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Pearly Jawfish – Complete Care Guide

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pearly jawfish in burrow

Pearly Jawfish Facts

The Pearly Jawfish (Opistognathus aurifrons), sometimes called the Yellowhead Jawfish, is a gorgeous fish kept in the fishkeeping hobby. This fish has a white/blue body and a yellow head. These colors are not commonly seen on fish. It is a burrowing species of fish that can be very timid, especially when first introduced. However, they are very peaceful fish and spend most of their time in and around their burrow.

Opistognathus aurifrons grow to be about 4 inches when they are fully grown. Although they do not require an incredibly large fish tank, they still require a deep substrate which we will cover later. The Pearly Jawfish is reef safe, but may “spit” sandy substrate onto coral that are around its burrow. This article will go further into detail and also discuss Pearly Jawfish care, aquarium requirements, diets and more. If you’re curious about jawfish, check out the Blue Spot Jawfish Care Guide as well!

Aquarium Requirements

If you are looking to keep a single Pearly Jawfish, it does best in aquariums that are 30 gallons or larger. Be mindful because there may be aggression between Jawfish and gobies for real estate in your fish tank. Yellowhead Jawfish also do best with sand beds that are at least 4 inches deep but more is always better! CaribSea Fiji Pink Sand is a great Pearly Jawfish substrate. I would also recommend providing rock rubble around the fish tank because I have seen Pearly Jawfish use small pieces of rock to help stabilize their burrow.

To my knowledge, all Jawfish are known to be excellent jumpers. A tight-fitting lid is incredibly important if you are trying to prevent your fish from jumping to its demise.

Food and Diet

Pearly Jawfish are primarily carnivorous animals. Regardless, I have seen them happily eat pellet food as well. It is good to provide an assortment of food for your Jawfish. I would feed mine Mysis Shrimp, Brine Shrimp, Krill, and New Life Spectrum Marine Formula. When I first introduced a Pearly Jawfish into my aquarium, I would use a long turkey baster, like this one, to feed it. I sucked up the food into the syringe and tried to get as close to its burrow. I would then release the food. I did this because at first my Jawfish was incredibly skittish and would disappear into its burrow during feeding time.

Tank Mates

I would recommend keeping your Pearly Jawfish in a fairly peaceful aquarium. It does great with fish such as Clownfish, Tangs, Dwarf Angelfish, Chromis, Firefish, Hawkfish, and many other community fish. There may be some territorial disputes with gobies, but in a large enough aquarium each should find their spot. I would avoid keeping your Jawfish with larger fish like Lionfish, Pufferfish, Groupers, and other fish that may consider a Pearly Jawfish food.

In a large enough aquarium, you may be able to keep multiple Pearly Jawfish together. I would personally start considering keeping multiple in 75 gallon aquariums. Be sure you provide deep sand beds for your Jawfish.

Pearly Jawfish and Pistol Shrimp

Unfortunately, the two fish will not share a hole. The good news is, that they should be able to co-exist in a fish tank. Check out Watchman Gobies if you are looking for a fish that is compatible with a Pistol Shrimp.


It is possible to successfully breed Pearly Jawfish. You can’t tell the difference between males and females of this species by appearance. If breeding is successful, males will hold the eggs in their mouths. I have not ever attempted to breed this fish species, but I can imagine it being incredibly difficult to separate the eggs from its parents. If you have had any luck, let me know!

Final Notes

Pearly Jawfish are beautiful saltwater fish with very interesting personalities. If you have the proper setup, I would highly recommend giving them a try! They’re very fun to observe, especially around feeding time when they dart out of their burrow to grab some food.