Chlamydogobius eremiusDesert goby

Geographic Range

Australian Desert Gobies are native to the western and southern region of the Lake Eyre drainage basin in South Australia (Allen, 2002). They are also kept as pets worldwide. (Allen, et al., 2002)


Chlamydogobius eremius live in pools formed by underground springs and in temporary, variable riverways formed by rainfall (Mossop, 2017). They prefer a salinity of 1 to 8 ppt but can tolerate up to 37.5 ppt. They can also tolerate temperatures between 5 and 41 degrees C, pH levels up to 10, and oxygen concentration as low as .8 ppm (Thompson, 2002). (Mossop, et al., 2017; Thompson and Withers, 2002)

Physical Description

Desert Gobies grow to a maximum of 6 cm in length (Allen, 2002). They have 2 dorsal fins, consisting of 4 to 7 spines and 6 to 8 rays. Their anal fins contain 1 spine and 5 to 8 rays, and their pectoral fins have 12 to 15 rays. The first dorsal fin of breeding males is yellow towards the front and top and bright blue towards the back and bottom. They are a dark grey-brown with yellow on the underside of the head, and the fins are dark with white edges. Females have more muted colors that blend with the substrate. Desert Gobies can be distinguished from other gobies by the absence of scales on the head and breast. (Allen, et al., 2002)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range length
    6 (high) cm
    2.36 (high) in


Newly hatched larvae are 5.3 mm in length and eat zooplankton. After 6 months, they reach a size of 4 cm (Allen, 2002). (Allen, et al., 2002)


Male Desert Gobies create nests and attract females with courtship displays (Michelangeli, 2014). (Michelangeli and Wong, 2014)

Desert Gobies breed during the summer months of November to March (Allen, 2002). Males create nest sites under and between rocks or other debris. The males perform a courtship display to attract females that varies in intensity depending on the frequency of female encounters and the size of available females. A male may also reduce courtship behavior after an encounter with a predator (Michelangeli, 2014). They prefer to attract larger females but will choose smaller ones if encounters with females are sparse (Wong, 2009; Svensson, 2010). Up to 300 eggs are laid at once and take 10 to 17 days to hatch (Allen, 2002). Males guard the nest from predators and other males and fan the eggs until they hatch. If more females become available, males may decrease their brood care to perform more courtship displays. Smaller males appear to more readily attack intruders than larger individuals (Svensson, 2012). (Allen, et al., 2002; Michelangeli and Wong, 2014; Svensson, et al., 2010; Svensson, et al., 2012; Wong and Svensson, 2009)

  • Breeding season
    Desert Gobies spawn in the Australian summer months of November to March.
  • Range number of offspring
    300 eggs per nest (high)
  • Range time to hatching
    10 to 17 days

Males will defend their nests and fan the eggs until they hatch (Svensson, 2012). (Svensson, et al., 2012)


Desert Gobies live for about 1 year (Thompson, 1983) (Thompson, 1983)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    1 years


Desert Gobies search for food near the substrate. They can support themselves on their pelvic fins and move in a hop-like motion. When the oxygen level of their habitat becomes too low, they can use buccal bubbles to respire (Thompson, 2002). Individuals from riverways tend to explore their territory more than those from stable wells. Fish from locations with infrequent connection to other waterways tend to emigrate more readily than others when possible (Mossop, 2017). (Mossop, et al., 2017; Thompson and Withers, 2002)

Home Range

There is no information in the literature on home range size.

