Clown Goby 101: Types, Diet, Mates, Tank Size & Setup

Welcome to our Clown Goby care guide! If you’re a saltwater aquarist looking to add a touch of whimsy to your tank, you’ve come to the right place. These charming little fish, known for their vibrant colors and playful personalities, can be a delightful addition to any aquarium setup. 

In this guide, we’ll share our insights and knowledge to help you provide the best care for your Clown Gobies. We’ll cover everything from their preferred habitat and feeding habits to their unique behaviors and tank mates. 

Whether you’re a seasoned hobbyist or new to the world of marine aquariums, we’re here to offer our expertise and assist you in creating a thriving and joyful environment for these captivating creatures. So, let’s dive in and explore the enchanting world of Clown Gobies together!

Species Summary

The Clown Goby is known as the Gobiodon, and its origin is the Indo-Pacific region. Some sources might use Gobiodon spp as the scientific name but this is partially incorrect because “spp” is the abbreviation for the Gobiodon spilophthalmus. This is still a Clown Goby but it is a subcategory, like saying the Green Clown Goby, Yellow Clown Goby, etc. You can usually find these fish in soft and hard coral colonies. Part of the Gobiidae family, it belongs to a group of over 2,000 marine fish. 

This fish has a peaceful temperament, allowing you to add it to an aquarium with other species. Additionally, the Clown Goby loves to hold on to and hide inside corals.

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The Clown Goby is a small fish with a large, round head and face paint reminiscent of a clown, which is how this little fish got its name. Its ventral fins work as a suction cup to help it grasp onto corals. This is essential for keeping these fish from being swept out to sea in high ocean currents.

Their jaws mostly contain small teeth, with two pairs of fully developed canine teeth for eating. Furthermore, the Gobiodon brochu species has a modified jaw with extra teeth for grating the tissue from coral polyps.

Author Note: An interesting fact is that Clown Gobies do not have scales, so they rely on the thick, toxic mucus on their sides for protection. This mucus tastes awful to other fish, and this gives the gobies time to escape from their predators. How’s that for a defense mechanism? 

A Citron Clown Goby swimming in a saltwater aquarium

While Clown Gobies are small, mucus-covered fish, these little guys are sure to dazzle any aquarium with their fun shape and range of colors. The best part is, you can choose from a variety of Clown Gobies for your aquarium.

Green Clown Goby

There are several appearances of the Green Clown Goby. You can find this species in yellow to greenish-tan with orange vertical stripes on its head. Of course, those stripes can also be seen on its body as well. Additionally, this species can also be found in light green with purple stripes and bars on its body and head. Its scientific name is Gobiodon histrio and an interesting skill to note is that this fish produces a toxin that deters predators.

Yellow Clown Goby

The Yellow Clown Goby, Yellow Coral Goby or Gobiodon okinawae (scientific name), measures 1 inch to 1.5 inches, which could make this fish one of the smallest in your aquarium. Its body is stocky with a large head, and you cannot miss this little fish’s canary yellow color.

Panda Clown Goby

The Panda Clown Goby known for its scientific name as Paragobiodon lacunicolus is an adorable species, and it truly resembles a panda bear with its white and yellow body and black fins. With its small, stocky body and large, round fins, it is hard not to fall in love with this little goby.

Citrinis Clown Goby

The Gobiodon citrinus’ body varies between pale yellow and dark brown, and it has blue vertical lines around its gills and eyes. In addition, this little fish also has a blue horizontal line on its dorsal fin. This fish is also known as the poison goby since the mucus it produces is toxic. 

Black Clown Goby

The Black Clown Goby has a purchase size of 3/4 inch to 1 inch, but it can grow up to 2 inches. Its scientific name is Gobiodon ceramensis. This small fish features a noticeable black body, and it is especially hard to miss its thick body shape and large head.


The lifespan of a Clown Goby is two to six years. With proper care, your goby can live closer to the six-year mark.

Average Size

While the size depends on the actual fish species. Some Clown Gobies species grow to up to 2 inches, while other species remain under the 2-inch mark. However, the average size of Clown Gobies is 2 inches.

Clown Goby Care

Clown Gobies do not adapt to captive life well, and they may be stressed when arriving at stores because of a tense transit. Unfortunately, this can lead to a loss of appetite. Paired with their fast metabolism, this can create an unpleasant experience for these tiny fish. 

Luckily, you can easily learn how to take care of a Clown Goby, but you do need to provide special care to your fish. 

Author Note: One example is ensuring your fish receive enough live food until they become used to captive life. You also need to ensure your fish have enough coral in their tanks to hide as needed.

The best way to give your Clown Goby the care and attention it needs is to follow a set of specific guidelines.

Tank Size

If you are constrained in space, then the minimum tank size is 10 gallons but your Clown Goby may not have much space to explore (check our 4 Best 10-Gallon Saltwater Tanks). If you want to provide ample space while adding coral for your fish, it is recommended to opt for a 30-gallon tank. You can even go as large as a 55-gallon tank for your gobies. 

A 100-gallon tank is ideal for breeding these fish because they need ample space for the process.

