Corals create complex reef structures that provide both habitat and food for many fish species. Due to numerous natural and anthropogenic threats, many coral reefs are currently being degraded, endangering the fish assemblages they support. Coral reef restoration, an active ecological management tool, may help reverse some of the current trends in reef degradation through the transplantation of stony corals. While restoration techniques have been extensively reviewed in relation to coral survival, our understanding of the effects of adding live coral cover and complexity on fishes is in its infancy with a lack of scientifically‐validated research. Here, we review the limited data on reef restoration and fish assemblages, and complement this with the more extensive understanding of complex interactions between natural reefs and fishes and how this might inform restoration efforts. We discuss which key fish species or functional groups may promote, facilitate or inhibit restoration efforts and, in turn, how restoration efforts can be optimised to enhance coral fish assemblages. By highlighting critical knowledge gaps in relation to fishes and restoration interactions, we aim to stimulate research into the role of reef fishes in restoration projects. A greater understanding of the functional roles of reef fishes would also help inform whether restoration projects can return fish assemblages to their natural compositions or whether alternative species compositions develop, and over what timeframe. While alleviation of local and global reef stressors remains a priority, reef restoration is an important tool; an increased understanding of the interactions between replanted corals and the fishes they support is critical for ensuring its success for people and nature.