So you’ve got a saltwater aquarium but don’t want the typical Clownfish and Damsels. You want something mean, big and scary. Well you’ve come to the right place. I’ve put together a list of some of the most bad ass Saltwater predators around, it’s not a comprehensive list by any means. It does however cover a good range of widely availible Saltwater predator fish.
Tank at Atlantis Aquarium full of Saltwater Fish
This list will feature fish like Groupers, Triggers, and Eels. Fish that go bump in the night, literally. Most of these fish can have awesome personality too. They will certainly learn who feeds them and react accordingly when you walk up to the tank. Some will do it really quick, others taking longer. I suggest feeding fish natural foods such as cut up fish, scallops, shrimp, clams, crabs, and squid. Along with other natural saltwater creatures, such as live ghost shrimp. If you must feed live fish do it sparingly, goldfish are not a natural part of a Groupers/Eels diet in the wild for a reason. Stick to quality foods and your fish will grow fast and be super colorful, doing frequent water changes helps as well. Note, not all fish are compatible. Make sure to do lots of research prior to fish purchases.
Enough banter, lets get to this list already. We’ll be starting with some Groupers.
Panther Grouper (Cromileptes altivelis) – Also called the Barramundi Cod or Humpback Grouper. These guys are cool, a fairly common Grouper in the Aquarium trade. They are very colorful as babies but get slightly more dark as they age, the spotted pattern does remain. They will also outgrow all but the largest tanks so keep this in mind. They can reach over 2′ long and 15lbs but will usually be sold in the 2-5″ size range. They come from Coral Reefs in the western Pacific ocean.
Miniatus Grouper (Cephalopholis miniatus) – Also called the Miniata Grouper, Coral Rockcod, Blue-Spot Rockcod, Coral Hind, and Coral Grouper. These are common fish along the coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific. They can reach 12-18″ and have very striking colors, a definite one to consider if you like brightly colored predator fish. Usually sold from 2-6″ size.
Pollenei Grouper (Cephalopholis polleni) – Another Grouper with numerous names, the Pollenei is also called the Harlequin Rockcod or Harlequin Hind. Much like a Miniatus the Pollenei is brightly colored as well. The Pollenei has a green and yellow body plus yellow tipped dorsal and anal fins. These fish are a not that common but if you see one and have the space, pick it up they are indeed awesome.
Blue Line Grouper (Cephalopholis formosa) – The Blue Line Grouper is also known as the Boenacki Grouper or Blue-lined Hind. It is one of the smaller Groupers but still very cool. The name describes it well, they have numerous blue lines down thier sides. If you’re limited one space try to find a Blue Line Grouper, they will reach 12-16″ in an aquarium.
Bumble Bee Grouper (Epinephelus itajara) – The Atlantic goliath grouper or itajara. (also formerly known as the Jewfish) Its range includes the Florida Keys to the the Bahamas along with some of the Caribbean. They also inhabit most of the Brazilian coast, where they are called mero. I do not suggest these fish for the home aquarium, they get way to large. They are very cool looking without a doubt but leave them in the ocean if at all possible. They get to be bigger than 8′ long and over 750lbs.
There are a lot more Groupers but that rounds out some of the more common ones, so lets move onto some other cool fish you can own and keep in a home aquarium.
Snowflake Eel – (Echidna nebulosa) Snowflake Moray, A very commonly seen eel in the Aquarium hobby. They reach 2-3′ long but can be kept in moderate sized tanks. They are escape artists so be sure the tank is sealed up tight. They will eay crustaceans so keep this in mind. Found in the Indo-Pacific Oceans.
Tessalatta Eel – (Gymnothorax Favagineus) A large, monster of a Saltwater Predator. Only the serious need apply. This guy can reach 6′ long but has a stunning Cheetah like pattern. Do not get bit by one of these, it would seriously hurt. Keep the tank well sealed, just like any eel.
Green Moray eel pictured in a large aquarium.
Porcupine Puffer – (Diodon holocanthus) The Porcupine Puffer is also known as the Porcupine fish or Porcupine Pufferfish. They have beak like teeth and can be aggressive at times, nipping the fins and body of others leaving a circular hole as its bite mark. It will eat invertebrates, so keep this in mind. They are poisonous if digested, do not eat them. The Porcupine Puffer needs a hard shelled shrimp or crustacean in it’s diet to keep the beak/teeth worn down. They can puff up if threatened as well. They will reach about 1′ long. Also check out the Dogface Puffer which is similar fish but with a different look.
Puffer and friends.
Volitan Lionfish – (Pterois volitans) The ever popular lionfish (also called the common lionfish, red firefish, turkey fish, butterfly cod), reaching 15″ in length but getting as big around as a basketball. The fins are larger than life on this guy. They are also poisonous, so keep that in mind when jamming your paws in the tank. They float around the tank, almost hovering at times. They are also invading oceans in southern Florida. So please don’t release them if they outgrow your tank. If you want one and live close head on down to Florida and catch one if at all possible.
Fuzzy Dwarf Lionfish – (Dendrochirus brachypterus) This is very similar to the common Lionfish above but is simply smaller. Staying under 8″ long. They are also called the Dwarf Lionfish and Shortfin Lionfish, due to having smaller fins than the larger common Lionfish listed above. They come from the Indo-Pacific Oceans. It will become your freind, if you’re wanting a single fish for a 55g or 75g tank, this is your guy.
Niger Triggerfish – (Odonus Niger) Also called the Redtoothed Trigger. This monster reaches around 1′ long and is crazy looking. A blue hue adores this destroyer. They also need hard shelled crustaceans in thier diet to keep thier teeth worn down. They glide though the water like nothing too, very interesting fish. Also check out the Undulate Trigger and Queen Trigger, two more monster trigger fish.
Freckled Hawkfish – (Paracirrhites forsteri) – Also called the Forster’s Hawkfish or Blackside Hawkfish. This cool guy undergoes color changes several times during its lifetime. Changing from Burgandy and Yellow to Beige, Olive, Pink, or Brown. It reaches approx 10″ long and will require a moderate sized tank. It will hunt smaller fish and crustaceans, so no small tank mates.
Spotted Hawkfish – (Cirrhitichthys aprinus) – Also called the Threadfin or Blotched Hawkfish. A smaller predator from the Indo Pacific oceans, reaching a mere 5″. Suitible for even a 55g predator tank. They will chomp down shrimp like a boss though.
Striped Squirrel fish – (Sargocentron xantherythrum) Also called the Hawaiian Squirrel fish, it is commonly seen by divers. This guy is small as well, only reaching around 7″ long. They are red with white horizontal stripes. They look like a smaller red snapper.
Bluehead Wrasse – (Thalassoma bifasciatum) A very small but cool little fish. If you’re really limited on space check out the Bluehead Wrasse, checking in at only 6″. They are stil predators though and will chomp down some chopped fish filets like any other, just in smaller quantities. They have a blue front head area, separated by stripes and a yellow rear half, very distinctly patterned.
Harlequin Tusk – (Choerodon fasciatus) A smaller predator, staying under 1′ long. Very colorful though and certainly a stunner in any aquarium. They have bright blue teeth they use to crush small crustaceans. They come from Reefs in the Indian Ocean.
Check out some of our other fish lists.
- Top 5 Biggest Catfish of the Amazon River
- Top 10 Freshwater Predator Fish for Aquariums*
- 5 things you can do to be a better Fish Keeper
- Top 5 Aquarium Fish for Beginners or Novice Fish Keepers
*- some need very large tanks