Nemateleotris decora – Purple Firefish

Nemateleotris decora or Purple Firefish are often confused with gobies, but they are actually Dartfish. This species is predominantly white or yellow with a slender cylindrically shaped body. They have a purple patch on their heads and their fins are trimmed with various shades of purple, blue, red, orange and maroon

Nemateleotris decora – Purple Firefish

Purple firefish (Nemateleotris decora) are members of the family Microdesmidae. These little fish are native to the Indo-West Pacific. Their habitat ranges from the Philippines to Australia. They were first made known to the aquarium trade in 1973 by marine aquatic experts Randall and Allen.

Purple firefish are often mistaken for gobies. While they are very closely related to the goby family they are actually dartfish. This species is predominantly white or yellow with slender cylindrical bodies. The body markings on this fish are extraordinary. They have a purple patch on their head and their fins are trimmed with varying shades of purple, blue, red, orange, and maroon. This is a small fish. It will only grow to a maximum length of 10 centimeters (4 inches). They are more typically 5 to 7,5 centimeters (2.5-3 inches).

The Aquarium

This fish carries an easy care rating and is an excellent choice for the inexperienced saltwater aquarium owner. They are rated reef safe. This is a hardy, very disease-resistant species. Their general durability, small size and tolerance to varied water parameters make them extremely popular among nano-reef owners. This fish can be kept in an aquarium as small as 10 gallons, even smaller if you are diligent in maintaining water quality. Purple firefish are also sold by the aquarium industry under the names elegant firefish, flame firefish, decorated firefish, fire goby, and purple dartfish.

If this fish’s size and survivability tempt you to add one to your community tank you should be aware that they are prolific jumpers. They should only be kept in a tightly-lidded aquarium. This is one of the more aggressive dartfish but is still relatively docile compared to other marine species. It should only be kept with smaller, less aggressive fish. They will exhibit territorial behaviour toward their own kind. Do not purchase multiples. A male and female of the species will mix together well.

The purple firefish will require lots of hiding places. Plenty of coral rubble on top of your primary substrate will make them feel right at home. This fish must be allowed to feel confident in its new surroundings. It will starve itself to death rather than compete for its food. A fading in colour is a good indication that it is suffering from malnutrition. If food is not an issue this fish may live from 7-10 years in captivity.


The Purple Firefish is a carnivorous species. In their natural habitat, their diet consists primarily of zooplankton. In captivity, they will eat flaked food and pellets. However, as with any marine species, it is advisable to provide these fish with a varied diet. You can feed them vitamin-enriched brine shrimp, mysid shrimp, finely chopped fresh seafood, and frozen or freeze-dried food formulated for marine carnivores. These supplements will help maintain their fit and vigor.

Breeding Nemateleotris decora – Purple Firefish

Purple firefish do occasionally breed in home aquariums. This is an egg-laying species. They are also monogamous in nature. Once a pair is mated they may spawn 2-4 times a month. Eggs are whitish in colouration and approximately 2mm in diameter. The egg’s incubation period is 7-10 days depending on the water temperature.



Exotic-Aquariums – (original website no longer online)

Copyright images

Tanaka Juuyoh
Klaus Stiefel

Additional information





First described by

Gerald Allen, John Ernest Randall


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