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FAQs on Dartfish Selection

Related Articles: Dartfishes, CA: Family Microdesmidae, the Worm- and Dartfishes by Robert Fenner and Anthony Calfo

Related FAQs:  Dartfish 1, Dartfish 2, Dartfish Identification, Dartfish Behavior, Dartfish Compatibility, Dartfish Systems, Dartfish Feeding, Dartfish Disease, Dartfish Reproduction,

Keep in mind the compatibility of other, esp. bottom dwellers.

Multiple schools of Dartfish in a 120g tank      11/1/16
Hello WWM Crew,
I would like to have your advise <advice> for keeping multiple small schools of different species of Dartfish in a 120 gallon mixed reef tank, with the support of a refugium for food.
<Ahh! Can be done... has been. And a functioning, good-sized 'fuge is very helpful>
(The tank is not set up yet. I moved, leaving a 75g in storage because I got the 120g, but because I haven't had time to build a stand, am still stuck in a crazy combo of a 16g high and a 16g bow plumbed together to a 20g sump, plus a separate 12g AquaPod, all of which are crammed with live rock from the 75g).
I had a half dozen Nemateleotris Magnifica in my 75 gallon tank for about half a year, with a pair of N. Decora, and I am happy to be able to say that there was no fighting among all these Firefish (ultimately they were lost because some carpet surfed, a couple explored the plumbing, and a couple were lost in a tank crash). I planned very carefully for those fish and had to plan for potential future aggression before adding them, by re-arranging the rockwork to break up lines of sight and ensure lots of potential dart holes. When one of the N. Decora vanished, the N. Magnifica group adopted its living companion and they shared the same rock space together. I think somewhere on WWM there is probably a post about my Firefish group experiment.
I would like to have a small school (6 or 7) of N. Magnifica, with a small school of either P. Evides or P. Heteroptera. Craziness makes me want also just a pair of N. Decora for the color, but it may be just too much (I really want a Fridmani Dottyback for color, but I've already tried that with a Firefish and it was the only time I ever saw aggression from that ordinarily peaceful species of Dottyback... not trying that combo ever again).
<Some Pseudochromids are far more/less territorial; but I too would not mix here>
I have had individual P. Evides before with Firefish, but not a group. My experience with that fish is very limited, as it carpet surfed within a couple months (please don't rename my inquiry "Dartfish cover-up" - I will make sure there are no little gaps next time).
<Good. The family's members are escape artists>
Many years ago, I had a couple P. Heteroptera, but they hid to starvation, probably because they were in a 65g (only 3 feet long) with an aggressive pair of mature tomato clowns (stupid noob mistake). I think if I have them in a group without those beasts for tankmates, they should be OK. I love they way they shimmer and change color in the lights and shadows.
The only fish I already have, are a pair of ocellaris clowns in the 16g bow, and two yellow-tail damsels in the 12g Aquapod. The clowns are definitely going in the 120 (they are my buddies, swim in and out of my hand, one of them will neglect food floating in the tank if my hand is there, and I can pet them).
My thought is that the yellow-tails will have to be left out. I feel like they would probably be OK with N. Magnifica, but not with P. Heteroptera.
Not sure about P. Evides.
The only definite planned fish besides the clowns is a future yellow Zebrasoma tang, as that has always been my favorite fish (my favorite color, happy sunshine yellow; sappy sentiment, but at least I don't name my fish. Anything other future fish is/are dependent on whether or not I decide to do the Dartfish schools.
Thanks for your advise and suggestions!
Sincerely, Forrest M. , 9-year WAMAS member
<I think you should be fine here. The evides, heteroptera WILL stay together as a group... likely leaving space for the others in a 120. Bob Fenner>
Re: Multiple schools of Dartfish in a 120g tank      11/2/16

Thanks for the fast response, Bob. I want to add that I am going to try to find a way to create a higher level section in the tank capable of retaining a sand cover and small rock structures for bolt holes, to create greater livable surface space for these fish (illusion of having a bigger tank).
<Ah yes; I/we should mention that evides and heteroptera live in rubble/sand caves in groups>
I've been wanting to do it for years, but didn't have a wide enough tank; I think with 2 feet of width, I can fit something in somehow. I know from experience, that Firefish will not usually go to holes that are all rock, and am assuming the others won't either.
<Yes; this has been my experience>
I could use some ideas on how to create such a structure, though I'm guessing that unless it is really deep, I'm going to be replacing sand in it frequently.
<You could put small chemically inert trays... glass or plastic with a mix of substrate... I'd place some 3/4 or 1" PVC pipe and elbow combo/s... within it... and periodically lift these out if you wanted to clean them. Bob Fenner>
Re: Multiple schools of Dartfish in a 120g tank      11/3/16
Trying to figure out this Dartfish loft and placement has created another question, because the tank has closed loop holes in the central back area.
I was thinking I could avoid that area by making two smaller lofts, but now am wondering if I should even use the closed loop with all the Dartfish, or perhaps use a somewhat low flow pump (not sure what size). (The previous owner of this tank capped the holes, so I was going to replace the bulkheads if I decided to use a closed loop; I hate power heads).
<Better to use internal pumps then divert so much flow outside the system>
As always, thanks for your advice!
<Ok. B>

Compatibility      5/28/15
Hey Bob,
<Big J>
Do you think adding a Firefish to a 75 with an established Flagtail Blanquillo could/would be an issue?
<Likely not... but study re the species you have in mind... some do poorly stocked solitarily>

Also, do you think my comet would eat it?
<Maybe>
He's about 6" long and ate my clownfish about a year ago. I was shocked to say the least.
-Jay
Re: Compatibility      5/28/15

Hmm, I just read on Live Aquaria that Firefish should only be kept/introduced as a mated pair or else they will fight one another.? I have a purple in QT right now.
<Some species are better kept as duos or in a group. Don't write w/o reading first. The one mentioned is fine solo>
What do ya think?
-Jay
Re: Compatibility      5/28/15

