Substrates are important as they make sure your aquarium is as close to nature as possible. Assisting in the oxygen balance and bacteria levels, having a substrate is a must to ensure the health of your tank. 

Furthermore, some fish love substrate to sift through and burrow in. It can act as a wonderful little hiding place for them, and also gives them debris and nutrients to feed on. When fish burrow, they aerate the substrate and this keeps your tank fresh. 

But what are the best fish species for burrowing, and how easy are they to care for?


Gobies are a fantastic addition to any saltwater aquarium. Many gobies are reef safe and hardy, so perfect for beginner hobbyists. 

A lot of gobies are sand sifters as they chew on the sand to get food from it, and then spits the remaining sand out. The diamond watchman goby and the engineer goby both make burrows in the sand and love to hide out amongst substrate and rocks.

Engineer gobies are wonderful to watch as they spend most of their time building burrows and tunnels in the sand. They do well in pairs but can’t be kept with aggressive tankmates. 

The diamond watchman goby is probably the best goby for beginners as it is really easy to take care of, and they are beautiful! It needs a live sand substrate and aids the aquarium by keeping the sand sufficiently oxygenated by its sand sifting.  

Certain breeds of gobies such as the yasha goby have an incredible symbiotic relationship with pistol shrimps and adding both of these creatures into your tank is recommended, although they do not need each other. 

The goby will burrow hiding places where the shrimp will take refuge in, and the shrimp reciprocates the effort by watching out for any pray that might be hanging around. This relationship is really amazing to witness, so definitely look into having these to in your saltwater aquarium!


These beautiful little fish are also a great burrowing species to add to your tank. Blennies are really colorful and striking fish and don’t need a lot of space to be happy, so good if you are new to the hobby. They are also a really active species of fish with a great personality, always busy exploring and hiding around the tank!

They are peaceful and can be kept happy by a lot of rockwork and sand. They spend their time burrowing and sifting through the sandy substrate. They are easy to feed and should be provided with a range of frozen, dried, and live food. 

When it comes to picking which blenny you want in your aquarium, it really is down to personal choice. The majority of blennies are really easy to take care of and captivating to watch. For beginners, the lawnmower blenny or the tailspot blenny are both perfect and add so much to your aquarium. 

The sand stargazer blenny fish is a really interesting species as it spends most of its time burrowed in the sand, with only its little face poking out the surface, keeping an eye out on what is going on! 

A lot of blennies, such as the lawnmower blenny also do a great job in keeping your tank free from algae, because they love to snack on the stuff! 

Yellowhead Jawfish

The yellowhead jawfish is a beautiful species of fish. It is has a blue body and a yellow head, but the colors mix together into an ombre effect, making this fish bold and striking. They grow up to four inches and are pretty hard to diseases. 

They spend most of their time in their sandy burrow with their heads poking out. When they feel threatened, they quickly go back into their burrow tail first. 

The yellowhead jawfish is a pretty peaceful species of fish and mainly keep themselves to themselves. If there is enough space, you can have more than one yellowhead jawfish in your aquarium without any issues. 

They are carnivores but you must put the food near their burrows as they can be pretty shy. Small pieces of meaty foods such as brine shrimp or bloodworms are perfect for these fish. 

Final Thoughts 

Burrowing fish are a great addition to any saltwater aquarium as they are really interesting to watch when they are making their homes in the sand. Species that sift sand are also great for the overall health of your tank, as they tend to clean up all the debris that might be in the sand. The aeration also helps the oxygen and bacteria in your aquarium! 

Perfect for beginners, and a wonderful way to watch nature in your own home!