So, it seems there’s been a recent spike in people wanting Sand Sifting Gobies from these genera;
- Koumansetta
- Signigobius
- Valenciennea
(This is the biggest Genus I’ve seen people getting specimens from)
- Amblygobius
I figured it was time to start an article on these guys as their care is often more complicated than people expect given that they’re ‘Gobies’.
I’ve already done an article on the differences between Sand Sifters and the Rock Dwellers however the shortened version is;
Sand Sifters will not pair with Pistol Shrimp and their diet is often more complex than the average goby.

So, now we’ve had a bit of an introduction to this ‘section’ of Gobies. Let’s go into more detail about each genus, starting with Signigobius.
This genus is the smallest of the Sandsifting genera commonly kept in captivity with only one species - Signigobius biocellatus. In the wild, these guys are found around Indonesia at depths between 1 metre and 30 Metres. Their natural habitat is wide open silty areas of sand with a nearby shelter weather that’s coral, rubble or even leaf litter.
In captivity, this species is possibly among the hardest of Sand sifters to settle as many in captivity aren't captive bred and don’t readily accept frozen. These guys like many other species of sandsifter often starve to death within 6 months of being in captivity, this is often due to being in a system that is newer than they need or the sandbed is too shallow (A lot of the time it’s a reason of both). Frozen is not a good diet to keep them on for all of their nutrients (We’ll come to why soon as the reason stands for any Sandaifting species). These guys also tend to need spot feeding if they’re in a more active tank with aggressive eating fish.

Signigobius biocellatus (Two Spot Goby). Photo from

Now for the next genus, Koumansetta. This genus is home to now 3 species (it used to only be home to 2 species until one in the redsea was discovered). The three species in this genus are (In order of when they were discovered); Koumansetta rainfordi, Koumansetta hectori and Koumansetta hoesei. Koumansetta hoesei is no longer available to the hobby from what I know however the other two Koumansetta species are also widely available! In the wild, the Rainford’s and Hector’s Gobies are both found in the Indonesian range hence why we get the hybrids between these two species which do come into the hobby every so often. Generally these guys are found just off of Coral Reefs, hovering over a similar sand to what Signigobius species are found around (Silty).
In captivity, these guys are among the easiest of species to own. Because of the two species found in captivity being captive bred quite often, they happily eat frozen. However, whilst frozen is a more readily available food for them, their diet remains similar to other Sand Sifting species. As seen in the photo below, mine had a tank full of cyano. This is what separated this genus from the other genera, their diet is more open and the majority will readily eat Cyanobacteria. The other thing that separated this genus is that they are more likely to feed from both the Sand and also the Rockwork. I’ll go further into this and why this helps separate these guys from the other three genera when I go more in depth in their dietary needs.

Koumansetta hectori (Hector’s Goby). Photo by I Cant Think.

The next genus we’ll look into is the genus that slightly more people keep. You may have noticed I’ve been doing this in a specific order, and that order is going from less kept in captivity to most kept in captivity. Now, it’s just a coincidence this also goes in number of species in the genus however the next genus is the Amblygobius genus. This genus has 15 species in it and only a few are actually common in captivity. The species I see most often in captivity are;
- Amblygobius decussatus (Orange Barred Sleeper Goby)
- Amblygobius phalaena (Banded Sleeper Goby)
- Amblygobius semicinctus (Half-Barred Goby)
In the wild these guys are generally all found on Muddy Substrates around the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Which again, this will link to their dietary needs.
In captivity, these guys can be slightly harder to keep however they generally are on the easier side of sand sitting gobies as they will more readily accept frozen. The hardest part is actually finding one that accepts frozen foods (Again, I’ll go into this deeper when going in about diets).

Amblygobius semicinctus (Half Barred Goby). Photo by I Cant Think.

