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Caring for the Freshwater Bumblebee Goby

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Species Description

  • Scientific Name: Brachygobius xanthozona
  • Geography: Asia, specifically Southeast Asia and Thailand
  • Natural Ecosystem: River bottoms and estuaries
  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Difficulty of Care: 8/10

The bumblebee goby (B. xanthozona) is a small, bottom-dwelling, carnivorous fish that is distinguished by its solid, unbroken black stripes and bright yellow body.

Tank and Water Requirements

  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons for two gobies
  • Water Temperature: 73–85 °F (23–30 °C)
  • Water pH: 7–8.5
  • Water Hardness: 12–18dH

Bumblebee gobies are highly territorial among their own species, and overstocking will result in a tremendous amount of quarreling and possibly injury. To ensure the best living conditions, only stock two gobies in a 10-gallon aquarium. Numbers can be increased with aquariums that have larger footprints.

Sand is the proper substrate for bumblebee gobies, as it will allow them to move freely and burrow on occasion. Driftwood, river rocks, and live plants are also recommended to replicate natural conditions and to provide hiding.

A well-planted and natural tank best suits bumblebee gobies.

A well-planted and natural tank best suits bumblebee gobies.


Here is where the "difficulty of care" rating takes on an 8 out of 10 score. Bumblebee gobies are tricky to feed. Because they are an opportunistic-style feeder, they will snap at anything that might swim or float by, so flakes and dry foods are out of the question.

  • Live food is really the best option for bumblebee gobies.
  • They will readily take tubifex and blood worms that are still living. They will eat frozen ones if there is a slight current to keep the food moving around.
  • Hatched brine shrimp are also a great option. The same current needs apply to frozen brine shrimp.
  • In my experience with my gobies, I found that tiny, live Convict Cichlid fry were the perfect meal for a hungry goby.
  • Keep in mind that if the food doesn't move, your gobies won't eat it.

Behavior and Tank Mates

Although many will describe these fish as grumpy, I've actually grown quite fond of their happy-go-lucky personalities. You'll normally find them hiding out in solitude or sitting patiently at the bottom for food. Surprisingly, they do swim quite often, and you'll be able to view them being active both during the day and at night.

Growing to an average length of around two inches in the aquarium, the bumblebee goby is well-suited for a community-style tank. They work well with a variety of fishes. Just make sure that nothing will eat them.

The Brackish Debate

Almost every guide out there for bumblebee gobies will tell you that brackish (slightly marine) water is best for these fish. I'm not going to tell you that they're wrong, but as long as you keep up your pH and hardness, freshwater will sustain these fish.

All the bumblebee gobies I've cared for have lived long and healthy lives in freshwater. Never once did they show signs of stress or washed-out colors—just some food for thought. If you feel more comfortable with brackish water, add marine salt solution until a specific gravity of 1.004 is reached.

Purchasing a Bumblebee Goby

Potential owners should beware when buying these fish from the store. Many aquarium stores will sell both the Brachygobius xanthozona and the Brachygobius nunus as bumblebee gobies.

The problem lies in the fact that the B. nunus is a different species altogether and requires brackish water to survive. The B. nunus is technically a gold-banded goby but is seldom sold as such. You can easily spot a B. nunus by its broken black stripes and black spots. Remember, the Brachygobius xanthozona is the freshwater species you're after.

Bumblebee Gobies Are Great for Intermediate Fish Keepers

To sum it all up, bumblebee gobies are an exceptional species for biotope and themed tanks. They add a unique twist on what you would typically imagine a bottom-dwelling fish should be.

I thoroughly enjoyed caring for my pair. They accompanied White Cloud Minnows and a betta in a 10-gallon aquarium. I would recommend that you know what you are doing as a fish keeper before you hop into these fish. Beginner fish keepers should avoid them until more experience is gained.

Thanks for reading my article, and please leave a comment.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Nickoo2 on March 27, 2020:

Bumblebee Gobies, White Clouds, and a Betta... yikes

Richelle on March 20, 2019:

I appreciate your commentary.

Berenice Hickey on March 07, 2019:

But bettas are soft water fish. Why did you keep one together with a hard water loving goby?

Max on August 28, 2017:

this article was very helpful

natures47friend from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand. on December 30, 2011:

What a wonderfully ste out hub...I would like to know how to put lines in...voted up and awesome.....

Happy New Year!

Zach (author) from Colorado on December 30, 2011:

Phoebe Pike - Thanks for your feedback! I appreciate it. Have you ever cared for these gobies?

davenmidtown - Hey what's going on Dave? These Gobies are pretty sweet! Like you said, they are very striking when cared for properly. I've seen that you like cichlids & livebearers. Any go with these gobies before?

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on December 29, 2011:

Hey Joe! Very good hub on a beautiful fish that is one of my favorites. They are very striking when cared for correctly and the great detail of your hub will help people understand these fish. voted up and shared.

Phoebe Pike on December 29, 2011:

This hub is awesome! It's interesting, useful and very informative. Two thumbs up!