Sifter gobies feed by gulping sand and sorting out any small, edible invertebrates.
Aquarium Fish: A Look at the Gobies:
courtesy to : www.advanceaquarist.com
Pomacanthus Publications, Inc.
After all, many (but certainly not all) are quite hardy and easy to care for, and many are attractive and/or have interesting behaviors. This is especially so when it comes to some of my personal favorites, the shrimp gobies.
Despite the typically small size of its members, the family Gobiidae is the largest family of marine fishes, being the home of over 2,000 species. Of course, I won't be going over all of these, but I do want to give you an introduction to the family and cover some of the species most commonly seen in the hobby. After all, many (but certainly not all) are quite hardy and easy to care for, and many are attractive and/or have interesting behaviors. This is especially so when it comes to some of my personal favorites, the shrimp gobies.
Before getting into any specifics, I'll say that essentially all gobies live on or very near the bottom. So, you won't likely see one swimming around in the upper parts of your aquarium too often, unless their after some food. The vast majority also stay relatively small, as in less than four inches in length.
Thus, many can make great additions to smaller aquariums, but their diminutive size may make them less appealing to some hobbyists, as they can easily be "lost" in large aquariums. Small gobies can also become expensive snacks for any larger predatory fishes in a tank, so they should probably be left out of any aquarium housing any such fishes, too. They're also prone to jumping out of tanks if they are harassed or spooked, so a glass top is a good idea, as well. But, there isn't much else of interest to say here though, as there are so many different types of gobies that it's difficult to make general statements about them. Many are sand sifters, some are cleaners, a few live with burrowing shrimps, etc. So, it's time to take a closer look...
The Sifter Gobies:
When it comes to gobies, the sifters (also commonly called sleepers for some reason) can get relatively large, with some species reaching 6 or 7 inches in length. They're generally quite peaceful with other sorts of fishes though, so don't be worried about their size. They're also a hardy bunch and can be quite useful at times, too.
They feed on tiny sand-dwelling invertebrates, and collect them by scooping up mouthfuls of sand, which is also why they're often called sifters. They'll essentially make a shallow nose dive into sandy substrates, fill their mouth with sand, and then quickly sift through it in order to capture any edible organisms within it. The sorted sand is ejected through the gill slits behind the head, and then they'll take another scoop.
This feeding activity can help to keep the upper layer of a sand bed cleaner, but you should note that if you're trying to maintain a thriving deep sand bed, these fishes will indeed eat some of the beneficial organisms living in it. I've found that they don't really deplete a sand bed of critters if kept in a large enough system housing enough sand, but they can literally clean out a relatively shallow sand bed in a smaller aquarium.
Again, they usually get along fine with other types of fishes, but they may not get along so well with other species of sifters or other individuals of the same species, either. So, it's best to keep just one in a tank, or a mated pair, unless the tank is large and has plenty of room for everyone. They'll typically learn to take a variety of fish foods too, although some hobbyists have reported otherwise on occasion. I've had no problems keeping the two most common speciesValenciennea puellaris and V. strigata, but can't say much for the others.
The yellow-headed sleeper/sifter goby, Valenciennea strigata.
The Dragon Goby:
The dragon goby (or brownbarred goby, Amblygobius phalaena) is another one that can get big for a goby, sometimes reaching lengths of about 6 inches. This is another a sifter that also scoops up mouthfuls of sand and consumes the creatures living in it, and can thus help keep a sand bed clean, too.
Like the above, they should be kept one to a tank, although they're more likely to get along okay with other sorts of fishes, including other types of sifters, again as long as there's plenty of room for everyone. But, that's not always the case, as they never get along with other dragon gobies best as I can tell, unless they're kept as a mated pair.
The dragon goby, Amblygobius phalaena.
