Purple Firefish Care Guide

Scientific NameNemateleotris decora
DifficultyEasy
Final Tank Size20 Gallons
DietCarnivore
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025
AggressionPeaceful
Size3"
The Purple Firefish are a small, shy fish with a mixed coloration. They tend to stay in one place, poking their heads out from rocks or swimming just in front of their homes. They will rarely swim much further than this, which can cause difficulties when feeding them. They are not aggressive towards any fish or inverts and can fit in just about any tank that will not eat them. Depending on where they make their home you may see them all the time or almost never. When fed a vitamin enriched diet their bodies tend to be more yellow with a rich purple outline. This is rarely seen in shops and is a nice sight reserved for the dedicated owner.

Nano tanks or tanks under 20 gallons should use minor caution when picking the Purple Firefish as an inhabitant. They are very easily bullied and do not get along with other firefish unless they form a mated pair. They should not fight with other fish seeking refuge in the rocks but may be forced out of hiding by other rock dwellers. This can leave the Purple Firefish homeless and very stressed out. They are not particularly hardy and can easily get sick from stress.

Is the Purple Firefish Reef Safe?

The Purple Firefish is completely reef safe. They will not harm any corals, inverts, clams or any other inhabitant in the tank. They will occasionally pick at rocks for small crustaceans and copepods or search the substrate for food. This makes them slightly beneficial to corals that can be harassed by pods but they will not do as good a job at protecting corals as a wrasse would. They also do not eat enough pods to be detrimental to a dragonet or other copepod eaters.

While the Purple Firefish does like hiding in rock work and among corals they do not usually host corals or swim inside of them. They will generally only swim nearby but not close enough to cause the coral any amount of stress. They are quick to run from any hosted corals that are guarded by other fish.

As with any fish the Purple Firefish may nip at newly added shrimp, however they will only target incredibly small shrimp. Anything over half an inch in size is unlikely to be a target of the Purple Firefish and can be added any time after the fish is established. If anything the firefish may be a target for large Coral Banded Shrimp.

The Purple Firefish Diet

This firefish is quite easy to feed with the condition that they see the food. They are not usually seen swimming towards food and are not observant of the water flow shutting off during feeding time. They will quickly strike at food that floats near them or look for food on the substrate. If you are not putting food directly in their face they will likely become malnourished, resulting in poor coloration and health issues.

A good diet for the Purple Firefish should contain:

  • High quality flake and pellet foods
  • Dried brine or mysis shrimp
  • Diced meaty food
  • Live gut loaded brine shrimp
  • Frozen foods
  • Zooplankton

Always choose high quality foods for this firefish. It will gain and lose coloration quickly depending on its diet. Vitamin enriched foods and gut loaded brine shrimp are some of the best choices when you want a strong yellow/purple firefish. Normal tropical fish flakes will usually result in the standard white and purple coloration seen in the store.

The Purple Firefish main difficulty is getting them to eat in the first place. They are very shy fish especially when introduced to the tank. Combine this with their poor feeding habits and they will frequently find themselves starving shortly after joining the aquarium. A common mistake people make is taking away their hiding spots or forcing them out while the feeding is happening. Doing this will scare the firefish making them focused only on survival rather than any food that may pass them.

The ideal way to feed the Purple Firefish is to understand where they spend their time and how the water flows to their usual spot. Food should be fed in a way that it sinks into the tank and floats by the firefish without being manipulated. While this is more easily done with the powerheads or water flow shut off doing so may scare the Purple Firefish into hiding. To find where you should add food to reach the firefish you should use only single pieces of food, adding them to the tank and seeing how they interact with the water flow. Once you know where the food should be added you can ensure your firefish is well fed without having to turn off the powerheads each time.

The Purple Firefish has a small stomach and should be fed two or three smaller meals a day. While they can pick food off of the substrate, feeding so much that there is enough food on the floor is not a good idea as it will quickly foul the tanks water. This can cause issues when kept with quick fish as the firefish is not a competitive eater and can easily be starved out of the tank. Keeping them with quick, hungry fish like basslets or wrasse is risky. If a quick fish makes its home by the firefish it can be near impossible to feed the firefish without overfeeding the tank. If this does happen you will likely have to overfeed and increase the frequency of water changes to compensate.

