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The Big Picture – Marine Aquarium Giants

Hello again everyone! Craig here again, and in my last blog I talked about some of the biggest of the freshwater fish to be kept in home aquariums. In this blog, I will go over some of the big saltwater fish found in the hobby. Without a doubt, there are very large fish that call the sea their home. Some of these mammoth fish are being kept by hobbyists. With all the challenges of keeping a marine tank in tip-top condition, adding a giant fish to the mix can present dedicated fish keepers some challenges.

Honeycomb MorayLarge fish can be intimidating not only for their size, but their ferocious looks, too. Moray Eels are certainly some of the most intimidating. Their snake-like bodies and gaping mouths often cause people to get squeamish. One species, Gymnothorax favagineus, the Honeycomb Moray, is one of the most beautiful. Also known as the Tessellated Moray, this is one impressive fish. Able to reach a size of over 6 feet in length in the wild, this is definitely a giant. Boasting a beautiful white body with black splotches, there are few morays that are as attractive. In some individuals the dorsal takes on a yellow hue. 

Honeycomb Morays tend to be one of the more aggressive morays, and I can certainly give you confirmation of this from personal experience. I have a beautiful Honeycomb at home over 30 inches in length. She is a voracious predator and will attempt to eat just about anything that hits the water. Lightning quick and extremely responsive to movement, Sophia is definitely an amazing fish.  Eating a varied diet of shrimp and fresh fish filets (she eats better than I do!) means that she creates a large amount of waste. So what will I do with her as she grows? Eventually, she will require a much larger aquarium with a very efficient filter and protein Starry Pufferskimmer – a home aquarium of at least 6 feet long and 3 feet wide, which may mean a custom aquarium. With proper equipment and routine water changes, I should be able to deal with the waste generated. An aquarium of that size will probably require being placed on a concrete pad in the basement due to the extreme weight. Let’s not forget that she will most likely be in that large aquarium alone. Even at her current size she has shown that she is willing to drag large tankmates under the rocks to eat them. That is a lot of real estate for just one fish!  

The Starry Puffer, Arothron stellatus, is an uncommon offering as marine puffers go in the hobby. The Starry Puffer can attain a size of nearly 4 feet in length in the wild, and even in captivity you can expect a length of at least 24 inches. Considered the largest Arothron species, this puffer can have an attitude to match its size! While juveniles may be considered cute, they can quickly turn on damsels, clowns and anything else they can catch. Adults will look at anything close to their size as a potential meal. So why keep such a beast? Quite simply they are a beautiful and intelligent fish. Juveniles, (though rarely seen in the trade) are typically a orange with narrow, curving black lines covering their body. Adult coloration will vary from pale grey to yellowish tan with a covering of small black spots. As with the other puffers, these fish have an inquisitive and curious nature that endears them to anyone that makes the effort to keep them as pets. Bear in mind that if you want to keep one of these giants, you will need an extremely large custom built aquarium. Something in the neighborhood of at least 1000 gallons will be needed for an adult specimen of one meter. As with any predatory animal, large amounts of food will produce large amounts of waste and you will need the water volume and filtration to handle it. With a mixed diet of fresh fish filets and shrimp and scallops, these puffers will demand top water quality. If you want to keep a Starry Puffer, be ready to get serious and provide them with adequate water volume, space, and excellent filtration. And just like the Honeycomb moray, a Starry Puffer may very well end up in that large aquarium alone because of their tendency to eat whatever they can catch.

What about the grazers? Among the largest grazing fish in the ocean are the Naso tangs. With several species to choose from, this genus can boast some very large fish that will need a lot of swimming space. While probably the most common species offered, Naso lituratus reaches a respectable size of about 12-18 inches. It’s big cousin, Naso vlamingii, can hit close to 2 feet in maximum length. It isn’t even the biggest of the genus, but it is commonly seen and often housed in an aquarium that is simply too small. Unicorn Tangs, as a general rule, love to swim. They will need open space, and lots of it, if you are going to keep them properly. Add to their size a healthy appetite and you have a big fish that will be demanding an aquarium that is at least 9 feet long. If you’ve visited us, you may seen the beautiful Bignose in our 700 gallon reef aquarium. Even in that aquarium, the fish may appear cramped when he fully matures. Unicorn tangs are absolutely beautiful as they mature, and providing quality food and top water quality are a must if you are going to keep one into adulthood. Maintaining stable temperature on such a large aquarium is also a challenge to be met. Though they’re mainly herbivores, tangs can also produce copious amounts of waste because of their feeding habits. To maintain their body mass, they’ll be eating large amounts of vegetable matter and plankton. Having a large, high-quality protein skimmer and a weekly schedule for water changes will help to keep the water quality up to par.

These are just a few of the large and demanding fish that are available in the marine aquarium hobby. Each of them presents challenges in space and filtration. Some of them even present problems when trying to choose tank mates. These aand many other marine fish need a large volume of water and an aquarist that doesn’t mind putting in the time to keep the water quality in top condition. While the fish tend to be very hardy when kept properly, simply doing a 25% water change on a 300 gallon marine aquarium can be daunting to some aquarists. The rewards are great, however, as you will have a wonderful pet that is both unique and beautiful. Does anyone else out there have any big triggers or eels or groupers? We would love to hear from you in the comments section. Until next blog, have a great one!

Honeycomb Moray image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Jon Hanson

Naso vlamingii image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by BS Thurner Hof

Starry Puffer image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Richard Ling

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