[2021] Top 15 Best Nano Saltwater Fish For Your Nano Reef Tank

Best Nano Saltwater Fish For Your Nano Reef Tank: Starting your new hobby in the aquarium can be as easy as A-B-C if you follow the proper guidelines for proper fish maintenance. An aquarium is considered a “nano tank” when it can hold 30 liters of salt water or less. Although an aquarium of this size looks easy to maintain, there is more than it looks.

Experts agree that larger tanks are easier for beginners to maintain due to the fact that the larger volume of water provides a buffer for any sensitivity to water quality and temperature. However, it isn’t much more difficult if you follow the correct guidelines in fish farming.

One thing to consider when starting your new nano reef aquarium is to choose small saltwater fish that may be more suitable for your aquarium. Note that fish species should not be aggressive and that the choice of fish you choose to keep is compatible with each other.

Starting saltwater aquariums is similar to freshwater aquariums in that you need to have a plan that includes knowledge of the type of fish and other creatures to put in the tank.

When it comes to setting up a reef aquarium, you might start with a dwarf or a small aquarium. Choosing the right fish for a nano aquarium is extremely important as it will have a much smaller margin of error.

However, if you get it right, the rewards are huge! A nano reef aquarium is a great and fun challenge for any fisherman.

Whether you are setting up a saltwater aquarium for small fish only or a nano-reef with corals, it is very important to select compatible nano fish.

In the past, if you wanted a reef or saltwater aquarium, you had to install a large tank.

All the equipment needed to maintain a marine aquarium was large and too large to be used in small aquariums.

Fortunately, aquarium manufacturers have stepped up and designed perfectly adapted aquariums, lighting and filtration systems to keep fish and marine invertebrates in small nano tanks.

Some aquarists consider nano aquariums to weigh 15 gallons or less, but others classify tanks up to 25 gallons as nano.

In this article we will not cover how to install a small tank, as we have already done in depth here.

We will now focus on choosing which fish to consider for a small aquarium.


Top 15 Best Nano Saltwater Fish for your Nano Reef Tank

1. Pajama Cardinalfish

[2020] Top 15 Best Nano Saltwater Fish For Your Nano Reef Tank

Considered to be one of the best starter fish, the Cardinalfish pajamas are among the most commonly purchased fish for nano tanks because they are cheaply priced and remain small even in adult form.

These fish are also not picky when it comes to food and will generally eat anything you put in your aquarium.

In addition, they are characterized by their bold patterns and their breeding characteristics in the mouth: their tendency to bring eggs into the mouth before they hatch.



[2020] Top 15 Best Nano Saltwater Fish For Your Nano Reef Tank

Slightly elongated fish of bright orange color with white vertical stripes. They also have narrower black striped divisions between the white and orange bands.

In general, these are attractive fish that are slightly smaller than a full-sized Ocellaris clownfish. Like captive-bred fish, they are much more tolerant of home aquarium conditions and are more likely to thrive than wild-caught fish.

On the flip side, they are very likely to produce eggs, which can lead to aggression issues with other reef nano fish in the tank.


3. Clownfish

[2020] Top 15 Best Nano Saltwater Fish For Your Nano Reef Tank

Clownfish is one of the most popular marine species. There are many wild and captive-bred clownfish available to aquarists. Not all clownfish are compatible in a nano aquarium. Some boys are very aggressive and difficult to care for.

The Ocellaris clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) is a captive-bred clown suitable for a 15-gallon nano aquarium.

The clown doesn’t mess with clean corals or shrimp. If you like clownfish and are willing to settle for one tank, this is the clown for you. With a larger nano aquarium, you can add any other fish listed in this guide. This clownfish will grow to about three inches. Ocellar are omnivores and must be fed meaty, herbivorous foods.


4. Coral Beauty Angelfish

[2020] Top 15 Best Nano Saltwater Fish For Your Nano Reef Tank

A member of the angelfish family, the dwarf pygmy coral beauty angel tends to be an asset in all hobbyist nano aquariums.

They are passive and reef safe fish that grow only a few inches, enhancing color and continuous movement in the tank.

Although some species of angelfish sell dearly in some pet stores, it is definitely worth it for the beauty, color arrangement, and durability of the angelfish.



Hancock’s Blennies have thin, silvery-yellow bodies with brown and black spots that start behind their bright red eyes and extend to the tail region. Both the tail and the fins are transparent with light brown markings. Depending on the decoration of the tank, this fish can easily hide in plain sight.

In general, this is one of the easiest saltwater fish to take care of. It will do well in a small nano reef aquarium and is a good fish to start with.



The Blue Chromis (Chromis cyaneus) is a favorite of saltwater enthusiasts. Blue fish are beautiful and active.

With a maximum growth of four inches, the blue chrome is quiet and easy to maintain.

In nature they are alone and in schools. A group of three can be kept in a 15 gallon aquarium. Smaller aquariums should only consider a blue color if there are other fish in the aquarium.

