Nano Reef Fish For Beginners – 36 Top Picks With Pictures


A Nano Reef is an aquarium 30 gallons or under and can make a great addition to any room for a reasonable setup cost. I have been asked many times what can you put in a nano aquarium and if you are clever in your research, you can make an incredible tank.

Knowing what fish to put in a nano aquarium is one of the most challenging aspects to a new aquarist, especially for such a small aquarium.

Some of the most popular and easy to keep nano reef fish are:

  • Percula Clownfish
  • Clown Goby
  • Bicolor Blenny
  • Midas Blenny
  • Pygmy Wrasse
  • Pink Skunk Clownfish
  • Royal Gramma Basslet
  • Yasha Goby
  • Neon Goby
  • Starry Blenny
  • Dracula Goby

To help you chose what fish are applicable for your size of aquarium I have compiled this article for 10 gallon, 20 gallon and 30 gallon aquariums to really help you hone in on which fish are suitable.

Now remember, the smaller aquarium you have means the less livestock you can keep in it, but a bit of planning can see you with a tank full of great corals, a few fish and a couple of invertebrates to help keep it clean.

Tank Size

In each size category you can find 12 of the most popular fish for that sized aquarium but remember in a 10 gallon tank you may only be able to have 2 or 3 of those fish on the list!

These lists are to chose from, not a stocking example!

10 Gallons

  1. Two Spot Blenny
  2. Neon Goby
  3. Clown Goby
  4. Percula Clownfish
  5. Cross’s Damsel
  6. Green Chromis
  7. Talbots Damsel
  8. Yellowbelly Damsel
  9. Bumblebee Goby
  10. Orange Stripe Goby
  11. Hector’s Goby
  12. Black Barred Convict Goby

20 Gallons

  1. Orange Spotted Goby
  2. Royal Gramma Basslet
  3. Pajama Cardinalfish
  4. Pink Skunk Clownfish
  5. Snowflake Clownfish
  6. Tomato Clownfish
  7. Blue Reef Chromis
  8. Pixy Hawkfish
  9. Decorated Goby
  10. Rainford’s Goby
  11. Zebra Goby
  12. Yasha Goby

30 Gallons

  1. Six Line Wrasse
  2. Midas Blenny
  3. Lawnmower Blenny
  4. Firefish Goby
  5. Tailspot Blenny
  6. Bicolor Blenny
  7. Starry Blenny
  8. Blackcap Basslet
  9. Chalk Basslet
  10. Bangai Cardinal
  11. Ocellaris Clownfish
  12. Flame Hawkfish

Aquariums Around 10 Gallons

The smallest reef aquariums require some of the smallest of most docile fish. Not being able to stock many fish you will have to pick carefully to give you the diversity you require. Some great fish for 10 gallon aquariums are:

Two Spot Blenny

Latin Name: Ecsenius bimaculatus
Other Names: Twin Spot Blenny
Max Size: 1″-2″
Diet: Omnivore
Avg Price: From $30.00

Neon Goby

Latin Name: Elacatinus evelynae
Other Names: Neon Blue Goby
Max Size: 2″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $30.00

Clown Goby

Latin Name: Gobiodon okinawae
Other Names: Various Depending on Color
Max Size: 2″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $13.00

Percula Clownfish

Latin Name: Amphiprion percula
Other Names: Clown Anemonefish, True Percula
Max Size: 3″
Diet: Omnivore
Avg Price: From $25.00

Cross’s Damselfish

Latin Name: Neoglyphidodon crossi
Other Names: Orange Honey Damsel, Red Honey Damsel, Red Chromis
Max Size: 1.5″
Diet: Omnivore
Avg Price: From $13.00

Green Chromis

Latin Name: Chromis viridis
Other Names: Green Reef Chromis
Max Size: 4″
Diet: Omnivore
Avg Price: From $5.00

Talbot’s Damselfish

Latin Name: Chrysiptera talboti
Other Names: Talbot’s Demoiselle
Max Size: 2.5″
Diet: Omnivore
Avg Price: From $8.00

Yellow Belly Damselfish

Latin Name: Pomacentrus auriventris
Other Names: Goldbelly Damsel
Max Size: 1.5″
Diet: Omnivore
Avg Price: From $8.00

