Nemateleotris magnifica

Common Names: Fire goby, dartfish, magnificent dartfish, firefish (do not confuse these fish with the vastly different scorpaenids in the genera Pterois and Parapterois, which are also known as firefish)

Type Locality: Indonesia, Buka Buka Island, Sulawesi

Range: Widespread in the Indo-Pacific: East Africa to the Hawai‘ian, Marquesan and Pitcairn islands, north to the Ryukyu Islands, south to New Caledonia

Taxonomic Troubles: This is the original name. You may find this animal listed in the family Microdesmidae, subfamily Ptereleotinae.

Size: 9 cm TL (3.5 inches).

Preferred Water Chemistry: Tropical marine.

Difficulty: Not difficult to keep for marine aquarists who have mastered keeping water parameters stable. Almost guaranteed to jump out of an uncovered tank.

Tank Setup: Needs a sand and rubble substrate of several inches in which to dig its burrow. Appreciates live rock with plenty of overhangs and boltholes. Absolutely peaceful with all but conspecifics, so it is best kept singly or in mated pairs, though small groups c

Feeding: Feeds on zooplankton in the wild. Needs frequent small feedings of tiny meaty foods.

Breeding: Spawns monogamously in holes in the substrate. No record of fry being raised.

Fish Description

A long, slender fish. Face yellow, front half white, rear half red, with black second dorsal and caudal. The first spine in the first dorsal is greatly elongated and may be as long as the fish itself.


Firefish are popular aquarium fish, and this species is usually the least expensive and most easily obtained of the genus. Their natural behavior is to hang motionless just above a burrow, heading into the current, and snapping up zooplankton as they swirl by. It therefore does poorly with infrequent and/or heavy feedings. The dorsal spine is a most distinguishing feature and is reported to be used to lock the fish into a crevice, much like triggerfish. Because of its size and demeanor, this fish is popular for nano tanks, but it should only be kept in larger nanos of 20 gallons or more.