Gobies, Goby, Goby fish… whatever you call them, these small and interesting fish have always been high on our list of good choices for family aquariums.  They’re beautiful, hardy and very entertaining to watch, and they’re a great choice for all levels of aquarists.  They’re also incredibly easy to care for, which is especially helpful when you have a busy life… which is kind of the point of owning an aquarium in the first place, isn’t it?  

Gobies are great fish for families with small children, since they are active in the daytime and not as shy as other aquarium fish. This is a relatively peaceful fish, unless they are placed into a tank with similar species. While this could evoke their aggressive nature, they are also known to create networks of special places for safety and will spend time in hiding.

Gobies grow to a very small size and are considered to be a low-maintenance variety. They have very good hygiene, and are often used as “cleaner fish,” eating all available food and keeping the water clean. They will eat anything that falls to the bottom of the tank, which makes them a great cleanup crew. 

Their low attention requirements make them good for active families. If you’re looking for a great fish for your family, consider a Goby!


Information about Gobies

  • Average size: 1 to 6 inches depending on variety
  • Skin Type: Scaleless
  • Colors: Brown, black, white, yellow, blue
  • Good Pet: Yes
  • Good with Other Gobies: Moderate
  • Good with Other fish species: Small peaceful ones
  • Suitable for First-Time fish Owners: Yes
  • Health Concerns: Gobies are disease resistant but can still succumb to poor water quality and poor diet
  • Average Life Span: 1 to 10 years depending on type

Physical Appearance of a Goby

Gobies are generally very small bodied with a slightly bigger head and torpedo shaped scaleless body. The pelvic fins of a Goby are fused together forming a structure on the lower body that looks like a suction cup. The fish uses the suction like structure to attach itself onto the walls of the aquarium and onto rocks in the wild to avoid being carried by strong water currents.

Gobies exist in many varieties and colors some being red, black, orange, red, brown, blue, and others green. Here are some of the most common Gobies in the aquarium setup.

Neon Goby

The Neon Gobies are very tiny reaching about 2 inches and are also known as the best cleaner fish. Neon Gobies in the wild are known to create cleaning stations which they defend fiercely against their kind. Other fish come to the Neon Gobies for cleaning. The Goby picks at any dead skin or attached parasite on the body of other fish.

Unless you have a mega aquarium, it is highly recommended to not have more than one Neon Goby because they are territorial. 

The fish is very slim with the most part of the body being black. The fish also has two blue stripes running on the upper body while the lower body around the tummy is white in color. This fish lives for 1 to 2 years.

Sifter Gobies

Also known as Sleeper Gobies, these fish usually sift through sand to find any invertebrates living in the sand. When the fish scoops sand, it sifts through it and then releases the sand through the gill slits. 

Sifter Gobies cannot live together but can make good tank mates for other fish. With their own species, they tend to fight for space. The Sifter Gobies can grow very big with some reaching to 7 inches and will need to have a big tank. Most Sifter Gobies are white with orange to red spots.


Dragon Goby

These Gobies have black to brown bodies and can grow to about 6 inches. The Dragon Gobies cannot live with other Dragon Gobies because they tend to become territorial. 

These fish are also sand sifters like the Sleeper Gobies in a bid to feed on small invertebrates that live in the sand. A deep sand bed is an ideal substrate for these fish.

The Clown Gobies

The Clown Gobies are very brightly colored fish and also very small with the largest being only 2.5 inches. Due to their small size, these Gobies can live in small tanks. Having coral in your tank is a great decoration for them because they enjoy resting on coral. 

Clown Gobies cannot live together because like other Gobies they are extremely territorial.  They do just fine if you keep them with other friendly fish. If you have a large tank with plenty of hiding places then it is possible to keep more than one Clown Goby. They may eventually form pairs of males and females.

Shrimp Gobies

Shrimp Gobies are small and they mainly dwell at the bottom of the tank. These Gobies enjoy burrowing in the sand substrate. The Shrimp Gobies have an unusual relationship with the Pistol Shrimps and they both burrow into the sand substrate especially when they feel threatened.

Temperament of a Goby

Gobies are peaceful fish but can become aggressive especially when placed together with similar species in one tank. Gobies mainly dwell at the bottom of the aquarium and are very intelligent. The intelligence of Gobies is especially portrayed by their unique abilities to create a network of hiding places where they can run to whenever scared.

Best Habitat for Gobies

Gobies are very small fish and don’t require a very large tank compared to other saltwater fish and a 20 – 30 gallon tank is the best for Gobies. The fish enjoys burrowing in a sandy substrate. Placing some sand or mud substrate makes it easier for them to burrow and reduce their stress.

