7 Blenny Fish for Saltwater Tanks (with Images)

If you want small and vibrantly colored inhabitants for your marine tank, look no further than blenny fish species!

These little fish pack a ton of character into their tiny bodies. Unlike some high-maintenance divas, blennies are the chill buddies.

If you are a newbie aquarist, these should be your ideal choice. The fearless fish are easy to feed, making your first fishkeeping experience wonderful!

So, if you’re looking for a fish that’s a mix of cute, entertaining, and low-maintenance, stay tuned!

What is Blenny Fish?

Blenny fish are saltwater fish that belong to the Blenniiformes order, which houses six ‘true’ blenny families, including Chaenopsidae, Bellindae, Labrisomidae, Clinidae, Dactyloscopidae, and Tripterygiidae.

These again have 151 genera in total and more than 900 different types of blenny fish.

Blenniformes was initially a suborder under the Perciformes order. All members of the Blenniformes order (i.e., the blennies) are also called blenniformids.

Blennies are usually small and have elongated bodies, with large mouths and eyes, (mostly) continuous and long dorsal fins, single embedded spine in pelvic fins, and round tail fins.

Most blennies are bottom dwellers and peaceful. They come in a wide range of colors, and some of them even have venomous fangs.

In the wild, blennies are widely distributed in coastal regions of the temperate zones of South America and tropical terrestrial zones of both North and South America.

Ready to pop some colors in your tank? Dive right in for our hand-picked suggestions!

1. Lawnmower Blenny (Salarias fasciatus)

Lawnmower blenny
  • Common Names: Lined blenny, jewelled rockskipper, jewelled blenny, barred blenny, banded blenny, banded jewelled blenny, sailfin blenny, algae blenny
  • Average Size: Up to 14 cm (5.5 in)
  • Average Lifespan: Up to 2-5 years
  • Tank Level: Bottom dwellers
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Aggressive towards their own
  • Diet: Herbivorous
  • Reef Safe: Yes
  • Tank Mates: Blue Green Chromis, Yellow tang, Royal gramma basslet, clams, sessile invertebrates, Starfish, Shrimp, Snails, Starfish, Mandarin Goby
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons

The lawnmower blenny exhibits a subdued color palette, ranging from gentle tans and greens to grays, adorned with darker stripes coursing across their bodies.

It sports a prominently oversized head accentuated by a pronounced brow. Encircling its striking black eyes, are subtle bluish dots set off by a contrasting white stripe.

Further, it’s adorned with blue or black dots scattered across the head, lending it an almost reptilian resemblance reminiscent of an iguana. Healthy individuals boast plump, round bellies.

As the fish acclimates to new habitats, it undergoes a gradual shift in pigmentation, adapting to the surroundings of your tank.

Along with its lizard-like appearance, the fish showcases banded or beaded patterns on the body, extending to the fins. This led to its moniker “jeweled blenny.”

Its wide mouth has comb-like teeth within a flexible jaw structure. The fish has fan-like fins, and elongated dorsal fins stretch the length of its body.

The appendages resemble skin tags or antennae, known as cirri, on the top of its head.

The female fish possesses two spines, with one notably larger, whereas males exhibit equal-length spines.

These species camouflage and change their color based on their mood.

2. Midas Blenny (Ecsenius midas)

Midas blenny
  • Other Common Names: Persian blenny, golden blenny, lyretail blenny, Midas coral blenny, lyre-tail comb tooth blenny, Midas combtooth blenny, lyre-tail com-tooth
  • Average Size: Around 13 cm (5.1 in)
  • Average Lifespan: Up to 2-4 years
  • Tank Level: Bottom dwellers
  • Temperament: Peaceful, territorial
  • Diet: Omnivorous/planktivorous
  • Reef Safe: Yes
  • Tank Mates: Peaceful, similar-sized, top-dwelling non-blenny species
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20-30 gallons

The Midas blenny is famous for its vibrant golden hue and striking blue accents near its fins and eyes.

Its overall coloration is influenced by its geographical origin. For instance, Midas blenny from African waters exhibits hints of purple.

Some specimens’ color may darken or change when stressed or afraid. Additionally, it can alter hues when swimming alongside other fish in the same tank.

The two genders closely resemble each other. One subtle difference is that female blennies tend to be slightly smaller.

These species have a unique adaptation known as ‘cirri.’ These are tiny hair-like projections above their eyes, often used to establish dominance or communicate.

3. Starry Blenny (Salarias ramosus)

Starry blenny
  • Common Names: Snowflake blenny
  • Average Size: Up to 14 cm (5.5 in)
  • Average Lifespan: Up to 6 years
  • Tank Level: Bottom dwellers
  • Temperament: Peaceful, aggressive towards own species
  • Diet: Herbivorous
  • Reef Safe: Yes
  • Tank Mates: Dissimilar-looking peaceful species
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons

The starry blenny resembles that of the marine betta, featuring a striking dark black background covered in white dots reminiscent of a starry night sky.

It also sports peculiar antennae-like appendages on the head, known as cirri, which assist it in detecting water movement and avoiding predators.

Additionally, the pectoral and tail fins may have a lighter shade and occasionally display a subtle yellowish tint. There are small whisker-like structures near the eyes.

In general, the male fish tends to be larger and boasts more vibrant colors compared to its female counterpart.

These species jump when they are excited, so ensure a tight-fitting lid on your tank.

