Gobies love burrowing into the substrate and creating a little spot for themselves

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 family aquariums.  They’re also incredibly easy to care for, which is especially helpful when you have a busy life. Isn’t that kind of the point of owning an aquarium in the first place?  

Gobies are great fish for families with small children, because 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 hiding there.

Gobies grow to a very small size and are considered to be a low-maintenance fish. They 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! Some Gobies can be bought at your local pet shop for as low as $15, but some harder to find types can cost more than $100.

Information about Gobies

  • Average size: 1 to 6 inches depending on variety
  • Skin Type: Scaleless
  • Colors: Brown, black, white, yellow, blue
  • Good Pet: Yes
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: Yes
  • Good with Other Gobies: Moderate
  • Good with Other fish species: Small peaceful ones
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet 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

2 Gobies swimming side by side

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 creating something on their belly that looks like a suction cup. They use their suction-like fins to attach themselves onto the walls of their aquarium and onto rocks in the wild to avoid being carried away by strong water currents.

Gobies exist in many varieties and colors, like red, black, orange, red, brown, blue, and green. Here are some of the most common Gobies kept in home aquariums.

Neon Goby

The Neon Gobies are very tiny, growing to about 2 inches long. They are very slim with white bellies, but most of the rest of their body is black. They have a blue stripe running from head to tail on both sides of their body.

They are 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 Neon Gobies for cleaning. At the cleaning station the Goby picks at dead skin or parasites attached to the other fish body.

Unless you have a very large aquarium, we highly recommend not having more than one Neon Goby because they are territorial. 

They usually live for 1 to 2 years.

Sifter Gobies

Also known as Sleeper Gobies, these fish usually sift through sand looking for any invertebrates living in the sand. When they scoop the sand, they sift through it and then release the sand through their 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 getting as big as 7 inches long. Because they can grow so large they will need to have a big tank. Most Sifter Gobies are white with reddish-orange spots.

Dragon Goby

a Goby resting on the bottom of the aquarium

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

These fish are also sand sifters like the Sifter Gobies. They sift through the sandy bottoms of their aquarium so they can 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 small brightly colored fish with the largest being only 2.5 inches long. Because of their small size, these Gobies can live in smaller tanks than other Gobies. 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 aquarium. These Gobies enjoy burrowing in the sand substrate. 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 Goby species in the same tank. Gobies mainly dwell at the bottom of aquariums and are very intelligent. The intelligence of Gobies is shown by their ability to create a network of hiding places that they can run to whenever scared.

Best Tank Mates for a Goby

2 yellow Gobies peeking out of their hole at the bottom of the aquarium.

The peaceful nature of Gobies enables them to create unusual relationships with shrimp. It’s not unusual to see shrimps 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. Gobies have great vision but cannot dig into the substrate as 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 your aquarium, you’ll need a large aquarium. Then watch both fish to make sure that they stay peaceful with each other.  The two fish should be about the same size so that neither can eat the other.

Tank Conditions 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 a good size for Gobies. The fish enjoys burrowing in a sandy substrate. Having a sand or mud substrate makes it easier for them to burrow and reduce their stress.

The temperature in the fish tank should be kept between 73 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH 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 they will often eat a lot of the uneaten food in the substrate and in the water. Because they will keep your aquarium cleaner a sophisticated or expensive filtration system should not be needed in their tank.

2 Gobies with their heads sticking out of the hole

In the wild, Gobies are found in the warmer tropical coastal waters. They are hardy and can comfortably adapt to aquarium living. Gobies need the temperature kept between 73 and 85 Fahrenheit. The specific levels will vary depending upon the species you have.

Having coral reefs in their tank is a good idea so that they have more places to hide.

Having coral reefs in their tank is a good idea so that they have more places to hide.

Tank Maintenance

A high quality water filtration system should be installed to take care of the Goby. If proper water conditions are maintained the Gobies can live up to 10 years. Around 10 to 25 percent of the water in their aquarium should be changed every 2 weeks. 

Monitor the level of different chemicals like ammonia, nitrates and nitrites in the water. Any spike in any of these compounds can be dangerous for your Gobies. It’s important to regularly monitor the temperature and pH levels in addition to the dissolved chemicals.

One good thing about having Gobies is that they tend to eat things within the substrate that would otherwise decay. This helps to keep the substrate clean. Because of the different ways that they can clean other fish, or the aquarium they are sometimes used as a cleaner fish.

Attention Requirements for a Goby

Gobies are disease resistant and aren’t prone to any specific illness thanks to their thick 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. Gobies need minimal attention making them a great fish for most family tanks.

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.

a pile of colorful fish flakes

Feeding Gobies

Gobies are carnivorous and can eat just about anything fed to them. They can eat finely shredded fresh vegetables, living 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 looks like it’s moving.

Depending on what fish you have in your tank, you may only need to feed your 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 and it’s important that whatever you choose to feed them, remember to have it small enough for your Gobies.  Food that is too large could end up getting stuck in their mouths.

Related Questions:

Can I Breed Gobies?

The good news is that you can breed Gobies, but the bad news is that because they are aggressive to their species, pairing could be a problem. Some Goby species are known to change their sex for breeding. If you only have one gender, one may change their 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 make it 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, but the majority live in saltwater. Freshwater Gobies originate from Asian waters and also make great additions into freshwater aquariums. Some of the most common freshwater Gobies are the Bumblebee Goby, Marbled Goby, Knight Goby, and the Cobalt Goby.

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Contributing Author & Social Media Expert

Maryna is an animal expert that has had dozens of animals in her life over the years. She has never found an animal that she didn't love immediately. It seems like every year she finds kittens that have been abandoned by their mom and she nurses them to health and finds homes for them. She contributes her vast knowledge about animals and family pets to our website and we're forever grateful to have her working with us. She's also an amazing graphics designer and has designed all of the social media images that we use across all platforms.