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Bumblebee Goby: A Complete Care Guide

Bumblebee Goby: A Complete Care Guide

Bumblebee gobies are a very popular aquarium fish prized for their rounded, colorful appearance that makes them look like a bumblebee. Native to South and Southeast Asia, these fish are found primarily in brackish water like saltwater swamps and estuaries, which makes them harder to care for.

Bumblebee gobies thrive in brackish water aquariums that are a standard 10-gallon (40 liters) size with sandy substrate. Water temperature should be maintained at 73-86°F (23-30°C). A good diet involves a mix of bloodworms, Daphnia, and brine shrimp fed once or twice daily.

In this article, I’ll get into the details of the Bumblebee goby’s natural habitats, appearance, size, and behavioral patterns. I’ll also get into the tank setup and parameters, including potential tank mates, health issues, and other information. This information should help you decide if a Bumblebee goby is the right pet for you.

Bumblebee Goby Overview & Natural Habitat

  • Common name: Bumblebee Goby
  • Scientific name: Brachigobius doriae, and Brachygobius xanthozonus
  • Care level: Moderate
  • Size: 0.5 – 1.5 inches (1.5 – 4 cm)
  • Lifespan: 3 – 5 years
  • Temperament: Passive, but can be territorial
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Group size: 8 or more, or individuals
  • Minimum tank size: 10 gallons
  • Tank level: Bottom dweller
  • Water temperature: 73.4 – 86°F (23 – 30°C)
  • Water pH levels: 7.2 – 8.5
  • Water hardness: c

Bumblebee gobies are part of the genus of gobies, which are small, ray-finned fish found in a number of environments ranging from fresh to saltwater.

They are found in fresh to slightly brackish water in parts of South and Southeast Asia like India, Indonesia, Borneo, Thailand, Malaysia, and Bangladesh. These bottom-dwelling, easy-going fish make for fantastic pets in aquatic environments.

There are nine different species under the genus Brachygobius. While a number of these are traded as the ‘Bumblebee Goby,’ the most commonly traded species is the Brachigobius doriae, while the rare is the Brachygobius xanthozonus.

Another species often sold in the aquarium pet trade as the Bumblebee Goby is the Brachigobius nunus, the dwarf species group in this genus.

Appearance & Size

Gobies are known for their large heads and tapering bodies; the Bumblebee Goby is no different.

What is unique about the Bumblebee Goby is how rounded it appears. This roundedness, when combined with the characteristics of black and yellow or yellow-orange bands, lends it the appearance of a bumblebee. As the fish age, the black bands start to fade into a lighter shade.

Bumblebee gobies are fairly small fish that range between 0.5 – 1.5 inches (1.5 – 4 cm).

Difference Between Males and Females

Due to their size, it’s very difficult to differentiate between male and female Bumblebee gobies.

The primary differences are in the intensity of color. Male Bumblebee gobies have brighter yellow or yellow-orange bands than females, tending to be more orange.

Males are also slimmer than females, which are more rounded through the entire body, especially the head. Between the two, female Bumblebee gobies best resemble their namesake.

Personality & Behavior

Generally passive fish, the Bumblebee gobies can get territorial about ‘their’ patch of the aquarium. Keeping them in pairs or in small groups of 3-5 fish can exacerbate this behavior, as the fish will egg each other on, especially if they’re all males.

However, in larger groups of 8 or more, the aggressive behavior gets distributed throughout the entire group.

Bumblebee gobies should be kept as just the only one of their species or in larger groups to balance out their personalities. For the most part, these fish tend to hide or root through the substrate rather than interact with their tank mates.

In large groups, the Bumblebee gobies can be quite social, often interacting with each other rather than hiding out in their preferred spots. Any aggressive behavior only results in the fish chasing each other away from their preferred spots, and there is little chance of injury.

For the most part, Bumblebee gobies are active throughout the day and can often be found swimming around across all levels of the aquarium, even at night.


The unique needs of the Bumblebee goby mean that this fish needs a considerable amount of care when it comes to tanks. However, once their environment is set, they can thrive in captivity for 3-5 years if properly cared for.

Bumblebee Goby Care & Tank Set Up

The primary reason why the Bumblebee Gobies are not for beginner fish owners is that they have very specific water requirements. When you purchase these fish from pet stores, some may have taken the time to acclimatize the fish to constant fresh water so they don’t need a specialized tank.

