post image

Choosing a Goatfish

In general, if you want a fish that’s constantly roaming the bottom of the tank, a goatfish may fill that niche. It is a carnivorous fish and it’s found in the sandy or rubbley areas around coral reefs, where they constantly nuzzle the bottom in search of an invertebrate. To help them achieve this, they have sensory whisker-like barbels that sprout from near their mouth area to help them locate their prey.

Appearance and Behavior

As far as color goes, goatfish are rather drab, and because of that, not too popular among beginners, although they are among the best-behaved fish. They are not territorial and will generally remain at peace with just about every tank mate, preferring to turn the other gill than get injured in a fight. They are extremely hardy and nearly always active, rummaging around on the bottom.

Interestingly, the longevity of goatfish is usually poor. Studies have shown that this isn’t attributed to any certain physical limits the fish may have, but rather to starvation. Goatfish are always active; seemingly, they never rest or sleep, so they need lots of food. In a natural environment, all that hustling would pay off. If these fish are fed several times each day, they do very well in a community aquarium.

They require the same physical conditions typical of a tropical coral reef. Warm, clean, clear water, temperature in the low 80s, salinity at around 36 parts per thousand and a pH of the usual 8.3.


The goatfish (Parupeneus multifasciatus) is a popular species endemic to the Philippines. It is mainly pink with some areas of yellow, and has three broad black bands that run along its body from head to tail.

Another Pacific species, the band-tailed goatfish (Upeneus vittatus) is also readily available. This fish is found in small groups along the reef feeding on shrimp and crabs along the bottom, as well as other small crustaceans. They are gray to silver with four to five yellow stripes running along their body.

Atlantic species include the yellow goatfish (Mulloides martinicus) and the spotted goatfish (Pseudupeneus maculatus). Both are suitable for aquariums, but only when they are obtained as juveniles. They have essentially the same basic requirements as the Pacific species. Be sure to feed them several times per day.