They are compatible with this list of dwarf fish. Mature fish can reach five inches in length. Feed these reef-loving fish a combination of meaty and herbivorous foods.

7. Neon Goby

Known as “perching fish” or “cleaning fish”, neon gobies display a great mix of personality as they swim around inside a tank.

Sometimes they park on the pelvic fins, flat stomachs along the chosen area on the ground.

They often wait for food to float around them or for a larger fish to pass. Neon gobies eat the small dirt or algae that attaches to the body of larger fish.



If you’re looking for fish with iris marks, you may have already heard of Six-Line Wrasse. Unfortunately, this fish requires a much larger tank than the white-banded wrasse.

The latter grows only 2 ½ inches in length and has a dusty red body with vertical white stripes. Two white bands cross the fish’s irises, which are black with a red inner circle. Finally, the white-edged black eye spots on the upper and lower fins give this fish a mysterious and charming look without being too bright or over the top.

The white banded wrasse is a fairly small, attractive and peaceful fish that will do well in most dwarf aquariums. Its color and patterns also distinguish it from the most spectacular goldfish.



This fish is known as royal for its vibrant purple and yellow color throughout its body, which symbolizes royalty in ancient times.

The king gramma prefers to inhabit the rock and coral formations within the tanks. They also give you a nice variety of colors when swimming in the water.


10. Dartfish or Firefish Goby

A favorite in the goby family would be the dart fish or fire pike goby, which displays a charming and innocent appearance along with its body colored often in purple or orange hues.

What makes it even more unique is the additional fin near its head which is customarily adapted for fishing while swimming.



This is an absolutely stunning long-bodied fish. It has a hint of bright yellow color on the nose and extends for about half of the gill coverage. After that, it quickly changes to a deep violet that fades to a pastel, almost luminescent lilac.

The caudal fin is tricolor with white, black and red stripes. Their anal fin is translucent and then edged in yellow, blue, and orange. Finally, it has a pastel yellow tail with some lemon yellow streaks.

This fish is fairly easy to care for and a good choice for beginners. While it may be territorial, it compensates for it with beautiful colors and a personality to match.



Target fish include firefly species (Nemateleotris) and target fish (Ptereleotris). Some species require a larger non-dwarf aquarium containing live marine plants and a debris bottom.

The Firefish goby is a reef compatible fish suitable for nano aquariums.

These fish grow up to three inches in length. The pointed dorsal fin together with the orange, red and white coloring make it an amazing fish.

Fire fish prefer a rocky aquarium with caves to hide in. If you keep one type of fish, various fire fish make an interesting exhibit. Darts fish are compatible with other nano fish, but care must be taken if you keep a bass or chromium in a small aquarium.

They are carnivorous and require a vitamin-rich diet of brine shrimp and mysis to maintain their bright coloration.


13. Clownfish (Ocellaris Clownfish)

Being famous in the movie “Finding Nemo”, the clownfish begins to be in great demand in aquariums, especially in nano tanks.

Being territorial, it is advisable to put only one pair for small tanks given their ability to reproduce quickly.

A couple of clownfish would be nice as they will always be seen swimming together in your aquarium.


14. Blue Chromis

Blue Chromis is also identified as one of the famous fish when it comes to a nano reef aquarium. As much as they eat whatever you give them, they stay small and don’t grow much later.

They also retain their gorgeous blue color and would definitely look better when in a group.


15. Green Chromis

Like its brother Blue Chromis, Green Chromis also performs best when grouped.

You will enjoy its perfect green coloring in the delicate tub lighting. Although they often fight with other species in gnawing motions, they are still considered tough and may last longer than others.


Selecting fish for small nano aquariums requires careful planning.
Nano reef fish are very beautiful and interesting to look at. Its small size makes it tempting to add too many to an aquarium, however keep in mind that most dwarf fish need space to develop their territory.

If they feel crowded, they can fight or become stressed and be susceptible to disease. When maintaining a nano reef aquarium, much of the attention is paid to the colorful corals.

Adding a dwarf fish or two adds movement and interest. If your nano aquarium is just a fish, consider adding a piece of live rock or building a cave if your fish like the cover. Before purchasing nano fish, do some research on compatibility.

The general rule is to avoid having two of the same species in your nano tank. Regardless of the type of fish you select, remember to maintain water quality and feed high quality food.

Just because the aquarium is small doesn’t mean it doesn’t require proper care like a large aquarium. We have some articles that can give you more tips on this here and here. Follow these guidelines and your nano aquarium will become a beautiful aquatic gem set in your home or office.


Now that you have an idea of what types of fish to buy from your local pet store, it’s best to accumulate knowledge about the characteristics of the fish before making the purchase. Take note of these tips:

• First, make sure the fish are kept small in their adult form.
• Next, look for the space they need to swim, as others prefer to live in large tanks rather than nano reef tanks.
And finally, ask the pet store what type of food your fish would prefer, eg. For example pellets, flakes, etc.

With these basic guides, I wish you success with your first nano reef aquarium!

Jesse B.

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