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Caresheet: Bumblebee goby | Brachygobius spp.

February 5, 2017
bumblebee goby

Gobies from the Brachygobius genus, better known as bumblebee gobies, are tiny bottom dwelling aquarium fish species featuring a bee-like yellow and black striped pattern. Bumblebee gobies are not the best choice for most community aquariums and actually require brackish water but are appreciated by many aquarists for their interesting behavior. 

Keep reading for everything you need to know about bumblebee goby care and keeping bumblebee gobies in your own aquarium!

Name

Tank size 10 gal (38L) minimum
Temperament Peaceful
Diet Carnivore
Temperature 73.5-79°F/23-26°C
pH 6.5-7

Brachygobius spp. (xanthozona*/doriae/nunus etc.), bumblebee goby, bumblebee fish

*Most bumblebee gobies in aquarium stores are listed as Brachygobius xanthozona, although this is almost always a case of mislabeling. B. xanthozona is rarely (if ever) available.

Bumblebee goby natural habitat

Bumblebee gobies are naturally found in Indonesia (Java, Sumatra, Borneo), Thailand and Vietnam. Here, they inhabit shallow habitats in estuaries, rivers and streams. These waters are usually brackish and offer plenty of hiding places.

Bumblebee goby appearance

Bumblebee gobies are one of the smaller goby species with a maximum size of around 3-4 cm (1.2-1.6 inch). They lend their common name from their yellow and black striped appearance and short body shape, which are reminiscent of bumblebees. It’s almost impossible to distinguish between the different members of the Brachygobius genus as they look very similar and are all sold under the same common name.

Males can be told apart from females by their more slender body shape and brighter coloration.



Bumblebee goby requirements

Bumblebee gobies are not the best fish for a community aquarium, as they are easily outcompeted for food. Although they are often sold as freshwater fish they actually do best when kept in brackish water with a low salt grade (between 1.002 and 1.006). If you’re not sure how to set up a brackish aquarium, this guide might prove helpful; it’s definitely not as difficult as it might seem.

Because bumblebee gobies stay quite small, a large aquarium setup is not necessary. For a decent-sized group a tank of at least 10 gallons with plenty of floor space should be a good place to start. The aquarium should always be fully cycled but filtration is best kept relatively weak, as these fish naturally occur in calm waters and won’t respond well to a very strong flow. A heavily decorated setup is appreciated: these gobies can be on the timid side and need a place to hide and get away from territorial squabbles. Shrimp flats and plenty of plants that can tolerate brackish water, such as Java fern, should work well.

Bumblebee goby tankmates

As discussed earlier, bumblebee gobies don’t do well in most community setups. Although they can be kept with some species tolerant to low-grade brackish water as long as there are no other bottom dwellers present, most aquarists prefer to set up a single-species aquarium for them.

Bumblebee gobies are group fish and will become shy and withdrawn when kept in small numbers. Go for a group of at least 6-7 fish, preferably even more.

Bumblebee goby diet

Their diet is one of the most difficult aspects of bumblebee goby care. These little bottom dwellers are carnivores with a distinct taste for live foods and many fishkeepers report them completely ignoring all types of commercial pellet or flake food. Succes with frozen foods varies.

If you want to keep your bumblebee gobies well-fed without too many issues it might be a good idea to take the time to set up a live food culture. Batches of brine shrimp can easily be hatched at home and make a great nutritious option that should be accepted by your gobies. Another easy option would be a grindal worm culture for a steady supply.



Bumblebee goby behavior

Their behavior is what makes bumblebee gobies a favorite among many aquarists. While they can be shy at first, they will quickly come out of hiding if their requirements are met.

Males especially can be quite territorial, which means every male will establish its own area in the tank. This can lead to occasional territorial squabbles and the fish can often be observed chasing and pestering each other, but luckily this never causes serious injury.

Breeding bumblebee goby

Although these are not the easiest fish to breed they will produce offspring under the right circumstances. Eggs will be laid in small nooks and crannies; adding some ceramic tubes or coconut hides to the tank is definitely necessary if you’d like to give breeding a go.

When ready to breed, females will become noticeably swollen with eggs and males will start to show more intense coloration. Adding some fresh water to the tank can help start the breeding process. Males will court the females and guard the eggs. To ensure maximum fry survival you can move the eggs and male to a separate container until the eggs hatch; the male can then be removed as well to prevent him from eating the fry himself, although this is not necessary if you don’t mind losing some of the young.

Because the fry are extremely small it’s a good idea to make sure you have an infusoria culture ready to go, as almost all other foods will be too large for them to consume at first.


If you have any more questions about bumblebee gobies or want to share your own experiences with this tiny striped fish, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

Cover photo: Brachygobius doriae in aquarium.jpg by Sven Kullander


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