4. Tailspot Blenny (Ecsenius stigmatura)

Tailspot blenny
  • Common Names: Tailspot coral blenny, tail-spot combtooth-blenny
  • Average Size: Around 6 cm (2.5 in)
  • Average Lifespan: Up to 3-5 years
  • Tank Level: Bottom dwellers
  • Temperament: Peaceful; docile
  • Diet: Omnivorous but mostly herbivorous
  • Reef Safe: Yes, but some may attack SPS coral
  • Tank Mates: Any peaceful, similar-sized species
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons

The tailspot blenny exhibits the classic slender, pencil-shaped body, strong head, and a small mouth.

It stands out with two antennae-like projections between its yellow eyes. Beneath these, you’ll notice three narrow horizontal stripes: one black, one yellow, and one orange.

The remainder of its head is a vibrant blue, which can vary in hue depending on environmental factors and lighting conditions.

Its body has a copper-brown base color, adorned with splashes of red tones. The fish is named after the small black spot encircled in white at the base of its tail fin.

The male and female fish are identical.

When threatened, this fish likes to play dead. So, check back in a few hours just to be sure.

5. Bicolor Blenny (Ecsenius bicolor)

Bicolor blenny
  • Common Names: Flame tail blenny, two-toned combtooth blenny, two-color combtooth blenny, bicolor coral blenny
  • Average Size: 11 cm (4.3 in)
  • Average Lifespan: In the wild, 2-4 years; In captivity, up to 10 years
  • Tank Level: Bottom dwellers
  • Temperament: Peaceful, but aggressive around other algae eaters
  • Diet: Herbivorous
  • Reef Safe: Yes, with caution
  • Tank Mates: Other peaceful, similar-sized, non-algae eater species
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons

The bicolor blenny resembles a sleek eel due to its elongated and slender body. It has a distinctive blue upper half and an orange-yellow lower half body.

The male is generally bigger, more vibrant, has larger anal and dorsal fins, and thicker lips compared to females. The orange ‘flame’ on the female’s tail half is much less vibrant than that of the male.

During the breeding season, the male fish undergoes significant color changes, turning a deeper shade of blue.

Both sexes have a continuous dorsal fin. But in males, it extends slightly further down the tail.

The species have tiny rows of teeth with comb-like projections inside the jaws. This dental design allows it to efficiently remove algae from rocks and corals.

This species can get angry and aggressive when not properly fed.

6. Striped Blenny (Meiacanthus grammistes)

Striped blenny
  • Other Common Names: Grammistes blenny, line-spot harptail blenny, striped fang blenny, striped-poison fang blenny, striped blenny, line-spot fang blenny, line-spot harp-tail
  • Average Size: Up to 11 cm (4.3 in)
  • Average Lifespan: About 5 years
  • Tank Level: Bottom dwellers
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive; territorial
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Reef Safe: Yes
  • Tank Mates: Own mate, non-blenny species like clownfish, angelfish, tangs, etc.
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons

The sleek, slender striped blenny possesses a striking appearance with a yellow front half that gradually transitions to white.

It’s adorned with thick black horizontal stripes that span its entire body length, including the tail. There’s a striking pattern of alternating black and white stripes along the entire body, extending to caudal fins.

The fish also features a vivid yellow coloration that begins at the head and typically fades as it progresses halfway down the dorsal side. The yellow color stretches beyond the gills on lateral surfaces and immediately after the neck on the ventral side.

Males are often larger and more vibrantly colored than females, but that’s not always the case.

This species has venom sacs used as a protection from predators. When they bite, it’s not deadly but painful.

7. Molly Miller Blenny (Scartella cristata)

Molly Miller blenny
  • Other Common Names: Molly miller
  • Average Size: Up to 12 cm (4.7 in)
  • Average Lifespan: Around 7-9 years
  • Tank Level: Bottom dwellers
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Reef Safe: Yes
  • Tank Mates: Peaceful similar-sized species
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons

Upon initial observation from a distance, molly miller juvenile seems dull, almost blending into a grayish hue.

However, a closer look at a mature male reveals it can range from a rather unappealing charcoal gray to a bright rusty red.

Its surroundings, mood, and social interactions within groups impact the overall attractiveness.

The mature male is darker, larger, and more slender, has a fuller and more continuous dorsal fin, and develops a noticeable nuchal crest.

He also develops a papilla at the urogenital opening, while a female has it covered by a fleshy hood. The adult male’s first anal spine is clearly visible, whereas it remains inconspicuous in the female.

Breeding males exhibit fleshy lateral extensions at the tips of the anal fin rays and bear spatulate pads on the first two anal spines.

They are considered the ultimate cleaners due to their habit of consuming natural waste and pests.

A word from FishInAquarium

Blenny fish are extremely adaptable and hardy, thus resilient to most diseases. When provided with a suitable environment with well-researched tank mates, they exhibit cute antics!

They’ll dart around, keeping a watchful eye on everything. It’s like having a tiny comedian in your tank, always ready to make you smile.

Whether you have a tight budget and or space crunch, you will always find an ideal blenny to begin your fishkeeping journey!

With that said, if you’re satisfied with our listed blennies and made your choice, share it with other enthusiasts. You can also begin your blenny-keeping together to make it more fun!

Further, in case you face any roadblocks in raising your blenny, don’t hesitate to reach out via email. And we will be more than happy to help!

Minnie B Miller - Professional aquarist and owner of FishInAquarium

About Minnie B Miller

Minnie B. Miller, a professional aquarist and owner of FishInAquarium, has over 8 years of expertise in fish breeding and care, gained through her roles at AquaticTX and Sea Lion Landing. Having honed her skills with various aquatic species, she is dedicated to empowering fellow enthusiasts by sharing her knowledge and experience.