List of marine aquarium invertebrate species

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a list of various species of marine invertebrates, animals without a backbone, that are commonly found in aquariums kept by hobby aquarists. Some species are intentionally collected for their desirable aesthetic characteristics. Others are kept to serve a functional role such as consuming algae in the aquarium. Some species are present only incidentally or are pest species.


Common name(s) Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Christmas tree worm[1]
Spirobranchus giganteus Yes Expert Found living anchored in live coral colonies in nature. Each worm has two crowns, which come in a variety of different colors, and are spiraled in the shape of a Christmas tree. 5 cm (2.0 in)
Cluster duster[1]
Bispira brunnea Yes Moderate This species grows in groups of up to 100 individual tube worms, living together in a single clump. The clusters of tubes adhere to a rocky substrate at a central point.[2] 2.5 cm (1.0 in)
Feather duster worm, Fan worm[1]
Sabellastarte sp. Yes Easy to Moderate A sedentary (but it can scoot around), tube dwelling worm with a fan-shaped crown (radiole) that projects from the end of the tube. This can be white, tan, orange, sometimes with striping. They build their tubes out of sand, mud, and bits of shell. 20 cm (7.9 in)



Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Atlantic horseshoe crab
Limulus polyphemus Yes, with caution Easy A bottom dwelling animal that is actually not a true crab. Found burrowing in mud or sand flats in the wild, they need a deep sand bed in their aquarium. 60 cm (23.6 in)
Sea spider[3]
Pycnogonids No Not collected for the aquarium trade, but occasionally seen on live rock and corals as a hitchhiker. They can be pests in a reef tank, preying on soft coral, sponges and anemones. 0.2–50 cm (0.1–19.7 in)


Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Notes Max size
Anemone crab
Neopetrolisthes maculatus Yes Easy It lives in anemones. Also a filter feeder
Arrow crab
Stenorhynchus seticornis with caution
Hermit crabs
Paguroidea sp. Will eat snails Easy
Emerald crab
Mithraculus sculptus With caution? Easy May eat fish
Pom-pom crab
Lybia tessellata With caution? Easy?
Sally lightfoot crab
Percnon gibbesi With caution? Easy?
Spider decorator crab
Camposcia retusa With caution? Easy? Will get some polyps to use for cover.
Spiny lobster
Panulirus versicolor
Brine shrimp
Artemia salina Yes Easy Kept not as livestock, but rather to feed inverts and fish.
Sexy shrimp
Thor amboinensis Yes Easy
Snapping shrimp
Alpheidae sp. With caution? Will make loud snapping sounds.
Peacock mantis shrimp
Odontodactylus scyllarus with caution Easy Will eat shelled things and possibly fish. Some people say they will redecorate their tank including moving corals but people have successfully kept them in reef tanks. Not a true shrimp but a stomatapod with the smashing raptorial appendage
Coral banded shrimp
Stenopus hispidus Yes Easy Will eat small fish, in the wild they set up cleaning stations
Camel shrimp
Rhynchocinetes durbanensis Yes Easy? Will nip on soft corals.
Harlequin shrimp
Hymenocera sp. Will eat starfish Moderate? Will only eat starfish.
Peppermint shrimp
Lysmata wurdemanni complex Yes Easy some people think they eat coral but only eat dying coral giving the appearance of eating healthy corals
Skunk cleaner shrimp
Lysmata amboinensis Yes Easy Will clean dead tissue and remove parasites from fish.



Common name(s) Image Taxonomy Temperament Care Level Description Max size
Jewel anemone
Corynactis viridis
Knobbly mushroom coral, Florida false coral[4]
Ricordea florida
Knobbly mushroom coral, Yuma mushroom coral[4]
Ricordea yuma Semi-aggressive Moderate
Mushroom coral, Mushroom anemone, Disk anemone[4]
Discosoma sp. Semi-aggressive Easy
Strawberry anemone
Corynactis californica


Common name Image Taxonomy Temperament Care Level Description Max size
Lace coral[5]
Distichopora sp.
Fire coral[5]
Millepora sp.

