Dragon Goby (Gobioides broussonnetii) Care | 11 Interesting Facts

Dragon goby, most popularly known as violet goby, is an exotic pet fish you can keep in your aquarium. They are sometimes called dragon fish or dragon eels because of their eel-like appearance.

Dragon gobies have particular habitat requirements, so they do not fit in a typical community aquarium. But, if you have a brackish community aquarium, these fish can be a great addition.

These fish do not fit in a typical community tank and need special care if you want them to thrive.

Therefore, they are not suitable for beginner aquarists who have no prior knowledge of fish keeping.

If you are interested in keeping Dragon Gobies in your aquarium, this guide will cover all you need to know about Dragon Goby and their care needs.

dragon goby

One look Care guide

Scientific nameGobioides brousonnetti
Common nameDragon Goby
Violet Goby
dragonfish
dragon eels
Care levelModerate
Native toSouth and Central America
Type Bottom Dwelling Fish
Color Blue, Purple
Tank size50 gallons
Preferred temperature72-78 degrees Fahrenheit
Other water parameters pH: 6.5-8.5
Ammonia- 0
Preferred salinity1.006–1.008
Size of the Dragon Coby15 inches in captivity
24 inches in the wild
Life SpanTen years in captivity
Temperament Semi Aggressive
Recommended tank matesMedium-sized, brackish water fish
Preferred foodlive or frozen bloodworms
black tubifex
brine shrimp
sinking fish pellets and flakes
algae wafers
Feeding frequencyOnce per day, at night
BreedingHard

What is a dragon goby?

Scientifically named Gobioides broussonnetii, Dragon Goby is a member of the Gobiidae family.

Natively found in swamp waters around Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, these fish are distributed around North, Central, and South America.

Dragon gobies prefer to live in muddy and swampy bottoms of river mouths, estuaries, and bays. But, they also can live in marine, fresh or brackish water in the wild.

These fish have a long and slender body like an eel and a violet-colored muscly body with shimmering gold bands along their backbone.

The dorsal and anal fins run from head to tail and their ventral fins help them firmly stick to the surface.

Dragon Goby has a large mouth and sharp, huge teeth that may look dangerous. But, Dragon gobies are, in reality, gentle and peaceful fish that do not harm other fish.

How big do dragon gobies get?

Dragon gobies are pretty large fish species for an aquarium. In the wild, they grow about 24 inches in length.

Dragon goby is generally more prominent than other goby species. So, they need a significant space to thrive.

Since the space they acquire in an aquarium is not actually enough, they do not reach their maximum length in an aquarium.

Most Dragon gobies do not reach more than 15 inches in a home aquarium. However, this depends on the size of the aquarium they live in.

Dragon gobies that live in more significant aquariums grow like wild Dragon gobies.

Is the dragon goby aggressive?

As dragon goby is a carnivore species, most people think they are aggressive and keep them with aggressive fish.

In reality, they are non-aggressive species. These fish are actually the ones that get bullied by other aggressive fish.

They do have a large mouth with sharp teeth. But these teeth are used to scrape off algae to find food.

Dragon Gobies are carnivore scavengers. They scoop up a large mouthful of the substrate and sift through it for smaller food types, such as daphnia, plankton, and bloodworms.

Then they spit out the substrate from the mouth.

These fish usually prefer to stay hidden in the sand, behind the rocks, and under plants, and they do not attack other fish at all.

Dragon goby behavior

Dragon goby often is a peaceful fish that doesn’t care about other fish in their surroundings.

Since they have poor eyesight, they can not defend themselves from predators who know their weaknesses and inability. So, these fish easily become prey to bigger fish.

Although these fish have large mouths and sharp teeth, their throat is small. Therefore, these fish can not feed on big meals.

They can only eat small meals filtered from the substrate. Hence, they only scrape mouthfuls of the substrate and spit out the substrate after filtering and eating small edible particles.

Dragon gobies often stay hidden in hiding places and digging up the substrate. They are timid but can be territorial if they sense another Dragon goby nearby.

Sometimes you may see these fish swim to the surface and gulp some air. But, this is a warning sign of higher Ammonia levels.

These fish are susceptible to Ammonia. So, if you see this behavior from your Dragon goby, you should change the water immediately to dilute the Ammonia level.

Otherwise, your fish may die due to high Ammonia levels.

How long do dragon gobies live?

Dragon gobies usually live for about ten years in captivity. However, many aquarists report that their Dragon gobies lived for longer in aquariums.

This may be because of the stress-free living conditions they could get in their aquariums.

