New 75 gallon reef setup


New member
Hi there everybody. I'm an "intermediate" level experienced aquarist who just set up 2 new SW aquariums; one is a 100 gallon FOWLR and the other is a 75 gallon living reef. It's a center-of-the-room acrylic tank with a 1/2" divider separating the 2 sides.
At the moment its 3 weeks into its cycle, so I'm still a good 3 weeks out from starting to stock it. The 75 gallon reef side will host more docile creatures, and I wanted some input on compatibility and sequence I should stock my tank. I was planning to add a fish a month. Here's my list...if you wouldn't mind sharing your opinions. Here's the batting order:
1) Frostbite (or similar) mated Percula clowns
2) Randall's Shrimp Goby + pistol shrimp
3) Orange spotted filefish
4) Blue Stripe Pipefish
5) Seahorse
6) Cowfish
7) Marginalis Butterflyfish
8) Blue Spotted Angelfish
9) Squaretail Bristletooth Tang

Any opinions and experiences you've had with some in this group would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks - Steve


New member
This sounds like a fun new project!

As far as the fish go, I would take some off the list and here's why:
1. The seahorse and pipefish will need to be fed 2-3 times/day and will have a difficult time competing with the faster-moving fish. If you want to keep seahorses and pipefish, they generally do better in an aquarium dedicated to their care.
2. Cowfish get way too big for a 75 gallon. When stressed or close to death, they can also release toxins into the water which can poison other fish. They can also be difficult to care for.
3. The orange spot filefish is difficult to keep. We haven't really mastered the perfect diet for them as of yet. They feed on coral polyps and slime in the wild (another reason not to put them in a reef, although they are selective of the coral they nibble on). This means that they don't have the enzymes in their stomachs to digest the food that we feed them. While there are some success stories with keeping these fish, most of this species tend to die rather quickly in captivity.
4. The butterflyfish and angelfish both require a larger tank to thrive. They can both be tricky to keep in captivity and both are known to pick at corals (another reason to avoid them).

I would leave the tang as your showcase fish. It is a slow grower compared to other tangs and should be ok longterm in a 75 gallon. With that as your showcase, I would pick smaller fish to fill the gaps. If you have a cover on your tank, consider a pair of dartfish. A royal gramma is also a very peaceful and beautiful fish. You can look into a couple of different flasher wrasses and maybe a single fairy wrasse.

Please also think about what you want to include in your cleanup crew (shrimps, crabs, snails, etc...) and what types of corals you want to keep. I would suggest starting with easier coral (zoanthids, mushrooms, leather corals, trumpet coral, glove polyps, green star polyps).

Can you also elaborate on what type of lighting and filtration you have setup for this aquarium?


New member
Thanks Mike for your detailed input. I can certainly live without a seahorse and pipefish. I didn't realize the cowfish grew too there another boxfish or puffer in this scenario that would be a solid choice? I want a filefish but didnt realize the orange spotted was a difficult guy so a couple other filefish suggestions would be nice too. I can live w/o the Butterfly, but I would really like to accompany the Bristletooth Tang w/ a dwarf reef safe Angelfish. Possibly Eibl's, Japanese Swallowtail or Watanabei?
My 75 gallon living reef side details:
Somatic 60 protein skimmer and sump, refugium with the AlgaeBarn starter pack (copepods, etc.), using chemipure, purigen, media reactor... Viparspectra 165W full spectrum LED. Polycarbonate lid conjoined with the top of the acrylic tank - virtually escape proof.
Thanks again for your responses!!


New member
Boxfish and puffers aren't technically considered reef safe and are on the larger side. They will attack crabs, snails, and other important members in the tank. I would consider a saddle puffer for the fish-only tank if you want one that badly.

Filefish also aren't considered reef safe because they pick at corals. They generally get too big too, except for the orange spotted and Acreichthys tomentosus.

There aren't really any reef-safe dwarf angels. It all depends on the personality of the individual fish, not the species. Some safer species are the flame and coral beauty angels. A watanabei can be difficult to keep. The Japanese swallowtail will outgrow the tank.

That species of tang alone needs 70 gallons. That means that not only will he swim across the whole tank, but he'll also be territorial towards competition. Angels can be considered competition for the tang as angels are known to pick at algae on the rocks too. I still recommend leaving the tang as your only big fish.

75 gallons might seem big, but in saltwater, it's actually on the smaller side when you consider the fish that are available to the hobby.

Look at different fish profiles on and in some books. You'll find more suitable options.