best goby fish for saltwater tank

21 Best goby fish for a saltwater tank

Goby fish are generally hardy, peaceful, reef-safe saltwater aquarium fish that will be model citizens in a community reef tank. This article will provide an overview of the 21 Best goby fish for a saltwater tank, along with some important care guide quick facts.

21 Best goby fish for a saltwater tank

  1. Neon goby
  2. Yellowline goby
  3. Sharknose goby
  4. Diamond watchman
  5. Pink spotted watchman
  6. Yellow watchman goby
  7. Gold head sleeper
  8. Railway sleeper
  9. Flagtail
  10. Orange stripe
  11. Pinkbar
  12. Steinitz
  13. Orange spot
  14. Yasha
  15. Hi Fin Red Banded
  16. Citron Clown
  17. Green clown
  18. Court Jester
  19. Two-spot
  20. Red head
  21. Eviota goby

Most of the goby fish on this list will show some degree of aggression towards others of the same species (or substantially similar species), so they are best kept as one per tank, unless you get a bonded pair or plan to try and bond a male/female yourself.

 

 

21 Best goby fish care guide quick facts chart:

Common name Genus species Care difficulty Community behavior Reef safe Adult size (length) Minimum tank size
Neon Goby Elacatinus oceanops Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 2 in. (5.1 cm) 10 G (37.9 L)
Yellowline Goby Elacatinus figaro Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 2 in. (5.1 cm) 10 G (37.9 L)
Sharknose Goby Elacatinus evalynae Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 2 in. (5.1 cm) 10 G (37.9 L)
Diamond Watchman Goby Valenciennea puellaris Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 6 in. (15.2 cm) 30 G (113.6 L)
Pink Spotted Watchman Goby Cryptocentrus leptocephalus Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 4 in. (10.2 cm) 30 G (113.6 L)
Yellow Watchman Goby Cryptocentrus cinctus Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 4 in. (10.2 cm) 30 G (113.6 L)
Gold Head Sleeper Goby Valenciennea strigata Intermediate Peaceful Reef safe 5.5  in. (14 cm) 30 G (113.6 L)
Railway Sleeper Goby Valenciennea helsdingeni Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 5.5  in. (14 cm) 30 G (113.6 L)
Flagtail Shrimp Goby Amblyeleotris yanoi Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 5.5  in. (14 cm) 30 G (113.6 L)
Orange Stripe Prawn Goby Amblyeleotris randalli Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 4.5 in. (11.4 cm) 10 G (37.9 L)
Pinkbar Goby Amblyeleotris aurora Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 4 in. (10.2 cm) 10 G (37.9 L)
Steinitz Goby Amblyeleotris steinitzi Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 5 in. (12.7 cm) 10 G (37.9 L)
Orange Spotted Goby Amblyeleotris guttata Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 3.5  in. (8.9 cm) 10 G (37.9 L)
Yasha Shrimp Goby Stonogobiops yasha Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 2.5  in. (6.4 cm) 10 G (37.9 L)
Hi Fin Red Banded Goby Stonogobiops nematodes Intermediate Peaceful Reef safe 2 in. (5.1 cm) 10 G (37.9 L)
Citron Clown Goby Gobiodon citrinus Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 2 in. (5.1 cm) 10 G (37.9 L)
Green Clown Goby Gobiodon atrangulatus Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 1.75 in. (4.4 cm) 10 G (37.9 L)
Court Jester Goby Koumansetta rainfordi Intermediate Peaceful Reef safe 3 in. (7.6 cm) 10 G (37.9 L)
Two Spot Goby Signigobius biocellatus Advanced Peaceful Reef safe 3 in. (7.6 cm) 10 G (37.9 L)
Red Head Goby Elacatinus puncticulatus Intermediate Peaceful Reef safe 2 in. (5.1 cm) 10 G (37.9 L)
Eviota Goby Eviota pellucida Beginner Peaceful Reef safe 1 in. (2.5 cm) 5 G (18.9 L)

Cleaner gobies

If you’re looking for the right goby fish to add to your saltwater tank, one of the first groups you should consider are the cleaner gobies. These gorgeous fish grow to be about 2-inches in length and are some of the most fun-to-watch fish species, because they will set up a cleaning station and pick parasites and scales off of your fish.

There are three commonly available cleaner species, generally sold as captive-raised or aquacultured individuals, because they will readily spawn in captivity.