The temperature in the fish tank should be between 73 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The PH of the water should be between 7 and 8.5 while the water hardness should remain between 12 and 18 DH.

Gobies are often used as cleaner fish and you can expect that the fish can clean out any dirt on the substrate and in the water. Because of this a sophisticated filtration system should not be needed in the tank.

Tank Conditions

In the wild, Gobies are found in the warmer and tropical coastal waters. They are hardy and can comfortably adapt to aquarium living. For the Gobies the temperature of the tank should be in the range of 73 to 85 Fahrenheit. The pH level should be maintained between 7 to 8.5. The specific levels will vary depending upon the species you have.

They should be provided coral reefs to allow them to hide.


Tank Maintenance

 If proper water conditions are maintained the Gobies can live up to 10 years. Around 10 to 25 percent of water should be changed every 2 weeks. 

Monitor the level of different chemicals like ammonia, nitrates and nitrites in the water. Any spike in the level of these compounds can be dangerous for the Gobies. Regular monitoring of the temperature and pH level of the water should also be done.

The good thing about having Gobies is that they tend to eat things within the substrate of the tank. This helps to keep the substrate of the tank clean. For this reason, they are sometimes also used as a cleaner fish.

Best Tank Mates for a Goby

The peaceful nature of Gobies even enables the fish to form unusual relationships with shrimp. It’s not unusual to find shrimp and Gobies burrowing together in the substrate. According to experts, the relationship between these two animals is symbiotic. 

The shrimp has poor eyesight but is good at burrowing. On the other hand, a Goby has great vision but cannot dig into the substrate easily.

The shrimp stays in close contact with the Goby so that in the event of danger, they get alerted. When the Goby and the shrimp sense danger, they both hide in the burrows.

Other than the Shrimp, Gobies can live well with other species listed here:

Only one Goby is recommended per tank but paired mates are also common in home aquariums. If you really want to have more than one Goby in a tank, first start with a large aquarium.  Then watch both fish to make sure that they stay peaceful towards each other.  The two fish should be about the same size so that one cannot eat the other.


Health Issues

Gobies are scaleless and can become affected by chemical treatments, especially if the treatment is used on the water. The good news is that despite lacking scales, Gobies have a mucus membrane that lines its body protecting them from attack by parasites and germs. 

Gobies still have health problems especially if the water quality isn’t maintained or lack of proper diet and in the right quantities.

Attention Requirements for a Goby

Gobies are disease resistant and aren’t prone to any specific illness thanks to their thick and mucus covered skin. They also do not need constant feedings because they’ll eat from the food that other fish didn’t eat before it sank.  Because of this Gobies need minimal attention making them a great fish for most family tanks.

Feeding Gobies

Gobies are carnivorous and can eat just about anything offered to them. The fish can eat fresh well shredded vegetables, live foods, frozen foods, fish flakes, and pellets. Here are some of the best live or frozen foods.

  • Tubifex Worms
  • Fish Eggs
  • Daphnia
  • Bloodworms
  • Cichlid Fries
  • Brine Shrimp

Regarding the feeding habits of Gobies, it’s worth noting that they don’t eat foods that are not moving. If you feed your fish frozen foods, make sure there is enough current in the water so that the food appears as if it’s moving.

Depending on what fish you have in your tank, you may only need to feed the Gobies once a day.  They will often eat the food not eaten by the other fish when they are hungry between feedings.  If you don’t have many other fish then you can feed them up to 3 times a day. 

Gobies have tiny mouths, so whatever food you choose to feed them, remember to have them small enough for the Gobies.  Food that is too large could cause the food to become stuck in their mouths.

a pile of fish flakes

Related Questions:

Can I breed Gobies?

The good news is that you can easily breed Gobies.  The bad news is that because they are aggressive to their species, pairing could be a problem. Some Goby species are known to change sexes whenever necessary so, if you only have one gender, one may change sex for spawning.

Neon Gobies are the best species if you want to breed Gobies because they can spawn even in very small tanks. Most male Gobies protect the eggs and even fan them to provide a constant supply of oxygen for proper hatching. 

Once the eggs hatch, they should be transferred into another tank with the right water chemistry so that your fries can survive to adulthood. Once the fries are big enough, you can transfer them back to the main tank.

Are freshwater Gobies Common?

Some Gobies can live in freshwater, others in brackish waters, and the majority in saltwater. Freshwater Gobies originate from Asian waters and also make great additions into the aquariums. Some of the most common freshwater Gobies are the Bumblebee Goby, Marbled Goby, Knight Goby, and the Cobalt Goby.

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