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Saltwater Starter Fish - Here Are Your Best Choices

By: Laurren Schmoyer

Exotic Animals Saltwater fish must pass this test to qualify as a starter fish:

Is this fish both hardy and inexpensive? The term starter fish refers to the first fish that are added to a newly setup aquarium. Once starter fish are introduced to an aquarium a process called the Nitrogen Cycle begins. These fish "start" the process.

The Nitrogen Cycle is a natural process that breaks down organic waste making the water safe for fish. This cycle generally takes 4 to 6 weeks and can be stressful to fish. Cycling time can be reduced by adding commercially-packaged beneficial bacteria. Whether adding bacteria or not it is important to add fish only before and after the cycle.

In the past saltwater fish were all caught by divers around reefs, rock piles and other shallow parts of the ocean. Being caught and removed from their home is stressful for fish. Hatchery raised saltwater fish have only become available in the past few years. They are a great choice because they have endured less stress, will readily eat a variety of foods and have less chance to contract diseases. You can find these tank-raised fish at most local pet and aquarium stores. One of the largest groups of tank-raised fish are clownfish.

Most clownfish meet our criteria of being both hardy and relatively inexpensive. Disney's Finding Nemo has made False Percula Clownfish (Amphiprion Ocellaris),affectionately referred to as Nemo fish, the popular clownfish with children and adults alike. They are colorful, hardy and swim in a playful motion. False Perculas grow to approximately 3 inches long and several can be introduced at the same time. These are also safe to house with invertebrates and live corals.

A few other great starter fish are the Clark's Clownfish (Amphiprion Clarkii), Pink Skunk Clownfish (Amphiprion periderion) and Tomato Clownfish. Tomato Clownfish become more aggressive with age and grow to about 5 inches long. Because of their size and temperament they work better with larger or semi-aggressive fish.

Damselfish are the most popular saltwater starter fish. Their popularity arises from their bright colors and cheap price. At about $5.00 each, damselfish are very attractive to new hobbyists. The downside is their aggressive behavior towards tank mates. The least aggressive damselfish and one of the most colorful is the Yellow tailed Damselfish (Chrysiptera parasema), which is bright blue with a striking yellow tail. Yellow tailed Damsels grow to about 3 inches long and can be kept in schools. Even though they are less aggressive they can still chase smaller fish if they enter the damsels' territory. Most other damselfish stay small and will tolerate the nitrogen cycle; just be prepared to add more aggressive fish or trade your damsels back to your local fish store if they become too aggressive. One note of caution: Live rock aquariums make it difficult to catch fish once they are added. While there are many fish that will survive the Nitrogen Cycle those listed above pass both the hardy and inexpensive tests.

To ease stress on fish during the cycle control feeding and add good bacteria. Feed only once each day and the food should be consumed within 2 to 3 minutes. Adding commercially-packaged nitrifying bacteria when adding fish can both shorten the length of the cycle and keep ammonia and nitrite levels lower. Try choosing hatchery-raised fish. They cost a little more but the expense may be worth it. Before adding fish make certain the filter is running, specific gravity is between 1.020 and 1.024, pH is between 8.0 and 8.3 and the heater is working properly. Now it is time to get some fish.

2008 Laurren Schmoyer Dedicated to your aquatic success, Laurren Schmoyer http://www.aquaticexperts.com/saltwaterexperts/index.htm Laurren Schmoyer is the founder and CEO of Aquamain's Fish World and Aquatic Experts. Aquamain's is one of the largest aquarium stores on the east coast. Laurren has written several guides to help new hobbyists get started in the right direction.
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