Sorry, you're right...
<Am not sorry>
-Jay
Re: Compatibility      5/28/15

Hey Bob,
I'm so sorry if you took offense to any part of my email.
<Mmm; no>
I totally agree, I should have researched that specific species before posting my question. I really value your input...as always, thanks for the advice and direction.
-Jay
<Welcome>

corals and/or herbivores. Marine algae concern, approaches; and Microdesmid stkg.    8/16/14
Dear Crew,
<Mark>
I have a 180 gallon (acrylic) saltwater tank that I started 8 months ago.
Equipment includes: In tank refugium (4 inches false back/ 30 ish gallons?) with 600 gph pump and a Fluval 401 canister filter (carbon/ mechanical filtration) to pull water through it (takes water from top of water column), Aqua C Pro skimmer in refugium, 2 600gph Koralia and 1 3200gph Koralia powerhead for circulation in display, 6 blue and 12 cool white 1 watt LEDs from Osmium to light display and 20 cool white 1 watt LEDs to light refugium (reverse daylight).
Inhabitants: Powder blue tang (4"), yellow tang (4"), Kole tang (4"), male Banggai Cardinal (2.5"), Firefish (2"), Flame Angel (3"), Flame Angel (2"), a Frogspawn coral (single head frag), Amphipods, and cyanobacteria (small amount of red and large amount of green hair). The Cardinal fish and Frog spawn coral were placed in the tank 6 months ago and the rest of the inhabitants were introduced 4 months ago. Feed 1/3 cube frozen Spirulina enriched brine shrimp, or Mysis shrimp, or Emerald Entrée once daily on a rotating basis and small fish Spectrum mixed with omega veggie pellets from an automatic fish feeder twice daily. Once a week 1/4 cube of frozen Cyclopeeze is fed at noon as a treat for the Frog spawn coral and Firefish. Fish are doing well, though there are daily displays of aggression between them (and not just tang to tang). But all stay out and about with the exception of the Firefish which only comes out when food is due to enter the tank.
<Most aquarium species of Microdesmids live "in twos"; other species in small groups. Never singly. See WWM re>
Water chemistry: temperature 78degF, water density 1.026, O2 8.0 (Salifert), pH closer to 8.3 than 8.0 and consistent day and night (8.2?, Salifert), NO3 less than 0.2ppm (Salifert), PO4 less than 0.03ppm (Salifert), dKH 10.9 (Salifert), Ca++ 400ppm (API), and Mg++ 1470 ppm (Salifert).
Trouble started: When setting up the tank I included macro algae (Indo Pacific, Gracilaria and Ulva) for the refugium as part of their 9 for $99 deal. The result was the slow demise (and I presume release of nutrients) of the macro algae. Months later (2 months ago) I tried the same macro algae species again (this time with more water flow in the refugium) with the same results. During these periods PO4 climbed (to 0.1ppm the first attempt and 0.03ppm the second) and NO3 climbed (to 10ppm the first attempt and 5 ppm the second). Now these nutrients are all but undetectable as they are in equilibrium with the cyanobacteria, or so I presume.
<Me too>
Plan/ your opinion: To control the algae I was planning on adding 20 Pacific Nerite snails, 10 Pacific Turbo snails, and 8 encrusting type SPS corals.
<Should help>
My thinking was the herbivores would help tip the competition for nutrients in favor of the corals (at least in the display). Would this be the best approach?
<I'd also utilize a modicum of GAC and PolyFilter... There are other approaches... but I'd try these two first>
I could put another skimmer in the display tank but when it was running it was producing very little skimmate (Tunze Comeline 901) and was a real eyesore in the display.
Thanks,
Mark
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: corals and/or herbivores
    8/17/14
Thanks, Bob. I had just started adding carbon to the canister filter last week and will add a PolyFilter.
<Ah, good>
Also, I will add 2 friends for the single Firefish (will be a much more interesting display, for some reason I had the impression there could be intra species aggression with these).
<There can be. What/which species is this?>
Thanks again,
Mark
<Welcome. B>
Re: corals and/or herbivores
It is Nemateleotris magnifica.
<Mmm, then just two... I'd remove one unless one or two are very small (under three inches total length)>

Sorry about that, I should know that common names are not very specific. I see by your response to Brad Chymist on 3/10/13 that this species can be kept in groups. I missed that one when doing previous searches (I must have searched using common name and not taxonomic name).
<Ahh, no worries. Thank you for the follow up. BobF>

Nemateleotris magnifica, stkg./sel., comp.    3/10/13
What are your thoughts on a group of 5-7 of these in a 210gal with ~300lbs of Live rock forming lots of caves?
Thanks
Brad Chymist
<As long as there aren't other fish and invert. species that cause these Microdesmids trouble, I think you'll have a fab display amongst them in this setting. Bob Fenner>

Zebra Bar Dartfish, stkg.    1/6/12
Hello Everyone. I have a question regarding my Zebra Bar Dartfish. I had two
<Live in larger groups/numbers in the wild>
in the tank as of yesterday and I was doing maintenance as well as a water change. You guessed it, one jumped out when I was carting water between the tank and the kitchen.
<Very common>
 I found the deceased on the floor this evening, a shell of his former self. My question is, can the survivor, he/she live okay by themselves?
<Not likely long or well, no>
 I read that they should be kept in pairs or 3 or more in odd number multiples, if added together. I would be adding 1 or 2 more to one that is already there. Will this cause a problem?
<Not likely; no>
 I have a 50 gallon tank and a 20 gallon sump. My fish consist of a pair of Banggai Cardinals, Ocellaris Clown, McCosker's Wrasse, Royal Gramma and my lone Zebra Bar Dartfish. I have 60 pounds of Liverock and a bunch of corals and inverts. I also read on WWM, that they don't get along with Royal Gramma's,
<Sometimes...>
 but mine seem to get along fine, my royal Gramma is pretty timid, doesn't bother anybody. Thank You in advance.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re Zebra Bar Dartfish; stkg.     1/6/13

Dear Bob, I wrote you regarding my Zebra Bar Dartfish and that I was down to one.
<Ah yes; I recall>
I went to my LFS and purchased 3 more. I acclimated them and it was funny to watch as they did their threat display to the one that was already there as he did to them. A few minutes went by and they all relaxed and all started swimming around in a group. My McCosker's Wrasse and Royal Gramma checked out the new arrivals and then went about their merry way. I am glad I wrote you and asked your advice and now all seem to be happy now, and I will watch my tank covers more carefully from now on. Thank You for your advice.
<Welcome. BobF>

