Parupeneus forsskali (Red Sea goatfish)

parupeneus forsskali - Red Sea goatfish 3

Last updated on July 15th, 2022 at 01:21 am

Parupeneus forsskali, also known as the red sea goatfish, belongs to the family Mullidae and the order Perciformes. It is one of the most prominent members of this species and has gained popularity due to its distinctive coloration and behavior that makes it both fascinating and easy to observe by humans.

Parupeneus forsskali (Red Sea goatfish) is a species of goatfish found in the waters of the Western Pacific Ocean, including the Red Sea. These fish can grow up to 28 cm long and are best identified by their iridescent black spots and bright orange-red tail, which they display when threatened by predators.

Parupeneus Forsskali is an omnivore, eating zooplankton, algae, coral polyps, and crustaceans, and using its barbels to explore nooks and crannies in rocks for morsels of food.

Origin and description

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Parupeneus forsskali is a species of fish in a genus of marine fish in the family Mullidae. It is found in coastal waters, inhabiting lagoons and reefs with sandy substrates. Its maximum length is 30 cm. The Red Sea goatfish originates from Australia, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific Ocean, occurring at depths of 0 – 40 m.

There are four known color forms: red body/yellowish fins; red body/blue-green fins; pale brown body/yellowish fins; and dark brown body/dark blue-green fins. This beautiful fish has red to orange upper lip barbels surrounding its mouth. They are usually solitary or live in pairs when it comes to mating. Their diet consists mainly of sand-dwelling invertebrates such as crabs and shrimp that burrow in the sand during high tide.

Recently, researchers have come across that Parupeneus forsskali consumes marine snow which is a mixture of dead algal cells, fecal pellets, and other organic debris caught up in currents, and then slowly falling into deep waters as snow due to gravity. The newly found feeding habit helps prove that they use sand to both feeds and hide from predators.

Species profile

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Parupeneus forsskali is a species of goatfish that can be found in Indo-Pacific waters, ranging from southern Japan to Australia. It is a marine tropical fish that can grow up to 28 cm long. The Red Sea goatfish has two dorsal fins with spines and 13 – 14 dorsal soft rays. There are no spines on its anal fin, but it does have 11 – 12 anal soft rays.

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This particular goatfish also has a terminal mouth and reaches maturity at age 1 year. Its body color is usually brownish-green, sometimes bluish-green, or olive-brown; occasionally there may be white spots and/or bars across some parts of its body. The red sea goatfish eats benthic algae, invertebrates such as small crustaceans, polychaetes as well as detritus.


The red sea goatfish is a dweller of coral reefs and rocky areas. It tends to inhabit deep, sheltered lagoons and embayments with rubble bottom or steep walls and sandy backreef flats. They have been known to enter estuaries and mangrove creeks, but always return to coral reef habitat if available. This species can be found at depths ranging from 1m to 300m, though it is most commonly found between 20 – 50m.

Adults are typically spotted in pairs or small groups. Juveniles and subadults tend to live in harems of both sexes on much more shallow habitats than their adult counterparts. Parupeneus forsskali may migrate vertically based on seasonal changes as well as the abundance of food sources within their respective habitats, but migrations tend to occur relatively infrequently, suggesting that individuals are sedentary throughout adulthood.

Red sea goatfish size

The average size of a Parupeneus forsskali is around 25cm in length, though they can grow to as large as 30cm.

Red sea goatfish tank size

The ideal tank size is 100 gallons or larger; juveniles are active in smaller tanks but tend to be more territorial as they mature, so a large tank is essential. They should be kept in a fish-only tank; their diet consists almost entirely of algae and they may eat some soft corals.

Parupeneus forsskali tank set up

One adult Parupeneus forsskali can be kept in a 100-gallon tank. The minimum tank size should be much larger due to their territorial nature and the need for vast amounts of live rock to graze on. If a large tank is not available, two individuals can be kept together in a species-only aquarium. Due to their aggressive nature towards other fish, they are not suitable companions with smaller peaceful reef inhabitants.

This fish has no special environmental requirements such as specific temperatures or salinity levels. They will eat any meaty foods fed to them including carnivore pellets, carnivore wafers, frozen seafood mix, and fresh seafood. In an established tank, avoid overfeeding your Goatfish as he may out-compete corals for food. A variety of supplemental food items should be provided including marine algae like spirulina flake or algae sheets.

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Red sea goatfish tank mates

In most cases, avoid adding any other fish to a Parupeneus forsskali tank. The Red Sea goatfish can be aggressive toward other species, especially those of its own kind. That said, some aquarists do report success with mixing multiple Parupeneus forsskalis into one tank. If you want to keep more than one in your tank, it should be a group of 4 or more.

Some good tank mates are Tridacna maxima, Centropyge potteri, Pomacanthus imperator, Pseudochromis fridmani, and Paradise fish.