The Rainford's Goby:
The Rainford's goby (or Old Glory goby, Amblygobius rainfordi), is a beautiful little fish, typically staying under 2.5 inches, but they're especially prone to die from starvation. I've also been told that they don't ship well, either. I've never tried keeping one myself due to the fact that everything I've heard/read about them indicates that they need to graze on green filamentous algae (hair algae) in order to thrive, or even survive. Hair algae is usually something that reef aquarists should try to avoid like the plague, so I think it's safe to say that this fish is a no-go for reef aquariums. Admittedly, I have read one report of a hobbyist that through persistence was able to get one to eat a few types of fish food (Michael, 2005). But, that's just one report.
Still, if you're into taking risks with the lives of fishes, note that these should be kept one per tank, or as mated pairs. However, with that said, Michael (2005) also reported that they usually occur singly, not in pairs, in the wild, and that he purchased a supposed mated pair that didn't get along at all. Just pick something else folks…
The Rainford's goby, Amblygobius rainfordi.
The Neon Gobies:
These predominantly Caribbean species are some of the smallest, staying under two inches, and are generally quite hardy "cleaners" that help keep other fishes at their best. Like the cleaner wrasses, these gobies will eat any parasites or dead skin they can find on another fish, which is why they're all called cleaners.
In the wild they tend to sit around at a "cleaning station", which may be operated by a single neon goby, but more often they're seen hanging around in pairs or in small groups where other fishes know to come for a good going over. These fishes looking for a cleaning recognize the neon gobies for what they are and refrain from harassing or eating them, and the gobies can get a meal out of the deal, of course.
These are far better choices than the cleaner wrasses though, because the wrasses oftentimes will not take any sort of fish foods offered and often end up starving to death in aquariums. To the contrary, the neon gobies will typically eat a variety of fish foods and can be kept with or without other fishes. So, they'll clean if they can, but won't starve if they can't.
Two neon gobies of the genus Gobiosoma. There are several species, but many of these look so similar that I won't attempt a species-level identification.
The Clown Gobies :
The clown gobies (or coral gobies) are also quite small, staying under 2.5 inches in length. In fact, the most common species (Gobiodon okinawae) doesn't even reach 1.5 inches, making them well-suited for life in very small tanks. They're brightly colored too, and typically won't bother anyone with the exception of other clown gobies.
Even though they don't get along well with other clown gobies when kept in confined quarters, if a number of them are kept in a large enough tank with plenty of rock and corals, they'll often pair up into male-female couples and will get along well from there. They also have an odd hangout, as they like to perch in the branches of stony corals like Acropora, but they don't do any harm to them.
About the only other thing to throw in is that they tend to be quite hardy and will eat a wide variety of fish foods, as long as the size is small enough. However, due to their smallness, it's obviously best to keep them with other small, peaceful fishes. Otherwise, they may be harassed by larger tankmates, and more aggressive fishes also tend to get all the food.
The clown goby, Gobiodon okinawae.
The Catalina Goby :
Next is the Catalina goby (or blue-banded goby, Lythrypnus dalli) that hails from the waters off California and Baja Mexico, which is a problem for most of us. This is because these waters are much cooler than our reef aquariums, and even many non-reef marine aquariums. So, our tanks tend to be too warm for these gobies to live in, as they should be kept in the 50's to 60's Fahrenheit and shouldn't be kept at temperatures above the low 70's. I have heard reports of some hobbyists being able to keep them alive at higher temperatures, but I can't help but think they cannot be as healthy or live as long under such conditions. Sorry, but these are unsuitable choices for most us, despite their appearance and availability.
Still, if you have a relatively cool tank, this is another particularly small species (also typically less than two inches length), and several can be kept in one tank. They're actually territorial, but due to their diminutive size, even a 30 gallon tank can be considered plenty big enough to keep a few of them. Of course, you do have think about the other fishes in the tank, which will certainly be larger, and make sure that there's nothing that will harass these gobies. Oh, and they're typically easy to care for, as they'll take a variety of regular fish foods without issue.
The Catalina goby, Lythrypnus dalli.