Firefish Nemateleotris magnifica  Stocking & Compatibility     11/28/12
Hello,
 <Nick>
Thank you all for past advice and for future guidance, as it is always appreciated!
 <Ah, welcome>
I have a stocking question on Firefish.  I would like to tell you my tank setup and then give a few scenarios.  I have read, even on this site, many contradicting opinions (gasp) on how many can/should live together.
 I have a 55 gallon aquarium, with 60+ pounds live rock, 4” sand bed, 10 mushrooms, 1 toadstool, 2 Ocellaris Clownfish, 1 peppermint shrimp, 1 urchin, 1 brittle starfish, several snails and blue leg hermit crabs, a large canister filter with UV light, HOB protein skimmer, and water movement of 425 gph powerhead + 250 gph from the canister.  To the examples… 1) Can I, should I, would it be wise to keep Firefish with the Clownfish?
<Mmm, if there "peaceful" (as most specimens of this species are) there should be no problem in this size/shape system>
 Right now the 2 clowns are about 1.5” each.  2) How many Firefish can be or should be kept in a 55 gallon aquarium?
<Two>
  I’ve read only one, also that pairs are best, that they like to be in groups of 3 or more,
<Mmm, no; not this species. Almost always encountered in duos/pairs in the wild. Don't like close conspecific neighbors>
 and that any more than 1 will just end up being 1 through attrition.  3) Is there anything wrong with this stocking
scenario… 2 Ocellaris Clowns, 4 Firefish, and 1 Royal Gramma? 
<The Gramma could turn out to be too mean toward the Microdesmids... and I'd just go w/ the two Dartfishes>
Could I have reasonable expectations of success and happiness?
<... see WWM re compatibility (FAQs) of all mentioned. I'd go w/ what I've listed above>
 4) What if there was a Blue Damsel that hypothetically completely left alone the new Firefish, would the Firefish likely starve itself just because the damsel eats so quickly and moves fast?
<Not likely; no>
 The only other note is that the aquarium is about 4 years old and established aside from being moved a couple months ago.  I greatly appreciate any experience and thoughts you can share on the matter.
Thanks,
Nick
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Zebra Dartfish    2/5/12
Hope your <you're> enjoying the Superbowl. 
<Just the ads>
I had a couple questions.  I just bought a zebra Dartfish
<A social species. Really only lives well/long in groups>
and put him in my 10 gal. QT tank.
<Keep this tank covered!>
 I read that certain Dartfish do better without quarantine and was wondering if I should place him directly into my 37 gallon main tank?
<Mmm, yes... but this is a tad small space wise>
 Also, I only purchased one and immediately regretted not buying a mate for him.  Do you think a pair would do better in a 36 gallon with one tank-bred Ocellaris clown, with about 25 lbs of live rock or is it too late to buy another? 
Thanks!
<I'd buy two more. Bob Fenner>
Re: Zebra Dartfish    2/10/12

Thanks for your advice about the zebra's.  I went back to the LFS and luckily they still had two more so I bought them up quickly.  I have been reading articles on the website and am thinking a nice hang on refugium would be good to create some zooplankton for them.
<Good>
  Not having a lot of money I searched the internet and found a 14'' hang on with protein skimmer for around $100.  I'm assuming it isn't top quality, but I'm at a loss as to what direction I should go.  Looking for some much needed guidance.  Thanks!!
<Mmm, there's always the WWM site... Read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refughangonmodelfaqs.htm
and the linked files above... BobF> 

Re: Zebra Dartfish... was stkg., now comp.    2/18/12

Thanks for all the advice as of late. My zebra darts are getting along great, and my clown seems to think he is part of the group.  I ordered a small in-tank refugium to produce
some plankton for these guys which I am sure they’ll appreciate.  My next question is I am looking to add one more small fish down the road.  I would really like a Jawfish of some kind.  I find them incredibly entertaining.  My question is would a problem develop between the zebra Dartfish and the Jawfish.
<Mmm, this is still the 36 gallon... A smaller Opistognathid might fit, might not>
 Would it be better to go for a goby or blenny of some kind?
<A little more likelihood of compatibility depending on species>
 Also, the tank contains 2 Emerald Crabs, who seem peaceful so far.  Thanks for the great site!
<Welcome. BobF>

Firefish Population, sys.    11/15/10
Hello there,
<Dan>
I have a quick question regarding fire gobies; I've done a bit of reading through the Q/A on them and I'm getting mixed messages on the number that can be housed in the same tank.
<Mmm, okay>
In one conversation you mention that if two or more are in the same tank, one will become the alpha and bully the others to death. However it is mentioned in another conversation that they prefer pairs or groups of 3.
<Pairs are best if/when they are full size>
I ask because I bought two for my 35gal (36"x12"x18") aquarium, about two weeks later one showed signs of abuse and died.
<Really a small volume for Microdesmids>
The LFS advised me that they prefer groups, but upon looking them up in my "Pocket Expert Guide Marine Fishes" book, I discovered to keep singly unless the tank is "Very Large", which I don't consider a 35gal tank is.
<I agree>
Thanks
Daniel
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re Stocking A 29 Gallon BioCube 9/9/09
Thanks for the help. Which shrimp goby would you recommend?
<No specific recommendation, but I like the Yellow Watchman Goby.>
And as far as Firefish go I have read on your site that they don't do well in groups..Maybe I am confused..
<You are not, Scott Fellman mentions this in Dartfish FAQ's, but on the other hand Scott Michael (Reef
Aquarium Fishes) mentions otherwise. My opinion is that they do better in groups and should not be kept with aggressive tankmates as they will usually hide and refuse to eat. If I were to choose Firefish/Dartfish, I would not include clownfish due to their more aggressive feeding habits, likely
leaving the Firefish with unequal portions of food. A good place for Bob's opinion/thoughts.>
<<...? The more popular species of Microdesmids kept by hobbyists are almost always found in twos/pairs in the wild... Some, e.g. P. evides, in social groups... This is stated on WWM. BTW, none are suggested for such small volumes as this. RMF>>
Would I be able to have the two clowns you recommended and other fish as well? The clown pairs can be pretty territorial right?
<As I mentioned, no more than 4 small fish including the clownfish. The Ocellaris Clownfish can be
aggressive, but is generally limited to conspecifics and/or other damselfish with similar personalities.
James (Salty Dog)>

