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Related FAQs: Fresh and Brackish Gobioids, Violet/Dragon Gobies, Bumblebees, Knight Gobies, Sleepers, Marine Gobies & their RelativesMudskippers

Related Articles: Gobioids en totoMarine Sleepers/Eleotrids, Brackish Water FishesMudskippers, Brackish Water Fishes

/The Conscientious Brackish Water Aquarist

Fresh to Brackish Water Gobioids 

by Bob Fenner  

Like the hundreds of species of Gobies and Goby-like fishes found in marine environments, the fresh and brackish gobioids are demersal (bottom dwelling), retiring versus outgoing, generally lack a gas-bladder (no need sitting on the bottom)  sharing other internal structural similarities as adaptations to a mostly sedentary existence. See the above link to the Gobioids en toto for a rundown on this super-groups taxonomy.

Suborder Gobioidei; Eight families, about 268 genera, 2100 species (many more to be described). A listing here just of families with fresh to brackish water members.

Family Eleotridae , Sleepers. Marine, fresh and brackish water species. Have separated pelvic fins (no sucking disc). Mouths never sub-terminal. To two feet in length! Approximately 35 genera, 150 species.

Dormitator maculatus (Bloch 1792), the Fat Sleeper. Found in the Americas, from North Carolina to Southeastern Brazil. Marshes to brackish pools. To more than two feet overall length in the wild. Predatory; best kept with aggressive fishes. Temp. 22-24 C. Aquarium image.  

Hypseleotris compressa (Krefft 1864), the Empire Gudgeon. Australia and South-central New Guinea. To four inches in length. In the wild feeds on larval insects, small crustaceans. Shown: one inch aquarium specimen.

Oxyeleotris lineolatus (Steindachner 1867), the Sleepy Cod. Oceania; Australia and central-south New Guinea. To sixteen inches in length. Temp. 20-28 C. Eats insects, crustaceans, fishes in the wild... most everything, everyone in captivity.

Oxyeleotris marmorata (Bleeker 1852), the Marbled Goby. To two feet in length. Asia; Thailand, Indonesia. Cond.s: freshwater to brackish, pH 6.5-7.5, dH 10-15, temp. 22-28 C. A swallower of many smaller aquarium fishes by night.

Family Gobiidae; Gobies. Mostly marine, but some fresh, brackish species. Four families, of about 212 genera, 1900 and counting species. 

Stigmatogobius sadanundio (Hamilton 1822), the Knight Goby. Asia: from India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. To three and three fifths inch in length. Conds.: freshwater to brackish, pH 7-8, dH 9-19. temp. 20-26 C. 

Bigger PIX: The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Subfamily Amblyopinae; worldwide assemblage of gobiid fishes found off estuaries and in rivers. For aquarists, includes the "Violet Goby", aka "Dragon Eel", Gobiodies broussoneneti.

Gobioides broussonetti Lacepede 1800, the Dragon Eel/Goby, Violet Goby (3). Western Atlantic, Carolinas to Brazil, Gulf of Mexico. To twenty inches in length (largest Caribbean Goby). A difficult fish to keep due to its feeding strategy of filtering planktonic organisms. 

Subfamily Ocudercinae; Mudskippers. Live in Mangrove swamps, mudflats from Africa east to Samoa. Ten genera (e.g. Apocryptes, Boleophthalmus, Brachamblyopus, Gobioides, Taeniodes, Trypacuchen), about 34 species. 

Subfamily Gobionellinae. 56 genera, many freshwater species. Including amongst the most popular brackish aquarium species, the tiny, gentle Bumblebee Gobies (nine species) of the Genera Brachygobius and Hypogymnobius. A few species are offered as "the" Bumble Bee Goby: B. nunus, amongst the others below.

