How to Care for a Violet Goby (Dragonfish)

Violet Goby

The Violet Goby
The Violet Goby | Source

A Violet Goby, Gobioides broussonnetii, is sometimes called the Dragon Goby or Dragonfish. It prefers brackish water and is native to the swamp waters around Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico. They are long, slender fish that resemble an eel (but are definitely not eels!) and have a silvery gold iridescence to them.They can reach lengths over two feet.

Dragonfish are carnivores, and with their teeth, you would think they are vicious fish. In fact, they are often sold in pet shops and large chains such as Walmart as aggressive fish. But, ironically, these fish are the ones that get bullied. They are not aggressive at all, preferring to hide in sand, behind rocks and under plants.

Rocks can cause injury to the Dragon Goby's delicate fins. This shot was taken before we added the sand to demonstrate how the fish lays on the rocks.
Rocks can cause injury to the Dragon Goby's delicate fins. This shot was taken before we added the sand to demonstrate how the fish lays on the rocks. | Source

Your Dragonfish Tank

Dragonfish need lots of space. A good rule of thumb is 25 gallons for each Dragon Goby. It is recommended that you start with 50 gallons at the minimum. The tank should also be at least four feet in length.

In the wild, Dragonfish can grow up to 24 inches long; however, they rarely grow any larger than 15 inches when kept in an aquarium.

The floor of their new home should be sand because they like to bury themselves in it. Rocks can cause injuries to their fins and possibly kill them.

They also need a lot of hiding places. Plants, logs, caves, anything they can back themselves into will provide much needed shelter.

Dragon Gobies also need very clean brackish water. It is best to change 10 to 15 percent of the water every week and keep up on any maintenance your filter may require. You will also need a water heater and thermometer.

Dragonfish prefer temperatures between 77° and 82° F, the ideal temperature being 80 F. Our Dragon Goby seems to prefer 78° F, however. The pH should be kept between 6.5 and 8.5. Ammonia levels also need to be kept low, Dragonfish have a high sensitivity to ammonia. It will cause the fish to scramble to the surface and gasp for air. If not diluted quickly, the ammonia will kill the Dragonfish.

The teeth make them look mean and their huge mouth makes them look grumpy.
The teeth make them look mean and their huge mouth makes them look grumpy. | Source

Have you ever owned, or do you own a Dragonfish?

  • I didn't even know there was such a fish!
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  • I've owned one in the past
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What to Feed Your DragonFish

They are hearty fish and tend to be scavengers, feeding on the remains of old carcasses if the opportunity arises. In the aquarium setting, however, they can be quite finicky about what they eat.

They prefer to eat live food such as insects and their larva, as well as other aquatic invertebrates. But in the aquarium setting they will eat freeze dried foods such as blood worms.

They have very small throats, so anything they eat must be very small. Algae wafers and flake food can also be on the menu. I have found, however, our Dragonfish dislikes flake food, and much prefers algae wafers.

It should be noted that Dragonfish may not eat for the first one to two days after you introduce them to their new home. After they have acclimated, they should be fed once a day and only fed as much food as they can consume within two minutes.

These fish seem to be nocturnal, preferring to be active at night, which can give the owner quite a scare. They do adapt to feeding during the day, however, and do so rather quickly.


How Long Do They Live?

When well cared for and kept in brackish waters, Dragonfish can live for over 10 years!

Keeping Dragon Gobies with Other Fish

Dragonfish do not do well in a tank with aggressive fish. Often times the Dragon Gobi will become the victim of fish bullying, so it is best to keep them with smaller, non-aggressive fish. However, very small fish may become dinner for the Dragonfish. Medium sized brackish water fish make the best companions.

It is important to note that these fish have very small eyes, and are almost blind. This makes it difficult for them to compete with other fish for food. They find their meals using their sense of smell rather than sight.

Requirements for a Dragon Goby Aquarium

Tank Requirements
Food Requirements
50 gallons minimum
Live aquatic invertebrates
25 gallons per Dragon Goby Fish
Freeze dried bloodworms
pH between 6.5 and 8.5
Algae wafers
Low ammonia levels
Flake Food
Aquarium Sand Substrate
Lots of variety in their diet
Temperature between 77 and 82 degrees
Brine shrimp
Lots of hiding places
Shrimp pellets

Dragonfish Fights a Snail for an Algae Wafer

Buying Your Dragonfish

If you purchase your Dragon Gobi from a reputable pet shop, they should already be kept in brackish water. Make sure to ask what type of water they are being kept in so that you can prepare your tank before bringing the fish home.

