Firefish Care Guide Tank Setup and Aquarium Mates – 2021


The Firefish goby is a shy little creature that is best suited to smaller reef aquariums. They need time to adjust to their new home. However, once they get their bearings right, they can be found lurking near the tank’s bottom, always searching for small morsels of food.

They have a unique, pale lavender body, which immediately stands. Another standout feature is the disproportionately large dorsal fin that isn’t commonly found among saltwater fish.

Firefish species are geared towards beginner-level hobbyists because of their relatively easy care requirements. Here’s all you need to know about the exotic Firefish.



Category Rating
Level of Care Relatively Easy
Temperament Generally peaceful
Appearance Dominantly white, red, and black
Life Expectancy 3 years
Size 3 inches
Diet Omnivorous species
Family Gobiidae
Tank Size 20 gallon minimum
Tank Environment Soft sand substrate with live rocks, corals, and hiding places
Tank Mates Docile and similar sized fish


What is a Firefish – Brief Overview


Originating in the Indo-West Pacific Oceans’ tropical waters, Firefish are mostly found swimming in groups over reefs and hiding in caves under the sand. They can be found at depths of up to 230 feet, which isn’t easy to recreate in an aquarium setting.


Another name for the Firefish goby is ‘dartfish,’ mostly because it is found darting around in its home, hoping to come across small food bits.


They thrive on plankton, which they eat as it swims through the water. Fish want the same stimulus in captivity and reach for food that is always on the move. It is something that fishkeepers should keep in mind.


The trick with saltwater Firefish species is in the substrate – it must be soft sand instead of gravel to prevent injury. More on that later.


Firefish Appearance


Firefish has a torpedo-shaped body that is either yellow or white in the front. This primary-color seems to fade into various shades of orange or red as you go towards the tail. A black outline highlights the dorsal, anal, and tail. Among the Firefish goby is a rare variety, known as the Nemateleotris decora, which has a unique purple appearance and is a lot more expensive than standard Firefish gobies.


They typically have seven dorsal fins, one anal spine fin, 27 to 30 anal soft rays, and 29 to 32 dorsal soft rays. They use their dorsal fins (the massive antenna like fin) to communicate with each other.




Firefish Behavior



Firefish gobies are timid fish that may hide for several days when first added to a tank. When they get adjusted to their new habitat, however, they become inquisitive. Always searching around the aquarium in search of food.


You will also find them floating above the reef. It is possible because of a swim bladder that allows fish to hover. At first, however, they will hide in the tank because they are not comfortable with their environment. They are so good at hiding that fishkeepers will assume they’ve randomly disappeared.


Firefish gobies are generally very peaceful with other tank mates but will show aggression towards their kind. Their need for ‘moving’ food can backfire when more extensive, more aggressive fish snatches it from them. It is why it is essential for fishkeepers to personally see that the food reaches their Firefish goby and that they eat it.


Firefish gobies are naturally aggressive towards one another and should be kept as the only fish of its kind in the tank or paired with another Firefish.


You may be able to keep two Firefish in the same tank without too much in-fighting. However, expect things to kick up a notch when there is an entire group of them.


Firefish Goby Compatibility – Tank Mates


As mentioned earlier, Firefish gobies are aggressive towards their kind. We don’t recommend adding a pair of them unless you are trying to establish a pair.


They will show a lot of aggression and become very territorial as they try to defend their spot. You’ll have to monitor the two and separate them if tensions boil over. The smaller the tank, the worse their aggression gets.


Firefish goby need a lot of space to swim freely. Otherwise, they will bump into one another. You will often see Juvenile Firefish Goby swimming in groups, but they cease to act as a team once they become old enough.


They are best placed in reef communities with other docile fish such as small gobies, clownfish, and shrimps. Firefish gobies make excellent additions to tanks that have similarly sized shy fish. They will not eat on plants or disturb corals in your tank. They will also leave invertebrates alone.


Here is a list of peaceful and similarly sized tank mates for Firefish gobies:


  • Clownfish
  • Dwarf Angels
  • Cardinals
  • Dragonbets
  • Boxfish
  • Batfish


What do Do Firefish eat?


