Bumblebee Goby: Species Profile and Complete Care Guide

bumblebee goby in an aquarium
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 12, 2024
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If you’re looking for a nano species because your office desk has limited space, making it challenging to fit a large brackish tank, or simply because you’re captivated by the unique coloring of the bumblebee goby, we get it. The bumblebee goby, a favorite for many, holds a significant place in the community of aquarists.

Those of us at PetMeTwice have gathered information from the most experienced and knowledgeable keepers to make a basic how-to guide for the bumblebee goby.

Article Summary

  • Bumblebee gobies have a distinctive black and yellow stripe pattern and are considered nano fish, having an average size from 1 to 1.5 inches.
  • These gobies are recommended for intermediate to advanced fish keepers; they are picky eaters that prefer live food.
  • For the bumblebee goby, a 10-gallon tank with a soft, sandy substrate for digging is recommended, along with fresh or brackish water and peaceful tankmates.

Species Overview

Common namesBumblebee gobies, bumblebee fish
Scientific nameBrachygobius xanthomelas
SpeciesB. xanthomelas
Size1.5 in
Lifespan3 yrs
FamilyGobiidae
GenusBrachygobius
DistributionSoutheast Asia
ColorBlack, yellow
DietCarnivore
TemperamentPeaceful
Minimum tank size10 gal
Place in the tankBottom
Care levelIntermediate
BreedingModerate

History and Background 

Native to Southeast Asia, the Bumblebee Goby is a popular fish amongst aquarists from around the globe. Typically found in mangrove swamps or streams near the coast, the bumblebee goby can make an excellent pet for the more experienced aquarist.

What is bumblebee goby?

Bumblebee gobies are a unique fish species well known for its yellow stripes and coloration. In their natural habitat bumblebee gobies inhabit brackish water.

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While we initially say that bumblebee gobies live in brackish waters because that’s the makeup of their natural environment, there are freshwater bumblebee gobies. How your fish responds to freshwater vs. brackish water depends on how they were raised and should be a conversation between yourself and your breeder.

Where did the bumblebee goby come from?

Bumblebee gobies come from Southeast Asia and are bottom dwelling fish generally found in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Their natural habitat includes mangrove swamps, slow-moving streams and tributaries.

How to care for bumblebee goby?

Bumblebee gobies are often sought after in the aquarium hobby, however they can be challenging to care for so we only recommend intermediate fish keepers or advanced fish keepers investing in one. These fish are picky eaters, only pair well with a select few tankmates, and require very specific water parameters making them ill-suited for beginning aquarists.

For those with several years of fishkeeping experience and the ability to go the extra mile to meet the bumblebee goby’s unique needs, this fish may be the perfect fit. Continue reading to learn more about what makes this fish a challenging species to keep.

Appearance

a bumblebee goby swimming in a planted aquarium
Bumblebee Goby Swimming Through the Aquatic Plants

The main appeal of this species is their eye-catching appearance. With their beautiful black and yellow stripes, the bumblebee goby’s small size won’t stop them from grabbing your attention!

What do bumblebee goby look like?

Bumblebee gobies of course look like the bumblebees they are named after. They are beautiful fish that have an alternating black and yellow stripe pattern. Their fins are mostly transparent and their bodies are slender with a small, round head.

How big does a bumblebee goby get?

On average, bumblebee gobies grow to be 1 to 1.5 inches. They are generally considered to be nano fish.

What is the biggest freshwater goby?

The giant goby is the biggest freshwater goby and will grow to a maximum size of 11 inches.

What is the smallest freshwater goby?

The Micro dragon goby is the smallest freshwater goby currently known and grows to a maximum size of 1 inch.

How fast do bumblebee goby grow?

Bumblebee gobies are fast growing and reach their maximum size in a few months. They will reach sexual maturity at roughly 1 year old.

Sexual Dimorphism

Species that are sexually dimorphic are ones that need both a male and female to reproduce successfully. Species like coral that can reproduce by propagation (asexually) are not considered to be sexually dimorphic, however, most fish species are.

How to tell goby gender?

Like many other species the female bumblebee goby is larger than the male. While the male has brighter coloration than the female.

Temperament and Tankmates

bumblebee goby swimming in an aquarium
Bumblebee Goby Swimming Near Aquarium Substrate

While the females are mostly peaceful, the male gobies can be quite territorial which makes keeping many varieties of fish in the same tank challenging.

Can you have more than 1 goby in a tank?

In a large tank, you can get away with keeping multiple goby species together as long as each fish has their separate living area. They are generally peaceful, but be sure that they require the same water parameters and you are feeding them adequate amounts of food to ensure there is no aggression. We recommend you increase your tank size by an additional 20 gallons per species added.

How many bumblebee gobies are in a tank?

How many bumblebee guppies you can keep in your tank varies based on the tank size that you have. For a 10-15 gallon tank you can fit about 7 fish. When keeping gobies together you might notice light fighting among their own species at first. This is normal and helps to establish the hierarchy within the group.

Many aquarists choose to only keep bumblebee gobies with their own kind and have a single species tank. This is because they are such a small species it is difficult to find other tank mates that will do well with them.

