The Yellow Clown Goby: A Practically Perfect Nano Candidate

Yellow Clown Goby (Gobiodon okinawae) perching in corals

Yellow Clown Goby (Gobiodon okinawae) perching in corals

Nano marine aquarium enthusiasts must be very discerning in their livestock selections to ensure any specimens they choose won’t outgrow their systems. Reaching a maximum size that can best be described as miniscule, the yellow clown goby (Gobiodon okinawae) is a pretty safe bet in this regard. It’s also charming, attractively colored, relatively outgoing and active, and typically very inexpensive to boot.

Physical traits

G. okinawae is a uniform canary yellow in coloration. Its general body shape is somewhat similar to that of clownfishes, hence the “clown goby” moniker applied to it and its congeners. Size-wise, this western Pacific species is among the smallest fish available in the hobby, growing no larger than around 1 to 1½ inches.


This goby will usually accept a variety of small meaty items, such as mysis shrimp, enriched brine shrimp, Cyclops, finely chopped mollusk or crustacean flesh, frozen formulations such as Fish Frenzy®, etc. However, I’ve heard/read many reports of specimens being reluctant to feed initially. Make sure any specimen you’re considering is eating at your LFS before you make a purchase. Also, avoid any specimens that appear skinny and emaciated, as they are unlikely to recover. Offer several small feedings per day.


As stated in the headline, G. okinawae is an ideal nano candidate, meaning it can be kept in tanks as small as 10 gallons. In nature, it resides among the branches of stony corals, specifically Acropora spp. However, as with clownfishes and their host anemones, it’s not necessary to keep clown gobies with a host coral in captivity. If you keep a breeding pair in a tank containing Acropora, be aware that the female will lay her eggs among the coral’s branches, likely killing the polyps at the attachment site.

Yellow clown goby (Gobiodon okinawae)


Being a very small species, G. okinawae should not be kept with any fish large enough to swallow it. I’ve never, to my recollection (always maintain plausible deniability!), tasted a yellow clown goby, but supposedly they produce a toxic, nasty-tasting mucus that makes them unpalatable to predators. Still, I wouldn’t take the chance. Apart from that, any small, equally peaceful tankmates should be fine.

As far as conspecifics are concerned, if your system is at the smaller end of the scale, I would keep only one specimen or a breeding pair (any two kept together should become a breeding pair as this species is a protogynous hermaphrodite, with all individuals starting out as females and changing sex as needed for reproductive purposes). In tanks affording space for multiple territories, several individuals can be kept together without too much squabbling.

Despite the aforementioned consideration regarding branching stony corals and females’ egg-laying habits, G. okinawae is generally a great candidate for reef systems.


If you enjoyed this post, subscribe to get our new posts in your email.
About Jeff Kurtz

Jeff Kurtz is the Co-founder/Editor of Saltwater Smarts, former Senior Consulting Editor for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, and the aquarist formerly known as “The Salt Creep.” He has been an aquarium hobbyist for over 30 years and is an avid scuba diver.


  1. Paul Baldassano says

    These guys, when in good condition will spawn about every two weeks and the eggs are about half the weight of the adult fish. As was said, they lay eggs on acropora and kill about an inch of coral with each spawning. They lay their next batch on a living part of the coral so they keep killing it. They don’t seem to care how much that coral cost either. They should be fed as was mentioned with the addition of live blackworms. But of course, that will make them spawn so keep a lot of acropora handy. Eggs are just above the fish here

Speak Your Mind