They are an omnivorous species and need a varied diet of chopped foods rich in protein and zooplankton. Good examples of meaty foods include Mysis shrimp and brine.


They need to eat at least three to four times a day to get all the nutrition they need. It is essential to provide them with a varied diet to help them maintain their bright colors.


should be given the mixture of foods to them 3 to 4 times a day in small portions:


  • Copepods and zooplanktons
  • Mini Pellets
  • Chopped protein-rich food
  • Seafood
  • Flake foods
  • Mysis and brine shrimp
  • Algae strips


Most Firefish refuse to eat when first introduced into the aquarium. If your Firefish refuses to eat, soak the food in garlic to make it more appetizing for the fish.


firefish tank conditions 


Tank Conditions for Firefish Goby



Firefish gobies need a minimum tank size of 20 gallons, small as far as saltwater species go as a general rule. The larger the tank, the better your results. The tank’s conditions need to be kept at the correct water parameters.


These are as follows:


  • Temperature: 74 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH value: 8.2 to 8.4
  • Water hardness levels: 8 to 12 dGh


One of the most common causes of Firefish deaths is jumping out of their tank. Because they’re such shy fish, they quickly get spooked and, in their efforts to escape, often jump out of the tank. It necessitates installing a tight lid on your aquarium at all times or risks losing them.


Tank Setup – Things to Add


The essential component in your tank is the substrate. It should be deep enough to allow your Firefish to burrow into it so that it can create a bolt-hole.


These species tend to escape out of small openings in the tank. These must be covered at all times. Otherwise, they will escape and die. Make sure the tank lid fits tightly because the Firefish can easily knock it loose.


They also need plenty of places to hide, so rocks, caves, and other hiding places will make them feel more secure. Hard corals and lava rocks make ideal homes for these timid fish.


They also like moderate to low currents and will often swim close to them. In the wild, they swim near water currents to eat found such as algae and zooplankton that float nearby so they can eat them. They need low to moderate light to establish day/night cycles. A bright light will cause them to get stressed out.


It is also recommended to have plant life coupled with appropriate medium lighting to provide the Firefish goby with enough stimulus. Here is our favorite pick of the best aquatic plants that will contribute to improved oxygenation and look stunning.


Spaghetti Algae


This macroalgae, also known as chaeto, displays a bright-green color of fine curly hair-like strands. Unlike other microalgae that interfere with coral growth in a reef tank, Spaghetti Algae promote it.


More importantly, they lack the root-like holdfasts that are so common in other macroalgae species. They are easy to grow and respond well to light. Watch out, though, because spaghetti algae’s overabundance indicates an unhealthy amount of nitrates in the tank.




They’re usually found in oceans around the world. The Halimeda plant fits into most environments. It is attractive and has oval-shaped leaves that look like coins glued together. They’re often referred to as the Money Plant – after the coin-shaped leaves.


The plants are generally very resistant in most environments but don’t tolerate high levels of nitrate. So if they’re doing good, your fish is also doing good. Firefish gobies don’t like to eat on them. In turn, Halimeda isn’t too invasive and gets along well with other creatures in the tank.


Green Finger Algae


Green Finger Algae is a stunning decorative plant that is deep and bright in color. It’s dense and lush plants are easy to care for and makes any marine tank look authentic.


Firefish gobies and other fish in the tank don’t show any interest in eating Green Finger Algae. This plant also provides natural oxygenation and filtration to keep the tank healthy and clean.


Red Gracilaria Algae


If you’re finding it tough to regulate the water chemistry in your tank, consider adding the Red Gracilaria. Most fishkeepers use this plant to prevent invasive algae from taking over the tank.


It is also very effective at regulating the buildup of nutrients in the tank. Another excellent quality is that it can be harvested and fed to herbivorous fish in the main tank. Just make sure to attach it to a firm surface where it can gain stability and root properly.


Red Mangrove Propagule 

Red Mangrove trees reproduce in two ways, either by producing a Propagule or by forming large seeds. While mangrove seeds don’t perform too well in a tank environment, their propagules are much more challenging and unique to the aquarium.


