The yellow clown goby, also often referred to as the yellow coral goby, might be the perfect choice for a beginning aquarist. The yellow clown goby stays relatively small, doesn’t bother other fish, takes foods readily, doesn’t cost much and is bright yellow. What else could anyone ask for?
Gobies of this genus are found throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific, though most are imported from Indonesia. In nature, they are found living on large Acropora coral heads. Often, entire communities will be found on a single coral head and will display a distinct social hierarchy. In the aquarium, however, it is more common to simply keep one goby or a male-female goby pair. They sit comically on a coral or rock surface or hover in the water column, waiting to be fed.
Tank requirements: A minimum of 5 gallons would be good for a single yellow clown goby or 10 gallons for a pair of yellow clown goby. If keeping multiple individuals, you will need 80 gallons or more. The yellow clown goby prefers live corals to perch on, so a reef aquarium is preferable. However, many hobbyists do keep the yellow clown goby successfully in smaller fish-only aquariums. The yellow clown goby does well in larger aquariums as well; it may select a territory to defend or utilize the entire aquarium.
Compatibility: The yellow clown goby is not aggressive or excessively territorial, except to other clown gobies or if it is part of a mature pair. It is common to have success mixing the yellow clown goby with other species in the genus, such as the green clown goby (G. histrio) or black clown goby (G. acicularis), but there are interesting new varieties coming into the hobby constantly. One species to avoid is the larger citron goby (G. citrinus), as it can be much more aggressive and will often (though not always) bully a yellow clown goby to death.
The yellow clown goby is bite-sized for many larger fish, so take this into account when considering tankmates. Avoid possible problems with larger wrasses, hawkfish or basses, and predatory fish, such as lionfish or triggerfish. However, the yellow clown goby fits well into communities of typical reef fish, such as clownfish, tangs and peaceful wrasses.
Selection: Depending on how it is handled, the yellow clown goby may have a difficult time adapting to aquarium life. Because the yellow clown goby is so small, it is often shipped several to a bag and can sometimes be held in cramped conditions. However, the yellow clown goby is generally hardy, and a healthy specimen is not difficult to find. Look for bright yellow color, alert behavior and good appetite. The most common complaint with bringing the yellow clown goby into captivity is that it doesn’t accept food. If interested in one or more yellow clown gobies, try watching them eat before purchase.
Breeding: The yellow clown goby can be somewhat difficult to sex, because there is no color difference between the sexes. Generally, the female yellow clown goby will be larger than the male yellow clown goby, but caution should be exercised when putting two together because they will often fight to establish dominance. The yellow clown goby will spawn in captivity when given good nutrition and a comfortable environment. In a reef aquarium, the yellow clown goby will often bite the tissue away from a section of Acropora branch and lay eggs on the exposed skeleton. Clown gobies have been raised successfully, both by home aquarists and commercial hatcheries. However, the larvae of this fish hatch at a very small size, and are reportedly difficult to feed. Also, wild-caught yellow clown gobies are so inexpensive and readily available that it is unlikely that captive breeding of this fish will become commercially viable in the near future.
Foods: Some yellow clown goby specimens will arrive with a healthy appetite and accept nearly any foods immediately. However, some can be stubborn at first. To adapt the yellow clown goby to captivity, first get it adjusted to small frozen foods, and then give it larger foods, such as enriched brine shrimp. The yellow clown goby is an ambitious feeder and may swallow Mysis shrimp or other meaty foods that are nearly as big as it is. Additionally, the yellow clown goby eats slime produced by corals in nature; this has been observed in the aquarium, as well.
Special notes: In the wild, the yellow clown goby lives commensally with Acropora. The yellow clown goby often chooses colonies of small polyp stony corals (SPS) colonies to perch on in aquariums. This is not dangerous to the fish, but the constant tactile stimulation, as well as possible nipping of slime and tissue, may be problematic to the coral if it receives too much attention from a yellow clown goby. If a yellow clown goby is kept in an aquarium with SPS corals, keep several larger coral colonies in the aquarium to limit the amount of harassment any one coral receives. However, the yellow clown goby will just as readily utilize large polyp stony (LPS) corals or soft corals, which might be easier choices for a reef aquarium that features the yellow clown goby.