Neon Goby

Neon Blue Goby

Family: Gobiidae PIcture of a Neon Goby or Neon Blue GobyElacatinus oceanopsPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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I've had this fish for a few months now, and I don't know how I lived without it for so long. You want an ich treatment for your reef tank? Get this guy. He is a... (more)  Darrell Dalton

   Though a small fish, the Neon Goby or Blue Neon Goby always catches the eye with its vibrant contrasting colors!

   The Neon Goby is extremely hardy and a great beginner marine fish. It gets along great in a community aquarium or reef aquarium. It is very beneficial for its tank mates. Most fish recognize the Neon Goby as a cleaner. It is a true cleaner goby and will pick off cryptocaryon and other parasites from them, as well as dead tissue. A prime candidate for breeding, this little fish is a ready breeder and has been bred by both hobbyists and commercially for years.

For more Information on keeping this fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Marine Aquarium

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Gobiidae
  • Genus: Elacatinus
  • Species: oceanops
Wild Caught Neon Gobies with their first nest - 9-20-2011, Elacatinus
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Neon Goby nesting in captivity.

Although a little blurry, in many shots you can see the eggs on the roof of the PVC. Neon Gobies are easy to breed in captivity. Spawning every 10 to 12 days, many times the larvae from several clutches can be raised together until they settle out of being larvae in a 20 gallon long tank. They only attain around 2" in length and by 3 cm or about 5 to 6 months from hatching, they are ready to start their own families! If removing the eggs from the male, have a gentle stream of small bubbles blowing across to top of the clutch. They have been known to live 5 to 10 years in captivity.

Powder brown tang starring with NEON GOBY (Elacatinus oceanops)
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Neon Goby doing what they do best, cleaning a tang!

This Neon Goby was obviously enlisted during the quarantine period for this Powder Brown Tang. Notice how the tank flares it's fins and stays still. This signals the goby to clean and while the tang periodically moves forward, it quickly backs up again and wants to continue to be cleaned! Neon Gobies do well in tanks as small as 10 gallons up to .... well, ocean size! They will pair up and easily breed in captivity as well! Make sure you have tiny rotifers hanging around!

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Habitat: Natural geographic location:    The Neon Goby is found in the western Central Atlantic, primarily in the coral reefs of Florida, USA and southward to Belize. They are often found in moderately shallow areas at about 40" (1 m), but they also inhabit depths down to 132 feet (40 m).

Description:   The Neon Goby is an attractive small slim fish. Being black with two iridescent blue stripes along the top of its body and a white belly, it is easily identified. They have a life span of about one to two years.
  Sexual differences are not readily apparent. The male has a cone-shaped, pointed genital papilla which is located in front of the anal fin. The female's is only visible when close to spawning, being short and rounded at the tip.

Maintenance difficulty:    The Neon Goby or Neon Blue Goby is easy to keep and an excellent fish for the beginning marine enthusiast. They can be kept in either a community fish aquarium or a reef. But as they are coral reef inhabitants, they do enjoy live rock to hide in and to feel comfortable.

Foods:    The Neon Goby is carnivorous, feeding on parasitic crustacea in its natural environment. They require daily feeding and though they will get some of their nourishment from cleaning parasites off of their tankmates, this will need to be supplemented. They will readily accept small meaty foods, frozen foods, and tablets.

Maintenance:    These fish are generally very easy to care for and are hardy. Provide basic marine aquarium care of a 20% water change monthly or 10% twice a month unless there is presence of ammonia and/or nitrites, then an immediate water change is necessary. In a non-reef situation, they can handle higher nitrates like most fish.
   For more information see, Marine Aquarium Basics: Maintenance

Social Behaviors:    In their natural environment Neon Gobies are seen singly, in pairs, and also in groups of 30 or more. A good community fish, the Neon Gobies are generally not aggressive except to members of their own species, unless they are a mated pair. They will set up and defend territories if there is more than one.
   They will also set up "cleaning stations". Other fish will indicate their desire to be cleaned by tilting and spreading their fins, and sometimes by changing color.
They can be kept with a variety of small and medium sized fish as well as corals and invertebrates. Be cautious with some larger fish and predatory type fish.

Breeding:    Reportedly, this was the first marine fish to spawn in captivity. They been bred by both hobbyists and commercially for years.
   Sexing the Neon Goby is difficult but they always spawn in pairs. The easiest thing to do is purchase several and let them pair up. They will spawn regularly in a 20 gallon aquarium and the fry are fairly easy to raise. The female will lay demersal or "bottom" eggs on any solid surface and will care for them. If you want to raise the fry separately, use a short section of small diameter plastic pipe for the female to spawn on and remove the eggs to a separate aquarium.
   The fry can be raised on zooplankton. Unicellular planktons, such as a protozoan called Euplotes (ciliatae plankton) and small Brachionus rotifers, are easily reared or can be found on the internet. The babies will be fully developed in 26 to 30 days after hatching.

Light: Recommended light levels:    They like a well lit environment, even when breeding.

Temperature/Water:    Temperatures for this marine fish are between 72 - 78° F (22 - 26° C), though they will tolerate up to 82° F (27° C). The salinity, measured as specific gravity, ranges from 1.023-1.026 in their native waters.

Length/Diameter of fish:    Neon Goby adults can grow to 2 Inches (5 cm).

Minimum Tank Length/Size:    A 10 gallon aquarium is recommended, 20 gallons if you want to encourage them to spawn. They can do great in a Nano Cube Aquarium but it will require more frequent water changes.

Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong    No special requirements.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom    Swims in the middle of the aquarium. They will also pick an area to be a "cleaning station".

Availability:    This fish is readily available most of the year from pet stores and on the internet. They are bred commercially in large quantities.

Author: Carrie McBirney
Additional Information: Clarice Brough, CFS
Lastest Animal Stories on Neon Goby

Darrell Dalton - 2011-08-20
I've had this fish for a few months now, and I don't know how I lived without it for so long. You want an ich treatment for your reef tank? Get this guy. He is a lean, mean, cleaning machine. Love this fish!!

Fishman - 2009-05-12
Hi I have a betta and I am looking to see if I could go saltwater, and the neon goby looks like the one for me!

  • neon goby lover :) - 2010-03-01
    Neon gobbies are extremely easy to keep, but watch out for their disappearances.They are also lots of fun and will bring joy to your life