Hot Water Fish

Rainbow Goby

  • Scientific name: Sthiphodon ornatus
  • Common name: Rainbow goby
  • Aquarium size: 80 liters
  • Temperament: Calm
  • Temperature:  Between 20ºC and 28ºC
  • pH: Between 6.5 and 7.5
  • Diet: Herbivore
  • Length: 7 cms
  • Description

The rainbow goby, Sthiphodon ornatus, is a true algae warrior , at least that is how it is recognized among amateur aquarists.
From the Gobidae or gobiidae family, it is a very curious fish … Do you know why it is called a rainbow? It is not because it has many colors on its body at the same time, it is because of the ability to change color quickly, also adopting , different colorations.
They are fish that have been in the market for a short time and there is still confusion, especially between different varieties of Sthiphodon, which are only easy to differentiate by aquarists with a lot of experience and knowledge about this variety of fish.


Rainbow gobies are typically about 7 centimeters long.

Its main morphological characteristic is that the ventral fins are welded, forming a suction cup that serves to fixate on the substrate.

Meanwhile, the first dorsal fin is blunt, with 3 to 5 elongated spines in males. The second dorsal fin has 9 soft rays.

It is difficult to distinguish males from females, although females, in some varieties, have a white patch behind the base of the pectoral fin, which is absent in males.

Another sexual dimorphism is that females tend to have a paler coloration, with two lateral stripes on the body.

The color varies from light green to dark brown,With the dark-edged scales, however, they are able to change color quickly, responding to your mood, such as stress or emotion.

If it feels stressed, it can pale considerably and the scales on its body are edged in black, while the fins show irregular rows of black markings.

Its name rainbow goby, it is possible that it originates from these color changes, in response to certain stimuli.
The face of the Stiphodon ornatus, can be orange-gold, up to a bright blue color.

Distribution and habitat

The rainbow goby is only known to inhabit the provinces of Aceh and West Sumatra, in Sumatra and Indonesia, Sumatra being the main origin of Stiphodon ornatus for aquariums, where they are captured in their natural environment.

This fact worries some environmental defenders, who are concerned about these varieties, which are endemic to some specific places on the planet.

The rainbow goby, lives in slow currents of coastal rivers, with substrates of firm rock and boulders, with little vegetation.

In general, they are very clear waters, well oxygenated, in which the tropical sun favors the appearance of algae, their main source of food.

Aquarium conditions

The recommended aquarium size is about 80 liters, although according to the experience of some aquarists, they can be perfect in a smaller aquarium. It is evident that the size of the aquarium will depend on the species of fish, and the amount of these that we are going to have.

The water temperature must be between 20ºC and 28ºC, with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5, and a hardness between 2 and 12º dGH.

The aquarium must be conditioned with a gravel or sand bottom,  another option is to make a mixture of the two, where a layer of smooth rocks and pebbles of different sizes must be installed.

The idea is to provide them with a place where they can move the fund, which they are fans of, but also places where they can take shelter.

It is not usual for there to be a lot of vegetation in its original habitat, however aquatic plants can be included in our aquarium, which will provide additional shelter, in addition to promoting the growth of algae, their main food.

For this reason, it is not a good idea to add rainbow gobies to an immature aquarium, where not enough algae have yet grown.

The quality of the water is important, for which we must maintain good oxygenation at all times, it is advisable to use a good size filter.

Aquarium decoration

  • Best aquarium sand
  • Best gravel for aquarium
  • Best akadama for aquarium
  • Best Aquarium Ornaments 
  • Best logs for aquariums
  • Best rocks for aquariums
  • Best backgrounds for aquariums
  • Best artificial plants


The Stiphodon ornatus is fundamentally herbivorous, feeding on benthic algae and associated microorganisms.

To provide the necessary food, you can resort to all kinds of tricks, such as having a separate aquarium, in which flat stones are put and in which algae is allowed to appear, which we will then change to the aquarium occupied by the rainbow gobies.

However, in the aquarium they will also accept scales, live or frozen red worms , which should be offered to them on some occasions, so as not to cause intestinal problems.

Everything you need to maintain your aquarium

  • Best digital pH meter
  • Best Aquarium Test
  • Best anti-algae
  • Best bacteria for aquarium
  • Best siphoner for aquarium
  • Best Aquarium Water Clarifiers
  • Best reverse osmosis filters for aquarium
  • Best UV lamps for aquariums

Behavior and compatibility

They are calm fish, not very territorial. To keep several males in the same aquarium, we must have enough space, even create small physical barriers to reduce the risk of aggression.

As for fish compatible with the Rainbow Goby and sharing space, you can use small Danios, which occupy different spaces in the aquarium and avoid fish larger than them, as well as those that occupy the lower part of the aquarium, space in which they are comfortable.

Another option is to add some more species of gobies, with which they will share space without problems.


The courtship patterns and customs of the Gobio ornatus are known, however, until now it has not been possible to breed in captivity.

One of the possible reasons is that its reproduction is amphchronous. The adults live and reproduce in fresh water, but when the larvae hatch, they are dragged downstream to the sea, where they pass their first stages, developing in seawater conditions.


The most commercialized variety of Stiphodon is the ornatus, although there is some confusion between the different Stiphodones: atratus, imperiorientis, martenstyni, pelewensis, pulchellus, weberi … which can give rise to you going to buy a variety, and actually take another to your house.

This is fundamentally due to the little information still available on the colorations and morphological differences between the different species.

Photos of the rainbow goby

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