Dartfish, sel./sys.  -- 4/30/09
Dear crew --
<Big D>
I have a strange question. How many scissortail Dartfish can live together happily in a 55 gallon tank?
<Mmm, 3-5>
We really like them and we're thinking of getting a bunch. Would eight or ten Dartfish be happy together or would they whittle themselves back down to a pair?
<Mmm, not this many and this particular species lives more in a group than pairs>
We had
four for a while (before they got old) and they seemed happy. Would a large pack of them do well?
<More the merrier, as long as there is space... three to five here>
Our tank is 55 gallons, has been stable for almost two years. We currently have two Dartfish,
<Oh, then three or four>
a diamond sand-goby, and a small one-spot Foxface rabbit fish.
<Mmm, this Siganid (in fact all Rabbitfishes) need more room than this>
(And live rock with the usual sponges and worms and other neat stuff.) We just lost our fairy wrasse. :( He was strong enough that when he hit the top of our tank cover just right, he got through and jumped out. He'd tried before, but we thought we had it covered well enough. :(
<Very common>
Rather than getting a new fairy wrasse (though he was really nice in our tank), we're looking for small, schooling fish, preferably aquarium bred. We're thinking that expanding our school of Dartfish would be nice.
<I've never encountered tank-bred Microdesmids... Where are these from?>
How many can we be thinking about?
Thank you
David and Laura
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Reef Safe Schooling Fish 01/18/09 Hi all, been awhile since I wrote. My question of the day: I would like to get some schooling fish. I need reef safe and have ruled out Anthias because of their size, also understanding they constantly fight for pecking order within their group. Seems a poor choice unless I could house a huge school. Another I've ruled out is the Blue Chromis. Again, it's their size. I understand I could start with tiny ones, but know they will end up bigger than I want. I was told a Firefish -shown as a Goby on some sights and in the Dart fish family on others - would be a good choice but in my research it looks like they prefer to pair off so that tells me they would fight until they are down to 2 or less if there is no potential to make a pair. <Hmm, I don't know why you might assume this, but it is not so in my experience/understanding. They are quite peaceful fish. They do like to pair, or form groups of 3. I don't think it's common for them to fight when there are more than 3. They might form separate groups, but I've never heard of these separate groups not getting along in an appropriately sized tank.> But the Firefish is the size I was thinking would work best. I hope to add a Butterfly at some point in the future. <How do you not have room for Anthias, but have room for a Butterfly? How big do you want this school of fish to be?> Advice needed: Should I give up on the idea of having school of something or are their plenty out there for home aquariums but not noted as such? I need peaceful reef safe and of course I know you need to know information about my community. Here's my information Tank: 180 gallon FOWLR . Fish: Foxface, Percula Clown, Coral Beauty, Six Line Wrasse, Diamond Goby, Yellowtail Damsel. Other Critters: Red Fire Shrimp, Arrow Crab, 1 lg. Blue leg Hermit, 25 dwarf Blue leg hermits, 3 Emerald crabs, 25 scarlet hermit crabs, 1 Sally Lightfoot Corals: Mushroom corals. Note: We plan to explore Button Polyps or Zoo's that will handle low light but not until we replace our wet/dry system with a closed loop filter system. Our existing sump has too many baffles so we're in the process of ordering a new sump for the skimmer as always! ...one thing leads to another, huh? In closing, may I share with anyone reading this post to heed the advice this site gives, especially their warnings. Take the limitations of your home aquarium serious. No matter what kind of water box you're keeping, understand it's best to select specimens with highly proven track records for tank life <indeed> and leave it to Captain Kirk or marine biologists to go where no man has gone before! <And/or the very experienced/responsible/intelligent aquarists.> Thanks in advance for your help, <Best to keep reading/researching/pondering. You seem to be aware of your choices here. :-)> Debi aka fiskybizniz <Best, Sara M.>
Re: Reef Safe Schooling Fish 01/19/09
As always, thanks for a prompt reply....and your reply is interesting. It was left unstated if I have discovered all my possibilities? As for the Firefish, one of your sponsors (name intentionally deleted) advised a group of 5 or more would be a good choice. <This is usually the case with any schooling fish, yes. The problem is that Firefish don't truly "school" that often in aquariums. I'm sorry I didn't take the time to explain this earlier.> Bio's I could find about the Firefish else remain unstated and/or do not confirm enough particulars about schooling and staying in a school. <You're asking for concrete answers when there are only uncertain ones available. There are so many variables to consider with the individual fish and the system you might be putting them into. No one can tell you what's going to happen with absolute certainty. There is also a problem with the understood definition of "schooling." With true schooling, the fish move together, react together, etc. Firefish don't so much "school" as they do congregate.> Does anyone there at Webmedia know if Firefish 1) school as long as they don't have a mate? <They will likely school/congregate in any event. Once they have a mate, the pair might stick more closely together... but I doubt they would entirely alienate themselves from the group, if they wouldn't otherwise.> 2) School until they hook up with a mate and then split from the group? <They might. Again, they're not great "schoolers." It's more as if they tend to congregate at times.> 3) Or stay with a pack no matter? <They're not going to stay in the pack all the time no matter what. Mate or no mate, the group is likely to disband occasionally/frequently.> 4) Fight with each other till they have a pair and if no chance of a pair, fight till there is only one? <They will "fight" occasionally (more like chase each other). And if they're going to fight, they're going to fight/chase each other for any number of reasons... might have nothing to do with being able to pair or not.> Only information I have been able to find was their desire to pair and split and/or fight with others of their own kind. What does that mean? <It means they don't really school so much as they congregate.> You leave me a little confused about Anthias? Are you saying I could house a school of them in my size tank? <You have a 180g tank, correct? In such a size tank, I think you could have 4 Bartlett's Anthias (a good, hardy schooling fish).> As for my Butterfly idea, I hear ya. Some can grow quite large and/or be very needy for lots of territory. I would love a Saddleback but I have not conducted my research to find out if it's a good fit or another one for Captain Kirk. <Not a fish for the newbie, but not quite impossible either. I'd definitely put off acquiring one.> Speaking of CK, did I oops on my comment about marine biology? I did not mean to imply those in our hobby need a degree to aspire. <No worries, I didn't take it that way.> It was a comment to support the depth of the hobby. I hope I didn't offend anyone. <I don't think you did... don't see why anyone would take offense. I wasn't offended. :-) Cheers, Sara M.>

