Firefish Goby: Diet | Size | Care | Lifespan | Cost

The firefish goby is a stunning, small saltwater fish full of personality. Timid when first introduced to a new environment, it is best suited to the smaller reef aquarium. Once it feels safe, however, it will soon be found hovering near the bottom just waiting for titbits of food.

It is a unique-looking fish with elongated dorsal fins and a tri-color body that will brighten any aquarium. They are found naturally in the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Species Profile

Scientific NameNemateleotris magnifica
Common NamesFirefish Goby, Fire Goby, Magnificent, Fire Dartfish
OriginsCoral Sea, Maldives, Philippines, Africa
Family NameGobiidae
Care LevelEasy
Water ConditionsdKH 8-12, pH 8.0-8.4, sg 1.020-1.025, 72-79° F
Max Size3"
Lifespan3-4 Years
Jumpers Yes
Reef SafeYes 100%
Feeding habits2 Times a day
FoodsShrimps, Live foods, Algae, zooplankton, Finely Chopped meaty foods, Flake foods
Tank Size15-20 Minimum
Aquarium DecorCorals, Hiding places, live rocks, soft sand substrate
Ideal First Fish?Yes

Firefish Goby Color and Appearance

The firefish goby is a unique and distinctive-looking fish. It has a long slender body with a high dorsal fin and tri-color markings. Starting with the yellow on the tip of its head it then fades into a white body and finally turns to a reddish-orange towards its tail end. The dorsal and caudal fin are also highlighted in black.

Firefish goby

The Natural Habitat Of A Firefish Goby

Firefish goby is native to the Indian and Pacific ocean off the coast of countries such as Africa, Indonesia, and the Maldives. Here they can be found hovering in groups above the reef and creating burrows in the sand. The depth the firefish goby can be found is quite vast at between 20 and 230 feet.

Firefish Goby Behavior

Being a timid fish the firefish goby may hide for several days when first added to an aquarium. When they come out, however, they are full of personality. They will often be found darting around the aquarium, hence the name dartfish, looking for tidbits of food. You may also find them hovering over a reef. They can do this because they have a swim bladder which allows them to be buoyant.

Firefish gobies are a peaceful fish but may fight with others of their own breed. The exception to this is with mated pairs which will live together in monogamy and harmony. Firefish gobies will struggle with other fish that are larger or more aggressive than themselves. This is because they may get eaten or be bullied. When bullied, firefish gobies have a tendency to starve themselves to death.

Communication between firefish gobies is done by twitching their elongated dorsal fin. They also use the hook at the end of this fin as a locking mechanism. Catching it in crevices helps them stay in one spot.

How to care for a firefish goby

An aquarium of 20 gallons is the minimum requirement for a firefish goby but as with most fish, larger is better. We would suggest the Marina LED 20 Gallon Aquarium as a minimum size to start with.   For substrate, you should provide soft sand, since they like to burrow. Rough sand is not suitable as it may cause injury to your fish. Reef and crevices in the reef are also favored by firefish gobies, they provide a place to hide. You will need to create some suitable hiding places and holes for them to retreat into when they feel threatened. Lava rock and hard corals make great homes for these lovely fish.

Low to moderate currents are most suited to firefish gobies which are often found hovering facing into them. They do this waiting for food such as zooplankton and algae to float by so they can eat it. Lighting should also be low to moderate, a bright light will cause them stress.

Although firefish gobies are fairly disease resistant, they should be kept at the correct water temperatures and parameters. The water temperature should be between 72 and 80℉. Water parameters should be pH 8.1 to 8.4 with a dGh of 8 to 12.

Being timid, Firefish gobies are not aggressive eaters and need to be monitored to ensure they are feeding. Also, because they are timid, firefish gobies should be kept with other peaceful fish of a similar size. Other species such as lionfish and large angels are not suitable tank mates as they may eat them.

The most common cause of death in firefish gobies is the lack of a suitable aquarium lid. Being a timid fish, that is easily spooked, firefish gobies have a tendency to jump. Without a well-fitting lid on your aquarium, you run the risk of losing them. Other causes of death are stress, predation, and incorrect feeding. Firefish gobies need a well-balanced omnivore diet.

Firefish goby care guide

What do firefish gobies eat?

As omnivores firefish gobies need a varied diet of zooplankton and chopped meaty foods such as live brine and Mysis shrimp. Due to having small guts they are best fed twice a day. Ensuring their diet is varied will help them maintain their coloration.

We buy our food from as they offer a wide range of foods at low prices. We’d recommend Freeze-dried Mysis shrimp and a specially formulated dried flakes called Tetra saltwater fish food. We have included a link to the ones we use to make it easier for you to find the best deal.

A mixture of the food listed here fed 3-4 times a day in small portions will provide your Firefish Goby with a well-balanced diet.

  • Mysis Shrimp
  • Brine shrimp
  • Algae strips or Tablets
  • Zooplankton (Copepods)
  • Seafoods
  • Finely Chopped meaty foods
  • Flake Foods
  • Mini Marine Pellets

It is important to monitor your firefish gobies feeding. They are not fish that will fight for food and will stop eating altogether when bullied. They may even starve themselves to death!

How can you tell the sex a firefish goby?

Having no unique sexual identifiers makes firefish gobies virtually impossible to sex. A rough guide, however, would be that females are usually smaller and more slender than males.

Can you breed firefish goby in an aquarium?

Very little is known about the firefish gobies breeding habits other than that they are egg layers. It is thought that the process is similar to that of other gobies. However, as they do not breed in captivity, it is an assumption rather than fact.

Suitable tankmates for a firefish goby

Firefish gobies should only share aquarium space with other fish that are peaceful and of a similar size. Examples of these would be species such as dwarf angels, clownfish, cardinals, dragonets, batfish, and boxfish.

What does a Firefish goby cost?

These fish are found in most Aquatic store and availability is good. The average price ( 2018-2019) US $15 or UK £20. These are very special little fish and make your tank interesting when they pop in and out of their hiding place. Check out some of the prices of the most expensive saltwater fish here!

Easy to keep, beautiful to look at and inexpensive. What more can you ask for?

Another great Fish worth checking out is the tailspot goby.

Are Firefish Goby Reef Safe?

Not only are firefish goby reef safe, but they are also perfect for any reef aquarium. They are very timid fish and love nothing better than swimming in and out of corals and invertebrates to make them feel safe.

These fish will have no issues with any other reef fish. However, they can become aggressive in very small overcrowded reef aquariums.

That said we would highly recommend these fish for any reef aquarium. Check out our 15 Top Nano Reef Tank Fish pick list.

Final Thoughts: Saltwater Firefish Goby

Once you’ve purchased your FireFish Goby don’t be surprised if you don’t see him for a while. Most will go straight into hiding until they are happy and feel safe in their new home.

This can take anywhere from 3-4 days to a week!

Once these amazing fish feel at home, they will have no problems darting around their new home displaying their amazing colors. However, they normally stay close to their hole for safety. Over time you’ll see their character come out and they start to grow in confidence. (Until you add a new fish) then they will again retreat to their home for a while.

Let us know if you already have a Firefish Goby or if you intend to buy one. Don’t be afraid to ask a question if you’re unsure.