Purple Firefish

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Nemateleotris decora - Randall & Allen, 1973
Purple Firefish

A hovering species, perfect for reef tanks with big, predatory fishes. Scott W. Michael


A truly alluring small fish, this is a beautiful, disease-resistant species that makes a wonderful addition to a reef tank or peaceful fish-only marine community aquarium. A similar species, Helfrich’s Firefish (Nemateleotris helfrichi), is equally admirable, but much less common and usually priced as a rare fish.

Family: Ptereleotridae

Other common name(s):

  • Decorated Firefish
  • Elegant Firefish
  • Purple Dartfish
  • Flame Firefish

Native range:

Habitat: Reef-sand interface. Flat rocks with shallow caves or depressions dug underneath them provide excellent shelter sites.

Maximum length: 8.9 cm (4 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 38 L (10 gal)

Water: Marine 24 °C (75 °F) - 28 °C (82 °F)

General swimming level: Midwater to bottom.


Carnivore. Feed meaty plankton-like foods, such as mysid shrimp and enriched brine shrimp, at least once a day.

Aquarium Compatibility

This is a hovering species that hangs in the water column near a hiding place. If a threat arises, it will instantly dart into its burrow or hole. This species will not behave aggressively toward other fishes, unless they are close relatives (primarily other firefish species). While they can be kept in pairs if you can acquire a male and female, males will fight with each other. They are not a threat to ornamental invertebrates and are an excellent choice for a peaceful reef aquarium.


This species is one of the worst for ­making unintentional suicidal leaps from open aquariums. Be sure your tank is always properly covered.

Reference: 101 Best Saltwater Fishes
Image credit: SWM
Text credit: SWM