Did my Red Fire Shrimp eat my Purple Goby?   2/11/08 Hey crew, <Stormy> Hope ya all are staying dry. <I am, out in Hawai'i> This is in regards to a missing purple Firefish. I've a 72g bow and had two purple Firefish (Nemateleotris decora) gobies. They got along great - stayed together during the day, and hung out together at night under a rock that also housed a red fire shrimp. Maybe 3 weeks later, one of the gobies was missing - no sign whatsoever. Other inhabitants include a sunburst Anthias, a Perc clown, a yellow striped cardinal, 2 Scissortails, 3 orange Firefish who hang out on the opposite side of the tank, and a lone peppermint shrimp (I started with two but only see one now.) It appears that the lone purple Firefish now hangs out at night with the 2 Scissortails. Could the fire shrimp have eaten the purple goby? <Is the most likely suspect, though this Lysmata species is generally not (relatively) aggressive> If so, I should pull it because I don't want the lone purple goby to also be dinner? <More likely "something" was wrong with the other, and perhaps the shrimp helped clean up the body> And, I suppose at this late date I cannot add another purple Firefish after the first has been in the tank for a month? A shame because the two of them together helped make the tank. <Could easily try adding another individual of this species in this setting> On a different note, one of my rocks keeps sprouting bubble algae. Do I dare add an emerald crab? Or shall I just "rent" one and place the rock in a QT tank? <I'd siphon/scrape and remove for now... See WWM re> thanks so much for your help, stormy btw: have you found You Tube videos on life in the aquarium? Just do a search on mantis shrimp, or whatever - homemade videos of life in the aquarium - pretty cool. <Thank you for this. We're hoping to add such video service soon... on a new BB> Earlier I lost one of my sunburst Anthias to a mantis shrimp. On video, one can see how it was done. In fact, there is a video with a red fire shrimp grabbing at a goby, which prompted my first question. <Yikes! Thank you. Bob Fenner>

Nemateleotris decora/purple Firefish question   2/8/08 Hello Crew! <RD> Haven't asked a question here in a really long time.. I have kept a pair of N. decora in my 55 G reef for about 2 years now. I bought them unpaired, out of a bunch of about 7 at the LFS and they paired up on their own. They have very peaceful tankmates - a coral beauty (who is very shy in personality), Banggai cardinal and some fire shrimp, snails and corals (I like zoos and Fungiids so my lighting is medium/low - 4x65 watt PC). I never saw eggs, but they would swim around each other in circles and wiggle/"dance" quite often, especially in the evening. One was always very yellow in its body (like the pic of the fish with the chewed fins in the CA article on Firefish), the other was the "typical" opalescent/light lavender body color. About 2 weeks ago, the more lavender one died. Is there any way to know which is left - male or female (I haven't found anything on sexing Firefish in my research)? <I know naught> And - should I attempt to re-pair him/her? <Mmm, up to you. Can live singly... but much more interesting in pairs> My LFS regularly stocks these. In fact, there is a nice school that just came in. They are all smaller than my remaining fish, which is a good 3 - 3.5 inch (these are more like 2 and a bit) and all have the lavender body, not the more yellow. Should I get just one, or 2 and try to build a school. <This genus, species is not one of the schooling type at size... almost always encountered in twos in the wild> The group in the LFS has no obvious bullies and is schooling together very nicely - I watched them for over 30 minutes last night, trying to figure out what to do. Thanks! <I might try two more... being ready to return one. Bob Fenner>

Microdesmidae stocking ratio -11/27/2007 Hey guys, <And gals...> I've been doing a fair amount of reading on your website regarding the family Microdesmidae. In some instances, I read that 3 are best, a pair is best, and also that it is best to just keep one as they tend to get aggressive as they get older. ??? <Mmm, the Dartfishes... are, by species, let's say the sand dwellers... found in twos mostly... with some rock-occupying species occurring more frequently in groupings...> I've a 72g bow with a 30g refugium and lots of live rock and many caves. I've a sunburst Anthias, a midas blenny, an orange-lined cardinal fish (Apogon properuptus) and two Scissortails all at approx 2 inch each or smaller. I'd like to add some Firefish? If I added two Nemateleotris decora (my preference) and two magnifica, would that be too many, or too incompatible given the amount of space and stocking ration to-date? The only other fish I'll add later would be a Perc clown. <A pair/two of each will likely be fine here... if there's enough fine sand areas for both to have a territory> I'm also concerned that I have a fire shrimp (Lysmata debelius), approx 2inches, which mainly hides (lonely?) <Mmm, no... what they do> Will this shrimp pose a problem with the Firefish / or with two peppermint shrimp I've just added? <Mmm, not likely... unless very hungry, the other/s moulting...> I really don't know why I have him, since I never see him anyway! What good is he? <Conversation piece at least evidently... source of lament?> Given this peaceful community, should I opt for some type of algae eating fish rather than the N. magnifica? <?> Recommendations? <Keep reading, cogitating furiously... till you darn well know what it is you're about. Heeeee!> I don't have any algae to speak of yet, except for macro in the fuge and some red Gracilaria in the main. Thanks again. p.s. I had three Scissortails. I would leave the lid open when I fed because I turned off the pump so that the food didn't go into the overflow. I had the three scissors for two weeks, and no jumping. Today, I stepped away 'for a moment' to later find one on the carpet, and breathing hard. He's in the tank, but I don't think he'll make it. I had someone tell me that I should just leave him there since he's small for the 'clean-up' crew including the Lysmata debelius to eat, but I don't want to set a trend for the shrimp with small fish. I do leave the molting from the shrimp in the tank, do you think that's ok or does it just pollute the water? <In this size volume... I would not be concerned> Thank you, Stormy <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Thank you Re: Microdesmidae stocking ratio  11/28/2007 ok Bob Thanks for the feedback. <Welcome> I've currently a sunburst Anthias, a midas blenny, an orange-lined cardinal fish (Apogon properuptus) and two scissor tails all at approx 2 inch each or smaller. And it's ok to add a pair of each Nemateleotris decora and magnifica as long as I provide them their own sandy beach area, and a Perc clown down the road in a 72g bow with a 30g refugium and lots of live rock and many caves. <Yes> By the way, the little scissortail that hit the carpet did survive. Caught it in time. Yeah, have to have something to complain about - that red fire shrimp hiding fits the bill. <Heee! Yes> Thanks again, take care Stormy <Be chatting, BobF>