Water Parameters

One way to meet your goby’s needs is to create the right water parameters for your fish. For instance, a Clown Goby is a saltwater tropical fish, so you want to place it in a saltwater tank to keep it happy and healthy.

Water temperature: 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit, which is also 22 to 26 degrees Celsius.

pH levels: 8.1-8.4.

Water hardness: 8-12 dgH.

Specific gravity: 1.020-1.025.

Tank Setup

In addition to a spacious saltwater tank, coral is an essential part of a Clown Goby’s environment. Clown Gobies usually prefer the Acropora coral, but they can also co-exist with soft and stony corals. While they like to grasp or hide in the coral for safety in the wild, they also form a relationship with coral in captivity. Therefore, you can bring them comfort by supplying coral in their tank.

Clown Gobies can hide in the branches of their coral when they want a dark space, but you need ample lighting for your coral and other living organisms in your aquarium.

Author Note: Please note that Clown Gobies are bottom dwellers, so you also want to add sand to the bottom of the tank. Live sand is a great idea because it provides another food source for your goby. Plus, you can watch your fish hop around the bottom of the tank while eating.

Are Clown Gobies Reef-Safe?

Clown Gobies are reef-safe, but be careful because they will probably eat the mucus from the coral. This can be a problem in a small or nano aquarium because you may not have enough coral to go around.

Author Note: If you like corals and Clown Gobies, then you’ll be happy to know that these fish barely put a dent in a large coral colony. Therefore, you may want to place your fish in a large reef aquarium to ensure there is always enough coral.

Common Possible Diseases & Prevention

The type of disease that infects your Clown Goby depends on the species itself.

For example, Citron Clown Gobies are usually disease-resistant, but they can still become infected by velvet or marine ich. On the other hand, Green Clown Gobies may become infected by diseases such as White Spot Disease, Black Spot Disease and malnourishment.

It is vital to monitor your Clown Goby for signs of illness, including loss of appetite or lethargy. This way, you can take immediate action, such as quarantining the infected fish and looking into the appropriate treatment.

Food & Diet

Clown Gobies’ diet is carnivorous so they enjoy eating frozen food, live food and the meat from plankton.

When you first receive your Clown Goby, you want to start with frozen and thawed food, such as chopped mollusks and Mysis shrimp. If your fish does not eat frozen food, offer live food such as brine shrimp. 

Once your goby accepts the live food, you can slowly make the transition to frozen and thawed food. Keep monitoring its eating habits since you want to ensure your goby is ready before fully making the switch to frozen meals.

Author Note: Remember that live sand is also a great option because it provides a food source without harming your fish’s mucus. Otherwise, their mucus needs to be replaced with more calories.

Behavior & Temperament

If you are choosing a small tank, it is best to house a single or pair of fish. Clown Gobies do gather in schools of five to 20 per reef, but there needs to be enough space for them to co-exist. This also means adding hiding spaces to their tank, such as corals.

Failure to provide enough space and corals can result in a fight between your gobies. The last thing you want is for a goby’s mucus coat to become damaged in a fight with another Clown Goby.

A Green Goby looking for food

Clown Goby Tank Mates

The Clown Goby is a peaceful fish that gets along with other species of fish and coral. However, you want to ensure their tank mates are not predators. Remember, the mucus on your gobies’ bodies is toxic for their protection.

The following species are ideal tank mates for your Clown Gobies because they do not attempt to gobble these little fish.

With the right tank mates and plenty of coral, you can create a pleasant environment for your Clown Goby and other species.


Breeding your Clown Gobies is not difficult because they take care of the pairing while you provide the right environment.

One interesting fact about Clown Gobies is they are protogynous hermaphrodites, and they can change their sex once to reproduce with the other half of the pair. In a pair of two females, the larger fish becomes the male. If you have a pair of two males, the smaller fish changes its sex to become the female. This means you do not have to worry about finding a male and female to pair for breeding purposes.

Author Note: As soon as you have your pair (any pair), you need to create a comfortable environment, and you can start by providing ample space in their tank. Some aquarists recommend a 100-gallon tank with the appropriate SPS coral. Additionally, increasing the water temperature by a few degrees can encourage mating.

Once the gobies have mated, the female will attach circular bands of eggs around coral branches. It is the male’s job to fertilize and guard the eggs. This egg mass can contain up to 1,000 eggs, which hatch on the fourth or fifth day.

The spawn should be offered rotifers before any other food, but you may be able to change their food to newly hatched Artemia nauplii on the 25th day. Metamorphosis, settling down, and perching on the sides of the glass take place around the 33rd day. On the 40th day, you may notice the first coloration of your recently hatched Clown Gobies.

Wrapping Up

We hope you’ve found our Clown Goby care guide helpful and informative. By now, you’ve learned that these little clowns can bring big smiles to your saltwater aquarium. Remember, providing them with a suitable environment, balanced nutrition, and compatible tank mates is key to their well-being. 

Watching their playful antics and vibrant colors can be a source of endless delight and relaxation. As you continue your journey in the world of saltwater aquaria, we encourage you to explore further and expand your knowledge. 

And should you ever have questions or need assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to us and how about if you tag us on Facebook in a post of your good looking aquarium? Happy clowning!

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