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FAQs on Valenciennea/Sleeper, Sifter Gobies: Selection

Related Articles: Genus Valenciennea Gobies

Related FAQs: Valenciennea 1, Valenciennea 2, Valenciennea Identification, Valenciennea Behavior, Valenciennea Compatibility, Valenciennea Systems, Valenciennea Feeding, Valenciennea Health, Valenciennea Reproduction, & FAQs on: Marine Scavengers 1True Gobies Gobies 2Goby Identification, Goby Behavior, Goby Selection, Goby Compatibility, Goby Feeding, Goby Systems, Goby Disease, Goby Reproduction, Amblygobius Gobies, Clown GobiesNeon GobiesGenus Coryphopterus Gobies, Mudskippers, Shrimp Gobies,

I'm back in the hobby! Query re stocking, mixing sand gobies      12/9/18
<And ladies...>
It's been a long time for me - but, I'm back in the hobby in a much
<Ahh! Welcome back to the fold>
Used to follow threads on your website faithfully.
I have a 45g AIO tank with a Rainford Goby. He's cute and active - but really can't keep up with the sand sifting that needs to be done.
Question: Would it be wise to add a Golden Head Goby - or would there likely be too much territorial fighting? I realize each tank (fish) is different - but, in general is this a bad idea?
<They'd likely get along fine, but if it were me, mine in such a size, shape system, I'd go with either two Rainford's or two Golden Head gobies. More interesting behaviorally.>
<Welcome! Bob Fenner>
Re: I'm back in the hobby!     12/9/18

Thank you so much. That seems like a wise recommendation. I’ll get another Rainford.
<Cheers Gene. BobF>

Fish addition in refugium       5/31/14
Hello Mr. F
How are you?
<Fine Andrei; thanks>
Could you please tell me if you think there would be of any help if I introduce in a refugium ( 140 cm x 40 cm ) with a 15 cm RDSB and Chaetomorpha and some live rock that now contains only 10-15 Nassarius snails that I don't feed and the normal fauna associated with refugiums ( worms, small stars, many small crustaceans swimming around ) a Valenciennea species for stirring the sand - I always think that there is too little action going around in my 8 months old refugium and I am afraid of the sand compacting at the surface.
<I would stir the sand yourself... with a wood or plastic dowel and NOT place a sand sifting fish here, in the refugium>
Also, regardless if I introduce it or not, do you think I should feed the refugium? With what?
And if the answer is yes, which Valenciennea species should I use?
<Not feed directly and no goby>
In my DT I have a thin layer of sand ( 2 cm ). I would love to use a pair of these gobies to clean the sand but I have lots of LPS corals placed on the bottom and I am afraid that the fish will always drop sand on them. Is there any species that doesn't swim and release the sand from above, but instead cleans it nicely " on the spot" ?
<Most all do move sand a few inches up from the bottom... the genus Amblygobius; being so small; do the least bit of stirring and sand spreading>
Thank you again
Andrei from Romania
PS : would you recommend Cuba as a snorkeling and diving destination? We have been in the Indian ocean several times and we were thinking of changing .
<We (folks in the US) are still banned from travel to Cuba (foolishness...). It's reputed to be very nice... I like Bonaire, the lower part of Cozumel and much of the Caymans. Bob Fenner>