The Shrimp Gobies:
The shrimp gobies (which belong to the genus Amblyeleotris, Cryptocentrus, or Stonogobiops) are also rather small in size, and they all live in close relationships with a number of pistol shrimps. These different animals help each other stay alive and well though, as the gobies have great eyesight, while the shrimps have very poor eyesight, but are excellent diggers. In fact, the shrimps can build and maintain burrows in sandy bottoms that are big enough for themselves and for one or more gobies, too. So, the basis of the relationship is that the goby watches out for any potential predators that come too close to the burrow or the shrimp, and will warn the shrimp that trouble is near, while the shrimp makes a home for both of them. I'll tell you more about this below, but for now I do need to point out that these fishes can be kept without shrimps, too.
The white-ray shrimp, Stonogobiops yasha, usually pairs up with Alpheus randalli.
The Dracula shrimp goby, Stonogobiops dracula,usually pairs up with Alpheus randalli.
The aurora shrimp goby, Amblyeleotris aurora, usually pairs up with Alpheus randalli.
The Randall's shrimp goby, Amblyeleotris randalli, usually pairs up withAlpheus randalli.
The orange spotted shrimp goby, Amblyeleotris guttata, usually pairs up withAlpheus ochrostriatus.
The yellow watchman goby, Cryptocentrus cinctus, isn't always yellow, as they sometimes have dark coloration.
Here's a black-ray shrimp goby (Stonogobiops nematodes) and a pair of scissortail dartfishes (Ptereleotris evides), which are not gobies, sharing a burrow with two tiger pistol shrimp (Alpheus bellulus). This goby most often pairs up with Alpheus randalli, though.
Anyway, when they're kept with a shrimp, what you'll see is that the goby is usually out of the burrow, at least partially, but near its entrance, with the shrimp behind it. Sometimes the shrimp will venture out from the goby a few inches at the most while it's working on the burrow, but most of the time it stays close by and maintains physical contact with the goby by touching it with one of its antennae. In the event that the goby feels the need to warn the shrimp of any impending trouble, it'll wiggle its tail or body in a way that alerts the shrimp, and off it goes into the burrow with the goby typically following right behind.
They'll do this if a potential predator comes too close, but they'll oftentimes scram even when harmless fishes get too close at feeding time, or the goby will do just the opposite depending on the competition. I've got a goby/shrimp pair in my 125 gallon, and another in my 55 gallon, and neither of the gobies is a chicken. I've had others that were, though. I'll explain…
Here's the pair in my 125, a yellow watchman goby (Cryptocentrus cinctus) and my tiger pistol shrimp (Alpheus bellulus). This species often pairs with Alpheus djeddensis or A. ochrostriatus, though.
Here's the pair in my 55, a black-ray shrimp goby (Stonogobiops nematodes) and my Randall's pistol shrimp (Alpheus randalli) the most commonly offered species.
The gobies will both eat anything I put in the tank for fishes, but I've been feeding the shrimps with sinking food pellets for over a year now by using a long piece of rigid airline tubing to drop the pellets right into the burrows opening. Still, when my other fishes smell the pellets they go after them, too. Of course, they aren't after the gobies or the shrimps, but the gobies still send the shrimps scurrying away into the burrow. Then, in both tanks, the gobies will chase off the other fishes in an effort to protect the food pellets. They'll open their mouth as wide as possible and charge at the other fishes to fend them off.
My yellow watchman is not to be messed with at feeding time. Here it is chasing off my coral beauty angel.
Despite their going after other fishes trying for their companions' food, none of these gobies really cause any problems with other types of fishes. For the most part they ignore everyone else and mind their own business. Besides, most of these species get no bigger than three to five inches, and are rather skinny. So, they wouldn't pose much of a threat to anything but the smallest of fishes, anyway.
Unfortunately, the exception here is that some species don't care for other gobies, or other individuals of the same species in particular. While there are some that will actually share a burrow with other gobies of the same or other species, there are some that simply will not tolerate having another shrimp goby in the tank with them. These unsocial species will often go after each other relentlessly, until one is finally convinced to hide all time, or is literally run to death. However, there is an exception to the exception, as you may be lucky enough to come across a mated pair for sale, which should get along fine regardless of the species.