Neon goby or Blue Neon

While each of the cleaners in this list have a neon line, this is the one sometimes called THE Neon Goby or the Blue Neon. Note that the blue line extends from the tip of the nose all the way to the tail, which is one way to distinguish it from the Sharknose.

Yellowline goby

Once you see this fish, it’s not hard to see how they got the name Yellowline. This is another easy-to-care for fish that is suitable for just about any tank size, although the officially recommended minimum is 10-gallons, you could probably go a little smaller, if you wanted.

Two Yellow line gobies

Sharknose goby

If you can’t decide whether you want a cleaner with a blue neon stripe or a yellow neon stripe, the Sharknose Goby is the fish for you. The Yellow line starts at the tip of the nose and runs along the head and then it transitions into a cool blue neon that is a little less vibrant than its blue cousin, but it still ads a pop of color to your tank.

Sharknose goby on coral

Watchman Gobies and Sleeper Gobies

The Watchman and Sleeper Gobies are a group of saltwater aquarium fish that tend to spend their time perched on the sandy substrate, sifting or digging through. For this reason, they should be kept in a saltwater tank with a sand bed. Bare bottom tanks are not the right habitat for them.

Diamond watchman goby

The Diamond Goby is a fish who’s beauty will continue to amaze you, the more you see them. At first glance, they might seem humbly colored, but when you have enough time to truly appreciate them in your tank, you’ll see they are exquisitely detailed.

Diamond watchman goby

Pink spotted watchman

Pink spotted watchman goby

Yellow watchman goby

The Yellow Watchman Goby is a very popular species because of its bright yellow coloration (which sometimes trends to darker brown depending on the fish’s ‘mood/comfort’ in the tank, but it is also decorated with tiny jewel-like spots.

It is also a shrimp goby that tends to have a commensal relationship with a tunnel-building shrimp species, which is another one of the reasons for their popularity.

Yellow watchman goby

Gold head sleeper

The Gold Head sleeper goby is the only one of the sleepers on this list that is recommended for aquarium owners with at least an intermediate amount of experience. It will spend its days sifting through the sandy substrate looking for tiny invertebrates to eat.

When first introduced, it may be shy and picky about what it eats, so please watch closely to make sure it is getting enough to eat. The tell-tale sign of a starving fish is when you see a sunken in abdomen and the dorsal muscle (top of their back) behind their heads get thinner than their bony head. At that point, the fish has already starved for quite some time.

Gold head sleeper goby

Sleeper Railway Glider

Railway sleeper goby

Striped or spotted shrimp or prawn gobies

This next group of goby fish I’m going to loosely categorize as the striped or spotted shrimp or prawn gobies. These fish are attractive on their own merit, but are generally most desired because of their tendency to pair up with one of the pistol shrimp.

Flagtail goby

It’s hard to tell from the image here, because the tail is hidden behind a rock, but the Flagtail Goby, which otherwise looks fairly similar to the Steinitz goby, has a beautiful, large, spade-like tail when it is fully displaying its fins.

Flagtail goby

Orange stripe prawn goby

The Orange stripe prawn goby has prominent orange stripes that look like the bands of a Copperband butterflyfish, paired with a large eyespot on a relatively large, banner-like dorsal fin.

Orange stripe prawn goby

Pinkbar goby

Is the Pinkbar goby pink with white stripes or white with pink stripes? What sets this Goby fish apart is the very prominent salmon-colored striations and the yellow tail.

Pinkbar goby

Steinitz goby

The Steinitz goby is a little more drab than some of its cousins, but if you have a chance to get one that is paired up with a burrowing shrimp, you won’t be disappointed. It will command hours of entertainment for you and it will snag all of the people who visit your house.

Steinitz goby

Orange spotted goby

It’s not hard to see how the Orange Spotted Goby fish got its name. This hardy, reef-safe peaceful community fish would be considered mid-sized as one of the gobies on this list because it grows to about 3.5 inches in total length as an adult but the attractive orange spotted pattern and easy care is what makes them one of the best goby fish.

Hi-fin shrimp gobies

These next two goby fish are known for their own beautiful fins as well as their tendency to pair up with shrimp.

Yasha goby

The Yasha Goby, also sometimes called the Hi Fin White Yasha has a white colored body with orange stripes that run the length of the small fish’s body. It also has a gorgeous banner fin that it will show off, when comfortable.

