Having symbiotic pairs in your saltwater aquarium provides so many benefits to both you and your habitat. It is a great way to keep your aquarium as close to nature as possible and allow the development of a balanced ecosystem. 

So what is a symbiotic partnership?

A symbiotic pair refers when there is a close relationship between two or more species and the relationship has benefits for one or all of the species involved. The relationship is long-lasting and the pair of animals may rely on each other.

There are different types of symbiotic relationships, but we will mostly be focusing on pairs that have a mutualistic relationship. This is when they both gain from the partnership. 

In having mutualistic pairs in our saltwater aquarium, we can develop a peaceful and healthy habitat for everyone involved! 

These relationships are quite difficult to set up, so if you are a beginner hobbyist you should perhaps consider developing your knowledge first and starting out simple. Of course, we are always here to help!

So, let’s look at the top 5 symbiotic pairs to have in a saltwater aquarium!

1 – Pistol Shrimp and Gobies

This partnership is a great start when wanting to begin introducing symbiotic partnerships into your aquarium. The tiger pistol shrimp is perfect for this and will pair up with a range  of goby fish such as the yasha goby or the tiger watchman goby. 

The shrimp will dig a burrow and share it with the goby fish and as the shrimp has very bad eyesight, the goby will watch out for any predators that might be around!

While the goby is on look out, the shrimp will stir up the sand and maintain the burrow. This acts as a safe space for both of them. 

The shrimp will maintain contact with the goby pretty much constantly by using its long antennae. The way they both look out for each other is amazing to witness!

2 – Banggai Cardinalfish and the Long-Spined Sea Urchin

The symbiotic relationship between the Banggai cardinalfish and the long-spined sea urchin is another great starting point into the world of symbiotic pairs. 

Their relationship developed because when these fish are just born they are extremely vulnerable to predators. To help them survive, the baby banggai cardinalfish hide in the spines of the sea urchin. Their black stripes give them a certain element of camouflage amongst the sharp spikes of the sea urchin.

It is uncertain what the sea urchin gets out of the relationship, but this pairing is still a great addition to any saltwater aquarium!

3 – The Pom Pom Crab and Their Anemones

This crab is a fantastic invert to have in any aquarium as to watch them and their relationship with anemones is incredibly interesting. 

The pom pom crab has a beautiful exoskeleton made up of dark and light colors. It gets its name because of the anemones it carries around in both of its hands, looking like a pair of pom poms!

The anemones serve as a protection for the crab as they sting any predators who come near. The anemones also help the crab catch small prey. The crab helps the anemones by providing little bits of food for them. 

A very wholesome friendship!

4 – Anemone Crabs and Anemones

Anemone crabs are a great addition to your saltwater aquarium because they are peaceful and easy to care for. Plus, they develop a great symbiotic relationship with anemones and this can be wonderful to watch. They normally get in pairs and take refuge amongst the anemones. 

The anemone provides protection and shelter to the crabs and the crabs will clean the anemone and fight off any predators that might come near them. Both of them benefit so much from their relationship! 

These crabs don’t need anemones to survive, but do well when surrounded by a few. Anemones that go well with anemone crabs are the long tentacle anemone or the flower anemones, amongst others.

5 – Clownfish and Anemones

Finally, let’s look at probably the most famous symbiotic partnership in the saltwater world! Clownfish love to have a host anemone to develop a long-lasting relationship with. In the wild, these fish are always seen in and around the anemone. 

Clownfish hide in the tentacles of anemones and they are protected against any predators that may be around. In return, the clownfish serve as a defender of their host and will bite and chase off any fish that wants to eat it! They also provide the anemone with food. 

It is amazing that clownfish do not get stung by the anemones’ tentacles and the theory is that the clownfish have evolved to learn how to modify their coats mucus. This means that they survive in and amongst the anemone whilst other fish do not. 

Unfortunately, even though clownfish are pretty hardy in saltwater aquariums, their anemones seem to find it hard to really thrive! This means that this symbiotic partnership takes work to develop and maintain in a saltwater aquarium setting. 

Luckily, clownfish do not need an anemone to survive when in an aquarium. 

Final Thoughts

Symbiotic relationships are a great addition to any saltwater aquarium as it is a great way to achieve a natural ecosystem with a healthy and balanced community of fish and inverts. 

These symbiotic partnerships are also extremely interesting to watch. By having one of these pairs in your aquarium you are providing yourself with a great way to learn about marine life and providing your animals with care and protection.