Anyway, back to burrows. While you may only see one or two small entrances to a burrow, they're actually much larger than you might expect. At first I wondered how they managed to keep such structures open in a bed of fine sand, but quickly realized that they're quite good at using little bits and pieces of coral rubble, shell, rock, etc. to reinforce the roof and sides of the burrow. They can stack and arrange all sorts of things in ways that give some permanence to the burrows, and constantly work to keep them in good shape.
With this in mind, it's essential to supply some rubble for a shrimp by placing a pile of such stuff near a burrow's entrance. I've provided them with the shells of deceased snails, a good amount of manually broken up pieces of clam shell from the beach, some small pieces (an inch or two) of coral skeleton of various shapes, and similarly sized bits of rock, and they sort through everything for use like a contractor building a stone fence would. Usually, surprisingly quickly, anything I put near a burrow is used somewhere out of sight never to be seen again, and I've provided a heck of a lot of material for them.
I have provided both of my shrimps with large quantities of crushed up clam shell, which they've readily used to support their burrows.
Still, at night the burrows' entrances usually cave in or are closed with the goby and shrimp safely inside. Then, when the lights come on, the shrimps quickly get back to work. They'll dig tirelessly during the day, moving sand around from place to place to clean out and re-open the entrances, and will usually keep it open until the lights go off again. In fact, they stay so busy that it seems as if they actually enjoy the work. They're fun to watch for sure, and I'd say that out of all the things in my aquariums, I spend more time watching the activities of my gobies and shrimps than anything else in the tanks.
If this sounds like something you'd enjoy too, do keep in mind that the gobies typically pair with only certain species of shrimp. So, you'll need to do some further homework before buying anything to make sure you get the right kinds together. If you look around enough, you may be able to buy them together though, which is what I had the good fortune to do in both cases. I'll also throw in that as far as marine fishes go, many gobies are being reared in captivity, and there are numerous such specimens available to us. So, if possible, shop for these in particular.
And that's your look at the gobies.
A bit about the shrimps:
These shrimps all belong the genus Alpheus, and are called pistol or snapping shrimps because they have a specially modified claw that they can use to make a little popping sound with. Not all of these associate with shrimp gobies, though. Some live alone and can get relatively large, and can make a pop that sounds pretty loud. In fact, I used to have one in a non-reef tank that was so loud I could hear it at night in my bedroom, even though the tank was in the den. It had to go. To the contrary, the species that pair up with gobies are all relatively small, and aren't so loud. In fact, I never hear my own shrimp making any noise at all. Why do they do it at all? Well, for the species that can really pop, this is a means of defense, as they try to scare away anything that gets too close by repeatedly popping their claw.
Gobies for the reef aquarium :
courtesy to : www.practicalfishkeeping.com
Published: Dave Wolfenden Thursday 16 January 2014
Gobies can be found in almost all bodies of water, including the coldest oceans to freshwater mountain streams. And there are plenty of marine gobies that are perfect for the reef aquarium, as Dave Wolfenden explains.
Some gobies are so incredibly adaptable that they have even evolved to exploit a partly terrestrial lifestyle in the shape of the endearing mudskippers.
They are all part of the Gobiidae, one of the largest of all fish families, and there’s even a considerable choice for marine aquaria. Despite their small size, these fish can have bags of personality, usually making them excellent reef choices.
Because of their size, gobies should not be kept in the aggressive fish-only system as they will be harassed by many larger species and many predators will snack on them. However, most will be superb for the reef aquarium, providing any chosen tank mates are peaceful.
Certain gobies, though, can be intolerant of conspecifics or even heterospecifics that look similar, especially in limited space.
This is the result of often strong territorial behaviours tying individuals to small patches of home reef. Limit stocking to one goby of each genus unless there’s plenty of room.
