Sand Sifting Gobies: True vs False… what’s the difference?
by @i cant think


One thing I find interesting is how people label many gobies under the term “Sand sifting” now I absolutely adore gobies. For those of you who have seen my build threads you’ll know I have now got 7 gobies. Two of those are often put under the term “Sand sifters”.

So, my plan in this thread is to try “show” the difference between a True Sand sifting Goby and a False Sand sifting goby is. So, let’s start with what is a “False Sand sifting Goby”.

Well, some gobies that are out under the term “Sand sifters” don’t actually sift the sand. These are often from the genera Amblyeleotris, Stonogobiops, and Cryptocentrus. The biggest one I hear go under the term Sand sifter is Cryptocentrus cintus or the Yellow Watchman Goby.
Below is my new pairing, of Alpheus bellulus and Cryptocentus cinctus.


I think the main reason for this is due to how when paired with a pistol shrimp from the genus Alpheus, they seem to help out by moving the sand out of their den. These are merely moving it and in most cases they don’t actually feed from it. They seem to just feed on the surface of the sand, picking up any leftovers or prey that may come across them. Another big difference is the “False Sand sifters” (or how I prefer to call them Sand Dwellers) are much easier than many of the “True Sandsifters” this is due to their wild diet being much more varied and not needing to feed constantly.

So… what’s a “True Sandsifter” then? Well, it’s simple. The genera that I believe should definitely fall under this term are; Koumansetta, Valenciennea, Signigobius and Amblygobius. The biggest genera I see is Valenciennea which I believe shouldn’t be in the majority of tanks however that’s for another thread.
Below is a photo of the most commonly kept species of “True Sand sifter”, Valenciennea puellaris from Seaunseen


The biggest differentiator from these guys and the Sand Dwellers is how they actually use the sand. So the Sand Dwellers will spit it out in a different area to where their den is (or even around the edges to fortify them). But the Sand sifters will sift through it and drop it through their gill system (I will also explain how in a different post). The reason they do this is they’re sifting for a specific thing, the nutrients they need. They use the sand to feed from, they may also use it to fortify their main den however they will mainly do that when they’re building it. Once they have a secure den they often leave it alone and instead sift around for nutrients.
The gobies in this category will often starve in captivity as during the transportation phase, they don’t get fed which they need to feed in order to get nutrients. Then when they get into the LFS they will most likely be deprived of nutrients already and not get the nutrients they need later on. This will cause many to die and if they don’t then the next struggle is to get them feeding on prepared foods (Frozen and Dry).

So… why do they often get put under the same term?

Simply because both will usually use the sand to their advantage. They often keep areas pristine as they use the sand in certain ways to stay alive, whether it’s to fortify their cave or to feed and not starve. The biggest difference is what they do with the sand, whether that they spit it out or sift it out through their gills.