You have cleaner animals in your freshwater setups, so why not add some to your marine tank as well?

By Bob Fenner

The sparkling mixed black, white and blue or gold jewels known as cleaner gobies of the genera Gobiosoma and Elacatinws should be as common in marine aquariums as Coxydoras catfish are in freshwater tanks — maybe even more so. These slivers of happiness, which are mainly found in the western Atlantic, are extremely hardy and of great utility; ideal fish for the new marine hobbyists, as they will pick off parasitized and dead tissue from your other fish, making them healthier and more comfortable.

Common Cleaner Gobies

Red headed goby (Elacatinus puncticulatus, Ginsburg, 1938). These are found in the eastern central Pacific, from the Sea of Cortez to Ecuador. They attain lengths of nearly 2 inches, are real beautie* and tough. They are commonly available through wholesalers and retailers.

SI rknose goby (Gobiosoma evely-

, Bohlke and Robins, 1968). These are found in the tropical west Atlantic, from the Bahamas to Venezuela. They max out at 2 inches and are variable in color. They are distinguished by a yellow V-shaped mark on the nose and bluish stripe sandwiched between black.

Cleaner goby (G. genie, Bohlke and Robins, 1968). These occur in the west central Atlantic in the Bahamas

This neon goby (Gobiosoma oceanops) is doing what cleaner gobies do best: it is cleaning dead tissue and even parasites from the back of its host fish, a maroon clownfish (Premnas biaculeatus). It is easy to gauge the relative size of this goby in comparison to the 6-inch-long clown-fish in this photo.

and Grand Cayman Island. As adults they grow to about 13/j_inches. A bold yellow V-shaped mark appears on the head and trails into pale bands along the sides.

Barsnout goby (G. illecebrosum, Bohlke and Robins, 1968). These gobies are found in the central western Atlantic, from the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico to Panama. Identified in the field by a white bar that runs midline between the eyes and a blue line on either side of the body that extends to the tail.

Neon goby (G. oceanops, Jordan, 1904). Found in the tropical west Atlantic, they range from southern Florida to Belize. Neons grow to 2 inches in length.

Broadstripe goby (G. prochilos, Bohlke and Robyns, 1968). Roughly 11/2 inches at adulthood, these gobies are found in the tropical central west Atlantic. They are bred in captivity.

Yellownose or Randall's goby (G. randalli, Bohlke and Robins, 1968). Less than 2 inches as adults, this species is found in the tropical west Atlantic, with a range from Puerto Rico to Venezuela.


Good cleaner gobies are easy to find, but they are almost always on either end of the spectrum: healthy and ready to go, or sometimes on the verge of death. Look for the behavioral descriptor of "brightness" with these small fish. They should be out and about, looking at you and their tankmates and generally doing their bit to draw attention to themselves.

Avoid tanks that have any gobies with apparent spots or breaks in their skin — such a batch may be in the process of "breaking down," not a specific ailment per se, but a "handling syndrome," where aquatic life is failing in response to poor environment and microbial involvement.

My favorite species are the popular G. oceanops and G. evelynae. These two are the most intensely captive bred and available, although there are many more species that should soon become available commercially.

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