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FAQs on Dartfish Systems

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

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

Can you grow algae there?

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>

Firefish Population, sys.    11/15/10
Hello there,
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>
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

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>

Update & Good Tidings... look behind the Overflow. Microdesmid beh., sys.     9/20/08 Dear Crew, I have a little story to share. Since I last wrote, I have come to the conclusion that one of my Lysmata amboinensis did indeed die. He never showed up. The post-mortem on the exoskeleton with the muscle in the tail pretty much sealed the deal. Anyway, a week later one of my two Nemateleotris magnifica was gone. He was the one who was very skittish and didn't appear to feed well. Water parameters were stable (pH 8.4, and zero ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, 80F, 1.022), <Mmm, the last a bit low... I would raise> so I attributed it to bad luck and the temperament these fish are known for. This was about a month ago. Fast forward to yesterday. A grammar loreto has been in the display tank for about a week, in addition to the two remaining L. amboinensis and two Perculas. The second Firefish is now gone. I start to panic a bit. He seemed to eat well. He nearly choked on the frozen mysis and loved frozen Cyclops (assumed to be copepods). He even eats spectrum pellets when the tank bred clowns don't gobble them all up. <Good> Water parameters are about the same with exception of nitrates of 20. Am I overfeeding? <Maybe... this amount of free NO3 is about all I'd allow> Am I behind on water changes? <Perhaps> Is there some monster I've missed living in the LR? <Starting to read like it> Did that piece of foil I let slip into the tank a few days ago with the frozen mysis pollute the tank? <I would find, remove> Today, I plan for a large water change (25gal). I'm going to put 15 gal back into the QT I cleaned out last weekend after using the same water (with partial changes) for the grammar and shrimp over a couple months. I'm hoping to buy a Centropyge bispinosus in the next week although I'm having some doubts due to another unexplained death. I take the lights and glass cover off the tank and peek into the overflow on this MegaFlow Overflow Aquarium with predrilled holes. I see not one, but TWO FIREFISH LOOKING UP AT ME. <!? Oh yeah... "jumpers"> I am not the harbinger of death, at least not this time! I vaguely remember looking here before but apparently not close enough. I thought this might be a helpful anecdote all the other newbies. (My tank is about 10 months old.) Don't lose hope and look in the overflow. He survived on messy leftovers for a month. I guess he's pretty lucky that I hadn't been turning off the circulation during feedings. The space between the overflow and the glass isn't much more than a centimeter, but they both managed to make it over. I guess I'll have to rig some kind of cover. The hardest part was getting them out. I had to use a net to basically "encourage" them to jump back over the overflow. In my profession, it's the "Oh by the way" comments that kill you ("I'm having chest pain... My left eye is suddenly blind"), but I've got to ask since I have your attention. Do you have any suggestions for additional livestock? I suppose I'm done, but I'll take anything I can get. Current stocking plan: 2 Perculas, 2 L. amboinensis, 2 N magnifica (!), one G. loreto, and one C. bispinosus. Thanks again for all the help. I hope this is useful. -Rich <For browsers, this is a 72 gal. bowfront... I would look for at least something more in the way of a "show" item... of size, motion here. Perhaps a Ctenochaetus or Zebrasoma species tang for now... A more peaceful species of mid-size wrasse (Cirrhilabrus, small Halichoeres)... Bob Fenner>

Ich, Reef Safe Medication 5/31/08 Hi, I had a few questions here I need the answer to. <Ok> First of all, can snowflake morays get ich? <Yes> No matter how many times I have ich, my snowflake never has any white spots. <They are pretty resilient, but can still harbor ich.> Second, Do you like the NO-ICH medicine by FishVet? <I believe the active ingredient is 5-Nitroimidazoles, and no I do not.> It is said to be reef safe and I would like to have some just to be safe. <Not safe for your reef tank.> Lastly, How many purple Firefish should I get for my 30 gallon? <One> I have a percula clown in there and I wanted to add some more fish after the Firefish too. <A 30 gallon does not have a whole lot of room, I would not have more than 3 fish in that sized tank.> Thanks! <Welcome> <Chris>