I say this because when you purchase your fish from Walmart (like we did) or other large chain pet stores, the probability that these fish are kept in brackish water is very low. Walmart keeps their Dragonfish in fresh water.

Dragon Gobies can do well in fresh water, and it is possible to transfer them from brackish to fresh with a bit of transition. However, these fish tend to be much healthier in their native, brackish water.

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Our little Fumbles
Our little Fumbles
Our little Fumbles | Source

Unfortunately, when we bought our Violet Goby, we weren't told any of the above information. The pictures you see in this article were taken as we were setting up the tank and before its completion. Our fish was quite active during this time so it was easy to get pictures. But as you can see, we started with rocks instead of sand, and didn't have a lot of places for him to hide.

If you decide the Dragon Goby is right for you, don't buy it from Walmart like we did, and if you do, make sure you research this beautiful creature as much as possible before you bring it home. They really are a beautiful, but they do require maintenance and a very specific environment. They are also very hearty fish, and tolerate change well if it's done slowly.

A Word of Caution

These fish are excellent escape artists. I woke up to find my Dragonfish nowhere to be found. My daughter said she heard a noise and saw him fall behind the dresser, and sure enough that’s where I found him.

I’m not sure how long he was there, but he was actually still alive. We have since changed the hood on his tank, and he has earned the name “Fumbles McStupid” courtesy of Rodney McKay on Stargate Atlantis (from the episode Duet).

We call him Fumbles, and he has become one of our treasured pets.

© Copyright 2013 - 2015 by Melissa "Daughter of Maat" Flagg ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

I wish I had the money to have a fish tank. I could totally get into it as I find it a very peaceful hobby. Great information here my friend.

Daughter Of Maat profile image

Daughter Of Maat 3 years ago from Rural Central Florida Author

Thanks Billybuc. I agree watching my fish tank is so very relaxing. Almost meditative really. And actually it's our daughter's tank lol, we got it as her birthday gift this year. It was surprisingly cheap to set up, but they can be expensive to maintain.

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

Very interesting and I am one who has never heard of such a fish.

I do love to watch fish swimming around and the calm feeling it promotes.

Blessings, Faith Reaper

Daughter Of Maat profile image

Daughter Of Maat 3 years ago from Rural Central Florida Author

@Faith Reaper, I had no idea what a Dragon Goby was when we bought him. I just knew he looked REALLY cool. They really are beautiful fish. They can be quite graceful when they swim, but they don't swim all that often. They mostly hide. Although Fumbles seems to have gotten used to us, and is will eat in front of us lol

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 18 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Great hub about a caring for a beautiful hub. Nice tips on how to buy one and take care for it. Voted up for useful!

Daughter Of Maat profile image

Daughter Of Maat 18 months ago from Rural Central Florida Author

@KristenHowe Thanks!! They are beautiful fish, but can be tempermental lol

Linda raley 11 months ago

We just baught one of these creepy critters for my hubby and it escaped and is no where to be found. He is very upset right now.

Destiny 8 months ago

I have one of these fish and has had it for 5 months and I come home and the fish is laying upside down but still breathing. Do you know what could be wrong? I had a gas leak in the gas could it have killed it?

dan 7 months ago

will my dragon fish survive in freshwater?

Elisa camacho 3 months ago

I bought a goby and was all excited I woke up the next morning and it was gone no where to be found

Brittany Preedom 2 months ago

I've had mine now for seven years. Tried to acclimate her to brackish water and she freaked out so we just kept her in our 56 gallon freshwater. She's now well over 14 inches and is a doll. We have kept her with guppies, mollies, platys, sword tails, and all other kinds of fish. She has outlived them all. We named her Tiamat. Like you we bought her from Walmart but ours was nothing but skin and bones. She's very healthy and active and never hides. Also she has never once escaped. I also own a snowflake eel in another tank and she has never escaped either.

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