Dragon goby care

Unlike other fish species, Dragon gobies have specific requirements to thrive in an aquarium. So, you need to learn them before bringing in a Dragon Coby to your aquarium.

Although these fish can live in freshwater aquariums for some time, they specifically need brackish water to thrive.

Dragon goby size

Dragon goby is a large size fish that grows up to 15 inches in captivity. However, these fish grow more significantly than this size in the wild.

The longest captured wild dragon goby measured 24 inches.

Dragon goby tank size

As this is quite a large fish, Dragon Gobies need at least a 50-gallon tank to thrive. But we recommend providing more significant space than 50 gallons as the bigger the tank, the bigger the fish grow up.

How many dragon gobies should be kept together?

In a 50 gallon tank, you can only keep one Dragon goby. As these are peaceful fish species, you can keep more than one Dragon Goby in an aquarium.

However, you need to provide more space for each additional fish as they are territorial and may become aggressive towards their own species.

For each additional Goby, you have to increase the tank size by 25 gallons.

Tank setup

Dragon gobies live in muddy and swampy areas of bays and estuaries. So, you need to recreate this muddy environment in your tank for them to thrive.

These fish may live in a standard aquarium for some time. But, they will eventually die because of stress and other health problems.

So, if you want these fish to thrive, you need to provide them with a brackish aquarium.

As these are bottom-dwelling fish, the bottom of the aquarium should be at least 4 feet long if it has only one Dragon Goby. If you have a pair, the bottom of the tank should be 6 feet long.

Substrate

Setting up a suitable substrate is required as Dragon gobies are bottom-dwelling fish. The tank should have a thick layer of dark sandy substrate or slit which is at least 3 inches dense.

Decorations and plants

Dragon gobies prefer to stay hidden all the time. So, be sure to provide extra hiding places like plants, caves-like structures, or logs into your tank.

You can decorate your tank with live plants like Java Moss, Java Fern, Hairgrass, Anubias, or Marimo Balls, and these fish will appreciate them as they get extra shelter from plants.

Dragon gobies love to dig through the substrate. Therefore, you should securely fix the plants in the aquarium to prevent the uprooting of the plants. 

Never use rocks in the aquarium as rocks can cause injuries to the dragon goby’s fins. These injuries may lead to infection and, in ultimate cases, death.

Lightings

Since these fish spend their time mostly hidden, they do not have any specific lighting requirements. Adopt your lighting needs for the other plants and species in your aquarium.

Filtration

As with other aquarium species, filtration is necessary for Dargon gobies as well. Better to use a sponge filter to avoid clogging with sand.

As these fish constantly dig in the sand, the sand bed will be unsettled most of the time, causing the sucking up of sand in the filter.

To prevent this, you either have to block the filter with a sponge or, better yet, use a sponge filter.

Water quality condition

Dragon goby is moderately hard to care for fish species that need specific water conditions apart from particular habitat needs.

In the wild, these fish live in marine, brackish waters. You have to replicate these water conditions in your aquarium in order for them to thrive.

So, a Dragon goby fish tank might not be suitable for most other fish species.

Temperature

Dragon gobies are very flexible when it comes to water temperature. They will do best in between 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit.

But, they can tolerate temperatures down to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 85 degrees F.

pH Level

Dragon gobies do best in alkaline water but can survive in pH levels of 6.5 and 8.5.

Salinity

These fish need brackish water to thrive. The preferred salinity level is 1.006–1.008. However, suppose you want them to live in a freshwater aquarium.

In that case, you can gradually acclimate them to new water conditions by slowly removing saltwater and replacing them with clean fresh water.

This way, your fish will get used to less salinity and, over time, complete freshwater. But this should be done over a long period of time. Otherwise, the fish may get stressed and die.

Ammonia

Dragon gobies are very sensitive to Ammonia. So, you should make sure that the Ammonia level is down all the time.

Even at lower levels, your Goby will begin to gasp for air at the surface. If you see these behavior changes, immediately change water to dilute Ammonia.

Dragon Goby requires very clean water to thrive. So, in addition to installing a sound filtration system, you need to perform at least 10-15% water changes bi-weekly to keep impurities levels down.

Dragon goby breeding 

Dragon goby breeding in captivity is relatively complicated. You have to house at least three females and one male fish in order to breed in captivity.

To house four Dragon Gobies, you will need to have a giant aquarium. Since providing such a large aquarium is not practical in homes, breeding them at home is almost impossible.

Most Dragon Goby fish sold at the pet stores are wild-caught fish and not captive-bred. Therefore, they specifically need saltwater to survive in captivity.