More scissortail goby questions. Want To Stop Fish From Jumping But Worried About Sealing The Tank Up 'Too' Tightly -- 07/30/07 Thank you for helping me with my Scissortail Dartfish question (I'm the one whose mated pair of Scissortails seemed to be having a fight.) <<Hi Laura...I don't know who helped you before, but I'm certain they were happy to do so>> The good news is that they did indeed get over it on their own, and lived together happily for another week or so; the bad news is that we didn't have the tank covered well enough and came home to find the larger of the two dead on the carpet. :-( <<Unfortunate... And difficult to prevent... I've had Bartlett's Anthias jump right through the ½' squares of plastic 'eggcrate' mesh>> If you could answer a couple of questions related to the aftermath of this sad event, I'd be grateful: <<I shall try...>> 1) We got some clear acrylic and cut it to exactly match the top of our fish tank, so now there are only small holes around our tubes and wires and so on. This should prevent any future deaths by jumping, but we're a little worried that it's also blocking the flow of oxygen. <<Proper/efficient gas exchange is my worry as well. Do ensure lots of vigorous water flow within this tank>> We have a protein skimmer, <<Ah...a big help re oxygenation>> a power head, and the pump outtake breaking the surface of the water, but all of this action is under the acrylic cover, and it seems like it could just be recycling de-oxygenated air. <<Not a worry if the skimmer's air intake is outside the tank...if not then perhaps you can connect/run a tube to the outside>> Is this an unnecessary worry, or should we do something else to our system to improve the airflow? <<Adding a sump, and if possible, an in-line refugium, will provide many benefits to include improved oxygenation of the system and expelling of accumulated CO2>> 2) We want to get a new scissortail for our bereaved widower. Is there anything special we could/should do in either selecting or introducing the fish to improve the chance of their bonding with each other? <<I don't think it will be much of a problem as this species seems a bit more tolerant of conspecifics than some of the other Dartfish species. Actually, I suggest you keep a small 'group' of these fish rather than trying to 'pair' them out. A small grouping (5-7) should get along fine and will be more natural/make the fish more comfortable and less likely to hide...and as long as they aren't being harassed/chased by other fishes in the tank, having a small group 'may' reduce their tendency to jump>> Our surviving scissortail seems to be very stressed on his own (he's gone back to diving under a rock when he sees me coming, the way he did when I first brought him home a month ago.) <<Indeed...needs more of its own kind around>> We bought the previous pair from the same tank, so they got along from the very beginning without our having to do anything. Thanks for your time and attention, Laura <<Happy to assist. EricR>>

More scissortail Dartfish questions... sys., comp., beh.   8/9/07 Thanks for your patience with me and my Dartfish questions. To recap quickly, I had a pair of scissortail Dartfish, but my tank wasn't well enough covered, and one of them jumped out of the tank and died. The other one became very stressed after that and hid under a rock constantly. <A quite common scenario> After sealing our tank cover better, we went back to our LFS and bought three more Scissortails. When we put them in the tank, our original Dartfish immediately came out and started swimming with them, and now is eating and swimming normally again. So I guess it really was depression/stress/loneliness that was getting to him! However, now we have a new problem. One of the new Dartfish seems to have disappeared. The last two nights, only three have come out for feedings. We searched all around the carpet and there have been no more escapees, so I wonder if it died inside their burrow or something like that. <Possible> Soon after that fish disappeared, A) one of the other new Dartfish began hiding in the burrow most of the time, and B) we noticed our fairy wrasse begin to bother the Dartfish, scaring them back into their cave frequently. The wrasse never bothered our original pair of Dartfish, who had already been living in the tank for a few weeks when we added him, and in fact the surviving Dartfish from that pair (who I can recognize because his fin is darker than the others) is not afraid of the wrasse and swims around him with no compunctions. However, the new Dartfish go whizzing into their cave whenever he comes near them. I'm concerned that the third one, who is most skittish, may not be getting enough to eat (he does eat at every meal, but only a little.) I also wonder whether this may have been what caused the death of the missing fish (though I should say that none of the new Dartfish were this skittish until one of them disappeared, so their newfound fearfulness may be the effect of the missing dartfish's death rather than the cause.) <A possible contributing cause> So I guess my questions are these: 1) Is there anything we can do to help the skittish scissortail survive? <More space, less Cirrhilabrus...> It's a 55-gallon tank with lots of live rock, holes, sand, different hiding places, etcetera, but the fairy wrasse does seem to preferentially go over and swim right around the entrance to their nest. One of the new fish feels comfortable swimming around the tank as long as the original Dartfish is out, wrasse or no wrasse, but the other one has been completely panicky since the disappearance of the fourth guy. 2) Unless the missing fish miraculously turns up alive, we're back down to three Dartfish. Is that an OK number? The LFS said it ought to be fine when I called them. <Is fine> 3) This is the question I feel embarrassed about asking, but I can't help thinking about it; I've read the FAQ's and online information and entries in our fish books and everything says that fairy wrasses are NOT fish-eaters like some other kinds of wrasses, but is there any chance he could have eaten the missing Dartfish? <Mmm, perhaps if it were dead, the Cirrhilabrus very hungry... It could well have harassed the Microdesmid/s in this small volume, particularly if it is/was solitary... Fairy/Velvet Wrasses are very social animals...> He never *looks* like he's hunting them-- I mean he never lunges at them or anything-- and he's only about three inches long, but still, the fact that they're acting so afraid of him all of a sudden makes me wonder. The Dartfish are smaller than the wrasse is, maybe two inches long each. <Just territoriality and lack of other social interaction> Our water quality's been perfect, if that makes any difference. We've been feeding them frozen Mysid shrimp and the Spirulina-enriched brine shrimp. Is it possible we might be underfeeding them? <Mmm, doubtful. Do they appear thin?> Thanks for any insights you might have! Laura <Welcome. Bob Fenner>  