Purple Firefish Tank Requirements

The Purple Firefish is not a picky fish when it comes to how the tank is set up. They do like a decent amount of water flow but require some hiding locations. This is typically created by rock structures in the tank but can also be provided by decorations or PVC piping. By using pipes you can ensure their home will not collapse and is safe while encouraging them to hang around a specific area. If there is no suitable home for them they may start to dig out a small burrow underneath the rocks. This will take several days but can be shortened by leaving small holes under the rocks that they can use as a starting point. Digging a burrow is less likely when the substrate used is fine sand.

Upon entering the aquarium this fish will immediately hide. It is not uncommon to not see them for a day or two right after you add them to the tank. They will not emerge to eat in this time and should not be bothered unless you are removing them from the tank. Trying to force the Purple Firefish out of hiding will only stress them out and encourage their hiding behavior. When they determine it is safe to swim around the tank they will come out of hiding, swimming against the water flow just in front of their home. They will dart back into hiding if anything frightens them but will be quick to come back out once they are established in the tank. Putting food in their hiding spot is not a good idea and will usually only frighten them.

Their skittish nature makes the Purple Firefish a high risk jumper for its entire life. They should only be kept in aquariums with tight fitting lids. As they are such slender fish they will need all holes, even those only a quarter inch in size, sealed or covered with a mesh net. Avoid hard fine netting as it can get caught on their fins, especially their prominent dorsal fin. Additionally when kept in aquariums that have an overflow box it is very important to have a box with fine teeth. These small fish can easily slip through and fit into tubes leading out of the display tank. The same is true of filtration and power heads.

Purple Firefish Tankmates

The Purple Firefish has very few requirements when it comes to tankmates. They should not be kept with other fish that will:

  • Bully them
  • Force them out of rocks
  • Eat them
  • Eat excessively and starve the Purple Firefish
  • Fight with purple fish

Good tankmates are:

  • Gobies
  • Clownfish
  • Blennies
  • Cardinalfish
  • Jawfish
  • Fairy Wrasse
  • Peaceful Anthias

Purple Firefish are quite difficult to pair and should either be purchased extremely young from a local breeder or as a mated pair. Adding in two juveniles together will result in fighting even if they are a suitable pair. They will fight with just about any other firefish and may harass/be harassed by other purple fish. For those looking to get a mated pair a minimum tank size of 40 is recommended. A long breeder is more suitable as they will generally stay below the middle of the tank.

Purple Firefish Gender & Breeding

While the gender of these fish cannot be determined they have been bred in captivity. The methods have been well documented and hatch rates are fairly high when the right conditions are met. The only difficult of breeding the Purple Firefish is getting a mated pair to start with. Once a pair is formed they can breed and will raise their young in the same tank they breed in, guarding both the eggs and fry.

To breed the Purple Firefish you should first ensure they have a stable habitat with no other fish hanging around their home. The fish should have a stable feeding schedule with food always reaching both of the Purple Firefish. They should not have to compete for food too much and should not be chased away by other fish.

The firefish chosen to breed can be of any age. In a study done by Madhu, K and Madhu, Rema the selected fish were between 2.3 and 4 inches in length or 60-100mm TL. The tanks used were 250 liters or 66 gallons with a temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit. They were given a consistent lighting schedule of 14 hours of light and 10 hours of darkness. This resulted in spawning after six months with egg counts between 400 and 500 eggs per spawning.

The eggs would hatch within 96 hours of spawning with over 90% of eggs hatching. These eggs were hatched in the same size aquarium, 250 liters or 66 gallons. The fry were fed phytoplankton and zooplankton. As they age larger plankton should be used. They would be considered juveniles 40 days after hatching.

For more details you can read their abstract here or even request the full text. They have exact diets used in their experiments and how they directly related to survival rate of fry.

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