The Bumblebee Goby is a wonderful choice if you are interested in setting up a biotope or a themed nano tank. But if you want low-maintenance and easygoing fish, you might want to look elsewhere. Bumblebee Gobies might be small, but these guys need a little extra care and attention.
Bumblebee Goby Stats
Listed tank sizes are the minimum
1¾ inches , (4.5cm) Same for both sexes
20 gallons, Brackish water
Mostly Lower, will visit all levels
7.5 to 8.5
Mediun hard to hard
75°- 86°F (24° to 30° C)
Distribution and Natural Habitat
Bumblebee Gobies can be found in Sarawak, Malaysia’s largest state. There also exist various localities throughout Java, Sumatra, and Borneo. Here, these fish settle in shallow habitats in rivers and streams, as well as brackish estuaries.
Some populations can also be found in the lowland, coastal environments of Thailand and Vietnam. These include peat swamps and mangrove swamps. An abundance of overlying material and hiding places are present in these areas, such as mangrove roots, plant detritus, and submerged driftwood.
The given trade name for these fish does an excellent job of describing their physical appearance. Their tiny, round bodies and alternating stripes of black and yellow definitely resemble that of a bumblebee!
Bumblebee Gobies are cute! Not only because of their coloration but also due to their size. A Bumblebee Goby reaches 1.2 to 1.6 inches (3 to 4 cm) at full maturity, which makes them one of the smallest gobies in the world. Some specimens don’t even grow that long. That said, this species makes a great choice if you have an interest in setting up a nano tank.
Colors and Patterns
It is quite obvious how these fish got their name. But unfortunately, females are not as vibrant as males. However, this makes sexing them a lot easier.
Females have pale yellow bands, while males sport a more vivid yellow. In the case of the B. doriae genus, the yellow bands of the males intensify during spawning, thereby turning into orange or red. The fins are transparent, but some specimens may have a little black in them as an extension of the corresponding stripe.
Both sexes have round bodies and bulbous eyes iconic to gobies, but males tend to be a tad slimmer than females.
How Many Bumblebee Gobies are There?
There are currently nine species of the Brachygobius genus, and they are all referred to as “Bumblebee Gobies” in the trade:
Some species have more lateral scales than others. Given their size, it is hardly possible to count their scales without a microscope. Others have wider or thinner black bands, resulting in either wider or thinner yellow interspaces between them. The hue of the yellow stripes may also vary. Some species are pale yellow, while others veer towards orange.
Overall, it is difficult to distinguish one species from another. For this reason, many fish stores all go by the same name for convenience. Then again, only two of the nine described species are available in the aquarium hobby. These are B. doriae and B. sabanus.
Bumblebee Gobies mostly live around three years, but they can live longer when they are provided with consistent high-quality care. Intermediate fish keepers have seen their gobies live to be four years or older.
Behavior & Temperament
Some hobbyists may describe Bumblebee Gobies as a little too scrappy, but I have grown to love these cheeky critters because they are fascinating to watch.
At first, Bumblebee Gobies are shy and timid. You will find them either hiding in solitude or sit at the bottom of the tank, waiting for their grub. But after some time, these little guys will show their spunky attitude. Provided that their requirements are met, you will see them swimming quite often in the open both during the day and at night.
Albeit difficult to keep, the entertainment value you get from these critters is worth the elbow grease. For a small fish, their striking appearance and sunny disposition make up for what they may lack in size. Growing to less than 2 inches, Bumblebee Gobies won’t take much space in a community aquarium.
Males are Territorial
Are Bumblebee Gobies aggressive? Sometimes, yes. Males can get a little too cheeky than females. Once they get comfortable in their new habitat, the boys would immediately establish territories and show aggression towards any fish that may stray in their domain.
In fact, Bumblebee Gobies are territorial even among their own species. Males can be seen chasing and badgering each other. Luckily though, these skirmishes are nothing serious.
Bumblebee Gobies thrive in groups. For a species-exclusive tank, opt for a group size of 6 or 7 fish for a 10-gallon tank. Do not overstock, as this might result in a tremendous amount of bickering that could also lead to possible injury. As discussed earlier, males are strongly territorial even among their own species. Better yet, consider a Bumblebee Goby harem. Having more females than boisterous males should help keep the peace.
Bumblebee Goby Care Guide
To maximize the Bumblebee Goby lifespan, you’ll need to attend to their dietary requirements and maintain the recommended water conditions without fail. Despite their size, these fish have big needs!
Feeding your Bumblebee Goby is one of the hardest aspects of keeping this species. On a scale of 10, their diet takes on a rating of 8.
The main reason why Bumblebee Gobies are difficult to feed is that they are picky. So what can you feed your Bumblebee fish?
Here are some tips:
These little carnivores have a distinct taste for live food. Bumblebee gobies will completely ignore commercial fish food, such as flakes and pellets. If it doesn’t wiggle, then it isn’t worth their attention.
Feed your gobies tubifex and blood worms. Worms make a nutritious option that Bumblebee gobies will eagerly accept.
Set up a live food culture. You can hatch several batches of brine shrimp at home. Another option is grindal worm.
Bumblebee gobies may show interest in frozen food if the current makes the food move around. However, this is not practical in a community aquarium.
Fry dumb enough to hang out in the bottom of the tank is a snack for your Bumblebee gobies. So, if you are trying to breed other species, you will need to separate the brooders before their eggs hatch. Better yet, use a different tank for breeding fish.
Take note; you’ll have to stick your arm inside the tank and drop the live food right in front of your Bumblebee gobies. Otherwise, these little guys will get outcompeted by other more assertive species.
Can Bumblebee gobies live in freshwater? Yes, they do!
