Clown Goby FAQ

by Owen James

Green clown goby, nestling among coral

Green clown goby, nestling among coral

Discovering Goby Frontiers, the new website about gobies, has inspired me to write a quick post about two of my favourite fish: the green clown goby and the yellow clown goby.

Pictured above is the green clown goby. The yellow clown goby looks very similar (except it’s yellow!) and is pictured below.

Yellow clown goby

Yellow clown goby

Clown Goby Frequently Asked Questions

Where does the clown goby come from?

Clown goby species are found in tropical reef areas across South East Asia, from Japan to Australia. (The scientific name is gobiodon okinawae, reflecting the yellow clown goby’s Japanese range).

How big do clown gobies grow?

Clown gobies – both green and yellow – rarely grow to more than 4cm.

Can I keep a clown goby?

Clown gobies require reef tanks with the usual good water conditions, but beyond that they are pretty undemanding once settled in. However, it’s important to buy a fat one if possible (see ‘feeding’ below).

What shouldn’t be in the tank is more important than what is with clown gobies.

Avoid these in a clown goby aquarium:

  • Predatory fish that will swallow up yellow gobies like cheerios
  • Aggressive fishes, such as most damsels
  • Anemones and stinging corals, which the goby may accidentally sit on
  • Open pump or powerhead inlets which can suck these small fishes up

Like most substrate-dwelling gobies, clown gobies are best kept singularly (or in a matched pair if you’re going to try breeding them), as they are territorial.

One nice touch in a clown goby aquarium is branching coral like Acropora. Clown gobies naturally like to perch on coral in the wild. You could consider a plastic coral if your reef doesn’t contain any Acropora.

Beware that some reef keepers find Clown gobies picking on their SPS corals.

A tight fitting cover is best, since all gobies can jump.

What does the clown goby eat?

Clown gobies can be picky eaters. Wild-caught fish rarely ever except flake food, and even frozen foods may not tempt them at first. A good bet to get them started is Cyclopeeze, the freeze dried copepods that can win over a lot of fussy marine fish. If you can provide them with a reef tank full of live rock that’s also understocked with fish, you’ll get off to the best start.

Many clown gobies, particularly the green ones, seem to arrive at fish retailers in a skinny state. Only buy such a goby if you have a quiet aquarium that you can flood with live food to get the goby eating.

Has the clown goby bred in captivity?

Yes! Clown gobies regularly spawn in reef aquariums, and they are among the handful of species raised commercially. Like all marine fish the fry are hard to raise, but it can be done. The fish hatchery at TMC in the UK has raised the yellow clown goby, as have some hobbyists over on MOFIB.

Where can I learn more?

Have you kept clown gobies? Add to our knowledge in the comments below (keep to clown goby information only, please).

Read the Ultimate Secrets To Saltwater Fish And Invertebrates.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

S. Johnson 08.06.09 at 8:50 pm

My son and I recently bought a Black Clown Goby. I was a little unsure how well it would do, but we’ve had it for two weeks and it eats like a pig. It is in a small 26 gal tank that includes 2 large true perk Clownfish a Blue Damsel, a Yellow Watchman Goby and a Green Chromis. Its the first marine tank for my son so there are no large or aggressive fish in the mix. He eats everything I put in for the other fish. So far it is hardy and swims up to the front glass at feeding time with the rest of the fish.
When we first put it in the tank, the Clownfish at first took notice, but did not seem to mind him at all after a few minutes. The rest of the fish pretty much ignore him. I was a little worried about the Damsel, but even he leaves him alone.
He is a very cute and friendly little fish, He was in a tank with other Black Clown Gobies, We are going to get a second one this weekend.
Black are not as common as the green and yellow types, these were the first I’ve seen and I ‘ve had marine tanks for 30 years. If you get a chance to get a black one I think you will be surprised at how easy it will make its self at home in a peaceful tank.

lisajulia 11.29.11 at 1:54 am

I found this article when i was trying to figure out what happened to my little YCG. I think my galaxea coral stung it at i found the YCG perched within the tentacles…and didn’t even realize the YCG was dead at first…i feel terrible. I am ‘guessing’ the galaxea stung it.

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