Most will adapt well to captive diets and a variety of small fresh, frozen and artificial feeds is important. Many will fend for themselves in a mature reef system with natural plankton populations. Sleeper gobies, for instance, will process the aquarium’s substrate to extract the invertebrate life.
While gobies can find a reasonable amount of food in a typical aquarium, some supplementary feeding will prevent individuals becoming emaciated. Gobies in general fare best in well-established systems and a refugium can help to provide supplementary live food.
Gobies are generally sensitive to medications, because of their scale-less skin.
They’re not the most parasite-prone fish, thanks to their thick mucous coat which helps trap pathogens, but they can nevertheless still suffer from parasitic and other diseases.
Be cautious when treating for ailments. Prophylactic care for newly-acquired specimens is ill advised. Instead, try plenty of TLC and optimal water quality, plus plenty of food. If medication is necessary, don’t overdose.
When selecting specimens, avoid any looking emaciated. These may have been starved for some time and are too thin to recover.
Which species of goby is right for you?
Some of the most commonly encountered gobies in the marine hobby include Sleeper gobies (Valenciennea) which are prodigious sifters of sandy substrate, hence the alternative name of sifter gobies.
These spend much of their time ingesting sand and extracting tiny invertebrates. For this reason, they can be used as efficient cleaner crew as their constant turning of the substrate helps to maintain the sand bed.
Ensure rockwork is securely placed, as meandering gobies can easily topple piles of live rock.
Bear in mind too that they may frequently spit mouthfuls of sand over corals and other invertebrates, so strategic coral placement must be a consideration.
Blue-cheeked sifters (V. strigata) — pictured above — are often imported from the Indo-Pacific. Specimens grow to around 15cm/6” in the aquarium and earn their common name from electric blue markings on a yellow face.
Also noteworthy is the Chalk goby (V. sexguttata), again from the Indo-Pacific and reaching a similar length.
The Jam sandwich goby (V. helsdingenii) from the Indo-West Pacific, with its alternate black and white bands, looks particularly striking and again is a very attractive reef addition.
This species will reach 15cm/6” and it’s worth trying to establish pairs, as males are identifiable courtesy of their elongated dorsal fin filament.
Neon gobies are the alternative cleaners (picture above by Nick Hobgood, Creative Commons)
Several species are known collectively as 'neon gobies' and belong to the Elacatinus genus – formerly Gobiosoma. Most hail from the Caribbean and other regions of the western Atlantic.
Most commonly offered are the ‘true’ Neon goby (E. oceanops) or the Sharknose goby (E. evelynae) and both grow up 5cm/2”.
Other species may be encountered, although identification can be difficult.
These fish make a viable alternative to cleaner wrasses of the Labroides genus. They adapt well to captive diets, although will supplement diet by performing useful cleaning of 'clients'.
They will set up cleaning stations, but can defend these against other cleaner gobies — so ensure ample room if attempting to keep more than one.
Strange partners :
Several genera of gobies form a mutualistic partnership with shrimps — notably Pistol shrimps of the Alpheus genus.
Several genera form such symbioses with shrimps, including Stonogobiops, Ctenogobiops, Cryptocentrus and Amblyeleotris. The basis of this relationship is that the shrimp are good at building burrows but have poor eyesight. The gobies have good vision and are given lodgings in the shrimp’s burrows in return for acting as reliable lookouts.
A shrimp will keep in constant contact with the goby via its antennae and both shrimp and goby retreat to the burrow at the first sign of danger.
If attempting to recreate this relationship, provide a deep substrate of varied material, from fine sand through coarse coral chips to live rock rubble. The best shrimp with which to attempt such a pairing is Randall’s shrimp (Alpheus randalli) — identifiable courtesy of its red-banded legs.
More gobies worth seeking out include the Yasha (Stonogobiops yasha) from the Western Pacific, which grows to 5cm/2”. This is very attractive but pricey.
Also check out the Dracula goby (S. dracula) from the Indo-Pacific, which grows to 7cm/2.8” and sports red and orange bands.