Bumblebee Goby

Latin Name: Amblyeleotris wheeleri
Other Names: Wheeler’s Goby
Max Size: 1″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $30.00

Orange Stripe Goby

Latin Name: Amblyeleotris randalli
Other Names: Orange Stripe Prawn Goby, Randall’s Shrimp Goby
Max Size: 4.5″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $36.00

Hector’s Goby

Latin Name: Koumansetta hectori
Other Names: Hector’s Hover Goby
Max Size: 3″
Diet: Omnivore
Avg Price: From $22.00

Barred Convict Goby

Latin Name: Priolepis nocturna
Other Names: Circus Goby, Full Moon Reef Goby
Max Size: 2″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $60.00

Aquariums Around 20 Gallons

Now you get a little more volume to play with. Aquarium footprints like the 20G Long aquariums give you a good size to construct creative aquascapes while giving more area to avoid territorial disputes.

Installing an aquarium like the Innovative Marine Nuvo 25 will allow you to add a sump to not only hide all the life support equipment, give you more water volume and if MarinePure Blocks are added, you have massively increased your surface area for Nitrifying Bacteria to colonize.
This means higher bioloads can be processed.
(Both links are to Marine Depot)

In addition to the fish above here are some great fish for 20 gallon aquariums:

Orange Spotted Goby

Latin Name: Amblyeleotris guttata
Other Names: Orange Spotted Shrimp Goby, Spotted Prawn Goby
Max Size: 3.5″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $17.00

Royal Gramma Basslet

Latin Name: Gramma loreto
Other Names: N/A
Max Size: 3″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $25.00

Pajama Cardinalfish

Latin Name: Sphaeramia nematoptera
Other Names: Spotted Cardinal, Polkadot Cardinal
Max Size: 3.5″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $16.00

Pink Skunk Clownfish

Latin Name: Amphiprion nigripes
Other Names: Rose Skunk Clownfish, Orange Skunk Clownfish
Max Size: 3.5″
Diet: Omnivore
Avg Price: From $75.00

Snowflake Clownfish

Latin Name: Amphiprion ocellaris
Other Names: N/A
Max Size: 3″
Diet: Omnivore
Avg Price: From $65.00

Tomato Clownfish

Latin Name: Amphiprion frenatus
Other Names: Bridled Clownfish, Red Clownfish
Max Size: 3.5″
Diet: Omnivore
Avg Price: From $18.00

Blue Reef Chromis

Latin Name: Chromis cyaneus
Other Names: Blue Chromis
Max Size: 3.5″
Diet: Omnivore
Avg Price: From $51.00

Pixy Hawkfish

Latin Name: Cirrhitichthys sp.
Other Names: Spotted Hawkfish
Max Size: 4″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $32.00

Decorated Goby

Latin Name: Istigobius decoratus
Other Names: N/A
Max Size: 5″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $20.00

Rainford’s Goby

Latin Name: Amblygobius rainfordi
Other Names: Court Jester Goby, Old Glory
Max Size: 3″
Diet: Omnivore
Avg Price: From $27.00

Zebra Goby

Latin Name: Ptereleotris zebra
Other Names: Zebra Barred Dartfish, Bar Goby
Max Size: 4″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $21.00

Yasha Goby

Latin Name: Stonogobiops sp.
Other Names: Clown Shrimp Goby, Yasha Haze Goby
Max Size: 2.5″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $70.00

Aquariums Around 30 Gallons

The largest of the ‘Nano’ class aquariums. This size band of aquariums begins to give you lots more variety, not only in the livestock but also in the styling of the aquarium and the equipment to run it.

The selection of livestock you can keep in a 30 gallon aquarium is really starting to add up now. Not only do you have the 24 suggestions above, but also 12 more to help you:

Six Line Wrasse

Latin Name: Pseudocheilinus hexataenia
Other Names: N/A
Max Size: 3″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $24.00

Midas Blenny

Latin Name: Ecsenius midas
Other Names: N/A
Max Size: 6″
Diet: Omnivore
Avg Price: From $55.00

Lawnmower Blenny

Latin Name: Salarias fasciatus
Other Names: Sailfin Blenny, Algae Blenny
Max Size: 5″
Diet: Herbivore
Avg Price: From $25.00

