My vote for the cutest freshwater fish is definitely the lovable "Bumblebee Goby", Brachygobius doriae. because, well- it's really small ( like maybe 1.5"/ 38mm max), and hops around like its namesake. And it has this little face that's...well, it's cute. It's small. It's even placed in a small genus, with only nine, occasionally-confused members.
Now, one of the things I love about this fish is that it's one that we have a completely preconceived notion about, and the "Bumblebee Goby", is like the poster child of "little brackish aquariums."
(The star of our blog...taken by our good friend, Ted Judy! Visit his site- tedsfishroom.com for all sorts of cool stuff!)
And, yes, it IS found in brackish environments in places like coastal southeast Asia, from the Mae Khlong in Thailand to the Mekong basin (Cambodia, Laos, and Viet Nam), Malaysia (Peninsular and Sarawak areas), Singapore, Indonesia (Kalimantan, Borneo) and Brunei. Now, the cool thing about this fish is that it may be found in not only "regular" freshwater habitats- but like soft, acidic freshwater...like those tannin-stained peat swamps that we've talked about before. Now, in these peat swamps, it tends to be found in waters that are more mildly acidic (like 6.8 and up), but nonetheless, this is an extraordinary range for a fish that has been long ago "typecast" by the aquarium trade as a primarily brackish water fish, wouldn't you say?
Now, most aquarium-available populations of these fish tend to come from pure freshwater, or if they're lucky, brackish. Careful acclimation to your water conditions- whatever those might be- is necessary. Like a lot of small gobies, they tend to not tolerate fluctuating environmental conditions well. I've kept them in brackish (SG 1.003) water with a little "tint" and perhaps a slight turbidity to it for many years with great success (and one incident of laying eggs!). Our concept of "tinted brackish" aquariums is pretty much a perfect fit for these little guys, IMHO.
And being a little fish that tends to hop around on the substrate, it's not a bad idea to learn more about the substrate in the localities where it's found, right? I did a little digging (LOL) in the available scientific information on these fishes and their common habitats, and found that the locations in which they are found tend to have fairly specific types materials in the substrate.
The substrate itself is typically muddy, sandy, silty and interspersed with leaves, driftwood, and yeah, mangrove roots in the brackish areas. Did you see the "leaves" part? Yeah...kinda what I was thinking. I love the mud part- a theme that we're going to be talking about again and again in the world of Estuary, trust me.
I've always kept these little guys in community settings- that is- communities of their own species. They remind me very much of marine Jawfishes, in which there are definite social hierarchies and territorial boundaries and such. You don't need a huge aquarium to keep them, but wouldn't it be cool to keep a bunch of these tiny guys in say, a 40-50 gallon tank? Yeah...espacially if it's set up correctly! The importance of setting up an aquarium with a variety of "micro-niches" (i.e.; rocky areas, empty shells, branches, palm fronds, leaf and botanical accumulations, mangrove roots, etc.) cannot be overstated. Not only does it look cool aesthetically (duh..), it facilitates social behaviors as well.
Now, one of the things we've learned over the decades is that just because you're small doesn't mean you can't be a bit of a jerk- and these guys are no exception! You'll occasionally get a dominant male that is just such a...well, a--hole that he pretty much can be the "top dog" of his domain of tiny friends, making life sometimes miserable for them. You need to watch this type of behavior and occasionally intervene to make sure it doesn't get out of hand (and it can, believe it or not...seeing two 3/4" fishes going at it is only partially funny when one of them gets the shit kicked out of him).
(Image by Dirk Golinski, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0)
As we start looking closer and closer at brackish aquarium, we start looking more and more closely at the fishes that we could use in our brackish aquariums. This piece was not intended to be a landmark, group-breaking expose on a pretty well-known fish...However, I wanted to get you thinking about some of the fishes that you've already heard of, while looking at them in the context of the type of environments we're talking about with Estuary.
Of course, we look at some of the common (and rare) fishes that are perfect for what we're doing. This is one of our enduring faves, for a lot of reasons.
We're thinking of lots of cool ideas...and no doubt, you have many of your own! Be sure to share, because we love what you do!
Stay excited. Stay creative. Stay "slightly salty..."
And Stay Wet