Bumblebee Goby (Brachygobius xanthozonus) Ultimate Care Guide

The Bumblebee Goby is a very popular fish with aquarists around the globe for good reason. Their eye-catching good looks make them very desirable fish for any aquarium, while their small size makes them easy to house without having to have a large tank.

The bumblebee goby is found in the wild in Thailand and Indonesia, in the lower parts of streams, rivers, coastal areas, mangroves, and other highly vegetated areas. These fish are often mistaken for Brachygobius doriae, Brachygobius nunus, or Brachygobius sabanus.

Brachygobius xanthozonus is distinguished by a base color of mustard yellow, with 4 vertical black bands. The first black band runs over the head near the eye, the second and third cover the body as well as slightly onto the fins, and the fourth band ends at the start of the caudal fin. As the fish ages, their black coloring will begin to fade.

To this day there is still much controversy about whether bumblebee goby are freshwater or brackish fish, as they have been found living in both in the wild. They originate in freshwater streams but often travel towards the delta, where the water becomes saltier. For this reason, they are usually kept in brackish tanks, although there are reports of some aquarists having Brachygobius xanthozonus that have not only survived but thrived in freshwater.

Bumblebee Goby (Brachygobius xanthozonus)
Bumblebee Goby (Brachygobius xanthozonus)

Bumblebee Goby Care

The bumblebee goby is considered to be an intermediate to advanced breed of fish to care for. While less experienced aquarists can care for them, someone with more experience will likely be able to give them a longer life. In ideal conditions, they can live longer than their anticipated lifespan. This requires them to have optimal water conditions, a proper diet, as well as stress-free living conditions.


The ideal water temperature for bumblebee goby is 72 to 84° F (22 to 29° C). According to experienced aquarists, they prefer to be kept in the range of 73.4 to 79° F (23 to 26° C).

Water pH and Hardness

Bumblebee Goby require a water pH level of between 7.5 to 8.5, as they prefer slightly alkaline water conditions. The ideal water hardness is between 9 to 19 dKH.

Water Salinity

As Bumblebee gobies live in slightly salty water in the wild, their tank setup needs to mimic these conditions as closely as possible. The salinity in their tank needs to be kept between 1.002 to 1.006 salt grade.

Bumblebee Goby Size

The bumblebee goby is not a large species of fish by any means. At full maturity, their average size is about 1.5” (about 3.8 cm), although some won’t even reach that size during their lives. Their size makes them an excellent choice for anyone looking to set up a nano fish aquarium.

Food and Diet

Bumblebee gobies are carnivorous fish, and generally prefer to eat live food over frozen, although if there are no other options they will eventually get used to eating frozen food. Bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp, and artemia are some of their favorite foods. Small pellet food may also be eaten by your fish, however, a lot of gobies won’t eat food that isn’t moving.

It should also be noted that while most aquarists report that bumblebee goby will not eat dry flake food, some have been successful in getting their fish to feed on flakes. These are considered a rarity though, and you should be prepared for them to feed fresh or frozen food exclusively.

Bumblebee Goby (Brachygobius xanthozonus)
Bumblebee Goby (Brachygobius xanthozonus)

Bumblebee Goby Lifespan

Bumblebee gobies are known to have quite a short lifespan, 3 years or less in most cases. Perfect water conditions and great care has been known to extend their lives for an extra year or two in captivity.

Some experienced aquarists believe that a larger tank helps them live a bit longer, as opposed to a smaller tank.

Tank Size

Due to their small size, bumblebee gobies don’t need a large tank at all to be comfortable. A small school can comfortably live in a tank as small as 10 gallons. The only reason they are often kept in larger tanks is if they are kept with other, larger fish.

Tank Setup

Bumblebee goby are bottom-feeders so they spend a lot of time near the substrate in their tank, and some will even burrow a little bit. For this reason, a sandy substrate is recommended. A gravel substrate will not only stop them from burrowing easily but can also cause them to injure themselves on the rough edges.