Goby compatibility    1/21/12
Thanks as always for the great website.  I had a compatibility question and have read on your website extensively, but I wanted to run it by an expert before purchasing a new fish.  We have a 90 gallon reef that has been established for about 5 years.  Corals are at a minimum actually since the tank just holds a few leftover bits that didn't fit in our 240 reef when we upgraded a few years ago.  Fish inhabitants are a Clarkii clownfish and Yellow tang.  We lost the female Clarkii clownfish about three months ago to presumed trauma based on unilateral eye damage and a slow demise over the next few weeks.  Sand bed ranges from 2 to 6 inches depending on location.  Live rock is low, only about 50 pounds, although the tank is plumbed in line with the main reef, sump, fuge etc. making about 600 gallons total water volume and about 300 pounds live rock throughout the entire system.  So the first question is should we replace the Clownfish mate?
<You could try... best to get one about half the size of the present male... allow/have it turn into the female>
 We have no particular desire to unless you think it's stressful to keep a solo Clownfish.
<It is not>
 If we need another, I assume we go small and hope to avoid an all out war?
<Yes; best>
 Second, would a Golden head sleeper goby (Valenciennea strigata) fit in this mix?
<With what you list, yes>
  Third and last question I promise.  We have a very peaceful 240 reef with a Vlamingii tang (I know too small tank, was rescue from another tank), Yellow tang, Ocellaris clownfish pair, Aiptasia eating (not) filefish, Threadfin butterfly fish (serious Aiptasia eater!), Double barred Rabbitfish, and two Green Chromis.  Would a Pink watchman goby fit in this mix?
<It should as well>
  We may add a Mandarin dragonette in the future if that affects the answer on the Watchman.
<This will go here as long as there's sufficient food organisms>
  Thanks again for the advice.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Diamond Goby Pair Acquisition   1/9/12
Hi crew:
I have a 225 (6'x2.5' footprint) that's been up for about 9 months and have been having a minor problem with algae on the sand bed; I'm assuming it's diatoms since it's been the same since the initial bloom.
<Mmm, maybe... or Dinoflagellates, a mix... can tell by way of 'scoping>
While I'm working on addressing the underlying problem via a continuous water change system
<Mmm, there are other avenues. Please read here:
the linked files above, and much more archived on WWM>
(I have plenty of flow), I'm also looking for someone to sift/clean the sand. I'm leaning towards a diamond goby (Valenciennea puellaris) but am also considering a Tigertail cucumber (Holothuria hilla).
<Fishes are better for this purpose... as sand sifters... Have you read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsiftfaqs.htm
and the linked files above?>
I'm familiar with the general pros/cons/risks of both and am wondering:
  - Could I accommodate both simultaneously (shallow sand bed of 1-1.5")?
  Would they both get enough to eat?
<Likely so on both counts>
  - Any alternate nominees for best sand cleaner (I already have a conch   and some Nassarius snails)?
<Mmm, these have their up and downsides... depending on what else you have stocked>
It's been said that diamond gobies do better in pairs. However, I've never seen them offered as a pair at any LFS or online. If I buy two what are the chances that they'll pair up and live together peacefully?
<In this size/footprint system, likely they'll get along>
Is there any sexual dimorphism such that I could easily buy a male and a female?
<Males are decidedly larger... best to have your source order, pick out an apparent pair... You could even have another Valenciennea species here...>
Thanks for your help,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Sand-Sifting Goby (Starved Due To Old Age?) -- 04/07/10
Hello Eric,
<<Hiya Gene>>
Just a follow up on a different topic.
My sand sifting goby died today. I had him for about 2 years.
<<Mmm, died of old age perhaps... Some species only live a couple years with many going only a couple to a few more than that. And it seems the smaller the species the shorter the lifespan>>
He did a wonderful job keeping the sand in good condition.
<<Ah yes'¦ I am fond of Amblygobius phalaena for this purpose as it seems less prone to 'dust' my corals 'though it is still a prodigious digger that can disrupt a DSB'¦ and gets too large (easily to 5' in captivity) for all but the largest home systems, in my opinion>>
He began getting thinner and thinner
<<I have noted this with several fishes I thought to be getting 'long in the tooth'>>
-- I tried target feeding him some Nori -- but it just wasn't enough. I really don't know if he died of old age or starvation. How likely do you think is was starvation?
<<If it was not provided supplemental feedings (New Life Spectrum pellets are great for this), this is always a possibility. But'¦ I have seen fishes that were/are seemingly well fed begin to 'waste away' in their old age. I'm not sure if this is a result of a loss of ability to metabolize foods or the loss of ability to simply 'compete' for foods 'either way'¦ 'old age' does seem to play a part in the fishes 'ability to get enough nutrition' to maintain body weight>>
I would hate to buy another one only to see it suffer.
<<In my experience, these fish are generally hardy aquarium inhabitants that will eat almost anything. There could be a myriad of reasons for a fish to starve to death...anything from inadequate foods/feedings offered, to bullying, to parasites 'and yes, maybe even just old age. If you have the proper environment and the fish is fed/accepts several small feedings daily of quality food items (I very highly recommend the NLS pellets for ALL your fishes) then I think there is little chance of another similar fish is going to 'suffer'>>
<<Happy to share'¦ Eric Russell>>
Re: Sand-Sifting Goby (Starved Due To Old Age?) -- 04/07/10
Nice reply!
<<Glad you think so!>>
I will be looking for another based on your comments.
<<Very good>>
And will add NLS pellets to his diet.
<<Ah yes! All your fishes and inverts that will accept/ingest this excellent prepared food will benefit>>
BTW, my tank is a 125g mixed reef with 30g refugium.
<<Ah good 'though most are not exceedingly large, I do think these Gobies enjoy a bit of real estate to roam and 'chomp' upon. The refugium is also an excellent adjunct to your system, for many reasons, not the least of which is to help keep your substrate populated>>
<<Cheers'¦ EricR>>
R2: Sand-Sifting Goby (Starved Due To Old Age?) -- 04/08/10
Can't readily locate the golden head sleeper goby in the Atlanta area -- so thinking of trying the orange spotted goby. Did some reading and the V. puellaris seems to be a good alternative to the V. strigata. What'da think?
<<Hi Gene'¦ These two Valenciennea species are similar in size/captive care requirements. V. puellaris may be a 'bit more delicate,' but if you can find one that will accept the NLS pellets, I give you good odds. EricR>>

