Best Sand Sifting Goby For Saltwater Tanks

Gobies are some of the most interesting fish that you can keep in a saltwater tank.

They are very entertaining to watch, and they manage to keep themselves busy most of the time by sifting through the sand. 

Not all gobies sift through sand but many of them do. 

They feed off the bottom of the tank by digging through sand and eating any algae, detritus, and uneaten foods they can find.

As they munch through the sand, they will eat the food and spit out the sand through their mouth or eject it through their gills. 

They perform a very important task when sand sifting. They keep the sand well aerated and prevent toxic gases from forming in deep sand beds. 

Sand-sifting gobies can make a great addition to your saltwater tank. They are easy to care for providing you can meet their sand bed requirements. 

Here are the best sand sifting gobies for saltwater tanks.

Yellow Watchman Goby

Yellow Watchman Goby

The Yellow Watchman Goby is a small and peaceful Goby that can live in small and larger tanks. They are a good choice for beginners providing you can meet the following demands:

  • Good water quality
  • No other gobies
  • Proper diet
  • No aggressive fish in the tank

The Yellow Watchman will spend much of the day sifting through the sand. They are great diggers. They will remove sand from under rocks and build caves to hide in.

They have a unique relationship with a Pistol Shrimp. The 2 will form a bond and help each other out.

The Goby will protect the shrimp from predators and the shrimp will help build caves for them to live in.

They will only grow to about 3-4” so they can be kept in a 30 gallon or larger saltwater tank.

They are also considered to be reef safe and won’t bother corals in your tank. 

Read: 7 Best saltwater fish for a 30 gallon tank

Diamond Watchman Goby

These gobies are sometimes called orange Spotted gobies and have white bodies with orange spots. They are one of the more aggressive diggers in the sand and do a great job keeping it aerated.

Like other gobies, they are peaceful but can be aggressive with other gobies. Only keep 1 per tank. The Diamond Watchman Goby can be very effective in building caves to hide in.

This can be a problem if you have rock formations that can topple. These fish are very common to see in tanks with a sand base.

They are affordable to purchase and easy to find at most saltwater fish shops. 

Engineer Goby

The Engineer Goby is sometimes called a Convict Goby. They are unique as they will constantly change their markings throughout their lives.

They have blue and black body horizontal stripes which will change over to vertical stripes as they grow. The Engineer Goby is one type that will get along with each other.

So more than 1 can be added to the tank. They can grow to be much larger than other gobies, up to 12” so a minimum tank size of 55 gallons is needed.

They are a peaceful fish and should not be kept with any aggressive fish. It is known to burrow in the sand and make caves that they hide in.

They are entertaining to watch, and although they are not the most colorful fish, they have tons of personality and many people enjoy keeping them. 

Sleeper Blue Dot Goby

Sleeper Blue Dot Goby (Valenciennea sexguttata)

These gobies are one of my favorites. They are sometimes known as the Ladder Goby and have a white body with bright blue dots.

Like other gobies, they are very peaceful except for their own kind. Only 1 per tank is possible. The Sleeper Goby can grow to be 5” and can be kept in a 30-gallon tank or larger.

They will feed off the bottom of the sand and constantly sift searching for food. They do a great job aerating the sand and will keep it clean.

They should be fed a mix of frozen meaty foods like Mysis shrimp and brine shrimp. 

Check out: Peaceful saltwater aquarium fish

What do you feed a sand sifting Goby?

Sand sifting gobies are carnivores and should be fed a diet specific to meaty foods.

Good choices include a mix of frozen and live foods, including Mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, live black worms, and other prepared foods for carnivores.

As mentioned, sand-sifting gobies will eat leftover foods as they sift through the sand. Pellets and flake foods that are uneaten from other fish will usually be eaten by gobies.

They might take a while to start eating in your tank but once they start, they are not difficult to feed. 

What is the best sand for gobies?

It’s very important to only use fine sand in your tank with sand sifting gobies. This is so the Goby doesn’t damage their gills as they sift through the sand.

Fine sand that has a 0.5 – 1.7 mm size is required. Anything larger can be harmful to them. 

Caribsea Fiji Pink sand is a great choice for sand sifting gobies. It has a grain size of 0.5 – 1.5 mm which is perfect for them. 

You can buy this sand on Amazon.

How much sand do you need for gobies?

Live sand beds are necessary for gobies as they rely on them for food. The sand bed needs to be deep enough for them to be able to sift through it.

A sand depth of 1”-2” is sufficient.

Some people love to have a deep sand bed, but it is not advised if you have a Goby. It is possible for dangerous toxins to be released into the tank as the Goby sifts through the sand.

Keeping the sand bed under 2” is best if you plan to keep a sand sifting Goby. 

What is the best sand sifting Goby for nano tanks?

If you have a nano tank, let’s say under 30 gallons in size, there are certain sand sifting gobies that are better suited than others.

Some gobies that only grow to a size of 3” or 4” will be suitable for a 30-gallon tank.

If your tank is smaller, then you have fewer options. A Yellow Watchman Goby is a good choice for a 30-gallon tank. 

If you have a 10 gallon or 20-gallon nano tank, the best option for a sand sifting Goby is the Two Spot Goby.

They will only grow to about 2” or 3” and are very peaceful. 

Problems with keeping a sand sifting Goby

Although most sand sifting gobies are easy to keep, there are some problems to be aware of. Most gobies are peaceful with other fish but not with each other.

There are exceptions like the Engineer Goby, but you should only plan to keep 1 per tank. They are also difficult to feed when they are new to your tank.

They will rely on your sandbed for food, so it’s important to ensure your sandbed is established and live, so they will get the nutrition they need.

If you have a deep sand bed, be aware that it’s possible for toxins to be released into your tank as they stir it up and sift through it.

Although they can prevent these toxins from building, they can release them if already built up. 

Sand sifting gobies can also make quite a mess in the tank. It is common for them to move sand around and actually send it flying to other areas of the tank.

Sandstorms are common.

This is a problem as corals in the tank can be covered by sand causing serious health problems and even death.

Also, rocks and corals in the tank can tumble or fall over as gobies dig in the sand around them.

Aquascaping your tank properly is very important if you are keeping a sand sifting Goby.


As you can see, there is a variety of sand sifting gobies available for your tank. Each is different in colors, patterns, and sizes, but they all have 1 thing in common.

They need a well-established fine sandbed to sift through. Without that, they will struggle to find food, and it is unnatural to keep them without sand.

They need it.