Lots of cover should be provided in the tank, as goby can be quite skittish, especially in a new environment. Natural decorations such as plants, rocks, and driftwood should be placed throughout the entire tank. Other items they can hide in, such as PVC tubes or coconut hides are also great additions to their tank.

When choosing plants, they must be able to live in brackish water. Some suitable plants are Anubis, anacharis, java fern, and seaside brookweed. Plants will provide extra cover, helping your fish feel calm and safe.

As for a filter system, they prefer areas with little to no water flow in their natural environment. A small, clamp-on filter is ideal, as it will provide enough filtration while not creating too much water flow in their tank.

Gobies tend to be nocturnal fish, so keeping their tank out of direct sunlight can allow you to control the light in the tank. This will allow you to simulate darkness during the day to encourage movement throughout the daytime.


Breeding bumblebee goby in captivity is both rare and difficult, although it is possible. It is best to set up a small breeder tank, as this will allow the fry to be kept separate once they hatch.

The breeder tank should be set up with the same water parameters as the main tank, although it only needs to be about 5 gallons in size. There should be lots of cavities for the female to lay her eggs in, such as shells, ceramic tubes, small inverted flower pots, etc.

Once you are certain you have a pair that are preparing to breed, they can be placed together in the breeder tank. The male and female will display the visual cues listed below once they are ready to mate. They should be fed small live foods such as mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, or daphnia.

If all goes well, within a few days eggs will begin to appear in a cavity somewhere in the tank. The female generally lays between 100 and 200 eggs, at which point she can be removed from the breeding tank and placed back in the main tank. The eggs will be guarded fiercely by the male, and after 4 to 5 days they’ll begin to hatch.

Once the first of the fry starts to hatch, the male fish should also be removed from the breeding tank and placed back in the main tank with the female. Once hatched, not only will the male no longer care for the fry, but he will likely start eating them.

The fry can be quite difficult to feed when they are small and should be fed liquid foods such as infusoria, followed by baby brine shrimp once they are a bit larger. The young fry will swim in all levels of the tank for the first 4 to 5 weeks, at which point they’ll begin to settle at the bottom of the tank, and start to get their bumblebee coloration.

Once the fry are big enough to eat the same diet as the larger fish they can begin to be added to other inhabited tanks.

How to Tell the Difference Between Male and Female Bumblebee Goby

Male and female bumblebee goby are quite hard to tell apart, although when they are preparing to breed it does become a bit easier. Once ready to breed, the female will become visibly plumper, and the male’s black coloration will almost disappear.

When it isn’t the mating season, the male generally has more vibrant colors than that of the female. The males also tend to be a bit skinnier than the females of the species.

Bumblebee Goby Diseases

Bumblebee gobies are known to have quite a robust immune system, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t susceptible to diseases that can plague other fish. If you are keeping your goby in freshwater, they will likely be more susceptible to certain diseases that brackish water would help protect them from.

Two of the most common contributing factors that cause diseases in bumblebee goby are poor water conditions and stress. Water quality must be kept at optimal levels, otherwise, your fish will suffer and be exposed to ich and other diseases. Performing regular water changes will go a long way in keeping your bumblebee gobies healthy and happy.

Ich – The most common disease for bumblebee goby is Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis), an external parasite that attaches to a fish’s fins, body, and gills. Once done feeding, the parasite drops off the fish to the bottom of the aquarium, where it will rapidly replicate itself.

If you think you have a fish with Ich, isolate it in its own tank immediately. Start treatment with any of the available copper-based medications available. Keep an eye on your main tank to ensure that no other fish have contracted the parasite as well.

Flukes – Another common parasite that gobies can contract is flukes (Monogean trematodes). They cause slime and holes to develop on the fish, resulting in reddened skin and destroyed gills. You will likely notice an infected fish scratching itself on sharp edges. It will also begin to have breathing problems.

Stress is a major contributor to flukes, so ensure your tank is a healthy environment. Antiworm medication such as Praziquantel can be used to treat a fluke outbreak.

