The desert goby Chlamydogobius eremius is a very unusual fresh/brackish-water goby native to the waters of Australia. Males reach a maximum size of about 3½ inches and females about 2½ inches. Sexual dimorphism
is obvious, as the female lacks the beautiful colors of the male.
Males have a beige-colored body with navy blue caudal and dorsal
fins surrounded by a white rim. The soft dorsal is a bright royal
blue and yellow. These fish have large mouths, small eyes, and the
traditional “goby face,” as my friend at the local fish store says.
Desert Gobies as Pets
Back in the 1950s the desert goby was a common aquarium pet,
but as flashier fish became available over the years they started
to get overlooked and were nearly forgotten. It is my opinion that
the desert goby is far more beautiful and has far more personality
than any of the standard pet-shop fish. It is a fantastic pet fish and
will be of great amusement to children, as it’s somewhat clumsy
and is not a good swimmer at all. In order to swim, the fish uses
its fins to push back on the water and lunge its body forward.
This is very comical to watch because it looks like the fish has a
great deal of trouble doing so! Desert gobies, for that reason, are
not active swimmers. They are best described as bottom hoppers,
spending most of their time perched on objects such as aquarium
decorations or even the glass walls of the aquarium.
Habitat design is basically up to you, but keep in mind that these
fish do spend a lot of time on their bellies, so it is important that
the aquarium gravel be soft and smooth, so as not to scratch
them. I use aragonite sand, designed for marine aquaria, because
it holds the pH up and releases small amounts of minerals and
trace elements. Plants are optional; what is more important is to
have aquarium decorations of varying heights so that the fish may
perch at any depth they choose.
As for tank size, they do not need a lot of swimming room.
Maybe a colony of four fish in a 10-gallon aquarium or eight to
ten fish in a 20-long would work well. These gobies do create
pretty substantial amounts of waste, so adequate filtration is
essential. This actually becomes somewhat of an issue since they
need robust filtration to clean up after them, yet they do not have
the ability to fight a strong current. I have found that basic power
filters work well, while canister filters are too strong, and air-driven filters are not strong enough.
Heating is not necessary under average conditions. My residential
hatchery is in the California desert, so I have kept these fish in
temperatures from 55°F all the way to 110°F and they have never
shown signs of distress at all. I have personally witnessed them
breeding at a temperature of 60°F, and might I say that it was about
15 minutes after I received them in the mail for the very first time,
even after three days in shipping!
Desert goby Chlamydogobius eremius, a displaying dominant male.
Another important thing to mention is that the maximum
lifespan of this fish is only one year. This can be good if you don’t
want a long commitment—but it’s bad if you want a fish that lasts.
Keep this in mind when you purchase your gobies, and remember
to only accept young fish.
Caring For the Desert Goby
The desert goby does not ask for much in the way of habitat
requirements, but it is very necessary to meet its few needs.
The key to success is salt ratio. Chlamydogobius eremius likes
slightly brackish water. Many people make the mistake of keeping
slightly brackish fish in very brackish water, while others make the
mistake of assuming they do not need salt at all, or only the small
amount a guppy would require. At my hatchery we do not measure
specific gravity, but the gobies are kept in a ratio of 4 tablespoons of
salt per 10 gallons of water for breeding, and one tablespoon of salt
per 10 gallons of water for holding. Remember that one tablespoon
is equivalent to 3 teaspoons. If you wanted to measure specific