Scissortails, fairy wrasse, and refugium   8/12/07 Thanks for your response to my last letter (one-sentence summary: one of the new scissortails we added to our tank after one of our previous pair jumped to its death seems to be terrified of our fairy wrasse and won't come out to swim with the others.) <<Good>> > It could well have harassed the Microdesmid/s in this small volume, particularly if it is/was solitary... Fairy/Velvet Wrasses are very social animals... The fairy wrasse does have a friend its own size in the tank, a yellow mimic tang. <<Mmmm, not the same... as conspecifics>> (Your team warned my husband that even this small tang may outgrow our 55-gallon tank and need a larger space eventually, but for now, it's 2.5 inches long and fits through all the live rock crevices. The wrasse is three inches long.) I don't know if it's common for fish from such different species to bond with each other, <Actually quite... there is always waxing, waning interrelationship dynamics in captive and wild settings... One only need look critically...> but the wrasse and tang came from the same store and they swim together all day and sleep in the same rock cave at night. The wrasse, tang, and original pair of Dartfish all got along great, but we had been smart about adding the Dartfish first. These new Dartfish were added last and it seems to be a huge stress to them. :-( I wish we'd had the foresight to add them all at once, but it's too late for that now. Our water quality is still perfect; is there some other type of fish you'd recommend we get, either to keep the wrasse busier or make the Dartfish feel more comfortable? <A bigger tank, some females of its species> The wrasse was supposed to be a 'dither fish' but he seems to have scared the scissortail away rather than encouraging it to swim in the open. Or would it be better to just leave this group of fish alone and hope they sort it out? <See above> In the wrasse's defense, I've never seen him actually *chase* any of the Dartfish, he just goes over and swims near their burrow entrance and it freaks them out. On to my next question, I guess: I read on your Microdesmids page that a refugium is a big help in keeping these fish well-fed. <Ah yes> Since one of our Dartfish is so skittish, we're thinking a refugium might also help him get food at irregular times when the wrasse isn't in his vicinity, and without being scared into his hole by the sight of us opening the lid to squirt the food in (oddly, he doesn't seem afraid of the tang, only the wrasse and us humans.) However, the article about refugiums on your website does not seem to contain any instructions for how to set one up. <Mmm, actually... there are many types of such live sumps... and plenty of "hints" re their design, construction, operation...> That page mentions a book by Bob Fenner called "Natural Marine Aquariums" that has information about setting up a refugium, but I wasn't able to find this book on Amazon. Is this information contained in "Reef Invertebrates: An Essential Guide"? <Ah, yes... these are the same title> If so, are there step-by-step instructions in it, the way there are in "Conscientious Marine Aquarist" for setting up the main tank? <Yes... quite detailed> I feel like I don't understand some of the real basics about how refugiums work (like how you keep from over-feeding your fish when food populations are reproducing on their own), so if there's another article on your website that explains those refugium basics for newbies, I'd be grateful for the URL. Thanks! Laura <Mmm, all archived or linked through here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsetupindex2.htm The second tray down. Bob Fenner>