From the Amblyeleotris genus there’s A. aurora (above). The Aurora goby, from the Indian Ocean, grows to 10cm/4” and is stunning with orange bands. A. randalli, up to 12cm/4.7” and from the Western Pacific, has a gorgeous sail-like dorsal fin.
The cool customer :
The Catalina goby (Lythrypnus dalli) is sometimes offered — and it sure has that grab factor!
Note that striking range body punctuated with bright blue vertical markings, as pictured here.
However, this species, which grows to 6cm/2.4”, is really sub-tropical from the Gulf of California and surrounding regions. As such it fares best in temperatures slightly below those in a typical reef aquarium, requiring around 18-21°C/64-70°F.
It is possible to maintain, although it requires a dedicated aquarium decorated with coarse sand and rubble, and capable of providing the cooler conditions this fish needs.
As such, this fish should not be purchased as an addition to an existing tropical reef aquarium.
Amblygobius: lovers of midwater
This genus contains a few occasionally imported species and they tend to spend much of their time in mid-water — in contrast to others of the family.
One of the most challenging of the genus is the Court jester (A. rainfordi) — pictured above — from the Indo-Pacific. Growing to around 5cm/2”. This diminutive fish requires copious amounts of filamentous algae, which is lacking in many reef aquarium systems.
Hector’s goby (A. hectori), which is also sometimes referred to as the Gold court jester and from the Indo-West Pacific, assumes strikingly similar markings, albeit with different coloration, and its husbandry needs are comparable to the Court jester
The Banded goby (A. phalaena) is less challenging to look after. From the Pacific, this species reaches 12cm/4.7” and looks stout and chunky, and occurs in various colour morphs.
Banded gobies, as a group, will spend a considerable amount of their time sifting through the substrate for food and will be therefore less reliant on filamentous algae than certain other members of the genus.
Gobiodon gobies get a grip :
Members of this genus can usually be found perched on branches of stony corals such as Acropora. Being highly benthic, their ventral fins are often modified into suckers, allowing them to adhere to their host coral, even in some pretty strong surges of water.
These timid fish need to be provided with very small foods, but they can be among the most endearing and best value fish you’ll keep. They’re ideal for smaller SPS-dominated systems.
Particularly engaging is the Okinawa or Yellow goby (G. okinawae) — pictured above — from the Western Pacific. It grows to 3cm/1.2” and sports a white patch on its cheek — the only marking on an otherwise entirely yellow body.
This species appears to be an obligate dweller of Acropora in the wild and the best captive system would also incorporate such corals.
Once an individual is established in the aquarium it will perch on its coral, seemingly demanding all your attention and becoming a true and affectionate pet.
Also noteworthy are the Citron goby (G. citrinus) from the Indo-West Pacific. It grows to 6cm/2.4” and has a distinctive yellow coloration.
There’s also the stunning Green clown goby (G. histrio). This is a striking fish, with red markings on a vivid green body, but reaches only 3.5cm/1.4”. It also originates from the Indo-West Pacific.
Can I breed gobies?
Plenty of marine goby species will spawn in the aquarium if pairs can be established, but many of them are aggressive towards conspecifics.
Many can change sex too, making the establishment of pairs no problem for individuals living in the wild – as every member of the species is a potential partner!
The coral gobies (Gobiodon spp.), for example, appear to be bidirectional protogynous hermaphrodites — starting out as females but can undergo a sex change if necessary.
However, such gender bending is reversible and males may turn back into females if required.
The main challenge with breeding arises from an ability to successfully rear the tiny larvae, which need first feedings of rotifers, followed by enriched Artemia nauplii.
Gobies, however, can be a good bet if planning on a first breeding project for marines. Neon gobies (Elacatinus spp.) are probably the best prospect, as they will spawn in even small tanks if conditioned with varied regular feeds.
PVC pipes will provide a suitable love nest and the resultant larvae should be moved to rearing tanks with identical water chemistry to their original system.
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