Neon Goby Fish Species Profile

Neon goby on stone coral

 Getty Images/Brandi Mueller

Neon gobies make a vibrant addition to any community reef or salt tank. Although small, these peaceful fish are characterized by a vibrant blue stripe running along their length, giving them their other moniker of Neon Blue Goby. Members of the cleaner goby group, you may see them nibbling around larger fish to help keep them clean and healthy. The neon goby is easy to care for and readily breeds in even beginner setups.

Species Overview

Common Name(s): Neon Goby, Neon Blue Goby

Scientific Name: Elacatinus oceanops

Adult Size: 2"

Life Expectancy: 1-2 years

Characteristics

Family Gobiidae
Origin Caribbean
Social Peaceful
Tank Level Bottom dweller
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallon
Diet Carnivore
Breeding Egg layer
Care Easy
pH 8.1-8.4
Hardness 8-12 dgH
Temperature 72 to 78 F (22 to 26 C)

Origin and Distribution

The Neon Goby can be found throughout the Caribbean, from southern Florida and Texas all the way down to Belize. Most of these fish available to the hobby are captive bred, protecting wild populations. These tiny fish make their homes among the crevices of reef structures. They are usually found together as a mated pair.

Colors and Marking

Also known as the Blue Neon Goby, this species is uniquely characterized by a bright blue stripe along its side. A long-bodied fish, the rest of this fish is a dark brown to black with a pale ventrum.

The neon goby looks very similar in color to the Broadstripe Goby (Elacatinus prochilos) and Sharknose Goby (Elacatinus evelynae). They have a very similar body shape to the Yellowline Goby (Elacatinus figaro), and have been breed together for gobies with a yellow to blue stripe. The Neon Goby can be confused with the Electric Blue Neon Dwarf Goby (Stiphodon atropurpureus), which is a freshwater fish native to Asia.

Tankmates

A peaceful community fish such as the neon goby gets along with many different species of saltwater fish. Given their small size, they are well suited for smaller setups. However, mated pairs may become aggressive when defending their nest of eggs.

Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)

Clown fish resting in anemone
Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris).  Getty Images/Muhammed Irwin Day/EyeEm

Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

Yellow tang in reef
Yellow Tang (Zebrasomas flavescens).  Getty Images/Denis Zastanceanu

Regal Blue/Hippo Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus)

Blue tang with dorsal fin raised in reef
Blue Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus).  Getty Images/MirekKijewski

Firefish Goby (Nemateleotris magnifica)

Two firefish gobies
Firefish goby (Nemateleotris magnifica).  Getty Images/Travel Ink

Neon Goby Habitat and Care

Neon gobies do not have to be limited to nano setups. Their small size and easy-going nature makes them ideal additions for many saltwater and reef tanks. Being cleaner gobies, they may set up a cleaner station, where larger fish stop by for an external cleaning. Don't be surprised if you see a willing goby swim into the mouth or gills of a larger fish! This is simply part of the cleaning process.

These tiny fish like to have a small cave or crevice to call home, which are often overlooked by larger fish. They may not always stay in the same place and may been seen roaming about the tank, especially when first introduced. Once a pair has been established, they will usually stick to their territory.

Given their small size, it is critical to keep a watchful eye out for these fish when doing any maintenance or moving decor. Before setting down a decor item, make sure you know where all your fish are!

Neon Goby Diet and Feeding

Neon gobies are true carnivores and require a high protein diet. As cleaner gobies, most of their wild diet consists of parasites picked off larger fish. A carnivore pelleted diet is sufficient, but occasional supplements with frozen treats, such as brine shrimp, mysis shrimp or table shrimp are also appropriate.

You may not have to feed your neon gobies much if there are lots of other fish in the tank presenting themselves for cleaning. In a mixed species tank, it is hard to make sure everyone eats their specific food.

Gender Differences

Although mostly identical, males and females can be differentiated by their genital papillae underneath their body. A complete examination usually requires removing the fish temporarily and looking at its underside while in a clear holding container. Male genital papilla are pointed, whereas females' are rounded. Like many fish species, females tend to be slightly larger and rounder than the males.

Breeding the Neon Goby

Even the most novice fish breeder can get a neon goby to spawn. Provided you have at least one male and one female, provide a suitable home for spawning and your fish will likely do the rest. Neon gobies prefer a small cave or crevice to lay their eggs.

Be sure to provide a good environment with proper water quality, well-rounded diet and no aggressive tankmates. Some fish are picky about their light cycle to stimulate breeding. Educate yourself about proper fish breeding if you are having trouble and make a plan for any fry you hatch!

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

If you're interested in similar species, check out:

Blue Green Chromis (Chromis viridis)

Firefish Goby (Nemateleotris magnifica)

Yellow Tank (Zebrasoma flavescens)