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Mandarin Goby Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.


Synchiropus sp.

Also known as dragonets, the three most common mandarins are the green, red and spotted (aka psychedelic). Mandarin gobies are extremely popular due to their unique color pattern and unusual beauty. Because of their dietary requirements, these small fish should only be kept in a well-established aquarium 29 gallons or larger with plenty of live rock, live sand and hiding places. They feed on natural prey and tiny crustaceans found on the live rock and in sand.

Typical mandarin goby appearance and behavior

  • Mandarin gobies spend most of their time actively hopping about the live rock in search of food
  • Slow-moving and shy, they appreciate lots of hiding places
  • They produce a noxious, bitter mucus to deter predators
  • Males have an elongated first dorsal spine and may show brighter colors than their female counterparts
  • They can be finicky eaters


Care difficulty Advanced
Average Life Span Up to 15 years with proper care
Average adult size Up to 3 inches, depending on species
Diet Carnivorous
Minimum habitat size 29+ gallons, depending on species
Water temperature 74–80°F
Specific gravity 1.020–1.025


Habitat size

Use an aquarium that's at least 29 gallons so there's plenty of space for live rock for the gobies to feed from.

Building your habitat

  • Water Health: Provide proper filtration to ensure optimal water quality to help maintain health. Slow to moderate water circulation should be provided to mimic water currents found in the mandarin goby’s natural habitat. Stable water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) and water temperature are critical to the health of aquatic life. If you are unsure of your water quality, bring a sample to Petco for free testing. A protein skimmer can help maintain great water quality and high dissolved oxygen levels. An aquatic heater should be used to stabilize water temperature, ensuring it does not fluctuate more than 2 degrees in either direction in a 24-hour period. The specific gravity should remain stable; do not allow specific gravity to fluctuate more than 0.001 in either direction in a 24-hour period
  • Décor: Provide plenty of live rock and décor for hiding places; live sand will help provide the natural food supply needed to help keep your mandarin happy and healthy

What do mandarin gobies eat?

A well-balanced mandarin goby diet consists of:

  • Small crustaceans known as copepods, amphipods, ostracods and polychaete worms
  • Live baby brine shrimp called artemia
  • Pellets and frozen brine shrimp or mysis shrimp, which some gobies may be transitioned to eating

Things to remember when feeding your mandarin goby:

  • Gobies must be kept in a tank with plenty of live rock, where they will feed on copepods and other tiny life forms
  • Feed them small amounts 2–3 times daily, no more than they will eat in 1 to 2 minutes
  • Thaw frozen food before feeding.

Mandarin goby care

  • Water care: Maintaining great water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration is important to help keep your gobies healthy
    • Daily: Check filter, water temperature and other equipment
    • Weekly: Test water quality at least once a week
    • Weekly to monthly: Change 10–25% of the total volume of water every 2–4 weeks, or as needed; change filter media monthly
  • Avoid overcrowded conditions, which are a major cause of stress and disease

Where to buy

Mandarin gobies are available for purchase at Petco online and in store; availability varies by location. If visiting your local location, please call ahead to check availability.

Mandarin goby supplies

Tank mates

  • Gobies are best kept in reef-type tanks
  • They can't compete with larger fish for food
  • They are very territorial toward their own species; keep only one mandarin goby or one male/female pair per tank
  • Introduce new inhabitants to the aquarium gradually


Signs of a healthy fish

  • Clear eyes
  • Healthy appetite
  • Bright even coloring
  • Fins completely intact and undamaged
  • Free of parasites or disease

Red flags (if you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian)

  • Loss of color or appetite
  • Spots or fungus on body or mouth
  • Listlessness
  • Erratic swimming
  • Labored breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Frayed fins
  • Bloating

Common mandarin goby health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Fin rot Frayed or disintegrating fins; the base of the fins usually reddens Improve water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Marine ich or marine velvet Cysts on fins, gills and skin; rapid breathing; excess skin mucus or pale skin; fish rubs against hard objects or swims erratically Quarantine fish immediately and use a commercial parasite remedy; complete a water change on main aquarium—freshwater dips can help dislodge the parasites; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Bacterial infections Cloudy eyes, open sores and/or reddening of the skin Improve water quality; use a commercial antibacterial remedy as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Viral infection (lymphocystis) White nodule growths on fins or body Improve water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment


  • What do mandarin gobies eat? Mandarin gobies feed on small crustaceans known as copepods, amphipods, ostracods and polychaete worms
  • How can you tell if mandarin goby is eating? Mandarin gobies should be observed picking at the live rock to ensure they are eating; they should be full-bodied with no weight loss.
  • What should I feed a mandarin goby? Mandarin gobies primarily feed on small crustaceans living on live rock or in live sand but may be transitioned to consuming pellet diets or frozen brine and mysis shrimp. There are also commercially offered copepod cultures. Additionally, gobies can be offered newly hatched brine shrimp called artemia
  • How big do mandarin gobies get? Mandarin gobies can reach an adult size of 3 inches.
  • Will a mandarin goby eat brine shrimp? Mandarin gobies may accept newly hatched brine shrimp called artemia. With some patience, they may be transitioned to accepting commercial foods like brine or mysis shrimp.

Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as atypical Mycobacterium and Salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet.

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at for more information about aquatic life and disease.

Note: The information in this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.