purple firefish

Purple firefish: Nemmateleotris decora

Purple Firefish Guide

The Nemmateleotris decora, commonly known as Purple Firefish, Purple Dartfish, Flame Firefish, Decorated Dartfish, Fire Goby or Decorated Firefish, the Indo-west-Pacific Ocean area in 1973. Its natural coloration is white to various degrees of yellow shades, with deep purple hues beginning at the head and ending in various maroon shades at the tips of its fins.

Purple firefish are one of my favorite fish for a few reasons:

  • Strikingly beautiful (don’t take my word for it, check out the pictures)
  • Hardy and adjust well to life in the aquarium
  • Relatively small and can be added to medium and larger sized tanks

This Fire Goby’s usual lifespan is about 3 years.

Ideal habitat

Purple firefish (fire gobies) are shy fish that do best in tanks with a fair amount of rockwork they can duck into for cover.

When comfortable in your tank, these fishes will occupy the middle space in your tank–retreating to structure, or jumping out of the water when threatened.

A tight-fitting lid or netting is a must to keep these fish since the Fire Goby’s national sport is carpet surfing–that means the like to jump out of your tank and surf on the carpet. The unfortunate part about carpet surviving being the national sport for these fish is that all the fish holding records for the longest time surfing the carpet have all died. It’s not a good look for them.

For more information about the essential water parameters for keeping this fish, check out this post.
Purple Firefish


Purple firefish are zooplankton eaters, usually feeding on tiny crustaceans and their larvae in the wild. Those living in a tank will happily accept any small meaty foods drifting along inside the tank, like brine shrimp, mysids, finely chopped crustacean or mollusk meat. Occasional vitamin supplements may be beneficial to help maintain this fish’s vibrant colors and good health condition.

They would also accept frozen marine fish foods or even more convenient flakes or pellets, so feeding them is quite easy and affordable.

If you can manage it, it is probably best to feed the Purple firefish, a high energy planktivore, smaller meals several times a day rather than a single large meal every day.

However, as someone with a pretty busy work/life schedule, I am certainly not judging you if you feed your fish once a day (or less often). I’m just trying to provide the advice that I think is best and ultimately leave it up to you to work out what is best for your reef tank and schedule.

Behavior and tankmates

Purple firefish are aggressive towards conspecifics (same species) and similar fish, so it is best to keep one per tank. It is possible to keep them in pairs, but this can be tricky since it is challenging to tell the genders apart.

A Purple firefish are considered to be reef-safe and are not inclined to nip corals or clams.

They are generally peaceful and timid fish, best kept with other mild-mannered tank mates. If housed with aggressive fish, they may feel stressed and go into hiding to avoid being harassed, ultimately becoming diseased or starved.

purple firefish
By TANAKA Juuyoh (Elegant firefish / Decorated dartfish (アケボノハゼ)) [CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Breeding the Purple firefish

The purple firefish has been bred in captivity, although aquacultured specimens are not yet readily available in the trade–I look forward to the day I can update this post because it is obsolete and they are carried by ORA, Sustainable Aquatics or another aquaculture house.

For more detailed information about breeding the Purple firefish, Nemmateleotris decora, I recommend you check out the forum threads on MOFIB.


The Purple firefish would make a beautiful and bold addition to your tank. If you love the look of this fish but don’t love the price tag, consider their much more affordable cousin: The Firefish.

Your turn

Leave a comment below and show us your Purple firefish. How is it doing in your tank–anything to report?





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