Communication and Perception

No information found for this species

Food Habits

Desert Gobies have a varied diet including insects, crustaceans, algae, roe, and detritus (Allen, 2002). (Allen, et al., 2002)

  • Animal Foods
  • eggs
  • insects
  • aquatic or marine worms
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • zooplankton
  • Plant Foods
  • algae


Desert Gobies are preyed on by piscivorous fishes in the river habitats (Mossop, 2017). This may include Spangled Perch (Leiopotherapon unicolor) due to noted behavior changes in gobies when the perch are present (Michelangeli, 2014). (Michelangeli and Wong, 2014; Mossop, et al., 2017)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Gobies in the stable spring pools are typically the only species of fish present. Individuals in the river habitats share with other fishes (Mossop, 2017). They are omnivores and consume a variety of animals and algae along with decaying matter (Allen, 2002). Those in rivers are prey for larger fishes (Mossop, 2017). (Allen, et al., 2002; Mossop, et al., 2017)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Desert Gobies are fairly popular in the pet trade due to hardy nature, ease of breeding, and striking colors (Wagner, 2000). (Wager and Unmack, 2000)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

No information found for this species

Conservation Status

They are currently not listed in the IUCN Red List (IUCN, 2017). They are generally populous in the waterways they are found (Allen, 2002). (Allen, et al., 2002; "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2017)


Chandler Aucoin (author), Louisiana State University, Prosanta Chakrabarty (editor), Louisiana State University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map


Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Bottom habitats in the very deepest oceans (below 9000 m) are sometimes referred to as the abyssal zone. see also oceanic vent.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


helps break down and decompose dead plants and/or animals

brackish water

areas with salty water, usually in coastal marshes and estuaries.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.


an animal that mainly eats decomposed plants and/or animals


particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


"many forms." A species is polymorphic if its individuals can be divided into two or more easily recognized groups, based on structure, color, or other similar characteristics. The term only applies when the distinct groups can be found in the same area; graded or clinal variation throughout the range of a species (e.g. a north-to-south decrease in size) is not polymorphism. Polymorphic characteristics may be inherited because the differences have a genetic basis, or they may be the result of environmental influences. We do not consider sexual differences (i.e. sexual dimorphism), seasonal changes (e.g. change in fur color), or age-related changes to be polymorphic. Polymorphism in a local population can be an adaptation to prevent density-dependent predation, where predators preferentially prey on the most common morph.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.


uses touch to communicate


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)


International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. 2017. "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Accessed November 11, 2017 at

Allen, G., S. Midgely, M. Allen. 2002. Field guide to the freshwater fishes of Australia. Collingwood: CSIRO.

Michelangeli, M., B. Wong. 2014. A recent predatory encounter influences male courtship in a desert-dwelling fish. Behavioral Ecology, Volume 25 Issue 4: 928–932. Accessed November 10, 2017 at

Mossop, K., N. Moran, D. Chapple, B. Wong. 2017. Connectivity and habitat type shape divergent dispersal behavior in a desert-dwelling fish. Landscape Ecology, Volume 32 Issue 5: 1065-1078. Accessed November 10, 2017 at

Svensson, P., T. Lehtonen, B. Wong. 2010. The Interval between Sexual Encounters Affects Male Courtship Tactics in a Desert-Dwelling Fish. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Volume 64 Issue 12: 1967-1970. Accessed November 10, 2017 at

Svensson, P., T. Lehtonen, B. Wong. 2012. A High Aggression Strategy for Smaller Males. PLOS ONE, Volume 7 Issue 8: e43121. Accessed November 11, 2017 at

Thompson, G. 1983. The desert goby, Chlamydogobius eremius. Fishes of Sahul: Journal of the Australian New Guinea Fishes Association, Volume 1 Issue 2: 17-20.

Thompson, G., P. Withers. 2002. Aerial and aquatic respiration of the Australian desert goby, Chlamydogobius eremius. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, Volume 131 Issue 4: 871-879. Accessed November 10, 2017 at

Wager, R., P. Unmack. 2000. Fish of the Lake Eyre catchment of Central Australia. Queensland: Department of Primary Industries Queensland Fisheries Service. Accessed November 11, 2017 at

Wong, B., P. Svensson. 2009. Strategic male signalling effort in a desert-dwelling fish. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Volume 63 Issue 4: 543-549. Accessed November 10, 2017 at

Zietz, A. 1896. Pisces. Report on the work of the Horn Expedition to Central Australia. Part 2. Zoology, 2: 176-180.