Cardinals, gobies, and Anthias compatibility and stocking ratios  11/16/07 Hi guys, <Stormy> Thanks again for being there! <Glad to be so> Although I've read many articles on your website, most recently (Family Microdesmidae, the Worm- and Dartfishes by Robert Fenner and Anthony Calfo / http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/cav1i1/wormfishesArt/wormfishes.htm I'm still somewhat unsure as to compatibility and stocking ration for future additions I'd like to make. <Okay> Mine is a 72g bow w/approx 75lbs live rock and a 4'sand bed in the main with a 30g refugium and a 4' sand bed. Spaghetti and Gracilaria macro algae in the Fuge, and Gracilaria in the main. Current livestock includes: A Sunburst, a Midas Blenny, and two cardinals -- a flame (Apogon pseudomaculatus) and a yellow striped (Apogon chrysotaenia). The Sunburst, although added first and alone in the tank for 3 weeks still hides in the background with an occasional peek to the front. The other three are boldly out in the open. <Typical for this Anthiine species> I'd like to add the following (over a period of time sorted by next addition) and would appreciate your feedback as to compatibility and stocking ratios. A pajama cardinal (Sphaeramia nematoptera)-- will one be ok by itself given that I've the other two who seem to hang out together? <Should be fine solo> And of the following gobies -- possibly 3? of each, how many groups can I add? Nemateleotris decora, Purple Firefish (3.5') the article recommends established pairs only (will 3 be a problem?) Nemateleotris magnifica, Firefish, (3.5') Ptereleotris heteroptera -- black tail-spot dart-goby (3 -- 5') Ptereleotris evides -- scissortail (5') <Mmm, in a 72 gallon of this shape I'd stick with a grouping of just one species... the last two are more "outgoing" than Nemateleotris, but not as colorful...> Thanks so much Stormy <Welcome, Bob Fenner>

Are two or three scissortail gobies in a 72g best? And crabs gen. comp.   11/6/07 Hey Good Morning, <And to you> How is everyone there at WetWeb - staying dry? <Thus far... though we could REALLY use the rain here in S. Cal.> I've a 72g bowfront with just one small sunburst Anthias and a lil green striped goby - although I haven't seen the goby since the second day I put him in the tank - probably too many hiding places. <Yes> I'd like to get some scissortail gobies and hopefully will entice the sunburst to come out more often. Should I get a pair, or three? I'd heard that if there was an odd one out, there would be less potential for fighting? <Three would be better here. Some popular Microdesmids occur in "just pairs" by and large in the wild, but Scissortails shoal in small groups> Next I'll probably add a Midas blenny and very far (a year?) down the road a mandarin. My tank is two months old, but with lots of live rock and sand upgraded from a 26g bowfront that was a year old and it has a growing population of pods. <Okay> By the way, what is your take on crabs? <Mmm, by and large not a fan... Some larger decapods are tasty however... Do you like "Chili Crab"? Mmmm, messy> I've maybe three or four - couple of red legs and a few others. I hear some say they have no place in a reef tank and I'm wondering if they're decimating my population of pods and Stomatella snails. <Yes> If so, I'll move em out and maybe get one much much later? In fact, I'm really wanting to get a Sally Lightfoot - any comments on "her." <If this is Percnon gibbesi, not as much as a problem... but if/when you read (hint hint) on WWM, you'll see that most all true crabs can become/are too opportunistically omnivorous to be suitable for the majority of set-ups> Take care, keep up the good work, and safe swimming. I've really got to get to work now.... sigh stormy <Me too... D'oh! Bob Fenner>

