Gobiidae… a commonly seen family yet one of the most intricate​

How many of you have walked into an LFS and seen gobies of every genus and size?
I bet all of you have. I have walked into my LFS and seen gobies from 5 inch long all the way to 0.25 inch long. Gobiidae has got to be in the top 5 most common beginner families, with Pomacentridae/Amphiprioninae being the most common. But why are they a good beginner fish? Simple, they’re peaceful, most don’t have a too difficult care, and most importantly they’re bright. Look at Nemateleotris, one of the best starting genera out there. No matter what species you get, wether it’s N. decora, N. magnifica or N. exquisita they’re all vibrant and highly personable. But also look at those grouchy faces on many of the sand dwellers!

Now, where do most gobies hang out in the wild?
Well let’s start with the most common ones. Such as:
- Cryptocentrus cinctus
- Cryptocentrus leptocephalus
- Stonogobiops yasha
- Stonogobiops nematodes
- Nemateleotris magnifica
- Nemateleotris decora
- Gobiodon citrinis
- Gobiodon acicularis
- Gobiodon atrangulatus
- Gobiodon okinawae
- Gobiodon histrio

That’s a list of the most common species in captivity. Now I will go through these guys and a few others that are mentioned rather often in this hobby such as the guys in; Koumansetta, Discordipinna. If you think one genus is needed in this thread then feel free to give some commonly kept species from that genus and some extra information!

Let’s get into it then!

First genus to get into:

This genus is known as the “Watchman” Gobies. They can get rather large and boisterous for a goby however they have some beautiful colours. The most commonly kept ones in this genus are, Cryptocentrus cinctus and Cryptocentrus leptocephalus. The Yellow Watchman Goby and The Pink Spotted Watchman Goby.

Cryptocentrus cinctus inhabits the Sandy areas of shallow lagoons and protected coastal bays. They are often found in burrows with alpheid shrimps, normally at depths between 10-15 meters. In captivity they show similar behaviours and inhabit the bottom of the tank. In many cases when paired with a pistol shrimp they live in a burrow in the sand bed. They’re found around the Philippines, Indonesia and the Western Pacific.

Cryptocentrus leptocephalus inhabits a rather similar environment however they’re instead found on the silty bottoms of coastal reefs and inner reef flats. These gobies also inhabit the coastal water including mangroves, large tidal pools. They prefer a sand and rubble substrate to reside in. This goby is found on the Western Pacific and are aggressive to similar species.

So this genus prefers to stay close to the sand and can be seen on a range of substrates from silty bottoms to pure sand flats.

Now the next genus,

This genus are known as the “Hi-Fin” or “Shrimp” gobies. These stay on the small side so are best for small nanos (20g or less). These also display some nice colours, with the most common ones seen in captivity being Stonogobiops yasha and Stonogobiops nematodes.

Stonogobiops yasha inhabits Sandy areas along the outer slopes of reefs where they are often found in burrows with Alpheus randalli at 15 to 40 meters. These are native to the Western Pacific and are a rather small species of “Shrimp” Goby. They seem to show a very similar pattern in captivity, however without a shrimp they seem to make a small ditch and hide in that.

Stonogobiops nematodes inhabits deep coastal slopes and sand flats found over 10 meters down. They tend to be found on a sand-rubble substrate with Alpheus randalli in the Indo-Pacific. In captivity they seem to show similar characteristics to S. yasha but also seem to be on the rarer side of the two.

So this genus seems to prefer outer reef slopes, hiding in burrows with A. randalli. They also show some beautiful colours, ranging from reds to browns. But the most common colours seen between the two are yellow and black. This genus also seems to lean heavily towards Alpheus randalli when pairing with a shrimp.

The next genus, and one of my favourites,

These gobies show some beautiful colours, with the rarest being found between 40 and 100 meters, and the most common being found at 30 meters. They come in a range of colours from Reds, to purples and pinks. The two most common in the hobby are Nemateleotris magnifica and Nemateleotris decora. The rarest is more of a variant, the Cook Island Nemateleotris helfrichi.