Bumblebee Goby Tank Mates

Most of a goby’s time during the day will be spent hanging out near the bottom of the tank, so selecting tank mates that will live in the other areas of the tank and avoid the bottom is a great way to ensure a peaceful environment for all your fish.

Males can be a bit aggressive, both towards their own species and others. Having enough cover in their tank to isolate themselves is a great way to curb any unwanted aggression in their tank. Keeping more females than males can also help to keep aggression levels lower.

Bumblebee Goby and Shrimp

As long as you pay attention to the size of shrimp you choose for the tank, bumblebee goby and shrimp can make great tank mates. The shrimp chosen need to be large enough so that the gobies don’t see them as food. Smaller shrimp species, such as cherry shrimp, are not recommended.

Bumblebee Goby and Betta

There are two main reasons that bettas don’t make great tank mates with gobies. The first is water conditions. While gobies require brackish water to live, bettas are freshwater fish that only require brackish water when being treated for certain diseases.

The other issue is the betta’s fins; Bumblebee goby are known as fin nippers, so they will likely take some runs at the betta’s long-flowing fins.

Bumblebee Goby and Pea Puffer

Similar to bettas, pea puffers don’t make ideal tankmates for bumblebee goby. Not only are their water parameter requirements quite different (freshwater and brackish water), but despite their size, pea puffers can also be quite aggressive. Even if they aren’t able to attack your gobies, the stress of living with an aggressive fish wouldn’t be a great living environment for your gobies.

Bumblebee Goby and Cory Catfish

Cory catfish are another freshwater fish that doesn’t make a great tankmate for bumblebee gobies simply due to water types. While some aquarists who have their gobies in freshwater have mixed the two species, most tanks won’t be set up with water that would allow both species of fish to thrive.

Other Tank Mates

Choosing acceptable tankmates for your gobies comes down to two things; water parameters, and temperament. Any tankmate needs to be able to live in brackish water, and they need to be able to put up with a little bit of aggressiveness from the gobies.

Suitable tankmates include species such as Figure 8 puffers, swordtails, and mollies, as they can all tolerate brackish water.

Are Bumblebee Goby Aggressive?

Male gobies can be a bit territorial, and will immediately claim an area in the tank as their own. They can be a bit aggressive, especially towards their own kind. If they do show any aggressiveness towards other species in their tank, it is usually more out of boredom than wanting to cause harm.

How Many Bumblebee Goby Should Be Kept Together?

Bumblebee goby are best kept in schools of at least 6 – 8 fish, depending on the size of the tank. Aim to have more females than males in the tank, as this will help keep the aggression levels to a minimum in your aquarium.

Can You Keep a Single Bumblebee Goby?

It is not recommended to keep a single bumblebee goby by itself in a tank. As they are a social species, not being in a group can cause them unnecessary stress, which will shorten their life expectancy.

Where Can I Find Bumblebee Goby For Sale?

Bumblebee goby can be found online, and at select fish stores, depending on what area of the US you are located in. Trying to find them locally can be quite a challenge, which is why most aquarists end up purchasing them online.

Bumblebee Goby Price?

Bumblebee gobies are a relatively inexpensive fish and can be found for purchase for approximately $4 US. Most online retailers also offer a bulk discount if you are ordering a school of them at once.

Are All Bumblebee Gobies the Same Species?

There are nine different species that all get grouped in as “Bumblebee Goby” by aquarists. They are:

  • Brachygobius aggregatus
  • Brachygobius doriae
  • Brachygobius kabiliensis
  • Brachygobius mekongensis
  • Brachygobius nunus
  • Brachygobius sabanus
  • Brachygobius sua
  • Brachygobius xanthomelas
  • Brachygobius xanthozonus

It can be quite difficult to distinguish one species from another, so for this reason many fish stores continue to use the same name for all of them. There are ways to tell them apart, such as counting rows of scales, but that can be quite difficult given their small size.

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