There are hundreds of different goby species, and they all require all kinds of diets and housing. This list names the top four gobies for beginners that I usually recommend for people just starting out in the hobby.
When adding any goby to your aquarium, it is important to make sure that you can cater to their individual needs in your tank. Most gobies really appreciate having a significant amount of rocks in the tank for them to take cover in along with live sand that they can move around. They can be pretty shy and hide out when first added so there is no need to panic if you don’t see your new goby much during the first few days. Most of the time, they are figuring out the layout of the tank and choosing where their territory is going to be. Once they become comfortable, they can have some of the brightest personalities in your tank.
The first goby I will be talking about is the diamond goby (Valenciennea puellaris). These guys reach up to 6 inches and a tank of at least 30 gallons. Diamond gobies spend their time sifting through the aquarium sand, cleaning it in the process. They are one of the best sand sifters and I usually recommend anyone with a tank to have one. They have a mild temperament and get along with any other non-aggressive saltwater fish. The only exception is that they usually can be pretty territorial towards other sand sifting gobies unless you have a pair. They are protogynous fish which means that they can switch between male and female.
The best way to encourage diamond gobies to pair up is to buy one much smaller than the other. This makes the bigger one become the dominant one in the pair. They require a mainly carnivorous diet so feeding mysis or brine shrimp is acceptable. They are not particularly picky eaters and are easily trained to accept flakes or pellets.
War paint clown gobies
The war paint clown goby (Gobiodon atrangulatus) has one of the biggest personalities I’ve seen in any saltwater fish. They can reach a maximum length of 2 inches so they are perfect for nano reef tanks. These gobies spend their days darting throughout your rock structure and hiding within coral branches. Clown gobies usually have a favorite spot in your aquarium that you can always see them perching on. Once they get to know the person feeding them, they can get comfortable enough to swim and perch onto your hand when it is placed into the aquarium. They are very curious and love exploring new things in the tank.
They are not picky eaters and thrive on a mainly carnivore diet. It is easy to train them on flakes and pellets. Even with their small size, they have no problem competing with the larger fish for food. They are swift and continuously dart up to grab food and go right back to their spot in the rocks until the feeding is over.
This next goby doesn’t have the traditional look of what you would consider a goby. However, they can offer a lot of color to your aquarium. The firefish goby (Nemateleotris magnifica) has a yellow face that fades from white to red along their body and a dramatic ray on the forward dorsal fin. They can be very shy if they are placed by themselves so it is best to purchase them in groups. Firefish gobies are very peaceful additions to any aquarium and can be one of the most timid fish when first added to the aquarium. They feel safe in numbers and display a lot of confidence when placed in groups. You will find them slowly drifting around the middle column of the aquarium giving a serene look to your tank.
This species thrives on a carnivore diet and is easily trained on flakes and pellets. In smaller aquariums, these gobies can show a slight bit of territorial aggression towards other gobies so it is important to make sure you have an adequate amount of space for all of the fish in your aquarium to be comfortable. They max out at 3 inches and require a minimum aquarium size of 20 gallons.
The last fish on this list is also perfect for a nano aquarium. The neon cleaner goby (Elacatinus oceanops) maxes out at 2 inches and offers a beautiful and vibrant coloration. They have black bodies with neon blue stripes going along their entire body.
Although they are tiny, most large fish tend to leave them alone due to their job in the aquarium. Cleaner gobies actually clean all of the fish in your aquarium and rid them of parasites. You will see them dart around the tank and even follow some of your fish around offering a cleaning. It is said that the neon blue stripe on the sides of their bodies is a signal to the other fish that they are cleaners which will deter them from being eaten. They usually stay within their territory in the rock structure in the aquarium but will go out and explore occasionally.
Cleaner gobies accept most carnivore fish foods and are easily trained on pellets and flakes. I would recommend a minimum of a 10 gallon aquarium for neon cleaner gobies with lots of places for them to hide out in. They can be territorial towards other gobies in smaller aquariums so it is good to ensure that you have significant hiding space for each fish in your tank to prevent fighting. Another great thing about these gobies is that most of them are bred in captivity so you won’t have to stress about getting them to eat or them coming in with disease!