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Freshwater and Brackish Goby Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

Freshwater Goby

This care sheet covers a variety of freshwater goby species, including:  

  • Bumblebee goby
  • Dragon goby
  • Desert goby
  • Knight goby
  • Marbled sleeper goby
  • Cobalt goby
  • Flame goby
  • Tiger goby
  • Red cheek goby
  • Orange fin goby
  • White-cheeked goby


Scientific names: Brachyboius xanthozona, Gobioides broussonnetti, Chlamydogobius eremius, Stigmatogobius sadanundio, Oxyeleotris marmorata, Stiphodon semoni, Rhinogbius zhoui, Pseudogobiopsis tigrellus, Lentipes armatus, Stiphodon maculidorsalis, Rhinogobius duospilus

Gobiiformes comprise around 2,200 species of goby, making gobies one of the largest orders of fish. Although primarily marine, about 10% of the species can be found in fresh and brackish environments. Freshwater gobies are primarily small, burrowing or benthic species, spending more of their day hanging out at the bottom of the aquarium. Their unique look and behavior make them a fun addition to the home aquarium. As a bottom-dwelling species, they can be a good addition to the cleanup crew.

Typical appearance and behavior

  • Some freshwater gobies prefer to live in schools but can be happy alone
  • Most gobies spend their time at the bottom of the aquarium and need plenty of hiding places
  • Gobies scavenge for food and will eat almost anything
  • Most gobies have a distinct mouth, giving them a “grumpy” facial expression
  • Males tend to show brighter coloration than their female counterparts


Care Difficulty Ranges from beginner to intermediate, depending on species
Average Life Span Up to 5+ years when properly cared for, depending on species
Average Adult Size 1–11 inches long, depending on species
Diet Omnivorous, herbivorous, carnivorous or biofilm-eating, depending on species
Minimum Habitat Size 5+ gallons, depending on species
Water Temperature 72–82°F


Habitat size

Keep in an appropriately sized aquarium based on the adult size of the species selected, which can range from a 5-gallon aquarium for smaller species to 30+ gallons for maintaining a small group.

Building your habitat

  • Water health
    • Provide proper filtration to ensure optimal water quality to help maintain health; low to strong water circulation should be provided to mimic the water currents and high oxygen levels found in the freshwater gobies’ natural habitat
    • Stable water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) and water temperature are critical to the health of aquatic life; if you are unsure of your water quality, bring a sample to Petco for free testing
    • An aquatic heater should be used to stabilize water temperature and ensure it does not fluctuate more than 2 degrees in either direction in a 24-hour period
    • Many gobies thrive in brackish environments and will require the addition of freshwater salt to the aquarium; the specific gravity should be kept between 1.004 to 1.010
    • Always research your species’ specific needs before adding freshwater aquarium salt, and do not allow specific gravity to fluctuate more than 0.001 in either direction in a 24-hour period
  • Décor: Many freshwater goby species are shy and should be provided rock caves, hollow logs or other safe hiding spaces; driftwood will also assist in the production of biofilm for those species requiring this as part of their dietary needs
  • Substrate: Freshwater gobies spend most of their time on the bottom of the aquarium or burrowing, and a small, less abrasive substrate is recommended to allow for this burrowing behavior 


  • A well-balanced freshwater goby diet consists of:
  • Sinking pellets or flake foods and freeze-dried tubifex worms
  • Brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, black and bloodworms (live, freeze-dried or frozen)
  • Biofilm and algae
  • Preferences vary by species

Things to remember when feeding your goby:

  • Feed small amounts two to three times daily, no more than your fish will eat in 1–2 minutes
  • Your fish will scavenge food and feed on algae and biofilm but also need to be specifically fed; be sure food reaches the bottom level of the aquarium
  • Feed prepared foods according to the directions on the packaging
  • Thaw frozen food before feeding

Freshwater goby care

  • Maintaining great water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration is important to help keep your goby healthy
    • Daily: Check filter, water temperature and other equipment
    • Weekly: Test water quality at least once a week
    • Weekly to monthly: Change 10–25% of the total volume of water every 2–4 weeks, or as needed; change filter media monthly
  • Avoid overcrowded conditions, which are a major cause of stress and disease

Where to buy

Various freshwater gobies are available for purchase in store; availability varies by location. If visiting your local location, please call ahead to check availability.

Freshwater goby supplies

Tank mates

Most freshwater gobies are peaceful and can be kept with community fish of similar size and temperament, including other gobies; however, if keeping gobies in small schools, they should be kept in groups of five or more in odd numbers. Some gobies can be fin nippers and may not be good tank mates with species like bettas. They are also opportunistic feeders and may feed on small fish and shrimp, if they are small enough to fit in their mouth.


Signs of a healthy fish

  • Clear eyes
  • Eats vigorously
  • Good coloration
  • Free of parasites or disease

Red flags (if you notice any of these signs, contact your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian)

  • Loss of color or appetite
  • Spots or fungus on body or mouth
  • Cloudy eyes or pop-eye
  • Listlessness
  • Labored breathing
  • Erratic swimming
  • Weight loss
  • Bloating
  • Frayed or discolored fins

Common health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueFin rot Symptoms or CausesFrayed or disintegrating fins; the base of the fins usually reddens. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueBacterial infections Symptoms or CausesCloudy eyes, open sores and/or reddening of the skin Suggested ActionImprove water quality; add or slightly increase freshwater aquarium salt level; use a commercial antibacterial remedy as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Health IssueIch Symptoms or CausesWhite spots appear on fins and body; fish rubs against hard objects or swims erratically, rapid respirations Suggested ActionQuarantine fish immediately; add or slightly increase freshwater aquarium salt level and use a commercial ich remedy as directed; donsult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Health IssueCottonmouth or columnaris Symptoms or CausesCottony white growths along the body and/or gills, frayed fins and gills turn brown and necrotic in late stages; caused by bacterial infection Suggested ActionQuarantine fish; improve water quality; lower aquarium temperature to 72°F to deter bacteria from growing; medicate as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment



Freshwater gobies can live up to 5+ years when properly cared for.  

Freshwater gobies will vary by species and should be provided with a variety of flakes, sinking pellets, freeze-dried, frozen or live foods, algae and biofilm.

Most freshwater gobies are peaceful and can live with other appropriately sized fish and other gobies, if the aquarium is large enough. Larger freshwater gobies may eat smaller fish and shrimp that they can fit into their mouths. 

There are roughly 2,200 species of gobies, with about 10% being fresh or brackish water species. 

Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as atypical mycobacteria and salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet.

Go to for more information about aquatic life and disease.

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.