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Brachygobius kabiliensis INGER, 1958

Kabili bumblebee goby


Order: Perciformes Family: Gobiidae


The distribution of B. kabiliensis as currently reported is somewhat disjunct since the type locality is the Kabili River in Sandakan Division, Sabah state, Malaysia (northeastern Borneo), and it’s also been collected in Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, and the lower Mekong River basin in Vietnam and Cambodia.


Inhabits both fresh and brackish water, and generally restricted to lowland, coastal environments including mangrove swamps, estuaries, and tidal streams.

Substrates thus tend to be composed of mud, sand and silt with overlying organic material such as leaf litter, mangrove roots, and submerged driftwood.

Maximum Standard Length

15 – 18 mm.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

Base dimensions of 45 ∗ 30 cm or equivalent should be the minimum considered.


Provide plenty of hiding places and cover, and bear in mind that this species prefers harder water than some congeners.

Crushed coral or coral sand can be mixed into the substrate to act as a buffer if necessary, or marine salt added at a dose of around 2 grams per litre.

Filtration should not be strong with an air-powered sponge-type unit ideal.


Small live foods such as ArtemiaDaphnia, etc., should be considered essential although some specimens will learn to accept  frozen alternatives. Dried products are normally ignored.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Unlikely to make an ideal community fish and should do best in a species-specific set-up.

NotesTop ↑

Though this species’ name appears on ornamental trade lists quite often it appears to be routinely misapplied to other species, particularly B. doriae-type fishes, though sensu stricto the two are not difficult to tell apart from one another.

According to current knowledge it can be diagnosed as follows: <30 lateral scales; two black body bands reaching ventral midline posterior to anal-fin;  band above anal-fin also reaching ventral midline no black band on head, though the first band may touch the posterior margin of the eye; band above anal-fin not reaching ventral midline; 6 branched anal-fin rays; 7-8 predorsal scales.

67 specimens of B. kabiliensis were listed as paratypes in the original description of the congener B. aggregatus. These two are very similar-looking but can be told apart from one another by the fact that the black body bar above the anal-fin extends to the ventral midline in B. agregatus, but in B. kabiliensis terminates around midbody. B. kalbiensis also possesses predorsal scales while B. aggregatus does not.

Both are best considered as nominal taxa for the time being since several species might be involved. Therefore, although we’ve assigned images to profiles based on how well they match the key of Inger (1958) their identification can only be thought of as tentative pending publication of a forthcoming review.

Brachygobius currently contains 9 described species, and although all are referred to collectively as ‘bumblebee’ gobies only B. doriae and B. sabanus are commonly-available  in the ornamental trade.

The grouping is often included in the subfamily Gobionellinae alongside genera such as ChlamydogobiusMugilogobiusPseudogobiopsisRhinogobiusSchismatogobius, and Stigmatogobius.

It’s considered most closely-related to the genus Pandaka with the two sharing numerous characters but differing in the morphology of the head lateral line system and number of epurals present.


  1. Inger, R. F., 1958 - Fieldiana Zoology 39(14): 107-117
    Notes on the fishes of the genus Brachygobius.
  2. Miller, P. J., 1989 - Cybium 13(4): 375-383
    The classification of bumble-bee gobies (Brachygobius and associated genera) (Teleostei: Gobiidae).
  3. Rainboth, W. J., 1996 - FAO, Rome: 1-265
    Fishes of the Cambodian Mekong. FAO Species Identification Field Guide for Fishery Purposes.
  4. Randall, J. E. and K. K. P. Lim, 2000 - The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 8: 569-667
    A checklist of the fishes of the South China Sea.
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