There are some salt water fish that are often sold in pet stores that you should avoid. These fish have a very slim chance of living in your captive tank. One of these types fish is sold very cheap (usually around $10-$15 each ) and have about a 97 to 98% mortality rate after a month or so from being out of the Ocean. They are also often sold to help rid your system of the parasite ich. This fish is the Cleaner Wrasse. Please don’t buy these fish, ever! They are the oceans parasite removers for many other fish and don’t stand a chance in your tank. It’s best to leave them be in the ocean where they belong.
Another fish you should avoid is most Butterfly fish. They often have a natural diet of corals and unless you are willing to feed them $50.00 corals every week they will parish from starvation. Also, many of them get quite large and are not suited for the majority of smaller reef tanks (smaller being 150 gallons or less ). Often these fish never learn to take prepared foods and will slowly wither away in your tank. They may eat a little here and there, but they are slowly starving to death. Please avoid these fish in general. One of the more accepting Butterfly varieties is the Longnose Butterfly ( Forcipiger flavissimus ), which is one you may consider if you can give it what it requires.
Undulate and Queen Triggerfish are a fish that will accept the habitat of a fish only aquarium, however they grow to very large sizes. This means an extremely large system will be needed to house them (we are talking like a 600 gallon or more system ) and give them their needed room to swim. Also, you run into the problem with the nature of these fish as they will eat ANYTHING they catch! In a 600 gallon tank it isn’t too hard for these guys to catch another fish. You will end up with one very large trigger, happy because his belly is full of whatever prize fish he just caught and ate.
The Mandarin, Target, and Scooter Dragonette should only be keep by people with an extremely well thought out system for them. They require mass amounts of copapods to survive. They often never accept prepared foods and slowly starve in your tank over a period of months. You can keep these guys, but you need to plan out your aquarium and refugium and make sure it is very well populated with these very small creatures in which the Dragonettes will feed. They eat very large amounts of them every day, so just because you see copapods does NOT mean your tank is ready for a Dragonette. A Dragonette will extinguish a healthy system of it’s food in no time flat. Please only purchase these guys if you have a well planned out system that can handle them.
Many of the larger more aggressive tangs should not be kept, such as the Sohol Tang and the Achilles Tang, just to name a couple. These guys are very aggressive and grow to very large sizes. It’s not that you can’t keep them, but you should be very experienced and have a correct environment for them. They will require extremely large systems and, of course, will fight with almost anything that crosses their path.
Lastly, I move to Sharks and Stingrays. Pretty much any species of these animals should be left in the oceans. There are some people willing to spend the money for the filtration and 2000+ gallon systems that these animals require to even live at all. Most people buy one of these animals when they are small not knowing anything about their requirements of tank size and feeding. Eight to ten months later and now they have a three foot shark in a four foot tank. I can’t think of anything worse than seeing fish that are cramped into a small space without even room to swim. Shark eggs should be banned purely on the fact that pet stores often thrive on selling them to people that don’t know any better. You are buying a shark! It’s going to get big. This is not like the freshwater red tail shark that is simply a fish they named a shark for glamour. This is a real live shark. Have you seen them in the National Geographic? They get HUGE! Leave them be. Same goes with Stingrays. They get huge and require a large open sandy area that no tank I have seen in any home can offer them. They can’t be around a bunch of rocks in a tank because they will cut themselves. Ohhh you asked “How do they live in the ocean and not get cut?”. The simple answer is they don’t swim around rocks usually, they swim in open planes so there are very few rocks and they simply swim around them. Not something that can be done in a 100 gallon tank with rocks in it.
Also to note, if you ever use the mentality that when the animal gets bigger you will get a bigger tank, in most cases you are wrong. If you purchase an animal that should be in a 240 gallon tank, why would you want to spend the money on a 125 gallon tank to simply upgrade it a year later? Get the tank size right off the bat that you will need to house what animals you choose to keep, then you won’t have to worry about upgrading later. Often times these animals dwell in a tank far too small than they require simply because someone said they would upgrade when they needed to and it never happened. I have seen it more times than I like to think about.
I hope this article helped a few people better understand what to NOT purchase for your salt water tank. Let’s all do our part and keep these animals alive by leaving them in the ocean where they belong. There are many wonderful animals that will truly adapt to our closed environments. Let’s keep those animals and enjoy the ones that won’t survive from watching them on TV.