True Percula Clownfish

Fish Stocking Options For SPS Reef Tanks

I admit that I am addicted to keeping SPS but I also get jazzed about choosing and raising the fish in my reef tank. My affection for fish was born long ago. My father kept fish only tanks when I was growing up and I fondly remember tagging along when he visited fish stores to stock his tank. It is ironic today that he and I have very different tastes in fish but expressing one’s individuality is a great part of the hobby.

Picking out fish is a very personal thing and there are so many fish stocking options for SPS reef tanks, with many colors and species to choose from. Overall, I advocate having a good number of fish for a SPS tank. Many believe fish poop really helps with SPS coloration since the corals benefit from the nutrients within the waste so I do like to feed and skim heavily, do frequent and large water changes and keep my fish fat and happy. Just make sure not to overfeed.

When thinking about which fish to add it is important to consider the size of the tank. I love Anthias since they are very colorful and can be added in large groups, replicating the shoaling effect one sees in our natural reefs. The larger the tank, the easier it will be to keep a school of these fish. Lyretail Anthias are colorful and hardy but fights will result between males and females when they are crowded together in smaller tanks. Typically one male is best, although more are possible in larger tanks.

lyretail anthias
Lyretail Anthias

I am also a big fan of having a bunch of Green or Black Axil Chromis and paring them with Anthias. The blue/green florescent color of these fish provides a great contrast to the orange and purples you see with Anthias. They also school so they are a great compliment to Anthias. Again, more success will be achieved when housing these fish in a larger tank.

Lyretail Anthias and Black Axil Chromis
Lyretail Anthias and Black Axil Chromis

Many fish have unique personalities and number one on my list are Hawkfish. Their eyes move independently of one another and they seem goofy or lazy since they are not great swimmers, opting most of the time to perch themselves on rocks and corals. They also have a striking red/scarlet coloration. I have had several over the years and I always name them “Burt”, which is a befitting name in my book given their personality.

flame hawkfish
Flame Hawkfish

Angelss can be a great addition to a reef but some will nip corals and should be avoided. Those in the Centropyge species, commonly called dwarf or pygmy angels, are known to nip and are high risk. Angels in the Genicanthus species such as Swallow Tail or Bellus Angels are considered reef safe.

masked japanese swallowtail angelfish
Masked Swallowtail Angelfish

The Regal Angelfish is the only member of the genus Pygoplites and is a gorgeous fish sought after by many reef keepers. They can be a challenge to keep and and present some risk since they can go after corals. I had one in my 225 SPS dominant tank and it didn\’t bother my SPS but it did pick every now and then at my soft corals.

mis bar regal angelfish
Regal Anglefish

Most wrasses are reef safe and are practical additions to a tank, acting as predators of parasites, including flatworms. My favorites are Leopard Wrasses due to their patterns and coloration. However, these wrasses can be tricky to keep and it is really important to obtain a healthy one that is eating. They also require a sand bed to sleep in so it is recommend to have one at least 2″ deep. Wrasses also hunt for small crustaceans and pods so it really helps to have a good population of these critters living in the live rock and sand. One thing to watch out for…..they do have a reputation as jumpers so be on the lookout for any carpet surfing.

choati leopard wrasse
Choati Leopard Wrasse

Tangs are another great option and it is always a good idea to have at least one to keep any algae in check. These fish are herbivores so they should be fed a lot of greens on top of what they graze on in the tank. Some Tangs don\’t play nice together so it is better to have more than one in larger tanks.

As you can see, there are so many different options when it comes to selecting fish for a SPS dominated reef tank. Be careful about what you add and follow certain guidelines to ensure your fish can live in harmony with your corals.

Additional Resources

If you would like some help with a new tank build, including help designing a custom aquarium, or help re-configuring your current setup then you can visit this page for more information. And if you are looking to add some equipment, I do sell GHL, Pax Bellum, Reef Octopus Calcium and Kalk Reactors and Royal Exclusiv products, including Dreamboxes, which is the equipment I use and recommend. I also sell Reef Brite metal halide and LED fixtures as well as Maxspect & IceCap Gyres.

As for additional insights and information, please explore my many other reef tank and SPS related articles as well as my YouTube channel. For an even deeper dive into reef tank care you can check out my Reef Keeping Master Class. This online course is an immersive and one of a kind educational tool designed to help reef aquarium hobbyists build and maintain a beautiful SPS reef tank. The course is a series of video presentations with some supplemental video from my YouTube channel. There are also quizzes to help students retain and understand the information presented in the course.

Need some frags…..I can help with that as well 🙂 Please visit my SPS Frag store to see what is available.

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