R3: Sand-Sifting Goby (Starved Due To Old Age?) -- 04/09/10
Well, the Valenciennea puellaris was much too small for my tank.
I finally purchased a Dragon goby (Amblygobius phalaena)
<<A hardy choice, in my experience/opinion 'and much less prone to 'crop-dusting' your corals than the Valenciennea species>>
-- did not seem to be as prolific at sifting
<<It will do the job'¦ These Dragon or, Bullet Gobies as they are also called, just don't 'travel as they sift' like the Valenciennea do>>
-- but could do the job.
<<Mine was able to keep up with a 375g display, just fine>>
Only got one but may add another unless they don't get along well.
<<Can be problematic re'¦I recommend you stick to just the one for the size system you have>>
<<Cheers'¦ EricR>>

Need A Sand Sifting Goby 1/22/09 Hi guys, <Hi Dan> I need your advice. <OK> I need a goby to clean my 1-1.5 inch sand bed. Is Amblyeleotris guttata gonna be a good choice? Do they even sift sand? <They will sift sand near their burrow but don't count on this species for doing the entire tank. They form symbiotic partnerships with nearly blind Alpheid shrimp and are known as Shrimp Gobies more so than sand sifters. With an Alpheid shrimp present, and a partnership forms, they are even less likely to venture too far from their shared burrow. I witness this behavior on a daily basis in my system.> I need something smaller, which would be also able to eat some frozen/flake food. My other choice is: Sleeper Goby - White (Valenciennea sp.) but I heard they are very messy, I don't need sand all over my corals. Tank is 100gal, LPS reef. Any advice would be great. <All Valenciennea species are not easy to keep due to their feeding habits, and are pretty good at covering corals with sand. Two I would recommend that are fairly easy to keep would be; Valenciennea helsdingeni (Sleeper Railway Glider Goby) Valenciennea wardii (Tiger Watchman Goby) Keep in mind that these fish will fight among themselves unless a mated pair, so is best to keep just one. I'd opt for the Tiger Watchman Goby as it would likely be the least messiest as far as sand blasting. You might consider a Sand Sifting Starfish. They would be better in that regard but would put no more than one in your tank. Do read here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/valenciennea.htm And FAQ's here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/sndsftstrfaqs.htm> regards' <Cheers, James (Salty Dog)> Daniel

Sleep On It! (Should He Keep A Sleeper Goby?) Dear Robert, <Actually- Scott F. in for Bob today, who's in New York> I was doing some internet searching for information on Valenciennea muralis and found your contact information. I have my eye on a pair at the moment which appears very healthy. For me it is not a cheap fish to obtain costing $50 for the pair. I was hoping to get some information on how easy are they to keep in aquariums and whether they will eat aquarium food. The shop keeper claims Yes, but my readings suggest that many of such species will starve to death in aquariums. <Unfortunately, I have to agree with the authors whose work you read about. I would not classify them as "easy". Most of the "Sleeper Gobies" seem to waste away in captivity, despite our best intentions and efforts. These fishes are highly dependant upon infaunal life forms; most sand beds in closed systems simply don't have the density and/or diversity of life forms required to feed sustain these fishes for a natural life span. Some hobbyists have achieved a greater degree of success (or is that a lesser degree of failure?) with these fishes by feeding them foods such as black worms and mysis. An very well established aquarium with a productive refugium is also helpful> The intention is to put the pair into a quarantine tank with minimal gravel and no rock for at least 3 weeks, so that I can observe their health and eating habits. <I commend you wholeheartedly for that! A great habit to have> There is no microfauna in this tank. Once I am certain that they are doing fine, I will transfer them into a 50G tank with a deep sand bed and a good microfauna that is growing out of control at the moment. I don't want to rely on the microfauna though as their sole diet as I am not sure how quickly will they reduce the population. What is your experience with them specially with respect to feeding. <As outlined above- I have found them quite difficult to sustain for extended periods of time. If you do have success in weaning them to prepared foods during the quarantine period, this may help them by the time they are introduced into the main tank. Another problem that I have encountered with these guys is that they tend to become somewhat shy in community tanks, and may stop feeding, or at least, display great hesitation. I would try to "target feed" them once they are introduced to the display tank.> The goby will share the tank with a bicolor angel and a green Chromis. There is no intention to have any other bottom dweller in the tank. Any information would be helpful. Cheers, Ashraf <Well, Ashraf, I'm not trying to be negative about these fishes, but I have to tell you that you're in for a challenge, should you decide to obtain a pair. If you are up to the challenge, and are willing to do all that you can to assure these fishes' survival- it's all your call. You certainly sound like you have done your homework, but it's really a matter of personal preference as to whether or not they're worth keeping. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Twin-spot Goby <Hi Kylee, Mac here> I was talked into getting a twin-spot goby without doing the proper research and now that I've researched it I see that they need to be kept in pairs. My question is should I go get one from a store that isn't a mated pair and see if they will pair up? or should I take back the twin-spot goby that I have.  <In all honesty I kept a single twin spot goby for two years by itself.  I know that it is recommended that you keep it as a pair but mine did quite well on its own.  I will say that it paired up with a shrimp goby.  It was probably one of my very favorite fish ever but it did constantly eat in the sand.  Constantly sifting sand through its gills.  Was nice for keeping the sand stirred up but was tough on the sand critters.> Also will the twin-spot goby compete with the mandarin for food?  <Both eat pods so it will provide some competition for the mandarins food source.  You might consider supplementing your pods production with some type of refugium where they can breed without being eaten or consider renewing your pods with some type of outside pods that you bring in.> Thanks, Kylee