What fish can live with a bumblebee goby?

The best way to keep the peace with bumblebee goby tank mates is to choose upper level fish as companions so there is little to no interaction with your bumblebee gobies. We’ve included our top three bumblebee goby tank mates below.

  1. Mollies -a species that can tolerate brackish water, but is usually considered to be a bottom dweller. They can coexist with bumblebees as long as your tank size is adequate and there are plenty of hides.
  2. Large shrimp – it is already known that there is a symbiotic relationship between pistol shrimp and bumblebee gobies, it is excellent to build upon this prior relationship to make the best home for your inhabitants.
  3. Guppy Fish – one of the few species that can tolerate slightly brackish waters, they might bother your bumblebees but should pose no threat if accidentally eaten in a tiffle.

Incompatible tank mates

  1. Goldfish – your bumblebee goby will likely turn into a snack if placed with goldfish.
  2. Betta Fish – this species will not do well in brackish water and will likely attack or bully your gobies.
  3. Neon Tetras – while these fish might seem like a good fit because of their size, they are strictly freshwater fish.
  4. Red Claw Crab – Although Red Claw Crabs and bumblebee gobies may thrive in the same environment, it is generally advised not to keep them together in the same tank, possibly due to their territorial nature or simply because they are not compatible with each other.

Tank Requirements

Woman setting up a fish tank
A Woman Decorating A Fishtank

Proper bumblebee goby care includes knowing the correct water parameters for your specific fish.

Water Parameters

Tank Size10 gallons
Water TypeFresh or Brackish water
Water temperature72-84
Water pH7.0-8.5
Water Hardness9-19 dKH
Salinity1.002-1.006

Tank setup:

What kind of substrate to use?

As bottom feeders you’ll want to give these easygoing fish a soft, sandy substrate that will allow them the ability to dig. Additionally, if they accidentally swallow larger substrate such as gravel they would be prone to intestinal damage because of their small size.

Do I need a filter?

A filtration system is necessary, especially if you are planning on having a larger tank with other species. Your aquarium should be cycled prior to the addition of it’s inhabitants, however be sure to consistently check the water parameters prior to introducing your fish to the tank so that you can make fine adjustments as needed.

Should I have a pump?

Having a pump is not recommended for bumblebee gobies as they don’t like strong water flows. The water flow from your filtration system should be enough to keep the water circulating throughout their small tank.

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If you do need to add air bladders because your dissolved oxygen levels are low, add large leaved plants and other objects around it to interrupt its flow.

Is a Water heater necessary?

Yes, we recommend the addition of an aquarium water heater to help your fish live long and healthy lives. Because they are small fish and do not thermoregulate (maintain their body temperature on their own) it is important that the overall water temperature stays within their preferred range.

What kind of lighting to use?

There are no special requirements when it comes to lighting for bumblebee gobies. When adding artificial light sources to your aquarium be sure to add a timer so that your fish receives 8-12 hours of light and 12-16 hours of darkness. This will help the fish to establish a morning/night schedule, get uninterrupted sleep, and allow REM function.

Tank Decor

Other components of your aquarium should include plenty of hiding spaces or spots. These can include coconut hides, submerged driftwood (to help simulate mangrove roots), ceramic tubes, or even live plants. This fish is fairly timid and ample hiding spots will greatly improve their experience with other tank mates.

What water conditions do Bumblebee Goby prefer?

What water conditions you keep your goby in depends on how your breeder raised it. Some fish will prefer a brackish tank while other bumblebee gobies are considered to be freshwater fish.

In their natural habitat, the freshwater bumblebee goby will adjust to salinity levels as it swims between bodies of water.

Ask water conditions of seller/breeder

When choosing between breeders be sure to ask them how they raise their bumblebee gobies and choose your provider based on the conditions that suit you and your other fish the best.

RECOMMENDATION

Do not try to switch your bumblebee gobies from fresh water to brackish water or vice versa. This could cause the shutdown of internal organs.

Do gobies need sand?

No, gobies don’t need sand as a substrate, however it is the preferred substrate of most species. Soft and fine sand allows gobies to dig, sift, and hide in the sand without risk of it causing damage if accidentally swallowed. Additionally, gravel or large rocks could potentially injure the stomach of these bottom dwelling fish.

Will goby jump out of the tank?

Yes, bumblebee gobies are known for jumping above the surface for no other reason than they enjoy it. When building your freshwater or brackish water setup be sure to include a tight fitting lid on the top of your tank.

Diet and Health

Bumblebee Goby staying at the aquarium substrate
(1) Bumblebee Goby Resting at the Aquarium Substrate

Diet is perhaps the hardest aspect of bumblebee goby care and can be tough for first time goby keepers to get the hang of. These fish are incredibly choosy eaters who often refuse anything other than live food. Read more below to learn what you can feed bumblebee goby as well as some tips for encouraging this persnickety species to eat.

What do bumblebee goby eat?

In the wild bumblebee gobies live in coastal environments and often seek out food such as insect larvae, small crustaceans, and fish eggs.