Stonogobiops yasha-Yasha Goby

Hi Fin Red Banded Goby

The Hi Fin Red Banded Goby has a yellow nose and eyes, with zebra-like striping and a long banner fin that is dark in color.

High fin red banded goby

Clown gobies

The clown gobies are gorgeous and popular, for obvious reasons, but are the goby fish on this list that come with the biggest warning. On ocean reefs, these gobies generally live among SPS coral colonies. They perch on the branches, lay their eggs on the branches and even depend on the SPS corals themselves for some of their nutrition.

They don’t eat the coral polyps, per se, but the coral’s mucus is thought to be a significant and important part of their diet.

They also provide a bit of a service in that they help keep algae levels down as a result of their activities. But the point here is that even though they are considered reef safe, they can sometimes be enough of a nuisance to your prized corals to cause some damage.

If you’re excited to see this natural behavior and reef relationship and are willing to tolerate a little bit of risk, they are gorgeous animals and worth adding. However, if you think your spirit would turn into crushed coral to see anything happen to your prized SPS, you may want to skim this section and find another one of the best goby fish for your reef tank.

Citron clown goby

The Citron clown goby is yellow/orange in color with a few white stripes that mark up the face/head and sides. Be cautious and watch closely when you introduce them to be sure they’re not harassing your corals to the point of damage.

Green clown goby

The Green Clown Goby has a big round head, just like the other coral gobies with a mostly green body that has pink/orange highlights/stripes. This fish should be added to reef tanks with a bit of caution to make sure their behavior doesn’t cause too much damage to your coral colonies.

Green clown goby

Other great goby fish for a saltwater tank

Rounding out the list of other great goby fish for a saltwater tank are a few more options that didn’t seem to really fit into the categories I created above. But just because they are silo-busters doesn’t mean you should consider them less. In fact, they may be some of the most popular gobies you will find.

Court Jester

Known for their small size and gorgeous colorations, the Court Jester goby is a sure-thing to put a smile on anyone’s face.

Court Jester

Two spot signal goby

The Two spot signal goby is one of the most famous of these best goby fish on the list. You probably recognize them from the picture below. They are are famous because their coloration patterns and swimming style are thought to mimic that of a much larger crab. The two large eyespots confuse would-be predators into thinking they are in for a big pinch, which keeps this bold fish safe on the reef floor.

The only challenge with these fish is that they are a bit more difficult to care for than most of the other gobies on this list and adults will show significant aggression with others of their species, if they are not a bonded male/female pair.

Twospot signal goby

Redhead goby

The Redhead goby is the goby-lover’s goby. The main body of the fish is mostly transparent, with some darker mottling coloration to help it blend in and then the head has a burst of red and orange colors. The beauty is subtle but worth it.

Eviota goby

This is the smallest saltwater fish on the list, but the Eviota goby makes up for its diminutive size with gorgeous colors and and oversized personality.

Eviota goby

Goby fish compatibility

If you want to find some other great tank mates for these 21 Best goby fish for a saltwater tank, check out these other stocking guides for recommendations:

10-gallon tank saltwater fish recommendations

20-gallon saltwater tank fish stocking guide

30-gallon saltwater tank fish recommendations

40-gallon tank: best fish

Looking for a goby that isn’t on the list?

A lot of popular saltwater fish are commonly labelled ‘goby’ even though they belong to different families. Here are a few links to other popular fish care guides for fish that are commonly called gobies, but aren’t:

Mandarinfish goby

Firefish goby

Purple firefish

Engineer goby

Conclusions

The 21 Best Goby Fish for a saltwater tank offer a range of great peaceful community fish options. The fish range in size from 1-inch to 6-inches in length and are suitable for most reef tanks since specific individuals have minimum tanks sizes of 5, 10 or 30-gallons depending on their relative size.

Their small size allows you to care for them in a smaller tank than comparably larger saltwater fish, but even in a larger reef tank, they add subtle character and charm that is sure to be a hit even in a larger system.

Best goby fish for a saltwater tank

What to read next

Check out these other popular saltwater fish lists to find the right one for your tank to go with these best goby fish:

21 Best Algae-eating saltwater fish

27 Types of Tangs

15 Most colorful saltwater fish

20 Most popular saltwater fish

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