Large-polyp stony[edit]

Common name(s) Image Taxonomy Temperament Care Level Description Max size
Black sun coral[6]
Tubastraea micrantha Expert
Bubble coral
Plerogyra sinuosa Aggressive Easy
Candy cane coral
Caulastrea furcata Peaceful Easy
Elegance coral[7]
Catalaphyllia jardinei Aggressive Moderate
Flowerpot coral
Goniopora sp. Aggressive Difficult
Frogspawn coral[8]
Euphyllia divisa Aggressive Moderate
Hammer coral, Anchor coral[8]
Euphyllia ancora Aggressive
Lobed brain coral
Lobophyllia hemprichii Semi-Aggressive
Open brain coral
Trachyphyllia geoffroyi Semi-aggressive
Pineapple brain coral, Moon coral
Favia sp. Aggressive
Sun coral, Orange cup coral[9]
Tubastraea sp., often Tubastrea aurea Peaceful Expert
Torch coral
Euphyllia glabrescens Aggressive
Whisker coral, Duncan coral[10]
Duncanopsammia axifuga Peaceful Easy

Small-polyp stony[edit]

Common name Image Taxonomy Temperament Care level Description Max size
Pink bird's nest coral[11]
Seriatopora hystrix
Cauliflower coral
Pocillopora sp., usually Pocillopora damicornis
Dimpled encrusting Montipora
Montipora verrucosa
Finger coral[12]
Montipora digitata and Montipora samarensis
Millepora coral, "Milli" coral
Acropora millepora Peaceful Moderate A popular and readily available species that comes in many color forms. It should not be confused with fire corals of the genus Millepora.
Plating montipora
Montipora capricornis Peaceful Moderate
Staghorn coral[13]
Acropora cervicornis Peaceful Difficult A very rare species, it is generally not available to the average hobby aquarist due to its critically endangered status. It would make a good aquarium specimen, but can only be obtained with a special license.

Soft corals[edit]

Common name(s) Image Taxonomy Temperament Care Level Description Max size
Cabbage leather coral
Sinularia brassica and Sinularia dura Semi-aggressive Easy
Clove polyps, Daisy polyps[14]
Clavularia sp Peaceful Easy
Devil's hand leather coral
Lobophytum sp. Peaceful to Semi-aggressive Easy
Finger leather coral
Sinularia sp. Semi-aggressive Easy
Jasmine polyps, Daisy polyps
Knopia Peaceful Easy
Pulse coral, Pulsing Xenia
Xenia sp. Peaceful Easy An easy to care for coral known for its prolific asexual reproduction and polyps that actively move their tentacles in a pulsing motion.
Red chili coral
Nephthyigorgia Peaceful Expert
Spaghetti leather coral
Sinularia flexibilis Semi-aggressive Easy
Star polyps[14]
Clavularia viridis, Pachiclavularia viridis, or Briareum violaceum (taxonomy uncertain) Peaceful Easy


Common name(s) Image Taxonomy Temperament Care Level Description Max size
Stick polyps, Tree polyps
Button polyps, Zoanthids, "Zoas"
Zoanthus Semi-aggressive Easy Common, but pretty, coral that is a mainstay of the reef hobby. Their diversity of color is almost infinite, ranging from pale to full-on rainbow.
Button polyps, Palythoa, "Palys"
Palythoa Semi-aggressive Easy Palythoa are nearly as ubiquitous as Zoanthus in the reef hobby. Their colors are usually more muted, but still attractive.
Button polyps, Protopalythoa
Protopalythoa Semi-aggressive Easy Similar to Palythoa, these may actually be in the same genus due to taxonomic uncertainty.


Sea cucumbers[edit]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Florida sea cucumber
Holothuria floridana
Pink and black sea cucumber
Holothuria edulis Yes Easy
Sea apple
Pseudocolochirus axiologus Maybe Expert 20 cm (7.9 in)
Tiger tail sea cucumber
Holothuria hilla
Yellow sea cucumber
Colochirus robustus With care Expert 7 cm (2.8 in)


Common name(s) Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Blue and pink sea star Astropecten sp.
Brittle star
Ophiomastix Yes Easy 60 cm (23.6 in)
Bun star
Culcita novaeguineae With care? 30 cm (11.8 in)
Chocolate chip sea star
Protoreaster nodosus No Moderate? 30 cm (11.8 in)
Blue linckia
Linckia laevigata 30 cm (11.8 in)
Indian Sea Star
Fromia indica Yes Moderate 7.5 cm (3.0 in)
Mottled linckia
Linckia multifora 13 cm (5.1 in)
Little red star
Fromia elegans
Purple linckia Linckia teres, or Tamaria stria Yes Difficult 20 cm (7.9 in)
Red Sea Star
Fromia millepora Yes Moderate 15 cm (5.9 in)
Red-knobbed starfish
Protoreaster linckii No 30 cm (11.8 in)
Sand sifting sea star Astropecten polyacanthus Yes Easy Needs a large sandbed 20 cm (7.9 in)
Tiled sea star, marbled sea star
Fromia monilis Yes Moderate 15 cm (5.9 in)


Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Feather star Himerometra robustipinna


