Mudskipper care and maintenance are easy to do even if you’re a new aquarist. The Barred Mudskipper or Periophthalmus argentilineatus is one of the most widespread members of the goby family.

Also known in some parts of the world as the Silverlined Mudskipper, the species presents a unique opportunity for tropical fish keepers.

They are relatively easy-to-care species and can breathe in water and land. This article will help you understand how to provide the ideal habitat and food for mudskipper care and maintenance.

The Barred Mudskipper is a species native to marine, fresh, and brackish tidal waters from the east coast of Africa across the rim of the Indian Ocean all the way south to Australia. This species of mainly brackish or freshwater mudskipper lives in tidal mangrove forests and palm stands.

Mudskippers get their name from their ability to cross sand and mudflats in great leaps. Mudskippers are fascinating. They can take in oxygen through their skin and the lining of their mouth, and their gills.

Quick stats:

Listed tank sizes are the minimum.

Size: Up to 7 inches (18cm)
Tank: 4 foot
Strata: Amphibious
PH: 7.0 to 8.5
Hardness: Hard
Temperature: 79° to 88°F (26° to 32°C)

Classification:

Phylum: Chordata
Class: Osteichthyes
Order: Perciformes
Family: Gobiidae
Genera: Periophthalmus
Species: Argentilineatus (the most widespread species)

Mudskipper Appearance

In appearance, the mudskipper is long and thin with a rounded nose and eyes that sit goggle-like on the top of its head. While amusing to us, this trait gives them the ability to sit in their mud and sand tunnels or on top of sticks and spot approaching enemies and threats.

Their front fins are elongated and ribbed. A mudskipper at rest looks like a fish doing a pushup. When angry, the mudskipper will raise its dorsal fins like ribbed sails. The tail is long and thin. The mudskipper uses its body and powerful front fins to walk, climb and leap.

The coloration of a mudskipper tends to match the browns, muted silvers, and grays of its native environment with the addition of beautiful markings. Patterns can include tiny white speckles across its entire body and silver vertical stripes or bars, which are its namesake.

Adult mudskippers will show more variety in coloration. Colors include traces of reds and yellows, due to environmental factors such as water salinity and the types of materials you have used to design the habitat.

How to Care for a Mudskipper

Once you have established a good mudskipper environment, Periophthalmus argentilineatus is a hardy species to care for.

Mudskippers are very territorial, and when you have more than one fish in a tank, they will raise and lower their tall dorsal fins as signs of aggression. While this is exciting to watch, the fish will fight and maim each other if the tank is too small. To keep your mudskippers from fighting, a larger tank allowing two feet of space per fish is the best option.

The structural elements you place in the tank can be arranged to provide some visual barriers between fish. These barriers will help keep the peace as they do not continually see each other.

The salinity of mudskippers’ native environments fluctuates. The keeper must select and maintain the aquarium’s static salinity level to keep the habitats healthy. This salinity level can be more challenging to maintain than a standard aquarium. The mudskipper habitat is half land, half water, and will often contain natural wood or vegetative matter.

Suppose you consider that ocean water’s basic salinity is 25 to 35 parts per thousand with a specific gravity of 1.025, and fresh water has a specific gravity of 1.000. In that case, an excellent brackish water mix will have a particular range of gravity of 1.005 and 1.012.

You should maintain alkalinity between 10° and 20° dKH (180 ppm to 360 ppm). Try to keep pH levels between 7.5 – 8.5. The ideal temperature range is 68-78°F (20-26°C).

As with other goby species, mudskippers are tolerant to salinity ranges but are not tolerant of stale and stagnant water. A good rule to follow is maintaining good filtration and changing 10% of the water every week or 25% every two weeks. Be sure to treat tap water and condition it to the proper salinity and other levels before adding it to the aquarium.

Ideal Mudskipper Habitat

A good mudskipper aquarium is more of a paludarium, a tank containing both aquatic and terrestrial elements. This type of tank provides the mudskipper with a mix of raised strata and water to be on land or in the water as it would be in nature.

At a minimum, mudskipper habitat can consist of a half land and half water tank with a gradual slope from one to the other. A tank that is four feet long should be considered the minimum size for one or two mudskippers. The addition of structures such as mangrove roots, rocks, and saltwater tolerant plants can turn the tank into a beautiful setting while providing barriers to help keep mudskippers separated.

While mudskippers tend to live in, well, mud, that substance makes a poor substrate for this habitat type. Fine-grain aquarium sand or tiny gravel are much better choices as they do not solidify or create deposits in filters. Water depth is significant. It should be no more than 6 to 10 inches deep with a gradual slope to land so your mudskippers can walk in and out as they desire.

This type of gradual slope can be challenging to maintain, given the need to keep the aquarium clean. Adding larger stones, resin-based mangrove roots, and plastic plants will help stabilize the strata and help your mudskipper tank look much more like its natural habitat. If your aquarium is large enough, you can try adding living mangrove plants. Mangrove is a very hardy species that lives worldwide and is easy to find.

One of the critical factors in maintaining mudskipper habitat is keeping the air in the tank humid. Mudskippers can breathe out of the water but need a very humid environment to dry out their skin.

A damp environment will encourage your mudskippers to spend more time out of their caves and give you much more enjoyment. You can maintain humidity by controlling the amount of heat in the tank to the target range of 79° to 88°F (26° to 32°C) and making sure the top is sealed enough to keep the heat in.

Another way to maintain humidity is by adding a misting device. Both mudskippers and plants will appreciate this. Regardless of how you manage filtration, have the openings in the top of the tank sealed so that your mudskipper or other tankmates can’t escape.

Lifespan

The mudskipper lifespan ranges from 3 to 20 years. Periophthalmus argentilineatus is one of the longest-lived species with an average lifespan of 15 to 20 years. With proper care, your Barred Mudskippers will provide you with decades of happiness.

Mudskipper Diet

Mudskippers are one of the easiest tank species to feed. The mudskipper diet includes anything live or dead they can fit in their mouths. In the wild, they eat small crabs, crickets, worms, and similar tiny organisms. In captivity, they can be fed these live or dead. They will also eat dried foods, flakes, and pellets.

Mudskippers feed only on land, so food that falls into the water will be ignored. Similarly, foods such as small crabs that burrow will not be eaten and could become a new, unwanted tankmate. Mudskippers feed in the day and night in response to tide patterns, so feeding time is up to you.

One of the benefits of owning mudskippers is that they can be easily trained to eat from your hand. They can learn to do this only a few days after they have been situated in their new home. Try holding your hand motionless on or above the aquarium’s land portion and let them come to you. Have patience, and they will do so.

Summary

  • Periophthalmus argentilineatus can breathe through their gills, skin, and mouth.
  • Mudskippers can grow to be 7 inches in length.
  • Mudskippers need large tanks that will give at least 24 inches of space for each fish.
  • The ideal mudskipper habitat is half land and half brackish water.
  • Keep the mudskipper aquarium warm and humid for healthy fish.
  • Arrange tank elements to minimize confrontation between mudskippers.
  • Feed mudskippers small live, dead, flaked, or pelletized foods.
  • Mudskippers feed only on land.
  • Mudskippers can be trained to eat from your hand.

Suppose you are considering a paludarium for your display. In that case, you will find that the costs of keeping mudskippers will be more than a standard brackish water 20-gallon aquarium. The beauty and longevity of the environment and the mudskipper’s antics will last you for many years and be well worth the time, effort, and expense.

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