Firefish Goby

Latin Name: Nemateleotris magnifica
Other Names: Firefish, Fire Dart Fish
Max Size: 3″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $15.00

Tailspot Blenny

Latin Name: Ecsenius stigmatura
Other Names: N/A
Max Size: 2.5″
Diet: Herbivore
Avg Price: From $35.00

Bicolor Blenny

Latin Name: Ecsenius bicolor
Other Names: Two-Color Blenny
Max Size: 4″
Diet: Herbivore
Avg Price: From $20.00

Starry Blenny

Latin Name: Salarias ramosus
Other Names: Starry Lawnmower Blenny, Snowflake Blenny
Max Size: 5.5″
Diet: Herbivore
Avg Price: From $18.00

Black Cap Basslet

Latin Name: Gramma melacara
Other Names: Black Cap Gramma
Max Size: 4″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $100.00

Chalk Basslet

Latin Name: Serranus tortugarum
Other Names: Chalk Bass
Max Size: 3″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $22.00

Bangai Cardinal

Latin Name: Pterapogon kauderni
Other Names: Banner Cardinal, Kaudern’s Cardinalfish, Longfin Cardinal
Max Size: 3″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $20.00

Ocellaris Clownfish

Latin Name: Amphiprion ocellaris
Other Names: N/A
Max Size: 3″
Diet: Omnivore
Avg Price: From $20.00

Flame Hawkfish

Latin Name: Neocirrhites armatus
Other Names: Brilliant Hawkfish
Max Size: 4″
Diet: Carnivore
Avg Price: From $65.00

Different Livestock Suggestions

Having a small nano aquarium will limit you with what you can stock, but you can make some really cool tiny tanks by adding some of the suggestions below:

Symbiotic Relationships

Within our aquarium hobby there are a few natural symbiotic relationships that you can place into a nano aquarium to create a really interesting glass box:

Clownfish & Anemone
By far the most famous saltwater symbiotic relationship. Setting up a pair of Clownfish with an Anemone in your tank would be all you need!

Goby & Pistol Shrimp
Pairing a Pistol Shrimp with a Yellow Watchman Goby, Yasha Goby, Orange Spotted Goby is always a fun addition. They both inhabit the same cave and keep each other company.

Goby & Shrimp Pair – Image Source

Rock flower Anemone & Anemone Crab, Sexy Shrimp or Porcelain Crab
Pairing the incredible coloration of the Rock Flower Anemone with an Anemone crab, Sexy Shrimp or Porcelain crabs is a great way to add diversity to your aquarium. Be sure to only keep Sexy Shrimp with compatible tank mates to avoid them becoming dinner!

Species Only Tank

Having a species-only aquarium can make any office desk a nice little distraction. By arranging your Live Rock with some hardy coral and creating caves and tunnels you can make a beautiful home for one of the following:

Lobsters
The Purple, Blue Spiny and Daum’s Reef Lobsters are some of the easiest and most popular lobsters to keep. 25 gallons is usually the minimum size for these guys with lots of Live Rock to create their home.

Mantis Shrimp
If you are looking for the ultimate predator to put on your desk then the Mantis Shrimp is at the top of many peoples list. The Peacock Mantis Shrimp and the Clown Mantis Shrimp are the most popular with their beautiful coloration. Just like the lobsters, you want an aquarium of at least 25 gallons with plenty of Live Rock Caves and tunnels.

Peacock Mantis Shrimp – Image Source

Care is needed when handling these. They are nicknamed the ‘Knuckle Buster’ for a very good reason!

To Finish

Just because you have a small aquarium does not mean you have to have a bland and boring tank. With a little bit of research, planning, and foresight you can have an incredibly beautiful piece of the ocean sitting in your room.


For Some Beautiful Aquariums, How To Set Them Up, What Equipment You Need and Total Costs Please Check Out My Setup Guides HERE


If you are unable to find your desired fish at your local fish store I highly recommend you check one of the best online fish stores that will ship directly to your door:

Further Reading

If you found this article helpful you may find the following articles of some interest:

Richard

Hi, I'm Richard and I have been an avid aquarist for over 30 years with a passion for Saltwater Aquariums. I love to pass on my knowledge to help others get the same amount a pleasure out of this hobby as I do. View my About Me page to find out more about me & my mixed reef aquarium.

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