Psychotic Purple Firefish?  - 2/21/2006 Hi; <Hello> First, I would like to thank you very much for answering questions in such detail, and with a refreshing attitude of humbleness that is often a sign of true knowledge.  I have already spent considerable time reading and learning from your answers to others.  I am not aware of a comparable site, for any subject. <Thank you for proffering your input> I recently bought my 7-year-old son a used 29 gallon tropical salt-water tank, which came with skimmer, filter, two double-tubed fluorescent lights (one UV, one normal) and heater. Based on the recommendation of my LFS, I used coral sand, with 6 lbs. of live rock and 10 lbs. of base-rock (I believe this is the correct term for the non-living rock that is seeded from the live rock).  The aquarium was conditioned for six weeks, its water analyzed a number of times, and then further tested with a yellow-tailed blue damsel. Everything shipshape. <Good> My son then wanted a purple-Firefish, and the LFS said that this would be most probably compatible with the damsel.  Upon placement in the tank, the two sort of circled each other, but no skirmishing occurred.  They seemed to settle to a cautious but peaceful pattern. A couple of days later, the damsel started to hide behind a prop in the tank, and refused to come out to eat.  Two more days later, it died.  Had to work hard to console my son. I did some research and decided that the damsel might have been caught chemically (despite lack of obvious discoloration or deteriorating body parts).  So, we found a LFS which guaranteed ³no chemicals² and got a new damsel. <Impossible to say> This time, the Firefish started sporadically nipping at the damsel.  After watching in terror for an hour, we took it back to the LFS. We then got a yellow watchman goby.  After about half a day, the goby took over the firefish¹s hiding hole without apparent fighting.  And now they seem to live in the same hole (that is where they emerge from when I turn the lights on). At the same time, the Firefish still seems to be the bolder, more aggressive of the two.  During feeding, he bolts all over the tank while the goby hangs around its hidey-hole and makes quick darts at food that floats by. With this background, finally to the questions: Question 1:  Is this normal behavior from fish (especially the Firefish) that seem to be universally placed in the ³peaceful² category? <Is not atypical... such behavioral problems are accentuated in small/er volumes> Question 2:  The LFS I got the goby from highly recommended garlic (Garlic Guard) to enhance the color of the fish '¹is this accurate? <... am not such a fan of these Allium products> Question 3:  In a book by Dick Mills, the purple Firefish is listed as ³single species per tank².  The two LFS¹s I dealt with have different interpretations of this: one says you can only put one Firefish per tank, the other says it means you can only have Firefish in a given tank. <Mostly the previous/former statement is so... More than one Firefish (Microdesmid) of the same species can be placed in a large-enough system (sixty or more gallons let's say), and more than one species can be placed together in an even larger-enough system... a 150 plus gallons let's agree on> But the latter claims that this is inaccurate, displaying his tanks which have Firefish together with other fish (hence, our decision to place the damsel and the goby with the Firefish). <... store settings are a bit different... temporary> I also noticed that your site says that purple Firefish like being in pairs (quote from Fenner/Calfo article: ³This species demonstrates variable tolerance of conspecifics. It may be best to buy and keep them in established pairs only²). <This is so... almost always encountered in such pairs or trios in the wild>   But I also came across the following answers from your site when I did a search: Firefish help 4) Is it okay to keep a Firefish on its own? I read that they need to be kept in at least pairs. <They feel more comfortable in groups of three or more.> Just Firefish Remaining and Them So-Called Nasty Worms... 12/05/05 <Regardless of that fact, Firefish are not 'grouping' or 'schooling' fish. They do tend to group up as juveniles, however once they reach maturity (and even sometimes before so) they are highly aggressive and territorial fish towards other Firefish within the group. It is best to always purchase Firefish singly and never as a pair or group..> Who, if anybody, is right? <I agree with pairs to trios... as I've seen them in the wild and most often successfully kept in captivity. Unfortunately, your system is too small for more than one> Question 4: Wanting to cover all colors of the spectrum, my son now has his sight set on a flame angelfish (temperament friendly, but can be territorial according to the Mills book). <... not a good choice here or period. Unfortunately, no longer a regularly hardy import>   Yet, I have an uncomfortable knot in my stomach...  Any opinions regarding compatibility with what we have? Thanks very much for taking the time. Regards <Do read on WWM re "Nano", small marine system stocking. There are hardier species, groups for such a small system as your sons. Bob Fenner> Just Firefish Remaining and Them So-Called Nasty Worms... 12/05/05 Hi there, <Howdy, Ali here...> We recently purchased two Firefish gobies. <Bad move, that unfortunately many, many good willed hobbyist fall victim too.> Unfortunately we put them in a tank with a royal Dottyback who picked on one of them so badly that he didn't make it (we removed the Dottyback to our nano tank-by himself). Another lesson learned. <Firefish are very prone to being picked on by more aggressive fish, and in all honesty, the Dottybacks can be true terrors, especially for similarly shaped fish such as Firefish. Regardless of that fact, Firefish are not 'grouping' or 'schooling' fish. They do tend to group up as juveniles, however once they reach maturity (and even sometimes before so) they are highly aggressive and territorial fish towards other Firefish within the group. It is best to always purchase Firefish singly and never as a pair or group. Many vendors are now marketing 'mated pairs' of Firefish, however even these fish will turn on each other in relatively short time.> So we have one remaining Firefish, and my husband read somewhere that inverts will prey on them. Is this true? We have a couple of emerald crabs and many hermit crabs. We have also spotted a couple of bristleworms which I'm worried will harm it (is a six line wrasse a good solution for this?). Our tank is 26 gallons. What do you think? <Emerald crabs generally become overly aggressive towards any small fish and are not recommended for the docile reef aquarium. Bristleworms and small hermits shouldn't pose any real problems. I wouldn't be too overly concerned with the bristleworms due to the fact that most of the bristleworms found in the hobby today are harmless detritivores. Many years back when wild Atlantic live rock was available to hobbyist, the large and nasty 'Fireworms' would appear. However, now a days most live rock is either Pacific or aquacultured Atlantic and the 'bad' bristle worms aren't commonly associated with them.> Thanks in advance, Jen <No problem Jen and good luck! - Ali>

Firefish in a shoal? Can Nemateleotris sp. be kept in a shoal if their tank is big enough and if there are enough "bolt holes"? What size tank would you suspect this to be? If it could be done a species tank would be absolutely stunning. If you have any ideas about how this could come to fruition please share them. Thank You! <Not in a shoal per se... but Microdesmids may be kept in "groups" of a few individuals in "large enough systems"... most are found in pairs or group associations in the wild (i.e. not singly), and I would allow a good four square feet of bottom per individual. Bob Fenner, who refers you to the family coverage and other FAQs about worm gobies on the www.wetwebmedia.com site>

Firefish in Pairs? (and sick Red Sea Sailfin Tang) Mr. Fenner, I hope you had a great time in HI.  <Still there, but just barely> Now that you have returned, Its time to start shooting questions your way again. I purchased 2 red Firefish and began quarantining on Sat.-One of them was not as animated and active as his buddy. He stayed on the bottom of the tank 95% of the time & actually waited for the food to come to him to eat. Well, he was dead Monday when I got home. My question is: should I get the surviving ff a new buddy & extend the quarantine time for the extra days? <Wait a couple of weeks> Or should I keep the 1 fish alone & add another Firefish later? I know that they like to be in groups. I'm also considering a pair of small clarkii clowns as my next addition to the main tank. Should they be treated w/ therapeutic amts. of copper (.2ppm) while in the quarantine tank? <No to the copper... simple dipping and placing with tank-bred specimens> Your book says that they are susceptible to diseases. <Mainly wild-caught ones> Thanx again for your advice. Craig ps. my "SICK REDSEA SAILFIN" is doing great in the main tank. I soaked his food w/Zoecon & Zoë« while you were in HI & the signs of lateral line has diminished quite a bit. <Excellent. Congratulations on your success. Bob Fenner>

Firefish Hi WWM Crew <cheers> I've been reading up on Firefish a bit, and from your site I've found that they don't do well unless they are in pairs.  <true for most... but they need to select their own pairs... as in, having been caught as a pair or forming a pair in captivity upon re-establishment> I was told by a fellow reefer that unless you get two of opposite sex, once mature they will kill each other. Is this true? <not so absolute... many aquarists enjoy various numbered populations... the key is larger aquaria with peaceful tankmates. If you have a smaller tank (under 100 gallons) do be sure to see that the pair behave as if pair bonded in your merchants tank and do so for more than a week after import. Best regards, Anthony> Thanks, Barry