However, these fish are used to moving between freshwater and brackish water, and keeping them in freshwater without proper acclimatization can affect their long-term health.

Tank Size

Most Bumblebee gobies will do well in a standard 10-gallon (40-liter) tank, though you have to be careful about the number of fish in there. These fish may be small, but they do get more territorial in smaller spaces and with smaller schools or groups of their own species.

These fish don’t like to injure their opponents, but they guard their territory in the aquarium fiercely and must have room to carve out their own spaces and areas to hide when necessary.

How Many Bumblebee Gobies Are Suitable for a Ten-Gallon Tank?

If you’re using a standard 10-gallon tank, you can put about 2-3 of the fish in there. However, this is a bad idea as smaller groups of Bumblebee gobies in a tight space tend to become more territorial.

A better idea would be to get a larger tank and have a school of 8 or so fish in it, as the fish will have more space to live and swim around and be less aggressive overall. A school or 8-9 Bumblebee gobies are perfectly suitable for a thirty-gallon tank.

Water Parameters

  • Water temperature: 73.4-86°F (23-30°C)
  • Water pH levels: 7.2-8.5
  • Water hardness: 9-19 dKH

Apart from the size of the tank, the right kind of water will affect the overall health of your Bumblebee gobies. While they can tolerate freshwater, these fish must be placed in brackish water to thrive. 

To keep them healthy, responsible pet owners must be careful to maintain at least one teaspoon (5.7g) of artificial sea salt for every single gallon of water in the tank. The artificial sea salt will help simulate brackish water conditions that mimic the natural habitat of these fish.

Water Temperature

Too-cold water is often the reason why Bumblebee gobies fail to thrive in their new tanks. If you’re bringing home these tropical fish, ensure that you’re able to maintain the tank temperatures at a comfortably warm range between 73.4-86°F (23-30°C).

As mentioned earlier, these fish are found in the brackish waters of South and Southeast Asia, where water temperatures typically exceed 86°F (30°C) in extreme conditions.

While making the tank any warmer will make the fish uncomfortable, it’s important to keep the tank at a minimum of 73.4°F (23°C) to prevent your Bumblebee gobies from being sluggish. The cold weather affects their eating habits and movement, eventually leading to sickness and ill health.

Always check the temperatures of the water and be careful not to accidentally shock your fish by adding cold water to your Bumblebee goby tank.

A fish tank thermometer like the Aquaneat Aquarium Thermometer (available on can easily be used for different kinds of water. It’s easy to set up and use and is known for being relatively accurate, so you can keep track of the water temperature in the tank.

Water pH Levels

Since the Bumblebee Goby prefers to live in fresh to brackish water, they prefer alkaline water with pH levels between 7.2-8.5.

To some extent, the pH value of the water will be affected by the salt from the artificial sea salt added to the water, the substrate, and any other accessories. Maintaining the right pH value is important, as any drastic changes can make fish sick and affect their growth and reproductive behaviors as well.

Water Hardness

Bumblebee gobies prefer hard to very hard water to live in.

The right water hardness is important to maintain, as going beyond the pH values of the fish’s natural habitat can cause stress, disease, and eventual death. You can maintain the water hardness by checking and adding coral sand, limestone rock, or other commercial water hardeners available in the market.

Before you adjust the water hardness, ensure that you check the hardness of the water, and consult your veterinarian before making changes.

What To Put in the Tank

Like most fish, when setting up your tank for your bumble goby, it’s important to mimic their natural habitat.


Bumblebee gobies are bottom-dwelling fish and need a substrate that supports their natural instincts to dig, burrow, and hide. Sand is ideal because the granules are soft and comfortable for the fish, allowing them to root through it easily as they look for food.

A reasonably thick layer of sandy substrate is also a great tool that supports the species’ appropriate burrowing behavior, allowing the fish to hide when they feel threatened.

The finer particles of the sand also make the substrate easier to clean than the bigger granulated substrate. Using coral sand will also help maintain the pH values of the water.


Caves, tunnels, and other decorative structures are excellent options as they provide visual barriers that the fish can use to define their territories. These structures are useful in smaller and bigger tanks as they allow the fish to move around, defend their part of the aquarium easily, and hide if necessary.

Ideal Plants

Plants in a Bumblebee goby aquarium must have hardy roots so they’re not uprooted by the burrowing behavior characteristic of this species.

Plants are necessary for this aquarium as they are commonly used as hiding spots and are of immense importance to maintaining peace and keeping stress at a minimum. 

