The Smallest Fishes in the Giant Ocean Tank

Among the hundreds of animals living in the Giant Ocean Tank (GOT), there are a few species of fish that are so small they often go unnoticed by visitors. Less than 6 inches in length, the damselfish and goby families include some of the smallest fishes in the 40-foot-wide exhibit. 

Damselfish in the GOT

The beaugregory, brown chromis, and blue chromis are only three of the many species that make up the damselfish population in the GOT. At 4 to 6 inches in length, these fish may be small, but they are certainly not shy. Warding off unwanted visitors, small damselfish are notorious for their territorial nature and are known as the most aggressive fish in the GOT. 

Although they are a part of the same family, different species of damselfish reside in different areas of the GOT. Remaining close to the corals, the Beaugregory inhabit the reef at various depths in the GOT, the blue chromis prefer to live at the top of the reef, and the brown chromis shoal among the elkhorn corals. Recently, the GOT’s brown chromis fish have been laying eggs and are reportedly willing to nip at any diver that comes near. The eggs are only about .5 to 1 mm in diameter, making them the size of a grain of sand and susceptible to danger.

Blue Chromis
Brown Chromis

Gobies in the GOT

At only 2 inches in length, the goby, or “cleaner fish,” are the smallest family of fish in the GOT. These little fish get their nickname from their tendency to eat parasites and dead skin off other animals. There are only two gobies in the exhibit, one neon goby and one sharknose goby.  In the GOT, you can find gobies working their magic on the bigger fish, including the red grouper, puffer, and porcupine fish. Larger fish are often seen lining up for their turn to get cleaned, and a good strategy for spotting gobies is to look for big fish idling. Goby fish can also be found in the Blue Hole Exhibit cleaning the goliath groupers and the Yawkey Coral Reef Center living among the live corals. As the smallest fish in the GOT, gobies are undoubtedly the hardest to find. 

Sharknose Goby

Neon Goby

Conservation Message

Similar to many animals in the Aquarium, the role of these small fishes in the GOT mirror their role in the wild. Both damselfish and gobies heavily rely on a healthy coral reef for survival. Damselfish use the reef for protection, laying their eggs in tiny holes to keep them away from predators.  Gobies benefit by piggy-backing off other animals that occupy the reef. Coral reefs are delicate ecosystems and they need our help, use your voice and your vote to protect coral reefs, for both the large and small animals that exist within them.

Come visit us at the New England Aquarium and see if you can “spy” all five of these little fishes.