Dragon goby male or female identification (dragon goby male vs. female)

Identifying male and female Dragon gobies is not easy. You need to observe very closely to sex the fish. Male Dragon Goby tend to have long, pointed genital papilla.

The genital papilla of female fish is shorter, blunt, and yellow in color. Since it is doubtful that the fish itself turns around to show its genitals, you will have to catch the fish with a net to identify the sex of the fish.

Identify pregnant dragon goby 

Technically, female dragon gobies can not get pregnant as they are not livebearers like guppies.

When these fish are ready to reproduce, the female carries eggs in her abdomen. There will not be any distinct differences between a pregnant fish and a non-pregnant fish.

Dragon Gobies are egg layers. When spawning, the female Dragon goby lays her eggs in the cave while the male fertilizes them.

After that, the breeding part of the female finishes, and she leaves. It’s the male fish who protects the eggs until they hatch.

Dragon goby breeding

Dragon Gobies are cave spawners. Therefore you will need to provide many hiding spots and caves for them to breed.

The male Dragon goby builds a nest in a cave while females stay hidden.

You can induce breeding by feeding them with live meaty food and by decreasing the salinity level.

You should reduce the salinity from seven parts per thousand (1.006–1.008sg) to six parts per thousand (1.004) over a few days.

And then suddenly increase the salinity to 30 parts per thousand (1.023sg). Performing these water changes will induce spawning, and the male usually spawns with several females within a day.

The female Dragon goby lays her eggs in the cave while the male fertilizes them. Then the female leaves the site. The male begins to guard the eggs against predators until they hatch.

Once they finish spawning, remove the female fish from the tank. You have to remove the male fish after the eggs hatch. The eggs take around 1.5 to 2 days to hatch.

How many babies do dragon gobies have?

In one spawn, a female Dragon goby fish would lay about 15 to 30 eggs. Since you keep at least three female fish when breeding, you may expect around 45 to 90 fish to fry in offspring.

Dragon goby fry care

The eggs take around 1.5 to 2 days to hatch. Soon after the fish finish spawning, you have to take out the female fish from the tank as they may prey on the fry.

The male fish will guard the eggs until they hatch. Soon after the eggs hatch, you have to remove the male fish too.

The fry need a special diet until they grow up. In the first month, you will have to feed them infusoria and single-celled algae. Then, you can move onto baby brine shrimps.

Special tips

Although Dragon Gobies can fit into freshwater aquariums once acclimated, they will do best in brackish water aquariums.

Since these fish are very sensitive to Ammonia, keeping some testing kits in advance would be handy.

Although Dragon Gobies are peaceful fish, they can be aggressive toward other Dragon Gobies.

So, to minimize this territorial behavior, provide plenty of space by increasing the tank size and hiding places.

How to feed dragon goby?

Dragon gobies are omnivore scavengers. In the wild, they generally scavenge food with their big mouth, scooping mouthfuls of the substrate.

After filtering edible food, they spit out the substrate.

Although these fish have large mouths and sharp teeth, their eyes are small. This makes scavenging the only way to feed themselves.

And also, these fish can not feed on large size food as their throat is small. Therefore we should provide only small particles to make feeding easier.

In an aquarium, you can feed them with live or frozen bloodworms, black tubifex, brine shrimp, sinking fish pellets and flakes, and algae wafers.

Make sure you provide them with both live and plant matter to keep them healthy.

Dragon gobies are nocturnal species. Therefore, they will prefer it if you feed them at night. And also, only provide them for about a couple of minutes to avoid overfeeding.

Like other fish species, overfeeding may cause several health conditions and also death. Therefore, only feed these fish once per day.

What fish can live with dragon goby?

Since they are peaceful species they can live with many aquarium fish. for example

  • Guppies.
  • Archers.
  • Monos.
  • Glassfish.
  • Bumblebee Goby.
  • Swordtail Fish.
  • Ghost Shrimp.

Related questions 

Is Dragon goby aggressive?

No. Dragon goby is not an aggressive fish. In fact, they are peaceful species that do not bother with other fish in the tank.

However, these fish are territorial and can be aggressive towards other Dragon gobies.

How big do dragon gobies get?

In the wild, Dragon goby grows up to 24 inches long. But, in captivity, they hardly reach 15 inches at most.

Can Dragon goby live in freshwater?

Dragon goby can live in freshwater if slowly acclimated to freshwater over a long period. But, they do their best at brackish water aquariums like in their natural habitats.

Do dragon gobies have teeth?

Dragon gobies have pretty sharp teeth. But, these teeth are only used to scrape algae from surfaces. They do not harm other fish.

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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.