However, it’s important to remember to use plants that will grow in brackish water conditions and not in freshwater.


Bumblebee gobies prefer to live in warm water, as we’ve discussed earlier. Maintaining their required temperatures shouldn’t be too difficult as long as you live in a relatively warm region.

However, if you live in a cold region, you might consider investing in an aquarium heater like the Tetra HT Submersible Aquarium Heater (available on

This heater maintains water temperature at a comfortable 78°F (25.5 °C), which is ideal for your Bumblebee gobies and any other tropical tank mates you may include. It’s perfect for aquariums of up to 10 gallons. 


Filtration systems are pretty important for Bumblebee gobies as they eat meaty, fresh prey and tend to create more waste than other fish of their size. Having a good quality filtration system can go a long way in keeping the tank clean and comfortable for the fish. However, be careful not to pick a filter with an aggressive flow to prevent discomfort to your Bumblebee gobies.

Bumblebee Goby Tank Mates

Bumblebee gobies are bottom-dwellers but swim across levels. They love to be social, so they can be easily placed in a tank with other fish. A few examples of good tank mates for Bumblebee gobies include glass fish, guppies, nerite snails, pistol shrimp, and mollies.

Tank Mates To Avoid

Bumblebee gobies love live food, don’t place them with tankmates smaller than them, or they’ll try to eat them. Avoid other bottom-feeders as well, or the gobies are likely to become extremely territorial and attack these other fish. 

Bumblebee Goby Food & Diet

The most interesting part of the Bumblebee goby fish is that it only eats live fish. It’s a carnivorous fish that needs fresh meat, so it must be fed live bloodworms or tubifex worms.

Brine shrimp are also an excellent option to feed your Bumblebee gobies. They can be cultured, frozen alive, and fed to your fish after thawing.

These fish can be fed up to twice a day but typically won’t need food more than once a day.

Breeding Bumblebee Goby

Gobies, in general, are a difficult genus of fish to breed. Breeding Bumblebee gobies requires a lot of care. You will need to adjust the salinity of the water so it is more freshwater than brackish. 

Males who are spawning will develop deeper colors in their bands, and females will want places to hide and rest.

Breeding Bumblebee gobies should be left to experts and not attempted by beginners. 

Bumblebee Goby Common Health Issues

There are several common health issues that are found among Bumblebee gobies, such as fungal infections like Ich. The most devastating health issue for these fish is stress.


Stress among Bumblebee gobies is typically caused by poor tank conditions that must be remedied immediately.


It’s easy to tell when Bumblebee gobies are stressed as these fish will either become more lethargic or aggressive. Their brightly colored bands will start to fade, and their appetites may be affected. Any dramatic change in behavior is a sure sign of stress in your fish.


Treating stress in Bumblebee Gobies involves identifying the root cause of the problem. The fish are often stressed by the wrong water temperature, salinity, or incorrect diet. In some cases, the tank may be too small for your school of fish, and you’ll need a new tank.


Preparing your tanks and maintaining the right water parameters is essential to prevent stress responses in your fish. Bumblebee fish generally tend to depend on live prey for their diet. Not having the right kind of prey can cause stress responses as well, so stick to brine shrimp and bloodworms.

Bumblebee Goby FAQs

Can Bumblebee Goby Live in Fresh Water?

Bumblebee goby fish can live in freshwater but will get sick and die faster than if they’re placed in brackish water tanks. Fish purchased from pet stores often acclimate to freshwater, but it’s not ideal.

Do Bumblebee Gobies Eat Plants?

Bumblebee gobies don’t eat plants; they only eat live prey such as bloodworms, tubifex worms, or brine shrimp. These fish will also refuse to eat dried food like pellets or fish flakes as they prefer meaty food.

Will Bumblebee Gobies Eat Fry?

Bumblebee gobies do eat fry or baby fish. Much like other small fish like guppies, Bumblebee gobies exhibit cannibalistic tendencies if resources are scarce or they are stressed. They may also eat fry of smaller fish since they prefer live prey.

Wrapping Up

Bumblebee gobies are tropical fish that prefer warm, slightly salinated alkaline water. They must be fed live food and kept in a warm environment to ensure that they thrive. They do well in schools of 8 or more as they have a tendency to get aggressive in smaller groups. They’re good tank mates with guppies and mollies but will not tolerate other bottom-feeders.

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...