And the final genus is Valenciennea. This is the most popular genus of Sandsifting Goby in the hobby. Now, this genus holds 16 species. The majority are found in the hobby. Some of the most common you’ll find in fish stores are;
- Valenciennea puellaris (Orange Spotted ‘Watchman’ Goby)
- Valenciennea stigata (Blue Cheek Goby)
- Valenciennea wardii (Tiger ‘Watchman’ Goby)
- Valenciennea sexguttata (Chalk Goby)
- Valenciennea helsdigenii (Railway ‘Watchman’ Goby)
- Valenciennea bella (Bella Goby)
Now, as you’ll see, there are some species that are called ‘Watchman’ Gobies. These are not true watchmans - the true watchmans are in the genus Cryptocentrus. I go further in depth about the differences between these two in my article titles ‘True vs False’.
In the wild, Valenciennea species are again, found around the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Yet again, their natural habitat is in a wide open area of sand with a nearby shelter (often Rubble or Coral). Now, captivity generally sees these guys die the most through starvation. These guys are rather needy in terms of their diet and die within 6 months just withering away. Again, I’ll go in depth of their needed diet later. Now these guys are slightly larger gobies that generally max out around 4-6 inches.

The infamous Valenciennea puellaris (Orange Spot ‘Watchman’ Goby). Photo by I Cant Think.

Now that I’ve given an inteoduction to the 4 most common genera kept in captivity let’s go into their needed tank sizes.
Starting with Koumansetta. This genus is a smaller genus with its species ranging from 2 to 3 inches in captivity. So, in terms of Tank size for these guys I would aim for a 20G-30G (75-136L) tank. These guys are not only small in size but also activity and don’t move around as often.
Now, the next genus is Amblygobius. This genus ideally needs a 50-60G (230-270L) tank. This is again, a less active genus however their dietary needs are bigger than Koumansetta species’ are (A lot of the needed tank sizes to link to their dietary needs as well as activity).
Let’s go for Signigobius as the next genus. This genus is again, not as active however as they are more well known to die of starvation I would say this species needs Atleast a 70G (320L) tank, ideally an 80-90G (365-400L) tank. This doesn’t link to their activity as they are a species that doesn’t move much from their spot however they rarely eat frozen.
This leaves Valenciennea as our last genus for tank size. Now, this genus needs Atleast a 90G (400L) tank however a 125-180G (570-820L) tank would work best. This is linked to their size, activity as well as dietary needs. This genus gets larger than the other genera mentioned above and needs slightly more food. This genus is also more active than the others - those who have had species from this genus will know how much they like to move around the tank when settled.

Valenciennea sexguttata (Chalk Goby). Photo by I Cant Think.

Finally, the dietary issue. This is the biggest issue with sand sifting species. The genus Koumansetta doesn’t have as much of an issue with this however they should still have a nice matured, deep sandbed just to snack on. The reason this isn’t as big of an issue is because these guys do feed off of algae from the rockwork.

Now, the other three genera are much more needy and this is why;
Due to their habitat in the wild, these guys don’t have much of an option to hunt for pods and microfauna from the rocks. So they need to get their nutrients from the sandbed which is flourishing with life in the wild. In our closed ecosystems, this isn’t quite the case. A matured tank will have the perfect micro fauna and if one half of the sand is deprived, the other half will likely be able to provide life back into that empty sand. Now, to get that life from the sand you either need a huge tank (6-8’+) or a deep sandbed. I recommend sandbeds of 3-4 inches at a minimum for these guys as they generally take the first 2 inches of sand off the surface to feed from, leaving the other 2 inches full of life. Even then, to build that life and get it to thrive you need Atleast a 3 year old tank. Remember, these guys get Atleast 90% of their nutrients from the sand bed in captivity, if the sand is white it’s lost almost all of its life. Ideally to have a thriving sandsifting goby, you’ll want a tank that has a sand bed similar to this:

The 3” sand bed of my 3 year old 4’x2’x18’’ tank. Photo by I Cant Think.

Now, why do they not thrive off of frozen? If you were to feed these frozen only, you would have to use an incredibly nutrient rich food and also feed 5-6 times a day at the minimum (ideally you’re aiming for 8-10 feedings a day).

Amblygobius bynoensis (Bynoe Goby). Photo by I Cant Think.

So, next time you want to get one of these guys to give you a totally white sandbed… think again if it’s worth it :)
So I shall leave you with a picture taken by a fellow friend of a thriving Puellaris.

Valenciennea puellaris (Orange Spot ‘Watchman’ Goby). Photo by Slocke