Propagules grow to about 6 to 8 inches long and resemble tall candles. They are usually planted between rocks or in the sand. They need proper lighting to overgrow. The best part is that they help lower nitrates but need iron supplementation for the roots to take hold.


firefish goby


Breeding Firefish Goby



It is not easy to breed Firefish gobies because it’s almost impossible to tell whether the fish is male or female. However, if you spot Firefish gobies forming a pair, it’s safe to assume one is a male and the other is a female.


There is no obvious pattern to their breeding behavior. It’s tough to spot when breeding.


There isn’t much known about their mating rituals, both in captivity and the wild. What is known, however, is that Firefish gobies lay their eggs that hatch. At the time of writing, there is no reliable way to sex Firefish.


There haven’t been many success stories about breeding them in captivity. They are known to form monogamous pairs only.


Are Firefish Reef Safe?


Firefish goby are perfect for both tank-only aquariums as well as reef tanks. They are mostly shy and like to swim near water currents in search of food. Firefish goby like to swim near invertebrates and coral to feel safe and comfortable in the tank. However, they will become relatively more aggressive in any small overcrowded aquarium, reef, or no reef.


Dangers and Diseases – Are Firefish Goby Hardy?


Causes of Firefish death are predators, low diet, stress, and too much in-fighting among their kind. They also tend to jump outside of the tank when they get scared.


For the most part, Firefish goby is a very hardy species, resistant to most diseases, but this is only subject to how well-maintained the tank itself is.


They are vulnerable to saltwater ich, a common disease that attacks saltwater fish now and then. Ich manifests as white dots on the Firefish goby’s boy. It has a long life cycle where it will make life miserable for the affected fish.


Once the cycle is over, there is no guarantee that your fish is safe because thousands of new ich are released into the water. They may come back and re-infect the fish.


The most effective way to treat this condition is to use copper sulfate, malachite green, and formaldehyde. Adding these three substances into the aquarium will kill ich in a matter of days. If you ignore ich for too long, it will slowly kill your Firefish.


Another disease to worry about is dropsy. This bacterial disease makes the Firefish goby look bloated. Upon diagnosing this disease, it is imperative to pull the infected fish in a quarantine tank and sprinkle it in a penicillin based drug such as tetracycline and sulfa.


Firefish Care – Aquarium Maintenance Tips


Change the water at least once a week to keep the tank clean and provide proper care for the Firefish. It is best done by partially cleaning 25% of the water every month or 15% of the water every week.


The idea is to keep nitrate concentrations at a safe level. Do not replace all of the water at the same time because it will stress out the fish. Use a gravel vacuum to slowly siphon out the debris and water, starting along the tank’s bottom.


Pay special attention to algae buildup. It will appear as a cloud on the glass, or the water itself will look murky. Algae’s growth is terrible because it competes with fish for oxygen levels in the water and eventually suffocates other creatures. Use a tank scrub brush to clean algae.


Like other aquatic life, Firefish gobies are sensitive to dramatic environmental changes. You will have to monitor the water’s parameters for nitrate, ammonia, pH, and nitrite levels and test the setup to ensure it is within the range provided in the care sheet.


What is the Average Firefish Lifespan?


Most Firefish species in captivity live to be only three years old. Some fishkeepers have reported that their Firefish got a bit older than four years old and never showed any signs of illnesses. These fish don’t live to be very long; expect them to die relatively early.


Where to Buy Firefish?


The exotic Firefish for sale can be purchased from most pet stores, online stores, and online forums for as little as $20. If you’re wondering how much does a Firefish cost, check in with your local aquarium store. Rarer species will cost more depending on their availability and rarity.


is firefish worth adding to aquarium


Wrapping it all Up: Are Firefish Worth Addin to Your Aquarium.



Given that Firefish gobies are an undemanding yet such a beautiful species, they make an excellent addition to any tank.


The only problem is that it isn’t always readily available. Availability depends on price and geographical distribution. If you manage to get your hands on these stunning species, you should give them a chance to make your tank come to life.


Click Here to Checkout 27 Most Popular Saltwater Fish for your Aquarium


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