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Nemateleotris magnifica - Fire Goby
"The" Firefish

The fire goby (Nemateleotris magnifica)—commonly called the fire dartfish, firefish, fire goby, magnificent dartfish, or red fire goby—is a fantastic reef aquarium fish for a peaceful community tank. From the family Gobiidae, the fire goby is THE firefish in the hobby, although both N. decora and N. helfrichi are also rightfully quite popular. This reef-associated fish can be found as deep as 70 meters throughout the Indo-Pacific from East Africa to the Hawaiian, Marquesan and Pitcairn islands.  It prefers the upper portions of outer reef slopes, where it hovers in the current above the substrate and feeds on benthic as well as free swimming organisms. Generally found in groups (juveniles may even inhabit the same burrow or crevice), the fire goby is a monogamous fish that can be kept as a mated pair in the aquarium.

The bold yellow head, pennant-like dorsal fin and reddish-orange posterior make this fish as stunning as it is personable. A peaceful—if not timid—species, the fire goby will need plenty of cover in the aquarium (and a cover over the aquarium!). Each fire goby should have at least one “bolt hole” or “dart hole” to which it can retreat if it feels threatened. Found in groups in the wild, only one fire goby should be kept per 30 gallons in a standard-sized aquarium (unless a mated pair is acquired). In a large tank with multiple fire gobies, two individuals may pair off, but the aquarist must watch closely for aggression between conspecifics.

While aggressive toward its own kind, the fire goby acts peaceably toward most other fishes. It should be added first (or close to first) in a community tank, and only kept with other peaceful fishes. Because of its size and showy coloration, the fire goby makes a fantastic centerpiece species for a nano tank (as small as 10 gallons). All fishes from this genus appreciate moderate current. While they will adapt fairly well to bright reef-ready lighting (e.g., metal halides), they prefer more subdued lighting or areas of shade in the aquarium.

The fire goby will feed on planktonic food in the aquarium, but its diet should be regularly supplemented with meaty foods of marine origin (e.g., finely diced raw table shrimp). Fire gobies will readily accept most prepared foods, including frozen, flake, pellet, and freeze dried foods. Live brine shrimp (gut-loaded) and frozen mysis shrimp are also appreciated. Consider soaking the food in a vitamin supplement before feeding.

The fire goby is a fantastic reef-compatible saltwater fish for the marine aquarium. Easy enough to keep for the beginner, this fish’s coloration and personable behavior make it a favorite of more advanced aquarists as well. With appropriate tankmates and a cover over the aquarium, the fire goby will provide many years of enjoyable observation for anyone interested in tropical reefs.

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