Ptereleotris zebra Hi Bob, I was wondering what you thought of Ptereleotris zebras? Are they known to harm clams or corals? <Neither. And I do like this Microdesmid. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dartfish.htm and the FAQs file beyond. Bob Fenner> Thanks for the advice, Jackson

Curious about the Curious Worm Goby: Gunnelichthys curiosus 11/26/03 Hey guys (and girls?) got a few questions I couldn't find answers to. First off thanks for all your help and providing hobbyists with such an informative and easy to use website.   <your appreciation is... er... appreciated <G>> I am looking to add 1 or 2 more corals to my 45gal tall tank and I had a  few in mind (I already have a silver-branched pumping xenia, devils hand, and a small Zoanthid mat-all aqua-cultured) and I was looking to add either pink cauliflower coral (Pocillopora damicornis)  or a few species of Montipora digitata.  Which would be a more natural, safer combination in the long run? <cannot speak to natural here regarding mix (regarding niches for all of the above... varied)... but the Montipora digitata would be a very hardy and safe bet (weakly aggressive). If you prefer Pocillopora... go for the brown one instead as it is much less demanding. I doubt you have the lights to keep a pink one pink. No worries though> Could I have them all?   <do resist mixing many species in such a small tank without leaving room for growth... and distance between to temper chemical aggression> And do have any information on the curious worm goby? <a cute little fish, but not much to chat about. They are very poorly suited for community aquarium life. They are very easily intimidated into not eating/thriving. For perspective, one might fairly say they are more difficult to keep than mandarinfishes, seahorses or their Firefish (Microdesmid) kin. The Curious Worm goby needs a very peaceful tank with deep soft sand for burrowing: Gunnelichthys curiosus> I cant seem to find any info at all.   <Always include fishbase.org in your searches my friend... a link for this fish follows. Please be sure to follow all of their links on the page... info regarding gut analysis telling of natural diet reproduction, etc. http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?ID=12677&genusname=Gunnellichthys&speciesname=curiosus> A friend of mine bought one on an impulse buy (I know, I promptly slapped him) and now it has be hiding out of sight for about 2 days, with no signs of burrowing into the substrate.  Any info will be much appreciated. Thanks again. -Nick IMO... if this fish shares the tank with a single wrasse, damsel, clown or tang... it will die even without aggression from its mates. They are just that shy. Please suggest that your friend get that marvelous little fish into a quiet refugium or another tank altogether with ultra slow and ultra peaceful fishes. They can be kept well under those conditions. Feed zooplankton substitutes. Best of luck, Anthony>

Why Won't They Show Me? LFS Refuses to Show That Fish are Feeding >Hi All, >>Hello, David, Marina tonight. >I went to a LFS today to purchase my second (and third) fish for my aquarium. I had visited the store earlier in the week and they had a nice collection of Firefish (Nemateleotris magnifica), some smaller ones and some larger ones. I didn't buy then because it would be 5+ hours before I got home and it gave me time to read up, learn, and ensure I could provide a good environment for them, as well as test my QT tank. >>I like your thinking. >Today I went down to purchase the fish, they looked healthy, no labored breathing, no spots, the dorsal fins were in good shape, and their eyes were clear (very reflective too, like little mirrors). Last thing on the checklist was to see the fish eat. However, the shop person (in charge) stated that he had already fed the fish that day and refused to feed them again.  >>What? Seriously? >I pressed him on it, but he wouldn't agree to feed them. I asked when he fed them (with the intent of coming back the next day to see them eat), but, apparently, he feeds them in the morning before the store opens for business.  >>Well, that's not how things were done in any shop I worked, but ok.. problem IS, how can you show a customer who's ready to walk out with those fish that they're eating alright? Doesn't he want to make the sale, or is he more interested in spending money on feed? >He assured me the fish were fine and would have died by now had they not been eating.  >>Bull Pucky! >(Mind you, the smallest Dartfish from 3 days previous were no longer present in the tank).  I've never worked in a LFS, I don't know the nuances of the trade, but what harm would there be in feeding the fish a second time? >>NONE. However, what harm is there in being obstinate with a good and conscientious customer? >From what I've learned, watching a fish get fed and seeing him eat is a good indicator on the vigor of the fish. >>Indeed! And it's been recommended to all since long before I ever got into this trade/hobby. Not exactly good customer service, and were it me, I'd try someplace else (if possible). >The only thing that makes sense is that they weren't eating and trying to feed them would confirm this.  >>Well, I don't know if we could say that (of course, I wasn't there, so I couldn't "read" this person as you could). There are some INCREDIBLY peculiar people who work this trade, my friend. And plenty are plenty obnoxious, too! <giggle> >If he refuses to feed them, then there is still a chance of making a sale, assuming that I trust a salesman at his word.  >>Give me a guarantee on the fish, and maybe we can talk. >Because of this, I did not purchase the fish(es), nor did I purchase the net, PO4 test kit, fish food, and small siphon I would have gotten with the fish.  >>Good for you! Dollars talk, and they should know this. >I also doubt that I will ever return to this store. >>I am in complete agreement, though I'd like to speak with a manager/owner. >Am I missing something here?  >>Nope. >Or was am I just misinformed? David >>By this person? I cannot say. Regarding making sure a fish is at least feeding before you buy? Not at all! You are a smart consumer, good on you, mate. Marina 

Stocking Question 06/08/05 Hello Again, A while back I asked the following two part question, 1a) Can you house more then one Firefish or does always "one" come out as the lone survivor ? << Sometimes pairs can be found at a local store. This would be the best way to introduce them>> 1b) Can you mix and match Firefish (magnifica and decora) ? << I really would not advise that unless you see them in a tank together at the store not fighting.  All fish have the possibility of fighting so it is really hard to judge what they will do. A lot of times if this is a large tank and there are a lot of hiding places then most fish can get along.  But you can never plan on it.>> And I received a response of ... <Google search, keyword, Firefish, on the Wet Web> Well I did that, and read a lot of articles and FAQS but I really didn't find my answer, unless it was "written between the lines". In a nutshell, my setup currently is as follows: 150gal Oceanic RR tank, 160lb LR, 120lb LS, with 5 green Chromis, two fire shrimp and one cleaner shrimp. Thanks again for your time and advise. -Stan <<Good luck.. EricS>>

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