The Compatibility of Blennies and Gobies

If you’re planning on keeping blennies and gobies together, Can they live together?

The short answer is yes, it is possible. But it’s also possible to survive a plane crash. Like anything involving saltwater fish, the answer is never 100% straightforward. 

There are a lot of different species of Gobies, each with its own quirks and temperaments.

There are also a lot of different species of Blennies that are just as varied in their dispositions. 

Keeping Gobies With Other Fish: General Rules

Gobies can be kept in a community tank with a healthy variety of other species of fish. As long as their neighbors are small fish that possess a similar, non-aggressive disposition, and they have food, you should have no problems. 

Problems can present themselves when you try to keep gobies with other gobies. They are very territorial, especially when it involves a “house” that they perceive as belonging to them.

Some of this can be curbed by providing your fish with plenty of room to live in. If your gobies have enough space to establish their own plot to live on, then there’s lots of room for peace talks between the resident families. 

It has been observed that if goby number one gets too close to goby number two’s side of the tank, they’ll get chased back to their side, and after that, everything is okay.

Another thing that can be done to take the edge off of a goby is providing them with a mate. Obviously, that will complicate territory if more fish get in the picture, but you understand. 

The concern that should be shown for gobies isn’t so much if they will beat up on other fish, but rather if other fish will beat upon them.

Gobies are smaller fish. So there needs to be a constant consideration for the potential of larger fish to snack on your gobies. Even if they aren’t on the menu, the responsible fish-keeper will keep gobies out of a tank with a high concentration of aggressive fish. They’re too small to hold their own among a violent company. 

Keeping Blennies With Other Fish: General Rules

Blennies are also known for having an even temperament. They’re right at home and good neighbors inside an aquarium that hosts a variety of other species of fish.

They keep to themselves at the bottom of the tank where the algae they graze on tends to grow. They’re essentially like cows with fins. 

Aggression issues surface with Blennies under a few key circumstances.

  • The blenny feels that its territory is being invaded. Fish that swim too close to parts of the tank that the blenny perceives as under its ownership will chase those fish a short distance. 
  • The blenny is kept in close proximity to other blennies. Here is the irony of both blennies and gobies. While they can get along just fine with most other species of fish, they have grudges against their own. Again, it’s an issue of territory. 
  • There are other fish around the blenny that have a similar appearance to its own. Blennies tend to perceive fish similar to themselves as rivals, kind of the way people wearing gang colors will get shot at even if they aren’t in a gang. 
  • The blenny is getting old. For whatever reason, blennies become more aggressive as they age. It’s as if the old man that shouts “Get off my land!” grew a set of gills and sat down at the bottom of the aquarium
  • The individual fish is innately violent. Not to inspire the next horror movie, but some animals, fish included, have a violent and aggressive personality. But this is the rarest cause of aggression in the blennies. 

Compatibility of Symbiotic Partners

It might just work out that you have gobies and blennies living together in harmony. But the problems may come from the other animals that the fish form a symbiotic relationship with. 

Gobies tend to form close relationships with certain species of shrimp, especially Pistol Shrimp. The basis for the relationship comes from the fact that the shrimp are excellent at digging shelter but have poor eyesight. Gobies have excellent eyes but can’t dig shelter for themselves.

So the goby and the shrimp stay near each other and the goby looks out for danger, ready to signal the shrimp as soon as a predator could be getting near. 

Nor is it unusual for the shrimp to catch and kill food for the goby. 

So just because the goby gets along fine with the shrimp, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the tank will. A sweep through fish forums reveals that pistol shrimp are perfectly capable of going on a killing spree in a tank that’s populated with suitable prey. And the goby will be complicit as a natural partner.

Plus too, it’s possible to pick up certain subspecies of pistol shrimp that don’t pair up with gobies at all, and then all the tank occupants are fair game. 

The Best Solution

The only way to know for sure if a goby and a blenny are going to get along is to put them together and see what happens. Of course, the responsible thing to do would be to have a plan of action or a means of separation if they don’t take to each other. Separating the fish with mesh is an option worth considering. 

Treat each pairing of gobies and blennies as an individual case that’s different from all previous attempts. Again, some fish have an antisocial personality, no matter how peaceful the species may be. And strangely, some fish that get along great in one tank can’t get along when moved to a new one.

Careful vigilance is key.

Closing Thoughts

Playing referee for fish may not be what you signed up to do, but it’s part of keeping things stable in the tank, and we don’t mean the salt levels. Gobies and blennies are both intelligent fish full of personality, so the rewards you reap from looking after them and securing their safety will be worth it. 

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