger aquarium to provide them plenty of swimming room, no a tang is not suitable for your nano cube or 29 gallon tank, when small 3'-4' aquariums can be suitable for short periods of time, though bigger is recommended by many, just be sure you're planning an upgrade in the near future as they can grow fast)

Angelfish (their compatibility with corals and clams is often brought up and debated, outside of Geniacanthus there really is no such thing as a "reef safe" Angelfish, before purchasing one consider how difficult one would be to catch out of your display tank after it decides your corals and favorite clam are delicious, they can be model citizens but there is always a risk associated in reef aquariums)
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