Sand surface cleaner versus sand sifters    1/25/06 Hello again to the best Crew around!!  With the help you all gave me when I first got started, the great website and the awesome books, I have usually been able to find just about any info I need without having to bug you with any questions in quite some time.  But I have a question this time that is a different twist than what I see on the website.  I am wanting to find a "sand surface cleaner" versus a "sand sifter".  Most everything I find on the FAQs deal with something to do deeper cleaning than what I am after.   Here's the background. I have a 210-gal reef tank that is just about a year old. Livestock and such so far has been slowly built up to now consist of: - 5 Blue-Green Chromis - 1 Blackcap Basslet - 5 Lyretail Anthias - ! Coral Banded Shrimp - 5 or 6 Peppermint Shrimp - 1 Brown Brittle Star - 1 Feather Duster - Small Xenia patch - some Button Polyps - 1 small Torch Coral - 1 Cynarina (button/meat coral) - small patch of brown star polyps - large patch of neon green star polyps (lush and fast growing) - 1 Leather Coral, ~ 7" diameter - 1 Cabbage Coral, ~ 6" long - -1 Small blue/white Acropora - 1 brown Acropora - a couple of stalks of Shaving Brush - a couple of Emerald Crabs - several blue and scarlet hermit crabs - some mini hermit crabs - several Nassarius, Cerith, and Turbo Astrea snails - 5 large Mexican Turbo snails - 4" or so of aragonite substrate - roughly 300 lbs of LR - Feedings take place every 2-3 days with a mix of flakes, Spirulina, Cyclop-eeze, frozen Mysis shrimp and frozen meaty variety pack with Selcon drops added, occasional Marine Snow and/or DT's Phytoplankton I will soon be adding some Hawaiian Zebra Crabs, some more Astrea snails, and probably some more Nassarius just to help keep the sand stirred up more.  Eventually, I would like to add a Naso Tang, a Yellow Tang, and probably another Tang, like Sailfin or Kole maybe. That will be it for fish. Then I'll be adding more corals, and eventually maybe a clam.  But all that will come after I get my Chaetomorpha refugium going. <Good> Right now I am looking for something to keep the sand surface cleaned up. Not so much for stirring up and cleaning the bed but for cleaning the sand surface. Stirring would be good but the snails and weekly vacuuming help with that. But I am looking more for something to keep the brown stuff (diatoms?) from collecting on the surface in between weekly water changes. . Also, something to clean up any occasional Cyano that may decide to start up. Eliminating the need to vacuum would be awesome, but is not really the goal here. I just want to keep the sand surface looking clean in between vacuuming. The Snail and Crab Teams keep the rocks and glass pretty clean, but the sand surface still gets a light brown coating after a few days, especially along the back edges of some of the rock caves where the flow is low and the vacuum can't reach. Based on readings at WWM, along with your CMA and Reef Invertebrates books, I have thought about a Diamond Goby (Valenciennea puellaris), but want to make sure it would not decimate the sand bed of organisms the way a sand sifting star or horseshoe crab would. At least I think he wouldn't starve in this big of a tank. I have also started reading on the WWM website about spaghetti worms as an alternative. But I don't much about them yet and need to re-read about these in the Reef Invertebrate book again. <Valenciennea species would be my choice here> Your thoughts good or bad about spaghetti worms? <Mmm, often get eaten...> If I decide to add some of these, would you forego any other sand cleaners to avoid over-cleaning the bed? <Likely not a problem here with the gobies> If I go with the Diamond Goby to clean both the surface and upper layer, should I just surface-skim vacuum the top weekly and not do the normal inch or so into the bed? <Up to you> Any other suggestions you might offer about a sand cleaner? <I'd avoid most other types as too invasive and possibly predatory.> Thanks again for all your patience and great information.  I know you hear this a lot, but I am quite sincere when I say there are a lot of us 'learning aquarists' out here that owe a great deal of the little we have learned, and the successful joy of this hobby, to your efforts and assistance. Many may not still be in this hobby if not for your help. Tnx, Rick Morris <Glad to share, help. Bob Fenner>