Common name(s) Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Black longspine urchin
Diadema setosum
Collector urchin, Priest hat urchin, Sea Egg
Tripneustes gratilla
Globe urchin, Tuxedo urchin
Mespilia globulus
Slate pencil urchin
Eucidaris tribuloides
Purple short spine pincushion urchin
Pseudoboletia maculata
Red slate pencil urchin
Heterocentrotus mamillatus
Reef urchin, Rock boring urchin
Echinometra sp.
Variegated urchin
Lytechinus variegatus


Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size (bell diameter)
Blue Blubber Jellyfish
Catostylus mosaicus No Expert This jellyfish actually ranges in color from white to dark purple to reddish brown. It has a dome-shaped bell which pulses at a quick, steady pace, making these jellyfish strong, active swimmers. 25 cm (9.8 in)
Moon jellyfish
Aurelia aurita No Moderate to Difficult A whitish to clear jellyfish with a large dinner-plate shaped bell. They have a fringe of short tentacles around the edge of the bell, and four longer oral arms extending from around the mouth. 50 cm (19.7 in)
Sea Nettles
Sea nettle (Chrysaora fuscescens) 2
Sea nettle (Chrysaora fuscescens) 2
Chrysaora sp. No Expert Range in color from white to striped orange and brown to purplish. Long tentacles trail behind the bell, sometimes for several meters. 30 cm (11.8 in)
Upside Down jellyfish
Cassiopea sp. No Expert This jellyfish has a somewhat green or grayish blue coloration due to symbiotic algae living in its tissues. It resides on the bottom, exposing its tentacles (and the algae inside them) to the light. very similar to coral in behavior 30 cm (11.8 in)



Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Atlantic Thorny oyster
Spondylus americanus
Spondylus americanus
Spondylus americanus 10 cm (3.9 in)
Bear paw clam
Hippopus hippopus
Blue clam, Boring clam
Tridacna crocea Yes 15 cm (5.9 in)
China clam Hippopus porcellanus
Electric flame scallop
Ctenoides ales Yes
Flame scallop
Ctenoides scaber Yes 3 in (7.6 cm)
Fluted giant clam
Tridacna squamosa Yes Moderate? 40 cm (15.7 in)
Flying scallop Promantellum vigens
Gigas aka "Giant" clam
Tridacna gigas Yes 120 cm (47.2 in)
Maxima clam
Tridacna maxima Yes Moderate 20 cm (7.9 in)
Southern giant clam
Tridacna derasa Yes 60 cm (23.6 in)
Thorny oyster
Spondylus sp.


Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Haliotis sp. Yes Easy 12 cm (4.7 in)
Arabian Cowrie
Cypraea arabica 10 cm (3.9 in)
Astraea snail
Astraea sp. Yes Easy 2.5–10 cm (1.0–3.9 in)
Bumble bee snail[15]
Engina mendicaria Yes Easy 1.5 cm (0.6 in)
Cerith snail
Cerithium sp. Yes Easy 3.5 cm (1.4 in)
Gold ring cowrie
Cypraea annulus 5 cm (2.0 in)
Lettuce sea slug
Elysia sp., usually Elysia crispata Yes Moderate A sacoglossan sea slug with folded parapodia (side appendages), that give it a lettuce-like appearance. They feed on algae, and incorporate algal chloroplasts into their cells. Color ranges from brownish to green, and can include blues, yellows, and pinks. 5 cm (2.0 in)
Nassarius snail
Nassarius sp. Yes Easy 2.5 cm (1.0 in)
Queen conch
Eustrombus gigas Yes, but may knock over loose rocks and coral. 30 cm (11.8 in)
Sand conch
Sea Hare
Aplysiomorpha sp., usually Aplysia sp. or Dolabella sp. Yes Expert 4–10 cm (1.6–3.9 in)
Tiger cowrie,
Cypraea tigris 15 cm (5.9 in)
Turbo snail
Turbo sp. Yes Easy 5–10 cm (2.0–3.9 in)


Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Common tropical octopus
Octopus vulgaris2
Octopus vulgaris2
Octopus vulgaris No Expert Mantle: 25 cm (9.8 in) Arms: 1 m (3.3 ft)
Dwarf cuttlefish
Sepia bandensis No Expert Mantle: 45 cm (17.7 in)
European common cuttlefish
Dwarf cuttlefish (Sepia bandensis)
Dwarf cuttlefish (Sepia bandensis)
Sepia officinalis No Expert Mantle: 10 cm (3.9 in)

Sea anemones[edit]

