Friday, 19 January 2018

The Blind Goby or Typhlogobius californiensis

The blind goby or Typhlogobius californiensis is a small costal specie that is native to California and Mexico. It is a very interesting goby that has a mutual relationship with a ghost shrimp Callinassa biffari.  While juvenile, it enters shrimp's burrow and stays there all of its life.  When still young, they  have normal eyes.  But after maturing, the eyes degenerate completely, making the goby totally blind.  Unlike other blind fish, Typhlogobius californiensis does not have a very well developed lateral line.  This is due to the fact that it never leaves the shrimp's burrow.  Most of it's sensory organs are located on top of its head and it relies mostly on its sense of smell.

I am a big fan of sorts of cavefish, and while this goby is not a cave dweller, it exhibits all the traits of troglodyte fish.  It is completely pigment free and has no eyes.  A good example of convergent evolution, I suppose)))  However, I still do not understand why it never leaves the burrow.  I am sure it's safe and everything, but he can't be getting that much food there.  Most of the food is brought into the burrow by current created by shrimp's swimmerettes.  The shrimp would eat smaller particles of sea weed, decaying matter, and parts of dead animals, while Typhlogobius californiensis would clean up larger pieces.  Sometimes, the shrimp was even observed physically bringing larger food particles to the goby.

Typhlogobius californiensis

It has also been discovered by scientists that this goby can live in extremely harsh conditions without any problems.  It can survive in very low oxygen waters, polluted by it's own excrement. It can also go an extended periods of time without food.  It's bright pink color is due to blood vessels located in its skin.  This goby breathes mostly through the skin, relying on it's gills only when vigorous activity is needed.

Unlike other gobies, this fish actually lives in pairs.  A male and female would occupy the same burrow, along with the ghost shrimp pair.  So I guess, there are 4 people that live in one burrow))).  The burrow is constructed completely by the shrimp Callinassa biffari.  The mated pair of gobies stay in the deepest part of the burrow.  They remain pretty much inactive, unless mating or incubating their eggs.   The cave is maintained by the shrimps.  Typhlogobius californiensis is unable to maintain or build new caves or burrows.  If anything happens to the shrimps, the goby would starve to death or die due to its burrow becoming unlivable. Also, since the cave entrance is very constricted (2mm-5mm), the goby can't leave even if he wanted to.  While it sounds horrible, this tiny entrance provide complete protection from the predators (since they won't be able to enter such tight space).

For the fist 4 months of it's life, the gobies are frees swimming.  After that, they find similarly sized shrimp and move in into its burrow.  Typhlogobius californiensis mates very early and remains paired for life.  The blind gobies become sexually mature at about 6 months of age.  However, paring usually occurs before the fish becomes mature.  The fish fish recognize members of the opposite sex by smell.  Males usually actively defend their burrow from other males (which they also recognize by smell) .  The pairs usually produce about 10000 eggs during spawning.  Incubation period for the blind goby fry is 10-12 days.  The young are born fully pigmented and with functioning eyes. The parent continue to care for the fry for a few days after birth.

Surprisingly, these gobies can be kept in a home aquarium.  If you don't have a ghost shrimp to pair them with, you can simply keep them in plastic pipes as a substitute for the burrow.  According to the scientific literature that I have read, they did just fine in lab settings when provided with a plastic pipe.  They have even spawned.  Also, it appears that Typhlogobius californiensis is a pretty long lived fish.  Most likely living 15 or more years.  It would be interesting to get one of these guys in a marine aquarium. Maybe in the future))

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  1. Dear Alex, I work for FishBase ( and we need a picture of this blind goby for the summary page of this species.
    Your pictures are very nice. we would like to invite you to show your pictures also in FishBase. Copyright ownership remains with you, and we will put a link back to your blog if permission is granted to use your photos. I hope we will hear from you regarding this request. Thank you very much for your time and attention to this message. - regards, Rachel

    1. sorry, I just saw this comment. i don't own these photos, so feel free to use them))