» Posted by on Jul 23, 2014 in Blog, Education, Kristen S, Reef Aquariums | Comments Off on A Strange Pairing: Gobies and Pistol Shrimp

Tropical Fish and Invertebrates to buy-NJ:


A Strange Pairing:
Gobies and Pistol Shrimp


By Kristen Schmicker

Tropical Fish and Invertebrates to buy-NJ

A mutualistic symbiotic relationship is a long term interaction between two living things in which both beings benefit. A classic example is a clownfish in an anemone, which is common in home marine aquariums. Possibly one of the oddest mutualistic symbiotic relationships recreated in aquariums is that between pistol shrimp and gobies.

Tropical Fish and Invertebrates to buy-NJ

Pistol shrimp, or snapping shrimp, get their name from the clicking sound made when their claw snaps shut. They are often confused with the mantis shrimp; but they are much less destructive. Pistol shrimp are excellent sand movers and burrow constructors; they keep the sand in the tank turning to prevent algae or cyanobacteria from accumulating. The pistol shrimp’s weakness is in its eyesight; its burrow is used for protection.

Gobies are a bottom dwelling marine fish. They tend to find little nooks in coral reefs to hide. Although their eyesight is much better than that of the pistol shrimp, the gobies are not as adept at building burrows. This is where they benefit from each other; the shrimp constructs the burrow while the goby keeps watch. Once a shrimp and goby become a pair, they will inhabit the same burrow and rarely move far from one another. The goby will usually stay near the entrance of the burrow with the shrimp behind. The shrimp maintains contact and communicates with its antennae and the goby communicates with its tail.

Tropical Fish and Invertebrates to buy-NJTropical Fish and Invertebrates to buy-NJTropical Fish and Invertebrates to buy-NJ

Not all pistol shrimp and gobies form this bond however. The majority of the pistol shrimp that will pair come from the genus Alpheus. This includes Randall’s shrimp (Alpheus randalli), Tiger pistol shrimp (Alpheus bellulus), Fine-striped shrimp (Alpheus ochrostriatus), and Bullseye shrimp (Alpheus soror), among many others. There are many genera of goby that will cohabitate with pistol shrimp; these are often referred to as the shrimp gobies. Some pairing gobies are Dracula gobies (Stonogobiops Dracula), Yellow nose prawn gobies (Stonogobiops xanthorhinica), Yasha hasha gobies (Stonogobiops yasha), High-fin spangle gobies (Ctenogobiops tangaroai), Yellow watchman gobies (Cryptocentrus cinctus), Blue spot gobies (Cryptocentrus pavoninoides), Harlequin gobies (Cryptocentrus caeruleopunctatus), Randall’s gobies (Amblyeleotris randalli), Aurora gobies (Amblyeleotris aurora), Wheeler’s gobies (Amblyeleotris wheeleri) and many others.

Of course not all of these shrimp and gobies pair together. Randall’s shrimp have been known to burrow with Stonogobiops, Cryptocentrus and Amblyeleotris gobies. Tiger pistol shrimp may pair with Cryptocentrus cinctus, Alpheus randalli and Stonogobiops yasha, among others. Fine-striped shrimp can pair with Ctenogobiops tangaroai, Alpheus randalli and Amblyeleotris wheeleri. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that any particular goby and shrimp will pair; careful research must be done prior to purchasing and in some cases a shrimp/goby pair may be available already together.


Randall’s Shrimp Tiger Pistol Shrimp Fine-Striped Shrimp
May Stonogobiops Stonogobiops yasha Ctenogobiops tangaroai
Pair Cryptocentrus Cryptocentrus cinctus Alpheus randalli
With Amblyeleotris Alpheus randalli Amblyeleotris wheeleri


Tropical Fish and Invertebrates to buy-NJ

To keep this pairing successfully in an aquarium it’s important to provide the proper environment. A deep sand bed in a reef or fish only tank is a must, especially one with different sized sand and rubble pieces for the pistol shrimp to construct its burrow. It’s best to keep the pair with peaceful tank mates and only one pair per tank as they can become territorial of their tunnel. Pistol shrimp can be fed with sinking pellets and gobies with small foods like Mysis shrimp. With the proper environment and care this odd duo can be admired and enjoyed in any home marine aquarium. If you would like to create this entertaining pair in your home aquarium, stop by and we’ll be sure to give you all the information you need and help you through the process.



Fatherree, James W. “Aquarium Fish: A Look at the Gobies.” Advanced Aquarist, Jan. 2011. Web. 22 July 2014.

Wolfenden, Dave. “Special Relationships: Keeping Pistol Shrimps and Gobies.” Practical Fishkeeping, 12 Sept. 2012. Web. 22 July 2014.

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