When it comes to saltwater aquarium (especially those for a reef tank), there are a lot of different attributes to consider. Of course, one of the first things we look for in an “ornamental” fish species is a pleasing or striking appearance. Then, when keeping (or planning on keeping) small, timid fishes or vulnerable invertebrates, …
There are quite a few small fishes referred to as gobies. Of the huge order Gobiiformes, the family Gobiidae (the so-called true gobies) includes over 2,000 species in at least 200 genera. Gobioid species often comprise an amazing 35% of the total number of individual fish, as well as 20% of fish biodiversity, in coral reef environments.
The gobiidae have a worldwide distribution. They occur primarily in shallow, benthic tropical and temperate habitats. Though most are marine, there are some brackish and freshwater species. Favored environments include dense coral stands, tide pools, and seagrass meadows. In brackish water and estuarine habitats, they are most often encountered in mangrove swamps, salt marshes and the lower reaches of rivers. A relative handful are completely adapted to freshwater environments. All types are very commonly associated with burrows.
The characteristic gobioid morphology is rather distinctive. The majority are quite modest in size with most reaching under four inches in length as adults. Indeed, gobies include some of the smallest vertebrates known. After size, their most remarkable feature is their fused pelvic fins. Forming a sort of suction cup, this animal is often seen sticking to rocks and corals or tank panels.
Many goby species exhibit strong male-female pairing. Pairs often build and guard burrows together. They commonly spawn in captivity. Males guards the eggs from predators and constantly fan them to keep them clean and oxygenated.
A few popular aquarium gobies form symbiotic relationships with other species. For example, shrimp gobies (or prawn gobies) maintain burrows in which they cohabitate with certain shrimps. Another, very different example of symbiosis is shown by the neon gobies; these “cleaner gobies” remove parasites from the bodies of usually much larger fish.
In this section, you will learn which gobies are available to marine aquarists, which of these species are available as captive bred and how to care for them.