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Caresheet: Bumblebee goby | Brachygobius spp.

Last Updated May 11, 2020
bumblebee goby

Gobies from the Brachygobius genus, better known as bumblebee gobies, are small bottom-dwelling aquarium fish species featuring a bee-like yellow and black striped pattern. This species may not be the best choice for most community aquariums and requires a tank set up with brackish water.

So why keep bumblebee gobies then? As any aquarist who has experience with this fish species will tell you, their fascinating behavior more than makes up for the challenge of setting up a single-species aquarium.

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

Minimum tank size10 gal/38 L (long)
TemperamentPeaceful
DietCarnivore
Temperature73.5-79°F/23-26°C
pH6.5-7

Name

The common name ‘bumblebee gobies’ or ‘bumblebee fish’ often refers to one of Brachygobius sp. (B. xanthozona*, B. doriae, B. nunus ,etc.).

*Most bumblebee gobies in fish stores are listed as Brachygobius xanthozona. This is almost always a case of mislabeling; B. xanthozona is unfortunately rarely (if ever) available.

Natural habitat

Wild bumblebee gobies can be found throughout Indonesia (Java, Sumatra, Borneo), Thailand, and Vietnam. Here, these fish inhabit shallow habitats in estuaries, rivers, and streams. These waters are usually brackish and have a muddy or sandy substrate with a healthy covering of organic detritus. Plenty of hiding places are present in the form of mangrove roots, leaf litter, and fallen branches.

Identification

Bumblebee gobies are one of the smaller goby species with a maximum size of around 1.2-1.6 inches (3-4 cm). They get their common name from their yellow and black striped appearance and short body shape, which definitely resemble that of a bumblebee!

It is very difficult to distinguish between the different species of the Brachygobius genus as they look very similar; the same common name is used for all species in the trade because it’s nearly impossible for fish stores to figure out which exact one they’re dealing with.

It is possible to tell the male from the female though; male fish can be told apart from females by their more slender body shape and brighter coloration.

Even though these little black and yellow fish don’t take up much space, they can definitely bring any tank to life!

Bumblebee goby requirements

Bumblebee gobies are not the best fish for a community aquarium as they are easily outcompeted for food by more assertive species. Although they’re often sold as freshwater fish, they actually do best when kept in a brackish tank with water that has a low salt grade (a salinity between 1.002 and 1.006). If you’re not sure how to set up a brackish tank, this guide might be helpful. It’s definitely not as difficult as it may initially seem!

Because these fish stay quite small, a large aquarium setup is not necessary. For a decent-sized group, a tank size of at least 10 gallons (38 L) with plenty of floor space should be a good place to start. The aquarium should always be fully cycled but water filtration is best if kept a bit weak; these fish naturally live in calm water and may not respond well to very strong water flow.

A heavily decorated tank is appreciated, as these fish can be more on the timid side and need a place to hide and get away from territorial squabbles. Shrimp tubes and plenty of plant species that can tolerate brackish water should work well. You may be surprised to learn that there are actually quite a few plants out there that don’t mind a little bit of salt.

Check out the list of brackish aquarium plants here if you’re in need of some hardy greenery.

Bumblebee goby tankmates

As discussed earlier, these fish don’t do well in most community tank 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 aquarium keepers prefer to set up a single-species aquarium for them. This makes it easier to keep an eye on how much the fish is actually eating and encourages them to spend plenty of time out of hiding.

Bumblebee gobies are grouping fish. If you keep them in smaller numbers, the weaker fish might get picked on relentlessly, and the group as a whole will be much more shy and withdrawn. Go for a group size of at least 6-7 fish, preferably even more if you really want to see their natural behavior.

Bumblebee goby diet

Their diet is one of the most difficult aspects of keeping this fish. These little bottom dwellers are carnivores with a distinct taste for live foods and many fishkeepers report them completely ignoring all types of commercial fish pellets and flake foods. Success with frozen foods varies as well; it’s a better idea to go for something a little more wiggly and lively to attract their attention.

