Missing Firefish


New member
So I got a pair of firefish from the LFS a week ago. I was told they a mated pair. I saw them bobbing together very happily at the LFS. I acclimated and added them to tank.

I have a smallish 29G with LR
Xenia, disco, and 2 clowns

As I added them, the one firefish went to the back somewhere. Haven't seen him every again!!
The other hung around the front for a good couple hours. Now he hides a lot. But his cave is in the front of the tank so it's ok. I've seen him waiting for food when I feed sometimes. Not too worried about him.

I don't think he dead. I would have seen a spike come up in my parameters yesterday.

Time to dig up the rock work? Or should I wait another week?


Team RC member
Team RC
LFS do not sell mated pairs of firefish because they are not collected that way. As such, the credibility of the LFS is highly suspect. The odds of them becoming a mated pair is very small. So, most likely, you will end up with one long term.

Reef Frog

New member
To the OP

I would wait a while before digging up the rocks to find the fish. If it's still alive, a sqirt of food with a turkey baster behind the rocks may let you catch a glimpse of it.

If it's dead, chances are you'll never notice a spike in ammonia or nitrites unless the system is virtually brand new, and most clean up crews will man quick work of the carcass so you may not ever find evidence.

It seems firefish can just disappear forever into hiding at the slightest aggression from a member of the same or different species, and presumably die of stress & starvation.

My Observations
Steve is right about the low chances of getting a mated pair at a LFS. When we see a pair that "looks happy" together at the LFS they typically are in a new environment with other more aggressive fish and just haven't gotten around to targeting one another yet because they have other things to worry about. (My opinion)

However I am a medium term exception and have a ~1.5-2 year pair of Purple FF in a 65g reef, lightly stocked with "nano" fish. They appeared to be a true pair (for over a year) as one is slightly larger than the other and they sometimes hover close together gently interacting and even saw them "kiss" on one occasion. They are confident fish at the top of the tank's pecking order and even dart at other fish like a Yellow Assessor. They were out frequently and were not particularly skittish like many FF. They would often stay out in the open while I used a mag cleaner or if I had my hand in the other end of the tank. Very atypical for FF. A pleasant surprise.

But this happy event may have run its course. I added a Royal Gramma about 6 months ago and it seems the tank dynamics are changing. He's grown and is now the dominant fish in the tank. He takes prime position at feedimg time. I've never seen him be overtly aggressive towards anything but did see him flare his gills at the FF a few times during feeding competition. Now the smaller FF stays mostly in the rocks and the larger one is no longer king of the tank, has lost his bold personality and darts out for food and zips back quickly behind the rocks. I have not seen them move as a pair in a few months now. I just have a suspicion that the pairing is broken and I am going to have one FF soon. IME FF don't necessarily "kill" each other. It's more like one simply stresses out, hides and probably starves. So yea, true bonded pairs are hard to maintain, but probably possible. I think my situation would have remained stable had I not decided to add another fish.


In Memoriam
I have 5 orange firefish and 1 purple in my 125. When I first got them (and up to a few weeks after) some hid quite a bit. I didn't see some for days.

Also I agree you do not have a bonded pair, most likely/


New member
While not distributed to LFS as pairs, many actually are collected as pairs, since in the wild they most often have already paired up amongst their larger community where they were collected.

Pairing is possible, though by no means easy, as they are not sexable yet by humans.

I currently have a pair of magnificas that I have had over a year and a half and in a friends tank.have a pr of purples and a pr of helfrichs going on a year.

I agree with reef frog about not.digging for the missing one as I have seen instances where they hide for some time and if it does die will not significantly affect water parameters.

I also agree with reef frog that most of the affects toward an unpaired firefish are that one "stresses" the other to death, though you can often enough see the loser with a damaged dorsal spine.

I would disagree with snorvich on the credibility of the LFS, I have seen some that were quite good at pairing firefish.

As far as people that have success for a year or more and then the pr stops being a pr, I am not surprised
surprised at this as the benefits of being a pr are reproduction based and since they are not the longest lived fish, once they are past the age of reproducing young is not possible being paired is no longer advantageous as there is now close competition for resources. This is an aquarium problem as firefish likely live well beyond their wild lifespan in captivity.