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Aiptasia sp. No A common pest species in marine aquariums which spreads rapidly and harms corals and invertebrates with their sting. Can sting fish, but fatalities are rare. Notoriously difficult to eradicate, but a number of organisms can be used for control, including peppermint shrimp and Berghia verrucicornis.
Bubble-tip anemone
Entacmaea quadricolor With caution Moderate A relatively easy to keep anemone species, it is very colorful, and has distinctive bubble-like swellings on the tips of its tentacles. 30 cm (11.8 in)
Condy anemone[16]
Condylactis gigantea With caution Moderate Common anemone species in the aquarium trade. The base color is usually brown to white, often with color on tentacle tips. Many color variations exist, including magenta, purple, yellow, and green. 15 cm (5.9 in)
Delicate sea anemone[17]
Heteractis malu With caution Difficult Also known as the malu anemone or white sand anemone. Color tipped tentacles reach 4 cm in length. This anemone should not be placed on a rock, it prefers a sandy substrate to bury its base in. 20 cm (7.9 in)
Long tentacled anemone
Macrodactyla doreensis With caution Moderate 50 cm (19.7 in)
Magnificent anemone
Heteractis magnifica With caution Expert One of the most difficult anemone species to keep healthy in captivity. 1 m (3.3 ft)
Rock flower anemone
Phymanthus crucifer With caution Moderate
Tube anemone
Cerianthus sp. Yes Moderate Not a true anemone (actinarian), but a member of the order Ceriantharia. Can make a very colorful aquarium specimen, colored with pinks, purples and sometimes shades of fluorescent green.


Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Ball sponge Cinachyra allocladia Yes Expert
Branching vase sponge
Callyspongia vaginalis Yes Expert
Bee sponge
Acanthella sp. Yes Expert
Orange ball sponge Cinachyra kuekenthali Yes Expert
Orange fan sponge Axinella bookhouti Yes Expert
Red ball sponge
Dragmacidon lunaecharta Yes Expert
Red tree sponge
Amphimedon compressa Yes Expert
Pineapple Sponge
Sycon Yes Commonly regarded as a pest species


Common name(s) Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Blue lollipop tunicate[18]
Nephtheis fascicularis Yes Expert 7.5 cm (3.0 in)
Golden sea squirt, Ink-spot sea squirt[18]
Polycarpa aurata Yes Moderate 15 cm (5.9 in)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Sprung, Julian (14 August 2002). "Aquarium Invertebrates: Featherdusters In The Aquarium". Advanced Aquarist. Pomacanthus Publications, LLC. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  2. ^ "Cluster Duster (Bispira brunnea)". Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  3. ^ Goemans, Bob. "Marine Spiders (Sea Spiders)". Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Sprung, Julian (14 October 2002). "Aquarium Invertebrates: Mushrooms, Elephants Ears, And False Corals: A Review Of The Corallimorpharia". Advanced Aquarist. Pomacanthus Publications, LLC. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  5. ^ a b Borneman, Eric. "Venomous Corals: The Fire Corals". Reefkeeping Magazine. Reef Central, LLC. Archived from the original on 3 November 2014. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  6. ^ de Vries, Joost (10 October 2012). "Tubastraea micrantha, the Black Sun, is the most majestic Azoox coral". Reef Builders. Reef Builders, Inc. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  7. ^ "Elegance Coral". I-5 Publishing, LLC. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  8. ^ a b Fatherree, James W. (3 October 2012). "Aquarium Corals: Corals of the Genus Euphyllia". Advanced Aquarist. Pomacanthus Publications, LLC. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  9. ^ Fatherree, James W. (14 December 2011). "Aquarium Corals: A Look at the Sun Corals". Advanced Aquarist. Pomacanthus Publications, LLC. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  10. ^ Hanley, Charles J. "Why Duncan, Your Whiskers are Tickling my Corallite!". Quality Marine. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  11. ^ Thein, Than. "The Perfect Beginner SPS Coral: Seriatopora (Bird's nest)". Saltwater Smarts. Saltwater Smarts. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  12. ^ Dana Riddle. "Montipora digitata: A Stony Coral for All Hobbyists". Advanced Aquarist. VII (January 2008).
  13. ^ "Staghorn Coral". Animal-World. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  14. ^ a b Fatherree, James W. "The Stoloniferans: Clove Polyps, Star Polyps, and Pipe Organ Corals". Saltcorner. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  15. ^ "Bumblebee Snail". Microcosm Aquarium Explorer. Microcosm, Ltd. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  16. ^ "Condy Anemone - Condylactis gigantea". Fish Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  17. ^ "Delicate Sea Anemone". Animal-World. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  18. ^ a b Fatherree, James W. "An Introduction to Tunicates". Reefs Magazine. Archived from the original on 14 December 2014. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  • Alderton, David (2005). Encyclopedia of Aquarium and Pond Fish (Second ed.). DK Publishing, Inc. pp. 286–297. ISBN 9780756636784.
  • Lougher, Tristan (2008) [First Published 2007]. What Invertebrates?: A Buyer's Guide for Marine Aquariums. What Pet? Books Series. Barron's Educational Series, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7641-3741-9. LCCN 2006933016.