Re: Sand surface cleaner versus sand sifters    1/25/06 Thanks for the fast reply, Bob.  Last follow up questions on this, I promise. The more I read your book and web today, the more concerned I get about the Valenciennea puellaris' reputation for jumping out of even well covered tanks and deep digging, plus his need for live Mysis. <Mmm...> So, I thought I should ask if you would recommend the Yellow Headed Sleeper (Valenciennea strigata) as an alternative? <Is a good choice as well... about the same nutritional needs, propensity for jumping...> Should he do almost as good a job cleaning the sand surface with less chance of a rock slide and jumping out of the tank? <About the same...> Also, what is the recommendation on quarantining gobies like these? Since they are primarily substrate feeders, how do you keep them from starving during a full quarantine? <Good question. Mainly a matter of more careful feeding, paying close attention that they don't get "too skinny"...> Will they possibly take frozen Mysis and/or other meaty variety while in quarantine, <Almost always, yes> or do you recommend going with a short quarantine of a couple day and then move into the main tank? <Shorten if necessary... with a pH adjusted FW dip twixt the move>    My quarantine tank is a separate 10 gallon bare-bottom system, so I could add a little aragonite from my main tank if that is your recommendation. <Should do fine> Thanks again for your help.    If you and the Crew ever get down to Atlanta, let me know.  I owe you a trip to the new Georgia Aquarium and lunch at the best BBQ in town!! <Some folks live just North (in S. Carolina...). And I do like BBQ! Both the Texan varieties and more south. Bob Fenner> Rick

Which Sand-Sifting Goby?   6/19/06 Hello help crew, <<Vincent>> The sand in my sand bed is roughly 1mm to 1.5mm sized.  What kind of goby will fit to that? Thanks, Vincent <<Most all of the sand-sifting/sleeper gobies will do fine.  My favorite is Amblygobius phalaena...  Regards, EricR>>

Which Sand-Sifting Goby? II - 06/19/06 Hello Eric, <<Hello Vincent>>    I saw a beauty white goby and I think there is a little black dot in his back, and he swallow the sand in his mouth then released it to the back (I don't know how to call that). <<It's referred to as "sifting" the substrate>> It was so interesting!!  Wonder will he do that if my sand is bigger size? <<You don't give me much to go on here for an ID Vincent.  If this was a Yellow Headed Sleeper Goby (Valenciennea strigata) then yes, it will handle your substrate just fine.  I suggest you do a keyword search of our site, and the "net" in general, for "sand sifting goby" and see if you can identify what you saw/view the different species available...most all can handle/will do fine with a substrate grain size of 1mm-1.5mm as you have stated you have>> Thanks, Vincent <<Regards, EricR>>

Which Sand-Sifting Goby? III - 06/21/06 Valenciennea sex...(Valenciennea 1837), I think that what it is.  Thanks. Vincent <<Valenciennea sexguttata...or Sixspot Goby.  Not widely seen/available in my experience, but I would expect it do fine with your substrate all the same.  Regards, EricR>>

Survival of gobies, Sel.  3/28/07 Hi there, <J and G> I'm about to order a sleeper goby  and read on your site that the Valenciennea puellaris frequently dies of starvation due to a lack of fauna in the substrate. Would you say that the  Valenciennea strigata has got better survival chances in the aquarium? Thanks for your advice, regards, Jana.. <I "score" these two congeners about the same for utility in captivity... Both easily suffer for a lack of suitable infauna, substrate to sift through/for. Bob Fenner>

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