It is a popular misconception that bumblebee gobies eat snails. However, snails are not one of their preferred foods and are actually quite hard for them to consume due to their size and shell. It is much more likely that they would consume larger shrimp or other small crustaceans.

What to feed bumblebee goby?

Bumblebee gobies are very picky eaters and getting their diet right is one of the trickiest parts of care. This is because most gobies will refuse to eat anything other than live food. While many aquarists try supplementing their diet with dry food or frozen food it is unlikely that your goby will eat it.

Instead you will have to acquire live food such as daphnia, tubifex worms, blood worms, or brine shrimp.

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Some bumblebees will eat frozen foods that look like they’re moving due to tank current. However, this isn’t completely practical when you have other fish in the tank.

How often to feed bumblebee goby? 

Feed your bumblebee gobies once or twice daily. During feeding time you might have to take a long pair of blunted tweezers or a claw to hold the food in front of your goby and wiggle it around. Be sure to let go as soon as your goby takes the food so as to not make them pull it from your hand.

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Unless you have all of the same species in your aquarium you will need to drop food right in front of your fish or else they are likely to be outcompeted by other fish.

How much to feed bumblebee goby?

Feed your goby using the three minute rule. You may have to increase the amount of time to five minutes depending on how interested your goby is in the food that you are presenting to them.

Common diseases of bumblebee goby? 

Bumblebee gobies raised in freshwater are more susceptible to fungal diseases and/or ich which is usually prevented by the slightly salty water of brackish tanks.

  1. Ich – otherwise known as the white spot disease, ich disease can be fatal if not treated quickly and properly. Symptoms include white specks over the fins and body, lethargy, loss of appetite, and the “itching” of the body against various tank decor. Treatment options include water changes, aquarium salts, and medication such as Ich-X.
  2. Fungal Infections – most commonly a result of poor water quality, prior injury, or too low water temperatures fungal infections appear as white or gray fuzzy patches on the skin or gills. To treat the infected fish you should immediately quarantine it, begin using anti-fungal medication, and aquarium salt. You should also perform a water change and monitor the water parameters of the original tank.
  3. Constipation – because bumblebee gobies consume a high protein rich diet your fish will likely experience constipation at one point or another. Symptoms include bloating, lack of appetite, and stringy feces. Try to entice your fish with shelled peas or blanched lettuce or spinach to increase the amount of fiber in their diet.

How long do bumblebee goby live? 

In ideal tank conditions, this fish is known to live up to 3 years.

Breeding

Bumblebee Goby swimming in an aquarium with fine gravel substrate
(2) Close-up Image of a Bumblebee Goby

Breeding bumblebee gobies is a popular endeavor in the aquarist world because of their high demand in the trade.

Can you breed a bumblebee goby?

Yes, they are one of the easiest fish to breed, but the fry are very difficult to raise. They are egg layers and female fish can lay up to 200 eggs at one time.

How to breed a bumblebee goby?

To trigger the spawning process, move your bumblebee gobies into their own tank and begin to feed them food with a higher than normal protein content. This fish is fairly sneaky and you will likely not realize they have bred until you see the female fish swell up with eggs. She will begin laying her eggs in various hiding spots throughout the tank.

RECOMMENDATION

There is some argument in the aquarium world whether to add freshwater or marine salt to your aquarium to induce spawning. Either will yield the results however if your tank already has brackish water you should add freshwater so as not to exceed your fish’s salinity tolerance.

Once you are sure that all eggs have been laid, remove all of the adult fish from the tank but leave the father behind. The male fish will protect the eggs (though if you’ve removed the other fish there shouldn’t be much danger) until they hatch about a week later. At this point you can remove the male from the nursery tank.

After the first few weeks the fry will eat similar food as an adult diet including baby brine shrimp and other small meaty food.

Bumblebee Goby FAQS

Do bumblebee gobies burrow?

Yes, this fish will often burrow into the substrate, and sometimes will even share their burrow with pistol shrimp.

Can gobies change gender?

At this time, only bluebanded goby fish have been known to be able to change their sex. The change is usually in response to social hierarchies and all juveniles initially become female fish. Males tend to change to females if they meet another male fish who is more dominant.

What is the rarest goby?

There is some argument to what is the rarest goby as it largely depends on where you are in the world. For example, Australia doesn’t allow live fish imports and so Yasha gobies can cost upwards of $1000 per fish as they’re incredibly hard to capture. However, in the U.S. they are only $250.

The Laura Goby (Psilotris laurae) is also incredibly rare and can go for as much as $6,000.

What is the most peaceful goby?

There are many gobies that aquarists claim to be the most peaceful, but it mostly depends on the care you give, tank size, and stress level of your fish. Some of the top choices include the black clown goby, court jester goby, and the sharknose goby.

Is the bumblebee goby for you?

If you’ve read this guide and don’t think bumblebee goby care is hard and are in love with their adorable striped pattern, then this fish is for you!

Conclusion

The bumblebee goby is an adorable fish that can fit in smaller tanks and can live in brackish or freshwater conditions.

Featured Image – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brachygobius_doriae_248579947.jpg
(1) © Dirk Godlinski
(2) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brachygobius_doriae_in_aquarium.jpg

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