Nemateleotris magnifica is found to inhabit the upper areas of steep outer reef slopes. They seem to prefer sandy, rubbly sea floors where they burrow in tiny caves and are frequently encountered as monogamous pairs. These are frequently found at around 30 meters so are a more deep water goby.

Nemateleotris decora is often found inhabiting close to the substrate, at the bottom of the reefs near sand-rubble flats or mud. They hide near the rocks so they can dive in and out of them when startled or threatened. They’re found at depths of 30 to 75 meters deep.

Nemateleotris helfrichi, now you may be wondering why I’m including this when it’s not a common fish. Well, it’s a very sought after fish so I think it deserves a place on this list. These are often found at depths of 40 meters but can occur at 100 meters or further down. They inhabit Sandy rubble pairs, usually in monogamous pairs much like the other fire fish and gobies on this list. This fish has two variations in it, one is the common variant we normally see and the other is a fairly unknown variant.
The common one:

The Cook Island Variant:

Now for gobiodon, this genus has many commonly seen species in captivity however I’ll only cover one since I have found them all to be similar in care.

These fish come in basically every colour of the rainbow, ranging from red all the way to blacks and browns. They’re found anywhere from 2 to 15 meters, I’m unsure of if they can be found deeper however I would assume so. The most commonly seen species is Gobiodon okinawae.

Gobiodon Okinawae is seen at depths of 1 to 15 meters, inhabiting many species of acropora in groups of 5 to 15. They tend to hide in the coral reefs of coastal lagoons. These guys in captivity LOVE to perch and I have found they don’t care what it is, glass, coral, rock any perching opportunity and they take it.

Now for Koumansetta, these can range in depths from 5 to 20 meters. There are 3 known species and I find them to be very similar to eachother in care/habitats. So I will only cover K. hectori.

Koumansetta hectori inhabits sheltered coral reefs at depths of from 3 to 30 meters (though usually between 5 to 20 meters). In captivity they seem to stay near the rocks, and sifting the sand (Much like they do in the wild).

Now then, let’s look at a harder to own genus, Discordipinna.

Discordipinna is uncommon to rate in the hobby however there are two known species, one of which I personally have never seen in the hobby. The main species in the hobby is D. griessingeri but the other one is D. filamentosa. I will go over D. griessingeri however suspect D. filamentosa to be very similar.

Discordipinna griessingeri is found around areas with live coral, rubble, and sand, in depths of 2 to 37 meters. They tend to be more of a crawling fish and love to crawl throughout branches and crevices in the rock work. If you own this species and have LR with many cracks then you may experience similar behaviour.

Closing thought -

Why many gobies and fish jump in captivity:

In the wild these fish are often found rather deep down (15 to 100+ meters) so if they’re scared they can either dart down to the substrate and hide in that or the rocks, or shoot up and go left or right to distract the predators. Now, I have found when scared Stonogobiops and many of the sand burrowers shoot into the sand bed, hiding in there. However many other gobies that don’t use the sand bed, such as firefish or dartfish may use the tactic of darting up and going left or right. In captivity when they do this, the surface is right above them so they manage to find their way out of water if there is no lid but if there’s a lid they do manage to find their way into water.
Although this is more uncommon due to them using the rocks most of the time - Koumansetta, Discordipinna, Signigobius, all seem to dart into the nearest rock or crevice to hide in. So when owning these animals it’s best to try keep them with plenty of rock to hide in. Signigobius seems to hide in burrows in monogamous pairs, so they may dart down into the burrows they make in captivity to hide.

Also, Koumansetta are a heavy sand sifting fish, much like the guys in Signigobius and Valenciennea. So these genera mostly find good in the sand bed so it’s recommended to have plenty of micro fauna in the sand. Also I have found my Hectori to pick algae off of the rocks, not just the sand. Although she loves to sift through the sand for pods, it seems to be more for the algae that can grow in it such as coralline, cyano, diatoms, dinos.