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 readily accepted by your fish. Another easy option would be a grindal worm culture for a steady supply.

Live food cultures are not difficult to maintain at all and your gobies will love to eat fresh worms and other critters! Just make sure that whatever you feed is an appropriate size for your goby.

Bumblebee goby behavior

Their behavior is what makes these fish a favorite among many aquarists. While these fish can be shy at first, they will quickly come out of hiding and swim in open water if their requirements are met. Their social interactions are especially fascinating to watch. For such a small fish, their curious and playful personality definitely makes up for what they lack in size.

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. Luckily though, this never tends to lead to serious injury.

Bumblebee Goby

Breeding bumblebee goby

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

When ready to breed, female fish will become noticeably swollen with eggs and males will start to show more intense black and yellow colorings. Adding some freshwater 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 hatching process has finished. 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 is extremely small, it’s a good idea to make sure you have an infusoria culture ready to go. Almost all other foods will be too large for them to consume at first.

Conclusion

If you have any more questions about bumblebee gobies or want to share your own experiences with this tiny striped fish, make sure to leave a comment below!

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8 Comments

  • Replydave walkerJuly 7, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    I have one bumblebee goby, it is in a 70 gallon tank, it hides so much I assumed it had died as not seen in 6 months or so,, I now have about 7 tiny baby gobys in the bottom of this tank. the problem is I only had one goby to start with,, has been about 3 years since I bought this goby. There are no other similar goby type fish in the tank,. Can they reproduce asexually?? As this one obviously has. I am reluctant to tear apart all the hiding places to find the adult. But does anyone know if this is possible.

    • ReplyMariJuly 8, 2019 at 1:51 pm

      Hi! Now that’s odd. Are you sure the babies are gobies? Did you originally buy just one, or was it assumed that the others passed away? It is true that bottom dwellers can be extremely good at hiding, so I wouldn’t bother tearing your tank apart to try and find it.

      As far as I know this is not one of the fish species that reproduces asexually, but I honestly have no idea what happened in this case! Hope the babies make it though 🙂 good luck with them.

    • ReplyHannahSeptember 5, 2020 at 12:22 am

      Could it be that they save sperm like guppies do? That’s pretty cool, hope there doing well

      • ReplyJennifer DollSeptember 5, 2020 at 10:57 pm

        It’s a very interesting idea..and I would have loved to know what actually happened with Dave’s tank. I did a little research and it doesn’t seem like there have been any studies about bumblebee gobies being able to store sperm and/or being asexual. I also found out that guppies can only really store sperm for about three months, with six months usually being the extreme for livebearers. Since Dave said that the goby had been in the tank for 3 years, I doubt that the sperm would still be viable after that time; also, bumblebee gobies lay eggs that need to be fertilized after being laid, which would probably be even more anatomically difficult.
        My main theory is that they were fry from another fish in his tank, but the fry could have also possibly been hybrids (very unlikely, but not impossible) depending on what other species were kept in the tank.
        Who knows! But you definitely made me scratch my head there with this hypothesis! If you have any other ideas about what could have happened, please let me know.

  • ReplyClaudiaJuly 4, 2019 at 7:32 am

    My male gobi has just turned almost completely grey but is acting normal why has he changed colour ?

    • ReplyMariJuly 8, 2019 at 1:47 pm

      That’s very hard to say without knowing more details about your aquarium set-up! They do not naturally turn grey so something must be going on. Have you tested your aquarium water using a liquid water test kit to verify the water values are on par with what they’re supposed to be? Are you sure you’re following the guidelines mentioned in this article, like keeping the fish in brackish water?

      Hope you can figure it out!

  • ReplyBrian VMay 16, 2019 at 6:32 am

    How many bumblebee gobies can I keep in a 10 gallon tank?

    • ReplyMariMay 16, 2019 at 3:29 pm

      6-7 is a good number! Just be sure not to overstock, your options for other species are limited since the gobies like to be kept in groups. 🙂

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