Cabbage leather health/fire fish systems??  10/29/06 Hello, <Konichiwa!> I have a question about a cabbage leather I purchased a week ago. It was not the best looking specimen but it was cheap and is my first leather. <And you placed it in quarantine?> I have a mushroom that was a hiker and it is doing well. The leather had a spot on it where the surface was whitish and I could see small things that look like grains of white rice under the surface. <Mmm, maybe predaceous snails, Nudibranchs...> The leather has not opened and looks to be turning translucent, appears to be dying. I have it about 5 inches under the lights and below the outpour of my hang on filter for good circulation. My tank has been up for 2 years and all inhabitants are healthy and doing well. Do you have any ideas about how to help it? I have also started dosing with iodine. <May be worthwhile to consider cutting out the infested part... I would do this outside your main or isolation tank... rinse well... a few changes of water... and place the specimen back in isolation> One more please.  I recently got a Firefish <Social animals> and the first day or two my 3 stripe damsel was going after him. <Not compatible> The Firefish then retreated to a small cave and I saw him poke out to eat a few times. I have not seen him for a day or so now. Will he stay in hiding and not eat? Any advice on what I should do. I really like the Firefish but the damsel is a real....lets say not nice. <... please see WWM re these species... Microdesmids need space, a lack of "noise", aggressive tankmates... You need to remove one or the other... Bob Fenner>

Problem with my Purple Firefish... three Microdesmid species in a 28 gallon   6/2/06     I'm really, really hoping one of you guys can help me. Over the past few days my Purple Firefish has come down with a malady I've never seen before. First, a bit about my tank. I'm running a 28 gal <Dangerously small for Microdesmids...> bow front with roughly 32 lbs of Fiji live rock, a Prism Protein skimmer, an Emperor 280 hang on filter and a small power head. For invertebrates I have a Coral Banded Shrimp, a half dozen Turbo Snails, a dozen Blue Legged Hermits, 2 Emerald Crabs, a Fire Shrimp, a sand sifting star <This animal is misplaced here... too little room to sustain it w/o depleting your sand bed> and a ton of feather dusters that have grown off the rocks. For corals I have a small piece of rock with Green Polyps, about 8 or so Hairy Mushrooms (they've split a number of times) and more Pulsing Xenia than I know what to do with. For fish I have my Purple Firefish, a normal Firefish, a Zebra Dart Goby <These are not compatible...> and a breeding pair of Banggai Cardinals. I feed them all a mix of Spirulina Enriched Brine, Mysis Shrimp and Omega 3 Enriched Brine which I soak in Kent Marine Zoe and Garlic Xtreme. Besides all that I add Liquid Calcium daily, Strontium & Molybdenum twice a week and Iron and Iodine once a week.     With all that said here's my problem... A few days ago I noticed that my Firefishes gills seemed a little swollen compared to normal but he was still behaving normally (eating well and hanging out in the front of the tank like always). I did a small water change on the tank and figured he might be able to get over it on his own with some better quality water. He hasn't. Instead his gills now puff out a great deal, though only on his left side, and today he stopped eating. Underneath his jaw also looks puffed out, again only on his left side. When I look at him through the side of the tank it almost looks like there's an open sore on the back of his gills but I can't be certain. All in all it looks to me like he has a growth inside his gills and towards the bottom of his jaw. He's still acting perfectly normal, except that he'll approach food but not eat it, so I'm hoping it's not too late for him. I should probably mention that he's been in the tank for a few months and I don't think there's any way I'll be able to get him out of there because of how quickly he can make it to his bolt hole.     If you have any ideas or any recommendations that might help me I would be eternally in your debt. It'd be a shame to lose this fish because he's been an awesome addition to my tank thus far. Thanks in advance for any help you might be able to give me. Regards, Dan <Dan, what you and your fishes need is actually a much larger system. Impossible to trace the etiology of the ones illness here. It may be as you suggest that there is some nutritional or parasitic component... treatment though? Do you have a means of separating the one fish? Bob Fenner>

