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Gobies, Blennies, & Dragonets
Gobies, Blennies, & Dragonets (Mandarinfishes) share many characteristics. They are small, bottom-dwelling, mostly carnivorous fishes that can be found in virtually every niche and habitat type in temperate and tropical seas worldwide. Gobies comprise the largest known family of tropical fishes. They can be distinguished from Blennies and Dragonets by the absence of a gas bladder and the presence of a suction cup (formed by fused pelvic fins) that they use to attach themselves to rocks and other surfaces. Most Gobies are smaller than 4 inches in length and are brilliantly colored. They spend their time resting on the bottom near holes or crevices. Some species (like Dartfishes and Wormfishes) hover just inches above the sand or reef, ready to dart to a safe hiding place when threatened. Some species can live out of water for extended periods of time (Mudskippers), some species provide parasite cleaning services for larger fishes (Neon Gobies), and other species have developed symbiotic relationships with various invertebrates including sponges, corals, sea urchins, and burrowing shrimps.
Blennies are bluntheaded, elongate fishes with big eyes and strong pelvic fins that they use to perch on rocks and coral branches to look at their surroundings. Their most distinguishing features are the hair-like growths above the eyes, called cirri, that resemble small clumps of algae and are thought to help with camouflage. Several Blennies are strikingly marked but most have subdued tones that allow them to blend into their surroundings. Believed to be among the most intelligent of fishes, they are relatively fearless, constantly active, and their large, upturned mouths mimic what some would describe as a “cheerful” smile. Most are ferocious hunters but a few species are omnivores and eat algae. Dragonets are often called “Blennies” or “Gobies”; however, this is inaccurate since they are in a family of their own. These fishes have large lips, large eyes, and diminutive gill openings protected by a spiny “cheekbone” protrusion. Some species are flamboyantly colored while others are patterned to blend into their surroundings. Dragonets spend most of their time scooting around shallow tidal areas or the base of coral reefs feeding on tiny crustaceans like copepods.
Blennies can be kept in a community marine tank or reef aquarium with fishes of all varieties. Gobies and Dragonets should be kept with other small, non-agressive fishes of similar disposition. Most of these fishes will readily accept frozen and prepared foods including brine shrimp, flakes, cyclops, mysis, etc. Special attention should be paid to wild-caught Dragonets, which are difficult to transition to frozen or prepared foods and require well-established reef aquaria with ample copepods/amphipods to thrive. Captive-bred Dragonets, who readily accept frozen and prepared foods, are now commercially available and are highly recommended.