Parupeneus forsskali breeding

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Just like clownfish, parupeneus forskali is a protandrous hermaphrodite fish. This means they start out as females but can change sex to male if they are isolated from males during their larval stage. For breeding purposes, you need to have a minimum of two pairs and an even number of either sex in your aquarium, or else it may be difficult to obtain fry. The female will release about 1-3 batches of eggs before dying off.

The male then fertilizes these eggs by giving them his sperm which he stores until needed to fertilize future batches of eggs once he has taken over mother duties. The female usually dies after releasing eggs once since she has already reached reproductive maturity and has pretty much already done all that she needs to do in order to successfully produce offspring.

If you want to breed more generations of forskalis together, you need another pair to ensure there are always one female and one male available at any given time in your tank.

If you choose not to add any other pairs than those currently existing, just make sure that the first female doesn’t become completely stressed before introducing another potential mate into your tank, or else she will prematurely die. Males do become slightly territorial when guarding eggs so keep an eye on water parameters while they spawn.

Are red sea goatfish peaceful or aggressive?

Parupeneus forsskali are moderately aggressive and territorial towards other Parupeneus species. They have often been seen schooling in pairs or groups of three to four but they will become more territorial if kept with other goatfishes or similar species in a smaller tank. In larger tanks, a large school of 10 or more specimens can be kept together without any problems.

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Parupeneus forsskali care

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Parupeneus Forsskali is a resilient and active fish that appreciates plenty of space. This fish is a schooling species, so it needs to be kept in groups of at least 3 or more individuals. If purchasing multiple Parupeneus Forsskali, I recommend that you keep them in groups of 6 – 8 to ensure each individual has adequate space to move about and exercise their flanks.

When Parupeneus Forsskali are kept in smaller numbers (i.e. less than three), they tend to become aggressive towards other tank mates. Due to its high activity level, Parupeneus Forsskali should not be housed with shy or sedentary fish.

In terms of filtration, weekly water changes will suffice as long as quality filtration and strong water circulation exist within your tank setup.

What do red sea goatfish eat?

Parupeneus forsskali is primarily an omnivore, feeding on various benthic invertebrates. They will eat both plant and animal matter, feeding on crabs and shrimps along with algae and sponges. Zooplanktons like crustaceans, ostracods, and stomatopods are their most common food source.

Water parameters

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The ideal conditions for a red sea goatfish are temperatures from 27 – 30°C and salinity from 33 – 35 ppt. They are tolerant of lower salinities but do not like excessive water movement. Given its general tolerance to salt, it is an excellent fish for soft and hard water aquaria. It will however only thrive in an aquarium that provides sufficient amounts of oxygen by means of adequate biological filtration, combined with efficient aeration or even some form of wet/dry trickle filter system.

Therefore, it should never be added to under-gravel filters where stagnant water often occurs. Red sea goatfish will tolerate a wide range of pH values between 6.0 – 8.2, though they seem to prefer more neutral values around 7pH as found in coral reefs along with normal seawater levels of carbonate hardness (~8dKH).

Although they can tolerate less than perfect conditions, they seem most comfortable when these parameters are within their accepted ranges, hence if possible, please strive towards attaining optimal levels.

Parupeneus forsskali lifespan

The lifespan of Parupeneus forsskali is approximately 5 to 7 years. This fish species can live up to 10 years in captivity, but it may take less time than that in its natural habitat due to various predators. Captive Parupeneus forsskali have a significantly shorter lifespan than captive specimens of other marine life.

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Parasites and diseases

Parasites are a common cause of disease in fishes, but it’s not so much an issue when kept in aquariums. Few parasites such as Chilodonella and Ichthyophthirius do pop up once in a while but with no effect on your fish other than causing cloudy eyes and frayed fins. Pathogenic bacteria may become an issue, especially those that live in filter media, and can be spread from tank to tank by nets or siphon hoses.

Velvet and Costia gill diseases have been a problem in marine tanks and should always be looked out for because they often go unnoticed until large-scale damage has been done.

Fortunately, these can usually be treated with antibiotics (though some strains of velvet are now resistant). Some species are sensitive to copper-based medications; if you see cloudy eyes in your fish after adding copper, you might want to try treating them with Maracyn Plus instead.


The red sea goafish have many predators. They are attacked by parrotfish, large eels, dolphin fish, trigger fish, and large moray eels. Also, if they stay close to an island, they will be eaten by land creatures such as birds and snakes.

Also, their eggs get eaten by flying fish when they lay them in shallow water on reefs, so only a few survive to grow up.

Do Parupeneus forsskali make good pets?

Yes. Parupeneus forsskali are good fish to keep in an aquarium as long as you provide them with a few things they need. They need live rocks and live sand. This is because they eat small crustaceans such as amphipods and copepods. These smaller animals hide between rocks and in live sand so that predators cannot find them easily.