Dragon Fish Care In Freshwater Aquariums

Dragon gobies, Eel gobies, Peruvian gobies or Violet gobies, the shy and fascinating dragon fish goes by many names. Members of the Gobioides family are brackish to fresh water fish originally from South and Central America. The largest members of the dragon fish family, Gobioides Broussonnettii can reach over 60cm long when fully grown, but other members of this fish family are usually much smaller, reaching half that size. Dragon fish will live for many years, and are a unusual and very peaceful addition to a fresh water aquarium. Dragon fish are not breed, they care captured from the wild and sold to fish stores, but they are a hardy fish that acclimates quickly and easily.

The Perfect Dragon Fish Aquarium

Gobioides broussonnetii
Gobioides broussonnetii – By Kitty Kat Katarina (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dragon fish are a hardy fish that loves brackish water (freshwater with a bit of salt on it, which is often found at the end of rivers when they meet the sea). They will grow pretty large, so they require an aquarium that is at least 30 gallons with adequate filtering and an aragonite substrate. Aim for at the very least 25 gallons per dragon fish if you intend to keep several, and opt for a long aquarium versus a tall one as they will need space to be comfortable. Dragon fish require very clean water and stable temperatures, so invest in a good heater and filter. Weekly 10 to 15% water changes will keep your dragon fish healthy and happy.

Dragon fish enjoy temperatures around 26.5C, though they can survive a warmer or colder aquarium for short periods of time. However, the longer you keep them in inadequate conditions the higher the risk of them catching some opportunistic dragonfish disease such as Ick or fin rot.

Dragon Fish Companions

Goldfinch can be a good companion for your dragon fish
Goldfinch can be a good companion for your dragon fish

Despite their size and their prehistoric looks, dragon fish are incredibly peaceful fish that are easily bullied by other fish. They have very small eyes and very bad eyesight, so other more aggressive fish may steal all your dragon fish food before he has a chance to get to it. They are carnivorous, so they could take a nip at smaller fish, but generally speaking they are really pacific, gentle fish that will sjy away from conflict.

The best fish to keep with Dragon Fish are medium sized fish that like brackish water, such as Black Sailfin Mollys or Archer Fish. Angelfish, Silver Dollars, Swordtails and Corydoras are great companions as well. In a cool water aquarium, they enjoy the company of Goldfish.

If you intend to breed them, a species tank with 3 females per male is recommended. When breeding dragon fish remember that the male will become aggressive and guard the eggs so it is better to separate the females as soon as spawning happens.

Feeding A Prehistoric Dragon Goby

Freshwater dragon fish care is about food, a lot. The better you feed them, the healthier and more beautiful your dragonfish will be. In nature, Dragon gobies are opportunistic carnivores and scavengers, and to keep them in an aquarium you will need to provide them with a high protein diet. They will love frozen fish food and live food such as ghost shrimp and black worms, and enjoy live and frozen brine shrimp. If a small fish or fry is nearby they may be able to eat it as well, so don’t keep them with small fish. They are well known to eat Guppy fry as a snack.


A very common complaint from aquarists starts with “My dragon fish is not eating! What is wrong?”. Dragon gobies are shy and it will take them a couple of days in a new aquarium to get used to it and start eating correctly, so it is important to monitor them carefully and not overfeed them until they are comfortable enough to start eating. Another common reason for a dragon fish to stop eating is a more aggressive or larger fish bullying them, as they have very small eyes and may have difficulties finding the food before other fish get to it. If you have just purchased a dragon fish, it may be worth it separating it with a net from the rest of fish in the aquarium until it becomes confident enough to eat.

Dragon fish fry can eat algae water (green water) and rotifers, until they are big enough to eat Artemia nauplii after about a month.

Why Keep Dragon Fish?

Dragon fish are an ancient species that has remained very similar to their prehistoric ancestors. Their long, slim bodies have an unusual lavender purple colour, and once they are comfortable they can be amusing to watch. They are also a great fish if your tap water is hard, as they love a high pH of 7.5 to 8, which means you won’t need to lower your aquarium pH artificially as with other fish. Expect to enjoy your dragon fish for many years, as they are a long lived fish provided they are kept in a clean and well aerated environment without aggressive feeding fish that would stress them out.

12 responses to “Dragon Fish Care In Freshwater Aquariums

  1. Thanks this helped a lot to provide a better environment for my dragon fish. Also helped with better feeding habits

  2. I’m looking into getting one of these lovely fish, but my resources are low. I was thinking about getting one from my local Walmart, but I read somewhere that it may not be such a great idea, but if I did this I wanted to know how to transfer them from the heated freshwater they keep them in to brackish water. Any tips?? Thanks!

  3. Thanks, i recently purchased a Dragon fish, my question is do they hide out for days then come out, or hide under gravel also. I have had to search for mine i can’t figure out where he hides except maybe under gravel is this normal, i only have mollies, guppy and platy, also ghost shrimp I’m a little concern he somewhat new to me, any advice is appreciated, thanks

  4. We just got a dragon fish. the tank is up to temp and such . shes been in it for about an hour. I just looked and she was vertical with head at the very top level of the water. I gently touched her to make sure she was not dead and she was not thankfully and swam behind her hiding place. Is swimming…vertical normal or should I be worried

    1. The tank temperature is important, but have you checked all the other metrics? PH, ammonia levels, etc… because she doesn’t sound happy.

  5. I’ve had my dragon for two months now. same behavior since day one. today her lips are white and she is swimming along the top of the water as if needing air, also her under fin has a pink tint which is new- Not normal behavior. I put ick treatment in the water – all other fish are fine. what can this be?

    1. Oks, it’s actually quite complicated you’ll need to look under them.

      “The only way to tell males from females is to look closely at their genital papillae, protruding structures on the underside of the fish. In the males of the species, this structure is long and pointed. In females, it is shorter and has a blunter shape. The structure has a yellowish color in female dragon gobies.”

      Which can be a bit difficult as they don’t really like strong lights and being handled. It may be worth trying to take pictures of their underside and zooming in that way.

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