Caring for the Freshwater Bumblebee Goby
- 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 ten-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.
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 for 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. nunas is a different species altogether and requires brackish water to survive. The B. nunas is technically a gold-banded goby, but is seldom sold as such. You can easily spot a B. nunas by its broken black stripes and black spots. Remember, the Brachygobius xanthozona is the freshwater species you're after.
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.
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