Firefish quandary...and a sea hare to boot! Microdesmid sys., reef stkg.  - 3/1/2006 OK, Crew, I thought I'd actually take my LFS at their word, since they've seemed knowledgeable in the past. I'm wondering if I've been mis-informed. <Every human I've met makes mistakes...> I have a 55gal system with about 70lbs. LR (just added 12 lbs.) setup as a double wall...kind of like a figure three against the back of the tank to create multiple territories. It has a well established DSB of 4" over a 1" plenum and plenty of snails and sm. hermit crabs. I have 2 Minijet 900s blowing behind the walls so I don't have too much flow for the fish and corals and about 350gph return from my sump, via a SQUID. I did some work for the LFS and they are paying me with fish at cost. I picked up 1 skunk shrimp, 1 coral banded shrimp, 3 peppermint shrimp (wurdemanni..sp.), a pair of 2" ocellaris clownfish, 3--2" "magnificent" Firefish gobies, 2 sm. serpent stars, 1 sand sifting star, 1 Fireshrimp, 1 very sm. anemone (E. quadricolor... I think...), 1 sand sifting goby, and some silver Xeniids, Sarcophytons, and mushroom anemones. I haven't picked up the anemone, Fireshrimp, or sand sifting goby yet, as we couldn't detach the anemone w/o risking tearing the base and couldn't catch the sand-sifter or Fireshrimp at the time. Here are my concerns:  1) I haven't seen the Firefish yet (4 days)...except once when one of them came out and was harassed back into the rock by the clowns. Should I be worried? <Maybe... this is a small world for what you list... too small for Microdesmids IME> 2) I was told that the sea hare would stay small and graze on whatever detritus I had yet your site says that they get to 2ft. <Depends on the species... some are tiny, others huge> and are obligate red algae eaters...though the animal I have is a pretty green in contrast to the brown of the picture shown on your site...is there an ID problem or should I return the sea hare? <ID plus...> 3)My wife wants to add a blue, active fish into the system, but is looking at a hippo tang (I'm disinclined... I think that'll be too big, though I can't remember how many inches of fish one can put in a 55gal.)...do you have any other suggestions? Thanks a bunch. Branon. <Keep reading, studying... you'll soon know. I would be careful (allelopathy) re the mix of cnidarians you list. I do hope/trust you have other tanks available. 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>

2 quick questions (Microdesmids, Gobiosoma) Hi Mr. Fenner, Two quick questions tonight. First, will the Firefish Nemateleotris magnifica sometimes, or ever launch themselves out of the tank, or is it more the Dartfishes? <Both... launches itself out of the tank all the time, and IS a member of the family Microdesmidae> Second, does the neon goby Gobiosoma Evelynae always stay bluish with a yellow head, or can they become like the Gobiosoma randalli, and turn only with the yellow markings? <Not as far as I'm aware...> I ask this because I think one of the local LFS is selling G. Randalli as a Sharknose goby, and is charging $20.00 more then the G. Oceanops that they also have. Should the Sharknose be more expensive? Greg N. <Where's my Gobiosoma specialists when I need them!? Have seen (and yes, identified), G. randalli as G. evelynae (sigh) myself... Think I've finally had them sorted out on the WWM site. The non-oceanops gobies often sell for quite a bit more, not being widely cultured (that is, instead being wild-collected. Bob Fenner>

Firefish substrate depth Respected sir Hello to all members of wetwebmedia.com. well sir i want to ask you that will the fire fish  be happy in a one inch deep sand i had seen the photo in your website. I really like to keep that fish. please reply me soon.  LIFE UNDER WATER, MONTY <Hi Monty, these fish burrow, so they need at least two inches of appropriate substrate, the deeper the better.  Nice fish!  Craig>

Firefish Down!   3/19/03 Hi Phil,<Hey Richard!!  What's up?> Bad news, just had a casualty overnight.<Oh no, I'm truly sorry!  The loss of a fish is never easy!> I've got a 30 gallon which cycled properly.<Good> My first inhabitants were a pair of Firefish. Day one they were out feeding together in the water column day two I introduced a orange spot goby. During the second day one of the Firefish started to stay out of sight it would come out occasionally but wasn't feeding. It would stay under a rock shelf, its dorsal fin was laying down and wouldn't come up. Day three in the morning I found it dead on the bottom of the tank so I took it out, it had a bite out of the neck probably after it died the orange spot took a taste. Any ideas as to what happened, I thought these were hardy fish. I couldn't see any lesions on the body. Should I do anything with the other fish?<You shouldn't really keep two Firefish together in a small tank.  You can keep a pair in a tank say 100g or bigger.  The one will be fine alone.> Thanks <No problem, again sorry about the loss.> Rick <Phil>

