There is an interesting fish being sold at many local fish stores, pet stores, and even at Walmart. It is usually called the Dragon Goby, but can be found under the name Dragonfish and Violet Goby as well. This long slender fish looks a lot like an eel with plate like spines on its back, a huge mouth, and little tiny eyes. It is called a dragon because it looks a lot like one, especially when considering Eastern dragons. At the same time there is a lot of misinformation out there.
I rarely set out with goals more than to provide some answers, however here you need to find answers and they need to be the right ones. I have done a lot of research for our own dragon gobies and am now sharing the appropriate information, though some of it you might not want to hear.
The first thing one needs to understand is the natural habitat of these fish. While it isn't imparitive that you mimic everything, having a firm understanding will help you to provide the right type of environment to keep your goby healthy and happy for years to come.
The dragon goby or dragonfish if you prefer is native to Florida. It's native range has spread along the Gulf Coast and even as far south as Brazil. In all locations it lives in the muddy estuaries that lead to the ocean. It is a fish that easily adapts to different water conditions and can sometimes be found in fresh water and sea water, however it spends most of its life in brackish water.
It Is a Brackish Water Fish.
Most fish stores, pet stores, and Walmart will tell you that this is a freshwater fish. Some will say you need to add a little aquarium salt to keep it happy, but the truth is that neither of these things is true. This is a brackish water fish! I am one of those that can't say enough about that. Yes, the store you bought it from has it in freshwater. Yes, it may look healthy today (or it may already have sores on its body from being in freshwater too long like one of ours does). However, it can't survive healthy and long term in a freshwater aquarium.
This fish needs a minimum of 1.005 specific gravity to stay healthy. It can live in a brackish water range up to 1.012. It is important that you use marine salt and not just aquarium salt. You will also need to keep them with brackish water or brackish tolerant fish in order to have a happy and healthy aquarium.
Feeding Your New Dragonfish.
Many dragon gobies starve to death because people don't know what they eat. Many stores (including our local Walmart where we bought our three dragonfish) will tell you that they are predators and that they don't do well in community tanks. It is true that they don't do well in most community tanks because they need brackish water, however they are not predators. You can't feed them ghost shrimp and small fish with the hopes of keeping him alive long term. He may eat these things if he is starving, but it isn't really what he wants or needs.
- Some will try to eat flake foods as they float down. That's definitely okay, but you can't depend on him being fast enough to get his fill while the other fish in the tank are eating. Instead you should be feeding him sinking pellets that he can then filter from the substrate. These sure be algae based because they need algae in their diet.
- You should also feed small foods that float through the water so he can filter them out there. Brine shrimp (either fresh or frozen) are really enjoyed by the dragon goby, but you should make sure that they aren't the only thing that he is eating because they lack a lot of nutrients. Other options include black worms, blood worms, and krill.
- Fresh vegetables are also something that your dragonfish and your other tank inhabitants will like. Our first dragon goby (we now have three) loves carrots! Par boil the vegetables and toss them in at lights out time, then scoop them up in the morning. Consider carrots, zucchini, spinach, and cucumber as a few options.
- Remember that he is only going to eat shrimp and fish if he is starving so disappearing members of your community is a sign that he needs more food. He should also have a well rounded look. If he is really skinny then you need to feed him more.
Setting Up a Great Tank For the Dragon Goby.
- The dragon goby can get very large. It is commonly 18" in the aquarium, but there are reports of some of them getting as large as 30". Therefore this fish needs at least 29 gallons, but it would be much better to give him 55 gallons.
- This fish has to have brackish water. You can store them temporarily in fresh. (We have had ours for a short time and they are still in fresh water, but that will be changing over the next couple of weeks). The problem is that you don't know how long they will do okay in freshwater. Some people report problems within the first month, others have their fish for a couple of years and then see problems, and still others have their fish live for 5-7 years before they pass away. This fish can and does live up to 10 years with some reports having them live even longer than that. When keeping in freshwater you could wake up one morning to find your fish with sores or weird slime as he dies from the freshwater. So keep the tank at a salinity of 1.005-1.012.
- The dragon goby doesn't need really warm temperatures and does well without a heater. However, his tank mates will most likely need it warmer. It is good to know that he does best in a temperature range of 72-78, but will be able to handle it if it drops as low as 65 or as high as 85. You should not keep them at extreme temps for long periods of time.
- It is also important to note that the dragon goby likes a fine substrate because it digs in the sand and it also filter feeds by taking in huge mouthfuls of sand and pulling out organisms and food in the sand.
- The dragonfish also needs high water quality. It is very sensitive to ammonia and nitrites. It should be placed in a tank that is lightly stocked and it is important to avoid overstocking its tank. You will also want to make sure that the tank is completely cycled before placing it in the tank.
The dragon goby is very fun to watch. However, this unusual fish isn't for everyone. For more information check out the article Can't I Keep My Dragon Goby In Freshwater and The Dragon Goby: Tank Mates. Your dragon goby is likely to become one of your favorite fish and many even enjoy feeding it by hand!