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List of marine aquarium invertebrate species

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, 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 more closely related to arachnids than to true crabs. 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 hitchiker. 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.
Arrow crab Stenorhynchus seticornis Yes?
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 No Easy? Will eat crabs.
Coral banded shrimp Stenopus hispidus Yes Easy Will eat small fish
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 May take a few coral polyps for "experimenting"
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 stonyEdit

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 stonyEdit

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 coralsEdit

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 Acrozoanthus
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 cucumbersEdit

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 novaeguinea 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 Maybe? Expert?


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 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. 30 cm (11.8 in)



Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Atlantic Thorny oyster 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
Abalone 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 Strombidae
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 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 Sepia officinalis No Expert Mantle: 10 cm (3.9 in)

Sea anemonesEdit

Common name Image Taxonomy Reef safe Care Level Description Max size
Aptasia 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 alsoEdit


  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. "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. 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.