In the wild, Bumblebee Gobies live primarily in freshwater. The Freshwater Bumblebee Goby will switch over its salt balance physiology as it swims toward brackish waters, and vice versa.
Some sources may tell you that your fish need brackish water to survive. I am not saying this is erroneous information, but Bumblebee Gobies can also live long and healthy lives in freshwater as long as you keep up the pH and hardness. However, maintaining the ideal water parameters in a closed system is a tedious task for beginners.
As for the ideal temperature, it is anywhere between 73° to 79° F (23° to 26° C), whereas the pH is between 6.5 and 7.5. The hardness of the water is anywhere between 143 to 357 ppm.
The biggest problem, however, lies in the fact that some pet stores may sell the B. nunus as Bumblebee Gobies. Only brackish water can sustain this particular species.
Bumblebee Gobies boast of a robust immune system, which could be one of the reasons for their incredible adaptability. On the other hand, these little guys could die prematurely in the hands of novice owners due to their care difficulty.
For one, Bumblebee Gobies fish are finicky eaters. As a result, these critters can suffer from malnutrition either because they refuse to eat or they are outcompeted by other species.
Stress brought by poor water conditions is another culprit that compromises their health. Bumblebee Gobies raised in freshwater are more susceptible to Ich and fungal diseases that could have been otherwise prevented in slightly salty water. Incorrect salinity levels can likewise send your fish into shock.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep the water at optimal levels. Be sure to use a quality test kit and perform water changes regularly. Don’t underestimate the impact of daily visual inspections. All you need is to spend a few minutes daily to make sure nothing is out of place.
If one of your gobies comes down with Ich, you’ll need to quarantine it as soon as possible. This disease is highly contagious and can wipe out an entire population. Fortunately, there are plenty of copper-based medications you can buy to treat the infected fish.
If you want your pets to reproduce, start with 12 juvenile specimens so they could grow together and pair off naturally. Triggering their spawning behavior isn’t that difficult, as long as their water requirements are met.
For instance, adding one teaspoon of marine salt to a gallon of water should provide the ideal salinity. Be sure not to overdo it, though, as this species can only tolerate low-grade salinity.
When males are ready to spawn, their yellow bands will become more saturated. Females will swell up and look for areas they can lay their eggs. So, plan ahead. Add some smooth hiding spots females can use, such as ceramic tubes, coconut shells, and clay pots.
Bumblebee gobies can lay 100 to 200 eggs at a time, and males will guard them fiercely. The eggs after a week, thus you need to separate the males to prevent them from eating the fry. The fry should be able to swim in another week, and you can feed them infusoria cultures until they are big enough to eat brine shrimp.
Bumblebee Gobies are a jolly bunch, but they aren’t the best residents in a community aquarium due to the males’ aggressive tendencies. Intruders and passersby will surely get nipped! But if you provide your gobies with plenty of shelters, such as caves and clay castles, there won’t be much trouble. Bumblebee Gobies will only attack fish that come too close to their home.
However, the Bumblebee Goby temperament is not really the biggest issue. Adding mid-level and upper-level fish instead of bottom-dwellers is an excellent way to prevent squabbles. Unfortunately, there aren’t plenty of similar-sized aquarium fish that thrive with the same water parameters as the Bumblebee Goby.
Some might consider mollies, swordtails, and guppies, as they can tolerate brackish to full saltwater. Then again, these livebearers are bottom-feeders that may disturb your feisty gobies.
So far, the only species I have seen that can live harmoniously with Bumblebee Gobies are Figure 8 Puffer Fish and Indian Mudskipper.
As with any fish, you’ll want to mimic their natural habit as closely as possible.
Since they are so small, a group of 6 Bumblebee Gobies will do just fine in a 10-gallon tank. Still, it is better to get a larger setup to ensure the best living conditions. This is especially true if you are planning to add a few compatible species in the future.
Plants and Decorations
These critters can be a bit timid and skittish at first, especially if they share a tank with other species. Continual attention from their tank mates causes them stress. So, provide plenty of cover to help them feel safe and calm.
Here are some plants for your brackish tank:
Anubias (Anubias barteri, nana, etc.)
Anacharis (Egeria densa)
Java moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri)
Java fern (Microsorum pteropus)
Marimo ball (Aegagropila linnaei)
Seaside brookweed (Samolus valerandi)
Bumblebee Gobies also like to have their own little houses once they have finally settled in their new habitat. Coconut shells, driftwood, and clay pots are good examples.
Avoid rough, chunky substrates as they pose a bit of a risk for injury for these bottom-feeders. Fine sand is the best option.
Bumblebee Gobies do not tolerate strong currents. An air-powered sponge filter will suffice. Powerful pumps and air bladders won’t do.
Many hobbyists are attracted to the Bumblebee Goby due to its cute appearance, but many of them lose interest as soon as they found that:
Freshwater is not healthy for Bumblebee Gobies in the long term. These fish thrive best in low-grade, saline water.
Bumblebee Gobies are picky eaters. These fish will often starve either because they are outcompeted for food or they simply refuse to eat.
Bumblebee Gobies will only eat live food. These include freshly hatched brine shrimp, bloodworms, and their own fry.
There is a limited number of species compatible with the Bumblebee Goby. This is mainly due to their water requirements and feeding behaviors.
While I don’t mean to discourage you, I just want to make sure you have a realistic expectation of what it is like to own these fish. Feeding your fish a live diet can increase the amount of time you’ll need to spend on your aquarium.
Not to mention, you’ll have to maintain the water parameters without fail. But if you already have some experience, then I encourage you to give the Bumblebee Goby a shot!