Helfrichi Firefish 10/28/04 I plan on keeping a biotopic setup with Nemateleotris helfrichi. <outstanding... one of my fave fishes. I have kept more than a few for years. Hardy with the right (peaceful) tankmates> My tank is 800 l (200 gal) and will have 4 in line refugia of 200 l (50 g) each. my question is what fish and invertebrate live in the same niche and occur in the same geographical regions and will peacefully co-exist with the Dartfish? Thanks Huig <this is very exciting to hear you interested and willing to do the research and set up a proper tank for this/any animal. My advice to start you on your journey is to go to fishbase.org... see the geographic distribution of the species (and so many more links on the species splash page with info on diet, reproduction, etc)... then carry that info to the library for field guides. Better still... check out the outstanding regional/field and dive books at seachallengers.com for some outstanding additions to your library. A good field guide will tell you much about history, niches and possible tankmates. Anthony>

Nemateleotris history 11/5/04 thanks Anthony - I've already spent hours on FishBase in the past but didn't find what I was looking for so at this stage I'm looking at pictures from scuba sites but most of them are just one specimen without much info. <do e-mail and call some of the Hawaiian and LA wholesalers that will take the time to respond to you. All of these specimens come through these channels. These folks can tell you about locales, niches, and other biotopic tidbits> I'll look for some books you've recommended. I think the best thing to do is buy a plane ticket <heehee... yes, agreed!> but I'm doing some (read  a lot) reconstructions at my home. so my diving will be in the cold dark waters of the north sea.  Greetz <best of luck/life. Anthony>

Firefish Mr. Fenner, <Jim> I understand you're a diver.  I'm interested as to what areas of the reef  Firefish inhabit.  I'm considering buying two for my 30 mini reef, but am concerned as to the amount of water current they are accustomed to. <Most species that are offered in the trade can be found on reef slopes and their bases/ends... in a mixed (but always including) sand and rocky bottom... near the bottom. A few, like Ptereleotris evides are generally found next to solid rock, making caves there hidey holes. Current isn't too much a concern... though Microdesmids look fragile, they are strong swimmers (and jumpers! Keep your tank/s covered!). Bob Fenner>> Thank You, Salty Dog (Jim Gasta) Firefish goby I have a 25 gallon tank with 8 gallon sump and 4 gallon hang-on-back refugium. This tank has 4-5" of sandbed, live rock, assorted corals and a pearly Jawfish, citron goby pair, a Rainford goby, a crocea clam, and a cleanup crew of assorted snails, a Brittlestar, 2 small blue-legged hermits, and a pair of peppermint shrimp. The tank has been established for 8 months or so and everything is thriving. I had a bi-color blenny in there until recently, and removed him because of aggression against his tankmates and tendency to nip at my clam. To take his place, I thought this setup would be ideal for two Firefish gobies, and I have always admired the beauty of these fishes. I reasoned the citron gobies had a territory in the rock pile on the right, where they lay eggs regularly, and would let someone else live in the rock pile on the left (the Jawfish occupies open sand in the middle). I thought wrong, apparently, because when I tried to introduce the Firefish, they were harassed by the citrons and, although the tank was covered, apparently it was not good enough, and one Firefish expired on the rug. The other one is back in quarantine while I seek advice/figure out what to do. <Get a larger system> The dealer does not accept returns, and the Firefish would be unhappy, I believe, in my community 75 gallon tank. <What is in the 75?> Is the Firefish doomed to spend the rest of its life in the quarantine tank (not a prospect I relish, as I had planned to take that tank down soon), or do you think I could get the citrons to accept it by removing them, putting the Firefish in, then reintroducing the citrons later? <Not likely in this case... they will reclaim "the whole tank" as their territory> Would my chances of success (and fish happiness) be increased if  I were to replace the Firefish that jumped so that I had two? <Mmm, no, not in the smaller tank, but yes in something of adequate size, composition> Or should I give up and conclude the citrons were there first and will never accept the interloper(s)? Any advice on how to deal with this would be appreciated. <Appears to me you're aware of your choices... choose. Bob Fenner>

Ribbon goby Hi,  anyone there have any experience with keeping blue-barred ribbon (or razor) gobies (Oxymetopon cyanoctenosum)? <Have seen this Microdesmid (dart goby family member) sold at times> A LFS has a very nice feeding specimen that I was thinking about purchasing and was curious if  y'all had any information on them. Thanks! Charlie Mann <Times when I've seen them kept successfully they were in a grouping... not solitary... in a peaceful setting... That's unfortunately all I know. Bob Fenner>
Re: ribbon goby
Thanks a ton....there seems to be a paucity of information about these guys...if I end up getting him/her, I'll let you know what I find out. Charlie <Thank you. Do appreciate the sharing... will post for alls edification. Bob Fenner>

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