Fish farm structures attract a variety of fish species by providing solid structure, and 'free meals' in the form of uneaten feed and feces that fall from the cages. In this study, we compared the composition and abundances of wild fish populations around 2 fish farms in the Red Sea and at nearby reference locations. Fish assemblages were evaluated by SCUBA divers carrying out rapid visual censuses in August, September and October 2007. A total of 87 238 fishes, representing 39 species and 25 families and a number of trophic levels, were observed. Overall, the abundance, biomass, and diversity of wild fish were much greater at the sea cages than at the open-water reference sites, at both fish farms. It is noteworthy that 35 out of the 39 species observed at the farms were juveniles and adults of coral-reef fish species. This finding is especially interesting, considering that the nearest coral reefs were >4 km away and reef fishes generally have small home ranges, typically <1 km. Among these, the Carangidae (5 species), Sparidae (3 species), and Pomacentridae (3 species) contributed the most to species richness. In light of strong fishing pressures in many areas, the large populations of wild fishes at the fish farms, the high availability of nourishment from artificial food pellets, and restrictions on fishing within farm lease areas, we suggest that coastal net-cage fish farms may serve as small marine protected areas.