Brachygobius doriae, (Gunther 1868), Bumble Bee Goby. Southeast Asia; Sarawak and Kapuas, Western Borneo. To one and an eighth inches in length. Water Cond.s: temp. 22-29 C. pH 8-8.2, dH 9-19.   
Brachygobius nunus, (Hamilton 1822). Freshwater to Brackish... To 2.5 cm. Asia; Myanmar to Indonesia, Borneo. Photo by Neale Monks. http://fishbase.org/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=25235&genusname=Brachygobius&speciesname=nunus

Hypogymnogobius (Brachygobius) xanthozona (Bleeker 1849), Bumble Bee Fish/Goby. Asia; Java, Sumatra, Borneo distribution. To one and a quarter inch in length. Tropical 25-30 C. Folks have a hard time keeping members of this delightful genus on three counts: Too cold water, not regularly feeding them live foods, and not providing at least a teaspoon of salt per ten gallons of their water.

Family Rhyacichthyidae, the Loach Gobies. Freshwater streams of the Indo-Australian Archipelago, Philippines, China, the Solomons. Have depressed heads, compressed tails, underslung mouths that sport a fleshy upper lip; small eyes, widely separated pelvic fins. Use these traits to cope with fast-movng water, fins, body shape, mouth to hold onto hard surfaces... To nearly thirteen inches in length. One genus, Rhyacichthys, with two species.

There are other families containing freshwater, brackish gobioids.

Bibliography/Further Reading:


Brown, Stanley. 1996. Gobies. V.4, #1 96 The J. of Maquaculture, The Breeder's Registry.

Hunziker, Raymond E. 1985. Gobies for freshwater and brackish aquaria. TFH 12/85.

Nelson, Joseph S. 1994. fishes of the World, 3rd ed. John Wiley & Sons, NY. For systematic reviews.


Castro, Alfred D. 98. Knight Goby. How to keep 'em and how to breed 'em. AFM 6/98.

Kurtz, Jeff. 2000. The Knight Goby. A good reason to go brackish. TFH 11/00.

Schofield, Diane. 1965. Busy little bees. TFH 1/65

Tomey, William A. 1969. The Grey Pearl of Siam. The Aquarium. 8/69.


Anon. 1982. A Peacock out of paradise. Aquariums Australia 2:3, 82.

Lange, Gary. 2000. Modern masterpiece- The Peacock Gudgeon. A tiny work of art. AFM 6/00.

Rosler, Hans Jurgen. 1997. The care and breeding of Tateurndina ocellicauda. TFH 2/97.

Schreiber, Roland. 1995. The Fiery Sleeper. TFH 9/95.

Tappin, Adrian R. 1998. The Empire Gudgeon. FAMA 1/98.

Walker, Braz. 1970. The Spotted Sleeper. The Aquarium 4/70.

Loach Gobies:

Dingerkus, Guido and Bernard Seret. 1992. Rhyacichthys guilberti, a new species of Loach Goby from Northeastern New Caledonia (Teleostei: Thyacichthyidae). TFH 7/92.


Hansen, Pamela and Jorgen. 1979. The Mudskipper. TFH 7/79.

Lass, David. 2001. Mudskippers. A fish becoming an amphibian. AFM 2/2001.

Lucanus, Oliver. 1998. A fish out of water- Mudskippers. TFH 3/98.

Mancini, Alessandro. 1991. Mudskippers in nature and captivity. TFH 6/91.

McGregor, Glenn. 1999. Mudskippers: like a fish out of water. FAMA 4/99.

Murdy, Edward O. 1986. Mudskippers of Malaysia. The lords of the mudflat.FAMA 11/86.

Norris, T.L. 1984. A community Mudskipper tank. FAMA 9/84.

Ono, Dana R. and Debra Sponder. 1982. Table-top Mudskippers. FAMA 10/82.

Schwartz, Gerd. 1975. The Mudskipper. Aquarium Digest Intl. 3:4, 75.

Sidley, Rodney. 1984. Keeping Mudskippers. FAMA 12/84.

Taylor, Edward C. 1997. Mudskipper environment. Pet Business 11/97.

Volkart, Bill. 1996. Mudskippers: Demanding by rewarding. TFH 5/96.

Violet Goby, Dragon Eel:

Boruchowitz, David. 2001. A sickly dragon. TFH 2/01.

Harper, Rodney W. 1995. Captive care and maintenance of the Violet Goby,  Gobiodies broussoneneti. TFH 7/95.


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